The fade was slow until I nearly exploded.
My joy had been like an invisible leak in a latex balloon, my own ears deaf to the squeal of the escaping air that had long kept me afloat. I had become sluggish. Easily irritated. The expectations I had of my small children were (in retrospect) ridiculously unrealistic, but I held to them anyway, becoming hot-tempered when they fell short of my standard. I didn’t like the person in my skin; she was stressed and …different (not in a becoming way).
There have been lots of things going on: changes, transitions, shifting priorities. And yet in spite of all of those very real things, I knew the missing piece that was making the biggest difference: I had to get back into my morning rhythm, but it was just so hard. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Late nights. Long days. Early mornings. The choice between getting up or pressing snooze for “5 more minutes” (yeah right!) had become an easy one. Surely those extra seconds under the cozy covers would amount to more rested, level-headed sanity…right?? But it didn’t work out that way for me, and I had to do the harder thing that I KNEW worked. So I did!
“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me
and opens my understanding to his will.
The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away” – Is. 50:4-5
I determined to choose the way of discipline and sluggishly got up at 5:30, only to be joined by at least 1 of my kids 15 minutes later, promptly at 5:45. I’d only had time to make a cup of coffee, but not even sip it! Ugh… My blood began to simmer. (My little lovebugs are more likely to eat their peas than go back to bed once they’re up. Womp.) “I’ll try again tomorrow,” I decided reluctantly, “except this time I’ll back it up a half hour and arise at 5:00.” I executed the plan, but the problem: the “mommy’s up” alarm went off yet again, and my company arrived on cue, precisely 15 minutes later, at 5:15. What in the world?! Can he smell me??? Am I on an invisible nighttime leash?! Argh!!!!! My blood began to boil just a bit, but I determined to give this early morning time for abiding in the Lord one more shot — so that meant I was up at 4:40a the next day. *sigh* The result? He arrived promptly at 5:10, followed by Sister Bear, and then Brother Bear.
I lost it! Full blown, blood boiling fury. I lost it with the Lord and with my family. “Lord! Don’t you know how much I need this alone time with you?! Don’t you know I have NO time to myself from now until bedtime?! Don’t you know I spend ALL my waking minutes in the service of other people?! Don’t you see the sacrifice I’m making…the way I feel like I’m running myself ragged…they way I feel all out of balance? All I’m asking is that you’ll help them sleep so that I can refuel in YOU during these quiet minutes of a new day when not even the sun has made his grand entrance. That’s all! Seems simple enough for the Creator of the Universe! A few more minutes of my children sleeping. Please!” My exasperated questioning quickly turned into a selfish tirade that reflected the root of my problem.
Anger. Bitterness. Selfishness. My way. Things weren’t going according to plan, and I was none too pleased about it. The thing I’ve not told you until now is that I’d been praying that the Lord would point out sin in my heart that was lurking in hidden places unbeknownst to me. I’d already been convicted that I’m prone to be distracted by the deceptive ways of Madam Folly even though I want to diligently follow the path of righteousness led by Lady Wisdom. Oh sure, the tendencies were subtle and maybe only I would notice them. But He was faithfully bringing them to the light at break-neck speed, just as I’d asked. I sure didn’t like what I saw, but I also didn’t like the trajectory of who I was becoming and I knew I had some choices to make.
Here’s the amazingly cool thing: Instead of being angry and put out with me for my accusing interrogation of Him, God was proving to me what Paul wrote to the Romans,
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
Kindness. His kindness that leads to repentance. So in His kindness, He heard my pleadings (even though spoken with a mix of great pride, desperation, and anger), and awoke me the next morning — right smack in the middle of His new mercies — kindly leading me to repentance. Tenderly, He answered my prayers for my children to sleep, and He dealt mercifully with the ugliness in my heart, not only offering forgiveness, but also shedding light on where to go from here.
HE. IS. SO. GOOD!!!!
To bask in this glorious goodness and lovingkindness toward me, I set out on an early morning walk. I needed to praise Him: body, soul, and spirit. A dense fog had hovered overnight, not yet fully lifting. I never knew fog could be so…medicinal. Soul medicine. Like a mannequin for the display of nature’s beauty, the fog perfectly lit the spider webs: spider webs laid ever-so-gently on top of the grass, spider webs spun intricately among the bushes, and spider webs hung majestically between oaks and even spanning across the street. The fog rested on the flowers making the lavender and golden hues of autumn appear as neon. And it offered a thick substance on which the intoxicating aroma of tea olive shrubs could cling. Birds chirped and fluttered. Spiders waited for their “payoff” to get caught in the perfectly spun webs. Squirrels scampered in search of nuts. As I observed all of nature doing its own thing with beauty and excellence, I thought about the importance of staying in our own lanes, whatever they may be — doing what we’re made, called, and equipped to do with laser focus. The squirrel was doing the squirrel’s work…not the bird’s work. The spider was doing the spider’s work; not the squirrel’s work. Everything and everyone in their own lane. And I saw it all in a new way because of the fog.
It’s a funny thing, you know. Fog in the natural world isn’t something that we often long for. It can make for dangerous driving. It forces us to slow down. It creates a stickiness in the air that can be uncomfortable. And when it is thick, it hinders our ability to see the colorful artistry of creation. Metaphorically, fog isn’t something I’ve EVER known anyone to long for. It is confusing; dampening; heavy; isolating; uncomfortable; it causes us to slow down; and it hinders our ability to see beauty all around. It’s tempting to take the attitude of “blech!” around seasons of metaphorical fogginess.
But Daddy God is good and purposeful in it all. Do you genuinely believe that He works ALL things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes? Because here’s what I want to encourage you with today: if not for the honest, desperate, angry, ugly pleas unto the Lord, I may not have seen or heard His answer so clearly. And if not for the fog, I certainly would not have seen the glistening natural world around me or smelled the aroma of Heaven with such potency (aka tea olive – ha!). And what’s true of this example in the natural realm, I believe is even far more accurate in the spiritual. How can you know the elation of the mountaintop without the experience of the valley? How can you know the value of light if you’re obliviously comfortable in darkness? How can you know the security of clarity without experiencing the insecurity of fogginess? How can you learn to see the kindness and intelligence and wisdom and beauty of the Lord in ALL things if all you’ve ever known is bright sunny days? I would’ve never been drawn to the intricate spider web if not for the fog that had settled upon them, reflecting the glistening light of the world. Yes, He shines brightly, even when life seems dull and heavy.
As the sun rises to its place in the sky, the veil of fog is removed, revealing clarity and vibrant color. And doesn’t it seem that more times than not, foggy days are followed by some of the happiest, bluest skies? This is equally true metaphorically: when the Son shines His light, the veil of fog is removed, revealing clarity and vibrant color. Always. Fog never lingers eternally; only for a brief time. Even so, I will never see fog in the same begrudging way. I will remember the medicine that God offered to me through it during that time when I was all out of sorts.