I knew it was going to be a bad day from the second I opened my eyes and put my feet to the floor. I knew because I recognized that sense of defiance, weariness, and stubbornness sitting heavily in my heart again, those feelings that tell me this day’s going to be a fight from start to finish.
It didn’t help that it was a Sunday and that, as the pastor’s wife, I would be expected to do pastor’s wife things.
I went straight to the coffee pot and then, coffee in hand, stared at the cover of my Bible for a long while. I finally cracked it open, read a few pages, and furiously penned prayers in my journal. Like a seesaw, each sentence moved from surrender to defiance to surrender to defiance again. I just don't have what it takes for today, Lord. I don't have the strength to get my kids ready and go to church without help today. Can I please go back to bed?
The day had barely started and already I was thinking of getting to the end. I immediately felt bad about feeling this way, just as I always do when these thoughts arise. I’ve discovered that what makes a bad day worse is when I start thinking that it’s wrong for me to have bad days or berating myself for having a struggle or two.
Let’s face it, there are going to be bad days. Anyone with a potty-training toddler or a demanding job knows that. So the question isn’t, “Is it OK or not OK to have bad days?” The question is, “How will I respond to bad days?”
We can do what I did that Sunday morning. I resolved to just make it through what I needed to make it through. I tried to hide by holding babies in the kids' ministry and by cleaning up after people so that I didn’t really have to have conversations of any significance. With my defiant, stubborn little heart, I went through the motions, and I chose to pity myself at how I am forced to serve, forced into a role that, on days like the one I was having, I don't want, thank you very much. And I looked around and thought that if people knew what I was thinking and how horrible my heart is, they would finally have evidence of what a bad pastor's wife I am.
In other words, one response is that we can beat ourselves up and try to be better.
Or we can choose something else entirely. We can choose grace. Grace, by its very definition, assumes that there will be bad days and that do-overs are needed. And Christ, in His grace, offers not just the do-over but the power for the do-over.
That’s what God reminded me of on that Sunday, specifically bringing to mind Galatians 3:2-4:
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?...Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?
You see there, Christine? You see how you're focused on what you do? You see how you think spiritual transformation—yours included— is up to you?
Yes, I could see it. In fact, it's the story of my life that keeps morphing and infecting everything if I'm not vigilant to guard against it. I slip into defining myself based on my accomplishments or my performance rather than based on the grace of Christ. As a pastor's wife, it means I slip into evaluating my own performance based on the number and quality of conversations, connections, and acts of service. If I feel things are going well, then I am doing well. But I know this is dead religion; I know it's just me playing a role.
You're doing it again, Christine. You're attempting to work at something that I haven't asked you to work at. You're dictating to Me how I am honored. I don't want your obligatory service. I want you. I want to give you grace. I want you to stop thinking about what you do and simply receive My love. That's why I wanted you here today.
I realized that my defiant heart simply revealed my reluctance to admit weakness, that I actually couldn't pull myself up by my Pastor's Wife bootstraps to make myself feel better or make an impact on others. I realized that God wasn't exasperated by my weakness and failure. I realized the extent and power of His grace.
And I chose the grace response to my bad day.