Do you ever find that you're too hard on yourself? That you set expectations for how a day will go, or what you will accomplish, only to fail and disappoint yourself?
I'm all for setting goals. Making a list and getting things done, but I'm also learning that my identity cannot be wrapped up in the doing. I think for most of my Christian life I have viewed God's grace in this way. Without realizing it I have assumed that the more productive I am, the more items on my list I am able to check off, the more God will love me. That somehow I must earn His love in this way.
We live in a time where most people believe in the "American Dream", that if you work hard enough, you will be successful in whatever you put your mind to. And while I agree that hard work is important and does pay off, the pressure that comes along with this kind of mindset is overwhelming.
Last week I started back at school. In all reality I've been working here and there throughout the summer and have really been working for a couple of weeks, but the real work started on Tuesday when my students came walking in my classroom door.
I have a love-hate relationship with September. I think the hardest part is the change in pace. Lazy summer days turn into weeks filled with meetings, planning, building relationships, etc. I love the routine. I love the way it forces me to be more efficient with my time and helps me cherish my evenings and weekends with my family. I love the anticipation of the holidays to come. It truly is my favorite time of year. There are so many possibilities on the horizon at the start of a new school year.
But I can't do it all. I can't have it all together, all the time. I can't make it to every invite, and I can't expect my house to be clean or organized with everything else going on.
Thankfully, I don't have to do it all.
I'm coming to terms with the fact that on days when I allow myself to give in to the overwhelming urge to work hard and be successful by my own strength (which translates to everything going exactly my way, in my timing)...everything ultimately falls apart. The other day, for example, I woke up and nothing went right. Nothing Josh said or did was up to my standards. Nothing I said or did was up to my standards either, I was just too stubborn/prideful to admit it until later.
It was not my best day. Unfortunately my husband gets to enjoy these moments with me. One of the "perks" of marriage I suppose. I can admit it now because the day ended, and things blew over. We apologized for our irritability and frustrations. We forgave and moved on, knowing that it won't be the last time we have days like that. But also knowing that there will be many days that go much better.
Thankfully, today was different. It still wasn't my best day ever, but I chose to wake up and just have a little grace for myself and those around me. Today didn't have to go exactly as I had in mind, and it didn't...but I was okay. I got virtually nothing done, but I did take a nap. I hugged my son, and there was definitely tickling and toddler snuggles. We built legos and played cars. I spent time with my husband and even got to share a meal with my parents and grandma. I spoke with my neighbors and made plans to get together more often.
Today I was "gentle" with myself as my Aunt Jenn has encourages me to be. I'm realizing that if I can't accept God's grace today, then how can I expect to extend that grace to others.
I'm not throwing in the towel on doing chores, getting things accomplished, making goals and working to accomplish them. These are all good things, but when I put them in a place of worship in my heart I can see that everything else crumbles. God doesn't need any of these things from me in order to love me. He already loves me more than I will ever deserve, and while I know this issue is far from being worked out in my life, I am thankful for a quiet moment to write it down.
There will be a day, probably this week, when I need to read this post and let go of whatever I'm trying to control.
How about you?
I would like to encourage you to be patient and gentle with yourself in whatever season you're facing. God is more gentle and patient with us than we realize...praying for all of us who struggle to accept God's grace and actually live in it.