My life looked a lot different a year ago. I was somewhat happily homeschooling my kids, waiting for spring to arrive, and spending my free time doing watercolors and hand lettering. I was most happy in my art. That’s not to say I had no problems, just that life was not how it looks today.
Life As I Planned It
Without saying everything, my life has pretty much changed. My homeschool days are coming to an end. I’m now gearing up for new schools and experiences with transcripts, catching the kids up in their math, and trying to find a job myself. This past year has devastated me as a parent, and somewhat as a wife too. I’ve realized there isn’t much I can do except change myself. Other people in this house have their own minds, their own behaviors, their own preferences. My idea of the perfect family has gone out the window. Maybe that’s a good thing though.
The Death of My Plans
See, I’m a perfectionist. My husband is too, but in a different way. I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to living as everyone else does, but I had built up an idea in my head about how I envisioned my family. I thought we’d homeschool until the end. My kids would marry Christians. We’d all get together on the holidays and laugh. Any problem we had could be faced with a conversation. But, that’s not exactly what has happened. Instead, my dreams have suffered a death. And now I have to have new dreams. That’s ok, but it’s not easy for me. I think my theme this year is letting go. Cue annoying Frozen song.
On top of all of this, my marriage has suffered. Some days I have hope it will bounce right back. We go to counseling. I see small changes. Other days I’m reminded I married a person who despises any negative emotion and I wonder how on earth I’ll survive another 20-40 years of this. I want to connect and be heard, but I feel like I’m on the outs most of the time. And I feel like I’m getting smaller as the days go by. I’m stifled by his values–to have peace (therefore, I don’t get the chance to express feelings or conflict–at least not without a reminder that I’m allowed to) and I’m stifled by my children who have grown up also valuing peace. I feel like I am on my own island most of the time. And it makes me feel crazy to be invalidated at every turn. (This is a great post about invalidation, by the way.)
New Life Dreams
But, some things are getting better. It’s not all bad or terrible and my family isn’t doomed. It’s just that I have to rebuild and start over, in a sense. My dreams are over. They died. But I must plant new dreams.
I think my life has been one of control. I tried to control outcomes by homeschooling, going to church, forcing my kids into all things “Christian”. I’ve not been as hyper about it as some moms and have backed away from the church system and now I’m facing kids who don’t care about their faith any longer. (Some would say this was a result of leaving the church, but maybe it’s a result of how hypocritical the church actually is–love is just a word in most of these systems and now my kids are confused and feeling rejected, therefore, they view God as the one who has rejected them. That’s another topic for another day, but worth mentioning here for a bit.) Needless to say, all the youth groups, Awana’s, and church stuff hasn’t helped them love God more. All my efforts are futile because they are MY efforts. I’m not trusting God with my kids or my marriage. I’m simply trying to run around putting out fires and fixing everything myself. And I’m utterly exhausted by it.
Letting Go of My Plans
But maybe this is where God wants me, you know? Maybe this is THE exact place most of us need to be but aren’t. We run around trying to play God in many scenarios. We do, do, do and we end up burned out and bitter and angry because our dreams of having things perfect have died. We are looking for utopia, but there is no such place. We parent out of fear. We hold on, we tighten the noose around our plans, and we think we are following God in the process, but we’ve left Him somewhere in the background of our lives. God doesn’t want that for us. And if we understood ourselves enough, we wouldn’t want that either. We’d say, “What are we doing?? We’ve abandoned our Savior!” But we convince ourselves that our grandiose plans are God’s plans when in fact, God had nothing to do with most of it. We try to take the credit and recognition. We try to boost up our self-worth instead of doing what we were meant to do: give God the glory.
Eternal Life in Church?
I was thinking about all of this yesterday. My husband seems to think that church going will somehow make our kids better. They’ll have role models. They’ll be inspired. They’ll grow and change. But I reminded him that we’ve done this before and look at how our kids think now. They don’t care about God that much. They want to be like the world. They are my kids and I love them, but I find myself saddened by some of their choices. The conflict is great right now. I think maybe we are the ones who are supposed to model Christ, not other people. We live with our kids and they see our day in, day out attitudes. This is where the rubber meets the road in our faith and for them in their faith.
I’m not saying don’t go to church. But church is not a cure-all. Going to church doesn’t make you more Christ-like anymore than parking your car in a garage makes your car more of a car. It’s just a tool in the Christian life. Sometimes churches damage us and preach falsely and overlook abuses. Sometimes they are encouraging. But finding that in this universe has been hard for our family. We aren’t a cookie cutter Christian family. So we struggle in the church and we face rejection. It sometimes feels more harmful than good.
Christ is Our Life
My point is that it’s possible that church is an idol. We put it up on a pedestal to fix our problems, our families, or help us be more of a Christian. But that stuff is not up to us or the church, but up to God. We have to rely on Him, not things or people. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). BELIEVES IN HIM. Not in ourselves or the church or Christians. IN HIM.
Colossians 3:4 is one of my favorite verses because of one phrase–“Christ, who is your life”
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Maybe we have to get to the end of ourselves, our plans, our ideas, and on and on before God can really work in our lives. We have to give up whatever dreams we think are good. We have to say “Ok, I can’t do this without you.” and trust in Him to lead our kids back to God, or our marriages back to where they should be or our beliefs back to the simple faith that allows us to touch God.
These verses remind me of where my hope should be placed:
But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5)
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)
Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:14)
We have dreams, ideas, plans and these are not bad things. God has created us with preferences and bents and given us dreams. But sometimes we take those dreams and run away from Him, or we convince ourselves that it’s God’s plan when it’s really not. Our plans will always fail without Christ. I’m finding that out. But we come to the end of ourselves in this failure and it’s then we only have two options: Keep on in misery with ourselves, or let go and look to Christ.
Christianity doesn’t look like the perfect, cookie-cutter woman standing there smiling with arms raised and everyone follows suit. Sometimes Christianity looks like failure…it looks like the cross when Jesus died and everyone thought that God had failed. The Son of God on a cross, bleeding and near death. His body gives up it’s life. It’s over. Their King is gone. But, that’s only what can be seen. Failure is not the end. Death does not have victory and has lost it’s sting. Jesus conquers the grave, rises from the dead, and leaves us His Spirit. And in this life, when things fail and fall apart, we can expect that this is not all there is. God is working underneath the failure and using it somehow.
This is the hope I hold to. My hope is not in men, in church, in my family status, but is in the Lord. My prayer: When Christ, who is your life. Without Him, I can do nothing.