my psalm for the darkness

I think I said something insensitive and stupid last night… I’ve been feeling fragile lately anyway, due to stress and exhaustion and this was apparently my tipping point. As I soon as I got home last night, I could feel my stomach tying up in knots. When I tried to go to sleep, I was hearing strange noises in the house and was convinced something horrible was going to happen in the middle of night. I felt like I was going to disappear. This is not an unfamiliar feeling to me– whenever life feels out of control, my inner demons tend to show themselves, and this is a big one, the fear of disappearing. I felt like this when my mom was dying. I felt it again last summer when we were trying to put the pool in and I had children’s needs, work crew’s needs and church needs to juggle all at once. I feel it again now– any goodness left in me, any joy or peace, any goodwill from family or friends, any love– it’s disappearing. I’m disappearing.

But my spiritual director is a very wise woman, and she has given me some tools to deal with this particular demon. It’s truly God’s grace that I found her last spring. So I went to Psalm 23 today and rewrote it, pulling in images of love from Jesus’ life and teachings as well as some of my own longings. Here it is:

My Lord is the one who knows my name. He bends down to feed me and protects me from the darkness, from my enemies. He defends me. I don’t need to fear anything, even death. He knows exactly where I get tripped up along the path, and He is right there to give me His Hand. He binds up all my wounds and wipes away my tears.

He lays me down in lush green grass that tickles my nose and my toes. I love the smell! It’s a soft place to rest. I hear the sound of water, and He shows me the nearby stream. When I’m thirsty, He lets me drink from His Hands. It cools and refreshes me. I splash and play in the living water.

He knows who my enemies are and serves me a scrumptious feast, right there with them! He honors me. He washes my feet and dries them tenderly.

I will be in the presence of Love always. Always. He promised.

pursuit of happiness

I confess that the thrill of our adventure into the 10-acre wood has all but vanished for me, fickle human being that I am. My days are filled with lists and that nagging notion that there is always more to do, in spite of my busy hands and sheer exhaustion. I feel guilty when I choose to sit and read (or write) rather than clean out closets and cupboards… another part of me resents the burden of all these extra tasks that have invaded my life… and I get frustrated with my lack of maturity about these things.
This was my choice. I knew what it would mean and chose it willingly. What do I have to be frustrated about? During those times of normal routine when I had plenty of time to complete all of my necessary tasks, I imagined myself as a gracious person– patient, compassionate, thinking of others, giving generously of my time and attention. But then I entered real life… and where did that lady go? Turns out I am miserable, resentful, exhausted, short-tempered and selfish.
This past week has been especially difficult. I have lost my temper and my joy, and I am afraid that my children may think, that I simply don’t want to be with them. The truth is, I just don’t have much left to give to them right now. I know this isn’t the good-Christian-mom thing to say (because our kids are supposed to be our priority, right?), but it’s true. I try to imagine myself as that mom who can plan out her days so that her kids get her “best” and not her left-overs… but I come to find that this isn’t me.
The thing that most disappoints me about my current inner state is this: it seems I have bought the lie that my life is supposed to be about my pursuit of happiness, that I am on some journey to find my “happy place” where all is well and at peace and I can finally take a deep breath, relax and enjoy it. I am not satisfied to be on the way, on the path. No, I must get there and I’ll be pissy until I am.
Even now, as I tell the truth about who I am and have been, I want to fix whatever is wrong with me, so that I’ll be happy (and then everyone around me can be happy, too). Can’t I just change my thinking about the work on the house? Could I just order my tasks differently, schedule some “days off” to play with the kids? Maybe I should call in some help from friends? None of these are bad ideas, and I may actually choose to do one or more…. but there’s something deeper going on here, and it disturbs me.
As a Jesus-follower, happiness is actually NOT my goal. It’s not what I am aiming for in this life (yet somehow, it seems some part of me must think so). My goal is union with Jesus– to put on his way of life, to have his heart and mind, to follow him so closely that it is hard to tell where he ends and I begin. I trust that happiness will result, though I prefer to call it joy. I trust that peace, wholeness, beauty and goodness will come of this union. But those things should not be my pursuit; they are not my focal point.
My focus is Jesus, the King of Love… in the face of my children, in the soapy water where my hands get wrinkly, in the vacuum cleaner and the dusting spray, in the voice of my burdened husband, in the piles of junk that I don’t know where to put, in my exhausted and sore muscles and my chaotic brain. Jesus. Jesus, my Lord. Be my pursuit. I will say it until my heart and mind follow in obedience. I will speak it until it is true: I pursue YOU, nothing more and nothing less than YOU.


There is something truly beautiful going on here. A friend of mine is on a journey through kinds of pain I have only heard of and have never known… I call her a ferocious pilgrim… she refuses to let the darkness keep her prisoner.


One of my favorite blogs is Culture Making, kept by Andy Crouch and a few of his colleagues. It is a great storehouse of thoughts on Christian faith and beauty, artistry, ingenuity, imagination, invention, etc., etc. Andy is a great thinker. I actually, not that long ago, shared a car ride with him and one of my professors from Biblical Seminary. We had some wonderful conversations about power and influence as it relates to being a Jesus-follower.

Anyway, I am baffled by this video that I found on the Culture Making blog. Why are these folks, and it seems an overwhelming female-led refrain, so concerned about the safety of this church?? Is Jesus’ call a call to security and safety? Is safety a Christian value? Am I the only one who thinks these folks are getting something very, very wrong?