A few months ago we were about to sit down to dinner when I heard ear splitting screaming from the next room. I ran in to find Micah collapsed on the floor, holding his finger.
“What happened?” I asked.
“MY FINGER! I HURT MY FINGER!”
I looked to find the tiniest cut I’d almost ever seen. It had a thin red line like it had tried to be serious enough to bleed but then changed its mind.
I attempted to help Micah by snuggling him, but that didn’t work. So I offered some remedies that might help it feel better: washing it, band aids, etc.
“Noooooo,” he wailed. “That will make it hurt worse!”
I write about this story because that’s the reaction we have to almost any physical ailment or hurt. And I continually find myself saying, “ok, buddy, you can choose for your owie to stay the same, or you can choose to do something to help yourself.”
While Micah usually chooses to stay the same, today I heard myself say it and knew I really was speaking to me. We live in a culture that pushes us as moms to “take time for ourselves” and “take care of ourselves.” I’ll be honest, I don’t really buy it, for the most part. But that’s for another post. What I do believe in is a trajectory of growth and wholeness. If my life as it is now is causing me to be stagnant or unhealthy in some way, something needs to change. I can choose to stay the same or I can choose to do something to help myself.
I believe that we’re to be on a path of continual growth in character. As a parent and a person, I want to have the kindness, mercy, grace, firmness, convictions, truth, and beliefs of Jesus. My character has so far to go. I also think we’re to be on a continual path toward wholeness. It goes hand in hand with character, but it extends to healthy relationships with friends and our spouse, to what we do with our spare time, and to how we think about ourselves too. Often I get stuck in ruts in character and wholeness, thinking, “I’m doing mostly good, so I’ll let my (patience, kindness, better judgment, whatever) slide today. I’m just too tired, and I deserve a break anyway.” I don’t know about you, but I never feel better or satisfied when I do that.
That’s the moment I hear myself, like a ringing bell, say in my head, “you can choose to stay the same, or you can choose to do something to help yourself.” If my choices are causing me to be stagnant or causing me to regress, then something needs to change. Sometimes it’s so hard to choose the change because when we’re in those ruts, the change can hurt worse than the rut. It can be so hard to change a habit that feels comfortable, even if it’s actually hurting us.
Like Micah with his owies, the idea of the solution or the change can be so unpleasant that we choose to keep our issues. We actually choose what is holding us back over what can help us. And so often, at least for me, it’s the idea that giving up the problem is giving up some sort of weird freedom.
I don’t want to give up a toxic friendship because I want to be friends with whomever I want.
I don’t want to stop watching/listening to this because I want to maintain control over this and be able to choose it if I feel like it.
I don’t want to stop eating that because I want my options open to eat whatever I want.
I don’t want to go to bed earlier because I want to be able to stay up if I feel like it.
These self imposed freedom-chains keep us stagnant and in our ruts. We can’t move forward in our lives while trying to drag them along. Micah can’t move forward with his day until he makes a choice about his owies (that’s true. We often sit there and deliberate for a long time). We can choose to stay the same or we can choose to do something to help ourselves.
This is a post about self-evaluation. Are there things in our lives we are holding on to that are actually toxic? Things that are keeping us from wholeness? Things that prohibit us from being the parents, spouses, and friends that we should be? While they could be big things, like past hurts, they can also be small things, like staying up too late or overeating. We often have to give something up in order to gain ground. If there are things, know that we have a choice. We can choose to stay the same. Or we can choose to do something to help ourselves.
I’ll be honest, rarely do I have the willpower to do it on my own. That’s my evidence that I need Jesus to help me. My choice is to do something to help myself, and that “doing something” in large part means turning to Him for help. Seeking the help and accountability from friends, parents, and counselors is a good “help yourself” too. The initial cleaning and binding might hurt, but once we make the choice to deal with our stuff, we’ll be moving toward wholeness.