December 19, 2013

The gift of not having to be perfect...

I received the following from a good friend, one whom I have known for many years but only recently reconnected with. As working moms, we struggle with many of the same issues and celebrate the same successes. And when she asked me if her thoughts could be shared with my blog readers I was humbled and thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.

Thank you, Cristina. May your words be as much of a blessing to my readers as they were to me.

Today I read an article about killing off supermom. Although I have heard all the stories before about how moms just can’t be perfect followed by an explanation of the author’s own imperfections, I find myself still thinking that it simply is not okay to have downfalls. I have grown up in a society that says, “If you stop improving yourself you have given up on a quality filled life for you and those around you.” This is also a truly good community who has taught me to never judge anyone for anything, accept yourself for who you are…but never stop trying to make yourself better. For some reason, that last part is just enough to say, “You will never be off the hook, lady.” I like to think I portray perfection. The things I do seem commendable. The work I have done in the past seems it might be admirable to someone. My husband and kids are beautiful and smart and funny. The food that I make tastes good. And the house that I keep is always clean.
This is the view of me that I like to think people are seeing. Until…..I find myself gossiping with someone I don’t really know about someone else I don’t really know and later think that was totally unnecessary and wonder when my words are going to come back to haunt me. Until I get a new project at work that I never done before, and I am internally psychotic about it because it may be the reveal of this woman who Googles and YouTubes everything because I, myself, don’t know as much as it seems I know. Until my kids that are beautiful and smart and funny have chocolate covered faces at church, can’t for the life of them tell me why the Wii remote is chewed on (and we don’t have any animals in the house), and are screaming and running through the isles at the store. Until my husband tells me he misses me when I have been home for hours in our little house and haven’t seen him at all. Until I try to empty the dishwasher while I am cooking and something gets burned or broken. Until a friend stops by unannounced and sees that the dishes are piled high in my sink, the cobwebs are dangling from the corners, the garbage has trumped my air freshener, and I have a leaning tower of mail waiting to fall over on top of my microwave.
Again, I turn inward and turn all of these imperfections into more, needed “self-improvements.” I blame myself…every time…maybe if I wasn’t so busy googling a fancy synonym for a word on my resume I would have noticed my kids had climbed on the kitchen counters and eaten all the chocolate chips. Maybe if I had been paying attention to what time it was I could have gotten everyone to bed early and done more cleaning. Maybe if I hadn’t been playing with my kids for too long I could have been a better employee, which today equals continuing to work from home after the workday has ended. Maybe if I did a better job at work I would make more money, which in turn would result in me opening the pile of mail I have on my microwave because I would have the money to pay the bills I am avoiding.
The list goes on and on. It’s a game I am convinced nearly every woman plays with herself daily. And by the end of the day we resolve that we have lost, that we will never win so why play the game, and that we will never be enough. Yet, sleep is the magic medicine that makes us wake up and think, “Today is the day I will prove my perfection yet again!” The incentive to be better, for me, really lies in my surroundings. What do I see daily? I see people who are beautiful, people who are self-assured, people who are unbelievably clean, and even many people who claim to be imperfect. I too claim that title of imperfection but secretly hope that someone else thinks I am just being modest. I reach for perfection because I want my husband to be proud of his family, his wife, his home, and his kids.
I reach for perfection because I have a God who is perfect in every way and deserves a better servant than what I am being. In the end, however, what is the objective of perfection? Personal glory, bragging rights, and a moment of overinflated self-satisfaction? At the end of the day do I want to be glorified for perfection? No! I want to be commended on a job well done because I worked hard and had some self-inflicted hurdles to jump over along the way. Do I want bragging rights? No. I believe the Bible is right when it says in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” And finally, is the overinflated self-satisfaction really that gratifying when I know that the only things that have been done right have been because I was lucky that nothing went wrong?
I will probably never stop wanting to be perfect. It is human nature to want to be the best. I will resign that I am not perfect or the best. I will preach to my children that life is not about getting everything right. And I will accept that the desire itself to be perfect is more selfish than anything else.

Centuries before me women tried to be perfect. Centuries after me women will continue to try to be perfect. There will probably never be a point where we all just say, “The buck stops here!” We, as women, may never allow each other to say it and mean it. That said, stop for one moment and make some projections with me. At my funeral, my perfections may be discussed…my successes might be revealed. For less than one hour, my life will be summed up and I will shortly thereafter be covered in dirt in a perfect shiny casket. All that is written will be all that remains of my life as perfect as it should look on a piece of paper. But with a perfect lifelong resume I cannot make anyone else smile. The imperfections are what will make them remember; what will make them laugh. With a perfect home I will never look like the type of person who would have been compassionate toward those who can’t keep their house clean, which means I will not have been truly perfect.
If my children’s lives are perfect, they will never know the fun that it is to laugh about their mistakes, become addicted to a TV show, or enjoy an unhealthy family tradition of Sunday night chocolate pancakes and bacon followed by ice cream and brownies for dessert. The things that we do that are so imperfect are the things that make life interesting, cliché as that sounds. Perfection doesn’t get anyone’s attention, it gets to be expected. And at the pearly gates, all that I bring to God that I have done perfectly will be judged as useless because I left behind too many people who think that because I expected it of myself I expect it of them. By doing so they turn inward because they have seen me do it. They believe their own perfection will get them somewhere better when the truth is that turning outward, letting go, and living to serve other people is where the pride is. I quote this popular prayer today as a reminder to myself to be imperfect, in this world, in order to hold the hand of that perfect man in heaven whom I hope one day will tell me, “Well done…you weren’t perfect, but I didn’t want you to be.”
“My Father, I desire that the attitude of John the Baptist might be my own – that Jesus would increase even as I decrease. Give me an ever-larger picture of you so I might see myself with ever-increasing clarity and revel each day in your amazing grace. Keep foolish pride far from me, and give me the sense to humble myself in healthy ways that bring strength and joy to everyone around me. Remind me constantly, Lord, that you hold my life and breath and eternal future in your loving hands and that every good thing I have comes from you. Never let me forget that although without you I can do nothing, in Christ I can do all things. The difference is you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

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