Being discouraged isn’t a bad thing in itself. Even Jesus became frustrated with people, with lack of faith, with the slow progress of His followers. And perhaps the sense of discouragement is a warning sign for us. It tells us to take notice of things that need to be changed.
I’ve been discouraged lately.
There are a number of demands on my time. I work fairly long hours, at work by 6:15, hustling along, sometimes too busy to stop for lunch, until I head home around 4:30 or five, and back for a couple of hours more on Saturday.
I have a lot of projects going on... There are television shoots on Saturdays, videos to be made for friends, posts for this blog about twice a week, a daily Bible study, three weekly prayer times, a painting I am working on, a book I am writing, and a continuous stream of house repairs.
There are meetings with friends, church services, and weekly walks with my wife. There are times I need to spend with my kids. There are personal projects I am doing: fund raisers, helping friends, being a husband, being a dad.
There are the financial burdens. Brenda isn’t working while she goes to school. It's something she deserves, but it places a strain on our budget. We tithe our earnings. Which isn’t the burden I thought it would be... but still it is a little over 10% of my salary, which isn’t all that much. When I was an estimator for a construction company I earned about 140% of what my starting pay at the school district was (after $45,000 and 6 years of schooling!). There is the additional money we are giving to help rebuild the church. There is the $1200 Isaac needs for the Christian retreat this summer. Repairs I need to do on the house this summer. A family vacation of some sort. Repairs for the car. Items I buy to make my teaching better (about $1000 this year). On and on and on.
There are the anxieties of raising special needs children. Kids who are growing up, who need the final steps of parenting, steps for me which are into unfamiliar territory. The culmination of all these years... The goal of every parent is to teach their children to be self-sufficient, a goal I am not sure I can achieve.
There is the privileged responsibility of being a husband. I love my wife. I don’t like her to be worried. I don’t like her being burdened. I don’t like her carrying any concerns I can shoulder.
When Jeremiah was going through the psychology tests ordered by the district attorney after the fire at the church, a report was created about his personality, his abilities, disabilities, propensities, fears and secrets. It also included how he was being parented.
It surprised us that our parenting was described as exhaustive, demanding, and that we did not recognize the huge effort and burden we were placing on ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago I had some memories crop up, images and emotions I couldn’t seem to shake. I wrote them in a post. (A friend said that I am either a great liar, insane, lucky to be alive, or a little of each!)
All this is to say that there has been stress.
Now none of this is unusual. Except that a couple of weeks ago I started feeling a little hollow on the inside.
I began to feel sad, deeply, and I put extra effort into joking with family and friends.
Then I wrote the previous post. As I began to write it the little hole in the dike grew, and by the time I had it posted I was feeling very anxious.
Many left kind words of encouragement and advice. Good hearted words to help me, guide, lift prayers for me.
They ran the gamut of advice on caring for myself, and not taking on more than I should, to simply “cowboy up” (one of my favorite comments).
After writing the post and feeling I had gone as far as I could alone, I told my wife about how I have been feeling. Amazing woman. She knew what to do. She has me on a daily regimine: go to bed early, drink a quart of water, and walk at least one brisk mile, every day. Man, it is great to have such a wife!
It has been a step in the right direction.
The walks are helping, it allows me time to pray, to think, to watch the clouds scuttle across the Oregon skies.
I’m not going to say I’m doing much better. I still feel anxious. I still worry about Jeremiah and money and all the things I should let go. I still feel “stretched.” But I’ve caught my breath.
That’s a good thing.