In Which I Compare My Life to a Construction Site
I have an overflowing diaper bag hanging unnaturally from one arm, a 30-pound toddler perched on my 34-week pregnant belly, and a lunch bag on my opposite shoulder. I'm sweating just performing the simplest task: all I need is to find my wallet, swipe my credit card, and complete my purchase. But the toddler is squirming for the "yummies" in the check-out aisle and successfully brings down a display of those expensive granola bars made without any refined sugar, and now the woman behind the counter is looking away politely while I drop my bags, lose my credit card, and try to regain my grip on the toddler.
I know how I look. I look frazzled, tired, overwrought, out of control. I let the humiliation wash over me and add it to my list of things to ignore or cry about later.
If I've ever been good at something, it's appearing to be in control. Even if I know inwardly that my sense of control is a facade, it's still a comforting facade. But this summer, even my facade has crumbled and I'm forced to be a little too vulnerable with my fellow shoppers in the Albertson's checkout line.
At the beginning of this summer, my husband got laid off—right as we signed the papers and broke ground on a home addition. We were too far into the project to stop, so we pressed forward, praying for a job, thankful for a severance package. Now we're here: a month from having our second child, unable to live in our home yet, both unemployed as I go on maternity leave, cutting finances and time down to an ominously close due date.
Sometimes, I look at the pieces of our home and our lives and I feel brave and strong. We can do this together; we can pull this off. Other times, I feel like the house itself: a little beaten up and torn down to the studs or whatever it is that's beneath the flesh and muscles and layers I wear to look put together.
We all work endlessly to hide these parts of ourselves; the crumbly, dirty, outdated underbelly of who we are. We paint over, put in some plush carpet, update the outsides every now and then to keep up with whatever trends they say we should spend our money on.
But when it's time for real change—when things get shaken up and we're forced past the paint jobs and the new curtains—suddenly everyone gets to see a little more of our insides.
"Humble yourselves," Peter told the exiles, "...so that in the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you."
I've been casting anxieties by the fistful like so many dusty pebbles from the angry hand of a child. I'm good at that. I can cast anxieties all day long. But I'm jarred by the opening line: humble myself? I'm already humiliated; I'm already woefully out of control. Do I really need to be laid a little lower?
But then, humility isn't humiliation. Humiliation is struggling with the expectations you've set for yourself and your life—it's chaffing against the rough edges of how reality divorces itself from your ideal. Humiliation says, "I'm supposed to be there, and instead I'm here."
Humility is the acceptance, even the welcoming of powerlessness. Humility says, "I'm here, and I'm not okay, but that's okay."
I like to write about things in retrospect. That 20/20 hindsight, that "I can see clearly now" moment is refreshing, invigorating—and well within my control. But as I keep waiting for the moral of this story that started months ago, I'm starting to see that living in the now is an embrace of humility. I'd rather clench my jaw, muscle forward, and wait for the storm to pass—because pass it will, one way or the other. But I can't.
There's another side to construction that's just beginning. The house is starting to look a little less weary, a little less torn down. We're starting to build up. It's still bare bones; there aren't any breezy curtains or plush carpets yet, and frankly, there may not be any for some time. But the bare bones of what we're building are good; they're strong and sturdy and ready to leave a legacy. We've had to endure plenty of demolition to get to this point, but soon we'll build up and put together and settle in. We couldn't have done any building up without first tearing down.
It's time to build. And the results—though humble—will be worth it.