• Dana L. Butler

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I’ve always been inclined to wrestle.

I love the idea that God’s heart and His affection for me are deep enough, real enough, fierce enough to handle my mightiest struggles and my scariest questions.

To handle my humanity. And not just handle it, but inhabit it. Meet me in it.

I think the places we’re willing to wrestle, to do so with hearts open before Him, are the places we most deeply encounter God. (And I’d contend that wrestling and whole-hearted surrender to Jesus aren’t mutually exclusive, but that’s maybe a convo for another post, I’m thinkin’.)

Anyway. Those wrestling-type encounters are the ones that leave us transformed if we’re brave enough to get that honest, to be that stripped down before Him… before ourselves.

I wonder if Jacob would have encountered God, would have received the blessing he sought, if he hadn’t stuck around long enough to have it out with God.

Yet he named the place “God’s Face,” because he stayed. He wrestled. He encountered the Holy One. He came away transformed.

And I think those transformative encounters are intended to leave us limping. More dependent than before. With this new acuteness to our desperation for Him.

****

I’ve been intermittently overcome these last several weeks — by disappointment with my inadequacies, both perceived and factual, as they’ve cropped up on what seems like every side of me.

And this has been my place of wrestling: this question of God, why can’t I be stronger?! Why can’t the hard things feel easier?

Staring down my limits has never been my favorite pastime, but I’ve learned, too, that my depth of companionship with my Creator will only be commensurate to my willingness to kindly, curiously examine my frailties and failures (and my instinctive reactions to them) in the light of His all-seeing tenderness.

So I’m going there more willingly these days, albeit with some degree of kicking and screaming, but with grace for the journey courtesy of this confidence in my Father’s compassionate kindness toward me.

His kindness that leads to repentance; that leads, that draws our hearts, that doesn’t drive. His kindness that takes up residence within my weak places, is palpable and beautiful and strong when I… just… can’t…

…anymore.

And it’s true that He glorifies Himself in our weak places, that He makes Himself known when we lean into Him in these places where our own power runs out. But I never knew it’d be so gut-wrenching, this admission of “God, I can’t.

And I never dreamed it’d be parenting that would finally necessitate my heartbroken admission of I’m at my end — SOS.

Parenting. The thing I always knew I’d be great at. The thing I had All The Opinions about as I watched others {try to} pull it off. The task for which I had all the coolest {read: black-and-whitest} strategies and ideals and all the highest hopes.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m still momming it up around here and my kids are the absolute bomb dot com. But in recent months we have had to procure more and more help with our littles. More and more help for me.

See, our kiddos are crazy-intense and I’m still having frequent migraines and we have tried — and are continuing to try — lots of different potentially helpful ideas. Both western and less traditional medicine. Diet changes and exercise.

I’m still experimenting, trying this and that, looking for a groove to slide into in which migraines won’t so massively impact my life.

Impact our lives.

Anyway — so these headaches still sometimes take me out for a day, even two days in a row, and I occasionally question whether I’m nuts because it feels like my kiddos’ intensity (or my body’s stress-response to it) is one of the contributing factors to my physical pain.

A few weeks ago, I picked my little peeps up from school, and by the time I’d made it home with them I was utterly wiped out, head pounding. Thankfully we had an amazing babysitter already scheduled, and my one and only goal for that afternoon was to find a way to relax.

As I sat down in Starbucks, this thought kept tugging at the fringes of my mind: write it out, Dana. Write down what happens within a typical 5 minutes in your life.

I was a little afraid to do it because what if I stepped back and looked at my parenting from a new angle and discovered it wasn’t actually all that abnormally intense and there was no way it should wear me out like it does?

Gulp.

But I did it anyway. Writing out those 5 little minutes took me a solid hour and a half. And y’all? Stepping back to examine just those 5 minutes in detail? It was nuts.

Those 5 minutes — and in them, the combination of Isaac’s personality and wiring and unique needs, and Maia’s astounding, straight-up fire, and how the two of them relate to one another — they did me in, and rightly so. Woulda done me in even if I didn’t suffer from almost constant headaches.

Whew.

It’s been Stan who’s asked me to get more help with our kiddos so I have more down time, and though it’s incredibly painful to admit my need, I’ve moved toward that. Our Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sitter is nothing short of magic — bakes cookies with them, lets them make messes with paint and glitter, cleans up, does laundry — and they adore her.

But it tears my heart to be away from them as much as I am in this season.

That, and it bumps it up several notches — the intensity of this struggle with mega-feelings of mom-inadequacy.

So. I’ve wrestled. I’ve wrestled with God, wrestled over the acute reality of my needs — both this highly sensitive soul and this frustratingly fragile body.

I’ve struggled with having to acknowledge that my kiddos wear me utterly out about a thousand times more frequently than I ever dreamed would be possible — back in the days when my idealistic forays into the someday dreamland of motherhood were punctuated primarily with these imagined peaceful, obedient, lighthearted picnics at the zoo.

And yet…

I had this phone convo with my counselor a couple weeks ago and something she said stuck around, has been reverberating on my insides ever since. It was something like this: With your particular gift mix comes this really uncomfortable set of vulnerabilities.

It got me thinking about what I know are my strengths — primarily my intuition, my heart-awareness, my bent toward soul care, my creativity/musicality — and about the vulnerabilities that come in the same package — HSP (highly sensitive person), introversion, the need to have quiet, still, personal space on a very regular basis, being completely unable to bring myself to watch virtually any remotely violent movie… I could go on.

Bottom line: I’m realizing the internal wiring that’s the reason I require more down time — is the reason I’m (mostly) able to be the kind of mom I want to be for my kids. It allows me to shepherd their hearts and their passions, to teach them to know themselves… to know their Maker.

Huh.

So I’m pondering these things, and I’m leaning back into God’s mercy that’s enough to cover all these messy, non-figured-out places. Enough to fill in my gaps and my meet my kids’ needs and enough to sustain my heart and hold me up through the hard things.

Because there’re always gonna be hard things, eh? Like, always, always, always. These never-ending invitations into deeper companionship with Him. And in the midst of the hard, the Father’s goodness — His work in and around and through every part of us — is trustworthy.

In the wrestling and the admitting weakness and the disappointment over how just-plain-hard life can be. Trustworthy. Good. Strong. Faithful.


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