Finite--The Tale of the Death of Supermom

The house is quiet. I hear only the hum of the dishwasher and the occasional pant from our overweight rat-terrier. These rare, peaceful moments afford me a few moments to take stock of my surroundings, the week behind me, the week before me and the state of my life in general.

I see dirty floors and an embarrassing layer of dust resting lazily on the darker furniture. Pockets of clutter sit proud and ugly, daring me to expend energy pulling them apart and tucking them away, rather than taking a needed beat to sit, think and write. Empty boxes cry out to be filled with non-essentials in preparation for the impending move. Dirty towels coil like snakes, ready and willing to take over the bathroom if ignored for too long. But hey, the dishwasher is running.

My precious reds slumber peacefully after a short night and an early morning at my parents' house. Pain and exhaustion drove me to send out an S.O.S. The thin wire upon which I balance so precariously snapped Friday evening, sending me to that dark and scary place of pain, fatigue and the inability to even take care of myself. In that place, I face a moment by moment fight to put one foot in front of the other and not allow the discouragement of it all to swallow me whole. Brandon desperately needed a break from being Atlas. The world is heavy thing to carry on your shoulders. Reinforcements were summoned. Praise God for a broad network of love that catches the crazy tightrope walker and man of steel when they topple and collapse.

Depending upon whether you like me or not, you will either laugh or cry when I tell you what sent me off of the edge. It wasn't all that much, really. Appointments on Monday and Friday and a couple of social calls Friday afternoon were the only departures from home. At home, I struggled to keep the dishes and laundry under control, feed the family, and spend a little quality time with the Lord, my husband and children. That is all. Micah and Sara spent more time in front of the television than I care to admit. I failed to pack even one box. And I attempted three times to vacuum, yet the floors remain filthy. Granted, we are dealing with a defiant three year old who enjoys tatooing my sofa with ink pen and who is also having regular late night anxiety attacks along with an infant spoiled to the ends of her strawberry-blonde ringlets, something which is bound to happen to a child born with colic, reflux, allergies, insomnia and a poor immune system. Granted, my Superman has been out and about, saving the world, requiring a bit more of me on the home front. Granted, I am still navigating the current of a life-altering illness, but when I consider the fact that basic mothering and housekeeping sent me to my wit's end, I feel a little . . . . irked.

Once upon a time, I envisioned my life as a homemaker looking like some awe-inspiring combination of Martha Stewart, Michelle Duggar, Renee Fleming, J.K. Rowling and Mother Theresa. I wanted to do it all--have more children than fingers, all perfectly behaved and home-educated, have a beautiful, clean, organized home, primed for entertaining, serve a new and delicious home-cooked meal every night, have a blossoming musical career, encompassing both teaching and performing, write a best-selling young adult fiction series, all the while being involved in ministry and community outreach. (Naturally, I envisioned all of this before the sobering reality of  real children.)

Obviously, my life as it is sits in sharp contrast to the fairy tale I planned to write. I had written myself as the hero, but I was a poor, insufficient choice for such a role. One by one, I have had to unfurl my fingers from the edges of each dream, and watch quietly as they floated away and out of my reach. My musical career has been non-existent for almost a full year. I have accepted that two children fill my quiver. My novel may never be written. (A novel requires time, energy and mental clarity, and carpal tunnel syndrome does not help matters.) My house may never be perfectly clean, organized or tidy again, and Martha Stewart certainly wouldn't approve of my toilet rings or of my decision to move into a trailer. Instead of being Mother Theresa, I must settle for taking her advice--"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." I have been a hard case. I didn't let go of those dreams easily, and when I did, it was with an aching sobriety that usually accompanies news of death. And truly, things I held as sacred and precious did die.

I'm about to make a big statement with which many of you will disagree, but here goes--I believe that God appoints hardships and trials, and I believe that He appoints them for our good. Let that sink in for just a moment. I'm saying that God sent sickness into my life. I'm saying that He has killed my dreams. I'm saying that He has sent me to the brink of death and pulled me back again, back into pain, hunger and heartbreak. And I'm also saying that it has been good.

What is "good?" The American Dream defines good as "health, wealth and prosperity." The Bible defines "good" this way--"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who have been called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, these He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:28-29)

Thus, "good" means "being conformed into the image of Jesus." My dreams? They didn't look like Jesus. They looked like a Pharisee, stinking with pretty perfume to cover the reeking stench of pride and death. I had to be freed from the bondage of performance and the Supermom image I was so desperate to create. I am NOT called to be Supermom. I am called to be like Jesus. And you can't be like Jesus until you die. It may not sound like God is qualified to write fairy tales if He kills off His damsel (notice I am no longer the hero, but the damsel), but I can assure you that He writes better fairy tales than you, me or the Brothers Grimm.

In the story God is writing, I, the damsel, am thrown into a fire. I don't believe that God did the tossing, but I think He gave the "okay," and I am certain that Satan was pleased when he received permission to throw me to the flames. In my mind's eye, I see him rubbing his hands together, scheming the demise of the faith which threatens to save me from ultimate destruction. But you know what? What Satan meant for evil, GOD meant for good. The flames indeed rise around me, but instead of being consumed by the fire, I am being purified. I am melted, and it hurts and it burns, but the dross--my dreams, sin and failures--separate from my faith, rising in empty bubbles to the top. And because Christ has already faced the only fire that could ever really destroy me, the essence of who I am remains, and I am better and more beautiful than I once was. Supermom could not defeat the lifelong sin that had a choke-hold on my relationship with Christ, but the fire that turned Supermom to ash ate that sin for breakfast. I no longer struggle with it. Submission to my husband and my role as a help-meet are no longer thorns in my side, but joys to my soul. The anxiety that once threatened to drown me has evaporated in the heat. The sense of entitlement I once felt toward things like food, sleep, and fun is long gone. In its place is a deep knowing that my needs for sustenance, rest and enjoyment can only be met in Christ. (Is this story epic or what?)

So, with Paul, I indeed "count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,  and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [or seemingly nice and innocent dreams], but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

(That passage is my new memory project, by the way. )

The fire has cleared my vision. I am beginning to understand that God is bigger, wilder, more fearsome, more uncontrollable and more infinite than I can possibly imagine. I can see my smallness. I embrace my smallness. The fact that I come to the end of myself so easily still makes me want to cry, but I take those tears to Jesus, even the ones shed over stupid things like dirty floors and unpacked boxes and frazzled hair that tells true tales about my frailty.

In the words of my favorite singer/songwriter, Sara Groves, from her song "Finite"--"I'm not every woman. It's not all in me." And you know what? It doesn't have to be. The tyranny of Supermom has ended. Now I can be exactly who God wants me to be. I can be finite. I can be limited. I can be the damsel. And I can let Him be God, the Hero, the One who slays my dragons, the One who saves me from the Wicked Witch, the One who kisses me awake from the sinister slumber of false dreams, the One who lays down His life for me and somehow rises again to live for me, the One who says, "I AM WHO I AM," which means He has the authority to send whatever fire He wants into my life, the right to expect my devotion and obedience in the midst of that fire, and the loving-kindness to work that fire for my good and save my life in the end. The most awesome thing about this fairy tale is that He does this all not only for me, but for everyone who trusts in Jesus . . . . and we all get to live happily ever after.