What Do You Spill?

What Do You Spill?

Before I taught high school, I thought I was patient. Then, in the trenches of dealing with teenage students and the stress of lesson planning and early wake-ups, I learned that I wasn’t, but I had to try to be, for 7 hours a day, because it was part of the job.

Before I became a mother, I again thought I was patient enough. Then, in the trenches of tiredness and interruption and thankless tasks, I learned pretty quickly that I still wasn’t, but I had to try to be, at any moment in a 24 hour day, because it was part of the call.

I am not one of those mothers who never raises her voice, although I wish I could be. If you were a fly on the wall at my house you’d be hard pressed to get through any given day without hearing me yell or say something outrageously selfish – maybe not as a first response, but by the 10th time? Yeah… It usually goes something like this:

Child: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: Just a minute, I’m busy right now, my hands are full unloading groceries.

Child: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: Remember how I just said I was busy? You need to wait a minute.

Child: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: I’m still busy. Please be patient.

Child: Mom, how about now? Can I have a snack now?

Me: Nope, not yet. You need to stop asking. I’ll give it to you when I’m done.

Child: Mom, can I have a snack?

Me: Ahhh! I can’t take it anymore!!! (Insert frustrated phrase of your choice. Chances are, I’ve uttered it under duress)

It’s tempting for me to think I can muscle-up more patience and self-control in this area, like closing off the nozzle of an out-of-control hose. But what I’m realizing, what God is slowly revealing to me, is that the real source of healing in the area of patience and unkind speech isn’t self-control on the nozzle end, it’s to get back to the spigot, the source, the place where all the water comes from in the first place.

I recently read a quote from one of my Christian heroes – a woman named Amy Carmichael who left her home to become a missionary in India and rescue girls from lives of temple prostitution. She said:

“If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love (for a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted).”

 – (Amy Carmichael, If)

Ouch, those words hit home. Because if it’s not the size of the jolt that’s responsible for my response; then it’s me. It’s what I fill myself with in the first place. It’s not the kids, or the frustrating situation that’s to blame. It’s my heart – my broken sinful heart, and the broken sinful stuff I put into it.

If it’s not the size of the jolt that’s responsible for my response; then its me. It’s what I fill myself with in the first place. It’s my broken sinful heart, and the broken sinful stuff I put into it.

It’s like it says in Luke’s gospel:

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45 NIV)

What is my heart full of? I know what I want the answer to be, but the truth is shown all too plainly when a sudden jolt causes bitter words to spill over. It’s full of self-pity, confusion, self-protectiveness, resentment, and envy. Worry that I won’t have enough of what I need to get through the day: enough energy, enough peace, enough patience.

The cruel irony of motherhood, or mentorhood, or any of these roles where we’re pouring ourselves out for others, is that you seemingly have far less uninterrupted time to pray, and yet simultaneously cannot survive or thrive at all without taking the time to pray. It’s like trying to run a marathon without taking water breaks because you believe you can’t afford to lose any time.

Jesus knows I can’t produce good water on my own, and he knows what I truly need. He once told another frazzled woman at a well that nothing else could sustain and satisfy her besides himself, because HE is the living water:

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up into eternal life. (John 4:13-14, NIV)

I need this living water, this sweet water, because lifeis going to shake me up and tip me out every day, and what I spill out to the people around me – including my kids – is the stuff I let myself read and watch and think about. My decision to pray or not pray has a ripple effect. My decision to linger in truth affects my speech throughout the day. I don’t grow in patience by trying not to spill when life bumps me, but by spending time with the one who can fill me with things worth passing on.

If I am going to be poured out – and I am – then I want to offer something worthwhile to my family and the world – something that points them towards the Living Water that we all so desperately need.

 

By Amy Hughes

For more about Amy, check out her Bio on the "About us" page

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