This post is dedicated to two friends both old and new, Cat and Emmy, who intentionally encouraged me to keep writing when I just want to give up on myself. Thank you for believing in me and reading what I have to say.
I’m slowing climbing out of a period where I made my life all about me. It was the kind of time when things just seemed hard and annoying all the time, but I didn’t realise that the problem was me.
I didn’t realise that the reason why I was –
…so grumpy with the kids,
…and so rebellious in spirit toward my dear husband
– was because I was so focused on ME.
All I did everyday was grumble – inwardly and outwardly – about lots of different things and how hard everything was.
Mothering. Having a hard-working and busy husband. A house that always needs to be cleaned. A body that just keeps failing. My poor self-discipline. And why didn’t it just get any easier?
Then the Lord started to gently show me the hole I had put myself in.
He used my husband to pull me up in a conversation, pointing out how miserable I was being about things he couldn’t control even though he was doing all he could. (And being so patient with me.)
He showed me in my sense of guilt over how much of a grumpy mother I had become. Not letting the kids jump in puddles because I couldn’t be bothered with the clean-up. My son hiding something he had broken because he didn’t want Mummy to get angry. (Ouch.)
He also showed me in a book I’m reading how the high the standards I set myself cause me to stumble and not rest in the complete, all-sufficient grace of Jesus. And how, when I am not resting in His grace for myself, I’m not letting other people rest in it either. So, more grumps because you know, we’re all sinners and always let each other down.
And so on, and so on.
At one point late last week, with yucky, argumentative thoughts battling it out in my mind and my spirit raging with unpleasantness, I asked God, “What is wrong with me? Please, help me!”
And then I remembered how to get out of this mess. I remembered that no-one else had got me into it, and no-one else would get me out of it. This was my responsibility, my problem. Not my husband’s. And certainly not my children who, remember Sarah, are children – and not fully life-trained adults (so they do annoying things, like trudging dog poo into the house without realising).
The were only two ways out of the miserable and self-centred pit of a hole I had got myself into.
First, talk myself out of it.
Talking to yourself isn’t just for crazy people, you know. Or, perhaps I am crazy.
That being said, telling yourself the truth does wonders. And I don’t mean, just any “truth” like the world tells us is true. I’m not saying that I would say glib things to myself like, “You’re worth it!” or “You deserve happiness!”
No. This is the Truth I preach to myself:
I’m being a self-centred sinner and treating my family horribly. But Christ died for me. My sin is nailed to the Cross. I have died to sin and it no longer has a hold on me. I don’t have to follow these woe-is-me feelings. Love my family more than myself through the strength Jesus gives me in His Spirit.
What a beautiful and precious gift we have in the Gospel. And preaching the Gospel to myself – that is, the truth of the Cross and Scripture – breaks the bondage of sin and sets me free.
And friends, it works.
Not always immediately. Sometimes, depending how bad we are in the trenches of our minds, it can take some battling. But light breaks through the dawn, and we get there. We start moving beyond ourselves to truly loving others before ourselves.
Second, forget about myself.
As I’m walking about like a crazy woman talking to myself, I am also simultaneously practicing what Timothy Keller calls “the freedom of self-forgetfulness”. It seems opposing to be talking to myself whilst trying to forget about myself – but it’s not. Not really.
You see, the more I focus on Jesus and doing what He’s commanded me to do –
and loving others
– the less I will be so wrapped up in myself. And it is so good to forget about myself. Following Jesus is all about forgetting about what I am feeling, what I think I need, what I think are my “rights”, what I believe will make me happier than what I am right now.
The less I entangle myself within myself, and instead concern myself more and more with those God has called me to love, the more joyous and selfless and delighted and peaceful and content I will be.
Even though I stumble in sin everyday – which includes at the top of the list, being obsessed with my own sins and failures – preaching the Gospel of Truth to myself will help me rest in that precious grace of Jesus. As Tullian Tchividjian says in the book God is using to change me, One Way Love,
The Gospel, in other words, liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We can stop pretending that we are anyone but who we actually are. Which means we can admit our weaknesses to ourselves without feeling as if the flesh is being ripped off our bones. We can take off our masks and explore our self-justifying compulsions from a distance.”
So, if you are a sinner like me and have been so particularly lovely to be around recently, seek forgiveness from the Lord and your loved ones. That’s the next step to find freedom from yourself. Then, start and keep on preaching the truths of the Bible to yourself. Slowly, you’ll find yourself being and feeling more loving, and in doing so, be less entangled with yourself. Finally, rest in the grace offered in the Cross that it’s okay to just be okay.
And keep repeating the cycle.
Because, as you know, we’re not going to get any better than just being okay until the other side of Heaven. And that’s okay. Because we have Jesus and He made us perfect.