An Ode To Joy: When Chasing Significance, Ministry, Motherhood, & Alcohol Isn’t Enough

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My daughter thinks she Knows My Dreams, she pushed hard recently trying to get me to admit them. Telling me “Go to seminary and be a pastor that writes, mom. That’s what you want. Just do it.” It’s so easy for her to say, I think to myself, with my incessant dissatisfaction and oh so many fears.

I think to myself: I’m stuck. I’m not worthy. I’ll never Be.

First came sin.

I mean we’re all sinners for sure, but the home I grew up in, I never met Jesus. I never knew Grace.

I didn’t know Jesus who is the Lord of the Universe and Hope for the world, that my Dad was always talking about.  I couldn’t believe, not for decades, that I was loved and that if I were the only Blessed Sinner on Planet Earth, Jesus would have died that grizzly death, for me. No Way.

Work Harder.

I have lived day by day, believing that if I could just be A Better Person.  If I accomplished that much more than other people, worked harder, worked longer, worked better, then, I’d be okay. And so for years that’s what I did. I worked and worked and worked, and I lived a lie.

I was never okay. I was always terrified.

I was a mess inside, deep down where you cannot admit working at a Christian organization that you’re not sure that you ever believed.

Motherhood.

So I quit all that, thinking Being a Mother is noble (enough) and even a very good thing to do.  I mean, who doesn’t find meaning in motherhood?

Never mind that I just wasn’t ready to be at home.

Too Broken Up Inside, Not Even Knowing Jesus and With a Hole in my Heart, I quit work in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Then came Despair on a Colossal Level.

Was I ever unprepared for the depth of my anguish. For the loss of meaning without Work. The hole in my soul was frantic with fear, day after day, still.

I thought to myself I must miss My Important Work!  All those years of Chasing Significance and Feeling Important, all that had made life meaningful in the past was gone.

Stripped Naked, the rug pulled out from under me, I fell hard; I fell flat.

Major Depression.

Depression hit just as I was starting to meet the Jesus Everyone Knew and Believed in. We were now attending a lovely church that ministered to my Broken-down Heart.   Just as I began to learn and study scripture for myself.  Just as I was learning that no matter what things I did or didn’t do with my life, I was loved and okay.  Just as a little of that truth sank in,

I slid down into the darkest pit of misery and hopelessness and despair. A place So dark, so bleak, so heavy that I was surprised by this new level of unhappiness.  I never knew that people could feel that lost. (I wrote about that in Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression.)

Broken by a life that was bereft of meaning, tired beyond comprehension with three babies in diapers, bored by being at home, dissatisfied with my contribution to the world, rejecting Grace still though I had begun to understand it intellectually, then came drink.  It was a respite in the beginning, an oasis.

Alcoholism.

As the years went by what had been a brief escape, a place to go when all else seemed

Worthless, Hopeless and Endless,

I drank.  And drank. And five years passed, and I was

Work-less, Meaningless, and soon a Fallen Down Drunk. I was addicted.  And working through the Depression and All Of The Above, I finally heard the

Sweet

Whisper

of the Spirit.  By this time I knew a bit more, I believed in the Grace of Jesus and God broke in and confronted my

Cycling Toilet of Shame, the hole in my heart leaking pain all over the floor, and

my F E A R.

An Ode to Joy.

A decade has passed and I’ve been sober almost five years.  I’m still

a colossal addict even sober, who wakes up every day on the verge of an existential crisis.  Deep, DEEP within, I crave significance. I crave making a meaningful contribution to the world. I long for Joy, real Joy.

Even now, listening to the mystical, providential, sweeping Spirit of God who Speaks and Holds me every day and quiets my frantic heart, that says:

{Just Be. And wait and Trust me.}

The surrender daily is bittersweet. Because I still don’t know What I’m Doing with my LIFE.  This poverty of spirit within me breaks my heart; I feel I betray Jesus in every moment that I’m

fearful, restless, dissatisfied, and confused.

Because unlike what my daughter believes, I don’t know what I am to DO, more than

Just Be. And so, I wait.  And in the waiting, I am transformed.

Waiting? I don’t think so.

Waiting.   We hardly know what to do with waiting in our culture.

Waiting on things makes me frustrated and sometimes even angry.  I want doctors to be on time, fast food lines to be, well, fast, children to be efficient, packages in the mail to be on schedule — all of it irks me.  I cannot stand to wait.  I do wait.  I will wait.  I am learning but American culture seems to feed the beast of impatience.

Do I then bring this attitude to my time with God?  Do I have a low-level contempt despite all that He has done for me?  I am all too often anxious and uncertain — querulous within.  Doubting that He will speak, even though He has proven himself in the past.  How dare I feel impatient with God, when I cannot some days slow down enough to breathe Him in?

I waited patiently for the LORD;

And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,

out of the miry clay,

And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

Psalm 40.1-2 NASB

What does it mean to know that God is willing by the Holy Spirit to speak to you?  Would you cease striving so hard to know this and that and open up your soul to God to work?

Andrew Murray, in Waiting on God said:

Would God that we might get some right conception of what the influence would be of a life given, not in thought, or imagination, or effort, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, wholly to waiting upon God.”1

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God.

Zephaniah 1.7 NIV

Our waiting cannot be a ‘means to an end.’  But when you come before God and realize that all you want is His presence, then perhaps the spirit of knowing will come.  It will be nothing you have experienced before, where time slows and you are stunned, awed by the moment of being so full of Him.

” …humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself.

“Let everyone who would learn the art of waiting on God remember the lesson: ‘Take heed, and be quiet;’ ‘It is good that a man quietly wait.’ Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God.

“Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy. Let the Word and prayer be very precious; but remember, even these may hinder the quiet waiting. The activity of the mind in studying the Word, or giving expression to its thoughts in prayer, the activities of the heart, with its desires and hopes and fears, may so engage us that we do not come to the still waiting on the All-Glorious One; our whole being is not prostrate in silence before Him.

“Though at first it may appear difficult to know how thus quietly to wait, with the activities of mind and heart for a time subdued, every effort after it will be rewarded; we shall find that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give a blessing not only in prayer, but all the day.”1

Waiting.  Our mind & spirit in everyday life are constantly, impatiently even angrily waiting for God to work.

He only asks for “a quiet reverence, an abiding watching.”

“‘It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Yes, it is good. The quietness is the confession of our impotence, that with all our willing and running, with all our thinking and praying, it will not be done: we must receive it from God. It is the confession of our trust that our God will in His time come to our help—the quiet resting in Him alone. It is the confession of our desire to sink into our nothingness, and to let Him work and reveal Himself.”1

If you knew that God

through the power of the Holy Spirit would meet you, would be waiting for you, would go against the world and wake in the dark of the night to be with Him.  I have seen that a whole new life will come.

MHH

1 Murray, Andrew.  Waiting on God.