Carrie Carter ~ With

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I’m tired of the struggle.

I ask my 14-year-old to clean his room…again…knowing that there is no good reason I should have to tell him constantly to actually put his clothes IN the hamper, instead of AROUND the hamper. “Clean” is subjective, and our definitions clash. This is new to me, as my firstborn is not quite as laid back in regards to his living space.

Finally, when “clean” becomes a pit of clothes (clean? dirty?), sports paraphernalia, school supplies, etc., I go into Martha Stewart mode and demand him to, “pick everything up and put it where it belongs. NOW!” I rattle through MY list of “clean” and by the time I’m finished, his eyes are glazed over. I throw in a “you’re not watching NBA until it’s done!” in a desperate attempt to provide incentive. Most of the time I get a hug and an offer to do other chores, “you know, I think it’s time for me to unload the dishwasher,” or an apologetic, “I’m sorry, I just remembered I have homework.” Sigh.

We’re trying to raise our boys to be independent young men, strong Christians, and productive members of society. Cleaning their rooms is something they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

However, recently I walked into his room and all I could think was, “oh my.” I looked at him, tsk’d, and said, “we have to do something about this.” He moaned, “but there’s so much.” I took a deep breath and replied, “why don’t I help you?” His eyes lit up and we divided the tasks. No complaining, no excuses, no negotiating. We went to it and we got it done. Together. I was a little surprised at how pleasant it actually ended up being.

I was reminded of this story a few days ago when I received a text from a friend who indicated how thankful she was that God was showing her things that he wanted to work with her on. Wait. What? He wanted to work with her? I thought God was more of a “here’s the things I want you to work on—chop, chop,” kind of God. Seriously.

I can only think back again to my teen’s room. If I take that space and envision it as an area in my life that needs “cleaned up,” I peer at it and say, “God, I know it needs cleaned, but I think I may have other homework to do,” or “God, wouldn’t you rather me work on this other area instead?” (Of course, folding towels is so much easier!) The clutter, the mess, is so overwhelming and I’m defeated before I’ve begun. My own words to my children echo back into my heart: “no, I’m not helping you with that mess. You’re the one who made it,” so I tend to not ask God to help me “clean my room.” My mama’s heart feels pained as I’ve unknowingly taken my “God helps them who help themselves” mentality and projected it onto my children. I have failed to balance teaching them independence as individuals, yet dependence on God. My shortfall of grace is glaringly apparent.

Letting that word “with” really soak in has taken me far deeper than I expected.

It also explains years of failed New Year’s resolutions. It’s no wonder that my resolve to do ___________ never makes it past the end of January. I’m simply not strong enough to do it on my own. Or maybe it really has nothing to do with strength.

Maybe I wasn’t created to do it on my own.

God wants to do life with us and has promised to be there for us. There are too many verses stating that for me to list here, but here are a couple:

Isaiah 43:1b-2

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

And my favorite passage,

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

I learned something that day a few weeks ago.

I learned that working together is far more productive and more fun than working alone, even on a task that is generally boring and mundane. We finished twice as fast as my guy would have finished on his own, and to be honest, most of the stuff may have ended up shoved under the bed!

Is God showing you an area in which some clean-up needs done? Improving your physical health? Cultivating a certain fruit of the Spirit? Strengthening your spiritual discipline? Finding freedom from debt? Repairing your marriage?

Our God has no intention of making you do it by yourself. He is not asking you to do it in your own power. He is asking to work with you on these things.

And true comprehension of that, my friends, can end the struggle.

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