Without adding any details, there is a situation I have to deal with fairly constantly. We will call it “the Zebra” for the rest of this post so that I don’t have to find creative synonyms for “situation” or try to vaguely describe an interpersonal conflict. The Zebra is inescapable and largely unconfrontable. Most of the zebras in my life are workable for the most part, and they don’t seem to present the same level of angst this Zebra causes me in under a minute. I am at a complete loss for actionable direction, and I am struggling to find both a Christlike response and a confirmation that Christ even exists in this situation. (Please hold all the rotten tomatoes until you finish reading – I am not saying that Christ does not exist.)
The root of the problem with the Zebra is actually a problem with myself, although there is much that ideally should change with the Zebra. The root problem is that I am feeble-hearted: I cannot always outrun the feeling that I am a failure because I have miscarried six times; I can run hard and fast, but the inadequacy will catch me when I least expect it. Unfortunately, I thought I had enough breathing room to stop running for a while, and now I am fighting for air again. I also feel like I have failed when I can’t accomplish all of the things that I need to do, not to mention the things that I would like to do, which happens just about every day. Even though I know that what I do does not make up all of who I am, I find myself lost in the to-do list and wondering if I will ever get anything right. The Zebra only magnifies my feelings of failure. I would venture to guess that none of the parties involved in the Zebra even know how I feel, partly because I don’t know how to tell them, and partly because they won’t ask.
It seems that the more I ponder the situation, the deeper root of my frustration is that I rarely feel adequate, which is ridiculous because I know that I am a very capable person. My entire life is built on the foundation that I am a creation of God, who loved me enough to die for me so that I can know him and worship him forever. That should be enough. That should render the Zebra miniscule and incapable of causing me frustration and pain. So, why does the Zebra hold such power over me? The first thing that pops into my head is that my faith is inadequate. I allow the Zebra to invade more ground than it should hold in my heart and my mind, and certainly I could work harder to devote my entire thought life to Christ. But the Zebra has proven that no matter how hard I try to accept its inane presence in my life and chalk up the injuries it causes to the Zebra’s untrained nature, the Zebra manages to do something so outrageous that I can’t pretend it is an acceptable situation at all.
Here is the difficulty in finding Christ in this situation: it feels like I am being pushed past what I can handle, and there appear to be no viable coping strategies. It would be a simple thing to handle if Christ were more tangible in this situation, but I can’t see or hear or feel the directions for taming the Zebra that he must be providing. And I can’t decide what action Jesus would take here: continue to turn the other cheek or turn over tables in the temple. The other cheek option is causing no end of stress and dysfunction in my life. Turning over tables would likely permanently damage some relationships that would then cause no end of stress and dysfunction in my life. I am terribly afraid of the fallout from any real confrontation with the Zebra, but I don’t know that I can continue to pretend everything is fine with a Zebra running amuck.
I can completely see that I am following in Job’s mistaken footsteps: by questioning God’s motives and his control over the Zebra, I am really deflecting any serious introspection and weakening my focus on God’s character. I do have the advantage of supportive friends, and I know that God uses them to encourage me in a very tangible way. But like Job, my fatal flaw is wanting the Zebra to just go away so that God will prove that I am righteous in my pain and indignation. Alas, there are no such magic bullets, and if I have learned nothing else in the last few years, I have learned that God doesn’t work that way most of the time, and I probably couldn’t love him if he did. I just want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and I wish I could hear it right now; it would make it a lot easier to tell my feeble heart to buck up and keep going.