When things begin to get a little hard, I can’t help but question why. I look back at decisions that got me to this point in my life and ask if there was something that I did wrong, or that I missed, or that I could’ve done differently. This happened today. I began to look back over the past couple of years and worry that I have set up our family for, well, failure. Were the decisions I made the right ones for us, or, have I just been running away when things got tough?
Let me back up and provide context for you. A little over 2 years ago, I left a well paying position with a company that I had been with for over 10 years. The decision was a tough one, but we just had our 3rd child and I was really feeling the tug on my heartstrings to be more available to my boys. There were several difficult decisions I had to make for myself and we had to make as a family. I had to let go of my competitive desire and drive to go higher with my career. We, although responsible with money, had to decide if we could, and were willing to, live on less income. We did a lot of soul searching and trusted that God was calling me to move. So I did. I left that job and jumped into another job with a more flexible environment. After about 8 months, I left there and worked from home doing freelance design work for a good client. When that became too much for me to deal with I “broke up” with them. Yep, I fired a client. (Something I am not proud of, to be completely honest — at least the manner in which the break up went down.) To help cover some of our expenses, I started a fun little side business making vinyl decals, quirky shirts and monograms.
Over time, our expenses have increased while our income fluctuates. I remember other single income families telling me that God has always worked it out for them. That when it just didn’t look like they could stretch another dollar, God provided. Of course, this reminds me of Matthew 6:26, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? But doubt and uncertainty creep in and steal my spiritual fruit! Especially patience, peace and joy. With time, comes more activities, even more expenses for the boys and then good ol’ Murphy’s Law — let one little thing happen and boy does it snowball quickly. So today, after another good dose from cousin Murphy, I freaked. Ok, it’s time. I have to go back to full time work. Right. Now. We can’t keep on like this. I started an email to an old co-worker but then paused. Here I am trying to control everything. Jumping into a highly jillogical, highly irrational mode without taking one second to pray. I deleted the email, I paused and I prayed. It’s like God said “Slowly… step away… from the keyboard…” Yay for me, I listened! But, this got me thinking that I’m a runner. Maybe I run when things get tough. Hmm.
I had to stop by the church to look for something this evening. Our pastor, Brother M.R., was out and about in the hallway so I asked if he happened to know where I might find this item. We struck up a conversation about a position at the church which led me to tell him about my “struggle.” I didn’t go into great detail but I told him that I was concerned. He then told me about a time he spent with a real-life shepherd. (Wha!? What’s a shepherd got to do with this?) He said the first thing the shepherd did when he woke in the morning was to find the sheep that had fallen over and couldn’t get up. The shepherd would help them up and get them back with the flock. Brother M.R. said he asked the shepherd why he even bothered with those sheep. Why didn’t he just get rid of them? And the shepherd replied “they are the best sheep. They depend on me. They are loyal and they trust me.” The other sheep weren’t as obedient. Sometimes, the shepherd had to break their legs to make them reliant on him. Then comes the sheep dog. The dog is responsible for keeping the sheep moving. He causes discontentment and aggravation to get the sheep going. As Brother M.R. was telling me all of this, the picture he was painting was becoming clear. I asked a few more questions and he patiently explained again. We must rely on the Good Shepherd for guidance and understanding. When there is discontentment (insert sheep dog), God is telling us to move. But when we are content (God’s will), we are right where we are supposed to be. That doesn’t mean that we won’t fall over, or suffer through difficult times. But during those times, God will provide. He’ll stand us up and keep us close. Brother M.R. mentioned a couple of situations in his own life that were difficult but he was content. He said, “We had no where to go.” We were content through the struggle, and we made it through.
This was just what I needed to hear. I knew what I felt at that place in my life 2 years ago was genuine discontentment — God’s voice nudging (ok, probably yelling at me) to go. When there is true discontentment, God is telling you to move. We may not know exactly where we are moving to yet, but we’ll know when we get there. As Brother M.R. said, just look at Abraham. He did just as God asked even going as far as placing his son on the alter, and God moved him to where he needed to be and the call was far greater than what Abraham could’ve imagined. I mean, if God said, ‘I’m calling you <here> do you think you would go? If we don’t have the full picture sometime we won’t. But when God says move, you better move to reap the full reward in the end.
I hope I used Brother M.R.’s illustration in a way that is clear for you to understand and apply to your life. Contentment doesn’t mean “Happy Place.” Contentment means “God’s Place.” And Discontentment, true discontentment in the spirit means get on that holy scooter and ride. God will give you the map, even if it’s just one mile at a time.
Over these couple of years I have learned a lot about myself, my insecurities, my strengths, my lack of domestic godessness, but mostly about my children. Today, I feel like I know them inside out. I know they’re ups and downs, their happys and sads, their pokes, twitches, their smells, and sometimes, even their next move. I feel strongly connected to my boys and thank God every day for that. That is why I am here. But, I’ve also learned that it’s easy to say you’re going to rely on God and not so easy to actually do so. God never said it would be easy, but He did say we’d never go alone. (Thanks Ginny Owens, If You Want Me To)
So, we’ll just lay here on our side ’til dawn, when the Good Shepherd scoops us up, gets the blood flowing in our legs again and plops us back on the path close by His side.