There is an irony in today’s post and title. I began writing this post last week. A post takes me about 30 minutes to write. But I simply don’t have 30 minutes right now. So I pecked away at words here and there, piecing together fragmented thoughts. I hit save thinking I’d come back to it eventually.
Then Monday arrived, and a spiritual funk fell upon me. It began in the middle of a sleepless night over the weekend when my mind raced and pushed sleep far away. I reached for my phone and sent a desperate 3:00 am email to my mentor and friend.
I don’t even know what I said to her, but basically along the lines of HELP! Something about how I can’t balance it all, lead women’s ministry, homeschool, I miss writing, I miss quiet times of reflection, I feel I’m failing everywhere. Aghhhhh!!
Like a good mentor, she sent me a response to slap me back into clear thinking and basically said maybe I need to learn to trust God more and stop clinging to my control. Sigh. I love her. I read her email three times in a row soaking in every word. One sentence struck me in particular. ‘Maybe one reason I’m homeschooling is to learn that I won’t have peace until God is the one with total control. Not Renee.’
Everyone needs a mentor who isn’t afraid to speak what needs to be spoken.
Monday arrived and I felt like a black cloud hung over me. A deep oppressive feeling I couldn’t shake. I tried to run away from it, but it chased me wherever I went. I pushed and pushed, plastered a smile on my face to begin the morning with my boys. Things began to fall apart quickly. One tiny incident after another.
We needed to leave to get Andrew to a therapy, so the older boys packed up backpacks so we could take school to the park while Andrew worked with his educational therapist. Andrew’s attitude spiraled down an ugly path. Somewhere along that path his nasty attitude found mine and they challenged each other to a dual. The details are for another post.
I warned his therapist that his session could go poorly and to let me know if he was disrespectful. When I picked him up she told me he was a model student. I silently thanked God, and precisely 37 seconds later as I stood talking to the therapist, I heard screaming from my car and saw Andrew lurching over the front seat in full attack of Jacob.
The black cloud opened up a flood at that point. The details and story within this story will have to be for another day. But let’s just say I struggled in a bad way all day. I struggled to even smile. Within the walls of my home it was one issue after another. One argument after another. One discipline after another. I was spent and I could not find a smile anywhere. I wanted to sulk in my rotten mood.
During all of this, I texted several friends asking for prayer. My husband called and prayed with me. What plagued me I couldn’t fight in my own strength. It could only be demolished by the power of prayer.
Over the course of many hours, I felt the black cloud lifting. I cleaned up the kitchen and thought how nice it be would be to sit and write. How I miss writing. I opened up my computer and found a post I’d drafted titled “I’ve Found The Secret To Abundant Joy”. Then I laughed.
There’s that smile I’ve been looking for. God always goes about things in a way I’d never imagine.
The post was laughable. Not because I didn’t believe what I’d attempted to write, but the fact that I looked and felt anything but joyful. At the point I stopped writing that post, I’d only written what the secret was and how I stumbled on it through homeschooling. There had been no time to write out anything beyond this…
“I’ve discovered a secret many of us spend our lives searching for. The secret to abundant joy. I stumbled on it in the last place I expected to find it. Homeschooling. And not for the reasons you may think. Not because homeschooling is a better option than public or private school. Not because I’ve found the “thing” I was missing. Because of one reason. I obeyed God in this one area that made little sense to me. I said yes when I wanted to say no.
The path to abundant joy is marked by obedience.
This is the second time in less than a year I’ve learned this lesson. Last fall God told me to put down the book I was working on. It made no sense to me. I was then asked to lead women’s ministry at my church. I’d have to slow down on the ministries I currently served which seemed to be thriving. It made no sense. I’d planned to say no. God ordered circumstances so that a yes became my answer.
Weeks into serving in that role, I said to Steve that I felt like I was right in the center of God’s will for that season and space of my life.
We are in our second week of homeschooling right now….”
Do you see why I laughed now? Yes, I do believe the secret to deep, abiding, abundant joy is found in a life marked by obeying the Father. Submitting to His Will. Following Him no matter where He leads. Dying to self in order to live in Him and for Him.
Oh friends, the first two weeks of homeschool, I was floating on air not because everything was so perfect in our world, but because despite the fact that things felt bumpy and off-centered, I felt totally centered in His Will. I KNEW I had obeyed Him in this one thing. And in this one thing, I felt His pleasure. I felt joy that seemed to bubble up from within.
And then. I forgot that He was in control and I was not. I took my eyes off Him and placed them on me and everything around me. Panic set in and the black cloud descended. And I stopped obeying in the moment by moments. Yes, I still obeyed in the one thing. But I stopped obeying in the littles.
When scripture would pop in my head to guide me, I pushed it away. I chose to walk in my flesh and gratify my sin nature instead. Disobeyed. When my kids angered me and I heard Him whispering to me to respond with gentleness and lovingkindness, I hushed His voice by snapping louder than my kids. Disobeyed. When I heard His instruction to take every thought captive, I said, “No, I don’t feel like it. I want to wallow in self-pity a bit longer.” Disobeyed.
With each act of disobedience, the weight of oppression increased.
So, yes, after the power of prayer released me from myself, I sat to write and laughed at the words blinking at me from the screen. I don’t know of much I’ve written that God doesn’t take me through immediately after writing it to be sure I grasped what He wanted me to grasp.
I re-titled the post, adding a Now What? to the end. I need to remember that I found this secret, but what am I going to do with it? It’s a choice I make moment by moment. Will I obey Him even in the most uncomfortable spaces and places I want to say no? Or will I disobey? If I obey Him, I know I will walk in peace experiencing a deep joy no matter what circumstances I walk in. If I disobey, I invite the work of the enemy. I think I’ll choose joy, which comes along the path of obedience. Not only obedience to the big things, but obedience to the very small things that make up the hours of our days.
” ‘For sometimes my old bitterness returns. Now I shall just stand my ground, claim the victory of Jesus over fear and resentment, and love even when I don’t want to.’ My friend had learned well the secret of victory. It comes through obedience.” Tramp for the Lord, Corrie Ten Boom