We all think it from time to time. “Wow, look at her. She’s got it all together. How does she DO that?” It’s a myth, of course. No one has it all together, but that doesn’t stop us. And that’s why I love this week’s post – because I find myself thinking these very thoughts about today’s Nothing So Broken guest blogger, the lovely Anna Urquhart. When Anna sings, my soul strains against the confines of flesh, so eager is it to rise heavenward with her voice. When she writes, the language lover in me delights in her creative wordcraftsmanship. Writer, singer, wife, mother, teacher, world traveler. Geez, she even has great hair. Is there anything she cannot do? Anna’s giftedness springs from a deep well. Yet her greatest achievement is her willingness to bow down when others might be tempted to exalt themselves. While Anna’s many talents continue to astound me, it is this – her ear for the Savior’s whisper – that inspires me to look beyond the vessel to its Maker.
Nothing So Broken: The Warrior Who Whispers
Guest post by Anna C. Urquhart
After graduating from college, my husband Jonathan and I tried every way possible to move just about anywhere in the country apart from Lancaster where I grew up. We were aiming in particular for Colorado, had contacts there, applied for jobs, raced down every possible avenue that might land us in the Midwest. No go. All doors closed. Any glimmer of hope that we would escape my childhood hometown was extinguished. We packed up my little navy blue Saturn and his powder blue F-150 with all our earthly belongings and drove up I-81 from Tennessee to good ol’ PA.
I have nothing against Pennsylvania or Lancaster. I love it, in fact. But we wanted something new. Something adventurous. Something away from the familiar. We were young and newly married, had freshly-inked college degrees and bravado. But we finally submitted to the fact that God wanted us to move “home”. And home it has been for the past 12 years.
We started careers (several, in fact), bought a house, had 3 gorgeous daughters, and without even noticing we somehow became “grown ups.” And all the while, each time we told the Lord, “We’re willing! We want to do more!”, we heard whispered back to us: “wait.”
Waiting has been beleaguering for me. Actually, it’s not the waiting that’s beleaguering, it’s what happens amidst the waiting. As I mentioned, I have 3 rambunctious children. (I know, people smile when I say rambunctious because they’re thinking, “Oh, I’m sure they’re just being kids.” But let me assure you, rambunctious only scratches the surface.) It is all I can do each morning to get my kids dressed, fed, and dropped off at school without losing my mind. Every morning. And then, after a full day of teaching, I pick them up after school and immediately switch to survival mode, just trying to hang on until bedtime without melting down or screaming out my frustration and exhaustion. Daily I feel like I’m failing my kids.
Additionally, I am a full-time English teacher. And if you know anything about the teaching profession, particularly the teaching of English, you know the job does not end at the end of the school day. Add to my To-Do list a writing career and graduate school, and I can’t do any of it nearly as well as I would like because I’m trying to do it all.
I don’t exercise because I just don’t stinkin’ have the time.
I don’t study my Bible because my brain is fried and I’m too tired.
I don’t clean my house because, at this point, that would require serious time consumption that I can’t afford (and, let’s face it, it’s only going to get dirty again.)
I don’t go out much with friends, nor commit to hardly anything anymore, because I think it might actually sink me to expend any more of myself.
And I have not said in a long, long time, “We’re willing! We want to do more!” (In my more cynical moments, I look at my younger self who eagerly said those words and want to kick her in the shins sometimes.)
Now, please know that I don’t need a hug or pat on the back nor words of comfort that I’m not an awful mother or terrible person. I don’t need reminders about savoring each of life’s moments. (I have a Pinterest account, I can go read some inspirational pins for that.)
I promise, I’m not trying to be rude. I know some of us compulsively must try to comfort when someone is having a tough go of it. But today I don’t want to get hung up on the “make lemonade out of lemons” band-aids and pep talks. Here’s why:
I am, in actual fact, a failure.
There. I said it. Out loud. I am a failure. I didn’t want to even write this post to avoid admitting this to more than just myself in the secret corners of my mind. But here I am. And I’m no longer trying to run away from that reality.
Strangely, it’s the human condition to fail. We’ve been put on this earth to be beacons of God’s glory yet we all “fall short” (Rom. 3:23). I’m coming to grips with this concept of abject failure. It’s not something I’m comfortable with. And I’m not supposed to be. We have been designed to strive. To work. To achieve. It is in our nature to push ever forward, as Fitzgerald said in the final line of The Great Gatsby, “So we beat on, boats against the current . . . “ Yet, God’s view of and plan for humanity is of utter fascination to me.
He wants failures.
After 12 years of “wait”, amidst a season of failure, I feel like the Lord is finally starting to tug. I don’t know what that tug means. I don’t know what’s gonna happen or where He’s leading me or our family. I am baffled by the fact that now, when I have neither energy nor inspiration, He wants to use me.
But the one truth I’ve wrung from this season of failure came in a moment sitting alone, exhausted, angry, frustrated, on my laundry-littered bedroom floor. My words ran dry. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t think. I could only whisper, “Jesus.”
And He whispered, “I’m here.”
My failure didn’t matter. Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, answered my whisper with His. Just as He did with his prophets. (Read Haggai chapter 2!) Just as He did with His disciples. Just as He did with all of His followers down through the ages. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9). He is the Warrior-God who fights for me because I can’t.
I don’t yet know how that translates into the daily grind of every-day frustration and exhaustion. This lesson is still new and I’m still learning. But this I do know: My failures open the door for His arrival, and He comes with only a whisper of His name.
(My favorite line in this song: “a sacred refuge is your name.” Amen and Amen!)
Anna Urquhart is a writer, teacher, mother, and wife who (haply and/or happily) resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is currently earning her MFA in Writing from Spalding University. You can find her most days on her blog The Silent Isle at annaurquhart.com. She has been published in Fine Living Lancaster magazine and her debut novella A Silent Night was released in September by Barbour Publishing in A Pioneer Christmas Collection.