My sense of significance was most strongly challenged when I became a mother. Signing up for years of diapers, and nonsense-conversations, and food prep, and laundry, and sleepless nights, and dirty walls, and jogging-pant days tied raggedly with a messy bun on top, was enough to send even my relatively secure heart into a tailspin.
While my husband attended medical school with a number of bright, high-achieving, stylish women, I was home in my baggy clothes (laced with spit-up and peanut butter finger prints) just praying that the library would be open so that I would have somewhere to go outside of the walls of my little house. While he learned big words, and ate lunch with peers, and had adult conversations, I was home trying to figure out how to nurse a newborn while fully blistered, and chasing a toddler whose diaper was dragging on the floor, while simultaneously trying to think of something to make for supper that wasn’t crackers and cheese (though, I don’t think anyone would have minded).
Juxtapose my own chaotic unravelling with the emerging virtual world that seem to broadcast a seemingly never-ending litany of stories about “successful” stay-at-home-moms who were (on the side) starting Fortune 500 companies, writing books that were changing lives, and launching missions to save the world.
And there was I, buried under a pile of unrealized dreams that could rival the growing pile of laundry on the couch any day. There I was, walking babies around a neighbourhood that emptied out every morning at 7:30 a.m. as everyone sped away to their important work.
The feeling of missing out was strongest then, though it often revisited me, ebbing and flowing to various degrees even as the pace of life sped up and the messy work of motherhood proved more meaningful that I ever imagined.
Many nights, as the last one to fall asleep in the house, my mind has turned to wondering if I’d missed out on something more significant or meaningful had I only been a little more disciplined and worked on some kind of meaningful project ‘on the side’. Daily, I had more ideas than I could count that longed for expression that just wasn’t going to be possible in these seasons where my heart had committed first to the cultivating of our family.
Over time, however, it began to dawn on me that God wasn’t holding a high jump bar up for me to jump over; He wasn’t waiting for me to show up and “do” something. He didn’t need me to deliver a result, or get a gold star, or win something out there in the “real world”.
Schoolish and religious-thinking have cultivated a need to achieve within our culture that feeds us a cheap sense of meaning, grooming us to feel out of sorts whenever we aren’t getting noticed, getting an A+, pulling off some radical achievement, or just generally being awesome.
He delights in our being, in our very existence! And should we live “small” or “large” it is our heart that delights Him.
One of our primary “works” in this life is to explore the fullest expression of ourself that is possible. God delights in who He made us to be, our quirks, our questions, our delights, our dreams…. All of it is woven together to compose a completely unique work of art that reflects His glory. If we are modelling any part of our life off of someone else, it may be that we are not comfortable with ourselves in that area yet, that we don’t know who we are, or that we believe that God couldn’t possibly love someone as weird as us (if we did express ourselves). Now is time to reign in the doubt, toss the judgement, and explore the freedom of who we were made to be.
More important that shoring up any tangible monuments of meaning, we first must come to explore the wide open spaces inside of us, where God’s Spirit softly broods, calling us deeper. As we learn to rest from expectations, striving, work, and busyness, we disengage the “chatty brain” that never stops playing tapes in our mind (i.e. thinking), and we step beyond that into places of silence, meditation and rest… and finding Jesus there, we begin to see that this is the where we enter His rest.
These have been uncharted waters for me, for most of my life!
When we enter His rest, we begin to swim in a new kind of trust that is just settled, that is ready to move or wait, or try or not according to the peace in our hearts, but where nothing is any longer measured “in the natural”. When comparison dies, when feelings of guilt and inadequacy are laid down, when desire and pride take a seat, when we no longer have to do anything to experience significance, it is right then, that we do...
Right there in the heart of God.