It was not a good week last week.
If you had asked me on Friday what the problem was, I would have said there were behavior issues galore. At one point I thought the kids had conspired to drive me insane. One day everyone was "red zoned" by nine o'clock. I spent one swim practice telling the same child repeatedly to keep his hands off the smaller child he was bullying. I had a difficult encounter with a person and I did not respond well. I was working hard but not getting enough done. It was like the universe itself was set against me.
You know what, though? My answer has changed. The problem last week was me. I was not loving.
I had a moment towards the end of the week where I suddenly stopped midstride and said to myself, "Nothing I am doing matters at all." I was completely convinced of it. Nothing seemed to have changed, but this work that I do that I normally regard as world - changing (because if helping to shape little lives doesn't make the world better, I don't know what does!) suddenly seemed meaningless. So what if kids learned to swim. So what if they swam fast or didn't DQ on their backstroke flipturn. So what if M learned to read. Everything seemed very unimportant. I was unimportant.
It took me days longer than it should have to remember:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have no love, I am just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have enough faith to move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have no love, I am nothing.
Love is patient and kind... It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful (ouch)... Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 13)
It stings to realize that you've invalidated yourself in a way that nobody else has the power to do. And it hurts - it really, really hurts, in a feeling small, injured heart of way - to realize that not only have you failed, but you failed in the one area of your life you've long claimed is the one most important to you.
In fact, in a true "pride before fall" moment, I posted this last week on my Instagram:
"I read this quote yesterday by Anna McCarthy (www.justajesusfollower.com): "I am designed to love and love well." It hit home powerfully and stuck with me all day. There are (a lot of) days where I'm not doing anything particularly well. Where I struggle to do any one thing well... But I love well... I love passionately, deeply, fiercely. I have found my purpose in life, and I am infinitely, perfectly designed for it."
It's ironic how it only takes a few weak moments to lose track of what is most important. And you know what? It's funny that nothing in my life changed last week. I didn't do anything differently. Nobody watching would have seen any change. But my heart had shifted, and while it was misaligned, I was right - nothing I did mattered.