Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Several years ago, I was asked to make a list of things that "empty my well" and a list of things that "fill my well"--in other words, the events/situations/tasks that drain you and the ones that make you feel energized and excited.

One of the top items on my "empty" list was "situations in which I don't know what I'm doing." I was thinking specifically of the part of my job description that summer which I most hated: helping to fix lunch for about twenty college students. At that point I had little experience in the kitchen, and being shoved in there with the responsibility of feeding that many people (the students, plus five interns and a smattering of other people who might be around) was a prospect I dreaded every time my turn came up. I felt completely inept, inadequate, stupid.

It wasn't until a few years later that God showed me how that item on my list wasn't simply a matter of personality or preference. It was a clear display of my top besetting sin: pride (mixed in with a liberal dose of fear of man). The truth was, I didn't like kitchen duty--or other "situations in which I don't know what I'm doing"--because I was afraid others would think I was dumb. I felt uncomfortably self-conscious, and I hated the idea of other people seeing me as bumbling, unsure, ignorant. I've been that way my whole life; just ask my parents. I've always resisted doing things I'm not good at (make that instantly good at), because I want to excel--I want to be the best. And so I avoid any situation in which I might fail.

It has since dawned on me that that experience and subsequent revelation was preparing me for the crucible of motherhood. Raising my boys is the ultimate "situation in which I don't know what I'm doing." And so once again, my prideful, sinful heart resists. I don't like this, I think to myself. Because I can't do this. I'm not good at it.

I have no idea what I'm doing in this life as someone's mother. I feel hopeless when I can't make the crying stop, don't know how to discipline, can't control my own ugly emotions. I'm not the mother I hoped to be (even, arrogantly, thought I'd be). I wasn't cut out for this, my "empty" self laments; he would be better off if I were not his mother.

All this, I think, is emptying me after all--just as God intended. Not in a self-aware, "this is the way my brain works," personality-preferences kind of way, but in a "emptied of pride so He can fill me with His grace" kind of way.

[edited repost from the archives]

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