“Shut Up!” I yelled staring down at my three year old. Two words I’d never thought I’d say to my son yet they’d slipped from my mouth more times in the last few weeks that I could no longer excuse it as an accident. Welcome, friends, would you like a slice of my humble pie?
Over the last two months, I had been falling deeper into a rut. Spurred on by different situations that I could not prevent, my heart sank and my focus fell off track. I’d felt this familiar feeling before. Exhaustion. Frustration. Laziness. And as life continued on, as it always does, I began to lose focus of what’s most important.
My friend, Kimberly, said once that if we’re not filling ourselves up with Jesus, then all we have to pour out to others is ourselves. And without Christ, we are ugly, selfish, proud, angry, bitter, sinful… I learned this week how true that statement is. I have been more than ugly to my family lately and God is helping me realize it.
In Sunday School this week, we discussed the character of Timothy. In Philippians, Paul describes him as someone who was genuinely concerned with the welfare of those in Philippi. He put others before himself. He didn’t mind acting as a servant. Listening to our discussion, I scribbled down in my journal, Do I have genuine concern for others’ welfare or just my own? How willing am I to be the servant? Without grumbling or complaining…
Now before you think I’m going to condemn us all for being selfish sometimes, I’m not. I think it’s human nature to be selfish. But, it doesn’t mean we have an excuse for our self-centered behavior. Christ calls us to go beyond what we’re capable of on our own strength and put others first. Re-Read that last sentence. We’re not capable of doing it on our own.
I needed to spend time with God and draw from His strength to refocus. No more excuses. It was easy to skip my daily quiet time now that my oldest wasn’t napping. I told myself that I didn’t want to ignore my kids or that it would be hard to get something out of it with the kids awake. And by the time I sat down in the evenings, I felt too exhausted to think.
It’s like working out. Once you’ve established a routine, you look forward to it but getting back into the habit after taking a break can seem daunting. But I reminded myself spending time with God doesn’t have to be an hour-long session of exegesis. Just start small.
So this morning, I opened up my bible study were I left off two months ago. The last line I’d filled in was pouring my heart out to God that I needed to lay my life down for David, Jack and Tristan. I was putting myself first. Wow. I sat there speechless. Here I was two months later, still struggling, to the point where I’d felt frustrated 80% of the time because my kids were bothering me, things weren’t going my way and all I wanted was to retreat to a cave somewhere and binge-watch Netflix.
It’s so easy to lose focus and put our needs and wants first. While I haven’t lost my faith and or walked away from God, I wasn’t spending time in His presence either. I filled my time with books about God but I rarely spent time reading my Bible. My focus wasn’t pointed towards him. It was facing inward. Comfort had become an idol.
Discipline. Humility. Surrender. Three words that God had been placing on my heart since last year and here I sat this morning, bible in hand, realizing how intertwined they are. It takes the discipline to meet with God daily, even when I don’t want to or I feel too busy. It takes the humility to admit that I’m not perfect and that spending time reading and talking about God doesn’t replace time spent in communion with him. Finally, it takes the surrender to put yourself last. Every day. In all situations. Just as Christ did for us.
“Jesus laid down his life for us well before the cross. For thirty-three years, He laid down his life to do the will of His Father. As Oswald Chambers said, ‘It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God.'” (What Love is, Kelly Minter, p.91) Day in and day out, a continual surrender to submit to His will and not my own.
So what happened after my temper tantrum towards my son? I had to humble myself and apologize. I got down on his level and asked him to look me in the eye. “I’m sorry Mommy told you to shut up. It’s not okay and I’m really sorry. I love you. Will you forgive me?”
“Sure, Mom, I ‘give you.” What an amazing picture of God’s unconditional love and grace for us. It’s as simple as that: I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? YES.
Friends, it’s easy to lose focus. It doesn’t mean that we’re horrible people or have fallen short of God’s grace. It just means we have to redirect ourselves. Our focus shouldn’t be on our kids, our significant other, our jobs or our own comfort. It should remain on Christ always. Yes, that’s a tough chore. It requires daily surrender but I’m thankful for that fact. It’s not a simple act. We have to come to our knees every day.
Father, we are sorry that we can be so self consumed. Please forgive our human instinct to look after #1. We are not first. We are called to be last. And I pray that through humbling experiences like losing our temper, you continue to show us that we’ve lost focus. Thank you for your unconditional grace. You are so amazing, Lord, and I am so thankful for your Love. It’s in Christ’s name we pray, Amen.