Last week I had the pleasure of chasing one of our chickens down the road. It was quite the spectacle. Here was the scene: Jason hadn’t gotten home from work yet. It was that mad hour between kids jumping through the door off the school bus and dinner. Everyone’s blood sugar was low, exhaustion glazed the little one’s eyes, and no one was listening to mom. So, naturally, Myles lets the chickens out into the yard. One thing led to another and I look out the window to see a chicken is perched on top of our fence and gingerly jumps over to the other side. I’ll fast forward past my angry phone call to Jason who was commuting home (because obviously this was his fault) to me running down the street with my screaming toddler dangling under my arm when my neighbor swoops down and grabs the bolting chicken by its leg and raises it up in victory as a car who was making its way home pumps its breaks and stares very shocked at the sight. End scene.
I wish this story was an exaggeration. But, ya’ll. Our life is out of control sometimes and our neighbors get a front row seat. I regularly feel as though I’m chasing shadows (ok, I’m chasing chickens) in our home. Often there is a hum of disaffection surrounding us — constant bickering siblings, piles of unfolded laundry, whininess, meltdowns, cracked plaster, clogged gutters — as Jason and I begin to try and repair behaviors, clench our teeth, sometimes blame each other, and hold tight to our anger, never noticing the root causes of our family’s brokenness. Weeks and months of chasing starts to weather our souls and we end up feeling weary.
Because I’m very sensitive to changes in my environment (HSP over here!) I tend to notice the shifting atmosphere before the rest of my family. The TV will be turned on more often. Clutter starts to pile up in spots all over the house. I begin to referee between fighting siblings far too often. Attitudes become lower than usual. Anxiety creeps in. Meals are a hassle and rushed. Jason starts to get on my everlasting nerve. Our time together is rushed and a burden. The dog is a nuisance. And I swear that the air turns cold and a dementor swoops in and sucks out all of our joy.
And still we go through our days just managing symptoms, putzing around wondering why we’re all more cranky and anxious than usual when in these moments what we need is to stop. Take a look around. And confront the brokenness of our home.
I wish I had a neat and tidy list to offer you for what we do in these difficult moments. A 5 point list of things that work for us when life gets hard. Strategies for a better, more balanced and happy life. And I know that’s what you’re looking for. But I hate to tell you that I don’t have the elixir for a comfortable life. Even when we limit or completely take away our kids’ screen time, fix healthy, whole food, home cooked meals and eat them at the dinner table, spend more quality time together as a family reading, playing games, reading books, going on walks, and when my husband and I are in a good rythm of intimacy, dating, and being affectionate, it’s all still never enough. It’s just never enough. All of those things are good and help us care for ourselves and each other, but they are never, ever enough. All of those good things can actually feel pretty empty when I spend my days chasing after them.
Those are the shadows, friends. Those good things are the shadows. I find that I really long for those perfect days of warm soup, behaved children, and an affectionate spouse. And those days are good. Oh, they are so good. But they just are not enough. They never completely satisfy. When the din of suffering and brokenness breaks back in, because it always breaks back in, the only self-help, self-care fix that I can offer you is the Giver of Life. In this life, our thirst will never be fully quenched, but we can cling tight to the One who gives us all that we need to be satisfied. When life just keeps smacking us with restlessness, and another chicken gets out of the yard, we can go to Jesus with our wariness and He will give us rest. And that rest is Himself. He always gives us Himself. This, friends, is truly the balm of goodness that quenches our thirst. When we are chasing shadows the Lord comes in and chases us. He pursues us. Calls us His. What joy. What peace. I don’t have to chase anything for I am being pursued by the One who gives me life.