So Tuesday night found me flipping through Google, hunting down the local Christian schools. ‘Flipping’ is a good word because I’d earlier flipped my lid. “I’m about to leave!” I’d seethed to my husband as things had heated to a climax. “Why don’t you?” he’d shot back, thrusting the baby and leveling a glare.
I wasn’t mad at him, but I’d just lost my cool entirely at everyone in the house. I was six weeks and two days exactly postpartum, which is codeword for “Mama’s going to blow any day,” and I’d forgotten to eat lunch, to boot. The toddler was screaming at his sister, the floor was littered with toys, and dinner was an hour an a half later than it really should have been–you know, basically it was a recipe for disaster.
David took over the stove, and I stormed to our bedroom where I realized I couldn’t leave. I was too upset to drive and too distraught to be entrusted with an infant, so I did what any, ah, rational person would do: I slammed doors. And drawers. And a vanity mirror.
The vanity mirror splintered.
Man. There’s no hiding that kind of shame. I wouldn’t be able to pretend I hadn’t broken the glass.
I sulked to my chair–the pretty one with the torn upholstery– and angrily flipped through Google. Surely there are better mothers out there, I thought bitterly. My fingers pounded the keys. Surely I’m ruining my kids by schooling them at home. Surely my nine year old needs a classroom of peers more than he needs an uproarious reading of Shakespeare, rich works of art, whole days in nature, hours every afternoon with beautiful books, a passel of siblings, a lego-infested bedroom, and, and… me.
I’m no expert in how-to-live-perfectly, but I am pretty well versed in the human experience of living life as a combination of glory and shame. “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!” Paul boasts in the second chapter of Galatians. Then, not even a breath later quips, “and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
I read that the other day and thought, wait, what? Is he really saying Christ lives in him, AND his flesh keeps living on, too? I mean, obviously. That’s how it is for the Rest Of Us. But I’d never read this as so smoothly a contrast and at the same time such a statement of faith: I no longer live, it’s Christ living in me, but at the same time I’m totally flesh, and when I act out in the flesh, I cover it, pass through it, do it, get over it, through faith in Christ.
The good you see in me, he says, is Christ. The bad you see in me is not Christ, but I’m still in Christ. I have present faith in the help of God. I have believing faith in the forgiveness of God. Even when I sin, I’m living by faith in the Son of God. I’m hanging everything I’ve got on his mercy, goodness, and grace.
When we are in Christ, we are in him even when we fall so very, very short. The life we live in the flesh we live by faith in Son of God. So we get back up. We shake off the shame. We refuse the accuser. We remember Whose we are, and that we’re called by his Name.
I wasn’t thinking about any of this, of course, when I hid in the dark of my bedroom. I tested out lies and toyed with the enemy and for brief time, despaired. But then the moment came to leave the room, and I dared to meet the eyes of my husband.
David would be the first to apologize, even though I’d inflicted the wounds. But that would come later. At this moment we merely locked eyes and our pupils began to dance. Silent humor shook our bodies until finally David caved; our laughter spilled and trembled and roared. Our sons looked up from their books with question mark brows, bewildered at the silent communication that had turned into such joyful release.
It’s just that we’re in Christ, you know. It’s just that we’re free. Free to live in faith even through our bouts of shame. Free to be human, free to be woman, free to be wife, free to be mother, free to be Christ’s, and free to have “Christ in me.” We are defined only by the glory he gives. We are never defined by the shame.
So keep on.