I sat across the wooden table with a bright, plastic tablecloth and weighed the words about to come out of my mouth carefully. I wanted to be sure I meant them with my whole heart…that I could say them truthfully. And for the first time in a very long while, perhaps ever, I felt that I could…
“I know its a lot of work, but I don’t have a job right now, I don’t have a lot of commitments. I get to choose what I am busy with. And this is something I want to choose.”
This is something I am going to choose…
The past year has been an incredibly challenging year for me in many ways. Lessons I had been learning, or attempting to learn, for years came to a head. It was do or die, and I felt like I was dying.
I couldn’t keep up.
I couldn’t slow down.
I couldn’t change my mindset.
After years of God teaching me about breathing, rest, work, and peace, I felt like a failure. All the things I had learned, I couldn’t seem to do. Life was moving faster than I could keep up with, and I had less responsibilities than I’d ever had.
More than once, I broke down emotionally and mentally.
I felt utterly stuck and completely useless.
All the ways I found my worth, all the things I used to identify myself seemed to no longer be true of me.
I wasn’t disciplined.
I wasn’t healthy.
I wasn’t organized.
I wasn’t a hard worker.
I wasn’t on top of things.
I wasn’t a help to my husband.
I wasn’t a joyful mother.
I wasn’t a planner.
I wasn’t a writer.
I was lost.
I was stuck.
I was done.
And it all came to a head, because, for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working anymore. I was staying home with our one-year-old and helping my husband transition into starting a business. I was still volunteering some at our church, but I had been doing that plus more before.
So why was I still stressed?
Why did I still end the day overwhelmed?
Over and over, my husband told me, “You have complete freedom to choose your day, to choose what you will and won’t do. Choose as best you can, so that you aren’t utterly exhausted at the end of each day.”
In my mind, I knew he was right, and I was so grateful for the freedom of this season. But at the same time, I couldn’t tune out the expectations I felt weighing on me.
And so I kept slowly drowning myself under the weight of should and can and want to and good, until even the most life-giving things became burdens that threatened to level me. It wasn’t until I saw myself failing my family over and over, because I could not seem to slow down, that I broke. I hit that point of feeling lost and stuck and useless. I thought I’d never change. I thought I was hopeless.
So I heartbrokenly laid down my self-made reputation, all the things I wanted to be and had thought I was.
I despaired of ever “rebuilding” myself into a good wife and mother and friend and follower of Jesus, and instead just begged God for help.
What I didn’t realize, is that this was exactly where I needed to be; that this was exactly where God wanted me. Once I laid down who I wanted to be and thought I should be, and just asked God to help me get through each day and to glorify Him somehow through it, He could start rebuilding me.
Once I laid down my identity and reputation and pride, He could start making me into the woman He wants me to be.
In the moment, it didn’t feel remotely right or spiritual or redemptive. It just felt like I was failing at life in every way.
I had no choice except to beg God for help, to beg Him to be enough for me today and tomorrow and the next day. To beg Him to be enough through me each moment of the day.
And He was enough.
He is enough each day. And somehow, He is rebuilding me.
Honestly, I look a lot the same as I looked before. But now, it doesn’t matter what I should do or be or look like. At least, it is mattering far less.
Suddenly, I am free to chose to say no to things that felt essential to who I was as a person just a few months ago. I can acknowledge something as good and choose to set it aside for the sake of something better. And when I get overwhelmed, I can choose to change my schedule, adjust my priorities, and reset my focus on the few things I need to have my focus on.
Because in this season, God has primarily called me to be a wife and mother who loves, supports, and takes care of her family well. I cannot do that when I run myself ragged with expectations. I cannot do that when I push my body, mind, and soul to their utter limits every week.
My family needs me well, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So many of the things I think I need to do to be a good wife and mother and follower of Jesus are not necessary. They are not what God has called me to do in this season.
As I seek God, I can lay those things aside with freedom and joy. My choice to not do them does not make me a failure or less-than or useless. I am not defined by what I do and don’t do as a mother, a wife, a daughter of God.
I am defined by who I already am in Jesus.
My challenge in this season is to stay in this place, to live each day in the freedom I’ve been given. The things I do, the ways I spend my time, look very much the same as they did before. My life is almost imperceptibly different. But my heart is different…
I am more often living in the freedom I always had, and that makes all the difference.
I can now choose joy over stress, peace over busy, best over good. I can make these choices because I no longer believe that these choices make me good or right or worthy or valuable.
I am free to choose, because I am free from my own expectations. I am free.