I almost never pray for myself. Things have happened lately that brought that fact to light, things that hurt and things that feel good and things that I can’t feel yet but are still leaving a mark. Even though I usually do the majority of my introspection in writing for the world to see (by “world” I mean the two of you who read this blog), I won’t be writing about these things. Partly because the magical thinker in me doesn’t want to destroy them by putting them into words. But also because these things aren’t just mine. It’s okay when I’m standing up here naked pointing out my flaws so I can find a way to fix them; it’s not okay to pull other people up here and do the same to them.
If this is your first time here and you’re not aware of my feelings for God yet, then let me catch you up with a quick summary: I love Him. Every good thing in my life has come from Him. He rocks.
I also talk to Him pretty much all day long. We talk about my husband and sons, my friends and family, I ask Him to heal them and protect them and give them the strength to endure or the victory over sin, I thank Him for letting me know them, for loving me and saving me, for being patient with all of my screw-ups, for letting me exist at all.
But I almost never ask God for anything for me.
That’s not out of selflessness. I’m no saint. Far from it. I just sort of…forget. Y’know?
If you don’t know me or any moms in real life, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, it’s a mom thing. They’re constantly forgetting about themselves while doing things for their kids.”
First of all, you should be ashamed of yourself for perpetuating a racist stereotype. Second of all, that kind of mom died out sometime after my mom’s generation. I’m a real mom. If we’re on our way to get ice cream and I tell my kids to stop fighting or they won’t get any ice cream and they don’t stop fighting, guess what? I’m still getting ice cream. They can cry while they watch me eat it, I don’t care.
Does this mean I love ice cream more than I love my children? If we’re talking a butterscotch milkshake, it does. More importantly, though, it’s also proof that I’m not selfless enough to forget about eden. If I’m standing at the counter, and I want a butterscotch milkshake, believe you me, I am the last person on this planet who will forget to ask the guy at the register to make me butterscotch milkshake.
But here’s where the butter meets the scotch—I ask because I can’t make that milkshake myself. I don’t have the ingredients, the milkshake machine, anything. If I did, I wouldn’t have come to an ice cream shop in the first place. (I would also weigh roughly seven thousand pounds.)
I forget to ask God for the things I need because I feel like I should be able to get them myself. I feel like I should be able to do anything for myself. When life knocks me down, I grab my bootstraps. When the bootstraps break from being pulled on too much, I go barefoot. Hey, I’m tough. I can do whatever has to be done, and I can do it alone. Can’t walk anymore? I’ve got two good arms, I’ll drag myself. Surprise double brachial amputation? At least I can still breathe. And now the water’s rising and I don’t seem to be floating? That’s fine, I’ll just hold my breath until I figure this out, too. I can figure it out. I know I can.
Last Sunday while we were driving, Josh and I were listening to our favorite rock star of Christian apology, Ravi Zacharias. He said that strong men have been laid low by sins that would’ve been easy to avoid…if not for their pride. God has allowed many a good man to be shamed in front of everyone as a way to break that pride, reteach them the humility they’ve lost, and bring them back to Him. Only then can He start to build them back up into something beautiful.
As someone who’s always had problems with self-esteem, it’s never occurred to me just how proud I am. I think I can do anything in spite of the fact that also think I’m the scum of the earth. Literally anything. If I don’t already know how, I’ll learn how or I’ll figure out a way around it altogether.
I’m drowning, but that’s okay. I’ll just hold my breath until this ocean dries up. I would rather die than admit that I can’t.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been examining these things that happened, dissecting them, magnifying them, turning them over and over looking for where I went wrong, what I should’ve done, what I should do now. The whole time, God’s been sitting beside me patiently, handing me scalpels and clamps, and suctioning away the blood when it hemorrhages.
You want to talk about pride? The God Who made the universe listens to me pray for my friends and family all day long, and I haven’t even considered asking Him to help me put my own heart and mind back together—get this—because I think I should be able to do that all by myself.
I trust that God will help the people I love; I’ll even tell them that they should depend on Him for everything. But me? No, I’m just going to keep holding my breath until this water dries up. Don’t worry about it, God. I’ve got this under control. I’ll figure it out.
These things that happened? They were to show me how inflated my pride really is and how much damage that particular cancer has already done. There was no other way to get through to me.
The truth is, I don’t have this under control, and nothing I try to do to make it seem as if I’ve got control is going to put me in control. Why would I want the illusion of control anyway? That’s what brought me here in the first place.
God, I have no idea what to do next. Even when I thought I knew, all I managed to do was screw things up worse. Please help me clean up this mess. I can’t do it by myself. I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m drowning and it’s not okay. Out of the depths I call to you, Yahweh—please help me—and the answer comes back from right beside me—“Sure, kiddo. All you had to do was ask.”