In the past week or so I have been fighting the sensation that I am just keeping about 2 feet ahead of an avalanche. Like I’m scurrying around moving as fast as I can, but I just can’t keep up and something catastrophic is going to happen as soon as I slip too far behind. People have asked me how I’m doing and I answer, “staying about 2 feet ahead of the avalanche” and everyone nods and says, “Oh yeah, I know all about that”. So apparently, this isn’t a feeling that is particular to just me. So, in typical me-fashion, I have been trying to figure out what this feeling is all about.
First of all, I feel guilty just to be feeling this way. I don’t feel like I have any right to this feeling. I don’t work a high-pressure job. I am not the sole breadwinner of the family. I don’t have any deadlines pressing on me. As I was trying to figure this out I questioned myself. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if I don’t accomplish all my tasks today? Ok, the house will be a mess, we might end up eating Little Caesar’s Pizza if I don’t cook supper. The kids might get some points knocked off of their behavior charts if I don’t keep their homework folder up-to-date. So what? None of that is really a big deal. Why do I feel so much pressure to keep up?
Have I been hanging on to unrealistic expectations for my life? Trying to keep my house in order has been a big part of it. I have 10 children (ok, 1 is at college now, but she still pops in regularly). I am in a constant quest to keep the laundry caught up, keep the trash taken out, keep the fridge full of food, and keep the dishes washed. And of course the impossible task of keeping the house clean when there is a toddler walking right behind me, undoing everything I do. (My latest cleaning spree had me cleaning one room, going to the next room, and by the time the next room was clean, the toddler had managed to destroy the first room…ack.) Again though, it’s housework, it’s not brain surgery, working as an EMT, or some other high-stakes job. So, apparently, high or low pressure jobs have nothing to do with this feeling. So, what is it?
Peace. Or rather, Lack of Peace. I think that is what is missing. When I am at peace I can roll with the punches, take each toddler disaster as it comes, orchestrate 12 people’s schedules without even blinking an eye. I’ve lost my peace somewhere along the way. As I write this I find my pulse racing, anxiety settling onto my shoulders. How did I get myself into this state? A week ago life was great and I was swimming in contentment. Why does peace seem so fleeting? Like trying to hold on to a cloud.
So, I walked away from this puzzle and have been thinking more. Went to church. Spent time in worship and hearing God’s word. Felt my peace slowly returning. I think I’ve come to some conclusions. I have always struggled with “never-ending” chores. By this I mean things like washing dishes or doing laundry. You wash the dishes, the kitchen is clean and beautiful, you walk away and 3 hours later, the kitchen sink is full of dishes again. It never ends. The dishes always need to be washed. Same with laundry. You know, I’m 40 years old and I still do this. I wash all the laundry (and for a family of 12, that’s a lot of laundry) finally get it all folded and put away (never happens all in the same day) and then I feel this feeling of accomplishment. Hurray! I did it! I successfully did all the laundry. And then I promptly forget about laundry for several days because in my mind, I did the deed, I finished the task, I shouldn’t have to think about it again, right? And then halfway through the week I look up and there’s a giant pile of laundry again, and I experience this shock, like, What the Heck, I already did this! Now, if I was a disciplined, logical person, I would just wash one load of laundry every day, fold it, put it away, and I would never have an overwhelming pile of laundry to deal with. I guess Peace is kind of like that. Jesus gives us peace. Spending time with him gives us peace, reading his word, spending time in worship, it all gives us peace. But I tend to get into this mode of, Ok, I just got a great dose of Jesus, I’m feeling peace and contentment and I’m ready to conquer the world with Love. And then I go about my daily business and kind of put Jesus on the back burner. Like, Ok, I did that, check. But having peace is a daily endeavor. It’s a daily seeking of God’s presence. I know how to do that. I know how to focus on him, even on busy days. I just forget that it’s necessary. And then suddenly I’m bogged down with a lack a peace and it’s like me staring at the pile of laundry, like, Where did you come from? Well, if I had invested in seeking out God every day, I probably wouldn’t be in this state.
When I was a kid I listened to a children’s musical called Music Machine. It was fun, had a bunch of songs about the fruit of the spirit. My favorite song was the one about Peace. I don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the last phrase of the chorus,
Peace, peace, I think I understand. Peace, peace, is holding Jesus’ hand.
Today when we were driving home from church my toddler was crying in his car seat. He was tired, needed a nap, had just spent the whole morning away from his mama, playing in the nursery. He just wanted me. I finally put my hand back and he held my hand the rest of the way home. He stopped crying and settled down. As I held his hand, I thought about the song from Music Machine and peace. This is what I need in my life right now. Just to focus on holding Jesus’ hand. Get his perspective on life again. Bask in his presence. And remember that I need this daily.