For a few weeks now I have been tackling projects around the house preparing for the winter's inevitable arrival. First was the dreaded sorting through closets. I packed away clothes my kids have outgrown, got hand me down bags ready, and switched over to cold-weather-wares.
Next was bringing totes up from the basement containing wreaths and lights to hang before the cold settled in--wrapping Pittsburgh in its icy tendrils. Then finally, the customary changing of linens to flannel sheets and cozy comforters. And here is where the real story begins.
I pulled out a cute comforter that I purchased on clearance last season intended for my four year old's bed. But to my dismay, there was a palm-sized discoloration in a very visible area. I don't mean to toot my own horn, (well, maybe just a little) but I pride myself on being able to obliterate pretty much any stain. And so I went to work.
Here's where things started to go sideways. My typical methods of stain removal backfired when the very dark colors of the backside began to bleed through to the very crisp, clean white front side. The more I tried to correct my error, the worse it seemed to get. I soon regretted even bothering.
"The discoloration would have been less noticeable," I chided myself. Three wash cycles and a boatload of Oxy Clean later, it was much better, but still not looking like the crisp new comforter that it was.
Throughout the entire process, from the moment I realized my error, I regretted not having taken the time to read the care label. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that the manufacturer's instructions could have saved me from a chain of bad choices in attempting to correct my blunder.
It was not wasted on me, that this very dilemma often plays out in my life. I will not presume that you find yourself in this predicament, but for the sake of candor, I will admit to you that all too often, I find myself reacting, rather than thoughtfully responding to life. Desperately trying instead, to correct my missteps or to remedy uncomfortable circumstances by trying to work my way out of them. Much to my consternation, I often find that my knee-jerk reactions only serve to make things worse.
I have been making it a habit to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs each day--a book full of 'care tags', if you will. I have done this for several months now and, as you can imagine, my sharp corners have repeatedly rubbed up against the sandpaper of Soloman's wise counsel. Reading wisdom literature is great in theory...until it hits a nerve. And so it has, time and time again. Once a month like clockwork, in fact!
James 1:23-25 says, "Don't fool yourself into thinking you're a listener when you're anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in a mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God--the free life-- even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain, but a man or woman of action. They will find delight and affirmation in the action."
It's hard to tuck a bad habit, a defense mechanism, or a selfish motive away when the Word of God is continually holding a mirror up to it. That is, after all, why I come to the Word in the first place--so that I can see my blind spots and discover that what I lack, the Father longs to lavishly restore and recreate.
The funny thing is, I am coming to a place in my journey where I recognize that I am spending more energy trying to avoid the things that make me squirm than the amount of energy it would take for me to simply get to the heart of the matter. To get down to brass tacks--to climb up on the operating table and sign the consent forms for the open heart surgery that will save my life...and set me free!
I used to think that God was was exacting--that He demanded of me more than I was capable of giving. And the truth of the matter is, He does! He does ask of me more than I can give...in my humanity. But by the same token, He is not appealing to my humanity, but to His own Spirit within me.
I was recently captivated by the words of David in Psalm 42:7-8:
"Deep calls unto deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all your waves and breakers have swept over me!
Then God promised to love me all day, sing songs through the night--my life is God's prayer."
I can't tell you what those words have meant to me. The deepness of God's heart, calling out to the deepness of His Spirit pulsing in my own. The echo of surrender's possibility--of heeding the 'care tags', even amid the tumult and chaos of circumstance and emotion. That His love will fill me with the grace to do what I am powerless to do on my own. That His presence escorts me when the choices are easy and that it will likewise propel me when they are not. My life itself--its ebb and flow--a constant prayer to God, "Make me more like you."
I now realize that He is not the exacting taskmaster I supposed Him to be. He is my biggest cheerleader! He gives me the care tags, not to box me in, but to set me free to live life to the fullest. (John 10:10)
If He created me, He knows best how I should live in order to make the most of life and to inspire others to do the same. In reality, His instructions are merciful shortcuts. Although they may not feel that way in the moment, if heeded, they will save me from fruitlessly walking in frustrating circles, perpetually wounding my own heart.
I'm not perfect, but I'm learning, and I think that's the best place that I can be--making forward progress. And apparently, I'm in good company:
"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I keep pursuing it, hoping to somehow embrace it just as I have been embraced by the Master, Jesus Christ. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back."
Angie Reynold is a wife mom and daughter of God. During the pandemic, she has taken on the role of teacher for her two young boys. She enjoys reading and bakes. This deeply reflective heart-centered woman also finds time to write for our community.