Wednesday, February 2, 2011
More Than You Can Handle
I can't tell you how many times I have heard it. Hundreds, probably. It is always spoken with the best of intentions. A Christian cliche. A platitude meant to comfort others in times of hardship. God will never give you more than you can handle. Tell that to the mother who has buried a child, to the woman whose husband has left her with two children to care for alone, to the man who lives with a verbally abusive wife and constantly feels like he is lacking. I assure you, it's more that we can handle.
In August of 2004, I became a mother. Married only nine short months, and I became a mother to my nephews Canaan, Cameron, and Connor, ages 4, 2, and 1, respectively. The day that I got them, I was filled with excitement. I was made to be a mother. I have a beautiful, wonderful mother that loves children and taught me to love them, too. I grew up believing that motherhood was wonderful and honorable. And so, when I buckled those three little guys into their car seats cramped into the back seat of my Ford Explorer, I thought that I had this figured out. Four months to mother three kids. No problem. Only I was wrong. I was tired and stressed. Three months into the four month mothering stint, my marriage took a huge turn for the worst. More than I could handle.
Four months turned into almost three years. And 5 months after my sister gave birth to baby Cody, my brood of three boys turned into four. Those of you who didn't know me during this time might have a hard time imagining it. I jumped right in, though. I potty trained, mixed formula, bargain shopped, built forts out of blankets, finger painted, enforced nap times, sewed halloween costumes, read bedtime stories, spanked tiny bottoms, cleaned up vomit, rocked sick babies, and did about 3 loads of laundry a day. Throughout those three years, I struggled with exhaustion, resentment, bitterness, and a roller coaster marriage. I had a love/hate relationship with my sister, with motherhood, and with my unexpected lot in life. More than I could handle.
In June of 2007, I packed up a Uhaul trailer with beds, blocks, action figures, books, and boxes of winter clothes. Everything had been sorted and purged. Donations had been made. And the little rooms that held babies were empty. I drove from Tennessee to Texas with my boys, my parents, and my sister. I helped unload their things and carry them into the new home where they would live with their real mother and father. And for several days I stayed, helping them to get adjusted to their new life, praying that this transition would be smooth for them. Then I left. I cried as I drove home to Tennessee with an empty minivan that had become unnecessary. Let me assure you, it was more than I could handle.
Three weeks later, I separated from my husband, and the grief that I felt from the loss of my life as I knew it was more than I could handle. During that time, I remember having tea with a girlfriend, and we talked about this very phrase. She had battled cancer, and was dealing with a blood disorder that mimicked cancer. We were both grieving different things, and we both had more grief to come. But we came to the same conclusion. Throughout life, we will always be faced with things that are more than we can handle. There are the big things... death, divorce, cancer. And then there are the small things that seem like they will overwhelm us... loneliness, unmet expectations, and the guy that decides that he can't date you, for whatever reason. They are more than we can handle.
The apostle Paul knew about these things. He had a thorn in his flesh. The thing he couldn't handle. He asked God three times to remove it. To get rid of it. To ease his pain. To make it humanly bearable. And God answered him with the words I have read over and over and I never tire of. I never tire of them because I have lived them. I have experienced them.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
(I Corinthians 12:9,10)
I tell this little story not so that you will feel sad for me. There is nothing to feel sad about. I was blessed to be mom to Canaan, Cameron, Connor, and Cody. I am so thankful for those three years. I tell you this because there are always times where we feel like we have been given more than we can handle and we think about this little phrase we have always heard and we can feel like God has failed us. Like he has let us down by giving us so much to carry. But he didn't promise bearable or manageable. He promised sufficient grace. He promised that His strength would be perfect in our weakness. He promises that the power of Christ will rest upon us during the times that we feel like we can't take another step. If we could handle it all, we wouldn't need Him. So memorize these verses. Tuck them away in your brain. Make it part of your thought processes. When you have more than you can handle, when you are weak, you will know where to find strength.