As we drove into our driveway, my teenage daughter eyed the two deflated balloons, still hanging from a party two weeks ago, tied desperately to the hanging sign post, looking like a couple of breasts that just nursed their 9th child. "I am going to take those balloons down. I refuse to be that house with the deflated balloons", she told me.
I, too, refused to be lots of things, back in the day.
Last night I was woken up by a strange sound of running water. I shot up out of bed. Clearly the roof was about to cave in from the rain and I was seconds away from being crushed to death. Only it wasn't raining. So obviously, an intruder had broken in, and he was showering before stabbing me to death. A shadow emerged at the bottom of the steps, and I recognized the form immediately. It was my son. He climbed up the stairs, half asleep, sat on my bed, looking tired and confused. I peeked down the stairs to confirm that there was no intruder freshening up in my bathroom before striking, but rather, my son had gotten out of his bed and peed on his carpet. He peed a lot. I threw a towel on top of the soaked spot, and went back to bed. I probably should have cleaned it up.
This morning I set my yellow highlighter down next to my Bible on the coffee table, and came back to find the highlighter gone....but my dogs fur neon yellow. I suppose I should have looked for the marker, and washed the dog.
Should have...used to do...suppose I should...thought I would never.
I could go on and on about all of the things I said I would never do or be.
I could write a book about all of the things I have let slide and let go.
I could fill a room with all of the times I didn't obey God.
And not that failing to take down balloons, or jumping up to clean a carpet or dog is disobeying God. But it is a slippery slope, isn't it? Small acts of laziness lend themselves to disobedience, and have the ability to grow into bigger habits of neglect. Huge sins don't happen over night. They are born small. It is our laziness to correct them that continually feeds them. And it has been my experience that if you do not wish for something to grow big, don't feed it.
And so I have been thinking about Jonah a lot lately. Not the Jonah from that boy band, but Jonah the guy in the Old Testament, in the belly of the whale. Jonah didn't listen to God. Jonah refused to be who God asked him to be. And because of his lack of obedience, things got ugly for the guy, and Jonah ends up getting thrown into a raging sea, surely to drown. "But the Lord sent a large fish" and put him in the belly of a whale for three days. And that might sound drastic, and well, kind of gross, not to mention really impossible. But that is the story and God is the author, and so we go with it. Three days. Inside of a whale. And there, in the darkness, what did Jonah do?
"From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God. Then the Lord commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore."
That list, those books, that room I could fill with all of my regrets? Maybe they were needed. Maybe I needed to become that woman, that house, that person I swore I would never be, to be the woman, wife and mom I am today, and still have yet to grow into. Maybe I still need those moments to be exactly what it is I do not want to be, in order to become who God has created me to be. I am not hoping I continue on a road of disobedience or laziness. But I do hope in the truth that God is pretty much an expert at taking my mess and pulling something beautiful and unexpected out of it. I know this, because I have witnessed it for myself.
The deflated balloons, by the way, are still hanging.
The pee soaked carpet has yet to be cleaned.
As I write, my neon dog is snuggled up close to my side.
The laziness to get up and do something about any of this, I believe, has been fed by the fact that my husband traveled for the last two weeks, I have been sick, kids have had fevers, and well, I am exhausted.
And exhaustion can be scary.
Exhausted is how the devil likes me.
I am more sensitive, low on patience, and incredibly self-critical and absorbed, when I am exhausted.
In truth, the last two days have been rough on me. Because my focus has been inward, and not on what is above, I have felt disappointed, alone, unattractive, and taken for granted. My selfishness and lack of eternal perspective has me feeling as if I have been thrown overboard, into the raging sea; a sea of what I could have been, who I used to be, how I have failed, and what I will never become. Surely, I am destined to drown.
But then He sends a large fish.
And when I quiet my heart, and close my eyes, I see this anchor of hope.
No matter how strong the waves, or how deep the sea, I have this anchor of hope.
Even when I feel I have drifted from where He wants me to be, He has me secure.
Even when I refuse His guidance, and insist on my own way, he keeps me tethered.
Even when I feel like I am drowning, he reaches out, draws me near, and gently reminds me to step out of myself, and into His arms.
It is here, in the darkness, He invites me into prayer.
Here, in the belly of the fish.