Declaring "Mom's Off Duty" is really more of a survival skill than a parenting technique. Once my kids began to talk, I started to feel the ability to focus slipping away. I knew that if I didn't do something drastic I might never again put two adult thoughts together. That would mean no reading, no writing, and no Bible study.
I could feel the stakes rising exponentially, especially in my spiritual life. Being responsible for the care and training of fresh, little souls meant I had to have a deep enough well to draw from to teach them the truth. It also meant I had a bigger target on my back to draw the devil's attention.
Despite my best efforts to avoid the spiritual wilderness, I found my feet trudging through the dust there anyway. My wilderness time didn't come until I had been a mom for almost 15 years. The daily-ness of meeting so many needs and being so tired finally overwhelmed me. I felt hungry but too tired to do anything about it. I felt myself getting crusty and oh so dry - dry and cracked and hard. And I started to go numb. Life felt hard and I just didn't care. It was easier to feel nothing than to feel what it would take to get better. I kept moving, let duty be my motivator. And I also built some serious walls to guard against any more needs that might ask me to care. My highest walls were to protect me against any new hard job God might ask of me.
Many moms find themselves catapulted into the wilderness. Hard circumstances that descend out of the blue can take you there. You might have just received a diagnosis that changes everything about your child's future. You may have just gotten the divorce papers in the mail that leave you doing everything alone. You might have had to uproot and move your family far away from everything familiar. Or, just like me, you can find yourselves walking into the wilderness little by little. Whether you got there step by step or in a whirlwind, one day you'll open your eyes and be surprised to find yourself dry and dusty, and just feeling completely used up.
Most of us spend time in the wilderness. If you haven't felt the weight of the hot sun on your back yet, you will. You either need to hear this because you're there, right now, desperate and tired or you need to hear this because your wilderness time is coming. Life is hard. Being responsible for the welfare and training of souls other than your own is heavy. Sometimes it's especially hard when you're trying the fight back the darkness and follow God into tough places.
You need to know a few things about the wilderness in order to find the way out. I've got the details and a map for you because I've wandered and I know how to be free.
*There is a way out. You don't have to set up camp in the wilderness just because you're there now. Knowing what you are going through is normal and survivable is important. It brings hope. So let me tell you, there is a way out and you can find it. Other moms you know are on the other side and can help point the way. Don't settle in and build a home. God is doing something. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust what your eyes can't see.
*Go back to what you know. Your feelings are screaming at you right now. They are screaming about all the things you don't know. They're keeping your attention wrapped up in fears and uncertainty. You have an important choice to make. You must chose to start focusing on the things that you do know, all the things your mind has learned about God that your heart has forgotten. And you need to find ways to make that choice easy.
A wilderness heart is exhausted. It might not have what it takes to embark on a two-hour bible study. Even if it did, I'm not sure that's the first thing a dry, dusty heart needs. Your heart needs to be watered with worship music, and lots of it. I can't tell you how many hours I sobbed through Tenth Avenue North and Anthony Evans albums while I went through the motions of my day. The music helped put words to the crying of my heart. The words turned me around and lifted my chin up so I would look at the Good Father who knows what He's doing in my life.
Try a daily dose of a short, easy to read devotional or play an audio Bible through you day. Those words have power as they drip over the cracks and fissures the wilderness is drawing upon your heart. They will speak to your heart the things your head believes. Give yourself permission to do the small things your heart has the energy for. They are triage for your heart, the emergency saline and pain relief a first responder would offer in an emergency. Little by little, they will heal you and you'll be capable of the meatier things that will revive you fully.
*Don't believe your feelings. Feelings often lie to us. They come and go and many times are not rooted in truth. W.A. Tozer said the most important thing about us is what we think about God. He didn't say anything about what we feel about God. Feeling bad things, even unbelief or fear, do not make us guilty. You are guilty if you choose to let those feelings define your actions. Girls, feelings are the caboose on the train. Feed your engine with the truth, choose truth-informed actions whether you feel like it or not, and trust that caboose to catch up sooner or later. But please don't try to follow the caboose. You'll be chasing your own tail.
*Sit by your stone pile. Get a notebook and start making a list. It's important that you keep records of what you've seen God do in your life. Your heart needs to be reminded. We're just like the Israelites, so prone to forget and accuse when circumstances and emotions overwhelm us. God gave them important advice that you need to hear when you are wandering in your own wilderness.
*Don't run away from your people. Force yourself to answer the "How are you?" question honestly with trusted friends. And force yourself to be with them often enough for them to notice something's up. You have a friend with a 6th sense about these things, she'll catch it if you don't run away.
Let me warn you, not running away will require a fight in your heart. You're tired. Too tired to get dressed and go to church. Too tired to look at other people who seem happy and effortless. Certainly too tired to answer questions. I don't care if you're so tired that you show up at church, or girlfriend's coffee in your pajamas - GO! This is an absolutely necessary part of leaving the wilderness. Satan wants to cut you off from the people who will hold your arms up when they are weary like Moses friends did for him in the wilderness. He wants you to only hear his lies and stay away from people who will tell you the truth. He wants you isolated and fearful. Please don't let yourself get separated from the flock and become easy prey. Do whatever it takes to stay in the group, and let us fight for you.
*Do something that will shock your system. For me, this was a ladies' retreat. I signed up even though I didn't want to. I was desperate and I knew I needed help so I did it anyways. You can read the whole story here. I left home with a dry, weary heart clenched tightly in my fist and came home revived in every sense of the word. You need to do something drastic. Do it. Be brave.
Now lean in and listen to me closely. If we were sitting at my kitchen island together, this is when I would put down my coffee cup and point my finger at you. I'd probably start getting a little flushed and have to take my sweater off because that's what happens when I talk about things that I'm really serious about to people I love. Listen, and believe me....
You are loved, by your Good Father and by your people.
Your feelings are wrong and will eventually change.
You don't have to follow your feelings suggestions. You can chose to live differently.
God is working, even though you can't feel it.
He has a plan to lead you out of this dry, dusty place.
The joy of the Lord is your strength, not the other way around.
His mercies ARE new every morning.
Jesus is our high priest who knows the pain you're feeling.
His Word is true. Every bit of it.
He has already given you everything you need for life and godliness.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve.
Nothing can separate us from His love...not even our feelings.
And you are not alone.
Believe me when I tell you that there is an end to the wilderness. On the other is a land flowing with milk and honey, where you will enjoy the bounty of crops you didn't plant and the security of houses you didn't build. Keep walking friend. Don't set up a tent and make it easier to stay. You don't belong here.
There is hope, hold on, it'll be here soon.