Sunday, October 2, 2016

Digging Ditches

Today I left church feeling totally empty.

It's a horrible way to start a week, let alone my first blog post in months, but it's true. Anyone else ever felt that way? I came into the building knowing I was in the right place, prepared to hear a lesson, ears burning, mind open...the music was lovely, the sermon was full of truth and conviction, the testimony time was sweet...and then I walked out feeling empty. Not unchanged, but unfilled.

I came home and tended to my children with what felt like a stack of bricks on my chest. (For those of you who are not super familiar with the goal of Sunday morning service, I assure you that this is not it.) All the while I wondered what had gone wrong, and I began to replay the morning's events in my head. Was there anything especially hard about this day that would leave me weary? I did a quick run-through list of highs and lows:

High: I had my coffee and a shower. I made a hot breakfast. I dressed myself in something other than yoga pants.
Low: While I showered and got ready, my children did nothing.
High: I was able to still get us out the door without being too much later than I usually am. I gave myself grace for being late to all the things on all the days. Tra-la-la.
Low: I missed a Skype call from my husband in the process of dressing my kids in a clothes tornado. I am likely the person that will clean up said clothes tornado.
High: Participating in group discussion.
Low: Leading group discussion like an unlearned Looney Toon. (Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo! That's all, folks!)
High: Remembered my checkbook for the offering.
Low: Momentarily forgot to pick up child after the service.
High: Kid gets a lollipop for memorizing scripture.
Low: Other kid mad that they did not get lollipop. Argues against lack of fairness and justice in the world for all to hear in the church lobby. Argument continues all the way to car. Mom loses patience at children's bickering and SHUTS THEM AND THEIR NOISES ALONE IN THE CAR in the church parking lot.
High: I had the A.C. running, so the cops couldn't write me a ticket and the internet mom-haters could just shush.

I'm sure this sounds like a lot over the span of a few hours, but truthfully, this is pretty typical of every day. There was nothing here that stuck out to me as a reason to feel so heavy.

Then I looked at the list again...
I realized that over the course of a few hours, most of which I was merely supposed to sit still and listen and simply be, I had made myself a lot of list. And the fact that this was "typical" said it all.

I was empty of peace, because I was completely filled with stress.

Like an answer to a prayer I hadn't asked yet, a video popped up my Newsfeed. In it, Jen Hatmaker talks about a time where she felt overwhelmed, and how she gave herself permission to acknowledge her emptiness so that she could be filled. In it, she shared these verses:
"He then said, 'God's word: Dig ditches all over this valley. Here's what will happen--you won't hear the wind, you won't see the rain, but the valley is going to fill up with water and your army and your animals will drink their fill. This is easy for God to do.'" (2 Kings 3:16-19)

You guys. I about lost it.

What with this deployment still ongoing but the thought of homecoming and all it entails around the corner, managing my growing children and their schedules, owning a home that keeps randomly breaking, mentally and emotionally and physically preparing for a move in a short couple of months to a destination that the Army has not actually confirmed yet, my volunteer jobs actually expecting me to volunteer my time and energy (pssshh!)...all of this, and I still have to put out fires over lollipops!!! I have a lot of digging to do, and the problem is, almost none of these things are excess that I can just cut out.

In quiet desperation I prayed, "If it's easy, Lord, please show me how." His answer was so humbling. "You are building walls when I asked you to dig ditches."


There is a prayer journal that goes around our Sunday School class each and every week where we can put our requests for other believers to lift us up in prayer. Guess how many times I have put any of the above concerns on the list...big fat zero. Why? Because I don't think prayer will work? Of course not! It's because I am building up walls, protecting my image against struggle instead of humbling myself in front of others and asking for them to petition for me out of love.
I go to church without my spouse, which is not a big deal while there are other ladies who also come alone while their husbands are deployed. But when they come back, I will still be alone. Do I ever ask people if I can join them in the pew? Nope! I hold my chin up and find a tiny hole in a random spot next to a family of seven. Is it because I do not have loving people in my life that would welcome me to worship with them? (Or that have not already offered?) Of course not! It is because I don't want people to know how lonely and vulnerable I feel in a big congregation by myself, and I build a wall.
All of the sweet invitations to socials that people have offered, where they open up their homes for us to gather? Not going. There's a wall.
Volunteer to help lead...Can't. Wall there.

The thing about building walls is that I'm saying my own effort is enough to fix the issue or protect me from it, and it isn't always true. I make more work for myself and create more unnecessary stress to keep the wall standing. Digging a ditch says I humble myself and acknowledge the holes in my life. And then, God in His goodness fills them up with something better.

Walls are not more impressive than ditches. I mean, the Great Wall is a sight to behold, but so is the Grand Canyon--and God filled that one with water too. It was easy for Him to do ;)
(And friends, I think we all know which of those two will last longer.)

So let your walls down. Dig your ditches. Be filled.

Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo!Wa-hoo! That's all, folks!


  1. I love your honesty in this Liz. Sometimes we need to hear someone else share things that we are going through before we can admit that YES! I'm struggling with that too. Thank you!

  2. I love your honesty in this Liz. Sometimes we need to hear someone else share things that we are going through before we can admit that YES! I'm struggling with that too. Thank you!