I don’t usually struggle so much as I have this week. A sense of duty (to God and the Christian life, not necessarily to my nephew) led my husband and I to have our nephew stay with us this week. I drove him to school every day and my husband picked him up. After school I helped with homework – even common core math, which gave me some truly thrilling moments. I wrestled with remembering what it was like to be 12, to be in fifth grade. And even if I could remember that far back, my memories aren’t fraught with the conflicts and circumstances that are challenging my nephew today.
I wish I could say that I felt overwhelmed with love and found it easy to make the sacrifices, petty as they may seem, to care for my nephew. I’d be lying. It’s easy to make it sound magnanimous, which it isn’t, and to gloss over the heart changes I’m still trying to effect in myself. I know I didn’t spend enough time in prayer. I know Jesus is here with me and will give me the strength and patience that I need to be whoever it is I’m being called to be. And I know that God is at work – I am merely a resource He is using for His greater good. Yet, I’m so tired. I feel like I’m treading water, and moments when my head stays up are few and far between with this kid. He is moody and whiny, ungrateful and unresponsive. He’s also young and bright, too often unloved, too little cared for.
I shared with true friends today how my mind was whirring – believing that God is looking for someone to step up in his life. Knowing each day I’m hoping that when I make the offer to help, it will be rebuffed, because this is hard. Being absolutely real. I’m so grateful to them for the loving hug. Affection I receive freely. Affection I can’t seem to naturally extend to my nephew.
So then I read this article on legalism. My situation is the perfect example of one of the points about sin. I don’t want people to see the effort I am making and believe the good. It’s a mirage. My heart is struggling with this situation and I can’t say I’ve submitted to God’s will here. Outwardly I am doing what I think is right. But inside, where the heart suffers sins no one can see, I’m guilty. The article says:
“The point is that some people can and do have so many sins in their heart, even though they may not have many sins of the flesh. Sins of the heart are easy to hide. Sins of the flesh are not so easy to hide. Because of this those with sins of the heart normally don’t get a scarlet “A” on their shirt. And because of this, they feel as if they can draw attention to other people’s sins while ignoring their own. How much would the world change if we all walked around with all our sins printed on our shirt. At the very least, humility would abound.” – C.Michael Patton
And then quotes C.S.Lewis:
The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.
I’m still praying. I’ve asked God to forgive me for asking him to wet the fleece, even as I prepare to wake and check it. I don’t know if I am strong enough to sustain my family with this challenge. I don’t know if I am prepared to submit to His perfect will. I know that when I do I will find the peace that is eluding me at present. I know God tells me his burden is light. I know that sharing the truth, pasting my sins on my shirt so to speak, may be the only way to salvage my humility and spiritual health. After all, who can speak truth to me if I hide my sin? Who can remind me of all the things I already know? Who can hold me accountable to the ravings of an exhausted, churning heart that wishes there was an easier way?
I’m praying that Jesus grabs hold of my heart and shines his light when I’m too weary. I’m praying that I accept the fleece, wet or dry, as the sign of God’s perfect will. I’m praying that my nephew will feel the love and acceptance of Jesus in my arms and in my home, no matter what comes tomorrow.