Avoiding Life’s Mudslides

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

The Hero by jpgmn, deviantart.com

My Bible study this morning had Psalm 40:2 in it.

“He lifted me out of the grave,

He lifted me from that muddy place,

He picked me up, put me on solid ground,

and kept my feet from slipping.”

I love that. It’s my husband’s (yet-to-be-read) Easy-to-read version, so the phrasing is a little different, but it spoke to me more than my usual NIV. The notes at the bottom say that “grave” is literally “pit of destruction” or “Sheol, the place of death.” It goes on, saying that the “muddy place” David mentions was Sheol, the place of death that was surrounded by mud. Sheol was the ancient version of hell, the eternal resting place for everyone – righteous or unrighteous – and was set apart from God.

I’m not going to try to interpret David’s meaning. It wasn’t David’s story that spoke to me. It was my own. It was my circumstances that God whispered to this morning.

Right now, my women’s Bible study group is studying the book Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver. It is a fabulous book that addresses our inner struggles as women (and people in general) to constantly be in control. We have to be in control of our image, of our family, of our career. We have learned flaws that drive us. My primary one is the flaw of performance, constantly needing to perform at a certain level to make sure I get others’ approval. Mom coming over? The house must look like a model home, not like I have two kids and a husband and cook from scratch. Stay at home mom? My kid must be able to read by Kindergarten. My food must be organic and made by hand, not out of a can. Going to church? My boys must be dressed to a T, I must be uber-involved, and I must sing beautifully during worship. Whenever I’m not serving in Children’s Ministry.

None of those things are bad things inherently. They’re all driven, though, by my desire to hit certain standards to feel good about myself. When I fail, because I will fail, I beat myself up and feel like a failure. The flaw is my worship of status and standard, rather than my worship of God and His power.

I’m learning to lean on him and try to reach his standards with him, rather than attempting to reach self-imposed standards on my own strength. Psalm 40:2 was like a balm on my bruised heart. I’ve not had an easy time giving up my selfishness or my standards, but it was like he knelt down, hugged me, and whispered, “Let me hold your hand. I’ll keep you from slipping back into that muck.”

Not three hours later, I discovered that the government aid we had been waiting for was denied. With it gone, we are facing the tough reality that we will have to get health insurance for all of us through hubby’s work. (Per law, though I’m on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26, I have to switch because hubby’s work offers it, meaning much higher premiums.) To top it off, #2 might have a serious allergy, meaning more finagling of the food budget. My first reaction was panic. And fear. The insurance would likely be nearly 20% of hubby’s take-home pay, and 75% already goes to housing costs and insurance. Anger soon followed. After all, we were just as deserving of help as all the other people out there! Why were we denied? What magical money do we have hidden, or is it the same excuse as last time, that “the system says we should be able to change our spending habits and provide well enough?” Are we supposed to live on Ramen and hot dogs?

Right in the middle of my panic attack, “David’s Song” came on Pandora. The last verse echoed in my heart.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Suddenly, I felt a stillness. In that moment, I cried out to Him. “Why is this happening? I know I’m supposed to trust in you, but in this moment, I don’t know what to do! I’m lost. Our family is struggling, and it seems like everything is against us.” I took a deep breath, and remembered Psalm 40:2. He had promised to keep me from slipping, to hold my hand and keep me on solid ground. “I trust you. I don’t know what else to do, but I trust you. Help us.”

The peace I felt then was humbling. Was I still scared? Yes. After all, I still don’t know what’s planned for us. The anger and worry, though, was slowly drifting away, to be replaced by clarity. I knew what I needed to do, even though my heart wanted to run away. And as I followed His lead, he began opening doors.

Soon, I will be a working woman again. As a wife, it’s my role to be a helper to my husband, a support and a partner in life’s ups and downs. Just as God will keep me from slipping down into the muck, I am called to help my husband and keep our family from sliding down into despair. Do I necessarily want to be working? No. I love being a stay at home mom. I love caring for my family in those domestic, traditional roles. I realize, though, that right now my husband needs me to step up and help financially. He and I are a team. Together, we’ll shoulder the burden and make it through. With two incomes, those budget issues we have will be solved, or at least massively reduced. The stresses he faces daily will dissolve. And I will grow even closer to God, because this will take a lot of self-humbling.

Someday, I hope to stay home with my children again, to take care of my family through making them my career. Right now, I will sacrifice made-from-scratch meals and perfectly organized kids’ rooms and a clean kitchen table for knowing that they will have food and will be on health insurance once this current one expires.

Most of all, I will remember that I can’t do any of this on my own. My desires will always have me sinking in the mud. All my efforts will only end in spiritual stagnancy and death. So, I’ll continue to pray for guidance and continue to lay my fear and anger and frustration and struggles at the feet of the only One strong enough to handle them, the only one who can keep me from slipping into my past self.

I will trust the solid ground he puts me on.

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