Driving the kids home from lunch today, I noticed a nature trail right off the highway. An hour later, when the girls were fighting like Ali and Frazier, the nature trail seemed like a great idea. It took me approximately four hours to put a stroller, two snacks, a dog and three kids in the car. I had the goal of wearing out the girls and taking away their boxing ring. And, it worked… for the first five minutes, until I realized I’d taken my small children outside at 3 in the afternoon on a terrible, humid, July Texas day.
The girls tried to keep up, but they were tired. Olive gave up altogether and sat in the middle of the bike lane. She suddenly became boneless every time I tried to stand her up.
I had stupidly only brought the single stroller. So, I did what any normal human would do. I sat one kid on top of the stroller handlebars and held the other one on my back. I had my dog in one hand and my other hand pushed the overloaded stroller. Owen woke up simply to observe my complete fail. He judged me briefly, screamed for a bit, then fell back asleep.
I hate it when my plan to de-stress ends up kicking me in the face.
I was sweating in places I didn’t know existed while being choked by a 3-year-old who believed she would die if she didn’t hang on to me by my throat.
Right then, I realized that this is currently my world: sweating profusely, mediating fights, reminding kids to wash their hands, and cleaning where someone missed the toilet.
And life is somehow better when I can admit it’s not easy. I’m much more content when I don’t expect nature walks to be spa days. If your life isn’t perfect, it’s because you’re breathing. If you feel beat down, it’s because daily life can be hard work.
The Israelites spent a lot of time in the wilderness. When we talk about the wilderness, we often think of it in negative terms: we say we’re in a desert season—it’s dry, lifeless, and unsatisfying. But the wilderness isn’t as much a scorched place you have to walk through—it’s the everyday. It’s eating and drinking and raising kids and loving spouses and working meaningful and menial jobs. It’s praying and worshipping and serving in the midst of the mundane, the wonderful and the irritating. The wilderness is the stuff of life. It’s the to-do list and the 9-5 and the conversations with your teenagers, coworkers or extended family.
And it helps to know that it’s rarely easy.
Your struggles are valid. Your feelings of frustration or pain are understandable. But instead of offering validation or support, we often silence each other by perpetuating a culture of inauthenticity.
There’s a solidarity available to us when we can all admit we struggle. We’re all afraid of failing. We’re all anxious or embarrassed or acutely self-aware or in pain.
It’s the nature of the wilderness.
It’s part of walking the path.
Part of being alive is living through frustration and pain. There are going to be moments when you’re carrying all three kids and a dog in a triple-digit heat wave.
Give yourself grace.
Grace to respond poorly to a friend. Grace to get mad. Grace to have awful family outings or terrible days at work. Grace to be imperfect.
But, also grace for kids who throw food. Grace for spouses who fail. Grace for people who criticize or lash out or cut you off.
When you sense life is challenging, it’s not because you’re weak. It’s because life is challenging. And you don’t impress God by pretending it’s not. Instead, ride the consistent waves of grace that can carry you through difficulties.
It’s not about forcing light-heartedness. It’s about recognizing the potential for life even in the most mundane, awkward or obnoxious parts of the wilderness. Free yourself through taking grace, and hold agendas with open hands. Our expectations can be the worst enemy of the life we do have.
Find rest in the reality of struggle, and know it’s not just you.