Time to look in the mirror

I actually started writing this yesterday and didn’t finish. This morning the GH woke up and made us all breakfast, since Fridays are his day off.

This morning at 6 am I woke to the sound of a little voice yelling, “Mommy, I peed my bed.” I don’t know if there is a worse way to wake up besides, “Mommy, I just vomited all over myself.” Or, “Mommy, I can’t breath, call an ambulance now.” That last one they aren’t really talking by the way, just making terrible suffocating noises.

So I changed bedding, ran a bath and found new PJ’s. The GH meanwhile woke up a started getting ready for work. (Yes, he gets up before anyone else is even awake and sneaks quietly out of the house to go to work every morning. Yes he is awesome.) While I was standing next to the bathtub turning off the water he decided to relieve himself in the toilet right behind me. As I was saying, “Great, there will be spray all over my pants now.” I got a drop on my foot. (I no longer have any illusions about the spatter radius of a spray of urine. They may be pointing in the direction of the toilet, but there will be minute amounts of pee scattered at least 2 feet in all directions.) Tired, cranky, and already dealing with enough pee thank-you very much I whipped him in the face with a towel before stalking out of the bathroom to wash my foot off. He just laughed at me, which is what he usually does when I get really angry.

It was a stellar way to start the day.

Fortunately children went back to sleep so I went back to bed as well but as I was trying to drift off again I kept thinking about Lena’s comment on my post last week. She said, and I paraphrase, “Anything done without love is a worthless action.” And that is a great thing to keep in mind as I go through my day. Stabbing in all the appropriate places when I am not in fact loving when I do something.

And that got me thinking about The Shack. Which I just read, and it was actually pretty good. But one of the themes in there, and again I paraphrase, was that the point is relationships. Relationships, not power structures.

And that got me thinking about my time living with 5 other girls, sleeping on a church floor near the beach and feeding homeless people for a year. It was HARD. We didn’t even know each other when we started on this journey. But we were all looking for an authentic experience, to actually live out our faith in some small way. For 3 months we struggled. We had so many hang ups.

We didn’t trust each other. We were each afraid that the others wouldn’t like us. We couldn’t ever get anything done because no one wanted to give up whatever power they imagined they had in order to reach an agreement. We were rebellious, frightened, resentful, and the tension between us all was palpable. When I first saw an episode of survivor after that I couldn’t help laughing thinking it wasn’t that dissimilar to our experience.

One night it came to a head, I don’t remember why. We were just really upset about something. And the person who had been sort of mentoring us through this from afar suggested that we choose a leader, or that we allow a leader to be chosen for us. But none of us wanted that. Now, it was mostly because we didn’t like the idea of being led, or needing to submit to someone in charge. But we didn’t pick a leader, we continued to try and hash through things as a group.

And that’s when something remarkable started to happen. Because instead submitting to one person’s leadership, as is the normal way to get things done in our culture, we found ourselves needing to submit to each other. We would struggle, with tears often, over the many verses that say things like,

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Eph. 4:31-32

Or this one,

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

The tears were because not only did we know that we weren’t behaving this way toward each other, something this attempt to live together had highlighted, we knew that it wasn’t even possible for us to feel and behave this way toward each other on our own strength.

And this is where the miracle happened. The more we struggled, and tried, and prayed for help, the more we started to love each other. I distinctly remember looking at one of them right in the moment when she confessed that she had screwed up, in a really big way, and feeling nothing but proud of her and full of love. She was the one who most got on my nerves at the beginning. I started to genuinely try to find, when someone had offended me, any way in which I had been wrong as well so that I could apologize.

We started to function together as a team. We naturally made way for the strengths of each other when those strengths were what was needed in a given moment. There was no jockeying for position or a chance to speak, because we were none of us trying to put ourselves forward, rather looking for chances to recognize someone else’s strengths.

It was one of the most remarkable, transforming years of my life. When I went home after that year I felt as though I was missing my arms and legs. I felt extremely lonely in the few years following, so used had I become to having them with me all the time. Before that year I preferred to be alone.

I know it sounds a bit utopic when I describe it, and it was far from perfect, we still bickered a lot, but the way we dealt with it was very different, we genuinely loved each other.

I left that year knowing with certainty that any two people could learn to love each other if they were just willing to take the time to try, and to let God help them.

I’ve had difficulty ever since articulating what it was that made that year so unique. Until this morning. I think a large part of it had to do with the fact that for the first time in my life, relationships were more important than power. We each let go of our own right to power or influence, and it was frightening, and found that the other side of it was something much more significant and right.

This morning I lay there thinking about that year, those friends, and realized that I’ve gotten lazy. I’m no longer consciously trying to consider others more important than myself. I’m very important, dontchaknow? And it shows. I think back over several interactions this past year, with people I’ve known a long time and I see myself leaving a wake of hurt feelings and unkindness in my path. Not intentionally, you understand, but just because I was more focused upon myself than the person in front of me. Too absorbed in my own stuff to notice the other’s reaction.

While I continue to be sensitive to the opportunity to form new friendships and relationships, the people in my life the longest, the people I am used to, I have treated the worst. I have taken them for granted. My thought has not been to serve them, but how they can serve me, what they owe me. And that accounts for everything that has passed between us.

So as I lay there, now yesterday morning, I realized that this year is a good time to once again struggle with those verses, to bring them close to my own heart as mirrors and allow them to show me what is really there. And then, with help, choose, not only to act that way, but to allow myself to be changed within until that is once again my consistent reality.

all content © Carrien Blue

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