Once, a long time ago and in a galaxy far far away, I wrote a post about trying to keep your footing when the monster waves of life slam into you. I vaguely remember the analogy I used: how at some point in my life I learned that if a big wave knocks you under water and you become too disoriented to figure out which way is up, you should quit panicking and just hold still. In a few moments (which may seem like hours when you’re underwater!) your body will naturally begin to float upward, and if you open your eyes you will see the bubbles rising to the surface and you can follow them.
If I recall correctly (and I DO wish I could access that old blog but the demons of the internet have stolen it away!), the waves I was describing were the big bad ones that pull your feet out from under you and then proceed to slam your head underwater over and over as you try to anchor yourself in the sand and push upward to catch a breath. I’m not 100% sure what was going on during that part of my life, but I can certainly remember different times I have found myself turned upside down by the things that life has thrown at me. I suspect we have all had times like that…maybe some of us are even underwater right now and trying desperately to find some rising bubbles to follow. This world can be awfully vicious sometimes, and it’s often shocking just how huge and tsunami-like those waves can get.
Here’s the thing I was thinking about today though: sometimes those waves really aren’t all that big.
Sometimes, they are just about average height and force.
Not too huge, not too fast, not filled with deadly jellyfish or blue-green algae…
Just normal everyday waves that run into you and make you lean forward or maybe push you back a little.
Thing is….these particular waves just keep on coming.
Second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day.
These average everyday waves come relentlessly and there doesn’t seem to be enough time in between them to regroup or rest or even get your feet stable on the shifting ground. While the strength of each individual wave isn’t enough to knock you flat, after a whole slew of them you find you’re feeling a little unsteady and wobble more than usual when the next one bumps up against you. At some point you realize your legs are exhausted and all you can do is lean forward into the next oncoming wave, knowing it will likely push you backward…but your feet are half buried in sand and can’t compensate and so you find yourself sinking–almost gently–under water as those everyday waves continue to roll over you.
My point in this watery comparison is this: sometimes it’s not a big crisis in life that knock you flat. Sometimes, it’s a series of seemingly relentless “everyday” type of stresses that can threaten to drown you.
These stressors might be obvious and seem to be an unavoidable part of life:
Nightly homework struggle with your kid…
Not enough sleep…
Having to be caretaker for a parent or other family member…
Needing to serve as mediator between friends or family…
Or they might be longterm things you’ve “gotten used to” but are still emotionally tough to deal with:
Strained relationship with someone you see daily…
General unhappiness at a job…
Struggling to make a budget work…
When you have several of these going on in the background on a consistent basis, then you add a few more of the momentary things, then just one more thing (flat tire) and one more thing (argument with spouse) then one more thing (cancelled flight) and one more thing (lost the book you were almost done with) then one more thing (leaking dishwasher) and BOOM. Suddenly there are three feet of water between you and the breathable air and you aren’t sure how to find your way to the surface.
I think a season of constant stressors and tough situations, even if none of them is a major crisis in itself, can be just as destructive as one of those monster waves we were talking about earlier. The problem is though…when there isn’t one major thing we can point to as an obvious cause of our devastation, we tend to try to discount how overwhelmed we feel. I mean, we shouldn‘t feel that upset about a lost book. We shouldn’t be that ruined by a leaky appliance. We shouldn’t let one argument crush our spirit.
We do because we are so off-balance from all the other waves that have pushed us backward and forward and shifted the very ground beneath our feet that all it takes is ONE MORE push and we can no longer hold ourselves up against the forces of life.
So the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back takes us down too.
I tell you this….whether it’s one huge big monster wave or a super-long series of small pushy waves that take you under…either way you are still underwater and it’s still very hard to breathe down there.
Let me tell you this too….even though it’s dark and scary down there under the waves, be brave and open your eyes.
Find the bubbles…there WILL be bubbles…and let yourself follow them to the surface again.
Here’s the thing; God never said that He would stop life from throwing hard things at you. Big things, and lots of small ones. What He did say was that He will not let them overcome you, because He will be by your side making sure you can overcome.
The bible tells us about His promise:
A bruised reed He will not break,
And a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”
You may have to end up underwater at times…but He will give you a way to come back up to the sunshine again. When you feel that you can’t possibly take one more wave battering against you…when you feel yourself slipping below the crest…know that He PROMISES to gently mend your bruises and to keep your spark glowing.
That God of ours….He doesn’t break His promises. He will be there. He won’t let you drown.
This is also a good time to remind myself that if and when I see someone seemingly overreacting to something in life, instead of rolling my eyes and putting on my “No Drama for this Mama” t-shirt…I need to realize that this particular event may be the last one in a series of hundreds of waves of stresses that this person is trying to endure. I ought to give a little more sympathy, be a little stronger for them, and maybe even be a buffer between them and the next few waves so they can regain their footing.
(Unless it’s one of my offspring who begins totally freaking because someone else is using AppleTV and they can’t watch netflix….then the t-shirt is totally coming out!)
Meanwhile, let’s give ourselves some grace when we begin to feel overwhelmed by a series of waves buffeting our well-being. If we take a moment to just be still and rest in God’s promises, then there’s a pretty darn good chance we will be able to fnd those bubbles to follow up to the sunshine.