Sometimes it’s hard to maintain one’s life in Christ. For instance, last night I was up most of the night, dealing with what we think is food poisoning—Keith has symptoms, too. We’d gone out to lunch after church and shared a meal. In between the sieges in the wee hours, I remembered reading from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians in church, including this:
Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
Prayer came easily last night, as you might imagine, but not for myself. I knew my distress would pass, and others had greater needs than mine. Interestingly, praying for others led me joy and thanksgiving.
Maintain physical things
All of us are called to take care of ourselves: body, mind, and soul. Parents usually teach their children to maintain health and take care of things. Since my two sisters and I grew up in the country, miles from city services, and our parents on farms in northern Maine, our father taught us to drive as soon as we were able—age ten for me—and showed us how to maintain a vehicle. So, I usually pay attention to routine maintenance but sometimes miss the special needs.
Four years ago, the backup generator gave me this lesson. I was snoozing in bed and half-listening for the crank of the generator outside our bedroom window. Every Thursday, our automatic standby generator system performs a 15-minute test cycle—a critical self-diagnosis. That morning, it was cold outside. Very cold.
The generator cranked, sputtered, and stopped. Then it cranked again and again and again, each attempt shorter. With a final click, the starter died. What did we learn? To be thankful for new batteries and backup generator technicians, annual maintenance plans and being physically safe and warm.
Maintain safe distance and not
What about emotional safety? In Writing Hard Stories, Melanie Brooks interviewed eighteen authors, including Joan Wickersham, Abigail Thomas, and Edwidge Danticat. All spoke of the necessity and difficulty of closing emotional distance when writing memoir while maintaining the safe distance one needs to craft the story. All were surprised when readers appreciated the beauty that comes when authors melt ice, wrestle and write in solitude.
“The worst story that we can tell ourselves is that we are alone,” Brooks wrote in the afterword. How well she knew. Recently, she released her own story: A Hard Silence: One daughter remaps family, grief, and faith when HIV/AIDS changes it all.
Brooks was eleven when her father contracted the HIV virus through transfused tainted blood during open heart surgery. He and his family lived with the secret for ten years before he died of AIDS. Silence can be protective, but it is not safe forever. When Brooks closed the emotional distance she’d maintained for years, joy, prayer, and thanksgiving became almost impossible. But by maintaining a professional distance, she broke the silence, wrote her story, and found her way back to faith.
In Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver writes: “Love for God. Love for others. Worship and service. These are the two ends of our teetertotter. Though love for God comes first, the two can’t be separated. One flows from the other—and back again. That’s what it means to live a balanced life, a Christlike life.” The teeter principle of Sabbath rest balances the totter principle of hospitality.
Weaver: “The secret of balancing worship and work, devotion and service, love of God and love of people is maintaining our connection to Jesus Christ. Our relationship with him is the fulcrum, the anchor, the steadying point that makes balance possible in the first place. And the deeper that relationship goes, the more stable the balance will be.”
To maintain the balance as I recover today, I hydrate, watch over Keith, tend dogs and laundry, make crockpot soup for supper, Swiffer bugs and fur, and check on neighbors, whose needs are far greater than ours. Practice, read, and write this post. And in all circumstances, rest in joyful prayer and thanksgiving for and in Him.