(I wrote this while away last week. The time I was given was a gift in every sense of the word. I am glad I waited to post it because, now, I am back to reality with home, dog hair, kids, alarm clocks, school, meals, laundry, and a real calendar to keep. My "beach thoughts" below were given to me for my "reality", but they seem much more challenging now that my feet are on the pavement and not in the sand.)
When my husband begins the monthly new member’s class at our church, one of the questions he always asks the strangers in the room is, “Without travel, money or time limitations, what would you choose to do on your day off?” My answer is the same every time and by no right of mine, here I am. I am at the beach with a bag of books by my side free to sit, to read, to listen, to think. But there is more than I can still and capture in my mind, but I must or I will forget. I just don’t know which thought to seize first and then, once in hand, how to hem it in with letters and punctuation. As the waves crash into the surf with unrelenting power, my thoughts dart about like these little ghost crabs too close to my feet- in every direction. Eventually, if time proves the thoughts are worth anything, they will be caught on the paper freeing them from my forgetful mind.
Before heading down to the beach yesterday, I “shopped” for a book on my friend’s bedside bookshelf. I didn’t need another book. I brought plenty, but my friend who is so generous with her beautiful seaside retreat is an avid reader of Christ-centered books not necessarily on the best seller list at LifeWay or Mardel. My finger tips lingered atop a teeny book on a subject that draws me in often- The Fruit of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill. Of course, in my mainstream reading, I had never heard of Mrs. Underhill but my interest was pricked even more when I read she was a female Christian mystic-- like a Brennan Manning-- but PRE-World War II. The 3x5 book didn’t burden my book bag and for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, I had a a great visit with this quiet, simple yet scholarly lady.
Tranquility. For me, there is no more tranquil, more peaceful setting than the big wide ocean. Every summer when I return and finally sink into my chair to face the unique monstrosity of water, I say, whether there is someone with me or not, “There’s nothing like this. This cannot be simulated. Thank You, Jesus.” I sit and feel very, very wonderfully small. And peaceful. And quiet. And simple. And unhurried. Yesterday, I read, “[God] works in tranquility and tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed.” This is not Scripture, I know, but someone’s idea and I think she was onto something.
Nothing can shatter a lovely morning more completely than being rushed about. Nothing can raise the stress level in our home more efficiently than being hurried out the door. “Tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed.” I like speed. I like to do things fast. I like to do our/my stuff until the last possible minute and then race on to the next thing. If we do things fast, that means we can get more done so we can play more or nap more or read more or write more. Right? But at what cost? Almost always, it costs our home and the people in it, tranquility. Peace cannot catch up with fast moving people who have no time to think of anything but the task at hand and how quickly they can get to the next one. Over the years, coming to my own defense, I have called this frame of mind “task mode”. Hmmm..... No one likes it. That should have been my first clue. I could “hide” in task mode-- seemingly oblivious to all who surrounded me or needed me. The "oblivion" should have been my second clue. I am a wife and a mother. Thankfully, I am needed.
Longsuffering. She begins with Christ’s dealings with Peter. We see beautiful acts of patience. Peter made me think of my children. Peter had been taught by Jesus Himself and lived life with Him. Christ poured His heart out in ministry to Peter for three years. And Peter failed-- again and again. Just like my children. Just like me. Jesus responded to Peter with patience-- a long-suffering love. Mrs. Underhill says, “Christ shines------ but Peter is transformed.” Could Julia and Brighton be transformed if I were more patient with them? If I didn't rush them about? If I overlooked their mistakes at times to see the bigger picture of who God is making them to be instead of who I think they should be? If I were to respond with a long-suffering love instead of words like "how many times do we need to go over this?"? And in turn, would this create a more peaceful, tranquil environment in my home? Could my children or my husband feel a difference?
“Here is a standard set for us in our dealings with the faulty. The fruit of the Spirit is never rigorism but always long-suffering. No startling high standard. No all or nothing demands. But gentleness and tolerance in spiritual, moral, emotional, intellectual judgements and claims. No hurry and no exactingness. That is not easy when we are keen, and see the work we love imperilled by someone else’s fault. But God, says St. Paul, is a God of patience. He works in tranquility and tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed. God breaks few records but He always arrives in the end. One of the best things we can do for our souls is to wait and one of the worst things is to force the issue. God lets the plant grow at its own pace. That is why He can bring forth supernatural beauty in and through imperfect instruments.”
Unfortunately, for some of us, words like rigorism, high standards, demands, hurrying come to mind when we think of our home life. Instead of waiting on God to bring forth fruit in our children, we try to “force the issue” through some of those not-so-warm characteristics of our homes. Yuck. Do I not believe that God is the One who is in control of that? I have a new question, a new prayer after reading this little book. I want to learn how to set expectations that don’t tempt me to sacrifice tranquility in our home or usurp the role of God in my children's lives. There have to be expectations- practical and moral, but they become demanding and forcible when they are mine and not His. They are burdensome and irritating when I implement them without a long-suffering love that God extends to me EVERY moment of the day.
I want to be the imperfect instrument who He uses to “bring forth supernatural beauty” in my family.