Finding grace to embrace the imperfect life
I’ve spent most of my adult life waiting for the day to arrive – the day when my desk would remain clutter-free, when I would be finally be the kind, loving mom who doesn’t explode in anger or yells at her kids, when my weekly meals would be planned and shopped for in advance … when I would no longer live under the weight of not being enough.
The day hasn’t arrived and it doesn’t look like it ever will, no matter how early I get up or stay up or how many productivity books I read or how often I beg to God to change me in my quiet times.
It’s simply not going to happen.
And I’m finally ok with that.
It’s been a long journey but accepting my imperfect life has been one of the most freeing experiences I’ve found, and it’s a journey I continue to travel.
I grew up in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area where the driven-life is the norm and maybe this is where my own drivenness stems from. No matter, it’s always been fueled by a deep desire to cover the brokenness in my life.
I’ve tried hard to find my significance in achieving the goals and standards I’ve set for myself. And yet even if I sometimes did achieve those goals, it was never enough. I could never quite get to that place where I was happy with myself – where I could love and accept myself.
The stakes got higher when I got married and even more when the children came along.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Yet how could I love my neighbor (husband and children) when I couldn’t love myself?
It’s hard when that love is based on achievements and expectations — even if it’s in noble efforts such as mothering, homemaking and foreign missionary work.
I fall on my face almost every day. I used to think that if I beat myself and agreed with all the condemning voices in my head, I would feel bad enough to change.
But it didn’t help. Instead I began to believe that I was the bad mom who struggled to play with her children, who often got them late to school and who simply could not get it together. And the painful cycle continued.
The apostle Paul, who wrote more than half of the Bible’s New Testament, had similar struggles of failing to do what he most wanted to do. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
I’m a frail, limited creature and in of myself, I can do nothing. Paul knew this too and that’s why he found his answer in someone outside of him.
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! … Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
God does not condemn me and so why should I? On the cross, Jesus took my weight of not being enough and made me good enough. Why should I go back and try make myself enough again?
I’ve bought into that lie for far too long. I’m choosing to accept and even embrace the imperfect, messy me.
Because, I know my Heavenly Father does. He loves me just as I am. Why is it so easy to forget that? I don’t have to earn his acceptance or approval.
I’m finding that letting go of those false expectations sets you free to love – to love God, to love yourself and those precious others. Instead of living out of place of striving, I can live out of belonging as a loved daughter of my Heavenly Father.
Today is not a trial run. I only pass this way once. I know I will inevitably fail but this is why I need Jesus at every moment of my life. And His grace is more than enough to help me in my weakness.
I doubt the kids will remember whether we had our meals well planned or not or whether our house was tidy and organized. But hopefully they will remember a mom who was less angry, less strung out, and who loved more, laughed more and played more with them.
So I don’t have to wait for happiness to start tomorrow – real joy is here today. It was there all along hidden in the ordinary life moments – the making of meals in my not so tidy kitchen, the sounds of laughter of kids playing, the beautiful flowers that hubby planted on the window sills and the nights when a little body crawls into bed next to you because of a fearful dream.
Yes, there is sweet relief and joy in embracing this messy, ordinary and imperfect life.