Life has been busy of late… A full, exhausting, all-encompassing pace that accounts for my absence in certain writing circles! The whirlpool of my work outside the home has been spinning faster and faster, sucking me in as I reach the office and often remaining with me as I return home. It is a wonderful opportunity to be employed by an organization that works on behalf of homeschoolers everywhere, but one thing is certain: there’s a lot of work to be done!
In the midst of balancing work and home life, though, I have been learning so much about Christ, about myself, and, yes, about the gospel. It has been a tremendous challenge to view my work rightly. In the strait-jacket of my flesh, I often inflate my work to be the catalyst for my friendship, self-worth, and identity. If I do my work well, then of course I should feel satisfied and fulfilled, esteemed by my supervisors and coworkers, and a very good person in general. And that same thought process extends to my home life as well! Let me use every coupon and discount available to get the very best grocery prices, and always have my bathroom spotless, and keep perfect suppers on the table for my husband. Then I’ll be a good wife and homemaker, naturally.
Oh, what a falsehood. I am coming to see what a prison it is to hold myself accountable to my own “standards” of perfectionism. A dear friend reminded me recently that my “best” will never, ever be enough. Only Christ’s best will do. And that is exactly what He gave us in the fullness of His incarnate sacrifice. Yet I continue to stumble along, willfully forgetful of grace, striving in my own strength to accomplish wonders and miracles. How silly!
A few weeks ago, for instance, I was scrambling about on a weekday afternoon, trying to get plenty of work done before going to pick up my dear husband from work. I was tired, and the afternoon had been less than stellar. The coupons I had saved got lost in the printing process, supper was not coming together quickly, and on top of it all, I had run my broom through an unseen puddle of water by the bathroom tub and smeared hair and dirt all over the bathroom floor. “I just can’t DO it, Lord!” I stormed. “I just CAN’T!” And then I stopped in my tracks. It was TRUE. Outside of grace, I can’t do it. In my own strength, I will fail.
That same truth came forth a few weeks later in a conversation with my boss. I was in her office over a small misunderstanding with a phone call, in tears because I had done “yet another thing” the wrong way. Gently, firmly, lovingly she reminded me that I wasn’t going to be perfect. It wouldn’t all be right. I would make mistakes. All I could give, she told me, was my best. And that was enough. Anything more, anything that ascribed toward perfection, would only be detrimental to my own attitude and my interactions with my coworkers. Better to be humble, flawed, and open with others than to have a self-righteous pursuit of perfection that alienated others.
Can you see how painful this sanctification process was getting?
And then, after the ups and downs of a few weeks in between, I ran into the proverbial brick wall. My responsibilities had escalated, and I was working under an end-of-month due date that seemed inflexible. My task was simple: writing cards to first-year members. Easy enough, right? So I brought them home with me over the long weekend. With family in town and multiple events, I didn’t begin writing until my so-called day off– in which I worked myself into a dither over getting lots of cards written in addition to the baking and laundry on the to-do list. I finished the day well enough, content with what I had done, but what was I doing the next morning at six? Writing cards, of course …. all day long. After all, it was the “last” day to do them. And what happened? They didn’t get done! After a ten-hour work day, I came home deflated, exhausted, and defeated. And then came the brick wall.
My beloved husband, as is his calling, told me the truth. The truth of what happens when I view my work wrongly, bringing it (and all its stress) home and making an idol out of getting it done. How work should not be the source of my self-worth or the basis of my friendships. How work, essentially, doesn’t get me anywhere on my own. Sounds familiar? It was the gospel all over again. My own hopelessness. Christ’s full atonement. Grace. Forgiveness. Freedom. Faithfulness. Contentment. And it finally made sense.
I must admit that I did chafe a bit over how little I got done the next day on the job. And I will probably struggle to keep this perspective next week when I go back to work and all its stresses. But I can say that I don’t have one single card at home with me to write over the weekend, and that I am wonderfully content to be at home with my beloved.
God is GOOD, is He not? The gospel is a beautiful thing.