By Vanessa Rasanen
My house is currently in disarray. Our to-do list seems to grow right alongside the pile of packed boxes in the corner and my nearly-third trimester belly that has long-been hiding my feet. We are, perhaps crazily, working to get our house ready to put on the market in hopes of moving out — and up — before this fourth baby blesses our home and family with cute coos and sleepless nights.
As if that wasn’t enough on our plate, we are also — all of us — adjusting to my husband’s new full-time work schedule in addition to national guard duty, an online course, church commitments, and all the requirements of the residency program he was hired into.
Needless to say we are busy, tired, and quite a bit frazzled.
But our situation isn’t all that unique, I’m sure. Life gets busy. And messy. Things don’t often stay neat and tidy — if they ever were such to begin with. And our nerves become as worn as our schedules, homes, and appearances.
This worn feeling is rather disorienting, isn’t it? It’s one thing to be tired. I know tired. I can handle tired. But it’s this level of exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and pressure that causes me to feel, well, stuck. Maybe stuck isn’t the right word, but it’s where I keep landing all the same.
I’m stuck in a bad mood. Stuck in reacting in ways I simply don’t want to. I don’t want to snap at the kids when they ask a simple question. I don’t want to bark at the dogs when they scratch at the door to be let back in. I don’t want to stomp my foot and growl and scream and lose my temper over the littlest of things.
Yet it’s these very things I don’t want to do that I keep on doing.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. Romans 7 anyone? Anyone? Ah, sin. There you are. As always.
I asked others how they combat this, how they face the crappy days when they snap at the drop of a hat. The responses mirrored many of my own methods of coping — alone time, crying, letting myself have a treat, or even letting myself scream if I need to.
I wanted to be one of those who immediately replied with a “Read God’s Word” or a “Pray” or a “Remember My Baptism”. But alas. My bible sits in front of me. Closed. And I could easily pray, but I don’t. Instead I napped, packed a few boxes, and tried to focus my energy and frustration in constructive ways. It helped. For a bit. Then I was right back to being irritable, with a headache to boot.
Tomorrow morning I’ll sit in the pew with the kids for the Divine Service. I’ll hear that blessed Word. I’ll kneel at His table and receive His body and blood. It will be just what I need, yet I know my bad mood will likely still remain.
I swear that’s not my cynicism or pessimism shining through. Call it experience, I suppose. But it’s true, and it seems unfair sometimes, doesn’t it? We can’t trust our feelings. Even when we do turn to where we know we should — opening our bible and praying rather than dishing up that bowl of ice cream or pouring the glass of wine — our bad mood still festers on, and we still can’t quite shake the blechiness that has us bristling.
It would be so easy to turn our backs then on God’s Word. After all, when prayer and Holy Scripture can’t even help to get us unstuck from these down days, why bother? It would be so easy to base our place with God on how we’re feeling, to note how His Word and Sacrament sometimes can’t even seem to tear us from our bad moods and let ourselves believe the lies that we must be out of favor with our Lord.
But thanks be to God that’s not how this works.
No, we can rest in our baptism. We can rest in knowing that even in our most stuck moments, when we snap and yell and cry and stomp and freak out over the littlest of things, when we simply can’t listen to another shrieked “MOM!” and all we want is to shove our hands over our ears and close our eyes and shake our heads until all our stresses and frustrations are over and dealt with… our Lord never leaves us. His mercies are ours even when — perhaps especially when — we are at our ugliest of moments and we aren’t sure how to combat it at all.
We can rest in knowing that our salvation in Christ rests on Him alone and not on how we’re feeling today. We can rest in knowing that His precious blood covers even our darkest days when we aren’t even a fraction of the mom, wife, sister, daughter, or friend we want to be — or even a fraction of that woman we know we can be (and have been) on other days.
And we can even rest in knowing that we are free to pour that wine, draw that bubble bath, indulge in that tv-show with our family, or head out on a hike as a means of coping with stress, anxiety, and what-not. These, too, are blessed gifts for our enjoyment and happiness. Must we sit like motionless lumps, refusing to turn to the goodness of this life simply because a prayer or a Psalm couldn’t budge our frown? I should hope not. It does my family no good for me to sit catatonic on the couch waiting for God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do — i.e. make all my stress, anxiety, and troubles melt away in this life when I demand it.
So if you’re facing one of those stuck moments today, like me, when you want to cry more than you want to laugh, when your head aches from the screaming you’ve failed to suppress, when you just want to feel better yet can’t quite seem to get there, know you’re not alone. Not only are there others like us trudging along ahead, beside, and behind you, but our Lord Jesus Christ covers you — and the rest of us — with His righteousness in our baptism, in His Word, and in His grace.
Even if we don’t always feel it.