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.
We are real people.
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 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.
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.