Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Perfect or best?

As I read through last week’s comments about my sister, my family, and my husband, it occurred to me that perhaps some folks are getting a crazily ideal impression of me or of my family.

Perhaps you are thinking our clothes match each other's every day (or that we actually iron them). That I always wear makeup, or that my hair always cooperates, even in 99% humidity. Maybe you think that our kids all get along all the time, always do their chores without being reminded, or that they always have great attitudes. That my husband and I never disagree. That our home is immaculate. Maybe you think we’re…perfect.

Whew! I would sure hate for that to happen! Just in case you hadn’t caught it from reading the minutiae of our lives, I thought I’d better remind you:

We are real people.

We get up in the morning and wish someone else had done the dishes last night. Our shower stall gets moldy gunk between the tiles. Our kids fight, pick their noses, and forget to feed the dog. I am never finished with the laundry, and there is always an inordinate amount of debris that needs to be picked up in the living room. My husband and I have had some very heated debates about the best way to discipline our kids. I struggle with anger, frustration, exhaustion, and self-pity.

Hard as I strive to live out my life, authentically following Christ, I will never be a perfect a woman, wife, or mother. I get tired. I make mistakes. Sometimes I completely mess it up.

It’s frustrating.

I’ve often thought, Why can’t I just plug in a formula? It seems like God would have so much less work to do if He would tell me exactly what to do and when. This trial-and-error business is just not efficient. Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just go straight to heaven, and not have to mess with making so many wrong moves here on earth?

Wouldn't you know, not long ago, while deep in this mental pothole, I stumbled across a tiny phrase. It was tucked unassumingly in the middle of one of the Bible’s greatest treatises on discipline (one I’ve recited often as a parent), in Hebrews 12. I could visualize the writer, graciously remembering his earthly father in this passage (v. 10):

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best

You have GOT to be kidding! As they thought best? Didn't he mean to say, "As God thought best?" Surely there's some mistake. Maybe it should have said, "As the experts thought best." Hmm. I read it in every version I could get my hands on. No mistake. The King James Version even gives it an almost capricious flair: It says they “chastened us after their own pleasure.”

I’ve thought about that phrase for weeks now. I can’t get it out of my head. It seems so…so irresponsible! There is an element of unpredictability – risk – there. How could God be so willing to take a chance, knowing that, at any moment, there's an awfully good likelihood I'm going to blow it?

And yet, the fact is, we are all doing family life “as we think best” – using the faith and knowledge we have right now, and applying it (or sometimes not) in the routine, everyday activities of our lives. On the job training. Yep.

Doesn’t God know that my “best” parenting skills are inferior to someone else’s - and yet He still chose to give me these children? That I'm not that great a cook? That sometimes my best is tired? That, when I look back, I might realize even my best judgment was more “after my own pleasure” than after His?

God’s intentional decision to accept me, just as I am, and (even scarier!) to trust me enough to be part of running a family “as I think best,” is very humbling.

And yet, very empowering.

Knowing just how far I am from perfection shouldn’t stop me from engaging in the moment, and doing my best, right here in my home. From finding out what God’s Word says about my priorities, and asking His help in arranging my life in line with them. From making decisions for my family that reflect a desire to show them - even in my limited understanding – God and His character.

I can lift up my humble efforts to know Him and to obey Him. To trust Him - the One who knows best. And even when my “best” misses the mark, He is there, offering forgiveness.

Are you trying to be perfect, or are you willing to offer God your best, whatever that is?

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
2 Corinthians 4:7

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12:2


Wendy said...

Your family is blessed to have you! I'm sure your house is full of love and grace more often than not. I have enjoyed your blog from the beginning.

Wendy said...

I'm not sure if my site is showing up? swbbm.blogspot

Qtpies7 said...

That was really amazing! I'm trying not to cry. I don't think I'm a bad mom or anything, and I'm not caught up in others doing better, but lately I feel so horrible about pretty much everything. I think it could be postpartum depression.
I have to squash thoughts of "aren't there any meds that make you energetic and perky and a clean freak?" "There has to be something the doctor can give me to make me happy and energetic." I'm thinking that somewhere along these lines are where moms get addicted to drugs! Thankfully God shows me how off those thoughts are and I'm not out looking for something, because what I NEED is to tap into God's strength and might and renewal each day, tap into His joy and peace and patience.
I have a busy day, so I'll get to your tag tonight or tomorrow, maybe today if I can keep on top of things.

Deborah said...

You have no idea how much that thought blessed me. Thank you for your insight. I've had a lot of "I'm a bad mom" days.

Sometimes I wonder if God didn't make a mistake in giving us a baby #5 on the way. But then I stop myself knowing perfectly well that He is sovereign over all, and so faithful in my life.

I will keep that verse in Heb 12 in mind for a long time to come.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Love this post. I was just having a conversation this past weekend on one of my favorite topics -- the fact that, as parents, we're all winging it. Which I suppose is like doing as we think best with a little more uncertainty thrown in. :) And although I've read Hebrews 12 countless times, I have to admit the second part of that verse never jumped out at me until now. Thanks for drawing my attention to it, and for the encouragement to (amidst my "winging it") do my best and offer that to God.

Andrea said...

Yes, yes, and yes.
Excellent post.
Something that rings through my head sometimes, when I feel I've blown it, or just can't do enough, or too tired to do *anything*, is the story of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her hair. When she is done, Jesus says, "She did what she could." So I say to myself..."(She) I did what I could."

Jenn @ Knee-Deep in Munchkin Land said...

I have always thought you to be very real in your blog. You've shared your "defeats" and "weaknesses" and allowed the rest of us to do the same. I think you are a great mother and that your family is very blessed to have you. =) And as you said today, all we can do is our best!

Anonymous said...

What a super insight! It's so true that we moms often look for the formula in parenting books, from successful friends or mentors...but it's not that simple or meant to be. The beauty of our growing in God is fleshing out each day with the wisdom and position he's given us. This was a wonderful reminder...

Sarah said...

It's always good to hear that other people get have messy living rooms! I think sometimes we are so caught up in trying to look like we have it all together that we often miss out on blessing others with our imperfection. I've been pondering a post about this very topic, thanks for more inspiration in that direction, and for your genuineness!

Melissa said...

I have to admit, I've been struggling with perfection issues. I guess that's why I'm finding myself reading "The Worn Out Woman"...and being one! I'm trying to learn to let go of the control I THINK I have.

Thanks for sharing! By the way, I love your new profile pic!

Susanne said...

Katherine this post was a real blessing. Oh how I know exactly how far from perfect I am as a parent. But it's always nice to know I have you and other friends to bounce things off of as we all plug along trying to do our best. And like you said He is always there for us, ready to forgive and help us in our parenting as we look to Him.

Lori said...

Hard as I strive to live out my life, authentically following Christ, I will never be a perfect a woman, wife, or mother. I get tired. I make mistakes. Sometimes I completely mess it up. Oh girl I am right there in line with you.

Don't worry we did not think you clothes matched everyday (hehehe I am teasing you).

Great post.

Joyfulness said...

Thank you. As always you have such wonderful insight and perspective. You encourage me in this mothering journey!

Anonymous said...

If I thought you were perfect or anywhere near it, I don't thing I could read your blog! I like real people. Pedestals are for vases =).

Great post. It touches on one of the struggles I have remaining in the baggage I carried out of childhood. I'll have to meditate on that phrase a little.

Julie said...

So very well said, Katherine. I'm a card carrying member of the "I Am Not Perfect Club" as well.

But ONE DAY, in the twinkling of an eye...

Julie @ A Joyful Life

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I enjoyed it SO much!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Oh, Katherine, I just love this post! It's so great to know that so many of us have the same thoughts and uncertainties sometimes.

What an encouragement and blessing you are!