Our bathroom is littered with tissues and coated in makeup dust. Clothes cover the floor and there’s usually a few of my son’s diapers spilling out of the garbage can. I use the space every day, and yet the clutter collects, a reminder of another way I’m failing.
I’m a mediocre chef at best. I’m exhausted at the thought of creating a dinner on a hot stove while my two-year-old hangs on my leg and my five-year-old climbs on the counters during an epic sword fight. Crumbs collect on the kitchen floor. Craft time with my kids consists of stubby crayons and swirly Play-Do. I maintain seven junk drawers.
My patience wears thin. My energy is zapped. My planner is filled and I forgot a work deadline again. I’m not a Pinterest Mom or a Darling Wife or an Entrepreneuring All-Star. I’m just me and just me doesn’t really seem good enough. Nowhere close, actually.
Oh, God’s grace? I know God’s grace. I know that it’s sufficient and wide-reaching and freely given, not earned. I know what I’m supposed to know.
But grace doesn’t sink in. And I surely can’t swim in its seas.
Instead, personal expectations seep in and poison my heart. My perceived notions about what I should do and how I should do it permeate everything. I never meet my unattainable standards because I don’t even know I’ve created them until I fail at meeting them. I’m all at once too much and not enough.
I’m in a season of life that is quite impossible to survive without clinging to grace. I need heaping amounts of it daily. But unknowingly, I’ve built barriers with self-absorbency, preventing grace from breaking through.
It is for freedom that we’ve been set free, but I live as though God’s grace is enough for everybody except me.
I love encouraging others. People are my jam and it’s a privilege to be a shoulder to cry on. My husband is a pastor, so in many ways, I’m a de facto minister as well. And I firmly believe it when I put my hand on a friend’s shoulder and tell her she’s doing a good job. When I encourage her and proclaim she’s doing her best as a co-worker. Wife. Leader. Mother. Daughter. Disciple.
I know it’s true when I put my arm around her and remind her that though she might feel like she’s not enough, she is a co-heir to the throne. I give her a hug and whisper that she is known – and loved – by the Creator of all things. That He doesn’t leave just because she feels unworthy. No; instead, He dwells within her and wants to envelop her in the lavish love that a father unconditionally gives his child.
These aren’t empty words – these are truths boldly proclaimed in scripture, a cornerstone in my faith. It’s the Good News. So why do I believe grace is enough for her, and not for me? Why do I struggle with clothing myself in these threads of grace?
I’ve been wrestling through “Abba’s Child” by the late Brennan Manning. He says that God sees me as His own and He loves me not just in spite of my flaws, but with them.
For a recovering perfectionist like myself, it’s a befuddling concept.
Manning believed that we unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves.
If I’m frustrated, surely God is frustrated with me. If I lack patience, heavenly patience certainly won’t be sprinkled on me. I so intimately know my shortcomings and failures that I struggle with believing God of all things could love me with them.
But Manning, in his ragamuffin gospel kind of way, illuminates a different perspective:
“But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves – unless we love ourselves compassionately, intensely, and freely. In human form Jesus revealed to us what God is like. He exposed our projections for the idolatry that they are and gave us the way to become free of them. It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance) but with them. Though God does not condone or sanction evil, He does not withhold His love because there is evil in us.”
I’ve taken the posture that those who proclaim this brand of grace are actually just lazy. These well-meaning folks want the easy way out. These radical grace-dwellers don’t care about discipleship or discernment, just a feel-good Get Out Of Jail Free card.
But I think that Manning, a beloved priest (and some would say prophet), was on to something.
Thomas Merton said, “Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.”
True grace isn’t selfish or passive. It’s not religious rhetoric, but rather this inside-out revelation that God, in His infinite power and wisdom, fully and sincerely loves us with an all-consuming fire.
Do I believe a God who desires a relationship with me, and actually enjoys my so-very-flawed presence? How would my life transform if I burned the scorecard and turned to the flame God’s grace has lit within me?
When I examine scripture, I see that God’s amazing grace is good news for my hurting friend, and maybe, just maybe, it’s good news for me, too – dirty bathroom and all.
“We stand in the Truth that sets us free and live out of the Reality that makes us whole.”