The emotional and physical reserves of a woman are not without limits. Between kids, family, and community, demands placed on a woman can sometimes feel overwhelming.
This was my lot the week of homecoming. Our high schoolers were beyond busy with their usual sports and extracurriculars. All our evening activity essentially doubled. Not to mention, my dear in-laws traveled a grueling seven hours to come to see us for the week.
As usual, the house needed cleaning, and all the meals and activities seemed to squabble for my attention. I wanted their stay with us to be as organized and enjoyable as possible. So much to do and so little time.
But when our neighbor passed away homecoming night, something inside me unraveled.
Without warning, I found myself streaming tears. I would be in mid-sentence and then would have to excuse myself to find a Kleenex box.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I keep myself together?
I found my thoughts kept circling back to the fact that I did not know her as well I wanted. Regrets perched above my heart like black-feathered scavengers searching for another piece to rip out.
“I should have done more for her. I could have made more meals. I should have visited her more often.”
All I could hear were the squawks of self-loathing and condemnation. As I realized there was no more time to care for her now, I felt shame. Even though I visited with her, sent over food, and oversaw the kids walk her dog from time to time, it still didn’t seem like enough.
“How can you call yourself a good Christian? A good Christian would have done more.”
These self-condemning thoughts were not new for me. I didn’t battle cancer like my neighbor, but I was always in a battle with chronic shame or self-condemning thoughts. I expected much more from myself. I feared perhaps, she did, too.
Before my in-laws left to go home that week, my mother-in-law asked if I would try on her sapphire ring. So I slid it on my finger, and it fit perfectly. It was a beautiful baby blue square-cut jewel with tiny diamonds along the edges. It was very fancy. Probably the nicest ring I’d ever put on my hand. I immediately thought to myself. “This is a real signature ring. Almost like a signet ring.” She told me to wear it until she came back to visit again.
I often marvel at how God works. Interestingly a few days after the ring bestowal, He pointed me to the story of Esther in the Defined Bible Study book I was currently teaching.
In Esther’s story, she is hard-pressed over an edict that cannot be revoked because it has been sealed by the king’s royal signet ring. The edict was connived by Haman, the king’s right-hand man, who hated the Jewish people. It called for their complete destruction. Though the king was unaware, Esther had been born a Jew, so this edict threatened her life even as his queen, as well.
Sometimes the voice I hear in my head reminds me of Haman. It calls for my destruction with its condemning bellows.
In ancient times, a signet ring carried with it enormous power. The seal from a signet ring indicated the sender was usually of high stature and the contents very important. And in Esther’s case, the seal of the king’s signet ring left the edict irreversible.
Esther’s people faced annihilation if she didn’t take action.
All the odds seemed to be against her. She was a woman, a Jew by birth, and she could not approach the king unless summoned. After much prayer and fasting, she boldly approached the king, risking her life and limb to appeal on behalf of her people.
In the end, she exposed the evil behind Haman’s plot and her people were spared with an amendment to the original edict permitting her people to defend themselves against anyone who would try to attack them. It was an incredible victory given the historical context of the story.
But this got me thinking about the ring I now wore, how it reminded me of a signet ring, and the context of the self-condemning thoughts I had been battling over my neighbor’s recent passing.
In the Defined book, I recalled how the gift of the Holy Spirit is like the Lord’s signet ring for us as believers. It’s a promise, an endowment of our secure salvation. Someday we will be fully saved by Christ and enjoy the fullness of heaven when he returns. He has sealed our salvation and confirmed it with his Holy Spirit. By this, we can know we are children of God.
Like the ancient seal of a signet ring being irrevocable, so is the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. (Hebrews 13:5).
He guides me unto all truth (John 16:13). He intercedes on my behalf to the Father (Romans 8:26-27). He comforts, counsels, and guides me to greater freedom (John 14:26, 2 Cor. 3:17).
As I considered again, my regret over the loss of my sweet neighbor, I chose to counsel my heart with the help of the Holy Spirit. “There is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2
When the crow’s caw condemnation, I am called to seek strength from the Spirit.
Though there was little I could do after my dear neighbor’s passing, I found a higher place to take my thoughts. While I regretted how I did not do more for her while she was with us, I would not allow it to continue to condemn me. Instead, I would courageously approach the facts as I saw them but now with greater truth and some needed amendments.
The Fact: I wish I had done more for her while she was still with us.
Truth Amendment: “Teach us to number our days carefully, that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Psalm 90:12
Don’t take this life for granted.
No one knows the number of days he has. Each of us should do our best to make the most of them. We should do what we can to love those around us.
The Fact: Whether I like it or not, there are limits to all I can do. The demands of my family rightfully take precedence over all other areas of my life.
The Truth Amendment: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
We must learn to be at peace with our limitations.
What we can do is to be available in loving our neighbors. God is able to oversee the rest.
The Fact: I failed to know my incredible neighbor fully while she was with us.
The Truth Amendment: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
Through the help of the Holy Spirit, I found the needed conviction to do differently in the future. From this, I have learned and grown.
Whether the world we live in finds fault in us or the blame we feel comes from within, we are not condemned. With each struggle, each testing, and each conviction, we are blessed and gifted with the Holy Spirit. His presence alone assures that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). And as God’s children, we are blessed with His presence as we learn and grow in godliness to the world around us.
 Kendrick Brothers. Defined. B&H Publishing 2019, pg.174