Friday, April 4, 2014

Shadows


This one ends with a twist...

Much to my parent's dismay growing up, and now much to Eric's dismay as my permanent roommate, I am an excellent procrastinator. I am motivated by last-minute deadlines, have NEVER done something well in advance, and am typically running just a little late at all times. Growing up, my older sister would come home from school, promptly head up to her room, sit at her desk, do her homework to completion, and then spend the rest of the evening doing whatever she wanted. I would walk by her room, trying to distract her from her studious ways while NOT doing my homework. I'd have an extra snack, watch just one more show, and then around 9:30pm I'd begrudgingly get started on whatever assignements I had. It was not uncommon for me to set my alarm for 5:45am so I could get up and study for the test I'd not studied for the night before because I was "too busy" doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately I never had enough incentive to change this particular behavior because I never really suffered the consequences of it. I made great grades, participated in sports and clubs, and graduated near the top of my class. I got into every school I applied to and even received a couple different scholarships.

The same was true in graduate school. I'd receive my box of materials for an online course I was taking, which I had 6 months to complete. The box would sit unopened in our room for 5.5 months and then I'd work myself to the bone for the last two weeks as I finally saw the deadline approaching. It drove Eric totally berserk. I, of course, would get totally defensive when he'd call me on it with the same old "Get off my back, I'm getting it done eventually and I get an A every time so back off, chump," response. Procrastination and Defensiveness are two of my favorite bad habits in case you were curious. It honestly never occured to me that my proscrination might negatively impact the people around me. I just didn't quite realize that leaving things to the last minute might make for sleepless nights and frantic behavior and cause Grouchy McGroucherson to take over my body as I raced to the post office trying to get my term paper postmarked by the 5pm deadline, "verbally encouraging" old women and children to get the heck out of my way because didn't they know I had to get this paper turned in?!? Oh man. Clueless. I was clueless. Still am, in so many ways, to how my insistence on doing things my way might affect the people I so dearly love.

I am marginally better when it comes to making sure Harper is prepared for her school day, but not much. I was emptying out her preschool folder the other day, trying to decide whether the picture of the horse and buggy she scribbled on with only brown crayon was, in fact, a priceless piece of art from my daughter's first year of preschool that I should store in some magical wooden box of nostalgia, or if I should just pitch it because it's a worksheet she clearly didn't want to do in the first place. I noticed that all of her pictures were scribbled on with what seemed like very little effort. Now I know that all kids develop differently and she's only four and let kids be kids.  Trust me when I say I am not one to "push" my kids too hard.  Eric taught both of our children how to walk while I would have just let them crawl until they were 17 because I didn't want to make them feel bad if they couldn't do it right away. Not really, but really.

Regardless, I said to my thumb-sucking little sweetie, "Harper, I think you may need to work a little harder at staying in the lines when you color." She put her hands on her hips, marched over to the craft cabinet, got out paper and crayons and proceeded to draw a giraffe, a monkey, and a picture of a hippo using the potty. Seriously, I pointed to one  part of the drawing and asked her what it was, only to learn that it was the hippo's panties down around her ankles. Duh. She continued to get defensive (NO IDEA where she gets that from) and tell me that her teachers don't mind if she goes out of the lines sometimes.  I challenged her a little more and told her she needed to be okay with the fact that we all need to work on things to get better at them. Round and round we went, she sulking, me trying to say hard things without her realizing I was saying hard things.

 A few minutes later she went and hid in the fort of cushions her daddy had made her in the family room. I pulled her out by her skinny little ankles and made her look me in my eyes and tell me what was bothering her. She finally found the clarity she and I were both after and told me she didn't like that I'd said she was a bad colorer. The lightbulb went off and my heart broke all in that one moment. I had said one thing and she heard something else entirely. This is like Counseling 101, people. We filter what other people say to us through our insecurities and end up hearing something false. I told her to work on coloring in the lines. She heard she was a bad colorer. I said something about a behavior SHE DOES and she heard me say something about WHO SHE IS. I did my best to restore order to her little world, hung the picture of "hippo with her panties down" on the fridge, and we went on about our day.

Casting shadows. Someone told me recently that that's what happens when we insist on our own way of living, or when we turn into our ourselves to figure out who we are and whether we measure up. We cast shadows. When I procrastinate myself into a tizzy and don't take into account the people around me, I cast a shadow.  When I, or my daughter for that matter, turn inward to try and figure out if I am worthy enough or smart enough or a good enough "colorer" I cast a shadow.  Let me explain. Have you ever tried to read outside with your back to the sun? Your positioning causes you to cast your own shadow out in front of you, darkening the words you are trying to read. Turned away from the light you cannot very well see what's in front of you. Or at least you cannot see it clearly. And so it is when we turn away from the LIGHT that is Jesus and try to do life our way.

In Ephesians 5:8 it says "[That] you were once darkness, but now you are light to The Lord. Live as children of the light." As a believer I have been moved, via the mercy of God, from darkness into light. And in the light, in the presence of Jesus, I can rightly see myself and those around me. I squint at times, my eyes adjusting to the radical truth that comes with the light. And other times I forget. Other times, and most often unknowingly, I turn my back to the light and measure myself against the standards of a world that is very, very dark. I turn my back on the Light that calls me to deny myself and to consider the needs of others, and I serve myself as master.  And when I do this I cast a shadow.  In the shadow I become overly sensitive or overy critical or overly anxious, tripping and fumbling over my circumstances and relationships.  In the shadow I see only what is right in front of me - my needs, my wants, my ways. In the shadow I hear voices that are not from God - voices that tell me that I am not enough, and that what I bring to the world is insufficient.  But in the Light, in that warm, wonderful, pervasive light,  I can see Him as He is, and thereby see myself as I am - fully known and fully loved.

 When I was a child I would often wake up in the middle of the night for no reason. I'd look around my room and stuggle to make sense of the looming objects around me. I knew better than to believe there was a monster crouched by my door so I'd stare down the dark figure until my eyes adjusted.  I was furious that this blurry distortion was causing me fear because I knew better.  I knew it wasn't real. The me that was familiar with my room in the light of day knew that it held only dressers and dolls.  So I'd hold my ground, heart pounding and teeth clenched, until  the monster would reveal its true identity as my oversize winter coat hanging on the doorknob.  What I knew in the light overpowered what I feared in the darkness.

I recently stumbled across a Mumford & Sons song that I somehow missed an album or two ago.  I've played it on a loop for days now.  When the chorus comes I clench my fists like that little girl in her room at night, hell-bent on seeing in darkness what I know to be true in the Light....."Hold onto what you belive IN THE LIGHT, when darkness has robbed you of all your sight....." I added the link below :)

Take a listen if you have a minute (which we all do by the way). And as you do you can also have a good laugh at my expense. You see after my daughter spent a good 20 minutes convincing me I'd broken her precious little heart into pieces with my "color in the lines" comment, she dropped this bomb on me. "Um, mom, you know all that stuff I said early when you told me to work on my coloring?" Yes, dear, of course I do. "Well, um, I was faking all that." I tried to not overreact as I wondered how it was possible for this little slip of a 4-year old to be so manipulative. I quickly asked her why in the WORLD she would do that. Clearly aware that I was not thrilled with her little confession she quickly offered this explanation, "Mom, it's okay, my teachers told me today that on the first day of April it's funny to play jokes on people. It's called April Fools. Funny, right?" Oh. My. Word. A pint-sized con artist is what she is. We laughed hard for a minute or two and I then explained that April Fools jokes probably shouldn't involve feelings or pretending to be hurt. Ever. She agreed. Then she told me I had a bug on my toe. "April Fools, Mommy!" Yes, dear, that's more like it.

Jesus you are the LIGHT by which we make sense of all things. Help us to hold onto what we believe in the Light of Your presencece when we stumble into the shadows that we cast ourselves. And then, Lord, call us out of the shadows. In your mercy, call us out of the shadows. Amen.

http://youtu.be/9VI8-6aXsFA