“Yet God has made
for its own time. He has planted
eternity in the human heart,
but even so, people can not see
the whole scope of God’s work
from beginning to end.”
ECCLESIASTES 3:11 NLT
Are you a “type A” woman? I’m one too. We just love to be a part of the action! We have the answer to everything! We make the world go round…or so we think! For years I prided myself in being the “glue” that held our family together. When I first got married, 9 years ago, I was a glue-stick kind of woman. I knew just enough about love and marriage to be dangerous. If you ‘d asked, I would’ve sang those famous Beetles lyrics, All you need is Love. But I didn’t have a clue what love meant. I had no idea the stick-to-it-iveness I would need. Boy, was I in for the ride of my life!
Like Nike, my motto is Just Do It, I thought that I could have anything I wanted if I just wanted it enough. And I wanted a perfect life. Often I would find myself frustrated, trying to fit the square peg of my high standards into the round hole of my imperfect life. I would get angry at my kids, angry at my husband, angry at myself, and even angry at God. I call it equal opportunity anger. This is where I saw the flaw in my mantra: Just Do It. As any exasperated mother will tell you, just do it is the least effective motivator for children. Right there next to, because I say so and you’ll thank me when you’re older. It doesn’t work too well on husbands, either! Have you ever tried a DIY Life? Slap a Band-Aid on your marriage. A little Elmer’s on the disobedient child. Hey, if it get’s really bad you know right where to find the duct-tape! And after all of that, life starts to look a little rough. It kinda loses its shine. Band Aids and Duct tape will only get you so far. And believe me, it not pretty! I guess, after a while, I just stopped looking. I lost sight of God’s design for my life. The problem wasn’t my unhappy marriage. The problem wasn’t even my naughty kids. The problem was me. My heart had gone cold. I had fallen asleep.
Then, I got a wake up call. My husband’s alcoholism ruined my life…and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. When my husband got sober a few years ago, I saw God at work as he started to put our life back together. Yet, as Ben began to emerge stronger, I became unglued. You see, I have always been the glue; the glue for my children, the glue for my husband, and the glue for our broken lives. Keeping up appearances was exhausting, but I would have told you: Everything’s Fine. I had no idea just how tired I had become.
Suddenly, the children began asking for daddy to read them a bedtime story. Or Go for a walk. Or Play trains. THis was a big deal, suddenly., i didn’t feel so important. I became angry. A close friend asked me, Where does grace fit in? Honestly, I couldn’t figure that out. After all, it wasn’t me who lost the job, or crashed the car, and it certainly wasn’t my fault we were teetering on the brink of destruction. If I had to hear the phrase. “ we are so proud of Ben’s changes” one more time, I was gonna lose it. What about me? Did any one understand how impossibly destroyed I felt? What was I even doing here? I couldn’t see anything beautiful in my life. But God did. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people can not see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” He knew that I was at the end of my rope and couldn’t hang on any longer…I had to let go. Let go of control. Let go of perfection. That’s when we can either run away or run to GOD. I ran to God. He has used the shattered dreams and broken hearts of the past to melt my heart and teach me that my best laid plans are not enough. Life is not about what I have. It is not about what I want. It’s not about me, it is about the grace God gives me to survive and even to thrive in difficult circumstances. What does grace look like? Not the grace we see embodied by runway models and prima ballerinas. Not the grace we say at the dinner table. Grace only comes from God. It is a gift. But to give it, we first have to receive it.
This is where grace became real in my life. Grace is a gift that we do not deserve, and do not earn. For me, grace during Ben’s first year of sobriety came in the form of endurance. When there was too much to do, and not enough energy, God allowed me to endure. Today, I could tell you I how far I’ve come. I could tell you that it’s all coming together. I could tell you that, but I won’t because I still have a long way to grow. When there is a mountain of laundry, and textbooks and yesterdays dishes, I need grace…and coffee. Lots of coffee!
Putting all of my energy into my lifestyle and accomplishments kept me busy. But, It wasn’t until they were washed away that I could see what needed to change. My heart. Ecclesiastes 3;11 told us, He has made everything beautiful in its time… When we think about what is beautiful in life, let’s not look to our homes, or our physique. Let’s start by working with our hearts. Biblical womanhood is heart-work. Motherhood is heart-work. Being a wife is heart-work. It’s hard work, too. Grace invites me to see myself as loved, just as I am. To see myself as valuable, even when I feel like I have nothing left to give. God has something to teach me, right where I am today.
What I want now is the beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit…what is underneath, the inner heart. Slowly, as our hearts seek Him, our lives are remade. The question is, I am seeking God or relying on my own hands? Sometimes, when God wants to make us beautiful it isn’t through what we add, but in what is hidden underneath. Ephesians 3:16-17 NLT reads: I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”
When I am patient with a difficult child, even when it means interrupting my schedule, I plant the seeds of grace. When I am submissive to my husband and don’t insist on my own way, I cultivate a thriving marriage. When I offer gratitude to God…just for today, I harvest the blessings of contentment. God is making me beautiful…one step at a time. My husband graduated college last Sunday – with honors…We never know just how far the impact our roles as wives and mothers will reach…but, sometimes it can change a life! And that, in a very real way, is God’s grace.
Echoes of Mercy:
SUFJAN STEVENS: Amazing Grace