Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Learning Diligence

Lately I've been on a journey of overcoming in an area of my life that has caused a lot of fear, stress, anxiety and insecurity throughout the years.  This particular area was so normal to me that I never realized that there was even anything wrong with my way of thinking.  I recognized certain parts of it but I was never able to get a handle on it and pull it down to the root issue.

As long as I can remember I have had most of Proverbs 31 highlighted in every Bible that I've owned. I also have a handful of journal entries expressing my desire to be like that woman. But it seemed like just too lofty a goal for me. I had a lot of guilt and condemnation because I could never measure up. I finally came to the conclusion that she must have been a superwoman and that that goal just wasn't attainable.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do to him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchant's ship; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hands to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hand to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.  Proverbs 31:10-31

What amazed me about this woman is that she was diligent in everything that she did. She had a good attitude, wisdom and kindness, she was creatively resourceful and good with money, and she was a blessing to her whole household. I really wanted to be a blessing to my family as well, I had the heart to do it but I just couldn't seem to get up the ability to be that or even to start working towards that level of maturity.

To me, simple things like cleaning the house, folding laundry, doing dishes, etc. were the next closest things to a torture sentence. Whenever I got roped into doing them, from when I was a child till just recently, I got so anxious that my chest would tighten and I would have a lump in my throat the whole time. The sad thing is, I thought that was normal. I just figured everyone else hated that stuff too and that only super driven or OCD type people could keep a house clean especially with two little ones terrorizing it. I had all kinds of justifications and excuses made up in my head. If my husband ever mentioned anything about the state of the house or the dishes or laundry, I'd snap back in defense with one of my expertly crafted excuses. Then I'd struggle with accusation and resentment towards him and myself, because he even dared to imply that I wasn't keeping up the house good enough and because I didn't think I was able to.

Finally this all came to an ultimate low; I got pregnant with baby number three. This pregnancy was different than the others because for the whole first trimester I was totally exhausted. If not much got done before, almost nothing got done then. Besides that, we were packing everything to move from Georgia to Canada, so whatever energy I did have went towards that. Even then, lots of times I'd sit on a chair an tell my husband what boxes to put the stuff in. When we finally got everything out of the house, some of John's family and my Grandma came over to clean the house for us and I was so embarrassed at how dirty it was because it probably hadn't been cleaned in months. I just kept telling myself and them that once I got my energy back I'd be able to take better care of things.

Now, it's one thing to be pregnant or sick and have a season of downtime which may be necessary to take care of yourself and recover properly. But for me, when that season ended and I entered my second trimester and got my energy back, my habits did not change. Now I had no excuse, but why couldn't I get it together? I finally started praying about it because for the first time ever, I realized that something was not right in me.

One day I was hanging out with my Dad and was watching him clean up the kitchen after a meal. I noticed how clean and uncluttered his house was kept on a continual basis. Dad told me that his wife, Margaret, had inspired him. He said that they had started a habit of preparing meals together and cleaning up as they went along so that after a meal there wasn't much left to be cleaned up. What impressed me is that housework was just a simple part of everyday life for them, it was just what they did, not some sort of torture sentence. This concept had never occurred to me before. Instead of waiting for things to pile up and get ugly and overwhelming they just dealt with it as they used it.

Around this time certain scriptures started to stand out to me in my morning Bible study. The first was Proverbs 12:27.

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of the diligent man is precious. Proverbs 12:27

I could relate to that, I can't tell you how many times I've had meat go bad in the fridge because I didn't get around to putting it in freezer bags and freezing it in time. Then there was Proverbs 22:13.

The slothful man saith, There is a lion without I shall be slain in the street. Proverbs 22:13

And then Proverbs 20:4 says:

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg bread in harvest, and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4

Ouch! These were all pretty harsh to me, no one wants to realize that they are slothful, that's kind of humiliating! Nevertheless, I was kind of excited at the same time to start to recognize the force that was driving me to avoid work. In fact I tried to avoid any project that I could possibly not do well at because  that would be an unbearable waste of time and energy for me. Therefore procrastination and fear of failure were a huge issue for me too. I also recognized how the fear and anxiety I felt when I was working were just a manifestation of these issues, it was almost as if there were a lion waiting outside to devour me. All of my excuses all of a sudden seemed pretty pitiful too.

The next step in my journey took me to Proverbs 27:23-27.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens. Proverbs 27:23-27

And then to Proverbs 28:19-22.

He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress. He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. Proverbs 28:19-22

In my scripture journal after I wrote out these verses I wrote this prayer:
Lord, I don't completely understand these scriptures, please open my understanding and give me wisdom. I do recognize a generational iniquity of slothfulness and covetousness. I have not been diligent, you have given me so many creative ideas of things to do but I have procrastinated and pushed them aside. If I can't even be diligent with the things I have, how will I be with more? Please help me overcome this iniquity so that I can be a blessing to my household. Thank you for all you've provided for us, thank you that we have need of nothing. Please give me a creative resourcefulness to be able to use the things I have at hand. Bless this home and the work of our hands. Help us to train our children up in this early so that they will not struggle as I have but be blessed with wisdom and diligence and gratefulness from a young age. Amen!

God has been faithful to answer this prayer. I've been taking my life and my house back steadily, one piece at a time. It hasn't been all easy though, at first the enemy would wash feelings of overwhelming anxiety and weakness over me and I had to dredge through and actively war in order to overcome. It has been getting better in that area lately but just in writing this I'm already recognizing areas where I've slipped back a wee bit without realizing it.

This revelation has helped me to feel so much more fulfilled and confident with myself, there isn't a foothold for that guilt and shame anymore. This isn't something I've done in drivenness or performance either or even of my own power. God has really healed and changed something in my heart. It's not torture anymore! There have been times when I had to readjust my motives though; as soon as I started trying to do it to get more of my husband's approval or maybe even just prove to him that I had changed, the anxiety heightened again and up came drivenness and performance. Once I regrouped and put my sight on God again and started to do my work as a "thank you" to Him for all He's blessed us with, my peace returned. I even had joy in my work!

The amazing thing is that now, even though I am keeping up better with the house, and started an effective budget, I still have time and energy to spend with my family and to do the activities that I thought I'd have to give up if I did any additional work. I've even had the opportunity to do some graphic design work for my Dad which is something I've always enjoyed doing but never had the opportunity to really get into. I feel more blessed than ever and more grateful for the things that I have and for the additional things that God has entrusted to me since I've started working on this. Responsibility is no longer something to be feared but now it's an honor to me that I can be entrusted with it. In addition my relationship with my husband has improved dramatically, there is not nearly as much accusation beating us down. A lot of my insecurities in our relationship have faded as well. I'm no longer afraid of his disapproval, in fact he's been more approving and encouraging than ever!

My Dad told me a little while ago that when we aren't diligent with what we have, we are saying to God or the person who gave it to us that we don't appreciate their gift or provision. The reverse of that would be that when we are diligent with the things we have we are saying to God and others that we appreciate their gifts and provision and are grateful. There goes covetousness and ungratefulness!