I’ve been studying Philippians lately. The resounding theme through Philippians is finding unshakeable joy. If you are unfamiliar or too tired to remember, Paul is writing from jail where he is waiting to see if he will live or die. He’s tired, lonely, hungry, dirty, stripped of all comforts. And so the book is essentially a letter about his life written to his best friends, the first people he brought the hope of Christ to following his personal conversion. So picture it…he’s sitting alone in a dark, disgusting cell writing a letter to people who he loves and whom love him. They are his people, the ones he would vent to, and his alone and miserable.
What’s striking is that he tells his people exactly what’s going on. There’s no pretending everything is great and wonderful. He’s in jail. It’s gross. He’s lonely. But throughout the book he’s at peace and in control of his emotions. The more you read the more you feel that peace; it’s not unwarranted, unfounded positivity. He’s not telling himself everything is going to fine, talking himself off the ledge, or believing these real- life, hard things will get better based on how hard he tries. Quite the opposite. He is sitting far removed from every comfort he knew, at peace because he so clearly sees and knows his savior. Despite how he feels, he is comforted because he knows there is a reason why he’s in this situation. He’s feeling all the same feelings you and I would (insert Drake reference here) because he is human. Though he’s suffering he is reminding his readers that there is a reason why God has brought him to the jail where he sits, even though he doesn’t want to be there. He knew there were people who hated him, wanted him to fail, yet he continued to rejoice right in the middle of the tragedy. Though his circumstances were awful and certainly would give him license to feel sorry for himself, instead he tells his friends that he has been given “the privilege of trusting in Christ” as well as “the privilege of suffering for him.” (Phil. 1:29)
Ugh. (I hope when you’re reading this you are reading the “ugh” in a Charlie Brown voice…better affect that way.) Suffering. No thanks. I don’t even want to go without Wi-Fi
The more I study Philippians, the more my pride and detrimental thinking has revealed itself. Honestly, some days being a mom is hard. My baby is turning into a toddler as we speak and with that change comes difficulty (to put it mildly.) She screams yall…loud. And. It. Kills. Me. When she squeals she initiates some horrible phenomenon where the other two chicks feel as if they must join out of solidarity. This is my Achilles heel. I like noisy, headstrong girl bosses, but not in my kitchen. These are the moments that cause me to question my path, choices, and future. These are the moments where Satan whispers, “How will you survive when they turn into teenagers if you can barely get through dinner?” When that doubt pierces my bravado I begin to think that I’m doing it all wrong and there’s no way I can ever be what they need. Did you follow that? My baby had a tantrum and then somehow I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m not equipped to mother these chicks.
And this precise train of thoughts is exactly why and how Philippians has changed me. Paul is not trivializing how crappy life can be. He’s not discrediting how annoying it is to feel like you are working and serving your family and that no cares or it’s never good enough. For goodness sake he is in prison for doing exactly what God wanted him to do. But instead of feeling sorry for himself or questioning God to the point of being paralyzed he’s imploring us and his friends to rejoice because of the salvation we have experienced. In fact he reminds us that rejoicing is a safeguard for our faith. I think what he’s talking about is precisely the flawed thought process I described earlier. One bad thing happened and somehow I turn it into a catastrophe. Somehow I am bad and don’t measure up. Throughout the book Paul wants us to see that rejoicing in the middle of the small problems of life corrects our tumultuous thought process. He’s saying that if we focus on Christ and the fact that we are no longer tied and judged for our sins, life in this place won’t seem as hard. Essentially he’s reminding us to keep it in perspective.
I think every mom has an Achilles heel when it comes to their parenting. We all have things that set us off and derail our best intentions. But what Paul is screaming here is that we are to rejoice! It doesn’t matter if your baby keeps throwing her food on the floor and yelling no…rejoice. It doesn’t matter that your 3 year old poured half a bottle of liquid dish soap into the sink to “help” wash the dishes while you cleaned the playroom…rejoice. It doesn’t matter that your 5 year old is melting down because she missed 1 subtraction problem out of 20…rejoice. He is not ignoring the situation, or trivializing your struggle; he’s commanding us to see the situation, feel the emotions it produces, but ACT RIGHT. He’s reminding his friends and himself that we are citizens of Heaven and that the ultimate battle for our souls has been fought and won. He wants us to see how small the problem is in relationship to eternity. Because that same God that has numbered the hairs on our heads knows exactly where we are and who he put us with. He gave those people to us, no one else. He is growing and maturing us through our situation begging us to look up from the problem to see the ultimate solution. This is not all there is for us, our reality is Heaven. If Paul was in my house last night, watching my chicks meltdown in our kitchen, I think he would tell me to pick myself up, keep my trials in perspective, and conduct myself as a child of God raising children of God.
When I think about this man, experiencing the worst situations of his life, wondering whether he will live or die, yet praising God through it all, my eyes can only see my own pride. Starting a blog and talking about my struggles is not easy for me. I deeply believe in the mission of spreading joy to moms and have prayed so much that my words would resonate with even just one person. I have prayed those words to my God, my Heavenly Father who knows me, and knows who I truly am. Until this week, I have prided myself in not concerning myself with what others say about me. I consider myself relatively self-confident and secure. This last week has taught me that sometimes God brings you to places that make you uncomfortable so that you are stretched. In that stretching he reveals hidden parts of yourself. For me, this week has shown me how much I have searched for approval from others. I want what I produce to be a success instantly. I want people to like it. I want them to like me. Simple as that. Because really, I secretly want to reach all the people, all the time. I want what I do to bring others and me joy. When that hasn’t happened according to my selfish plan, I start to doubt God. What the heck God? I’m doing what you said so what gives? But here I remain because God is never wrong. And here I am just as self-conscious and clueless as every other girl out there. He aims to grow me despite my fighting. He aims to focus my eyes on him removing the burdens I carry from my past. He desires that I fall at his feet, experiencing the privilege of serving and suffering for him. He aims to show me that I cannot rely on my perceived sense of goodness or my actions for definition. In return for fully relying on him he promises to overwhelm my heart with joy and peace. And let me tell you, I need more of those two things. Today I’m praying that God make my motivating desire to serve him no matter what. No matter if no one likes my blog, no matter if it makes me feel stupid to bare my soul, even if people think I’m weird. I’m praying that we all learn to rejoice through the screaming, tantrums, and sibling fighting; because through it all we are growing. God has given us these tiny little lives because they mature us. So tonight, like Paul, I will stand in my kitchen and trust that my Heavenly Father will grow me in exactly the way that I need, that he will speak to me in exactly the language I understand…even if that sounds a lot like baby squealing.