“Alarm. Alarm. It is 7:25 am.” Oh is THAT what my phone’s voice sounds like? Apparently Eliana has somehow permanently changed my phone so that it talks to me now. Like I might be sitting in my Bible study and it might say something like, “YOU have a TEXT MESsage from…” I roll out of bed and pad down the hall to the bathroom. And I feel…tired? sad? upset? I can’t put my finger on it, so I try to push it out of my mind. That’s when the words start swirling around in my head. Ones that were spoken to me weeks ago, but are just as fresh as if they were spoken yesterday. Words my heart knows well. They aren’t pretty words. They’re ugly. And they don’t paint a pretty picture. On good days, I know that the picture they paint looks nothing like me. But on days like today…
I squint at my reflection in the mirror. My lips are chapped. There’s that pimple on my chin. My bangs are too long. I need a haircut. It’s true, I think. I am a mess. Not just my personality, but the way I look, too. I bend down and shove my hair dryer back into a dark corner of the cabinet and shut the door a little harder than usual, wishing that I could shove those thoughts in there, too. I hastily start raking a comb and straightener through my bedhead.
For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with being too much and not enough all at the same time. Too tall. Too loud. Too intimidating. Too enthusiastic. Too intense. Too emotional. Not relaxed enough. Not outgoing enough. Not happy enough. Not flexible enough. Not intelligent enough. Not spiritual enough. Not organized enough.
I don’t know where this stuff came from. Probably a combo of my own pride and perfectionism and the horrible belief I caught as a teenager that if I do the best, God will love me best. I’m not really thinking about that now, though. It’s repeating in my head like a chant. too much. not enough. too much, not enough.
My two year old comes into the bathroom, “Hi Momma. You seen my letters?” I nod, motioning to the box where her foam bath letters are and muster up a smile. At least she has no idea what a mess her momma is, I think.
I fumble my way through the rest of the morning routine. Stuffing breakfast into my mouth while I try to feed Phoebe, absentmindedly handing pieces to the little girl who said, “Momma, you share that scone with me?” We finally make it to the car, and Ellie starts singing along to T-Swift. Normally, I’m in love (who isn’t), but I just can’t with her today. I rifle through pile of CD’s, one eye on the road, and a neon green disc falls into my lap. I swap “1989” for “Not a F Up?” and tearfully beg the protesting toddler to “give momma some grace today, please.”
“Not a F Up?” is, perhaps surprisingly, a collection of songs, most of them about Jesus, designed by my best friend to remind me that I am not, in fact, an F-up, even on my worst days. We made these CDs for one another right after college, when we kind of thought swearing made us cooler Christians, and we were just generally angry about… most things, really. It’s got a bunch of songs by Caedmon’s Call and other bands that you tell people you like so that they know you’re a Christian, but like a cool Christian. So, basically, what I’m saying is we rebelled by writing “F” (literally, because we wouldn’t actually write the whole word) on burned CD’s full of songs about Jesus in an effort to sort out all the feelings we were having. Oh, man I am awesome. Clearly.
I laugh and make a mental note to ask her if I’m remembering things right when I hear the familiar opening guitar strums of one of my favorite tracks on the CD and turn it up.
“And maybe all that I’ve to do
Was done a long time ago.”
Ugh. I honestly can’t cry right now. It’s just not conducive to driving.
“Because there was life before my life,
Was provision before my need,
Was redemption before my sin.
For the sake of the world, I thank the Lord
That the truth’s not contingent on me.”*
Despite my best efforts, a tear slips down my face. And those words that have been swirling in my head? For a moment, they’re quiet. And my heart is quiet. Where condemnation has been spoken, peace is spoken.
And it’s not because I quit thinking about those ugly words long enough that I forget. It’s not because I got distracted by a good episode of TV or because I am now paying attention to keeping my girls from peril. It’s not because I thought up enough nice things about myself to even out the scale.
It’s because of Jesus. It’s because the Truth spoken over my life isn’t “you’ll show them.” Or “once you’ve been walking with the Lord long enough, you’ll figure it out.” The Truth is Jesus. Here before me. Strong before my weakness. Redeeming me before my sin. It’s because when I am weak, then I am strong.
I sigh and look out the window as the song continues. The peace in my heart is refreshing. But it’s not permanent. Later on in the day, I will raise my voice with my daughter. not patient enough. I will forget to start making dinner until 6pm. not organized enough. Tomorrow, I will find that I’m holding a grudge against someone while trying forgive. not spiritual enough. I will be frantic about my to-do list. not flexible enough.
I don’t know how long those words are going to swirl around in my head. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time I’ll hear them. But for now I take a deep breath and anchor my heart in the Truth, whispering this Psalm to the chapped-lipped, tired momma who looks back at me from the mirror.
“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…
Hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.”
*I hope someone enjoys the vintage Derek Webb in this awesome 90’s video as much as I did. YouTube is the greatest.