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Women of the Advent | September 6, 2023

I have a love-hate relationship with summer. At the end of the school year, when we’re exhausted from early mornings, practices, and weekend games, I cannot wait for the unstructured, slow days of summer. It doesn’t take long, however, to wish for eight-hour school days and a shadow of a schedule. My kids are still young, so in the summer we spend a tremendous amount of time with each other. When we’re not in the pool to escape the heat, my kids are in the house: creating forts and building castles, leaving a wake of destruction—and usually someone crying—behind them. Nothing is off-limits and, as a recovering perfectionist, the overwhelming mess daily pushes me to my limit. 

One particular day this summer, I had had enough. Between the mess, the arguing, and the sun-drenched exhaustion, I was at my wit’s end. I threw up my hands and prayed, “Lord, would you please take over this home? I don’t want to be the boss of this mess anymore. I’m surrendering it all to you. I can’t do it anymore.” I realize it sounds a bit melodramatic and comical, but in the moment it felt like a plea from the pit. Having my kids constantly underfoot while sifting through the daily grind was not the heaven on earth I had been seeking. I wanted my reality to be a bit more perfect. I wanted God to fix it.

Summer went on, and I forgot about my prayer. We spent some awesome days in the sun and some hard, exhausting days together. Not more than a few weeks after my first desperate plea for help, I had another hard day and cried out: “Lord, please! I give it all to you if you’ll do something with this mess!” Ha! In response, I heard that still, small voice say to me, “Do you really want me to be in control? You will have to surrender your own sense of control and submit to mine.” Oh wow. I looked down at my clenched fists and slowly unfurled each finger. With open hands, I lifted them up to God and somberly remembered that I had never been in control from the beginning. Keeping my palms empty and pointed upward, I walked through the next few minutes with help from the Holy Spirit, breathing in and out his grace and sufficiency for the moment, and drawing closer to him as I bowed my will to his.

I suffer from what I’ve heard called “déjà-vu amnesia,” or “I think I’ve forgotten this before.” What a phrase for someone like me who repeatedly finds herself saying the same prayer, with the same urgency. My view of who is in control is upside down, and I have to right the ship daily to keep my focus on what is true. One of my favorite songs, “This Is My Father’s World,” is a beautiful reminder that even if I forget in the moment who the One True God is, the rocks, trees, skies, and seas constantly sing his praise. I forget in the daily mess and schedule to seek after the One who created all things and rules all things. My desperate prayers for help are becoming a reminder to exhale my own striving and turn, again, back to the One who loves me and has the whole world in his hands. 

We experience God’s care for us not only through his provision for our physical needs, but even more through our personal relationship with him. We get to walk with him and talk with him through all the mess, joys and struggles. I love what Psalm 73:25-28 says:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
    you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.

In God’s gracious plan, when we lose our sense of control, we are able to fold further into his all-powerful arms. As the Psalmist says, “But for me it is good to be near God,” or “the nearness of God is my good.” Whether it is dealing with the mess at home or the pain of heartbreaking news, I have seen the sufficiency of finding refuge in him as he draws us closer into himself. Without my own proud rudder attempting to guide my ship, I am hungry for more of his wisdom and his provision. I understand more what Peter says in John 6 when Jesus asks the apostles if they want to leave with the disgruntled crowds. Peter replies: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

By God’s grace, I know that my “déjà-vu amnesia” will not keep me from God’s plan for my life. When I remember who he is and what he has done for me, I can’t help but fall to my knees. I can repent and grieve my waywardness and stubbornness because he will never abandon me or forsake me. And in returning to him—no matter how many times I have forgotten, remembered, and forgotten again—my God awaits my return with hands that bled for my rebellious independence and with outstretched, loving arms to carry me through the mess of today.

— Lucy Israel

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