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Teaching children there’s a difference between a sin and a mistake, can make a huge difference in how they handle failure as an adult. When every infraction is viewed as sin, the burden can be crippling.

When the ice cream falls off the cone, or the new bike gets scraped and out of alignment when she takes a turn too quick and ends up on the ground. Only later did she learn that some things weren’t her fault—they just happened. Because we’re human. And God has a soft spot for humans.

But it would be a while before she understood that.

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The same tension she felt around her dad, was there with God. Desperate for token hand-outs in answer to her prayers, she only asked for the barest, the minimal, for only the things she had no way of getting herself. And only on rare occasions.

She tried so hard to be a good girl—she knew well what happened when she wasn’t. She didn’t want to bother Him with her frailties, her ignorance and ineptness, the constant falling short. His time would be better spent on more important matters, and on people who weren’t so needy.

She felt sick when sin was caught, or even presumed… when complications arose from unintended mistakes. Insides knotted while heat rushed over her.

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Reading a recipe wrong, stains on a dress, accumulating overdraft fees or late payments on bills due, hosting a party where only two people showed up… or the time she ordered carpet, only to realize it was four inches too short… when the speeding ticket depleted their meager savings account of almost $300… and her own impatience with family members.

Blew it again! Not good enough. Failed. Messed up.

But even when she really tried and thought through each step, slow, deliberate, but still found herself staring at a problem, those days were the worst. How she hated that awful sinking remorse, weighing down her body and spirit, pulling her deeper into sucking guilt

When will you learn?

Why do I bother trying?

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Life was a disappointment. And she was a disappointment.

Dealing with other difficult people through the years brought more torment, increased doubts, and the little girl inside still cowered, hid behind door frames in tears, afraid to take those few steps to the next room, to complete the next task, because someone might get mad, and would tear her down even more. Never sure what to say or how to act around people, too much mental energy was spent analyzing which response would cause the mildest outrage or the least criticism from a boss, a relative, church member, neighbor, whoever—it didn’t matter. She made every effort to stay out of their way.

You know we love you, an insensitive one said. But no, she didn’t, because that’s not what love looks like. Or feels like.

Why won’t you deal with your own failings and leave me alone? You have a lot to learn about love, she wanted to say. Hating herself for keeping it in, but knowing she’d rather be the one being hurt, than the one doing the hurting.

The unexpected challenge came when others hinted at their difficulty in pleasing her. Inflexible. Controlling. Defensive. Proud. All words used to describe her.

Was it self-preservation? Keeping walls up and armor in place, to disguise her sensitivity, her fragile nature, to hide her long and deep desire to please and find approval, affirmation in a coarse world starved themselves for gentleness and goodness in any form?

Pride has a way of seeing everyone as proud. And breeds insecurity.

She learned to take these accusations to the Lord.

Because over the years, she had met people who weren’t difficult. People with confidence and faith and compassion, with genuine love for someone like her, who saw promise beneath a young woman’s awkward attempts at growing up.

And along the way God had answered more than her piddly prayers. He had proven His love for His timid child. And she began finding the assurance that even where there was pain, He had a plan.

Becoming a mom opened her understanding. Of course her Father still loved her, even when mistakes were made, when temptation won. Didn’t she love her little ones even when they stumbled?

And she saw how raising children of her own smoothed those jagged edges, taught her a deeper love. Juggling so many and so much helped her learn to flow with the goings on around her, gave her time to mature, developed skills she lacked, and revealed those ideals worth clinging to.

With time and trial and error and in not giving up… in the loving and in being loved… and in the seeing… she found hope.

To be continued…

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