Yesterday and the beginning of today fell under the category of “one of those days.” It felt like a series of unfortunate events, but in reality, it was just a series of annoying mishaps. The amount of sleep I have had largely influences my perspective on such days, and the fact that almost every night for the last while I can’t seem to manage to fall asleep before about 2 am is apparently starting to catch up to me. I’ll spare you the details of yesterday’s events but it involved a lot of driving, at least 20 poops and diaper changes, several outfit changes, a few tantrums, a couple spills in multiple locations, a little bit of disappointing and frustrating news, a few hundred deep breaths, some raised voices (followed by guilt), some sweat and some tears, but luckily, no blood.
This morning, the saga of annoying misfortunes continued. I was supposed to be in a class that started at 9 and is about 45 minutes away. I didn’t wake up to my alarm but instead to my brother (who was so sweetly coming to stay with my sons) saying, “UH OH!!!”
It was 8:10.
I jumped out of bed screaming obscenities and running around like a chicken with my head cut off. You’d think I would have learned by now that that approach does not help the situation and in fact always costs me more time in the long run, but I haven’t, and I maintained my decapitated chicken posture throughout the morning. I slapped on clothes, debated whether or not to wake up my baby to feed him, decided not to and to pump instead, realized that was a horrible idea 10 minutes in and woke up the little dude anyway. Fed him a very rushed, half a boob breakfast, kissed his lil face and headed out. It was about 8:40 by this point. It’s pouring outside so I took some breaths and decided an accident wouldn’t help my case and I should at least not drive like a chicken with my head cut off, even though I still felt like one on the inside. I get in the car and realize I have 33 miles til empty. Awesome! Knowing I can’t make it on that, although I debated trying, I accepted that I’d need to stop. Get stuck behind not one, but two school buses. Make it to the gas station, it’s 8:50. Get enough gas to keep rolling, then get stuck behind an 18 wheeler apparently waiting til he had a mile of clear space before he felt comfortable enough to pull out of the gas station. Finally escape and hit the highway. It’s 8:56. It’s now raining so hard I can’t even see the car in front of me. I call the instructor of the course and explain I’ll be late. He’s gracious about it so I take a deep breath and realize, I have to surrender.
This morning I kept saying things like, “This is unbelievable…this class is clearly not meant to happen…I’m amazed how difficult it has been to just make this 2 hour thing work out…etc.” As I was mumbling things under my breath, beating myself up, screaming at the truck in front of me refusing to go, and working myself up into what could only be explained as an internal adult tantrum, focusing mainly on the negative and the difficult from the last 2 days, I had a few realizations.
The first epiphany was that I had to surrender. This is not a new phenomena, nor is it something I do gracefully. I’m notorious for trying to control and do things in my own strength, and then after lots of stumbling and face planting, I eventually surrender because I’ve been given no other choice. Whether it’s small, daily nuances or big, life changing tragedies, God is teaching me that I have to surrender. Along with this, however, depending on the situation, I tend to then say, “Well I guess that just wasn’t meant to happen,” or I even blame satan for dragging me down or tripping me up. Now let’s be clear, he is. But not everything that goes wrong is because of the devil, at least not completely.
I’m seeing a tendency to assign universal or even spiritual responsibility to the product of my own poor planning. I’ve decided I don’t think that’s fair to God, and it likely gives satan too much credit. The fact that I woke up late was the first domino in a long stream of dominoes that fell this morning, and each one was set up on the negative events (and sleep deprived lens I viewed it all through) from the days before. I didn’t wake up late because I wasn’t meant to make it to class on time. I woke up late because I only got 5 hours of sleep, I was tired, and I didn’t change the settings on my phone to make my alarm go off until I told it not to. If I had gotten gas on my way home the night before when I realized I was low instead of putting it off, I wouldn’t have had an empty tank for an early morning. There are several little decisions I could have made differently that would have changed the fate of my morning. We are responsible for our choices and for dealing with the outcome and consequences of those decisions, for good, bad or ugly.
Every decision we make has a little bit of all three. A bad decision, no matter what size it is, may have some ugly consequences, but God always uses it for good. In that way, God gives meaning and reason to every little detail of our lives.
Unfortunately, Satan is also at work in the small details of our lives and many times, that IS how he gets to us. Through the late mornings, the spilled cereal, the empty gas tank, the slow buses, the tiny tantrums and no sleep. It’s in those small things that our clarity and our focus and our patience tends to slip. We get a little off course, a little off balance, and its much easier for satan to make us fall. This is why it’s so important to stay focused in every little thing we do. Everything matters. Kinda sucks, I know!
Its so easy to get trapped in the daily grind and start to think, “This doesn’t matter.” That thought can then twist itself into, “I don’t matter,” and with that, satan has us right where he wants us. I tend to beat myself up for every little bad decision that has an ugly consequence; even as simple as waking up late and not having gotten gas the night before. When I am tired and off my game, small things become unreasonably big. My patience is low, my skin feels thin, and my resolve for a positive outlook seems non existent, for at least that moment. I feel like everything is off and then my brain/satan starts in with the lies. “You’re not worthy. You don’t matter. You’re a failure. You can’t do anything right. Here you go again. You’re not even a good mom…look at how frustrated you are over the 20th poop in a row…good moms don’t get frustrated like that. You’re a mess.”
In order to stop the swirling tornado of negative self talk and destruction, I have to SURRENDER. Surrender simply means putting God’s will above my own. There always comes a moment in these times of unnecessary iternal chaos where I feel God say, “Are you done yet?” I usually look at him the same way my son does when he’s debating whether or not he wants to deliberately do the thing I just told him not to do just one more time, with sideways eyes and a tilted head, and eventually I say, “Ok….fine!!!”
I get so wrapped up in trying to control my own life sometimes that I lose sight of God’s mercy and grace. I can’t find His hand because I’m too busy spinning. In order to find Him I have to first stop spinning. Then I have to look around and I have to pay attention. I have to listen. I have to stop. I have to look up and say, “Ok fine, I surrender.” Then, after I’m laying on my back, dizzy and exhausted from all the spinning, I can reach out to God and take His hand that has been extended patiently the whole time. I’m not sure why I find it necessary to do life this way, but it’s how I’ve always done it. That doesn’t make it good or smart. In fact, we all know the definition of insanity right!?
I have to come completely unraveled before I find the end of myself and become willing to let God take control. Oh I’ll give Him some things. I’ll even give Him some of the big things, but everything? No sir! I can’t give you everything until I know for sure I can’t figure it out myself. Its the same stubbornness I’ve had since I was 2 saying to my parents, “I do it myself!” And it’s the same stubbornness my sons have when they look at me and say, “I get it! I do it mommy!” That stubbornness can be a good trait but it certainly causes more stumbling than is desirable at times. It’s more than cute, childish stubbornness at hand here though. Its a lack of faith.
I struggle with surrender. Always have, maybe always will. But I’m at least aware of it and my eyes are open to my need for it. God is always speaking. I just have to get quiet enough to hear it. Sometimes I have too much internal noise to hear anything from God, but luckily, He is good at getting His message across even if I’m too busy talking and spinning to hear it the first time. He gets our attention one way or another, and for that, I’m grateful.
Surrendering means laying down my will and picking up God’s grace. It means trusting in His goodness and His sovereignty over my futile efforts to control. It means faith in God’s provision and protection in my life, even in the small things. So today, despite the continued mess that is my life, despite my shortened patience, despite my guilt, and despite my spinning, I am surrendering. It may be one finger at a time, but slowly and surely, I am letting go. In order to hold God’s hand, I have to let go of the crap in His place. His hand is there but I can’t hold it if my hands are filled with my own junk. And whether it’s big or small, it’s just junk. I may have to re-surrender every 5 minutes, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.
God is in the chaos just as He is in the stillness. He’s in the quiet, the noise, the guilt, the joy, the big, the small. He’s in everything because He is everything. Why would I think I can do it alone or better without God? I can’t. So today, I surrender.