13 January 2012

For Nothing, In Everything

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4:6

Despite my difficulty in remembering the reference to this verse this morning, I'm guessing that most people who have been to church or Sunday school or read a "religious card" at Hallmark have heard something about this verse before.

Confession:  Sometimes I think to myself, Surely this is backwards somehow.  I mean, really, don't you sometimes want to be anxious in everything, and thankful for nothing, or am I the only one?

Some friends of mine whom I have come to greatly respect have written about their own anxiety related to having children with special needs.  Our three situations are all very different, but as I read their respective blogs, again and again I say, Wow!  That's exactly how I feel or That's IT!  EXACTLY! I wish I could express myself so well.

Susan writes at Daily Coping Skills about her life as mom and teacher to seven children.  Her post about anxiety first got me thinking about writing one of my own.  Read her post, here.

My childhood friend, Christen and her husband write about their lives as parents of children with autism at Theology of Autism.  Jeremy wrote a post the other day that had me laughing and crying; and you can read it, here.

So, here's my attempt.  I'll warn you, it's long, probably not my best writing, but it's from my heart, and it's a start at an attempt to better express myself in an honest but faithful way about what God is doing in my life.

All parents have plenty of reasons to be anxious and weary, even exhausted.  I tell myself this fact quite often.  I tell myself so that I will try to feel less different, feel more normal, and even be hard on myself for not meeting the expectations I think are appropriate, i.e., They do it why can't I?

But I'm finally starting to admit to myself--yes, all parents work really hard and have their own special burdens, but I am not normal; my child is not normal; and the things that my husband and I have to do for him are not normal.  But that's OK.

It's not OK because "it's our normal".  It's not OK because we've learned how to cope with strange things.  It's not OK because we have AWESOME therapists and doctors (which we do, by the way).  And it's not by any means OK because "it could be so much worse."

So, back to the anxiety thing before I say why it's ok.

Paul wrote to the Philippians as they were enduring difficult times.  I don't know exactly what was going on in their lives, but I'm almost willing to guarantee you that they would have said, This is not normal,  though perhaps in greek or latin.  And when things aren't normal, people (yes, I) tend to get anxious.  For example, someone accuses you of lying or of being something you are not because they don't understand you--this isn't usually an every day occurrence, I'd imagine, and you would probably feel at least a little anxious for perhaps different reasons.

In my life my child might have a seizure or we might be told another surgery is needed, and I could begin to feel a little anxious.  Sometimes I'm doing something for my son that requires my full attention, and my daughter starts to do something she finds particularly entertaining but is actually dangerous, and I feel my anxiety rising.  Or people ask those "yet" questions that sometimes put my stomach in knots.

Not normal = increased anxiety

So what did Paul say?  Paul didn't belittle or negate the difficulty the Philippians were enduring.  He acknowledged their circumstances for what they really were - difficult circumstances.  He expressed gratitude for the Philippians and their dedication to the truth (Phil. 1).  He called them to unity, to think of others in the body (Phil 2).  He gave them his own testimony and all the reasons he could point to his own successes and personal resources for hope (Phil. 3), all the while acknowledging the foolishness of trusting in himself.  He said he didn't mind repeating himself.  But above all, he pointed the believers to Christ.

He reminded them (me) of what Christ has done - of what He did to make me His own (Phil 3:12).  He reminds us of how "not normal" Christ's life was.  He encourages us to be like Christ and to find mentors who have this goal as well (Phil 3:17).  He reminds us to remember where our true home has been built, that our current body isn't normal (Phil 3:21).

Then he says, "Rejoice."  Twice.  And then comes the, "don't be anxious..." passage quoted at the beginning of this post.  While we're not being anxious we should talk to God and think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, anything excellent and worthy of praise.  Live this way, don't just hear it, do it.  God will be with you.  The God of PEACE.  (rough summary of Phil 4:4-9)

Oh, I love that word, peace.

Is life hard?  Yes.  Am I tired?  Yes, all the time.  Do I get grumpy and fuss at my children and sometimes wish things were easier, different, or dare I say, normal?  (blushing with a touch of shame) Yes.  Am I sometimes anxious?  Yes.

So what do I want to do instead?

I want to be like Christ and know the peace of God.  How in the world will that ever happen?  Though by no means exhaustive and in no particular order, here are a few ideas:

~Know the truth.  Obviously the truth of God's Word, but also the truth of the life God has given me.  It's hard, there's no getting around that fact.  Denying that life is hard attempts to exalt my supposed strength and resources and belittles the amazing strength, grace and peace God gives.

~Be in community, striving for unity, looking for ways to minister.  Our time isn't always as free and flexible as I would like, but it's amazing what you can do when sitting by your child who's lying in a hospital bed or waiting for him to finish his "flush" 3 days a week.  I can't be as involved in our local body as I would like, but I can always pray.  The list of prayer needs is endless.  Few things increase my love for others and desire for unity as prayer.  Prayer forces me to look to Christ.  Learning how God answers prayer increases my faith.

~Find a mentor.  This is challenging for me and perhaps for all parents with special needs kids because it requires a lot of time.  We have several wonderful examples in Scripture to whom we can look, but having a person with whom I can talk and pray and be completely honest without fear of judgment has been a gift from God I greatly treasure.

~Remember.  Remember what Christ did to make me His.  Remember His grace at the times of need (which have been many).  As Paul wrote, Not that I have already obtained this [way to live for Christ] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Phil. 3:12)

Why is everything OK though not normal?  It's OK because this is the life that God has given me, and He has made me His own.  He gives the grace that brings peace.  When I think that I can do things for myself, I get anxious.  When I remember the truth of God's Word and Christ's life and sacrifice, then I find that anxiety less powerful, and I pray that I become more like Christ.

And because every post is better with a picture of my adorable children, here's one of my recent favorites:


Megan said...

Friend, thank you for sharing your heart. And looking forward to that Great Day when all shall be restored to "normal"--with no more tears or sickness or anxiety. Come, Lord Jesus!

mom slawson said...

Wonderful post, Cristy! It's such a blessing to me and God will use it to bless many many others. Praying for you and with you as God conforms you to His image and uses you for His glory.