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When I Am Weak

I sit in the bathtub and try not to think.

Which means I think about everything that I don’t want to think about.

I think about

the late hour of the morning when we all woke up

and the fighting that ensued seconds later.

I think about

the groaning over chores and school

and the rising anger in my mama/teacher self.

“Gentle,” I heard the whisper earlier that day.

I think about the tears (mine were on the inside)

and the straw on the camel’s back when we realized that the toddler had consumed a tin of mints

while we were all breaking down.

I thought about the yelling (mine, and not on the inside)

and hours later when we got locked out of the house

and there was a boy preparing to throw up in the back seat.

“Gentle,” I heard the call as I continued head long in the opposite direction.

I think about the days my mom messed up

and how often the next day a present showed up on the kitchen table.

She was speaking her love language even though it left me wanting at the time.

How can I make it up to them, I wonder?

But the warm water and solitude

pull me under to a temporary state of semi-sleep

and I decide that’s better than remembering

what I don’t want to remember.

Finally I reach for a towel with my wrinkled fingertips and

attempt to get out of the bath, without a flood of thoughts.

But we know how that went already.

Since the flood won’t stop, I pour my day out to my husband.

Then I open my devotional and read the first line,

“IT’S ALL RIGHT TO BE HUMAN…” (it was written in all caps on the page itself)

My foggy heart grasps at those words.

It is?  Can it really be okay that I messed up today?

And then I recall an echo of my pastor from a few days ago

when he said “Remember, you’re human.”

I hold this idea tentatively, the possibility that my mistakes of the day

might not be a reason for such condemnation.

I look up a verse from the devotional.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me..I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Again the possibility that my weakness, rather than being a reason to put on shame, is actually for the purpose of sending me and all the kids to Christ who is perfect, who is patient, who is constant and never-changes, who is slow to anger, who is love.

A few years ago I began to realize that I didn’t need to measure my idea of perfect parents side by side to my actual parents and try to define the size of the gap.  Instead I began to see that my mom and dad were never supposed to be perfect because they were human. I even allowed that those holes were probably purposefully left there so that I couldn’t experience perfect love from anyone but my (heavenly) Father. A rather astounding idea after years of playing, “what if..” with my childhood, assuming that my kids would inevitably play the same game and enter counseling sometime in their life (still a prime possibility).

And now I know the gift my kids need, not a box to place on the kitchen table, but for their hearts.  They need the arrow that my weakness and their weakness both point to-they need the gift of the Lord.  I’ll tell them, “I’m going to love you more than I can ever put into words, you are my treasures. But I will always make mistakes.  The Lord, however, loves you perfectly, patiently, gently, and his love will never change, he will always  be constant.  When I let you down, or a friend, or the world, or when you let yourself down, look to the Lord, rather than lingering on the weakness of others (and yourself).  In my weakness, the Lord is made strong.”

I sit with these truths for several minutes before I read the rest of the verses from the day’s devotional.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(1 peter 3:3)

So the earlier whispers were also true. God is reminding me of His grace and also still leading me toward transformation.

But if I can walk in His grace rather than the lie of condemnation I can also believe in His power to change me daily. Sometimes the change comes from falling flat on my face.

There is a mystery.  We are completely forgiven (it only needed to done once through Christ’s blood) and yet we’re still being made into His image in the midst of grumpy kids and our own sinful hearts day by day.

A mystery that could also be called, a gift.

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