A shortened version of this post originally appeared on Christian Mommy Blogger. I am unfortunately really struggling with my fibromyalgia as a result from the car accident and so to give my concussion some time to heal, I thought I’d share these thoughts with you since the topic of living significantly is so important. We’d appreciate your prayers as we try to heal!
I was on the receiving end of some mommy judgment recently. It was beyond stupid since, like most mommy judgment, the subject really didn’t matter. It got under my skin, though, since I’m running tired. And by running tired, I mean feel like I could collapse at any moment kind of exhausted.
I think most of us are running that way. We all have a ton on our plates, no matter what our situation. Between taking care of my biological sons and my foster daughter, working with social workers and birth parents, writing, working, cooking, cleaning, bandaging boo-boos (as I said, we have three boys so there are a lot of these!), and trying to be a wife, friend, sister and daughter, I constantly find myself wishing there were more hours in the day. On top of that, I manage my chronic illness. While the things on our plates might be different, I’m sure you can relate. Being a parent is exhausting. And even if you don’t have kids, your plate is probably equally full.
There is only one cure for this hamster-running-on-wheel kind of cycle. It is learning how to be intentional.
I’ve given up a lot of things. Giving up on things doesn’t have to be a loss because living intentionally is consciously making choices about what is important and what is not and prioritizing accordingly. I’ve cut loose the things that aren’t important. I don’t need to have everyone looking picture perfect all the time. I have older things. We don’t eat out at nice restaurants. My kids aren’t involved in a bunch of activities. I say no.
There is such freedom in saying no; it means being able to say yes to something better. If we don’t learn to say no to something, we can’t say yes to what matters.
I’ve gained so much: my family and I are making a huge difference in people’s lives with foster care. I get to write. My kids have the unstructured time they need so they can run around playing outside with their friends. So what if they come in sweaty, stained, and sticky from popsicles and Nerf gun battles. They are learning to follow God watching my husband and I serve in our community. They are learning what is important.
That is worth being exhausted for.
I’m exhausted not because I’ve given into the tyranny of the urgent, but because we’ve made a choice to live for something other than ourselves: God. And I’ve never been happier or more content. I don’t mean to say that this is easier; few things that are worthwhile are easy, but it is significant.
I think there are two kinds of exhaustion. The first one is the miserable, “how am I going to get through this” kind. The second is the productive, contented kind that comes after hard work. Before I decided to be intentional with my life and my family’s, I struggled with the first one. Now most days, although not all, it is the second kind. There will always be some of the first kind since I’m human. We get sick. There are deadlines. Things unexpectedly happen.
It can be really hard living this way though. People don’t always understand, hence the mommy judgment. My priorities don’t line up to our culture’s priorities. Culture says that I should be trying to work for comfort, for stuff, and I need to keep up appearances. Jesus said differently.
Maybe some of it is that we are so insecure in our own choices that we judge others. Maybe we let ourselves be far too influenced by culture. Maybe we are speaking from a place of ignorance about the other person’s situation. Maybe we think too highly of ourselves. We all do at times. So we judge. The dangerous part of this is that it takes our focus off our own intentionality and we try to project it onto another. And we end up exhausted and discontent.
If we find ourselves judging others, we need to ask ourselves why. Is it because we are really concerned about them, or is it (more likely) that we are upset because we don’t think they are giving us our due or we think that we are better than them, that we would do something differently and better? Keeping in mind, psychologically speaking, we are more likely to attribute good motivations to ourselves than others even if the behavior is the same, if there is any bit of selfishness it probably is off-base judgment.
I tell my kids, “Jesus already paid for it so you don’t need to hold on to it.” Usually that is about them holding on to thing that they have done, but we occasionally need to pull it out for things that need to be forgiven too. Once it is over, it needs to be done because there are so many more important things to be focused on. That’s living in grace and focusing on God.
Seriously, if I’m going to run tired (as I will as this stage of life dictates), I want to do it because I think what I am doing is worth it and not because I’m trying to keep up with the Joneses. If living with a chronic illness has taught me nothing else, it is to make the most out of the time that I am given. If I get caught up in the little stuff, I’ve already lost my way. I can’t focus on helping build my kids’ characters or being authentic in my relationships. I can’t do what I’m supposed to. Basically, I can’t live in grace.
Our identity isn’t in what we have or even what we do. It is in Christ and so I’m going to live for Him. This is true significance.
Jesus gave His life willingly for us to be restored to a relationship with Him. What crazy, unimaginable, uncommon grace! Most people now won’t give if it costs them anything. Jesus gave when it hurt to do so. We can’t run away from pain and truth in search of looking good and being comfortable.
If I’m going to bet on one side, I’m going with Jesus over the world’s opinions of what I should do. It won’t make sense to most people, but living intentionally for Him is worth being exhausted over.