From time-to-time, certain words come with a heap of conviction like sugar bingeing on an empty stomach. When I hear them come out of my mouth I immediately want to take them back and regret is a sure outcome.
Three simple words uttered most often when I’ve lost my way from the effects of stress and over-thinking, or when I’ve entered the complete dark spot in the hallway of a shame cycle. Mostly, I use those three words in scenarios when control is elusive like parenting my teenagers, for example.
Uh huh, I’m going there.
Just be quiet, don’t say anything. Take one long inhale and hold your breath until you’ve dropped him off, then you can rant to the thin air of your criticism.
I’m counseling myself, clamping the steering wheel as my son slides his belt through the loops on his shorts, precariously tucks in his shirt navigating the seat belt and slips a shoe on each foot. I know this, not because I’m looking at him but because a mother’s eyes can assess a whole situation at a slant.
If you are a parent of teenagers, you may also be a professional of nonchalant assessment and the poker face, right?
Getting dressed in the car is a morning teenage ritual at my house. We also practice the fine art of gulping down a swig of orange juice to wash down a bite of cold toast for breakfast.
Self-control often eludes me in the morning. If I’ve only had one cup of tea instead of a whole pot, regret can be heard spewing from my mouth when I’m vulnerable from tiredness. In response to a rebuttal from my child to a reminder about homework, you may hear something like this: “Well, you seem to need reminders about everything lately. You are always forgetful and you never seem to follow through on what is asked of you.”
Ten Krispy Kreme glazed donuts for breakfast on an empty stomach — yuck and why did I just do that.
As soon as I hear these words come out of mouth, they are triggers to look deeper and take account. I am using absolutes in an attempt to achieve certainty and control outcomes. I am now the queen of my own kingdom making lofty assumptions and using words as my scepter to pass judgment.
Looking for absolutes in a world of uncertainty ultimately leads to either of two outcomes — the constant turmoil of disappointment or the peace of surrender.
When my posture resembles squared shoulders, chin lifted and arms crossed over my prideful chest, self-reliance has become faith’s imposter.
My flesh looks for absolutes but my soul longs for absolution.
I’m longing for certainty but Jesus longs for my clarity. Knees pressed into the carpet, palms open and receptive to unknown outcomes.
He can utter “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” through the nakedness of my vulnerability in moments of parenting with complete appropriateness and I am completely undone by it. Because when he says never, it is truth.
He reminds me in dark moments of regret, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” and I am free from condemnation and the failures of my perceived perfectionism. Always is love without caveats.
And because “everything I am and think and do is permeated with Oneness” I can ask my son for forgiveness while he eats a handful of pretzels in the kitchen and talks about homework. And wait for the hope of redemption.
He forgot about our morning exchange. Probably in the first five minutes after the tardy bell rang. The same way Jesus always forgives when I’m repentant and never remembers everything I hold against myself.
Catching my breath in the embrace of my teenager, I visualize how his arms felt as an infant sitting on my lap. And thank God for words that remind me of the frailty of my humanity and the absolute assurance of His faithful presence.