I like pies. Most pies. But not humble pie. It tastes bitter. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Each bite I take met lang tande. It’s tough to chew over and hard to swallow. It’s not easy to digest. But, I unfortunately have to admit that it’s good for me. It nourishes me. It makes me grow. And, without it, I would be a sorry mess.
This year, instead of a slice, the whole pie has been set before me. I feel a bit like Bruce Bogtrotter when he was halfway the chocolate cake. Except that’s where I started. It’s nauseating. This year, my diet has been humble pie. And, I’m no worse off (although I feel worse for wear). In fact, I’m subsequently a much nicer person…I think…
Maybe you need to understand me pre-pie.
I was a black-and-white kind of person. I was passionate and opinionated. I “knew” what was right and what was wrong. I didn’t suffer “parent-fools” gladly. I was judgmental, critical and pessimistic. I was proud, selfish and self-pitying. And I am still many of those things because they run deep after all. But, for my sins, I’ve been cut down in every area. And now, my puffed up view of myself has been slightly deflated.
I thought I would be a great parent. But I’m not, guys. And, if you think I am, I clearly give a good impression. You have not been with me in the throes of my anger. Anger so strong that I feel my chest tighten and I literally have to breathe through urges to scream and lash out, unleashing my fury on the closest object or person. I whisper-shouted at my daughter today. Don’t think that’s possible? The fact that she jumped and then cried in fright says otherwise. You have not seen what my children have seen. It’s pretty darn scary. In fact, I know teenagers who are scared of me. I think I can be quite intimidating. I am bossy. And there are frankly times when I just. don’t. care. I don’t care if I leave you crying in a room so that I can do some housework. I don’t care if I sit on my phone for half an hour if you don’t sleep. I don’t care if you want me to pick you up. If I’m busy, tough. Loving mother, much? And, people, this is the norm, not the exception. Sometimes I don’t feel at all. No sympathy to you and your needs.
Then I go out and I watch other mothers with my children. They have their own kids to exhaust them. And yet, the way they speak to their children and mine puts me to shame. Because I don’t even put on a pretty tone for everyone to see. I’ve got no skaam yelling at my child or threatening her in public. And when I see my children smiling at others and cuddling on their laps, I suddenly feel a deep sadness and sick to my stomach that I’m such a horrible person around them. I’ve realised that I’m not so great after all.
There are a lot of thing I vowed never to do. And, as I’ve already said in I’ve Judged You, I looked down on people who made certain parenting choices that I believed pandered to their children. Co-sleeping was one of those choices. I believed (and still to some degree, do) that your bed is your space with your husband. He is your priority and there “ain’t no way” I’m about to “get creative” as someone once put it, to love my husband because my child is sleeping in my bed! They need to know where they come in the pecking order! And sleeping in their own beds is one way of showing them. I also don’t want a child attached to me constantly and believed it was a bad habit to be party to forming. But the Lord dished up a slice of humble pie and gave me a baby that would not, no matter what I tried, sleep off me. And if we all wanted our sanity and sleep, the only option, despite my best efforts, was to co-sleep. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I realised that I needed to get off my high horse and stop thinking that I knew best and my way was right. People do what they think is best. Some kids turn out absolutely fine. Others may turn out to be brats attributing either to their parents’ bad choices or their own sin. And mine could be one of them…(please no!)
In June, I thought the recurring gastro bug had struck me down again. But as days turned into weeks turned into months, I found that this was not the case. The symptoms were similar to IBS. And, for the first time really, I could empathise with my husband. I seldom take illnesses in him seriously because we all know how men are when they have man-flu. But playing down his ailments have resulted in me having to eat my unsympathetic words when he’s ended up having not flu and bruises but tonsilitis and a fractured rib (which made him pass out in a meeting!). He suffers from gluten intolerance. And, if he cheats, he pays dearly. In an attempt to ease the discomfort I’ve felt and shorten my trips to the bathroom (which I used to rag him about when he had cheated one to many times) I cut bread out of my diet and ate what he’s been eating every day for just shy of seven years – rice cakes and peanut butter. I was surprised to find that two didn’t fill me either. I used to moan that he was eating too many and that they were expensive. I told him to cut down. He did begrudgingly. Now I know exactly why I’ve suffered these past few months. To shed a shaft of light on my husband’s plight and make me a little more understanding an sympathetic. He wasn’t the intolerant one. No…that was me.
I never understood how people could be angry with God. It made me incredulous and I looked down on their shallow faith. But, I learnt with my first baby, that it wasn’t that hard because we’re hard-wired to reject Him. I was angry. And it was over my baby having colic, of all things! And with round 2 of colic, I was determined not to let the devil get a foothold, so I did my best to keep praying through my frustration. But, as before, I got angry that God was seemingly ignoring my cries for help (and they really were cries!) because, unlike last time, I was praying for strength, not for Him to wave a magic wand. Suddenly, all my pride about thinking that I would never be angry with my Father was pulled out from under my feet when I found myself so angry that I couldn’t pray – and it wasn’t over the suffering in the world. It was over colic. Suddenly I didn’t feel so high and mighty any more. How the proud have fallen!
I have been slumming around in self-pity for a few months and felt the need to speak to a family member that I felt had hurt me. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have. After four hours of speaking my mind, I was sitting in the car in my driveway when I suddenly realised that the standard I was holding this person up to was a standard that even I wasn’t meeting. In fact, I couldn’t even reach the mark. I wasn’t even on the board. What I was accusing this person of lacking was something I didn’t even have. And in that moment, I knew why we had had the conversation. It wasn’t for the Lord to reveal this person’s shortcomings. It was to reveal my own. He brought me to my knees in that moment and I suddenly realised just how far short I fell of my standard. And I was embarrased, mortified and humbled.
It was no coincidence that I prepared a chapter from What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp for our moms’ group called “Whose Kingdom?” . Yet again, I faced my demons – myself. It basically spoke about the fact that we can serve one of two kingdoms – your own or God’s. If you serve your own, claustrophobic kingdom, people are either obstacles in the way of getting what you want or a means to get what you want. That slammed me in the chest. It was freeing to realise my sin but I suddenly realised that everyone in my life was a pawn. Each person I moved across the chessboard of my life with calculated precision and was ready to take them off the board when they didn’t comply. I became snappy and irritable and, frankly, intolerant if others didn’t fit neatly into my plan. And reading that chapter made me realise just who I was really serving! I was suddenly painfully aware of how superficial my relationships were. And in those hours, I took stock and realised how sad and selfish my life had become.
“Nobody has ever learned that they were a sinner by being told; no one has ever learned about their flaws by being told. You have to be shown… And until you see your flaws, and…the only way you’ll ever see your flaws is in experience, they’re going to control your life. And secondly, no one ever learned that God loved them by being told. You wouldn’t live the way you do if you believed that. You know what you need, in order to really know? You have to be shown. Over and over and over as life goes on, you have to be in positions where you’re absolutely sure that God has abandoned you and find out later that you were wrong.”
Boy, am I being shown. God has brought me to the end of myself. I am (slowly) realising that my way is not all I’ve puffed it up to be. Take away the trimmings of my inflated assumptions that I’ve decorated my life with and I am left with a structure that is barely standing. And, as I have come to see, it is God’s pure mercy that He has brought me to the end of myself. He could allow my plans to succeed. To what end? My life may be pretty swell on earth but when I stand before Him and He runs through my life and asks me whose kingdom I served, I would understand all too late that it was my kingdom. That’s why I say in His mercy, He’s brought me to the end of myself. I have been told that I’m a sinner. But now He has showed me my flaws. And now I see that they have indeed been controlling my life. Only now that I am at the end of myself and realise that my way isn’t all I’ve decked it out to be, can I appreciate and see God’s will for me for what it is. Only now can I see that a self-sacrifical way is better. He chose not to leave me sloshing around in my self-pity. Instead, He has been drawing me out of myself to look at others instead. And it’s a mercy!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” – 1 Peter 1:3
Praise God that He is merciful in spite of me. Praise God that He has given me new birth and that my old selfish self is being refined and I do say that with some apprehension because refining is no fun!
“…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you…” – 1 Peter 1:4
Thank the Lord that my inheritance is not in my hands nor in the hands of any other human. It’s untouchable and being kept aside for me by God – my Father. It’s secure.
“…who through faith are shielded by God’s power…” – 1 Peter 1:5
Because I have faith (small though it may be) I am shielded. I am not just shielded; I’m shielded by God’s power! The same power that raised Jesus is shielding me and saving me from myself.
Yes, I know all these things in my head. No, I have not fully grasped what all this means. I seem to be a slow learner. This year so far has be darn hard. I’ve learned some hard lessons. Let me rephrase that…learning hard lessons. Refining is painful and slow. Clearly. I’m not sure how much more I can handle. But what I do know is this: God knows what I can handle. He also didn’t leave me in the pit. He chose to rescue me. The rescue may take awhile. And it will mean some bumps and scrapes along the way. But, when I get out of the pit and behold the face of my Father without my selfish blinkers on, I guess I’ll be glad He pulled me out of the mire of self.Tags: 1 peter, anger, co-sleeping, colic, God, humble, humble pie, humility, IBS, kingdom, me, my life, paul david tripp, pride, proud, self-pity, selfish, selfishness, timothy keller, whose kingdom