Thursday, June 27, 2013

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

"On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand"
- from the hymn "Solid Rock"

I wish this was true every moment of the day, but it's not, like not at all. Like any human, I strive and I fail and shake my fist at God and then I hide from Him in shame and then I go to sleep, wake up and press repeat. And He graciously gives me the humility and the perspective over and over again to see that He's calling me to let all of this go and stand on the solid rock of Christ that He's provided. It's not about what I can and cannot do, it's all contingent on what Christ already did. And yet I get up day after day and I strive, fail, shake my fist... different day, same story. And He deals with me with new graces every single day. And I'm learning. I'm struggling and it hurts and oh my word I spend so much of my life just wishing this was not my lot to be refined by the means He uses because I don't like the way it feels to have my selfish nature pulled away bit by bit. But if I'm honest with myself and with Him, I'm learning and I'm thankful and maybe even joyful (what?! Is this what Paul meant when he said "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds"?). 

And so now that I've established this Truth that I'm constantly fighting against - that Christ is the solid rock I must stand upon alone - let me delve into the equally important second half of this lyric. "All other ground is sinking sand". I cannot put into words how very true this sentence is or how much my life as a whole but especially lately has been a hauntingly accurate picture of it. Yes, hauntingly. Because sinking sand is serious business. We're not talking about a crack in the pavement that causes you to stumble and scrape your knee (which can be bandaged and will heal) or a pothole that causes a flat tire (that can be patched up or at worst replaced), we're talking about sinking sand. You don't get out of sinking sand alive. Everyone can conjure up an image of it, probably not from personal experience because it's not something we really deal with in our industrialized Western culture, but there's a scene from a movie you saw as a kid or maybe as an adult (fellow 80's kids, you're probably with me on thinking of the terribly sad scene from "The Never Ending Story" of the horse that dies in the sinking sand while the boy just screams and cries as his companion is sucked into the earth). So whatever this image is, you have it in your head now, right? Focus on it. Think of the person or animal that is trapped in the sinking sand. Think of how they got there. They stumbled upon it right? Or maybe someone warned them and they kept going, thinking that they'd be fine - after all, it doesn't look like it could kill them. But there they are, being basically eaten alive by the ground beneath them. Reason, which permits them to think that the ground will continue to hold them as they walk, has defied them. This is what it means to stand on anything other than the rock of Christ. It means death, because let's face it, you don't really get out of sinking sand. You die in it. 

Have I depressed you yet? I'm sorry. I'm feeling it a little bit myself with all of that imagery! But I'm getting to the hope part. I just have to make sure that I've made it clear how desperate our disposition is before I get to that part because it really makes it all come together and makes it all the more sweeter to see just what a solid rock we have in Christ. So now I'll share a little of my own life that paints this haunting picture of sinking sand and how Christ graciously pulls me out time and time again, restoring me to the rock of my salvation so that I don't just die in the sinking sand that I keep walking right into.

A little over 3 weeks ago, I gave birth to my second child, another baby girl. Nope, this isn't my birth story (though that is coming) but it does have a lot to do with my life surrounding the birth of my daughter. I'd be lying if I said that these 3 weeks have been full of joy. That doesn't mean that there haven't been many sweet moments and that she isn't a wonderful blessing because those things are true. But unlike the overly romanticized and sticky sweet picture of the beautiful (and thin) glowing blonde mother with her hair waving in the wind, wearing a flowy dress in a field of flowers, smiling at her newborn baby who is also returning the sentiment, I'm living in the reality of having a newborn baby and a toddler. This means that I need to lose 20 pounds, my boobs are constantly leaking milk, my eyes are frequently pouring out tears because of hormonal changes, I'm the most tired and the impatient I've ever been. I'm worried that my newborn baby is going to cry and I won't be able to soothe her like I couldn't with my first. I'm worried that she won't gain enough weight and that my body will fail to make enough milk to meet her needs. I'm afraid that my emotions will take over and I'll be depressed like I was for the first year of my firstborn's life. I am living so outside of the moment it's almost unbelievable. I want affirmation that she will be okay and thrive and that my toddler's brain won't rot because of all of the Netflix we're watching and she won't be irrevocably damaged by the lashes of my tongue that I have to ask her forgiveness for so many times a day. I just want to get through this part. I want to get to the sweet stuff because I'm afraid to just live in the moment and see that the sweet stuff is scattered throughout all of life. The reality is that I don't want the sweetness, I want the ease. I'm incredibly, disgustingly selfish. I want my body back, I want to be able to put that sweet little baby girl down for bed and drink a beer while I snuggle with my husband on the couch instead of falling asleep exhausted with a huge glass of water on my bedside table to chug and chug to keep my milk supply up for my newborn who needs to nurse so very many hours of my day right now. I want to fit into those jeans that I bought that looked oh so good on me right before I found out I was pregnant. But none of this is my reality right now. And I'm shaking my fist at God. Then I'm finding myself hiding in shame because I'm supposed to just absolutely love this. This is what I was created for - to love and nurture my children. And I don't hate it, not by a long shot, but I struggle to love it. And I've asked myself why a million times and there are lots of explanations I can come up with that play a role, like my experience with colic, low weight gain, failing to be able to breastfeed, and postpartum depression with my first child, the lack of godly mothers in my family, my analytical brain that picks everything apart far too much, my background of anxiety and depression, but the real answer is simple. And it's true for me and for you, even if you don't share my feelings on motherhood. The answer is sin. I'm a sinner. I'm constantly kicking Christ off the throne and exalting myself. And I must look ridiculous to Him, even more ridiculous than my toddler mustering up all her pride to yell at me "give that to me, mommy!" as she sees me holding my iPhone (a coveted item in my house). I look at her and think WTF? You're 2 years old and you're telling me to give you something that doesn't even belong to you? If you're a mom, you've had these thoughts too  when your kid just outright defies your authority like that. On one hand, you're gut reaction is anger (which in my best moments I can control) but on the other hand, you look at this tiny person who feels like you were just yesterday swaddling and nursing to sleep and think "you're ridiculous!". But isn't this what we sound like when we defy God's authority by not trusting Him and even being angry with Him for what we think He's holding out on us? Yep, but like 100 fold. 

Goodness, we are fickle creatures. We stand on the rock and slide right off into the sinking sand. And like my toddler, we're smirking while we do it. And there He stands, every single time, with His righteous hand outstretched to pull us out of the pit we willingly stepped in, knowing full well the pain it's causing Him to watch His beloved child walk out of His loving protection. He doesn't glare at us, guilt us into submission, or bring up all the reasons what we're doing is so inconvenient and hurtful to Him. He just loves us. He disciplines us and let's us feel the consequences of our sin so that we can be made more like Christ and less like the selfish, bratty humans that our flesh confines us to.

See, all those things I said God doesn't do to us, that's what I do to my kids. In my heart and even to their faces. And even just today. I see my toddler's defiant behavior and I have no tolerance for it. I feel hurt by her behavior and I lash out at her. I even threw a cup across the kitchen after she stuck her hand in it for what felt like the millionth time I had told her not to and she then proceeded to smirk at me and giggle when I reminded her not to do it. It made sense in my sinful mind - she'd see my authority as I raised my voice and showed physical aggression with the cup (after all, I didn't raise my hand at her). But I was immediately convicted that this was not the way to handle that situation at all. I asked her forgiveness and you know what? I yelled at her again probably 10 minutes later. My heart was way out of wack today (and many other days). All of this was going on while I was wearing my 3 week old, who was asleep on my chest in the baby carrier. My toddler knew I was limited in what I could do in response to her behavior because I needed to take care of the baby and that made me even more angry. But what I failed to realize in the moment was that she was acting out because she is struggling with the adjustment to having a new baby in the house just like I am. The object of our defiant behavior is really the same too. It's God. She's under my authority because I'm under God's so we're both acting out at Him. Shaking our fists at Him. Saying we don't want to deal with this lot He's given us. And we're butting heads because we're not believing the gospel, which not only unites us to God but to each other.  And this is just in the 3 hours that I was alone at home with both of my girls for the first time since the baby was born. I'm thinking there is no way that this can be my life from here on out. I'm completely discouraged and just downright angry with God in this moment. And suddenly my house feels like it's built on sinking sand and we're all just slowly falling into the earth underneath us.

But then I sense Him reaching His hand out to me as I'm sinking down. All is not lost. I can get out of this sinking sand and back onto solid rock. So I'm reminded of the gospel, of the Father's great love for His children, of the Redeemer's love for the flock, and I'm struck by my unwillingness to love my children in a way that mirrors how Christ loves me. And yet I can love them this way, hard as it may be in the moment when my flesh is fighting hard for it's way, because He's given and continues to give me the grace to do it. So up on the rock I climb. I can see no other way out than to stand upon the rock of Christ alone. Everything else I try, everything else, leads me straight into overwhelming despair. And yet even being fully aware of this, I will continually spend my days smirking and stepping off of the rock and walking straight into that sinking sand, often waiting until I've almost completely drowned before I grab onto His hand to pull me out. Even as I write this I battle my fleshly desire to be angry with God, unsatisfied at His will for my life not meeting my expectations, for seemingly making everything difficult and stacking the cards against me in the sin department (generational sin is a real and messy thing). But as long as I'm fighting those thoughts, I'm standing on the solid rock of Christ and the sinking sand can't kill me. 


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