I spent three hours cleaning our bathroom on Tuesday. Couldn't get the smell of bleach out of my nose for a solid day. Four inch tiles blanketing the floor and the shower walls left a tedious grid of grout in desperate need of cleaning. My arms were shaky and my hands ached from the relentless scrubbing. Somehow, it seemed the cleaning of this one room would make my life feel a bit more tidied up and orderly too. It's funny how a messy house can make our hearts feel even messier. Sometimes, one just doesn't know what to do about it all.
So, she grabs a brush and some Soft Scrub and hits her knees.
If there's anyone out there who is feeling like their hearts and minds need a little cleansing too, this post is for you. The weight of the world can crush and pull and pile mile-high guilt upon my heart as I desperately try to "get it all together"...yet, for the life of me, can't. Perhaps you've found yourself in moments, days, (or maybe even seasons) where your faith is wearing thin and feels close to bone dry too.
Can I reassure you that this is ok?
I know for me, I can feel burdened by all of life's expectations. As a wife and mother of three, each day and each responsibility brings new stacks of expectations to rifle through. Sometimes these expectations come from others, and other times we create and bring them on ourselves.
I've been thinking a lot about this whole faith walk thing lately. Seems there are expectations here too. My heart has felt burdened by them, and I've felt tender toward anyone else out there feeling like they are falling short in this department as well. It's made me wonder if, as Christians, we give each other enough room and space to walk through these messy places?
Or do we try to race ourselves and others through them?
Convince ourselves that messy feelings and clouded perspectives are wrong and out of place...
That weak moments represent weak faith...
That we all just need to pray a little harder and trust a bit more...
That there's no place for doubt and discouragement...
But rather an attitude that needs adjusting...
Or a perspective that needs shifting...
Or a heart that needs repenting...
Or a life that needs surrendering...
I don't know. Many of these things need to be done in order to walk in victory. But some of the other things, I'm not so convinced.
I think there is a time and a place for them.
For the messy.
For the discouragement.
For the doubt.
For the weary.
And maybe, just maybe, if we gave ourselves the room to breathe and sift through these moments, we'd get through them with a bit more swiftness and ease.
At times, I've just felt that, as a believer, we are expected to keep this "glass half full" perspective. To be strong, shine with hope, and smile with joy through all of life's ups AND downs. And that when we struggle to do so, it's considered a character flaw.
A sign of immature faith.
Ugly uninvited wavering.
And when I feel like a messed up failure, I end up condemning myself. I grow angry with myself when I'm at the end of my rope and fail to thrive. When I face moments when I'm deeply discouraged and my truth is screaming and begging to convince me it has trumped God's truth over my life, then it makes me feel like there must be something wrong with me. And it perpetuates this cycle of discouragement. And makes me feel like even more of a mess and a failure. And the negative self-talk and futile thinking scares me too much to even voice aloud or type in print...so I stuff and choke it down.
Until it festers.
And I end up feeling worse.
And too messed up for God to even mess with.
Or bother with.
Or care about.
The past couple of weeks I've done a lot of stuffing and festering. And it hasn't been pretty. I can't believe some of the things I've told myself, for they certainly don't sound anything like me. Or the person I want to be. Or try to be.
I bled out 7 pages of heartcry this Tuesday morning in my prayer journal. Not sure where the words came from, for they seemed buried deep in cement-hardened hurt. It didn't change my circumstances, but it felt good to purge the dirt. The doubt. The questions. And as I sat on my hands and knees purging the dirt from the grout in my bathroom that day, I felt emptied enough to let Truth sink in and stay a while.
There is more than one reason we need to empty ourselves out in order to be filled.
As I scrubbed the floor and scoured the tub, I felt a subtle cleansing within as well. K-love played on the radio in the background. Song after song played and permeated the small expanse of bathroom before me. And I took notice to a commonality among so many of the songs playing. The lyrics were riddled with honest declarations of doubt, discouragement, pain, and confusion. These lyrics were coming from bands and artists I admire and look up to for their strong solid faith and convictions. Yet, their melodies were laced with many of the feelings I've struggled with.
Slowly, the layers of dirt gradually lifted off of that bathroom floor. With every 4 inch tile cleaned and completed, and with each new song filling the air, I felt the layers of doubt and discouragement being lifted from my heart too...and the filling of His Spirit within me.
And it made me consider the fact that maybe I'm not so alone. Maybe it's not so wrong and foreign to love the Lord, live out your faith, yet sometimes wrestle knee-deep in yuck. I am not the only one who has moments where I doubt and just can't seem to even see or feel Him near. Where I can't even find words to pray, let alone mutter. It doesn't make me a hopeless mess. Or one of little faith. Or a failure.
And you aren't either.
I hesitated to even share this post and seriously contemplated keeping it inside since I seemed to have scrubbed my way clean into a better place. For two days I let it sit in my laptop. I had convinced myself that I would not post it. It wasn't until this afternoon that I came back, adjusted the verb tense, and decided to finish it up. For something inside told me that perhaps there is someone out there who is struggling now and needs to know that they are not alone.
Maybe someone who has a strong faith, yet beats herself up every time she finds herself in a moment of weakness and doubt. Someone who condemns herself when the voices in her head overpower the voice and Word of God...telling her she'll never change, she's too messed up, too weak, too far gone to be redeemed. Someone who feels like she is a failure, that her life is a mess, and she can't seem to get it together. And never will.
If this is you, let me whisper truth and encouragement into your ear. You are not a failure. You are ok. And you are normal. There's no reason to keep condemning yourself when you find yourself stuck in these moments.
This morning I was reminded of this even further.
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (July 3rd):
"My children make a pastime of judging one another-
But I am the only capable Judge,
and I have acquitted you through My own blood.
Your acquittal came at the price of My unparalleled sacrifice.
That is why I am highly offended when I hear
My children judge one another
or indulge in self-hatred.
If you live close to Me and absorb My Word,
the Holy Spirit will guide and correct you as needed.
There is NO CONDEMNATION for those who
belong to Me."
"There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Jesus doesn't condemn us when we fall short and can't seem to "get it all together." We can stop condemning ourselves too. He's not after perfection; He's after our hearts. Every imperfect part of them. It's in our weakness that His power is made strong. And when we hit our knees, and give ourselves over to Him, He takes our dirty gridded lives and makes them new...one square inch at a time.
As I found commonality in the lyrics of so many Christian artists pouring out their moments of struggle in song, I found comfort in the Source they all pointed me to too. Jesus. Seems struggle and doubt weren't the only commonalities found in all these songs. Hope in the Lord found its way into every chorus and melody. For He refreshes the spirit, waters the bone-dry soul, and strengthens the weary.
And for every heart that holds on.
Bleach wasn't the only thing being absorbed in that bathroom. His truth was too. And with Truth, there is always hope. Hope to hold on.
He's holding you.
Think you're the only one who ever gets lost in doubt and discouragement? Think again. Here are just a few lyrics from just a few songs I was listening to as I scrubbed the dirt and grime from the tile and allowed the Lord to scrub it from my heart. I dare you to go take a listen. I promise, there is hope ready to shine and be unveiled behind the struggle.
Remind Me Who I Am (Jason Gray):
When I lose my way, and I forget me name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror when all I see, is who I don't wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places, when I can't remember what grace is...
When I can't receive Your love, afraid I'll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I'm Your beloved, can You help me believe it?
Broken Hallelujah (The Afters):
I can barely stand right now,
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are...
Worn (Tenth Avenue North):
I'm tired, I'm worn,
My heart is heavy,
From the work it takes,
To keep on breathing,
I've made mistakes,
I've let my hope fail,
My soul feels crushed,
By the weight of this world...
I know I need to life my eyes up,
But I'm too weak,
Life just won't let up...
My prayers are wearing thin,
Yeah, I'm worn.
Even before the day begins,
Yeah, I'm worn.
I've lost my will to fight...
Pray (Sanctus Real):
I bow my head to pray,
I don't know what to say,
I don't know how to fix,
The things I'm dealing with.
I'm in a desperate place,
I need to share the weight,
But I just don't know how,
to let it all pour out...
Need You Now (Plumb):
...Cause I get so tired of holding on,
I can't let go, I can't move on.
I want to believe there's meaning here...
Standing on a road I didn't plan,
Wondering how I got to where I am...
Though I walk through the shadows,
and I, I am so afraid...
God, I need you now...
The Human Side (Ryan Stevenson):
I woke up this morning, my stomach already in knots,
The sky is so grey.
Edge of my bed, strugglin' to gather my thoughts,
I don't even wanna be awake.
I'm feeling like I'm too far gone,
The hope of healing it's already moved on.
And now I'm dealing with so many things
I never knew buried deep inside of me.
Oh, I don't have words to say...
Crazy how long pain and bitterness can linger on,
Throwing me shade...
Already There (Casting Crowns):
From where I'm standing,
Lord, it's so hard for me to see,
Where this is going,
And where You're leading me,
I wish I knew how,
All my fears and questions are gonna play out,
In a world I can't control...
The Glorious Unfolding (Steven Curtis Chapman):
Take a rest from the fight,
Don't try to figure it out,
Cause I know that is not,
Anything like you thought,
The story of your life was gonna be,
And it feels like the end has starting closing in on you...
Just Say Jesus (7eventh Time Down):
If you're tired of wondering why,
Your heart isn't healing,
And nothing feels like home,
Cause your lost and alone,
Just screaming at the sky...
You Are I Am (MercyMe):
I've been the one to shake with fear,
and wonder if You're even here,
I've been the one to doubt Your love,
I've told myself that You're not enough,
I've been the one to fall apart,
And start to question who You are,
I've been the one to believe,
That where I am You cannot reach...
He is With Us (Love & The Outcome):
Your hope is lost and faith is shaken.
You wonder if you're gonna make it...
Let the Waters Rise (MIKESCHAIR):
Don't know where to begin, it's like my world's cavin' in,
And I try but I can't control my fear, where do I go from here?
Sometimes it's so hard to pray, when You feel so far away...
There's a ragin' sea right in front of me,
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees