God has been dealing with me in a big way over the last few months. On my recent 45th birthday, I awoke with the profound feeling that this is a watershed year in my life. I’m at an age where my kids are either grown or almost-grown. I don’t have the bustling, loud household I did when they were little. They’re all relatively self-sufficient, save the occasional laundry disaster or need to have a Mom-cooked meal. Reaching 45, for me, felt different than other birthdays. I needed to make some changes. Lose weight. Eat healthier. Think outside the box. Write more. Listen more. Talk less. About six weeks after that birthday, I went on an ACTS retreat, which you can read about here, if you’re so inclined. At that event, I came face-to-face with the thing that holds me back more than any other. Unforgiveness.
To be clear, I don’t have a huge problem with forgiving others. I’ve forgiven people in my life who have hurt me deeply and I’ve done so willingly. I’m just not the kind of person who holds a grudge. No, the unforgiveness I’m talking about has to do with ME.
I beat myself up regularly about not reaching a standard that I’ve set in my head; some unattainable goal fueled by watching HGTV, Martha Stewart, and episodes of The Cosby Show. I used to have this habit of waking up determined to tackle the day with vigor and purpose. The plan was this:
I will be ON THE BALL! ON TIME! DRESSED AND READY! CALM AND COLLECTED!
I’m going to stick to the plan today and when the Hubster gets home from work, the children will have homework done, supper will be eaten together as a family, and I shall be refreshed and lovely and ready for sexy time at the proper hour; TV off, partially-shredded Van Halen sleep t-shirt swapped for seductive lingerie. I shall lavish my lucky Hubster with all the reasonable and customary lovemaking prescribed by the marriage gurus plus various and sundry extras gleaned from the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine. Oh yes, dear reader. I was a woman on a dadgum mission, all before 6am. Just like the Marines.
Then the kids woke up and all that resolve would hop right into the next handbasket to hell.
At some point throughout the day, I’d get frustrated with some stupid thing and the ugly specter of anger/frustration would creep in. It would begin a domino effect that made me feel my plan barrel away from me while I did my best to keep up. Annoyance about not keeping the house clean, or wearing a scrunchie in my hair for the 15th day in a row, or that my kids couldn’t walk through the store without me having to do that gritted-teeth Mom glare, “If you poke another hole in the packaged meat, we will be banned from the grocery store forever and you will frickin’ starve to death! Do you hear me? STAHP IT!” (Hypothetically speaking, of course. I would have never allowed my children to destroy meat products and then walk away without paying for them.)
See there? Now I’m lying. We destroyed SO. MUCH. MEAT. (Sorry, HEB.)
After 45 years, I hadn’t quite figured out that I need to love who I am because God loves who I am. What I didn’t understand is, when I spend time in prayer and basking in His love for me, the roadblocks and catastrophes are still going to happen, but I’m going to be able to deal with them in a better way. At the ACTS retreat, I spent an entire weekend being around a group of women who, like me, deal with all the joys, pitfalls, sorrows of life that make us feel “less than.” And I realized that God loves me; lint-covered scrunchie, cuss words, impatience and all.
The thing is, I’m not perfect. No one is. God still loves us, even when we screw up. He still loves us when we say, “Fuck.” (Not that I ever say…Oh, who am I kidding? It’s like I’m trying to reach a quota with that word. Gah.) He still loves me when I lose my temper. He designed me to be a smart-ass, so I suppose I need to quit beating myself up when the filter on my mouth is broken. There will be days when I fall short. There will be days when I’m praising God or just doing my thing and some Judgey McHolierthanthou will point out my shortcomings to try to make me feel “less than.” That’s cool. I am who I am and I know that He still loves me. Whew!