Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Unforced Rhythms of Grace
Worn Out. I could so relate to the title. It grabbed my eye when I first saw it. It's often the perfect description for me, and likely for many women 25 years either side of me.

Growing up, with six kids in our home, I don't remember my mother this way. I wonder, was she? We didn't have a microwave, or a crockpot, or any of the 'conveniences' that are considered necessities today. We had a wringer washer on the back porch at one point. My father's shirts were 100% cotton uniforms. Four boys made loads of laundry, mountains of laundry. Cooking to feed us - I can't imagine. Yet I don't remember once having frozen pizza. We ate potato soup, cornbread, homemade pizza, chicken gumbo. It seems whatever we ate was homemade, because you couldn't really buy anything else.

There weren't lessons to drive to, sports practices or events to attend. If other kids at school participated in those things, our family did not. There were just too many of us, and my mom worked much of the time I was growing up. We had one TV in the living room, with rabbit ears, that had foil balled up on the ends of the antennas. We got three channels. Everybody got three channels. My father chose the shows we watched nightly, and the stations all went off the air at 10 pm. I still remember the crazy black wavy lines when the stations shut down. Shut down, can you imagine? There was no internet, no computers, no video games. We used encyclopedias to do our homework. One telephone in the hall where God and everybody could hear every single word you said, and there was a time limit anyway.

If my mom was busy, and she certainly had to be, there didn't seem to be this expectation that she would be involved in our lives constantly, going here and there at a frantic pace so we'd be exposed to everything society could offer. I don't remember her sitting down, reading a magazine, but I also don't remember a big family calendar on the fridge, governing our very existence. Our refrigerator sported a chore list, and it was not a suggestion, but a requirement.

I don't know when it changed. Or how. Or why. I just know it did. And I jumped in with both feet.

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure...which is: try to please everyone." Herbert Bayard Swope

Fast-forward to 1998, and I had just agreed to head up the Ladies Bible Study program for our church. It involved a lot of recruiting, and making decisions that weren't popular across the board. A wise woman at the church told me this, "You can't please most of the people most of the time, so don't even try. Please God and call it good."

I forgot her words. Worn Out Woman tells me part of the reason I'm worn out is expectations. Living up to the expectations of family, friends, work, neighbors, even my church, and, oh yeah - myself. The shoulds and woulds and oughts won't stop easily, rather the more I live up to expectations placed on me, the more will come my way. Vicious cycle. The book suggests the best way to stop it is to starve them. Expectation is fed by 'three foods of comparison, people pleasing and perfectionism'. Take away the three foods and they will starve.

Comparison increases expectation. Whether it's comparing my appearance, accomplishments, acquisitions, or abilities. Sometimes we exaggerate other's qualities and give ourselves the short end of the stick; other times we build up one area we feel good about, hoping nobody will notice the area we feel inadequate in. The book tells me the antidote is reality. Realizing each of us is a unique creature, formed by God, with God-given atttributes and abilities. Each of us can grow and improve, but like roses and lilies - both are beautiful, so comparison isn't the answer. Or even appropriate. Or godly. Can the comparing.

People pleasing - is there anyone out there who doesn't struggle with this? We all come with a healthy desire to be needed, loved, to belong, to fit in. When it reaches a level that could be called "disease to please" as the authors put it, it's a problem. I suspect most of us have a problem. I sure do. I loved when the author said, "seeking to please is like trying to catch a snowflake on your tongue; even if you can do it, it doesn't last very long." Isn't that the truth! I've had seasons where I 'hung the moon' for someone; the next time they asked me to do something and I had to decline, or actually succeeded in setting limits, my name fell out of favor. When my natural, God-given desire to please reaches the point it drives me to being worn out, it's time to stop, take a look, make adjustments.

Perfectionism - I tend not to think of myself this way. Really, you Should Not eat off my floor! My home is clean enough to be healthy, and that's it. I can live with weeds in the flower beds, wrinkles in the bedding, an effort that is enough to get the job done, but won't win rave reviews. I tend to think of myself as too practical to be a perfectionist. Still, the author says "pretending to have your act together all the time" is a sign of perfectionism rearing it's ugly head. Rather, admit I blow it every day, and move on. It frees me, it frees those around me. This was convicting. I like feeling like I have my act together. I don't. Often I won't. Admit it. Move on.

This struggling with expectations, my own and others, isn't cured with a one time fix; rather it will continue to come my way, or be self-induced. It's something I have to learn to recognize, and put some stops to. Oh, that I could be as gracious with myself as He is. He's not the one dumping the load on my shoulders. He tells me, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30.

And oh so perfect - this is how the Message puts it:

"Are you tired? WORN OUT? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Living freely and lightly - what's not to love about that?!


  posted at 8:00 AM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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