“If we claim to have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves…but if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us…”
This teething stage is wrecking me. The baby was up at least seven times last night and it took me forever to fall back asleep each time. By wake-up call number 4, I was enraged and murderous and stewing over all the reasons this might be Cody’s fault. It felt like I didn’t even have a moment to choose how to react. It was 2 in the morning, and I was losing the battle for my heart on repeat.
I have been praying desperately and obsessing over every strategy to get Abishai to sleep because I think to myself, “If only I get a decent night’s sleep, I’m almost likable. I don’t have to see the monstrous person I can be when I’m tired and frustrated. I don’t have to spend the day in shame and self-loathing.”
Man, has sleep become a god I worship.
If only I appease it, maybe today will go better. If I can’t meet its demands, I live in terror of how the day and the nights to follow will go. I feel doomed because I know I’m going to spend the foreseeable future blowing up over small things and snapping at minor annoyances and everything will feel big and overwhelming and bring me to tears.
Good sleep helps me cover up and smooth over the messy, angry interior I don’t want to acknowledge is there, like pretty frosting on a dry, crumbling cake that’s falling in on itself. The cake is bad, the shape is failing, but if you heap on enough frosting and look at it under the right lighting, it can seem pretty appetizing.
Frosting. Lighting. Physical Rest.
Externals I chase after because I feel helpless toward the internal. I know that sleepless nights with young babies are a common fare and people do learn to handle it graciously. I know it’s possible, but I’m not even close.
I read this thought by Emily P. Freeman in her book Simply Tuesday:
“If I feel shocked and ashamed when I snap…maybe I am assuming I can handle life on my own and don’t need redemption, not really. And so when my soul has a bad idea, I can’t believe it.
Shock and shame are my response…when I forget what really happened at the cross.
…Don’t try to change your attitude, bring your attitude into the presence of Christ…my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better. My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities, failures and successes all into the presence of Christ.”
So here I am, asking God for the millionth time to help me with this ugliness I see. I’m devastated and disappointed by it, desperate to find anyone or anything else to blame. Alarmed and at loss for how to change, how to not be this.
I want to run away, to turn and accuse, to scream at Him for letting me face hard thing after hard thing for so long. But I’m seeing that those are distractions from the truth.
This darkness is nobody else’s fault. It is not solved by things finally going right for me. It does not go away just because a good night’s sleep or a good coat of frosting makes it less obvious. And it would be unloving of the Lord to answer my prayer for the baby to sleep and leave unfinished his work on a heart that loses it over being woken up.
It is painful to look upon it and I want to turn away, but He ushers light and growth and purity into my most stagnant waters if only I will be open with Him and welcome Him in.
Bad sleep has a wonderful way of revealing the true state of my heart: self-centered, demanding, bitter, unforgiving, easily-angered, entitled and proud. But I was rescued for more than this. It is only a shadow of who I once was and it cannot hold me.
I read a challenge this morning to ask God to reveal the depth of His love for me. It stung because I know I need that. I do not feel lovable. But I think that confronting my own darkness always carries with it the potential to develop an even deeper understanding and appreciation for His love.
I do not always see this side of me, and when I’m forced to look at it long and hard, I am horrified. But He always sees this side of me, and He is not horrified.
I want to turn away in disgust. He does not turn away, He leans in closer.
I want to throw up my hands, give up and run. He tightens His grip and locks Himself in for the long haul.
I am full of despair. He is full of promise.
This place I’m in is only a starting point, and a train is identified by where it’s headed as much as by where it came from. So who I am is not just the boiling up of selfish fury I saw at 2 am. Who I am is also all the beauty He is crafting in its place: others-centered, giving, sweet, forgiving, not-easily angered, unassuming humility.
So change me, Lord. Peel away the frosting and work with the reality beneath it. Help me to see that you do so out of love, not contempt. You never reveal my issues to discourage me, but as an indicator of where you will next produce growth. I am safe in your unyielding favor even as I acknowledge my most unattractive traits. And I do not need to know how to fix what lies beneath. I only need to bring my brokenness to you and ask you to help.
For even in the beginning, you were the one who was able to create “very good” out of nothing at all.
“Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!”
“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”