Zero Calorie Refreshment that Lasts!

Andrea: Oh, sweet hypotheticals: “God will supply all your needs.” So profound. “Love is sacrifice.” What a delightful concept.

Today, rubber will meet road. Status quo will be challenged. Theology and reality will start to meet up. Can you handle it?

Recently, we featured an excerpt from Hannah Hurnard’s Lessons Learned on the Slopes of the High Places. In it, she wrote about “love’s ecstatic joy” found “in ceaseless, blissful giving.”  We are going to dig a little deeper into her superficially concept and see if there is any thing that applies to real life.

Take a break, society tells us. You deserve it. Take a mommy time-out. Go to coffee with the girls. We’ve all experienced the truth though, haven’t we? Refreshment of this order is temporary at best. Real life crashes in all the harder upon Mommy’s re-entry into the home. The moments of peace and quiet are nothing but warm memories within minutes. Seconds, if permanent markers were involved while you were out.

 There is nothing more elusive than “me time” for mothers of young kids. Time gets spread thin to kids, causes and my husband. Most days are closed without any time spent by myself. Even the bathroom is not sacred any more. You totally know what I mean, right? 

It leaves me crying out in frustration, “I just need some time for myself!”

Forget a pedicure. I would take a sick day with no one to take care of but myself. I demand some time away and I get it (with some creative childcare). 

Peace. And. Quiet. 

Have you ever returned home from a solo hiatus feeling refreshed only to succumb to a temper tantrum of irritation just moments after stepping through the door? The kids had a bath, but there is water on the floor. Dinner was cooked, but the kitchen looks like a demolition derby. Piles of laundry need to be folded. The zillion projects started before mommy left magically waited for her to return.

What happened to rejuvenation? Returning home feels like I took two steps backward instead of ahead. Once again I’m pleading for more “me time.”

A friend suggested that she knew the one and only solution. And it is not more “me time” or a nanny or a personal trainer.

My friend suggested “serve God by serving your family.” Being self-less will bring the joy and rejuvenation we desire.

I have to admit I really hated this notion. Really. I’m a non-confrontational person, but in this instance I wanted to say, “YOU ARE WRONG!”

Andrea: The only way we know to keep ourselves sane is to take ourselves OUT of service so later we can BE of service. We will all resist this notion that serving leads to refreshment. Some will resist it more than others. Some will dismiss the thought as ridiculous. Some will challenge the idea as anti-feminist. Some will consider the option out of desperation. But before you decide where you will land when the dust settles, let’s look at the facts as found in Scripture:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
James 3:16

“It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:5

Alysun: The secret of this true refreshment seems to lay hidden in being self-less. When I serve my family with my whole heart, not just for duty, I find joy because I am serving God. Only irritation and bitterness come when I begrudge the work set before me. It leaves me wanting to get away from it all.

The same friend who said, “Serve God by serving your family,” gave some good news too. She said that the “me time” that inevitably comes by living a serving life is sweet and rejuvenating. It is an unexpected blessing. Good things are so much better when they are freely given instead of demanded.

Andrea: Does this mean pampering is out? That it is selfish to get my nails done or to grab a coffee with the girls or enjoy a quiet meal in a public place with my man?

NO!!! Please don’t misunderstand that. The point is that the mentality of I NEED a break is false. You do not need a break. 

You need a drink. We spiritually dehydrate ourselves when we look to other sources for refreshment. We take a sip of wine. A swallow of pampering. A chug of escape. We NEED to take a drink of Living Water.

Do you feel dizzy? I feel dizzy. This topic is as enormous as it is uncomfortable. Stay with it though. It will be worth it.

Hannah is not referring to the abstract (to us) idea of applying the concept of humility, giving and service on the mission field or in a fanciful allegory. Rather, we can act it out in our own families, local churches, offices…

“The first characteristic of love is humility: the pouring of oneself down lower and lower in self effacement and self-denial. The message of running water always is, “Go lower. Find the lowest place. That is the only way to true fulfillment.”

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Could we apply this concept with our families? According to Philippians, I may have to consider my children better than myself. My children? I am their parent. I am an authority over them. They are required by the Ten Commandments to obey me. How can I consider them better than me?

My duty as a parent is to nurture, to protect and to train. I would gladly step in front of a bus to save my child, so why should I also not gladly sacrifice my own comfort by playing with them instead of checking in on Facebook? Why should I not gladly sacrifice my cleanliness by cleaning up his poo? Why should I not sacrifice my desire to hurry by training my child to tie his own shoes? Why should I not sacrifice my desire for peace and quiet to discipline my child for willful defiance?

I thought my children, just by their very nature, had knocked all the selfishness right out of me, but they didn’t (even though they try). It is daily struggle to set me aside and live for someone else.

And then there’s considering my husband better than myself. Really? He’s GOOD. Great even. But better? Getting up and going to work every single day to provide for his family. Coming home to a crazed wife and hyper children only to have to fix the sink and build a deck and repair three tiny broken toys is pretty impressive. But better than me? Better than what I do all day? Consider the poo…

The Bible has a few words about this relationship as well.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Ah. You see? All one. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God, so considering my husband better than myself is a moot point. Clearly, my spouse is exempt. Whew.

It’s true. As men and women, we are considered on equal footing in the eyes of God. BUT…

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. 1 Peter 3:1

When, as a Christian woman, I made marriage vows to my husband, I bound myself to him and relinquished my right to equality. I agreed, before God, to LOVE him. God set up a system for a peaceful home which He outlines more than once in the New Testament. The system requires a clear definition of roles, and my roll is to serve my husband as if I were serving the Lord Jesus himself.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16
When I look out for myself rather than humbly giving my time and energy up to my family, disorder reigns supreme. We’ve all seen it happen in real life. Maybe it’s a great novel, Facebook, or a phone conversation that motivates us to try and put life on hold so we can finish. Life combusts around us even as we take a moment to ourselves. 

You are in the room when your child takes the opportunity to sneak gum from your purse leaving the contents scattered across the living room floor. The other child is soooo thirsty he will perish, so he gets a drink himself and ends up with sticky juice all over the kitchen floor. Your husband is trying to call you to tell you a buddy of his is coming over to pick up a tool so you will have time to a) find it for him and b) put on a bra, but you ignore the call--I’ll call back in two minutes--only to find his pal on the doorstep a minute later. Did I mention the macaroni and cheese pot boiling over? 

Maybe this only happens in my house. I have noticed though that it doesn’t happen when I am present with my family. It only happens when I am here physically and am mentally on a hiatus.

I came across this on the wonderful world wide web a moment ago, by Beth Moore: “Here’s the big lie: Satan has convinced us that laying down our self-stuff is some huge sacrifice. Oh, beloved, what deception! Our self-stuff is what makes us most miserable! What an albatross our self-absorption is. I cannot stress strongly enough that getting over the self-stuff is a daily challenge. As long as we inhabit this tent of flesh, it will rise up in us. We must choose to “deny [ourselves] and take up [our] cross daily” (Luke 9:23).”

“The poured-out life gives life and power to others. The more love gives, the more it fulfills itself for it is Love’s prerogative to GIVE and GIVE and GIVE.”

The more love gives the more it fulfills itself? It sort of feels like we’re crossing the line into absurdity here, doesn’t it? 

God loves working contrary to human intuition. The first will be last. Weak will be strong. Helpless baby as Savior of the world. Gain a fortune, lose your soul. Eternal life comes through death. Contradictions pepper the Biblical narrative and the epistles. God’s plan is so big, it would fry our brains to even try to grasp it. (That’s a lose interpretation of Isaiah 5:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”).

How many times do we hear in our culture, “all I do is give and give and give, and I get nothing in return!” This statement is as true as the one preceding it. The difference is the condition of the heart during the giving process. 

If we give to our families out of obligation, we will get tired of it. If we invest our time into teaching a Sunday school class just because there is no one else to do it, we will burn out. If we put in extra time at the office for the hope of recognition, we will be unsuccessful. But if we change our hearts to reflect “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” the reward will come. Albeit in likely unexpected ways.

Then comes service. “To be utterly abandoned to the act of giving oneself to others and going down lower is the joy and ecstasy of love.”

Alysun: When I came across this notion that I should “serve God by serving my family,” I have to admit I really hated it. The very idea that being self-less will bring the joy and rejuvenation I desired seemed restrictive (and exhausting).

I thought on this topic after reading the traumatic words. Serve more? Give more? Obviously the author of this fairytale idea didn’t know how hard I worked for my family (the author I was reading is the mother of 4 preschoolers, so maybe she has a glimmer of an idea how hard mom’s work). I may or may not have stomped my foot a few times. I was irritated. I wanted the answer for renewal to be MORE FOR ME!

After I was through stomping around, I prayed about it. The answer came as soon and I quieted my heart and mind. Then it was revealed to me as if God himself was sitting on the edge of my bed, explaining a simple concept to me, the child. “Your perspective is wrong. You are looking through the world’s glasses, not Mine.”

Although it was clear, it wasn’t easy. I now saw that all the “me” philosophies filling my head (“I need some time to myself,” “Someone pamper me, I deserve it!” “Leave me alone, I’m grumpy!”), were not of God. God’s plan is to bring glory to Him, no matter the cost. Even when the cost is my selfishness.

It’s not all “bad/hard” news. There is an intense beauty in giving up of one’s self. Serving God through acts of service with a happy heart brings lasting joy. Let me say that again…. LASTING joy. And there will be “me time” along the way. There will even be pampering. It’s an inevitable blessing of living for Christ. Instead of deserved (said while stomping my foot), it is a blessed gift, sweet and rejuvenating. Good things are so much better when they are freely given instead of demanded!

True refreshment comes from our source of strength; taking more time with reading the Bible. More prayer. More practicing what we preach moment by moment in how we live.

We are too busy to waste time on things that don't last. All the pampering in the world won't buy contentment... or a servant's heart.

Andrea: We forget how big God is. We make him small when we don’t call on him in the little things. When we say, “God has more important things to worry about than the meltdown I am about to have over this (third cup) of spilled milk,” we mitigate his power. He’s better at multitasking than any mom. It’s not a big deal for him to simultaneously keep the world spinning and reach down and put his hand on you when you need to feel him there.

I’ve found refreshment in some of the most bizarre places since becoming a mom. A sick baby makes me hold still and hold him--soaking in his body heat, breathing when he does, feeling the softness of his hair with my hand and my cheek. Yeah. Two minutes ago, I cleaned up some vomit. In three more, he will want to get up and play, leaving a cold spot where his fevered body sat a minute ago. But in that tiny time-span, I was rewarded for giving, serving and going down lower, literally on my hands and knees with a rag and carpet cleaner. I felt that “hitherto unknown delight” of being held as I surrendered my will to the act of giving.

“How can one abandon themselves in this way? Hannah Hurnard asks. "One cannot get a mighty and powerful fall of water if there is only a low place and a short way to fall. It is the “high places” of faith and obedience which make the falls of love possible!”

This blog is meant to be a starting point. A stop on the way to the high places Hannah talks about. Oh, how I wish I had this all figured out! I’m still on my journey. But I have learned a few things along the way. Moms don’t have time. We give and give and give. We serve and serve and serve. Sometimes we do it with a good attitude, sometimes we don’t. But claiming we don’t have time for God is inexcusable. We will continue to live unfulfilled, stagnant, discontent lives if we do not actively pursue a relationship with the heavenly Father.

But how?! There is literally no time. Well, for now, it means making the intentional choice to put in the big rocks first. It means opening your Bible and reading it. It means asking for His help when you want to throw a fit. It means taking His rest whenever, however and wherever he sees fit to give it and bask in it.

This idea sounds miserable. Hard. Dirty. Unfulfilling. Politically incorrect. But Jesus warned us to expect that sort of thing. (See John 14). He also promised to give us exactly what we need. 

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:30

This whole thing is a frightening prospect. 

What if it doesn’t work this way? 

What if I end up losing myself becoming so wrapped up in my family? 

A waterfall might look like gravity working against water to the casual observer, but upon closer inspection…

“Perfect love casteth out fear.” Yes, that is what the water utters so exultingly as it rushes toward the great, terrifying rocky lip of the gorge and plunges over, utterly abandoned and unafraid of the dreadful depths into which it must fall, down onto the threatening rocks below.
… If one looks at the falls as a whole, they are marvelously beautiful. But if one gazes at one particular part of the water as it plunges over the lip, and then watches it as it falls right down, the almost crazy, blissful abandonment is staggering. I never saw motion so utterly expressive of joy! The movement looks like perfect rapture, fearless surrender to a hitherto unknown delight… The downward motion is light, adventurous, and perfectly happy. The water, after casting itself over the rocks, seems to be held up and supported as though floating down on wings! A glorious contradiction indeed.

We might be crushed. We might be held. But in obedience to God’s will for our lives we will find joy, delight, adventure and refreshment. We don’t have this all figured out, even if it sounds like we do. God set both Alysun and me on this path toward finding joy in serving our families and we are finding it to be an incredible road to walk. Full of really huge obstacles (like looming self imposed blog deadlines) and the most breathtaking vistas (like the love that threatens to swallow you whole the first time your little boy proposes marriage to you). 

Come on in. The water is fine!