March 26, 2013

Of Guilt and Rationalization

I recently read an excellent blog post that has circulated the Facebook world, A Letter to Young Mothers.  The author expresses beautifully what I've been learning along my own parenting journey.  It struck me, as I pondered the ups and downs of life as a parent, that instead of being content in the Room of Grace, I too often fluctuate between the extremes of guilt and rationalization.  (See the excellent book The Cure for a treatise on pleasing God vs. trusting God, i.e. living in the Room of Good Intentions vs. living in the Room of Grace.)

Example: I've only exercised 5 days in a row the past two months because of sickness and lower back pain.  I've all but given up on the idea of having a healthy body during this pregnancy, so I've been consuming alarming amounts of junk food.  (Having an all-or-nothing personality isn't something I'm proud of...)  Instead of allowing myself a treat now and then and enjoying it in an emotionally healthy manner, I alternately beat myself up with guilt for "blowing it" or rationalize to myself that I "deserved it."  Neither extreme is a comfortable place to be--and the ironic thing is, any pleasure or comfort I may otherwise have received from my dark chocolate or my crunchy, salty chips ends up replaced by feelings of self-loathing (guilt) or attempted indifference (rationalization).

Yesterday morning I kind of had an epiphany of sorts--and it came in the framework of homeschooling.  We’re floundering somewhat with Ted gone for a 6-week training class in the States.  We are at the end of our American History curriculum but not quite ready to jump into our next Core.  (I have a lot of organizing to do first!)  So, as we wrap up some loose ends, counting down these last 20 or so days until Ted's return, I am just trying to hang on and survive while dealing with lower back pain, exhaustion, and the general chaos that exists in a house with 6 children and a pregnant, hormonal mom.  Our regular daily schedule has been set aside and we literally take one day (moment even) at a time.  I do not cope well with this type of living!

So Monday morning, as I was considering what I thought maybe the kids should do as far as schoolwork that day, I was praying, “Lord, what do YOU want us to get done today?”  And I actually think I detected a note of exasperation in His reply!  I can't type out a word-for-word response that I heard in my heart, but it was along the lines of…really, it doesn't matter WHAT you do [in the realm of math, language arts, etc.]!  What matters is HOW you do it!

When we view eternity…when we’re living in God’s forever kingdom…will my kids have grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus?  Will they know that He loves them fiercely because I as their mom showed them such love?  Will they have been empowered and equipped to carry the gospel to those who need it and to show love and compassion to everyone regardless of whether it’s easy or convenient?

THOSE are the things that are important.  And I know that, and I tell myself that, and I tell others that (especially newer homeschooling moms), but I still find myself playing this guilt game over not having a clean enough house or an organized enough schedule or being “behind” in this or that.  Behind according to whom or what?!  Good grief.  We've made life so complicated.  It doesn't need to be.  It shouldn't be.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 
1 Cor. 10:31

So whether I eat dark chocolate...or drink coffee...or teach grammar...or wipe a dirty bottom...or tell a child for the 5th time to take his dirty dishes to the sink...or whatever I do...

...I want it to be all for the glory of God.

I want it to count for eternity.

I don't want to waste the moment wallowing in guilt.

I don't want to waste it rationalizing my choices.

Through Jesus Christ I am justified...sanctified...righteous and holy in His sight.  Absolutely I still struggle with sin.  But I dwell in the Room of Grace.  And if my sovereign, holy God gives me grace...shouldn't I give myself some, too?  And shouldn't I be eager to extend it to all those around me?  Actually, it often seems easier to extend grace to everyone else except myself...and those closest to me.  Why do I hold myself (and even my children) to a higher standard than I would expect of others?  I suppose that could be a topic to explore another time...

In the meantime, I'm choosing, in these weeks of "flux," to focus less on the concrete tasks that I would typically write on my planner.  Instead, I want to pursue some of those more elusive ideals of life.  My to-do list might look something more like this:

  • Sing of God's love to and with my kids
  • Read more stories--Bible stories AND fairy tales
  • Cuddle
  • Tell my 10-year-old what an awesome kid I think he is
  • Actually listen to my 4-year-old when he tells me the saga of the pirate ship he has built out of math blocks and Lincoln logs
  • Dance with my 6-year-old in the kitchen
  • Spend some alone time with my 12-year-old and give her a safe place to discuss what's on her heart
  • Throw the football with my 9-year-old...assuming we can get it down from the ledge between our yard and the neighbors'.  (Sigh.)

No guilt over what isn't "being accomplished."  No rationalizing my need for "alone time."  

Only grace...grace given, grace received.


Rob said...

oh beverly, i love & amen every word of it. (and i didn't know you blogged -- cool!)

blessings to you in this journey saturated with Grace,

truth in weakness said...

oh beverly, i love & amen every word of it. (and i didn't know you blogged -- cool!)

blessings to you in this journey saturated with Grace,

Lisa Basner said...

Thank you, Beverly. I needed to hear this today.

Debi said...

My beautiful friend and her beautiful words. Both big blessings in my life. Love you!!