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Self. pity

 

We’ve now moved to a short-term rental following our house fire a few weeks ago, with a bit of geographical stability and a space to make our own for the next couple of months. I am now connected to the internet without having to buy endless cups of tea, the kids are back at school, my work is back on track, and we’re all set.  But with this has come an unexpected challenge.

Here it is. For a month or so, a handful of people have known about our situation and helped out in various, beautiful ways.We’ve got on with moving, moving again, keeping our temper (mostly) with the insurance process and all the rest.  At the start of a new school year, with families drifting back from their holidays, other people are asking me what happened. And each time I talk about it, and significantly, each time I sense their sympathy and watch them imagining themselves in our shoes, moisture appears at the corners of my eyes. And everything I then say, and they respond with, adds to my sadness.

When they say ‘oh, you’re so brave, you’re taking it so well,’ I want to lie down and howl. And yet a strange thing happens to my tongue. It stops wanting to say positive things about all the exceptional kindness we’ve been shown, and instead  it describes and lists the loss, the shock, the frustration, all that junk.

I first noticed this when seeing a potential rental house a couple of weeks back. I mentioned it to the agent and her hand flew up to her mouth. If she’d not been holding a clipboard she might have hugged me. A couple of our kids were wandering through the house and she said ‘oh, and your poor kids, oh love, how are you coping?’ Well I was coping pretty well at that point to be honest but I poured out a little bit of self pity and felt a bit less capable after that.

This has begun to snowball into extended conversations with various friends and school parents, all with a heavy emphasis on how terrible it’s all been for everyone. Yes it has been difficult, but in the grand scheme of things it’s all manageable. I know how much God has blessed us in the midst of this, and yet it is so easy to not say that, so much easier to harp on the negatives, which is what the world expects and which pays us off in the sympathy of strangers.

What God is teaching me in this is the wisdom of guarding my tongue. I need to watch what I say because at the end of one of these conversations I feel drained and disappointed, flat and ashamed. Because in failing to mention the kindnesses, the generosity, the hospitality and the support God has given us, I am discounting His work in our lives and our situation, and I’m failing to give him the credit for the fact I can still smile and laugh and make jokes and trust that whatever lies ahead he’s already there and he knows what we need. It’s like realising that worship is not to make God feel good but to make us feel good.

It’s a bit like teaching your children to do something that’s good for them. They think you’re just nagging them because that’s what you live for as a parent. That’s also true, of course ;), but usually it’s for their benefit. Like brushing their teeth. Or practising an instrument.

I have to practise not using my tongue in a careless way so that my words really line up with reality, so there’s no tension between what I need to say and what others may be expecting to hear. For my own sense of well-being and consistency. And to give God the credit that is due.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Self. pity

  1. So WELL said! I have not undergone this challenge, but others. And your lesson here is a huge reminder to me of the power of my own words on MYSELF, as well as others. Especially loved that last paragraph. Thank you so much. retweeted!

  2. This is a powerful reminder of words, gratitude, and corresponding attitudes. And how God is honored, and we are lifted, by those words. I need that reminder. Thanks, Andi.
    Glad to know you have shelter of your own finally. I think if you – pray for you – often, and am glad to hear from you here!

    • Thanks so much for your prayers Peggy, that means a lot to me. God is so good to us all the time that we can all too easily tune it out like mall music. I think worship and praise and thankfulness is a discipline that helps us hear it.

  3. “so much easier to harp on the negatives, which is what the world expects” You nailed it. Sometimes we’re too polite – giving people what they want/expect even when it drags us down and leaves us feeling “drained, flat and ashamed.” I dreaded the phone calls of “friends” when my first husband left me. I felt somehow obligated to throw a pity party that I didn’t want to attend.

    • That’s so true, politeness can be a trap. If we say the unexpected, we upset those set-piece conversations. And those awkward silences can be, um, awkward. It’s such a weird social pressure.

  4. I feel as if I just did this with you, yet my take home message was ‘why didn’t I keep up with her blog?’ and the image of a neighbour handing you their house keys. God is good all the time. Words cannot express..

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