Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grace for Imperfection {mercy when we fail}

Christmas is over. Decorations are put away. We really had a wonderful month, in spite of the continuing illness. But my house is looking a bit bare in the decor department. Case in point - our corner fireplace mantel. Looks so sad. :-(  (Speaking of which, does anybody have any grand ideas for this space? I feel like it probably has potential, but it is sooooo hard to decorate!!)

It will probably stay bare like this for a number of days until it drives my husband crazy and he throws some stuff up there. I am so decor-challenged, it's really quite unfair. Lauren told me it was like a blank canvas just waiting for something beautiful. Well, let me show you what blank canvases look like in my house:

Yyeaaahhh. Blank. You see, I freeze, shut down, become paralyzed with indecision. So many choices! Don't want to screw it up! What if it looks really awful? Forget it, I'm done!

I know, it's unreasonable. I know that if it doesn't work I can change it. I know that "messing it up" isn't the end of the world — it's just a mantel. My head knows this - way, way back in the recesses of rational thought. But in the moment I'm just thinking, "I'm so bad at this! I don't even know what I'm doing!" It makes it totally un-fun. But, I'm working on it anyway.

As I've mentioned before, I am a planner. I spent 3 days working on this year's target areas, goals, projects, and habits I want to develop in the coming months. It is bold to be sure. I've even put in one of my bucket-list items - running a Komen 5K race at the end of April (I'm NOT a runner) - more on that in the future, I'm sure.

Introspection (a reflective looking inward : an examination of one's own thoughts and feelings) is good. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians (and us) to examine themselves to be sure they were "in the faith"and to "prove" themselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Understanding where you are, where you want to be, what's reasonable, and how you will get there - it's part of growing as a person, and if one doesn't do it, one is likely to become stagnant and in a state of stunted growth. 

I'm okay at planning self-improvement, making goals and plans for new habits. But maybe you are like me and my decorating deficiency. Do you freeze up at the mere thought of resolutions? Or maybe, like just about everyone in the world including myself, you've failed in the past at following through on some resolution or goal, fallen back into bad habits after a few weeks, missed the mark, despite your best intentions.

It hurts, failing. Falling off the wagon. Sometimes it's hard to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off. It seems easier to sit there in the dirt and beat yourself up - "I'm not good enough. I don't know what I'm doing! I'm so bad at this. I give up!" Oh, I have SO been there!

You are your biggest critic. I typically do not see myself as a perfectionist. For most things, I'm content with "good enough." Except when it comes to me and my failings. And then, look out! There's no way I'll ever be good enough for myself. 

But, consider this — God, infinitely perfect and unfailing, looks at me through the grace and merit of Jesus, and He sees me as very good. Wow. And He knows our flesh fails, and He loves us anyway, just asking us to keep on seeking the Kingdom and reaching toward the mark.

So, if a perfect God with perfect standards can love me and give me grace when I miss the mark, how can I do any less for myself when I don't measure up to the standards I place on myself?? When I think about it like that, it just seems silly to give up!

That's why, my word for the year is MERCY. Mercy for myself when I don't meet my goal to dress my kids before noon every day. Mercy when I forget to read my Bible or get too busy for a lengthy devotion. And grace to get out of the dirt, dust myself off, and put myself back on the wagon.

Definition of MERCY

a : compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment
And here's something else, that wagon — you know the "I'm going to exercise 3 days a week" or "I'm going to make my bed every morning" or "I'm going to resist my tendency toward road rage" wagon — it doesn't keep trucking down the road without you. It stops when you fall off. Don't despair that you can't catch up; don't feel like you'll never get back on the right path. It doesn't work that way. Like the safety on a mower or a treadmill, if you misstep, it waits for you. Your goals are just that - YOURS! So, step out every day in mercy - treat yourself with compassion and forbearance. Press toward the mark, but don't expect to hit it on Day 1. "But grow in grace..." (2 Peter 3:18).

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