For the past few weeks, bedtime has been a hot mess in our family. Our toddler has been crying every night for various reasons: she’s scared, she wants a hug, she needs a drink, or she has to go to the bathroom. The night typically starts with me gently comforting her and ends with me yelling, “Stop whining! You’re fine!”
She’s usually a pretty good sleeper, but there’s something crazy about this time of year. We are all exhausted, and I’m quick to lose my temper because we are in a season of over-spending, over-scheduling, and over-worrying.
This will be our first Christmas without the matriarch of my family—my Meme. So many things remind me of her. The other morning as we sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful” at work, I found myself singing the Latin words, and all I wanted to do was call and tell her how much I missed her Sunday morning Latin lessons.
Even watching my kids open their presents at my parents’ house this weekend brought me back to my own childhood, waiting impatiently on my Meme and Papaw to make their way to our house so we could open our gifts. She was always there to rejoice with us over every present.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned that one of the reasons Christians can come across as condescending or hypocritical is because we don’t want to share the dark parts of our testimony. The struggles with alcohol, drugs, addiction, mental health, anxiety, depression… The parts where we don’t have it all together.
But we can’t glorify Jesus unless we are willing to talk about what He’s delivered us from. Instead of preaching, “You need to fix this in your life,” we have to start with, “I’ve been there.” We have to make it personal. We have to be real and transparent with each other if we want to earn the right to speak into each other’s lives.
Over the past weekend, I was home with two sick kids during a snowstorm and—I’ll admit it—we watched a lot of movies. I tried fun games, hot chocolate, cookie baking, and dancing around in the living room, but somehow all of that only took two hours, with a very long 46 hours to go. So I just accepted the impending mom guilt and turned on Netflix.
The good news is that God loves using those moments when I’m wallowing in guilt to lay His Words on my heart. This weekend, it was all about the happily ever after. Movie after movie had the implied happily ever after we all know and love… for the good guys. But what about the bad guys?
I grew up believing a lot of things about God, and about myself, that weren’t true. I remember being so confused by what felt to me like a bipolar God: a God who would love me when I kept His rules but who would turn His back on me when I broke them. It seemed like I needed to be re-baptized, or re-dedicated, or re-saved every ten minutes.
When I was in high school, I remember walking out to my car one morning and seeing the words ‘You’re a whore’ written on the window. I think we can all agree that the saying Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you is a complete lie. Those words hurt me a lot. And I carried them in my heart for years, wondering if that’s what people thought of me.
Until I came across four very important words in Mark.
“Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Take courage!’ they said. ‘Get up! He is calling for you.’ Throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus jumped up and came to Jesus.” – Mark 10:49-50
As a child, I struggled with OCD-induced anxiety. In an attempt to protect our kids from a similar experience, my husband and I agreed to always reassure them after spills or messes. Life isn’t perfect, and that’s okay was our parenting motto. That turned out to be especially important for our daughter, who would seek affirmation after doing something she considered bad. Every time she knocked over a drink or tipped over a plate full of food, she would ask us things like, “But it will be okay, right?” or “But we can fix it, right?” and we would usually respond with a quick, “Yes, it will be alright, but let’s try to be more careful.”
I assumed she only asked those questions to make sure she wasn’t in trouble until one day after a few cheerios fell off of her tray, she looked at me and asked, “But you still love me, right?”