Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ October 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com
Assuming the person reading this is an adult, let me ask you a question:
Do you still worry about, or at least consider, your coolness factor?
I have no problem admitting I do. I am way cooler as an adult than I ever was as a kid. When you’re a kid, being literary and wordy and if I do say so myself, witty, and also friendly and kind of unassuming about people is not really cool, and sometimes it’s not even acceptable. But as a grown-up, I have found these traits are attractive to other adults.
Even so, though I have more Facebook friends and real life ones than I ever could have fathomed, I still feel like a big dork most of the time. So I work to maintain a certain exterior – one that is confident, quippy, and open to feedback, though I might be super nervous about what that feedback will be!
And if I might be transparent for a moment, I seem to have inadvertently set myself up as an example. Part of it is in writing this column. Part of it is in sharing my heart and my snappy one-liners on my blog or various social media outlets. Part of it is in the people God seems to be sending my way for encouragement in the crazy life of being a wife, mother, or both and on the road.
The thing is, I have no idea what I am doing most of the time. I have never before this moment been a full-time stepmom of a post-high school 18 year-old boy who is striving to find himself and a precocious 16 year-old girl. I have never before been mommy to two energetic, competitive, slightly-mischievous-though-completely-adorable toddlers. I have never before been the wife of a Type-A husband who can’t sit still and who is, like his wife, always looking for the next thing to do. I have never before lived on a bus, or tried to keep little kids quiet during altar calls, or tried to remember the names of singers and promoters and church-goers that I have known for 10 minutes but who are probably expecting me to be just a little bit perfect.
I have never tried so hard in my life to make it all look easy, and so, sometimes, I have never fallen so far from a self-lifted pedestal.
Why do we try so hard to make everything shiny?
Just last week, we were at National Quartet Convention, the largest and most established gathering of gospel singers – or maybe of singers period. (Do other genres of musicians do this type of thing? Because I sure have a hard time recapturing the image to my friends outside of the SG world). We were all doing the same thing at first… setting out the fresh business cards, refolding the shirts, smiling from our lacquered lips. But as the week went on, as fatigue set in, I was shown again how we were all in the same place.. not necessarily trying to survive, but trying to make what we do, what we give, look “just as good” or “better” or “best.”
I am not saying this to call out or condemn anyone. I just question why we do it. Why do I do it? If I am giving my best to God and my family and my ministry – in that order – why should I worry about whether it’s as cool or noteworthy or cutting edge or lucrative as the person’s in booth xxx? Does God really care if my backdrop reflects the latest design trends? Does the person crying over a song that touched her care if my kids have sticky hands from the lollipops they stole from beneath the next table over? (sorry again, Rob and Amy…) Does the fellow ‘SG wife’ who washed her baby’s bottles with shampoo in the hotel sink care that the floor of our bus has a few drops (or perhaps more) of diluted juice spilled on it? Seriously?
I would like to write this and tell you that I am done with all of that, but the truth is, I seriously doubt that I am. It’s not only human nature, but a bit of a flaw in my own personal nature to look at things that way. I want to be likeable and together and shiny. And I even want to be the best sometimes. But God help me, it’s exhausting, and every once in awhile, He sets me back to remind me that not only is the effort foolish, but for naught.
Before we left for NQC, my husband had a wonderful opportunity to sing at some concerts with a very established SG group. We knew it would be chaotic because of the logistics and routing and other life obligations taking place, but it was not a chance we could pass. The first concert took place at a lovely church in Indiana. Folks were in their Sunday best on a Thursday night. And I.. could barely keep my kids quiet or still during Rod’s set, much less the one to follow. I also apparently could not keep Miranda from sneaking into my bag and scribbling on the pew with a green pen. (Thank you once again, Jesus, for Tide-to-go, and may it have worked!)
I found myself later that night, after having completely lost my patience, composure, and sanity, letting my kids run through the bus while the concert was still going on, probably eating things off the floor, while I kicked my shoes off with a great amount of force and cried into the bedroom closet. About this time, Miranda asked me something, and I answered her, “I just want you to listen to me.”
And then, through my tears, I laughed.
Isn’t that what God is pretty much saying to me, to us, all the time?
Quit trying so hard. Quit shining and buffing until you are numb. Quit comparing and quit trying to reach an impossible standard that was not even set by God in the first place.
Listen to Him.
What is He telling you to do?
Without thinking very hard or studying or fasting or getting counseling, I know God is telling me to love and serve Him, my husband, my kids, my circle, and my ministry, in that order. (I am not saying studying/fasting/etc. are not helpful or necessary, but I don’t believe everything is a ‘matter of prayer.’ Some requirements are handed down by the very precepts given to Christians and, you know, considerate and responsible humans).
I know He has more for me to do. I know that part of loving and serving my children is eventually leading them to behave during a church service or a bus trip or a convention of 30,000 people milling around. But I also know that He doesn’t expect me to get it right the first time, to be perfect, or most importantly, to do it without Him.
And another simple phrase He is laying on my heart comes from a traditional spiritual song, and maybe this is the cry that needs to come before I sit to listen to Him. Maybe this is the cry that needs to come before the one made into the closet door after the shoes have flown and the hair has been pulled out.
Maybe the cry made from frustration and desperation simply needs to be: ‘O Lord, I want You to Help me. ‘