The best thing about the modern world is that you don’t have to read books or watch television programs any more to be able to know what’s in them, and, more importantly, to be allowed to weigh in out of your virtual ignorance. Because, tragically, the ignorance isn’t that virtual. All of us have put all of our lives online. So instead of reading the book you can read someone’s facebook post and listen to her a podcast somewhere, and basically know what she is saying. I didn’t have to actually watch Anne with an E to know I would absolutely hate it, and more importantly, what was wrong with it. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have to read Girl Wash Your Face to know that it would drive me absolutely batty. This person read it and told me, so that’s helpful. And also here’s that facebook post.
So what’s the delicate balance between coping enough with reality that you can get out of bed in the morning and actually being a Christian who trusts in the saving work and love of Jesus? Can you walk the narrow way between self-help/self-care and trusting in a faithful and merciful God? Or is it just too hard? Do you just have to chuck the trusting God part because the energy required to get yourself out of bed every morning can only be found deep within yourself?
I mean, I teeter along this line day by day. For a couple of years I had an immensely difficult time getting out of bed in the morning. I would lie there and just know, deep in my bones, that I couldn’t do it. Then I would reach down deep and…lie there a bit longer. “I can’t,” I would say, “I just can’t.” So then I would…well, I wouldn’t exactly call it praying. I would explain to God out of the bitterness of my spirit how I couldn’t get up. “I can’t,” I would say. “I’m going to have to stay here all day.” And then, somehow, and I think it must have been God bodily giving me a shove, I would roll out of bed and crawl my way to the shower. Turned out my thyroid was giving up the ghost and I was actually not well.
It was a pretty unhappy time. So unhappy that I found myself writing a complaining and lamenting book walking through the Bible. You can buy it by clicking the link on the side. If you’re looking for a promotional video, though, where my necklace matches my couch, you will be disappointed. Self-care for me includes not being super matchy.
In a strange twist of trouble, in other words, at the time when I was as low as I’ve ever been, when I did not have the power within myself to put one foot in front of the other, somehow by the end of it I came out with a book in my hands. I didn’t reach down deep because there was nowhere to reach, there was nothing down in there for me to rely on. I could only collapse on the mercy of God every day, and every day he carried me along. And made me write a book, which, looking back, wasn’t very nice, what with me being so tired and everything. Just to make the point, that I can’t do the least thing in my own strength, he saved his fanciest and most longed for grace for when I was absolutely the weakest and bitterest.
Unfortunately, even now that I’m much healthier, it’s still true. I wake up and mercifully get out of bed now not feeling like I’m being scraped out like a pot shard. From 5-8 am I putter happily through the news and various writing projects, I peer at what the chic news person on France 24 is wearing, I pat the dog and hobble down the stairs to restart the internet. My goodness, I occasionally even get out of bed to plank. But it’s not because of my deep inner resources. It is still the kindness of God who organizes my magical little thyroid pill and enlivens my mind at such a dubious hour. I wouldn’t be able to do the most basic actions to care for myself were it not for him.
And that’s what steams me—the me part. “My story” is not that fascinating. It is the lot of human people everywhere. I am weak, troubled, sinful, sinned against, ordinary, doubting, utterly dependent on God to bring me into his eternal light day by day. When I reach down deep I always find disappointment, grief, darkness, bitterness, and every other manner of ordinary human sin and ugliness. When I wash my face, I’m just washing the outside of the cup, I am only whitewashing the tomb that houses so much spiritual death.
That’s why I have to go to church. I need to be cleansed and fed by the One who is stronger than I. I have to stop with the self-care, the eking out what I think I need from the broken and sinful world around me, the unrelenting focus on myself by which I spiral ever more towards wickedness and eventually hell. I have to stop talking about myself, thinking about myself, relying on myself, adoring myself. I need God. I need his power and his mercy. I need his strength and his kindness. I need his holiness and his goodness. I cannot do anything good without him. Nothing—for myself or for anyone else.
Tomorrow I will complain about being called “a girl” when one of the great things about being a Christian is being allowed to grow up and be a Woman, or even, gasp, A Church Lady. Has quite a different ring, I think. Ladies try not to let everyone know they are wallowing in the mire of self-care. They just do their nails quietly without making a racket about it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I will go soft-boil myself an egg.