On most Sunday mornings, after the last worship song is sung and the blessing is recited, the people stand up and turn around slowly while pulling arms through sleeves of jackets and wrapping scarves around necks. Up the middle aisle from my front row seat, I join others collecting vagrant bulletins as we make our way back to the high, stained glass window towering above us at the entrance. The place where tea and coffee are poured profusely into ceramic cups and crowds chat in open circles.
I have good intentions but rarely make it to one of those circles. By the time I reach that place in the sanctuary, the people are gone and the cups, loaded in the dishwasher. The sea of warm faces between my seat and the tea station are one of the many reasons I love going to church on Sunday.
“It’s too bad we don’t like each other,” I often say in jest to H as passing the peace becomes a weekly, roaring reunion.
Last Sunday, I made it. I stood with a cup of tea warming in my hands and listened to a friend admit something vulnerable with alacrity and sheepishness. I witnessed a twinge of pink spread over ivory cheeks when she said, “I’m sure you’ve never had that problem. Your life is so perfect.”
And immediately squelched that bit of idealism.
I am not perfect, I told her, giving evidence with detailed lists.
I spent (at least) a year of motherhood crying myself to sleep for all the mistakes I made attempting to communicate with my pre-teen daughter.
I avoid paperwork like the plague.
I am forgetful when it comes to taking pills and bringing carefully crafted lists to the grocery store.
I have dropped my cell phone in the toilet on more than one occasion.
I cause my H to clench his teeth when he calls from work and my phone is repeatedly on vibrate or silent. At least I’m consistent but I could go on.
I could have told my friend that just the week before, I was standing over a sudsy sink when H finally broke up the conversation I was having with all the accusing voices in my head. He could see they weren’t being kind by the look on my face.
You know, those convincing voices about not measuring up to the awesome of someone in your sphere of influence.
Feeling like the only turtle in a race of rabbits, I had nearly convinced myself that the gifts God gave me were somehow a tainted consolation prize from pity. I know, what in the world?!
That’s when H said, “You aren’t like those other people for a reason. You are a creative. Being a slow processor is what allows you to create and write in the unique voice God gave you. Why are you comparing yourself to someone else?”
In a wet apron, I ran into his open arms and wept while exclaiming, “Thank you for saying that!”
Isn’t it foolish that I didn’t truly own being a creative until I heard him said it out loud?
We need to speak truth to each other often to squelch the lies that keep us from owning our awesome.
I read hopeful, life giving words from Isaiah 43: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. But I often re-write those words to sound something more like this: Fear though I have redeemed you, I have called you by her name, you are my consolation. Thank God my darling husband set me straight.
When we judge ourselves through the snapshots we see of others, what we find reflected back is a distorted picture. A beautiful life isn’t perfect, it’s beautifully redeemed and perfectly flawed.
We are meant to be inspired by how someone lives in order to become all that God has for us, not inspired in order to become perfectly like them.
Let’s read the fine print and own it. Live as though you are free and deeply loved.
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.”
Isaiah 43: 1-4, MSG