So we got some snow last night. And that’s not even like when people in my area say we got snow but we really just got an inch of sleet/ice/snow mix. (That’s snow to us, y’all. We take what we can get.) BUT, this was snow snow. Like, inches deep of powdery white stuff. I’ve mentioned how much I’m looking forward to spring, and the kiddos have been going a bit stir crazy in the house…causing mama to go stir crazy. (Also, stir crazy is a real phrase. I just googled it to make sure that the phrase I used so often was for real before posting it here. Inmates in prison coined the term referring to other inmates that became mentally imbalanced because of prolonged incarceration. hello! motherhood in winter!)
Anyway, my hunny is in the final stages of his program and since that program is in the medical field, he’s got to show up at clinicals even though he’s not being paid, didn’t have a choice about where this clinical would be (like you would with a job), and the university is closed. Oh glory, y’all, don’t even get me started on it. So, we shoveled out the car today so he’d be able to get out as well as possible when it ices over tonight. We live on a corner, which is nice because the main road beside us is always plowed really well. However, said snowplow usually ends up building up a large wall of snow right by our house that the cars can barely get over. So, my hunny and I manned ourselves with some shovels and went out to dig out our street.
We spent quite awhile shoveling our street, taking breaks as cars drove by, having to get out of the way. Through just the short time we were out there, I was silently shoveling and all the while, my heart was going up and down on a roller coaster. Then, as usual, God used the experience to allude to my heart in spiritual matters and how much shoveling that snow and ice was like serving in His church. Want to know how?
When we first got out there, I was chipper. I had my shovel, I had my rain boots, I had my big heavy Eskimo coat. I was good to go! Cars would drive by, and I’d move back so that the huge splashes of snow and water didn’t hit me. Most people looked confused as to why the weirdos were out shoveling a street, but some people managed a wave or smile. I didn’t go out there to make a point to anyone, but eventually, the thoughts in my head sounded like this, “I wonder if others will get motivated to be helpful seeing us out here.” “I wonder if anyone would assume we’re Christians because we’re being helpful for no reason…” “MAYBE, so many people will drive down our street and see us, and become so motivated that they’ll come down here with their own shovels! We’ll have a huge neighborhood community project right here and the entire thing will spread across the city! It’ll be a city wide revival! People will start shoveling their streets and neighbors’ driveways! People will start putting their shopping carts into the metal things they’re supposed to be in! It’ll make the news!”
Okay, so while the tune of Rocky has been playing in my head, eventually….my muscles begin to ache. My humanity becomes apparent. I’m tired of the snow that will never go away. I’m tired of the cars driving past too fast and splashing up water. I’m having to control my desire to shout obscenities at the cars when they drive too fast and splash my husband especially. I’m tired of ice cold water seeping into the bottom of my apparently holey rain boots. I’m tired of my kids coming and yelling out things to me constantly or the dog running out of the fence. I’m tired of people not caring. Not SHOWING that they are appreciative.
Sound like some struggles of serving in the Church? They do for me. Because I can flip just about that fast in my heart condition with serving the ones He has put before me just as fast as it flipped in clearing that road. And I gleaned a bit from the experience too.
For one, I did not come prepared and properly equipped. I had boots that weren’t going to keep out the water and the wrong kind of shovel. In His Word, God tells us two things that apply here with serving Him. In Ephesians 6:11, we are told to put on our “armor of God” so that we can stand firm against Satan. It goes on to tell us what that armor includes, such as the belt of truth, shield of faith, and so on. So often, I go into serving Him unguarded. You know what? I usually guard myself pretty well going out into the “world” where I know others don’t believe in Him, but I feel like I’m on safe ground when I’m with anyone or doing anything with the church…but because I am mortal, negativity and evil can slip in anywhere. I need to be prepared and guarded, ready. Not walking in there with a hole somewhere I have forgotten about that’s going to slowly but surely penetrate my otherwise prepared stance.
Also, I need to be properly equipped. My shovel was worthless, y’all. WORTHLESS. and heavy. and too hard to lift and use. My husband was over there going to town with this super nice snow shovel an older neighbor let him borrow. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul tells young Timothy that Scripture is good and useful. He tells him all the reasons we need it and ends saying with it, we will be “equipped for every good work.” There is no substitute for reading and studying the Word of God. There are lots of amazing books out there about God, and lots of amazing sermons…but they will never replace actually reading God’s Word for yourself. Without it, you are standing in the freezing water with the wrong equipment, girl. And you know what? When we know about God’s Word more than we KNOW God’s Word, we have a tendency to get it a bit wrong. Suddenly, it’s heavy…and too hard to lift and use…just like that wrong shovel. It’s shaming and heavy laden. BUT, when we read it ourselves, we find that it’s not! In fact, it’s more like my husband’s shovel over there, lightweight but efficient and much more effective with getting that junk out of the way so we go be free.
Next, the issue with my kiddos and dog. You know what I didn’t do? I didn’t set up boundaries. I got pumped about the work and eager to help my husband, which is good, but I did not take the time to draw up the boundaries. What I should have done was spent a tiny bit of time beforehand making sure the gate was shut and explaining to my children that I’d be working with Daddy and wouldn’t be able to help them with small things for awhile, but absolutely let me know if it’s a BIG deal…like blood or a viper. (before you call DHS reading this and thinking, “she just LEFT her kids alone???” Remember, we live on a corner so they were about 15 ft from me and the littlest one was inside asleep with a monitor turned on! ha)
How often do we get so excited to help out, that we throw ourselves right into it before taking the time to set up boundaries? I forget to say, “okay, I really want to do this, BUT it can only take up this much of my time or it will take up ALL of it.” Or, “I will do this right now, but will absolutely do this after it.”?
Also, one of the things I did wrong was working too far from Lance. Normally, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but by the end, we realized us working together worked out way better than taking sides. Also, my heart stayed easier on focus with his good mood around. Yes, working with people can take a negative turn if you feed off of one another’s complaints, BUT it can do the opposite too.
A good portion of our time out there, I prayed. But, even when I was praying in the beginning, my heart was on a slippery slope down. But, my prayers were more like, “Lord, just give me the strength to keep going so I can help him. Help me to be a helpmeet to him. Lord, help me not to LOSE MY TESTIMONY if that same truck comes back and refuses to slow down and splashes us again! blah blah blah” Me talking…basically.
Then, I noticed it, and fixed some prayers…then, they sounded a bit more like this, “I can’t believe snow is just so white. There’s nothing on this Earth as bright and white as it. Did You make it so that we could have a smidgen of an idea about your glory and clothing they say was “dazzling white?” Thank you for the snow that will melt slowly and bring relief to our land still struggling with drought. Thank you that I am close to the house and it’s warm and cozy and has warm food and dry clothes.” you get the picture. I wasn’t talking, I was responding. and that’s way different.
Finally, the one thing I did get right? I knew when to stop and take a break. It was cold, we did our work, and then it was time to let the sun’s uv rays work awhile. I trusted that they were strong in March and that even with the freezing temps, the work we had begun would be continued. So I insisted we stop and go inside for coffee and a movie. It’s a struggle. Out living our life as believers whether actively working for Christ or living your life (and still working for Christ, just less consciously) we go through ups and downs in our hearts. We have to take captive every thought and work it all through while responding to Him and His blessings. But the part that will particularly finish us off so that we are done forever and we’re never getting out there in that cold, harsh conditions and working anymore? That comes when we don’t know when to say, “okay. I need a break.” You’ve got to step back and rest. You’ve got to trust Him. Trust that He’s got this and He is faithful and He will take that good work you have started and continue it. Come back to it later with a renewed spirit, or maybe you won’t come back to that particular work at all but another, but either way, know when to stop. Eventually, those muscles will begin to ache…or that heart and mind will, at least..and your humanity will become apparent and you’ll need a break.
I’m happy to say that the road is significantly better than it was, and we haven’t had another car stalled or stuck in front of our house since! There you have it: a ridiculously long analogy about snow and the church. 🙂