This morning Eli smashed his thumb. I wasn't goofing off, I wasn't distracted or on Instagram, I was pouring a bowl of oatmeal for Josiah. I was standing right there, I could have stopped the accident from happening, but I didn't notice that Eli had stopped playing with plastic cups and has started trying to pull a stack of stoneware plates down until it was too late.
Babies are amazingly resilient. Eli screamed when I put the bag of frozen corn on his hand but only because I was restricting his movement. After a few minutes I released him and he toddled off to practice opening and closing the dishwasher. I sat down nearby to watch him, and occasionally pull him off from climbing inside it, and then the wave of mom-guilt washes over me like a flood.
I have this tendency, whenever something unpleasant happens to my children, to blame myself. If they get hurt - it's my fault, if they get sick - I should have done a better job of keeping them clean, if they do badly on an assignment in school I feel personally responsible for anything less than 100. I don't know if this makes me crazy, or if this is just part of being a mom.
This afternoon, in my moment of guilt and mental self-flagellation I had this one, glimmering redemptive thought: What if my inability to be perfect is, in fact, a good thing? It startled me out of my funk and I listened to what I can only assume was a Holy Spirit inspired moment of revelation.
You see, I have this standard, in the back of my mind, ever-present as I am ever-lacking. I shouldn't have eaten that cake. I should have used a gentler tone of voice when correcting my child. I should have done this, should not have done that. Some of it might be right, biblical even, some of it I've just picked up along the way. Some of it is really good, some of it though is totally insane. I spend my days and nights swinging from not even trying to live up to such impossibly high standards (whatever - I'm just going to eat the cake anyway, sit on my butt and watch TV) and then writhing in self- hatred, driving myself and everyone around me crazy trying desperately to get it together.
I never get it all together. Not if I'm honest. At least not for more then a couple hours. And then I was probably at church with my kids tucked sweetly into their classes. Before I know it we'll be back home and I'll be screaming at my kids to be quiet for two minutes together because I've got to figure out what we're doing for lunch.
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. One minute I'm lost in worship, the next minute I'm loosing it.
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What if there is blessing in this not-being-able-to-get-my-act-togetherness.
What if it is THAT that truly points me to my need of Christ? What if it is this great, deep, constant lack that points me to the fullness of God? And his ability not just to fill my cracks but to be the substance. To be my redemption. To be my perfection.
There is blessing in recognizing my need. Not just "I want this to be easier" need but "I can't get through this day without your help" need. Then in asking for help and receiving grace.
This is true on a human level too. I find there to be a lot of blessing in my marriage when I recognize my need "I'm overwhelmed!" or "I think I stained a muscle in my back" and then I ask for help "would you please listen to Katie-Abigail read tonight?" or "can you watch the kids while I go take a bath?" and then receive help with a grateful heart.
If I was all that, if I was constantly together and on top where would be my need for grace? When would I experience forgiveness both given and received? If I had no need for grace there would be nothing left but pride and self-righteousness.
So maybe this gift of mess comes in pretty odd wrapping. Maybe I haven't learned what a friend she truly is. But maybe my lack of having-it-all-together and super-abundance of lack truly is a blessing in disguise.