Navel-gazing

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I am in a whiny place. I want to bemoan the current state of my life at my house. And while I’m at it, the current state of the world: the fact that some people left their dog in a car in a parking lot while the temperature outside soared to 32° C  and while they spent money in the mall, that sweet dog died from heat, waiting for them to return; the fact that a cat with a stomach feeding tube was found in a black garbage bag in a box on a roadside, abandoned to die; the fact that a man dragged a baby bear cub from a tree and tied it to a post. The stupidity and the cruelty of people does not shock me anymore, but it does still anger me.

Just got home from 24 hrs away with some girlfriends. It was kind of a reunion trip for us, having done a retreat together 2 yrs previously. And now with some big changes coming this month, and this fall, we decided to have one more time together, not knowing when it might happen again. Fantastic time.

And then I arrived home.

Walked in the door to a sick husband in bed, the living space a complete disastrous mess (ummm… was there a tornado that hit  that blew threw my living room in the past 10 hrs or something?), no dinner prepared (obviously… he’s sick, I get that…). Add to the mix the kids, the usual teasing, some crying… ah yes, all the blessings of family life…?!?  I have to help coach soccer tonight. Aaaaannd eldest is crying about having to go. He looks exhausted, and still peaked from a week-long flu. (“Ok,” I say, exasperated. “You are excused. But you had better be in bed when I get home!!!” I add threateningly)

Yay! Welcome home! Yes, welcome, welcome home….

And I forget to begin counting the blessings (à la Ann Voskamp).  I forget the love and care that God shows me daily, along with the big healthy dose of grace that I need. And I forget, to just put my gaze on him. Because I’m navel-gazing again, and it’s doing me no good!

 “Apart from the gospel, I’ll whine more than I’ll worship. Apart from the gospel, I’ll judge people more than I’ll seek to understand them. Apart from the gospel, I’ll get my feelings hurt too easily, and I won’t consider serving others a privilege and joy. Apart from the gospel, I’ll waste this day, rather than steward it.      Apart from the gospel, I’ll react selfishly to irritants rather than responding graciously. Apart from the gospel, I’ll talk more than I listen. Apart from the gospel, I’ll think about me much more than I think about you. Apart from the gospel, I won’t risk anything; I’ll do just enough to get by.” (From Scotty Smith)

Yes, apart from the good news, Jesus, I whine and I complain. I am self-serving and self-seeking. SElFish.  And I recall a conversation from this past weekend about why God wants us to worship. Why does he? I think it’s so that we can stop the navel-gazing, stop the complaining and put our gaze elsewhere, on things above, rather than on things below.

So I begin counting those blessings. In the darkness, I listen to the rain on the patio outside, watering the thirsty earth. I feel the cool breeze coming in. I listen to the quiet breathing of sleeping children.

And I remember that His mercies are new every morning. New every morning. And I wait, for His morning and His mercies to carry me through another day.

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7 responses »

  1. Beautiful!! Loved it, especially the Scotty Smith quote. Another thought from Ann Voskamp, you can’t experience more than one emotion at a time so if you are being thankful you will not be able to be frustrated. Love to you my dear friend!

  2. Thanks for sharing your struggles & reflections & lessons! It’s easy for us to get bogged down in the navel gazing & never look up. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  3. Great writing… thanks again for sharing. I’ve been thinking about the shifts that take place when a person (couple, group) moves from expectation to exploration… it is a significant shift. It is such a curious thing that my-ing — as in my house, my husband, my kids, my living room etc — is so often and so easily filled with expectation.

    Sometimes those relationships and things do align with expectations but all too often they don’t. When they don’t, that becomes a very interesting point of departure.

    Perhaps not too surprisingly, we often choose to stick with our expectations (after all, they are “ours” so shouldn’t we stick with that?).

    I’m finding that a lot of the time, just sticking to my expectations doesn’t seem to do too much to add life to the situation (although it can be an effective strategy for increasing tension, strife, judgement, blame and the like). If I can catch myself and move in perspective from expectation to exploration (what’s happening here; how does this feel to my spouse right now; what needs to shift; how would this be more meaningful etc) I find that I’m almost immediately in a different place, a different space, a place where curiosity has some real value.

    Personally, I like curiosity, so I wonder why my default so quickly goes to expectation rather than to exploration. Why do I so easily forfeit curiosity for expectation? Then again, I suppose if it’s taken me 61 years to get to this point, a few more to try to get to exploration and curiosity rather than defaulting to expectation isn’t too much to expect!

    (Just as a side note, I certainly appreciate the differing circumstances that you and I would be in. With small kids, enormous responsibilities, unending activities, a not-yet-entirely-trained husband (it is unbelievable how many years it takes to properly train a good husband!), it is obvious to me that if the whole bunch of them would just meet your well-justified expectations entirely, things would be better off for everyone… and I agree with that… it would be! So while I think you’ve got some good excuses in the expectation vs exploration shift-perspective thing… I don’t. I still get caught so often on the expectation side. Part of me thinks I might have been better by now if I’d learned some good exploration skills and perspectives when I was younger… maybe… maybe not… at least I’m learning some now, so that’s good).

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing the thoughts… I appreciate the spaces your writing so freely and graciously creates… you are a very fine person that way.

    blessings,
    gj

    • Thanks for your thoughts on that, Gord. Exploration, rather than expectation. I like the idea of that. My question is, how do I get my emotions out of the way?

      • That’s a good question. My first thought (I’ll ponder this some more to see if anything else comes up) is that I wouldn’t try to get my emotions “out of the way” at all. I think, as a strategy, “eliminating emotions” would prove to be frustrating (?), fruitless (?), probably impossible (?) and likely very ineffective… I mean if you try to kill off emotions, wouldn’t they be smart enough to dive for cover, build up, and show up with as much gusto as ever the next time they could hitch a ride on a compelling unmet expectation?

        I’ll grant you the fact that an emotional response (minor to major outburst etc) might not be helpful in getting to exploration, and if it is an overly negative emotional response that response will surely be happier in a habitation of expectation rather than exploration… for sure. But, “to get my emotions out of the way”… I’m not sure that can work (or be healthy if it did).

        I’m thinking maybe “through” would work better than “out of the way”. Not “through” as in finished, but “through” as in passing through… perhaps a doorway, a passage, an entrance, an invitation. Becoming more aware of, and fully acknowledging (and experiencing / honouring) the emotions (if they were understood as an invitation, doorway etc) might give you the freedom to explore rather than just stopping at “expect” (especially if that is not a fruitful place to stop). I think we might get caught emotionally at “expect” because the emotions and expectations reinforce each other… they know how to travel well together, but I’m guessing “exploration” is more often found on the far side of that, hence the need to acknowledge / experience / honour your emotions and then, thanking them, see them as the invitation, the doorway, the passage to exploration that they might rightfully be. I think you might realize you’d made it “through” if your curiosity kicks in. Mostly I don’t think curiosity couples very well with expectations at all. Things like judgement couple well with expectations. Curiosity couples well with exploration… perhaps all anyone needs to do is stay with a situation until they can become curious.

        If you experiment with this, please do write about it… you are a good writer and your writing creates a space for other people to be… it’s a fine gift you give!
        blessings,
        gj

      • Yes, I was referring more to the ability to ‘dial down’ an emotional outburst related to expectations because it doesn’t help when one is overly angry/upset. I loved your picture of a doorway, a passage, an entrance way.

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