How to know what really matters

Not just choose to give grace, but choose to receive it, take it in, soak it up past the superficial skin and let it seep down deep into your soul, into the places of self-condemnation.  Let it erase the records of wrongs, mistakes and imperfections.

Like when you shop at at the grocery story and you forgot your coupons.  And they don’t have the chicken you need, which messes up your meal plan for the week.

So you skip out on exercise because you had to trek to a second grocery story to find said elusive chicken.

And during the rush to put away the groceries, all you can see is the dirt in the corners of the kitchen floor, the apple juice splatters, the toothpaste splotches in the bathroom sink, and the laundry piled in the basket.

At the end of the day, what’s on your mind is mess and failure, what you didn’t accomplish….how your kids didn’t practice the piano, your toddler threw a tantrum every hour, and you didn’t finish the project you’re working on.

I collapsed onto the sofa after having that day and read to my daughters quickly.  When we finished the chapter, my daughter reached over and turned down the corner the page to hold our place.

And I felt the full rush of failure.

I’m a page-turner-downer from way back.  Despite a lovely, inspirational, unique and extensive collection of bookmarks, I fall back on a long-established bad habit.  I just dog-ear my page and snap the book shut.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit I’ve unwittingly passed along to these daughters of mine.  In fact, it’s so extreme they’ve even coined a term for it, transforming the word “chapter” into a verb.

“Mom, don’t close the book until we ‘chapter it!” they say and I dutifully slip the corner of the page down.

Watching my daughter turn down that page without hesitation, I heard that voice in my head: I’m passing along my bad habits to my children, handing them down like ill-fitting jeans and worn-out shoes.

Unfortunately, some of them aren’t as immaterial as dog-eared book pages–like stressing perfection too much, having too little patience with ourselves and others, always wanting to be in control, and not accepting grace in the wake of messy failure.

Don’t we all have days where it seems we meet with more failure than success? Where Satan can barrage us with reminders of the mistakes from long ago and the crazy mishaps of today?

Where every mom on Facebook seems to have it all together: gourmet meals for their family, a spit-n-shine house, Martha Stewart-like crafting ability, time to bake, snazzy Scrapbook pages, award-winning kids, and time for family service projects….”

Or maybe you feel it at your job or in your ministry or with your friends.  What you should be doing.  What you failed to do.  What you said that was wrong. How you fall short.  How you could be better.

The pressure of perfection is far too much for our imperfect selves tripping along in an imperfect world.

And that’s the point, sweet friend.  It’s not to get everything right.  It’s to get what really matters right.  It’s to do our best and just lay it all out, insufficient as it is, as an offering before a gracious God who just wants our heart anyway.

Paul told Timothy:

“The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God” (1 Timothy 1, MSG).

Sometimes we have to stop and ask, “What’s the point?  What is it that really matters here?”

Is it a chicken? Missing coupons?  Apple juice splatter or the pages of a book turned down at the corner?

What matters is living “a life open to God.”

So, we choose to receive that grace and rest in it.  We silence that self-condemning prattle in our mind and heart and decide:  it’s okay if we didn’t get it all perfect today and if our life got a little bit messy.

Doesn’t God love us?

Didn’t we try our best to walk in that love?

That’s the point and that’s enough.

Now, it’s your turn: Do you have any bad habits?

Originally posted November 2, 2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

“The Bad One”

“I’m the bad one in the family.”

She announces that at lunch as she munches on some strawberries.

I lean in close, thinking I misheard.  We were, after all, sharing this deep, meaningful moment in a crowded school cafeteria with the background noise of about 80 other second graders.

“The bad one?”

Who has ever called her this or slammed this ill-fitting and utterly cruel label onto this beautiful and loved daughter of mine?  Like an over-sized dunce cap on a child in the corner, this identity reeks of shame.

I wait for her to identify the name-caller, the bully that’s been filling her head with these lies.  Surely, it’s not me.  I review seven years of my Mom-speeches and Mom-conversations to see if I’m the culprit.

But she claims that role for herself, telling me, “I’m the one who gets the most punishments.  I don’t have self-control.  So, I’m the Bad One.”

It’s little more than a logic exercise for her as she shrugs her shoulders and delivers the explanation all matter-of-fact and void of any emotion.

This is the internal dialogue she’s been having, the way she has accused herself, identified herself, classified and labeled herself, gathered the evidence and declared herself guilty all on her own.

What’s a mom to say?  I feel the pressure of a moment, how to explain love, grace, discipline, and salvation all right then and there as she unwraps her granola bar?romans8

But I can’t.  I can only start the dialogue, open it up right there and begin the surgery, then return to that wound over and over to clean out the infection, the festering pus of lies, until she’s healed and whole.

So I begin.

No more calling yourself “The Bad One.”  You are loved, totally loved, no more or less than any other member of this family.  You sin.  We all sin.  You need to be disciplined sometimes.  We all do.  But Mom and Dad always, always love you.

I consider the self-condemning lies and slander I fill my own head with and I think about the whispered and anguished confessions of my friends struggling with their own self-hatred.

You’re the Flaky One.

You’re the Stupid One.

You’re the Ugly One.

You’re the Fat One.

You’re the Mess-Up.

You’re the Failure.

You’re the Awkward One.

We shackle ourselves in this way even though:

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT).

Christ offers us the freedom of grace and we choose the imprisonment of self-hatred.  We are, far too often, are harshest critics.

How Satan loves to use that against us, keeping us from obeying God’s call and preventing us from resting easy in grace by preying on our weaknesses.

As Mary Demuth writes in The Wall Around Your Heart:

It’s time to recognize, stark as it may seem that when you abuse yourself, you participate in the same kind of destruction that Satan wants for you (p. 73).

And, just like the conversation with my daughter, this isn’t something fixed in two minutes, five, or an hour or more.  It takes time, this gradual healing and move toward wholeness.

It begins by rejecting the labels we’ve placed on ourselves and the lies Satan has shackled us with, choosing instead to accept that Christ calls us:

Friends…His Children…and Beloved.

We’re not worthy.

Maybe that’s what we think.

Yet, even as Judas trudged into the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed the Savior with a kiss, still Jesus said:

“My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for”  (Matthew 26:50 NLT).

Even then, He chooses “friend”–not “betrayer,” or  “backstabber” or “The Bad One.”

Later that evening, I scan the aisles at a thrift store and stop periodically to remind this child:

Don’t take your shoes off and try on the 50 pairs of high-heeled shoes.

Do not crawl underneath the clothes and skip from aisle to aisle.

Do not pounce on the couches and jump on the cushions.

Do not touch every ceramic, glass, crystal, porcelain, or other thoroughly breakable item you see on every shelf we pass.

I tell her the truth: This behavior is unacceptable and I will discipline you if it continues.

BUT….

I love you.  I want to help you learn to make better choices because of that love.

I try to teach this to my daughter, beginning right there at a school cafeteria table.

I try to teach this to myself.

Sometimes we mess up, make mistakes, and sin.  But we are saved, redeemed, transformed and wholly loved by the very God who created us and uniquely designed us for a calling and a purpose.

God doesn’t label us, abuse us, condemn us, shame us, or hate us.

He made us.

He calls us.

He equips us.

Yes, He loves us.  That’s the truth.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King