I had a strangely dark week recently. I’m more often the ridiculous optimist. But not this time. It wasn’t because of pollution that was 4x the “off the charts” measure like we had earlier this spring. It wasn’t because of us all throwing up like we did for weeks after that time. This was all simpler stuff, that looking back on, was really silly to fuss over at all. But just for that time I felt like there was a dark cloud was hovering low over just my own little heart.
We painted our living room and schoolroom in our home after two years of children playing and generally gross messes on paint cheaper and chalkier than America even allows, I’d guess. Nothing washed off it but stayed displayed boldly all. over. our. home.
So we gave a whole day laboring for a “new home” as John called. Fresh paint. And it’s dark. I knew when I chose the color, and when a brilliant color advisor-friend went with me to the store- that it would be bolder than we’d ever gone before. And it is: bold.
And you know what? I really do like it (hear me urging myself?) and I’m learning to like it more and more. But there is something pretty skewed in my heart that I almost always like things (paint colors, cookie recipes, lesson plans) better at someone else’s home than I do in my own. The darkness just scares me a little I guess.
That night, after painting, we were rearranging furniture and I lifted our coat rack only to have the base of it crash down on my toe. The corner of that 40ish pound mass cracked right down on my innocently happy, little big toe and I cried. (Sobbed.) For 30 minutes.
Fear swirled too. What if my bone is crushed? I d r e a d going to a local hospital for an x-ray. No... it’s just the pressure of blood under my nail. More darkness. In my body now... throbbing darkness. And with my bone it felt like my heart was crushed too under my own deep yearning for beauty and what if I just can’t make it happen here in our home? I want to create beauty for my family to grow up in so badly.
But I am who I am. And may all of me, broken and beautiful, well-intended but still lacking, cracked and generally full of holes, may all of me somehow be for the praise of Your glorious grace, Lord.
The day after painting, I took our kiddos to a fantastic book party that an even more fantastic friend of mine hosted. She read to the all-dressed-up-listeners, then we ate what the characters ate and played games like they played in the story. It was beautiful.
(I had heard that homeschooling would be hard and that I might be tempted to compare my kids or my efforts to others but I still had no gauge for the greater-than-I-could-imagine pressure I could lay down on myself with this endeavor. Definetely too much for me to carry...the pressure, not the endeavor, will need to change.)
And suddenly, all of my dreams and desires for a fairy-tale, wonderful education for my kids felt like they were shot down by arrows of plain reality. Punctured and pierced. Do I think what I’ve ever given my kids is as amazing as this? Who am I joking? All I’ve ever done is dream big and then read (several hundred) books to our kids and talked about it with them afterward. Nothing half as beautiful as this.
Poison, I know. Comparison is deadly. I know it. I don't want to. I don't like it. But I do slip into it sometimes. Such an ugly trap. Lord help me guard against this!
My dark cloud hovered low and I cried like I haven’t cried in years for any heart pains. And yes, I know it was all basically nonsense. Petty to get so strung out on just this. But this was the reality of my heart for the time. I have dear friends who experience darkness much more often than I and for much more legitimate stressors than these. The good news is that the truth and the promises of God are for dark clouds, whether legitimate or less so.
There was a time years ago when One Day was set apart for worship and prayer (with Passion). Without every articulating it, I positively expected the Lord to display his favor on our gathering with sunshine and cheery white clouds. But no. It was dark. The sky trembled with heavy clouds. I was stunned. Prayer began in the gray drizzle of morning. And then Beth Moore came to the mic and her strained heart rushed out of her voice as she urged us with God's word: “Revelation 1:7 says “Behold, he comes in the clouds!””
He comes. My Lord Comes For Me.
And He is here too. With me under the cloud.
And wasn't it a cloud and a fire that he gave to provide for and protect his people when they fled Pharaoh?
There is grace- all the promises and love and faithfulness of God- in those dark, weighted clouds.
Renewed, refilled compassion is worth pain to aquire. In my toe trouble I saw changes I want to make in my approach to our kiddos when they come howling in pain to me. I’ve too often erred on the side of “You’ll be alright. Be brave, dear,” and missed my chance for “oh darling, I’m so sorry that happened to you! I wish so much I could take away your pain. I love you so crazy much.”
It’s a gift of grace to see our kids explore and engage much more fully with a story than I’ve ever given them opportunity for. And it's a gift to be loaned books that prove I haven't been so far from the mark in my homeschool planning. And this too-it’s been brilliantly beautiful to hear our eldest making music this week, playing a tune of beauty that’s not giddy silliness, but deep loveliness... playing his first dark, beautiful notes.
Somehow, because of the faithful love of God, under the cloud, there’s a refining thats warmed my spirit. A gift of humbling like the windows-wide-open, fresh and clean of a home that’s been spring cleaned.
Grateful that the debt I owe for my sin has been paid by the Priest who offered Himself as the sacrafice for me. I’m grateful my King accepts me, loves me, is with me. What have I to fear!?
And I’m grateful for this... from the sermon I got to listen in my dark week.
Nor flight from all distress, but this-
The joy that orders all our trouble and pain
And then in the darkness is there to sustain.
My cloud is lifting now but his grace remains and sustains... even me.