“I FEEL SO RESTLESS!” I wailed to my husband, tears streaming down my face.
Our services had been canceled for that evening, so we visited a large church in Jacksonville, and I watched someone about half my age accomplishing what I felt called to do; the difference was, he had an open door, and I had been waiting for God to open mine for years.
“I am tired of watching other people moving forward while I am standing still,” I continued. Honestly, I was doing all of the things that the whippersnapper was, but mine was a much smaller stage, lacked distinction and equal compensation, and the green eyed monster of envy was rearing his ugly head.
My rant wasn’t over. “I have heard all of the sermons on breakthrough, and I have applied them. I have eagerly taken notes as preachers spoke from the their mountaintops, and I have followed their advice. Only, I’m still here, and they’re on the fast-track. Did I miss something?” When would it be my turn to launch? Hadn’t I waited, supported others, taken the humble path, and genuinely rejoiced while my peers received their promotions? I was tired of humility; I wanted success, and I wanted it before I was 80.
Even as a child, I was goal-oriented. When asked about future plans, my young voice would squeak, “I want to be an executive of a large corporation.” While my friends would spend their birthday money or candy and snacks, I would save it. I did, however, splurge one day when I purchased a cash register from a yard sale; I needed to tabulate my growing savings because I was going places in life, so I was building a nest egg to help me get there.
Challenges were a thrill for me. I rarely feared standing up in front of a crowd, so I sang, played, spoke, led . . . whatever. I would tackle problems with grit and determination.
I preached my first sermon at 12 years old. I remember that I spoke about different types of hearts, and I cried most of the way through because I was still trying to tend my own heart, and I desperately wanted to please God with it.
Throughout my college years, again, I became a leader of the pack. I dove into student government, wrote for and directed a drama team, led student outreaches, and hosted a TV show. It was also at this time that I discovered that I wasn’t really cut out for the corporate world. I am far too left-brained to spend time analyzing, organizing, or computing figures and facts. Thus, I finished college with a secondary teaching degree and was in my own classroom three weeks after graduation.
First came love, and then came marriage. I wed the guy of my dreams, and we lived the carefree life for a couple of years before settling down. Two years into teaching, I learned that a little bundle of joy was on the way, so I said goodbye to the classroom to make ready for his appearance. I had grandiose ideas of what motherhood would look like. My littles would never cry; they would gaze lovingly at their uber fun Mom all day. We would share adventures and giggles and make tons of memories that I would keep logged in perfectly messy scrapbooks. When I saw kids melting down in the grocery store, I knew that they must lack proper discipline and parenting. Of course, my kids would be the exceptional ones—they would have rules which they followed to the letter, and they would love the boundaries because they would realize that rules were designed for their benefit, not their demise.
Nine months later, when my son arrived on the scene, I was unprepared for the torrent of emotions that would accompany him. All of a sudden, I felt ill-equipped. I had never heard of an APGAR score, yet now my child was being assigned one. Was I good enough to raise this little human who already had a report card? Was he eating enough? Gaining enough weight? Did he watch enough Baby Einstein to be a neurosurgeon if he so chose? All of a sudden, bits of fear started creeping in to my perfect little picture of life and parenting.
I would love to say that my fairy tale parenting story materialized as baby number 2, 3, and 4 bounced into our lives, but it seems that my fears and inadequacies grew. Most of all, I didn’t enjoy the process like I thought I would. Though I truly loved and served my kids, my days felt mundane. I poured myself into my their lives because I’m an all-or-nothing person, but I was bored. I missed having a career; I longed for a reason to shower and tame my nappy hair and don an outfit that was not stained with baby food or puke. I would see people in the store and they would remind me that the kiddos would be grown and gone in no time, but the hours just seemed to drag. Some days I looked at the blocks and thought, If I build one more tower, I will bash my head against a wall! I asked my friends if any of them struggled with the monotony of the schedule, but most of them were more content in the home. Sure, Motherhood was hard for them, too, but restlessness didn’t play such a starring role in their minds.
Oh, and all of the things that I had said my kids would never do . . . .they TOTALLY did them. I ate those my-child-will-never words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meltdowns in the stores? Check. Sassy attitudes? Yep. Winning battles against their fearless mother? More times than I would like to admit.
And at the end of the day, even though I had sacrificed, played, read stories, cooked endless snacks, my kids all flocked to their dad like he was the superhero. Seriously? Didn’t they see that I was the one who had singlehandedly snatched the choking hazard from their little fists before they met their Maker? Didn’t they notice that I smiled even when I was secretly counting down the hours until I could have an adult conversation? I used to be popular, carefree, entrepreneurial, but my kids didn’t get that memo. They saw a woman who was swallowed up by schedules and lists and expectations. Truthfully, the demands on my life weren’t placed there by others; nope, I was my own cruel taskmaster, demanding productivity and perfection instead of whimsy and adventure. My kids were healthy and clean and rested, and I was unfulfilled, tired, and discouraged. The whole thing was hard. Really hard. (I have since learned that I don’t enjoy the little kid stages; I am more of a hang-out-with-the-the-7+-group type. I am so glad that the small baby phase is behind me!) But the Lord did teach me a lot about sacrificial love during that season. I learned to serve even when it brought little reward or recognition, and that is a lesson that I get to keep for a lifetime.
I now live in the tween/teen years, and this is more my speed. My kids have discovered that I am not a total dud, so they flock to me as much as to my husband, and I love it! We have adult conversations and I am pleased to speak with these amazing humans and watch their lives unfold. But back to the story . . .
When my last child trotted off to school, I determined to take a year and wait on God before diving back into a career. Being a Martha all of my life, I wanted to try the Mary hat on. I envisioned sitting at Christ’s feet, hearing that Still Small Voice more clearly, and I did those things, but again, it wasn’t what I expected. Instead of being flooded with peace, I now battled restlessness like never before. Many of my friends had headed off to work the moment their kids flew the coop, and I felt like I was straggling behind the pack. Though I had worked from home as a DJ for a local Christian station for 10+ years by that time, it wasn’t a career, and I longed for one. Still, waiting on God was my goal, and I was determined to get His input on this new chapter of life.
Fast-forward to the next year. In September 2017, God spoke to my heart so clearly about what He wanted me to do in the future. I felt that I was not to go back to my teaching profession full-time; rather, He called me to be a Prophet to the Nations. Wow, that was an intimidating calling. The first thing that I began battling was fear. Honestly, I felt like a has-been. By this time, I had been in the home for 14 years, and my life had become so ingrained in my kids, I just didn’t feel that I could conjure up the wherewithal to do something so big. Thus, the war with fear raged on for months, and it was a tough one! I lost on some days, and won on others, but the victory was not consistent. The magnitude of the calling that God had given me was overwhelming, and my pride and self were struggling with the risk. What if I messed up? What if I made an idiot of myself? I was too late to the party—too old, too tired, too. . . .well . . everything. The former drive that I had used to tackle the world had been swallowed up in the daily grind. During those months, I spent much time in God’s Word so that my mind could be renewed for this new venture. I feasted on sermons, Bible studies, Christian quotes to remind myself that I wasn’t just someone’s Mom; I was a child of the King and the Creator of the Universe had a new mission for me.
Finally, after 12 months of wrestling fear and anxiety over the next season, I was ready to take the plunge. All or nothing, right!? Let’s do this! Only now there were seemingly no opportunities. I had prepared for the assignment, and now it appeared to have vanished. Again, restlessness began rearing its ugly head as days turned to weeks and then months. Of course, I bloomed where I was planted. I continued teaching the same boys’ class for 12 years before taking over the lead worship position at my church. I stayed at the radio, preached at the jail once a month, and spoke at a couple of women’s retreats. But where was this new chapter? Had I skipped it?
Moving ahead to present-day. At 43, I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. My four kids are needing me less and less, but I still feel tethered by the demands of family, so returning to my former career doesn’t seem feasible yet. Some women can rock a career and the mothering gig, but I’m not that good. Organization isn’t really my forte, so when the demands accumulate and lots of multitasking is required, my house of cards collapses pretty quickly.
In addition to restlessness, I have battled disappointment in myself, in God’s plans, but I have taken so many treasures from these seasons. Even the hardest periods of life bring tokens that last forever: things like humility, patience, dependence on God. I am continually learning that life is not about accomplishments, accolades, positions, titles. Life is about Him—Christ. I am endeavoring to spend less time building my kingdom and more time building His. When I am focused on eternity, then I don’t feel so restless. I have discovered that you don’t have to do big things to impact eternity; even a cup of cold water is rewarded on the other side. (Matthew 10:42) My life doesn’t have to be big; it just has to be obedient. That does take some of the pressure off of my back. I am ultimately called to love God and love my neighbor, and I can do that whether on a grand stage or in the grocery store aisle. I still feel as though I am partially in the unmaking phase of my story, but I have great hope and faith that God has a journey out there for me. His plans are good. His Word never fails, and I can take His promises to the bank.
So with my backstory out of the way, join me if you will on an adventure where we will delve into the life of David. He too had a journey of ups and downs, times of regret, disappointment, despair, but his life was ultimately wrapped up in Christ, and we are still talking about his legacy today. His story was less about reaching his goals and more about reaching God’s heart. In that he is known as “the man after God’s own heart,” I think he was pretty successful in the truest sense of the word. We will see a lot of our own sagas in David’s story, and if we take the time to listen, the Holy Spirit can give us new lessons from history.
We first meet David in I Samuel 16 where he is planted on the backside of nowhere keeping the sheep. God is searching for a King who will rule with Heaven’s heart, so the prophet Samuel sent for a man named Jesse to bring his sons to a sacrifice where one of them would be anointed the next leader of Israel. Only David wasn’t invited to the party. That’s a bummer. I mean, this was no ordinary scene. I once heard speaker Mike Bickle note that Samuel was the most influential man in the country besides King Saul—he was a dignitary; when Samuel rolled into town, the leaders trembled. It was a big deal! Samuel had come to meet Jesse’s family which was no small honor, yet David was sent out to perform what any slave could have covered for the day. Why was he overlooked at such a momentous occasion?
Have you ever been uninvited to an event? We can shrug it off and maybe even rejoice that there is one less item on the calendar. But sometimes in the back of our minds there is a nagging ache because we all love to be included. We secretly want to be on the A list, and our pride is wounded when not only did we not make the top of the lineup, but we didn’t make it at all. Well, this was David’s case. He was the boy in the field while all of the brothers were summoned.
Some time later, after all of the invited brothers passed before Samuel and none of them were chosen to be Israel’s king, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons. Even then, Jesse refers to his missing son David as the youngest—no name. (I have four kids, and many times I say all of the wrong names before I call the right kid, but at least I make an effort to call them by their nom de plume.)
When others overlooked him, God noticed, and He had a plan all along. While David was shepherding on the backside of nowhere, God was cultivating his heart. David learned how to worship in the quiet of the pasture when no one else saw or heard his psalms of praise, some of which we still read today. David was late to the gathering but was right on time for a coronation. He probably didn’t look like a King in that he was fresh from the field and no doubt appeared disheveled, sweaty, and smelly. But God isn’t so concerned with the outside; He’s more interested in the internal. Within moments, this forgotten son was dripping with the anointing of the Lord!
Though thousands of years separate us from David, we can find hope in his story. Many of us are no strangers to being overlooked in the daily grind. Maybe you are a young mom up to your elbows in dirty diapers and dishes. Maybe you work a job that is boring at best with no opportunity for promotion. Maybe you are worn out with the mundane. Remember, the same God Who saw David God sees you, and if you will live your life for His glory, then you can be content tending your duties under the watchful gaze of Your Heavenly Father. Psalm 75:6 KJV assures us that “Promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the South. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
Emptiness at the Top without Him
Within no time, David was called upon to play for King Saul who was plagued by a distressing spirit. Saul, the man who had it all, couldn’t enjoy the riches and fame because he had lost God in the process. Meanwhile, David who found and clung to the Lord was enjoying the anointing, living in the palace, gazing out over the streets of the royal city. He had gone from the hills to the White House in a flash, and it appeared that the kingship was just around the corner. David seemed content to bide his time and allow God to steer the ship.
We, like King Saul, underestimate the value of priorities. Hollywood gives us a glimpse of the “good life,” but many celebrities are like Saul—anxious, fearful, strung out, hopeless. One slip in our perspective can be the difference between fulfillment and emptiness, peace and anxiety. Saul sold the eternal for the temporary, and he missed out on both. How often have we missed the magic of today while gazing at the promise of tomorrow. . .greener grass, that promotion, the next season of life? When the new adventure comes, we realize that the grass on the other side was fake!
Things are rarely what they seem. Satan loves to bait and switch us into always yearning for something more, but each advancement comes with challenges and new ceilings to burst through, and sometimes that can make for a pounding headache both literally and figuratively. So we embrace today, practice gratitude, enjoy those whom God has placed around us, work hard, and trust the Lord with the results because these are the things that make for a meaningful life.