This morning I received a text from a friend, "You okay? You seemed a bit off last night. Just checking on you." Last night was our monthly foster & adoptive dads gathering at a crazy good taco joint called Fuzzy's (if you have the means, I highly recommend it). I replied, "Yeah, I'm okay. I just felt off. I suppose I just needed to sit down, gorge myself on nachos and zone out."
The past couple of months have been... I'm gonna need to make up a word here to really pinpoint it... chaostive (chaos + exhaustive)? Coming off a relatively busy Fall traveling across the country, our son was born at the end of November, our oldest daughter had major jaw surgery, our nonprofit organization felt like it was financially hanging in the balance for a couple weeks, several families contacted us needing counsel as they sat on the precipice of implosion, my wife and I hit our highest weights since we've been married and started a new diet/exercise regimen, we had 8 children in the home over the holidays ALL DAY LONG and it's all gearing up again.
So... I didn't realize it until my friend texted me, but "a bit off" may have been an understatement. Today is a new day, but there's this lingering hangover from busyness I've been unable to shake. A mantra I've echoed for years now has been, "When I get to Heaven, I want to be able to tell God I held nothing back and exhausted every opportunity to serve, love and worship." This noble thought is engraved on my mind, but it is easily confused with the allure of being needed and the presumption I must keep moving forward.
It feels good to be asked to help someone who is hurting... to have advice or answers that solves the struggle a friend wrestles with. It is confirmation that I have endured and grown wise in my experience where others recognize my strength... but it, like most things left unchecked, leads to a subtle, often falsely humble, pride. This pride is only emboldened (although occasionally miffed) by the passerby who routinely states, "I don't know how you do it." as you grocery shop with your children in-tow. But it only energizes me to a point until my "can-do" attitude evaporates in the wind, and I awaken to my lacking self-sufficiency along with indigestion from incredibly good nachos and a text message from a friend.
We experience this allure of being needed in foster care and adoption regularly both as advocates and parents. We want to help, we want to serve, we feel called, we have space and love to give... a surplus of goodwill to be poured out from our reserves. The problem is this isn't a math equation. The often used illustration of bucket-dippers and bucket-fillers does not apply because we see ourselves as always full with more than enough, but we tend to parent and exist on reserves. The Holy Spirit has a great way of exposing and healing us from this idea...they're called children.
This pivotal tactic works on almost anyone. While children undoubtedly need us, they are continuous puzzles never beyond progress yet never within the reach of completion. What works for one may or may not work for the other. They can never fully reciprocate what we give them and most of them don't even know they are supposed to be trying. Throwing up our hands and quitting on them is not an option. Even when we lock ourselves in our rooms or escape to work while they are at school, they are there when we get home or knocking at the door in need of something. The pride begins to dissipate.
We think we must "Press on and press in" or "Let go and let God" or "The family that prays together stays together", but no amount of cliches kills our pride like the freedom provided by a text message that reminds you to slow down amidst all the work that needs to be done and/or the tinkering sound of a child's fingernail unlocking a bathroom door to tell you something immensley significant in their world. No problem was created in a day nor will one be solved as immediately.
In moments such as this, words like selah and sabbath echo in my mind. For as much strength or wisdom or love as we have to offer, we must consistently be reminded of our own poverty. God is not dependent on my talents and efforts... in fact, He seems to do quite well in spite of them. I realize this is a season as my newborn learns to sleep through the night, my daughter heals and the rest of my children return to school, but I am resting in two truths. One. I am not alone. In my presupposed strength and pseduo-independence when I believe I can stand firm on my own... I am not alone. Two. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. When I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, it is probably because I'm trying to carry a world that is not mine to carry.
It feels good to think you can do it all... to say, "Yes" to every need that comes your way, but in reality sometimes we need to be silent and contrite as we sit still and abide. This is worship too. This is often what's best in our parenting or care... not more advice, lectures or attachment exercises. Give yourself space and breath... peferably with a plate of nachos in front of you.