I cooked up a blog last week. Or began to. I thought I’d title it The God Thing because when I started writing, I thought I was doing the God thing. Turns out I was wrong.
See, last Wednesday was hectic from the get-go. I’d been out of state over the weekend, a long road trip on Monday, and a late night on Tuesday. So come Wednesday morn, I was tired. And behind. The icing on the cake came with a phone call from the school announcing a two hour delay. Problem was my child had already boarded the bus and I was unable to find out what would happen to him… would he be returned or go on to school?
So, without knowing the fate of my child, I put my other child down for a nap. That’s when I finally invested in some quality me time. I sat down on the potty and relished the silence. Alas, much too soon, I heard the deep roar of a bus engine and the whoosh of air brakes. Then a horn.
Seems Levi was home.
Thus, my moment on the toilet was abruptly called to a halt. I ran up the driveway sans shoes while frantically waving my hands. I’m here, I’m here, they indicated. Needless to say, I felt utterly rushed and not at all peaceful by the time 7:30 rolled around. And yet, my morning had just begun. I had so much to do…
The God thing
The God thing for me on Wednesday was to make soup. It was the last session of a women’s Bible study and we were to luncheon afterward. And though I knew I should get started immediately, I decided to meet with God instead. My daughter napped, my son watched a cartoon, and I went behind closed doors hoping to hear a word from God.
And so it must have been 8:15 when I started the soup. But I’d forgotten how long it took to peel potatoes. And wash and chop celery. And onions. And before I knew it, it was time to take Levi up the hill to the bus for his second boarding. And I had to scoop Annabelle out of the crib before I was ready to do so.
Before I knew it, it was 9:17. And the potatoes had just started to boil. And I was plying my daughter with Lil’ Crunchies to buy more time. See, I had to get the soup done by 9:45. And yet, there I stood in loungewear. And Annabelle was clad in a diaper only. And she was eating junk food for breakfast. Just so I could make soup to take somewhere else.
That’s when I had a defining moment. I thought no. No. I will not rush myself silly. I will not live in chaos. So I made a phone call. I apologized profusely but canceled last minute. I would not bring soup as I said I would. And for the briefest of moments, I felt good about my decision. Wise, even.
For I put my family first. And I met Annabelle’s needs. Because when the soup was ready, I spooned out a bowl for her and she loved it. “Ummm,” she said. Later, she ran around without clothes and was as free as a bird. Happy, even.
And so was I.
But all too soon, darkness entered my bones.
The Defining Moment
One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1
Truth is, I felt wise for only an hour or two. But then, regret darkened my soul. And guilt. But I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt the way I did. Because when I said no to the Bible study, I was sure I’d made the right choice. That I was doing the God thing by staying home with Annabelle.
But by the time nightfall settled, I had the nagging sense there was more to my decision. Deep down, something was lurking. The next morning, I discovered what it was.
On Thursday, Psalm 139:24-25 stood out on to me. Likely because I’d recently prayed it. Search me, oh God! Know my heart! See if there’s any offensive way in me. I voiced the words aloud as I wanted to know if there was something separating me from God. Because I’d been feeling a barrier. Like something was blocking me. Turns out there really was…
It was me.
Proverbs 18:19 enlightened me to a problem. It reads, “An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city. And quarrels are like bars of a fortress.” So my realization was this… An offense kept me from attending Wednesday’s study. A hectic morning was simply an easy out. An excuse so I wouldn’t have to deal with the real issue. My heart issue. For I was offended.
It happened at the previous Bible study. After sharing a bit of my testimony, one woman gave me wise counsel and I felt a blaze erupt inside. Instead of welcoming her advice, I resented it. And because I allowed the remark to become offensive, I became defensive. I tried to justify my feelings as a barrier went up. Then I shut down. And shut out.
One week later, this is what I held to. An offense simmered and stewed on a low boil. And ultimately, it led me to withhold what I could. I withheld me along with my soup. A wall erected between me and the women I love. Isolated and harder to reach than a fortified city. An internal quarrel were the bars of my fortress.
Reality? Saying no to chaos last Wednesday was not the defining moment. That was a lie. Because the truth came on Thursday when I realized how tightly I held to my offenses. And how it caused me to lose my grip on what matters most… relationship with people. And relationship with God.
No Soup for You!
I used to watch Seinfeld every night. Oh, I bet I’ve seen every episode at least four times. One of my favorites involved the soup Nazi. This man served up the most delicious of soups however, he was not very nice. Rigid. And in order to get a serving, customers had to walk just right and talk just so. And if they deviated from his rules just the slightest, he’d withhold. “No soup for you!”
So this becomes my ultimate defining moment. For this is a picture of me. I am no different than the soup Nazi. You better walk my walk and talk my talk. Or else! No soup for you! If you look at me funny or say something that doesn’t sit quite right, I’m liable to take offense. Skin way too thin. This is what God wants me to know about myself. He wants me to see I allow myself to be offended. Way too easily.
And this is what fills my heart.
Offenses. Little ones. Big ones. From last week, and the week before, and the week before that. All the way back. Burned on, encrusted offenses. I swear, I’ve been mad for years. But see, eventually what’s simmering underneath shows. It comes to the surface.
What’s your Stew?
Oh, my potato soup was pretty darn good that first day. It even tasted good on Thursday. But by Friday, after the third reheating, it turned dark. Jason stirred it around and asked about the color. “Why’s it so dark?” Problem was some of the burned soup made it’s way to the top as I stirred. It darkened the light. Just like with me.
My heart has been darkened by offenses. I’ve held things underneath where no one can see them but they cause rifts. Separation. And eventually, something stirs up the burnt pieces. And as blobs of darkness mix with the light, every part of me becomes darkened. Dimmed. Light snuffed out.
Funny thing is, I was recently asked a pertinent question. “What’s your stew?” It was nearly two months ago when I heard it but I’d forgotten all about it. Beth Moore asked through the video, “What are you stewing in?” What are you holding tighter than God?” And yesterday, God prompted my memory. He caused me to look at my notes.
And there I found it. The question reiterated…
“What’s your stew?”
Mine? It’s potato soup. I cooked it up a couple of weeks back and I decided to hold it. I held it back along with a string of offenses and internal quarrels. And today I know it’s keeping me from life. Bars of a fortress built upon thin skin. Separating me from every good thing. From fellowship and connection. With women. But more importantly, from God.
Holding offenses keeps me from God.
This has been my stew.
Today, I trade in my stew for something better. By letting go of my offenses, I tear down the walls of my fortress. I let go and place my trust in Him. In what He calls me to do. I allow myself to be vulnerable. And approachable. And teachable.
And this is the God thing I started to write about. The defining moment. But it had nothing to do with me staying home to avoid chaos. And tending to Annabelle’s needs. I wanted it to be that and if it where, it would have been okay. But instead, it was about my potato soup. And withholding it.
And withholding me…
But today I say no. No more shall I rely on the bars of a prison composed of offenses. I thought they kept me safe. Instead, they simply kept me inside. Isolated. So I break through the chains and thrust open the door. I demolish the barrier that keeps me from grabbing hold of what God wants me to. Because what He has for me is on the outside. Beyond my walls.
Thus, I venture out again…
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Psalm 91:2