A Perfectionist, a President & a Preschooler: Perspective

A Perfectionist, a President & a Preschooler: Perspective

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like superwoman. Really, I thought I was rocking it. I bragged about how much I had accomplished to my husband. I bragged about the success of my toddler practically licking his plate clean at dinner on Facebook. I went to bed completely exhausted but super proud of myself. And then I woke up this morning and started cooking the pancakes I had sleepily put together and realized something was not right. The day before, the day where I was owning life, I forgot to put powdered buttermilk into the dry mix I proudly prepared. Which means this morning the tasty, tried and true, never fail pancakes I make each week were really ground oats and water. Nothing like cakes of gruel to usher some humility into your life!

Days like yesterday do not happen often in my life, and I am thankful because clearly I handle them so graciously! While I can take some pride in productivity and rejoice when my fickle offspring actually likes a homemade meal over a packet of mush, those victories do not increase my worthiness. Yesterday I felt worthy of any compliment given to me because I felt I had lived up to them. Today, as toys lay strewn across my living room floor, muddy paw prints cover my kitchen, and every meal has been a small battle lost to a squeezy packet, my worth as a daughter, mother, wife, and human is still the same as it was yesterday. I am beloved, held by God Himself with greater security than I can imagine in every moment on every day.

The aforementioned truth is one I struggle to believe and establish my foundation upon. If I am not careful, I will quickly find myself functioning as an agnostic, operating under the belief that God has somehow removed His hands from my life and the responsibility of maintaining this delicate house of cards is now entirely mine. In this mindset, the unimportant things are blown out of proportion, and the important, true things are minimized, increasing my propensity to panic and perform. The antidote to this neurotic trap may be working with two year-olds. You heard me: two year-olds.

The days following this election have been wrought with fear, grief or joy depending, and uncertainty for many across the country. This tends to be true after every election cycle, but the tension seems to have risen a degree or two this time around. I highly doubt I will ever stay up as late as I did on an election night again if the following morning promises a day spent with energetic pint size humans. However, my time with these littles this week has provided vital perspective in the midst of our current state of affairs. The office of the Presidency, the state of the economy, or the loss Clemson suffered from Pittsburg this weekend, has not stopped them from living up their second year of life.

It has not stopped them from playing their hearts out with one another, sharing their beloved dolls, trucks and balls with one another, and courageously extending offers of friendship to others. It has not stopped them from recognizing and meeting the needs of others without hesitation or discrimination. It has not stopped them from expressing themselves freely, emotionally, and without shame when they are feeling and thinking anything and everything. They do not care who you voted for, what neighborhood you live in, or whether or not you look, live, and think differently than they do, they just want to engage with you and have you engage with them. They know who they are, they know that they are loved, and in so very many ways they are the greatest kind of fearless. I believe it is because they know who they are, whose they are, and rest secure in those truths that they can live with bold optimism and precocious courage.

What if this is what Jesus meant when he pointed to the little children and told the crowds that to inherit the kingdom one would have to become like a child? What if the kingdom belongs to little ones such as these because, before they see anything in anyone, they see the Imago Dei? What if the kingdom exists in the fearless love we extend to those around us regardless of who they are, where they come from, and how they worship? What if we stopped worrying so much about what others might think of us, of whether or not our actions may betray an idolatrous allegiance to party, denomination, ethnic or socioeconomic group? What if we shared generously, played joyfully, served willingly, loved fearlessly, and lived abundantly because we hold on to a hope that stands secure for eternity? What if we began to behave more childlike rather than childish in our relationships? What if we began to take Jesus and his words seriously and sought to discover what a life of childlike faith looks like? What if we could take the good day and the not so good days as they come, resting secure in our identity, eyes fixed on the Kingdom?

What if we have much more to learn from our little ones than we have to teach them?

-a

The Beauty In The Giver

The Beauty In The Giver

I have been sitting at my desk for a solid fifteen minutes at a complete loss for how to start writing. Sam is at school, Ray is at work, and I am living my first day off in a very long time. My brain feels like an indecisive squirrel trying to get across a four-lane highway. Do I do chores first? Do I write for self-care? Do I run errands? Do I have coffee or tea? Do I shave my legs? So many possibilities, and yet sitting like a vegetable at my desk was not on my dreamy to-do list today.

I cannot shake the feeling that this pseudo-vegetable state is becoming more of a norm and less of an exception for me the more I add to my plate. When I was single, pre-husband and definitely pre-kid, my brain operated with greater clarity and efficiency that fueled my propensity for perfectionism quite well. Add one part husband, one part toddler, a few cups of exhaustion and a dash of the ever-sanctifying Holy Spirit, and my engine of a brain is firing nowhere near the level of perfection I would like. I realize that I have never been, nor ever will be perfect. The trap of perfectionism is not the belief that you are perfect but that you can, with great effort and performance, get as close to perfect as possible someday. I also realize that sounds irrational, insane, and a myriad of other hyperbolic adjectives that could be summed as “stupid,” but when you wrestle with perfectionism it is not always so obvious.

Yesterday, Ray and I sat in our parked car in our driveway after church. You do things like this when your kid falls asleep on the way home and moving him risks waking a potential cranky, hangry monster. We were talking about me going back to graduate school, something that Ray has championed and cheered for since we got married because he takes my dreams more seriously than I do sometimes. I wanted to crumple (and still do) under the looming workload, debt, life change, and increasing risk of failure, whereas he was trying to elevate my vision on the presence of the Lord, God’s faithfulness towards us, and the end result of getting to break down barriers to quality mental health care. Finally (since he was making so much sense), I admitted, “I know they cannot and never will be, but I would like to think that I can have things close to perfect! Adding one more thing definitely nixes that!” Insert an eye roll from my sweet husband, an embarrassed laugh from me, and my husband’s encouraging reminder that life would still go on.

As encouraging and truth-speaking as Ray has been in this area of my life, it is always that much sweeter when the truth comes from Jesus Himself. In Mark 14:3-9, Jesus is anointed with incredibly valuable perfume by a woman (most likely of poor repute) as he eats dinner in Bethany. The woman’s action immediately draws the sharp criticisms of those around her, but Jesus stands in her defense:

Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. {Mark 14:6-9 ESV}

Notice that Jesus said she had done a beautiful thing TO Him and not FOR Him. Her offering was not to earn Jesus’ affection or favor, nor was it to give Him something that He lacked or needed; she gave in a heartfelt response to who Jesus was. The beauty was offering what she could; no more and no less.

Some days in some seasons, I may have more to give than on other days in other seasons. The quantity is not what matters to Jesus. Jesus was not impressed by the gift; He was in love with the giver. Whether my offering looks like the widow with her two mites, or the woman with obscenely expensive perfume, the heart behind the offering is what makes it beautiful. Both women gave what they could in a gesture of complete trust and unhindered worship which blessed Jesus’ heart.

Jesus has no need or lack, nor is He impressed by anything we have to give Him for giving’s sake.  He simply loves us with a radically freeing love and all-sufficient, gracious compassion in every season, on every day.

-a