When I dropped our recyclable container at the end of the street, I noticed that our address had been worn off. I then drove down our red trash container and took a marker to mark our address in bold numbers on the blue recyclable lid. Monday, when I picked up our empty container, I noticed another container with our faint, faded address. Dread settled into my stomach, “How could I have made that mistake? Maybe I have had the wrong container for two weeks without realizing it.” I had an ominous feeling that haunted me. Each day, the container sat at the end of our street. Really? Who cares? I don’t care which container I have? But, obviously, someone really did care and each day of the week I had to drive by the lone recyclable container that had once been ours.
I hate being wrong. I hate not being perfect. And I don’t like having a sensitive spirit that keeps me from having peace. That shameful container at the end of the street began an onslaught of accusations of what I don’t do right and my sloppy incompetence weighted me down. Everywhere in our house and yard I looked became an accusation of being a failure. This was also the week that Dan fishes each summer and I had the fantasy of rest and uninterrupted reading while he was gone. My fantasy was truly a fantasy and the week was fraught with anything but rest and ability to concentrate and read.
My mornings were disrupted with a summer cold and my workout goals were on shaky ground. Some mornings it didn’t seem wise to get to a 6:00 a.m. class. Other mornings it seemed unwise to sabotage a goal by not making the class. Many moments I feel damned if I do and damned if I don’t by the crushing wheels of ambivalence.
There is a theological concept of “already but not yet” found in Scripture. In Hebrews 2:8-9 it says, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death” (ESV). Salvation has come and yet we wait for the moment when all things will be restored. We live in the era between the coming and the full glory to come. It is an age of tension: fullness has come and fullness is not yet.
I often get caught not being at peace with not being at peace.
Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? It didn’t matter. I was tormented day and night. I am sometimes ambivalent about being alive. I should reach out for prayer. I should reach out to someone. But I didn’t.
Dan arrived home and I shared my shameful mistake with the recyclable container. He groaned with me and that only made me feel worse! He suggested I take the container down with a note of apology. I emptied our five days of my recyclables and taped a note apologizing. I rolled it down to the end of our street feeling exposed in my incompetence. To my horror, someone had finally taken it away. I couldn’t bear to wheel it home and left it there and high-tailed it home swiftly without rumbling wheels on the asphalt. I begged Dan to drive down and get it. I couldn’t escape my shame no matter how many times I prayed or tried to work it through, but asking for a covering from having to go down again began to restore my addled heart.
We can’t resolve shame alone. We need the presence of someone not caught in our mire to snatch us out of the flood. As I heard the wheels of our purloined recyclable container on the stones of our driveway I heard the Spirit say, “Becky, you are a blessing even in your ways that don’t measure up. You are my beloved and those rumblings of not being perfect are not from me.”
I wish that my week of agitated indictments had not happened; but they did. The thief was roiling my heightened ambivalence and working to pulverize me under the weight of my shame. It didn’t win. It can’t win when I am able to be well in not being well and trust that God’s kind face is true no matter how damned I feel. I filled my recyclable bin with a smile and left it the following week with a note that said:
“My Error: Your Bin. Glad to trade. Glad to keep what I didn’t mean to steal. All is well.”
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 42 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!
Oh Becky! I am right there with you in the crushing accusations! As I read your description of this experience, my chest tightened and I noticed I was holding my breath. It sometimes feels impossible to shake the hold of evil that clamps it’s jaws down on the peace and rest I know are mine to embrace. Thank you for the honesty of your writing. It brings such care to the places where my spirit is parched. Blessings and much love to you and Dan.
Thank you Christine for taking the time to reply (and re-post!). I love how you worded this: “It brings such care to the places where my spirit is parched.” Thank you. Our spirit does get parched!
Becky, I loved this story! I related to it in every level, and you were able to describe what I struggle with so often.
Thank you for this profound, yet simple, descriptive vignette of life.
Also on another note- I would love to see pictures of some of your 17th century reproduction needleworks. I have collected some old cross stitched samplers, but they are not that old! The big art museum in Cambridge, England (I can’t think of the name!), has an incredible collection of very old samplers. Have you ever seen them? I took lots of pictures of them last year. Take care, Mookie
Thank you Mookie! Wouldn’t it be great to not receive those accusatory messages Or at least stand in defiance of them??? Facebook message me (My author page is Becky Allender) or regular page (Becky Gilbert Allender). I would love to see some photos of your samplers. A friend gave me five of her one hundred year old ones that she got at an auction in VA years ago. Which was SO KIND and unexpected. They ones that I have done were done years ago….as I am needlepointing pillows for each grandchild. I find it is much harder for me to sit still these days. Plus, I have three Hawaiian quilts to quilt for my three children…hopefully, before my eyesight gets worse!!
Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. It is in reading the stories of others that I am better able to name what is going on in my own heart and story and also to be encouraged by the truths they have gleaned. I was especially touched by the words from God about her value and worth whether she ‘measures up’ or not. I’m so seeking to learn this myself in my own life because shame and feeling ‘less than’ has stolen so much in my story and I want to say ‘hell, no!!!” to the enemy in my life!
Thanks for Red Tent Living and your authenticity and vulnerability to share the struggles of the journey in your own lives!!
Dear Jill, I am thrilled that you are learning to not receive unkind words about yourself. Hell no is right! I pray that what has been stolen from your story will be redeemed ten fold!!! Thank you Jill for your reply.
Thank you for courageously sharing your shame and ambivalence. Your words, “Becky, you are a blessing even in your ways that don’t measure up. You are my beloved and those rumblings of not being perfect are not from me,” brought to tears. I heard God saying these to me through your words. Thank you. And I felt the joy of God’s goodness in your words, “It can’t win when I am able to be well in not being well and trust that God’s kind face is true no matter how damned I feel.” To be reminded of God’s kind face regardless of how I feel has brought me a measure of new hope. Thank you.
I am blessed by your words, encouraged by your courage, and set more free by your reminders of who God is and who I am to Him. Thank you.
Much love to you and Dan,
Thank you Erin…so much for your kind words. I am grateful that you “piggy-backed” on them and felt tears of love from God. That is wonderful! Love and hugs to you from me and Dan.
Quite a dramatic post!
Midge, thank you! I wish that I could claim that I won’t struggle with inadequacy and self-loathing ever again. I am so grateful that God never gives up on me. So grateful. Thank you for taking the time to reply, Midge. (P.S. I love the name Midge and don’t know anyone by that name!)
I love your open heart. I’ve been in so many binds lately with doing things imperfectly. I find old shame just wants to magnify my human mistakes. Recently, I’ve gotten the commercial lawnmower stuck multiple times. I’m shocked that in the middle of nowhere I continue to look around as if someone is coming to condemn my foolishness. It is such a relief to have you name the “not yet” and tension of the kingdom. Your note was so playful. Thank you for sharing.
Shandee, thank you for taking the time to reply! A commercial lawn mower!!! I would never have the courage to tackle that! I have been in awe of you before…and now with your bravery with commercial lawn mowers. May we cheer each other on in life when life seems to get the best of us.
Hugs across the many miles.
I am having one of those days today as it seems like the hint of fall in the air makes me notice all the deep cleaning organizing projects that need to be done. So strange. But the ambivalence comes in to play just as you gave words too. Thank you for your honesty Becky and for writing about an every day thing.
I just saw your reply…you have so much going on to think about deep cleaning. I wonder why our enemy wants us to be bogged down when so much is being required of us. I hope that you feel the freedom to not be worn out by what is not meant to be yours at this season. Thank you for understanding….
I love the sentences, “We can’t resolve shame alone. We need the presence of someone not caught in our mire to snatch us out of the flood.”
It is so beautiful that even though you had a hard time reaching out, the Spirit reached out for you!