Monday, March 21, 2011


All my life, I've struggled with perfectionism.  I'm a capable person; I can do many things well, and that's the way I like things--done well, done accurately, done ideally.  My adult life has been something of an un-learning process.  Circumstances--especially six children--have forced me to accept the less-than-ideal.  Oddly enough, no other member of my family seems to really care if our house is messy or clean, whether piano lessons are practiced or not, whether we eat healthily and frugally at home or spend a fortune taking our family out to dinner.  A great title for a country song about  my life would be:  "The Good Lord Knows I'm a Control Freak, and That's Why He Gave Me Six Children."

So these days, I muddle through, not caring as much as I used to (though I cling to the idea that, as a mom, it's part of my job description to care).  For a number of years now, instead of trying so hard to "do" for my family and for God, I've been concentrating on "being" a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter of God.  I pray for the fruits of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.  I pray for wisdom to "be angry, but in your anger, do not sin."  I tell myself, "Who I am matters more than what I do."

Every year when Lent rolls around, I look forward to it with a mixture of anticipation--that maybe this year, it will be a life-changing period of time, tranforming me into the woman I want to be--and humility--knowing that it probably won't.  My life still lacks those fruits of the Spirit.  In my anger, I sin--frequently.  "Who I am" is not a pretty sight.

And I had an epiphany a couple weeks ago. I've tried to earn God's approval (and self-approval) by "doing," and realizing the folly in that, I've switched my energies to "being."  But I'm still striving just as much, trying to make it happen, trying to whip myself into shape, and Lent has too often been an excuse to strive even more.  I've failed at doing, and I've failed at being...and it hit me that what I really need is grace.

But my first reaction is to wonder:  What do I do...who do I know God's grace?

I know the answer. I don't have to do anything, be anything; I just have to receive it like a gift, unearned and free, given out of love.

So I am confronted with my pride. I have placed conditions on the gift. I think I should only be allowed to have the gift if I've earned it, if I'm good enough, if I deserve it. I have set the bar higher than even God would set it, if He were into that.

But He's not. He knows we all have sinned, all have fallen short, and He's done something about it, because we can't. He's covered all our failures with grace, through the sacrifice of his Son. I know this, and yet I don't feel like I'm living it.

I asked a wise friend to pray with me about this, and later, he wrote me these words:

In the end we must learn to just tell ourselves, ‘It is okay, right now.  Not tomorrow when and if I get this figured out, but right now.  Because right now I am forgiven and accepted.’ 

So that's where I'm at, right now.  Telling myself I don't have to do anything or be anything, and honestly, it's an alien thought to my mind.  I'm an overachiever.  I push myself.  That's what I do. This is not me.

Or is THAT not me?

God knows the real me, and He's speaking to me this Lent, about letting go of my pride and my expectations for myself and replacing them with Himself, His grace, His love, His affirmation. I don't think this conversion is coming easily or quickly, but I sense that the soil of my soul is being stirred up, plowed, and made ready for seed.  My part seems to be to let God work and to respond with thankfulness.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

1 comment:

Caroline said...


I love what you wrote about grace. I, too, am a fixer, a helper, a doer. This gift, grace, has been freely given. I do not deserve it, yet I recieve it daily. John Wesley said that grace is God's love freely offered to us. So I guess it is our job to stand as a testimony of God's grace......not by what we do, but because of what He (Jesus on the cross)did. We are blessed!!

Thanks for reminding me!