Thursday, January 3, 2013

Strong and Courageous

For as long as I can remember, I have been one of the most competitive people I know.  This works both for me and against me.  Mostly, it pushes me to my edge, so that I know I am doing my absolute best.  Whether it be playing a mad game of Scrabble when I was little, to being a band geek as a teenager, to being a good mom and wife as an adult.  Whatever my task, I wanted perfection.  I wanted the best.  I wanted to be able to say that no one makes a better meatloaf than me.  No one plays that solo like Cil does.  No one knows her girls better than Cil.  She is just amazing, that is seriously what I wanted more than anything.  To be known for excellence. Then, my walls started shaking, and after a long bit of this shaking, my foundation gave way.  My competitive edge was fatally wounded, requiring me to admit defeat and failure.  This rocked me to my core, because the only thing I don't do is fail.  I just don't.  That is, until I did. 

When someone gets married, or rather when I got married, it is supposed to be for life. You know, the whole grow old together, with each other, praying you die first so you never have to live without the other.  I went into my marriage with those goals in mind.  Honestly.  Yeah, I know you all know how that ended for me, but bear with me.  The commitment wasn't just a short term game, or a starter marriage.  I wanted forever.  A lifetime.  You know, happily ever after.  And, when my walls started shaking, I fought harder.  I dug my feet in and held on for life.  I prayed and I waited, I prayed and I waited.  I tried harder, I cooked better, I cleaned better.  I did every thing I possibly could to make wants be satisfied, to know I had fought my hardest fight and won it.  And, the competitive edge failed me.  I failed me.  Looking back now, I realize that failure is only failure when you learn nothing.  When you leave a situation with no pointers, with no mistakes recognized, with no lessons learned, no empathy to be handed to someone in the same situation.  That is failure.

The last few months, I haven't written much.  Truth is, I have been too busy comparing and competing with those around me to sit down and hash it out in words.  The old Cil coming out, feeling the need to take it one notch above.  Competing to be the best.  At everything.  Instead of feeling like the best, I have been feeling like failure.  Putting every ounce of myself into everything around me, pouring and giving and trying so hard that I realize I am failing.  Stupidly, not even recognizing what I am doing to myself or those around me.  Comparing myself to the mom's I know who have it all together.  Most, I might add, are also married.  And not in school full time.  Comparing myself to people I can't keep up with, spiritually, financially, physically.  Luckily, I am not yelling at myself, ripping myself to shreds in the mirror, or ruining who I know I am, however, tonight, I feel defeated.  I feel weak.  I feel like sitting down and saying none of it matters.  Except, this time, none of it really does.  Who cares if I can buy a house this time next year?  No one but me.  The girls don't care.  My friends don't care if I own my own house.  The dog doesn't care.  Me pushing myself for something that is probably not reachable.  Who cares what kind of grades I make?  Me.  My grades will not change a single thing about my diploma.  It will not change the requirements for the job, nor will they determine my salary.  It does not determine my worth to friends, it definitely does not make or break my mothering skills.  So, does it really matter?  Who cares if I write a 2,000 word post every day?  I know most would say it was overkill.  Not because I don't rock, but because that's just a lot.  Truth is, I can't think of a single person in my exact shoes that I can compete with to reach the prize, whatever in the world that may be.  And still, I get frustrated.  I get tired.  I get hopeful, then sad when my hope runs dry.  I want my little girls to stay little so I can snuggle and answer their questions in ways they understand.  Sad thing is, I can't.  And, living with an 8-year-old is proving that I can't answer all the questions, know it all, or even understand it all.  Sometimes, all I can do is remind myself to put one foot in front of the other, and keep my head held high while doing it.  Standing tall and just being brave while the questions hammer my head like bullets, being shot rapid fire at me.  Remaining confident in my God while my daughters ask questions I can't even fake the answers to. 

This last Sunday, I was so impressed with Joshua 1:9.  "This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." In my little fantasy world, I thought Joshua suddenly had all the power and strength he could possibly need.  Until I kept reading.  Then really starting looking and studying.  Joshua sounds like a strong, bold, brave sort of name.  Courageous, definitely.  And yet, he was given the exact same command 7 different times in just a few short chapters.  Technically 8, as Moses was given that message to give to Joshua at the end of Deuteronomy.  This seemingly strong command that we all know had to be given to this mighty man of God 8 times.  Fearless warrior, shaking in his boots, knowing what he had to do, what he was ordered to do, and still having to bow on his knees and be issued new strength, new fearlessness, new courage so many times in a short amount of time. 

Tonight, I am fighting my emotions.  I am fighting my head.  I am fighting an uncertain future.  And yet, aren't we all?  Aren't we all in something unseen, something we all feel alone in?  Fearful of what God is giving us the strength to fight for?  I just can't seem to get over it.  No one else in the whole Bible was given that command so many times.  Several men were given the command, Azariah, Hezekiah, David, finally to Solomon.  None of those men needed to be reminded eight times.  So, I can continue to sit and compare myself with beautiful women around me, I can sit and compare myself to these amazing cooks whose husbands adore them, I can sit and compare myself to energetic volunteers in the same ministry as me.  Or, I can sit and remind myself we don't all do it the same way.  Some of us need to be reminded "Be strong.  Be courageous.  Be fearless.  Be obedient.  Don't be afraid of me or where we are going.  And don't you ever, ever let go of my hand," only once, some twice, some of us eight times, and still others around us need 8,000 times before the message sinks in and faith and trust take over.  While I can sit and compare, I realize we are all given the same grace, the same mercy, the same future.  We who seek God will prosper.  We will be given those secret desires that we long for.  We will wake up each morning, with yesterday's sins already erased from our records, and when we do the same stupid things today, His grace, His blood, it covers those too.  So, yeah, I might compare.  And it might take 5 million times, but truth is, God is still God.  He is still Creator, Planner, Author of my story, He is my beginning, and He will be my end.  This junk in my path isn't gonna take me down.  It will not take anything more from me than it already has.  And His plan for me is still best.  Even if He chooses to keep it hidden for just a little while still, it will be best. 

I just feel the urge to say this...  Do whatever it is He is calling you to do.  Do it with the confidence only He can give you.  Be obedient and be strong.  Be courageous and know He is God.  He has promised to stand by our side, regardless of the fact He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He won't abandon you, forsake you or forget you.  Be fearless, because He has already gone ahead, He knows the battle, because He has already fought it for us.  Sometimes, though, we gotta get a little muddy.  We gotta get a little uncomfortable and afraid.  We wouldn't need Him if we could do it all on our own.  Not in our weakness, but in His strength... 

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