I deleted my introduction. Will this do instead?
I’ve been thinking about what to do when a crisis happens and you still have a family to look after. Of course, crises can vary massively, so these thoughts won’t be relevant to everyone. I’m not really thinking here about people in life-changing-tragedy situations. (At some point we do need to talk about Grenfell Tower, but I’m waiting until I have some idea what to say.) I’m kind of thinking about times when you thought you were already stretched to your limit, and then something else comes along and shouts, “You call that hard work?” Maybe a family member falls ill, maybe you get made redundant, maybe you lose a good friend.
The Lord knows what’s coming round the corner, but I do not. So sometimes, storms come at a time I find very inconvenient. During the storms, I find I’m tempted in new ways, and I wanted to share three of those temptations with you here. I hope you find it helpful, even if you can’t relate.
Temptation One: Grind to a Halt
You know those scenes they sometimes do on TV in which one person stands still and everyone around them moves in a blur? Sometimes when something weighs heavily on your mind or heart, you feel like that one motionless person in a crowd of bustlers. But when you’re a parent, the crowd is usually your family, and if you stand still and ignore them, things will happen. They will get hungry, they will run out of clean clothes, and they will turn on each other. Your baby will put things in the toilet bowl that should not be there, and your son who’s old enough to know better will draw on the walls. Then there will be nothing for dinner, and you will feel ten times worse.
So while you might be working at limited capacity, I do recommend you keep doing some things. It might help to put a routine in place. For example you could try to put a load of washing in the machine every night before bed, which will come on in the morning and be ready to unload around breakfast time. Some nights I really don’t want to do this, but forcing myself to do it just keeps things ticking along a bit better. I always plan my meals, but when things are hard I try to plan more simple meals that won’t cause further stress. I sometimes fail at this spectacularly, but often it does help. (Remember, there’s always brinner.)
You might not be able to do much, but you can do some things. People may be relying on you (particularly small people), and stopping altogether is a downward spiral.
Temptation Two: Running on empty.
In my bathroom we have a picture on the wall which is a page from Judith Kerr’s book, “The Tiger Who Came to Tea.” It’s a picture of Sophie getting undressed for her bath. The page reads, “And Sophie found she couldn’t have her bath because the tiger had drunk all the water in the tap.” I think this is sweet because, to a child, that could totally happen. Tigers aside, let’s face it, it’s impossible to empty a tap of its water. I’m no plumber, but I know water keeps coming. Ask anyone whose child has plugged the basin and left the tap on.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re giving and giving, but we’re starting to run dry. We soon have nothing left to give. However, let’s remember that our God gives to us from the abundance of his ever-flowing grace. He’s the spring of living water. (Let’s face it, a spring is like a tap, but better.) I need to keep going back to Him to receive life, and stop trying to use my own strength or rely on anything else to get me through. Food, friendship and music are all wonderful gifts from God, but I can’t rely on them to get me through the day. I need to go to my Heavenly Father, feed on his word, and pray to him for help from the Helper.
Temptation Three: Burden my Children
Sometimes things get really hard, and your children just don’t get it. They keep asking for things, they keep waking you up, they keep needing you. That’s because they’re children. I want my children to learn that they’re not the centre of the universe, and that they need to be considerate of others. I also want to be honest and truthful with them. But sometimes it’s tempting to tell them more than they need to know, as a short-cut to getting them to obey. For example, maybe my husband loses his job, and we’re struggling to live within our means. Then one of my children has a tantrum because he wants new trainers and I’ve said no. In my frustration, I could lecture him about how hard it is for us because Daddy has lost his job, we don’t have any money, we’re worried about how we’re going to buy food, Daddy is really depressed and so you just need to forget about your selfish trainer desires, OK? That would probably work, but would it be for his good? Or just for my own satisfaction? Perhaps instead it would be better to talk to him about what’s going on in his heart, and how even if we had the money I’m not sure it would be wise to give in to his tantrums about trainers. I must remember that my children are children, and that I can teach them to be loving and considerate without giving them more information than they need at this moment. Plus, if I say too much I will regret it and, again, feel much worse.
These are just three thoughts. They’re not intended to make anyone feel guilty but I hope instead they might be helpful. Finally, I wanted to say that it’s really important, when in a storm, to ask for help. You need good friends, and you need to tell them what they can do to help you. If they offer help in a general way, give them specific ways that they can help you. It will bless them and you.
Praise the Lord.
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Click here for a lovely modern version of this hymn.