Yesterday my husband Ray and I were having a conversation about a relative who has basically gone “no contact” with our entire family, out of hurt and offenses. Although we have done our best to make amends with this person, and to ask forgiveness for any wrongs committed, relationships remain strained. My fervent prayer (daily) is for reconciliation.
I was sharing with Ray how deeply hurt I am over the situation, and Ray’s frustrated response was, “I know it hurts. This hurts me, too. But we can’t wallow in the hurt, Beth! We can’t stay there for the rest of our lives. We need a future!”
I knew Ray was speaking the truth. His word wallow bothered me a lot. The definition of “wallow” is:
to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed manner (like a pig wallowing in the mud);
to take unrestrained pleasure in something (like silk sheets);
to become abundantly supplied (like a family wallowing in sudden wealth);
to indulge oneself immoderately (like wallowing in self-pity);
to become or remain helpless.
No, I don’t want to be a victim, wallowing in hurt, anger, and self-pity! I want to be free in Christ. Jesus died for this freedom and for me and those I love to have an abundant life!
Pigs, hippopotamuses, elephants, rhinoceroses, warthogs, and bison instinctively wallow in dirt, mud, snow, or water. They do this for temperature regulation, parasite removal, and sun protection (their skin can get sunburned). They may also rub their scent glands around wallowing areas, possibly to mark their territory.
But as humans, our protection is in God. We can’t control what other people do or don’t do. But we can be responsible for ourselves and our own growth. We don’t have to stay stuck in the devastating hurt, or anger, or confusion. We don’t need to wallow in anything.
“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
“For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.” (Psalm 91:3-6, NASB)
In the article, Sitting with your stuff vs. wallowing, Coach Kate Swoboda writes that “wallow” conjures up images of being stuck, hopeless, sad or defeated, and “perhaps even a little pissed,” yet being a total victim and doing very little about making any changes whatsoever.
It’s like you being seated on a plane to fly to your eagerly-anticipated vacation destination, but the plane is still sitting on the tarmac, going nowhere. Or you sitting on a train, yet the train is not moving on the rails.
It’s important not to avoid your “stuff,” since whatever you repress just gets stronger. But blowing up at whoever you’re upset with and telling him or her exactly what you think might not be wise, either.
Kate says the difference between “sitting with your stuff” versus “wallowing” is in the Story. Some stories, like people are generally full of good intentions and do their best, serve you.
But a story that people are just mean and selfish doesn’t serve you well. In these situations where you believe that people are always mean, you might think, “Why does this always happen to me? My life feels like it will never change. It never works out.” You are, yes, wallowing!
In the first story, sitting with your stuff instead of wallowing, you might think, “I don’t like how this feels. I’m so sad. Yet this where I’m at right now. This really sucks. But it won’t last forever.”
Kate encourages us to make space for the parts that make us human (where we might be inclined to wallow, i.e., the emotional pain), but not let it define us. And as my husband Ray said, to not let it be our future.
I personally believe forgiveness is a large part of not letting hurts define us. Forgiveness takes time, God’s power, and our will. It is not an easy or quick fix, but necessary for spiritual growth and maturity.
Understanding our true identity in Christ also helps set us free. No one and nothing else defines who we are: a royal daughter (or son) of the King!
Are you wallowing about anything right now? I encourage you to bring it to God and let Him help heal you so that you can move forward with your life and God-designed purpose. One day at a time.
A good resource to help you with this issue is Coffee with God: Starting Your Day Right With Prayer & The Bible. You can get this encouraging eBook at Amazon here.
Today I made a mini-escape from hurts this week and I drove to Harrisonville, Missouri, which is a bigger city north of my tiny, rural town (meaning out in the sticks!) of Butler, and ate Mexican.
I posted the pic on Instagram and Twitter with the title, “When everything is falling apart around you, and all else fails, eat chips and salsa. I could eat it every single day!” I love them so much, and my husband Ray jokes that when the Mexican waiters see me coming, they hide the salsa because I always ask for two bottles. I add salt to the salsa, because I seem to crave the salt. Today’s seemed especially satisfying.
Afterward, I went to the Harrisonville Lake and park, where I often took our children when I homeschooled them to play, for picnics, and to walk the nature trail. Today was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. It was peaceful and relaxing.
A man was fishing at the lake, and it reminded me of my hard-working husband Ray, who loves to fish and who desperately needs to fish sometimes.
“And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, AKJV)
Two geese were near the fisherman and I saw numerous geese at the park.
Going to the lake and walking the nature trail was a much needed, healing balm to my soul. God spoke to my heart in many ways while I was there. Some of this I will share about here, and some I will continue to reflect on and ponder.
The first thing I noticed as I entered the park were the beautiful flowers. Our beautiful daughters Heather and Leah especially love fresh flowers, and I thought of them.
As I got out of my car to admire the lake, I noticed an older woman sitting at a bench with a dog on a leash. I wondered about her, and thought I could write about her in a future fiction book. For writers, anything is fodder. My family knows by now that anything they say or do may wind up as content for one of my speaking presentations, books, or blog posts!
Who was she? Why was she alone at the lake, except with her dog? Had her husband of many years died and she was a lonely widow? Had her children forgotten her or no longer wanted her involved much in her lives any more?
Was she a bitter, sad, depressed person, or was she simply happy and content being alone, being with her dog who was her best friend? (Maybe she was glad her husband was dead as they had a terrible marriage, and that her kids were all grown; it was time for a new chapter and do other things now!)
I watched as a grandpa who was wearing a jacket with a veterans logo showed his granddaughter the lake and pointed to the geese, and her daddy skipped stones across the lake with her. What a precious memory. After awhile, they started to go to their car and asked the little girl, “Are you ready to go and eat now? Want a hot dog?”
The hot dog remark reminded me of my mother’s eyes lighting up when she saw me and asking me that same question many years ago, when I visited her in my college years. My mom and I weren’t close, so this is a happy memory for me. I don’t eat them much now, but kids love ’em.
The veteran grandpa reminded me of my husband Ray, who is “Papa” to our four precious grandchildren, with one on the way. I prayed that Ray would be able to do things like this for many years with our grandchildren.
Next, I drove over to where the nature trail was. Perfect day for a walk. I noticed the staff had put up something new on the Natural Trail sign: “Watch out for snakes.” That was almost enough to make me turn around, but I put my brave on. If I hadn’t gone on the trail, I would have missed God’s blessings–the beauty and how He spoke to me personally.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I watched carefully for snakes, because I am terrified of them. However, I did think seeing one (from a very safe distance) might make a good picture for my blog. That didn’t happen, although I did see what I thought might be a “snake track” (a big S on the dirt trail) a couple of times.
I did notice right away in the lake what seemed to be a family of turtles sunbathing on a log. One was swimming in the water nearby. Two bigger ones were on one side of the log, and seven others were on the other. It reminded me of our family, who has this exact number of people right now–with one grandbaby on the way in November.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
I soon came to a fork in the road on the trail. We all have a choice as to how we will live our lives–to follow Jesus and God’s loving, good ways, or not. Which path will you choose today?
The fork spoke loudly to me about how I needed to change some things in my life and choose a different path…as well as others I love.
I felt myself relax as I walked the trail. I intentionally breathed in the fresh air, tried to fully use my senses, and paid attention all around me to the beauty of God’s creation.
I stopped when I saw two bees drinking nectar from a white flower bush. I wish I knew the name of the flowers; they resembled azaleas in south Georgia, where I grew up.
“One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…”–Leo Tolstoy
I tried to capture a picture of them, but they were flying too fast. Probably a good thing that I went on, as I”m highly allergic to bees! As a child, I was stung by one on the bare foot, and my foot swelled up twice its size! However, I think bees are cute (when they aren’t stinging!)
This fork on the trail led to a bridge over the lake into a more remote part of the woods. A mom and her daughter were having a picnic in the middle of the bridge! It was so cute. Another sweet memory. I remembered picnics Ray and I had with each other and our kids.
I didn’t want to interrupt their fun, or make them have to move by crossing the bridge, so I turned around and walked on the other path. When I saw the bridge, I thought again of the fork on the trail and the choices we have in life, and took my pic by it as a good reminder…also of the eventual, eternal bridge we’ll have to cross one day when we die.
Later I saw the mom and the little girl, and chatted a minute with them.
She apologized for being on the bridge having the picnic, blocking my access to it, but I said, “Oh no, you were fine! That looked really fun. They grow up fast,” I said to her, and we looked at her child together, smiling.
The mom said, “Oh, I know! I have a teen now!” she said that her little girl had been a “surprise baby,” and was now 5 years old. I said I hoped they enjoyed their picnic and to have fun. To my amusement, as I walked off, the little girl said, “I want to go with her!” and started following me. Her mom called her back to look at the turtles again.
This spoke to me about how we are to follow Jesus, and make disciples.
As I continued on the trail, I looked up hearing birds singing, and the sunlight shone through the tall trees. The canopy of trees, their emerald green leaves dipped in sunlight, made beautiful pictures.
I was disappointed to not see a deer, rabbit, fox or other wildlife, but Harrisonville isn’t a rural town, so the animals are either not there or they hide well. I did see a couple and their child with a dog on the trail, who they said was a service dog in training for the man’s dad who was in the Army and now has PTSD. I stopped a minute to pet the dog, smile at the little girl, and tell them that service dogs are a good thing and I hope he helps his dad.
When I came to the end of the trail, I thought, “At the end of the trail. Now what?” I felt it applied to my current situation, kind of at a loss as to what to do or say. I would have to turn back around. I also feel it applies to the end of our journey here on earth.
I looked around and saw a set of steps on a hill. I’d never seen them before. Curious, I went up the stairs to see what was up there. It was a different lake, or perhaps the same lake, divided by the road. But you couldn’t see it until you went up the stairs. This reminded me of heaven.
When I turned around and walked back, this is when I saw the mom and her daughter, who had the picnic on the bridge. A few minutes later, as I went to my car, I saw them crossing the road, hand in hand. The little girl was carrying a walking stick in the other hand. I looked at them, thinking again how quickly time flies and that my children are now grown.
The mom and the daughter went to the park area, where the little girl got on the slides, and her mom sat on a bench watching her.
As I drove home, I noticed a truck in front of me with this sign: “You’re needed.” That was a great note to go home on.