The other day I was talking to a friend who apologized for her "messy" bedroom which really wasn't messy at all. I told her that I had clothes waiting for the family to pick up after I folded them on my bed (and actually, if the truth be told, after the past few weeks, my bedroom is really messy). She then went on about how another woman has trained her kids to fold the clothes. Of course, she's often talked about how wonderful that family is, how neat, sweet, polite, hard working...yada, yada, yada. She seems to almost worship the ground the family walks on, so her comment really shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. You see, at the age the other woman was training her kids to fold clothes, I was training my kids not to kick, hit, or swear at me. While her kids were born into a Christian family, mine have gone through trauma I can't even imagine and at the same time have to deal with FASD, PTSD, and multiple placements. If they fold clothes and help with housework, great, but sometimes there are much bigger things to deal with, like not having seizures every time Ms. D gets excited or stressed. So I really can't compare how my children behave to theirs, but I did. And it was pretty depressing.
This morning I woke up remembering how, years ago, I took a class called Women in Ministry. Actually, it wasn't about women in ministry, other than women's and children's ministry, but how to introduce our husbands when they preach, keep a clean house, and put on the perfect Christian woman facade. Looking back, I see that it was pretty destructive. One day we learned how to decrease our sleep by a half hour each day until we hit our barely functional level so that we had more time to keep a perfect house, have perfect hair, nails, and clothes, have perfect children, be a support to our perfect husband, and reach out to other women so that they can learn to be just as perfect as they were. It's no wonder those who strived for that works driven Christian womanhood tended to burn out, run off with some biker dude, or have a nervous breakdown. I pretty much failed at the "perfect Christian life" as was sold to me, yet I still feel the sting of failure when someone tells me someone else does things better. I feel shamed when my children are a bad influence on other kids. I spend more time spinning my wheels trying to measure up to an artificial goal, and not God's plan for my life. And that's just not right.
You see, when I'm feeling bad because I'm measuring myself with man's yardstick, I'm not receiving God's forgiveness and grace. When I am so busy trying to be perfect according to man's standards, I'm forgetting to look to God to see what He really wants me to do with my time, my energy, and the gifts He has given me. When I'm comparing my weaknesses to other's strengths, I become covetous of what they have, if not their possessions, their life. When I'm feeling shamed because of unrealistic expectations of how my family acts, or their friends, or their birth family, I am not loving them as God would want me to love them. And when I can't forgive myself for not being perfect, I stop being close to God and worshipping him.
I need to let go of whatever is a burden. I need to let go of control of others. And I need to stop pushing God and others away until I could become perfect, and receive the love now. True Love isn't earned. It is given and received.
So no more comparing. I won't be like Annie in Annie Get Your Gun. I will not get into a competition of who has the best Christmas lights, the best cooking, the smartest kids, the cutest clothes, the most scripture memorized, the most outreaches, the best career, the nicest house, the most expensive car, the busiest schedule, the most money, the most relaxing vacations, the most languages learned, the best singing, the longest quiet time, the best marriage, or anything else. Anything good is a gift from God, and I will be thankful for what I have. And I will drop the unrealistic expectations handed to me so that I can hold onto what is really good. Love.