Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Project Empty: Don't Be an Amoeba

I admit it. There are times I need to be hit over the head with a copper kettle before I start to pay attention. When I gave in to my word of the year, I knew this whole year would be somehow filled with those moments. Empty is hard, especially when you have been fighting empty for so long. 

Nevertheless, there it is. Empty is still hitting me over the head. The flavor of the day is perfection and comparison. It began last night as I read this status update from Lysa TerKeurst:
"Dear Lord, forgive me for all of the times I've compared myself to others. I know that You have hand-picked all of my qualities. Help me to see these things as beautiful reminders of Your great love in creating me as your daughter. In Jesus' name, Amen." 
Well, then. There you have it. Not only is comparison the thief of joy, it is the thief of grace. God has created me, all of me. Why do I think I need to do it all, and be it all, all of the time? Why does seeing someone else succeed at times give me tinges of guilt at the things I am not accomplishing? In addition to wreaking havoc on my own psyche and spirit, the drive for perfectionism wreaks havoc on the body of Christ. 

Our shortcomings serve a purpose. While many of us are quick to believe we must be the best at everything, that just isn't God's plan. Certainly, we strive to do and be our best at all times, but that is far from the stench of perfectionism. As St. Paul writes, in the body of Christ there are many members, but one body, no one part dispensable or more important that the other. 

If we cannot, in humility, acknowledge and embrace our shortcomings, we elevate ourselves over one another. We deny others the ability to use what God has given them to share. If I can do it all, I have no need of you. We risk becoming an entire body in and of ourselves, comprised of only one cell. We become an amoeba, not a human. 

I say this as a reminder to myself. Failure and weakness are part of the human experience...perhaps even a strength of the human experience in that it opens us to the grace of God. 

Grace-filled isn't always graceful. It doesn't mean that I am always floating gently above the surface, devoid of emotion or failure. Yes, by definition, that is hard to reconcile. When I explore the fullness of the words, graceful evokes images of ballerinas leaping as though lighter than air, ladies walking with perfect posture in heels and pearls. I don't think that is the graceful that Christ desires of us, or the expectation I want to pass on to my daughter (or son, for that matter.) When I use the word grace-filled, a very different image appears. An empty pitcher, being filled with water, grace being poured out onto an empty and open soul. Grace-filled.

It isn't when I am somehow perfectly hovering above the messiness of life that I am most graceful. It is precisely when I have fallen on my giant patootie that I am most filled with grace. It is when I am fallen and dirty and beaten that there is more likely room for grace to enter in and fill me to the full. 

I was once told a story about Native American weavers. It was said that when these artisans would weave their tapestries, they would always leave a little hole, a little imperfection, where the spirit could enter. That image has always stuck with me in a powerful way. God has allowed the same in us after the fall, but we spend countless hours and millions upon millions of dollars trying to eliminate the imperfections that may be our very ticket to grace. 

How much simpler life would be if we instead perfected the ability to embrace our quirky idiosyncrasies, the thorns in our flesh, the faceplants and facepalms, and learned to laugh and surround ourselves with the body of Christ. Surely we would find that we are stronger together, that you can do what I cannot, and I can do what you cannot. It is possible that we would learn that our weaknesses do not make us worthless, but rather in them we realize our true worth to a God who comes to lift us up through them. Perhaps we would be quicker to remember that God alone is perfect, and even He comes united in three persons. 

Now there is a lesson I want my children to learn.

Wishing you and yours a year of grace-filled moments, bruises and all!

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