A broken and messy people

There have been more than a few instances in the past week, when I have been reading something, and just have to shake my head at our collective inability to stop pretending that any of us even remotely has things together. The majority of these posts have to do with adoption and adoptive parenting. Some others have to do with parenting in general. I think this is because parenting, and particularly adoptive parenting brings us face to face with our own shortcomings. It is very humbling work.

The story line goes something like this. A parent writes a post sharing something hard, something not perfect about themselves or their relationship to their child. It can be a little raw; a little soul bearing. And suddenly, you see it everywhere. Comments abound with phrases such as, "I thought I was the only one!" The relief that follows when someone learns they are not the only one to struggle is immense.

The flip side of this is the type of post which encourages parents, particularly of children with difficult backgrounds, when other people judge them or don't understand the type of parenting these children require. Once again, the comments are filled with comments of, "I feel completely misunderstood most of the time." The sad thing is the most judgement comes from inside of the church. Oh, and the grocery store. A book could probably be written about bad conversations which happen at the grocery store. Evidently shopping for food does not bring out the best in us.

I've tried to be pretty open about our struggles and imperfections on this blog, and if you think I have it all together most of the time, then I have failed in that endeavor. Because the truth is, I don't. I am just like anyone else in the world. I mess up. I make mistakes. I don't do things I'm supposed to. I don't treat people nicely all the time. I don't always do the best things for my children, and sometimes even when I think something is the best thing, it turns out not to be, so my judgement is impaired as well. If parenting twelve children has taught me anything, it is that I am not perfect. I'm not even close to perfect. Perfect and I are not even in the same universe. My children are not perfect, either, and I have given up trying to get them to play along with that little illusion. I am a very different parent than when I first started out 23 years ago. I knew more back then, but there's a lot less pressure now.

Here is what I really want to tell all of you. I know you are not perfect either. I know your children are not perfect. We are all allowed to have bad days. Heck, we're even allowed to have bad years. Think how much more pleasant life would be if we could all just get over ourselves.Think what it would be like if we could all just sit back for a moment and remember not any one of us is perfect... that we all make mistakes... before lighting the proverbial flames throwers. I don't know why someone's mistakes, imperfections, humanness, throw us all into such a tizzy. Is it because we are all so afraid that someone will find out we are not perfect that we have to lash out to avoid contamination? I don't know.

What I do know is that no one should ever have cause to write that the place they feel most judged is inside the church. We are all a broken and messy people. Most religions of the world spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out what to do about that. There are all sorts of plans for getting around the messiness... rule following, mental and physical exertions, learning to completely deny oneself so as to become separate from the messiness. But this is Christianity's ace in the hole. Jesus acknowledges our messiness. He doesn't ask us to change because He knows we can't. No matter how hard we try, we just cannot attain perfection. Yet Jesus loves us anyway. Loves us enough that He substituted His perfection for our imperfection. We just have to let Him. We don't have to become perfect or pretend to be, we just have to let Jesus be perfect for us.

Because of this, instead of trying expect ourselves and other Christians to be perfect... or pretend to be... we should be doubly accepting of each other's imperfections and love them anyway. Changing a person is not our job, and just as we cannot make ourselves perfect, we certainly cannot make someone else perfect, either. We're all messes. We sometimes forget our role in the whole salvation department is to share how Jesus entered our own messiness and loved us anyway. We are not someone else's salvation. Yes, God can use us, but He really doesn't need us. We often take too much upon ourselves and lose sight of the greatness of Jesus in the process.

Instead, let us remember our own messiness first, before commenting on the messiness of others. We should never expect from someone else what we are incapable of doing ourselves. The joy of knowing we are loved greatly despite our imperfections should be what people see in the church first. And the joy is great... if we allow Jesus to carry our burdens for us.


Carla said…
Well said!

My dad's phrase (I don't know who said it originally) was, "Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment." I need to remember that when I elevate someone's mothering/housekeeping/life skills in my mind. Most times they had to learn the hard way the very characteristic I admire.

I have found that nothing encourages connection and fellowship more between people than to be vulnerable about your own shortcomings. If I am willing to be open about my own known failings first, others usually relate and then we can encourage each other. I do try to be careful not to make it a complain session (even about myself), but to make a connection and then help each other to improve or regain perspective.

"I am a very different parent than when I first started out 23 years ago. I knew more back then, but there's a lot less pressure now."

Amen! My eldest is 24, but other than that, I feel like you took the words right out of my mouth.

I recently told my 17 year old, "I'm only going to get smarter in your eyes from here on out, now that you've graduated and have to start functioning in the real world."

Those of us who started our families young "knew everything" at that time. I've learned so much since then. It's quite humbling.
Ozark Mom said…
A big sigh of relief as a mother who tends towards perfectionism...funny with our family is that our first son has challenged us every step of the way so that I have never gotten to feel like a parent who had it all together. I have been what you might call a frustrated perfectionist. I have explained to people more than once that no matter how I try to stuff my son in the box (of my expectations), he just won't go. Your post is great!

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