I had a friend tell me when I was pregnant with Claire that you either get rocked by one baby or rocked by two. I was shaken by one for sure but for the most part I loved being a mom. I had a new found love for this little life and caring for her. I loved watching her experience new things, take her first steps, and her little personality grow each day. It was a sort of beautiful adjustment that went pretty seamlessly.
I handled the first baby so well I figured why not expanding my mothering skills by adding another baby to grace this world. Since you know… I had this under control (this would be the part of the plot chart where we have hit the top of the hill and are making the decent down). I had the house clean enough most of the time, had date nights on a regular basis, was reading through the bible in a year with ben, and was taking extra time to teach Claire about Jesus. I was giving myself mental pats on the back for keeping life under control and I was enjoying it too. Inside the little book we all keep in our heads that evaluates how well we are doing at life I was checking my boxes.
Then Briggs was born. Another amazing gift that surprised us when he arrived three weeks early (key word surprised.. like my hospital bag wasn’t packed) and I knew it would be hard but I thought I’d still be able to check my boxes. However, whereas Claire had molded my world with her tiny hands Briggs had cracked it right apart. I couldn’t perform or pretend to have it all together. I couldn’t create images that looked shiny and pretty most days because I was in a haze of toddler toys and baby screams. I was (and still am thanks to a new wave of sickness) sleep deprived and frustrated. I was cranky most nights. I was bitter that going to the grocery store was a big outing for me and I was angry that pretty much all of my dreams would have to be put on hold for a while. I loved Briggs so much but my selfish nature flared up and I was just lost. Plus my favorite pair of jeans didn’t fit (you see how bad things were…. Sarcasm…. A lot of it)
So one night when I had sort of reached the pinnacle of my frustration and danced at my own pity party for far too long I took out my journal and wrote that I just felt like I was getting an F in every category. I could no longer check all of my boxes and my new reality was just too much. The rest of the world around me seemed to be handling their 2 OR MORE kids just fine and I was drowning. I sat in silence and heard the quite reminder of the gospel tell me that he never needed my performance. He wasn’t asking me to check off my mental boxes that decided whether I was doing ok or not, he was asking me to lean into him and let his love free me.
So if you are like me and have entered a season where you have been cracked apart and can’t hold it together let the truth of Jesus’s words wash over you, “I have come so that you have life, and have it to the full” (john 10:10) the first part of that verse we know well it’s the second part we forget. The first part says, “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.” The enemy comes whispering that God has expectations of perfection over Jesus’s invitation to simply come. He comes telling us that God needs all of our boxes checked instead of the truth that God loves us the same no matter the mess. Boxes checked or big fat F by the world’s standards does not change the degree to which he loved you… to death.
No matter if life is easy or hard we need God. We need him to make us new, make us whole, and remind us that our best performance doesn’t make us a Christian. Our best performance doesn’t earn us his love or his respect, it just exhausts us. So lets change our boxes not from whether the house is clean but did our kids feel like a gift from above. Not from did we say the right thing but did we love the right way. Let’s change our attitude from do we have it all together to, do we sit and listen to the one who sent his son as a baby to enter our world. Until we really see Jesus as the savior that walked into our mess, we will spend our efforts trying to clean up for him however, our best attempts are nothing more than a manger bed for the king of the world.
So if the Christmas card you sent feels a little fake and the real story is you are a mess then I know just the guy. He tells you to stop the cleaning and sit at his feet just for a moment. Be made new not because he is impressed by your performance or your efforts but because he loved you enough to come for you.
Jeff Manget - Great reminder for this Christmas Season!
Anne - Dear Tindell,
Thank you for this reminder about the true meaning of Christmas. It is not just ticking off the boxes for buying presents and preparing for the Christmas dinners with family and friends. It is preparing our hearts to yield to God, who has sent his only beloved Son to us. And God wants us to come ‘as is’, without having to tidy up our lives or the heavy make-up. God accepts us as we are, loves us as we are. It’s about time we do too! Amen.