When You Become an Awful Person

by Laura on September 6, 2010

“What happens when trying to follow Jesus turns you into an awful person?” This was the honest question Matt and I talked about last night on our downstairs couch, in the 15 minute-window we had where the kids were asleep and we had the energy to talk about the important.  It was a question born from another disappointing day.

A day when we both spoke too harshly to our kids.  A day when I was hot and annoyed and impatient.  A day when I chose to hide in the air conditioned bedroom by myself instead of reading with my kids.  A day when Matt left the house, and I didn’t even stop to say a proper goodbye.  A day when I felt sorry for myself and generally ungrateful and really just wanted to

Go. Home.

And last night in our 15 minutes of commiserating, we talked about an idea we had never thought of before. What if  the men who dropped nets to follow Jesus, became awful people in the process? What if they were more cheerful and less angry when they were just normal fishermen?

Because we dropped nets.  And here we are. And we both feel a whole lot awfuler.

And, somehow, I don’t think that’s what following Jesus should look like.  I mean, you step out in love and faith, and it’s supposed to make you a better person, right?  A more loving spouse, a better parent, a gentler soul? But what if your pursuit of the better makes you just worser in the process?

But, then we thought of Peter, and we crappy missionaries tasted a small bite of hope. Because this fisherman-turned-disciple seemed like a fairly awful person at times over his three years walking after Jesus.  He spoke too quickly and too harshly, and one time, Jesus himself equated him with Satan {not the best person to be compared to}.  And, at the end, when it really counted, Peter bailed on Jesus completely.  And that all seems pretty awful.

But the hope-part comes when we look into the last half of Peter’s life.  After Jesus had left, this big fisherman became Something Else entirely — inspirational, powerful, better.

And we got to thinking that maybe it’s not that the awful in his life {or in ours} was birthed by the journey away from the docks. Maybe the ugly was always there, but with the heat rising and the comforts being stripped, it just sloshed out more often and in bigger amounts.

And that is most definitely something we can identify with– the ugly spilling out more often and in bigger amounts.

And I don’t have answers {again} except to say that greater awfulness was most definitely not something I expected when trying to follow and obey and love.

But, then again, maybe the greater awful is just a gateway into Something Else.

Too bad it feels like such a stinkin’-long gateway.

Encountered anything unexpected along your journey lately?  Experiencing any awful yourself right now?

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  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com/ kendal

    I LOVE your honesty. I think I’m going to give up trying to predict or understand my journey….

  • noel

    So normal, Laura. Be patient with yourself.

  • http://www.lovewellblog.com Kelly @ Love Well

    I remember when a similar revelation rose up and slapped me across the face. I was just coming out of a major time of disorientation. I hated the selfishness and pettiness and the inner Pharisee that were exposed (ohsoexposed) in my life.

    I was thinking about it one morning as I sat outside on my front steps, drinking coffee. And I noticed how many tree branches were in the yard from the storm the night before. And I imagined the trees looking down at my limb-strewn yard and saying, “Yuck! Where did that come from! I’m not that rotting, yellow leafed thing.” But of course, the branches did come from them. It just took a storm to expose what was really there.

    I don’t always like God’s faithfulness to answer our prayers when we say, “Please, Lord, make me like You. Let me know You. Let me love like You.” But He is faithful, even faithful to prune and expose and purify.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Oh, Kelly, I LOVE this image of the tree and the storm. Have you written about that yet over at Love Well? Totally a rich picture, and such a good image of looking down at the mess we create with our own hands and hardly recognizing that THAT can really come from US. Thanks for sharing that, friend,
      Laura

  • Heather

    I think it is really beautiful that in the midst of the awful feelings and overwhelming tasks, you and Matt used your 15 minutes to lean on each other and talk about things that really matter. The two of you are unbelievably strong, courageous, and inspiring.

  • http://proverbs31ishwoman.wordpress.com brittany

    actually yeah, i have to admit that my life really sucks right now. everything i had set my path on suddenly fell off the path and then the path itself made a Uturn and brought me right back to the fork in the road.
    I know its hard. somehow, i have to believe its worth it. it doesn’t seem like it is right now, but He promised to be faithful to me no matter what

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Marla, Brittany, Heather, Noel, Kendall,

      Thanks, friends for the encouragement and for the kind admission that maybe there’s a bit (or a lot) of awful in each of us that rises to the surface when we hit roadblocks or crashes in the journey.

      Grateful for you grace, Laura

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    I love, love, love, love, LOVE this post, and I’m not even kidding. God is moving in my heart and life, and YES, it’s bringing out the awful.

  • http://www.everydayadventuresinfaith.blogspot.com Kim

    Oh … this was exactly how I was feeling last week. Then I read … James 3:2 which tells us that “WE ALL STUMBLE IN MANY WAYS.”
    ALL of us. In MANY ways.
    Praying for you from Hong Kong,
    Kim

  • http://thehappenins.blogspot.com mandi

    I am always telling my hubby that I never realized how much of a sinner I was until I married & had kids. It’s just God using their iron to sharpen my iron :{ I had never equated this time to Peter’s- thank you for the revelation and hope =]

    Praying for ya~

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Yes, Mandi, don’t kids just bring selfishness out of you? It constantly reminds me how self-centered and impatient and demanding and unforgiving I can be. Glad you were encouraged. And thanks for praying. Truly.

      L

  • http://www.kleighjar.com Kleigh

    My favorite sentence:

    “… maybe the greater awful is just a gateway into Something Else.”

    Yes.

  • http://www.frugalandfocused.com/ Janet

    I appreciate your honesty in this post so much. My circumstances aren’t nearly as extreme as yours but I feel the “awful” too. He is using these circumstances to empty us of the junk and instead of things just trickling out they overflow. Thankful to be able to hold onto hope!

    And agreeing that my favorite sentence is:

    “maybe the greater awful is just a gateway to Something Else.”

    Praying for you.

  • Anne-Marie

    Thanks Laura. I AM right there in my ministry. Aweful and ugly…and I wish I had encouraging words but right now I am just aweful and ugly and hating it…but trying to allow my Father to prune and not just cut off the branch that he is trying to prune. Love you and miss you friend.
    AM

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Anne-Marie and Janet,

      Thank you ladies for commiserating with me. There is a goodness, isn’t there, in knowing we are not alone in the struggle and the failing? Lots of Love to PRESS ON, Laura

  • http://www.tapestryofgrace-carol.blogspot.com Carol

    Laura,
    Have you heard this quote from John Stott, “If you could see my heart you would spit in my face”?
    I don’t have to reflect at all to have that quote resonate with me.
    When I read this I see a family that has, “put their hand in the plow” Wanting to go home and buying a plane ticket are not the same thing. Acting selfish and admitting selfishness are not the same thing.
    Moving is hard. Learning a new lanugauge is hard. Raising children is hard. Finding balance between ministry and home is hard. Marriage is hard. Doing ten million hard things at once is just shy of impossible. Except for the few among us who cling to Christ, weaknesses admitted, and beg for endurance. Keep clinging, or at least wanting to cling – and let Him take on that job too. I know that it is crazy to say that kind of drivle from a distant, familiar place. I know that it is a bit much to encourage from such a distance (in both geography and time), but I also know what you have already overcome. More than many of us will withstand in twice as much time. You have clung to God in the face of deep sorrow, great challenges, and exhausting days. You have laid aside dreams, ambition, desire all to follow. And He is saying, “again.” And you are saying, “I will try.” And our trying always feels weak and insuffecient. And it is. For all of us. And the more we know our weakness the more we see His glory.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Carol. There are tears in my eyes as I read this encouraging note, friend. THANK YOU. Thanks for taking the time to write and speak hope. It means more than you could know. Truly and Really.

      Laura

  • flyinjuju

    Laura,
    I just started reading your blog, love it!! This post is wonderful timing for me. my 4th is 5mo and the our oldest is five, and it is now that I am seeing me at my ugliest. So even here at home, with all the comforts, my heart is blessed by your words. I pray that you have an amazing day and are renewed in strength. May God bless you in a special way!
    Joy in Jesus.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Wow–you definitely have a load, my friend. There is something about mothering multiple little people in those first years–the sleep deprivation, the constant needs, the chaos, the noise–that strips us and breaks us and humbles us. Motherhood is HARD. Man, it just IS so often. Hang in there, as you trudge through your own awful . . . and see God redeem even the crappiest of moments. Hang in there . . . . and thanks for reading. :)

      Laura

  • Liz S.

    Such a good question, such a good post! (I’ve been reading you for a while, but haven’t commented before-) thanks for sharing yourself and your insights and what you’re learning as you go. It’s really inspiring. God bless.

  • Brenda Ragan

    Dearest,
    When the awful in us is revealed, we see how great the adequacy of God must be as we serve Him. (II Corinthians 3:5-6)
    Moving from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:18)isn’t always glorious, but make no mistake that God is doing His BEST work when He reminds us that we are desperate for Him. Oh, the hope of the Something Else.
    Thank you for your honesty and for remembering that God has called you out and He is faithful. I’m so glad He’s a ‘clingable’ God! Aren’t you? Love, MOM

  • Tamara

    OH! Love this post (yes, there is awfullness RIGHT HERE in me, RIGHT NOW)!
    Love the COMMENTS (will so enjoy meeting everyone “one day”)!
    If I were to comment on the post and then on the comments, this would go on and on . . .
    So: Thank you, Jesus for Your love, Your patience, Your guidance through Your Word and Your Children (all of us!)!
    Praying for your continued strength while relying on Him!

  • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

    This went straight to my heart. I am sitting here in my unusually quiet house for a Saturday morning and catching up on blog reading. I have found my way here before, and today was timely!

    I am a wife and mother of 4 girls. Your words about the girls you reach are inspiring. Next week, my husband, who works with a Christian missions organization will travel to Thailand for 11 days. I will be home for all of that time – alone with the 4 girls. And sometimes, even though I stay home, and teach them myself, and love being with them…. I am awful. I yell. I cry. I over parent. And my heart really is to disciple, but most days I just fail miserably. And next week, when my husband is gone…my chances for failing are, well even higher!

    But this post – has gripped me and I’m thinking this gateway to something else is so true. My hope is that somewhere in that gateway – I lose myself and gain more of Jesus.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Stacey, I hear you. I have had my husband take several long trips, and it is brutal to be the one who stays home with the kids. Homeschooling. Single parenting. Doing the trash and the laundry. This is a hard, hard place of service and obedience you are about to walk through. I’ll pray for endurance and hope and grace . . . and maybe no so much awful.

      Thanks for stopping by . . . .

      Laura

  • Shannon

    Thank you Laura for this one! Sometimes I find my awfulness making me want to run and hide instead of pressing through. I find it stems from my own selfishness and laziness and wanting things to go my way instead of where they are going. It reminds me of James 4 when he talks about why there is war and strife; it is because of our own selfish desires…we want and do not have! I have tried so many times to be a “better” mom and wife only to find myself frustrated and short with those I am trying so hard to be “better” for. I am learning to surrender to God in each and every moment. I cannot fight this selfishness on my own and must rely on His strenght at each step. And I must admit that I get weary. But He tells me not to get weary in well-doing so I push on and pray that one day the turning of every moment over to him will not seem like such a chore, that it will become natural to seek Him instead of my natural desire to be selfish and lazy! I want life to be easy and not have to be so disciplined at every moment. Part of the sanctification process…skimming off the yuck so He can bring out the good underneath. Just keep pressing through, don’t grow weary!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Shannon, Thanks for this response and honest comment. What a good picture of the struggle between wanting to “will” ourselves to be better people and the reality of complete dependence on God to create the change, in response to our constant laying down and “dying to self.” Such a long, hard process . . . and such an exhausting one.

      Thanks for the encouragement to not give up . . . .

      Right back at you, friend.

      Love, Laura

  • http://boosharesnews.blogspot.com Bekah S

    I feel this so much, Laura. The moving to a new place where the need so heavy and wanting to bring change and love and only seeing the ugly in myself each day. Feeling like the more I give and love the more its revealed in me this evil and gross.
    Being stripped bare in a foreign place brings out the best and worst and allows Him more space to come and move and shake up and grow in us and when we are so broken awful He is good.
    Keep believing He is working out good in you and Matt and the kids. I see it. I’m better for it.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Oh Bekah.

      Thank you. For taking time to encourage. And relate. And speak hope.

      It was needed on a night like tonight. Desperately.

      Lots of love, Laura

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  • http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com JamesBrett

    kuhn sabai dee mai krahp? (sorry for the poor transliteration there)

    i clicked over from ‘missionary confidential,’ where they’ve highlighted your blog today. congrats on the link.

    i haven’t read through all the comments here (you’re quite the popular blogger), so forgive me if i say something that’s already been said. but i believe a lot of the process of becoming “the better” involves the ability to process the “the worst.” when we can sit down at night and reflect on how we acted that day, in what ways we were obedient to God’s voice and in what ways we weren’t, when we can meditate on scripture and allow it to remake our thoughts, when we pray for the Spirit’s transformation in our lives — when we are doing these things, i believe we’re in the right place.

    and it sounds as if you are.

    may God encourage you and your family, and bless you greatly for the work you’re doing. may culture shock become less and patience and transformation more. and above all may God be glorified in chiang mai, thailand. amen.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Brett, Thanks for stopping by, for speaking Thai, and for encouraging, and for PRAYING. that is always, always one of the greatest gifts given–even across miles.

      Just checked out your work and life overseas, too . . . will be visited your family over there, too.

      All the best,
      laura

      • http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com JamesBrett

        my wife and i intend to one day move to thailand, open a business to support our mission work, and later retire there. we absolutely love being there. and i’m so very jealous of you guys. be blessed.

  • Megan

    Dear Laura…I have “met” you through my friend Adeye and am most blessed to make your acquaintance! Over the past two weeks I have experienced with great pain and humility how following Jesus involves no automatic sainthood or easy decisions. I am certain that this phenomenon is designed to keep us humble. I recently posted my strong, heartfelt conviction that Halloween is a trick and not a treat, on my Facebook status update. A few Christian friends agreed and an equally loved Atheist friend said “Bah Humbug etc etc”. I replied with even more of my strong heartfelt convictions and in so doing hurt an American Facebook friend who felt judged by my words. She did not join in the talk on my wall, just sat at home feeling mortified. I stand by my strong, heartfelt convictions but am also mortified to have hurt my friend and to have had her feel judged by me for even a second. If only she knew my heart (she professes atheism and has made it clear she does not want to talk about my heart on this subject). That I am just a much forgiven sinner experiencing God’s grace and loving it so much that I have to share. I cannot keep quiet. If I discovered a new beauty product that kept my skin young until age 100 she would want to hear all about it. Why can’t I warn her about the spiritual battle going on “behind the Matrix”?? Because she doesn’t want me to. And now I have lost my friend. What would Jesus do? I have no idea!!! I look forward to hearing your thoughts. xxx

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Megan,

      First off, let me say that I totally hear you–when there is misunderstanding and hurt and you feel like things are “not right” between you and a friend– Ugh, hate that. Glad you hate it, too. I think that says a lot about the goodness of your heart for others. :)

      I’m not sure if you are coming from S. Africa (like Adeye), or America, but I do think that in America, CONVERSATION about faith is really important in the modern faith culture. I’ve found that when I draw a line in the sand too publicly about an issue, than the conversation usually stops. Obviously everyone is different, but I just think that Americans in the post-modern culture can get very easily offended when it comes to matters of Christian faith/politics/morality, etc. Maybe that’s a backlash from a lot of different things.

      Have you read the article I recently posted by Shaun Groves about Cones and Holes? It’s a great one about returning to the basics of Jesus-love and not getting too “die-hard” about any one issue/rule. It is here, if you want to check it out :

      http://shaungroves.com/2010/10/cones-holes/

      I think its always important, too, the WHERE we talk about our convictions. Facebook is highly public and the audience is wide and varied. No matter what the topic, I think its hard to hear black-and-white convictions from a friend who doesn’t hold your same beliefs– it’s hard not to come away feeling less, feeling judged–and I think that’s true of lots of things– politics, diet, homosexuality, alcohol,and faith, etc.

      And having said that, it seems like your heart is really heavy over the hurt of your friend, and the best way to pursue that is in HUMILITY and PURSUIT. She needs to know that she is loved and accepted by you– no matter what she believes about God or Halloween or whatever. And she needs to know that you are sorry for your communication that may have made her feel judged.

      Please know that this “advice” comes from someone who is pretty heavy on grace and has lots of nonChristian friends (to my great benefit!!). I have learned more, honestly, from my relationships with my nonChristian friends than I have in many groups with Christians. It’s awesome to hear that you have several friends who are atheists–that means that you are showing acceptance to people of all walks of life, and that’s awesome. :)

      I know that was long. I really appreciate your heart and your willingness to ask for advice. Please let me know how it goes–and please let me know what you think about this response and the Shaun Groves article.

      I’ll be praying for you, Megan. I think it’s awesome that you haven’t written her off–she’s obviously a friend worth fighting for. :)

      Lots of love from here,
      Laura

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  • http://apilgrimsproject.blogspot.com amy in peru

    or maybe we’re finding out just how awful we’ve been all along? and now we realize it, we are SO much more appreciative of GRACE?

    she who is forgiven much, loves much… that’s me.

    amy in peru

  • http://www.carrfamilyof3.blogspot.com Gina

    Hi there, Laura. I just stumbled across your blog through blogfrog. It looks like you wrote this post a few months ago, but this is so timely for me today!! Here we are getting ready to move our family to Africa. We’re not even there yet experiencing all the discomforts and strains and “awful” is already coming out of me. I’ve been having thoughts of doubt and discouragment about even going when I look at the awfulness of my heart lately. Thank you for the guts to be so honest. It has encouraged me greatly.
    Bless you,
    Gina

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Wow, Gina- Africa!

      Oh, friend, i remember well the struggle of the move– the boxes and transition and details and stress and exhaustion . . .and the doubt that creeps and the ugly that spills out. UGH. Let me say that IT IS HARD, just because sometimes it’s nice for someone else to validate that reality. Hang in there . . . nothing of value comes without a cost.

      Can’t wait to learn more of your story. Please stop by again and keep me posted . . .

  • http://blog.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    This is a terrific post! Thanks for linking it to Works-for-Me Wednesday.

    Last year during Lent, I read The Last Week by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. They make an interesting point that a lot of what the 12 disciples did really gives us examples of what NOT to do, that the story of Jesus’ last week is in part a story of failed discipleship. Like that argument about which one of them is the greatest–what dweebs they were! Yet they’re also an example of how imperfect people like us can do great things for God.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Becca, sounds like a good read . . . and fitting for me. I often think maybe my journey should be a story of what NOT to do/be as a “missionary”! Thank heavens for grace upon grace upon grace, right?

      Thanks for stopping by . . .

  • http://www.sixbrickshigh.com Jamie

    Just found your blog this morning and I have spent more time here today than I dare admit. Got so caught up reading this morning that I was late to church, and um, I’m the pastor’s wife. I know I should have been there early to be kind and greet everyone, but sometimes I grow weary of trying to live up to all those (mostly self-imposed) expectations. So, I’m back here this evening reading all your previous posts. My heart has been encouraged and refreshed! I so wish I had something encouraging to say to you, but all I got is ‘thanks’…thanks for sharing your Jesus lovin’ heart! You inspire!

    I will pray for you; for you and your family! I promise, I really will.

    Jamie

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  • Chamberlain Lc

    LOL! I love being an honest Christian. It really catches people off guard. Mostly surprises other Christians and non Christians relate to me more. I consider the latter being more important anyway. For instance, while at church yesterday I was asked how I was doing, I showed a two entheusiastic thumbs down and cried. At the end of the service we pray for each other and the person who I originally told, said that I was so important in the congregation and she personally is so blessed to have me there. Oh, and that morning my 8 year old said I was being mean to my 4 year old. Pride be gone!!! I will teach my children about forgiveness by asking for it!!

  • Rich

    In the prefield training I give potetial career missionaries we try to warn them about the “becoming awful” stage.  I tell them that about half way through our first year I told somone that I hate the “me” that I have become in this place, that I’m not normally this angry and grumpy.  It came to a head about nine months in when I turned to my wife and told her “I don’t love you right now and I don’t think I ever will again!” Thankfully it turned a corner about 5 months later!

    • lauraparkerblog

      Rich, I love that– “I hate the Me I have become!” Sooo get that!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Denise

    I led a life that looked good on the outside for a long time and hid (tried to hide) from my CHRISTIAN FRIENDS.  However, when I really surrender everything and really try to live out this Christian walk… it is and gets messy and does not look like the designer clothes I wear to church.  I appreciate your blog, your ministry, and your honesty.  Life is hard and messy at times even for Christ followers. Our hope is found in him and in the our community that we are not alone…in our selfishness, grumpiness, impatience, lack of self control.   Trust that God will give you enough grace to surpass mistakes and enough love so what spills out is love even if you dont feel like being lovely.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thanks so much, Denise. This was encouraging on many levels.

      I really appreciate your words . . .. love that idea of “love spilling out even when you don’t feel like being lovely.”

      hugs from here,
      Laura

  • Hannah

    Wow–this is amazing–I am sitting here right now just reading this in tears! I’ve been serving as a missionary for the first time and dealing with this stage–this is really something I needed to hear. Ahhh! Thank you!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Sweet Hannah,

      YOU ARE NOT CRAZY or AWFUL. Truly. Living overseas, especially that first year, is brutal– brutal. Stuff comes out of you because of intense stress and culture shock and isolation that you never knew was there. This is so very normal and doesn’t mean that you suck at loving Jesus and it doesn’t mean you are a terrible missionary. Just give yourself grace and time and just PERSEVERE. Don’t give up. God’s got this.

      The song I listened to a million times during this period of hard for me was Misty Edwards’ “I Knew What I Was Getting Into”- It’s a really good reminder that God sees the whole story and called you there, anyway . . . Might be an encouragement.

      Prayers to you tonight from here,
      Laura

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