My first few seasons as a coach’s wife were pretty terrible. We had one, then two, then three little ones. He was never home, and it seemed like when he was, he was asleep. I was up all night with babies and perhaps a wee bit emotional and a lot resentful when I saw my snoozing husband on the couch in the middle of a Saturday.
I was always irritated. If he wasn’t helping enough around the house? Irritated. If he wasn’t helping enough with the kids? Irritated. If he wasn’t home when he told me he was going to be home? Irritated. If he was taking too long to do something I asked him to? Irritated. If he napped? Irritated.
We would argue until we were too tired to argue, get along for a few days and then argue about the same things all over again because nothing ever got resolved. He thought he deserved more rest. I thought I deserved more help. Neither of us ever felt appreciated by the other.
It was an exhausting and ugly cycle.
But here we are at the end of September, smack-dab in the middle of season. Schedules are packed and hours are long and tensions are high. And we’re good. Like, really good. Now, that’s not to say we will be good all season long, because I know at some point we will get off, that’s marriage, but something has happened these last couple of years, something that’s made us more patient and given us more understanding. We’ve gotten better. It’s gotten easier. But it has nothing to do with us.
Sure, some of it is that our kids are getting older, but that’s not all of it. They’re still stressful and challenging. They still cause conflicts and frustrations. They’re still
I know some of it is getting used to the rhythms of the season, but that’s not all of it. As the kids get older, the activities multiply and it seems somehow harder to juggle everything than the years before.
But something has changed.
In Jeremiah chapter 2, the Lord is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah about the Israelites, God’s chosen people. The Israelites were the worst. Or really, they were just a lot like us. God proved his goodness to them over and over and over again, only to watch them turn away from him and revert to worshiping empty, worthless idols over and over and over again. In verse 13 God says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Broken cisterns. That cannot hold water.
We have a spring of living water, the good stuff, so readily available to us. “If you’ll JUST come to ME first,” the Lord whispers, “I’ll fill you up and you’ll be FULL. The kind of full that will pour into the ugly parts and the empty parts and change you from the inside out.”
But we don’t listen. Instead, we fill ourselves with all the things that just drain right out of us, right out of our broken cistern.
In those first seasons of exhaustion, I binge-watched Netflix and scrolled through social media with every spare moment of my day. I wasted my time away on mindless activities that zapped my brain cells and my soul. I was so DONE by nap time or bedtime, and I felt like I deserved that time to myself. But that time to myself never refueled me. I came out just as exhausted and stressed as I’d been before.
I had crafted myself a broken cistern. I’d fill it up, but all my joy and peace and compassion still seeped through the crevices and cracks, until it was once again empty. I filled up my tank, only to get a mile down the road before I was out of gas again. I wasn’t filling it with living water; I was filling it with muck, sludge, and junk. It was broken. I was broken.
I’ve learned I have more patience if I derive my patience from the crafter of Patience.
I’ve learned that if I want to feel peace, I need to experience Peace Incarnate.
I’ve learned that my tank stays full so much longer if I find my rest in the one who created Rest.
And by taking naps. Naps are really good for the soul.
When we offer our whole selves up to him and say, “Here God — I’m broken and I’m struggling, but can you do a good work in me? Can you help me?” He won’t forsake us. He will renew us, our hearts and our minds. It’s not an instantaneous change, but He will honor that time we spend with him by chipping away at our jagged parts bit by bit, day by day, year by year, until one day we look up and realize we’re smoother, gentler, kinder.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
These hard seasons are refining us, preparing us not only for next season but for eternity.
Think back. We are better at this than we were five years ago. We are better at this than we were last season. We are better at this than we were yesterday. Because the Holy Spirit is constantly working in us, renewing us, cleansing us of all the ways we’re getting it wrong.
It will get better, because we get better. Because God within us is making us better.
If my husband and I had stayed the same after that first season, we’d never have survived.
But somehow, I have more patience than I used to. Somehow, I smile and kiss him when he walks through the door, even if he’s two hours later than expected. Somehow, his naps don’t bother me anymore. And that’s not because of me.
That’s because God is a God of changed hearts, and hallelujah for that. Because football season is really long.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within in me.”