That sobering moment when an ever-so-slight awareness from the periphery explodes into the center focus of harsh reality… when the irritating voices you try to shoo away as they interfere with your semi-slumber, finally arouse you into enough alertness that you realize they’ve already been fighting for your attention for awhile. Does this sound at all familiar, or is it just me?
It happened to me two weeks ago.
That was when finally one single conversation shook me awake to what my husband and daughter had attempted to explain to me for years: My words hurt them.
When my buffers are worn down and my stress-level is high, when my hormones surge and my energy dips, a sulphur-smelling sarcasm sours my communication, leaving the recipients with an urge to escape and wash off the hopeless feeling that I seem to be beyond their capacity to please.
I never meant it like that when I over-corrected my daughter or over-analyzed my husband. What I intended as problem-solving, instead became character criticism; inflicting wounds much more significant than any perceived fault I attempted to address in them.
That stopped two weeks ago.
That day, I resolved: no more correcting, no more complaining for one year. Somehow that timeframe cast the decision in a realistic light. With prayer, I can do this. And I must. Remembering the sleepless night of remorse that followed the raw realization slams shut the door to compromise.
The infected communication-pattern needs time to heal and to develop fresher, sweeter language. So I cling to the Cross, to the boundless compassion whose words are kisses of life. I press my entire being into that secret place where old, forgotten songs wash over me and my sobs become prayers for those I’ve hurt.
“I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There at the cross.”
It’s been two weeks, and I’ve slipped briefly, but this time I needed no one to spell it out for me. This time, I fled back to the One whose Word is sweeter than honey, and I drank deep from that Word. And I apologized and held my daughter tight, praying for honey on my breath and healing water for her soul.
Fasting from criticism draws me deeper into the mystery that “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
And I long to set others free from my laws and expectations, to explore the wide open space of “no condemnation” – the freedom Jesus died to provide us in these close, daily, vital relationships.
In that environment, I discover
1. IT’S FREEING TO SURRENDER CONTROL.
The root of the sarcasm and derision was a sense of helplessness. I didn’t know how else to penetrate these two souls, so different from me in motivation and aspiration. How else do I motivate her to manage her time (she’s 18!) or him to pay me the attention I long for?
Solution: I don’t.
They are both adults now. I don’t “make” them do anything. When I loosen my grip of control, the stench of antagonism gives way to the sweeter scent of trust. As after a hurricane, the blossoms carefully open up to the cleansed air, unsure if residual aroma of rain signals that the storm is over or just still before the blow.
It will take time.
2. WORDS STEER THOUGHTS.
” Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things…!” (James 3:4-5)
With the avenues for critical and correcting words closed, I realize after the first week that my thoughts have adjusted. Like sugar cravings, the restlessness of surrendered control passed relatively fast, and what seemed delicious then is repulsive to me now.
My tastebuds change, and I savor with fresh intensity the natural sweetness of my loved ones’ impromptu (as in, not solicited by me) affections and actions. Since releasing all attempts at control, I can just enjoy them. I watch with fascination how much they blossom without my “help.”
3. I SLEEP BETTER.
Gosh, how much did I carry God’s weight on my shoulder in misunderstood responsibility! As a homeschooling mother and pastor’s wife, shepherding is deeply woven into my DNA. Somewhere along the road, well-meaning ideals mingled with my calling into a toxic drink of human standards and mixed motives. It woke me in the wee hours, but not anymore.
It’s not that all is suddenly perfect; it’s just that I don’t carry the burden of a judge anymore. Sinking into the mercy that forgives what I’ve been and done, warmed by its compassion, I cannot but view others through its golden glow. Icy perfectionism melted, my heart is at peace. Zzzzzzz.
4. I SEE GOD’S MAJESTY CLEARER.
Unclouded by now evaporated evaluations, I lift my eyes to the One who sees all my shortcomings and loves me still. The Heart where mercy triumphs over judgment beckons me closer to His, and I barely remember the cage anymore.
Captivated by the Healer who binds up broken hearts without condemning them, I long to learn from Him. His Words are life, and I drink, first for me, then for them.
Splash me, saturate me, till that’s what oozes from me when I’m squeezed.