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Grace Over Guilt

I don't like messy or unpredictable. I thrive on control, calculated and planned out days, and a clean house. If I had it my way, I would never have dust on my shelves or toys on the floor. In my perfect life there would never be hard or inconvenience. I want an easy, calm and healthy life. In this Utopia I'd move through my days relatively unscathed, unnoticed, and untouched by pain or trouble. And most important, I'd never fail. I'd never raise my voice; I'd always have a kind word of wisdom and an abundance of patience. Cue the violin as we enter paradise! But this isn't where I live...

The kids were up at their usual ungodly hour of the morning. My son’s birthday surprises ruined by the screams of my youngest who doesn’t yet understand every birthday isn't his. The screams turned to incoherent cries and a tantrum that takes a half hour to resolve and leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. It’s not even 8am and everyone already has grumpy attitudes and hurt feelings. My own discouragement and defeat from the weight of the week almost to its boiling point, explodes when the grocery delivery guy interrupts my plans for the day by sending us the wrong food. All joy is completely stolen by the piles of guilt I heap on myself for, yet again, not responding as the godly wife and mother I claim to be. The picture of perfect and happy quickly fades as the present need for attention, by my day to day life, is made evident.

The icing on top is the ever growing feeling of how foolish I must look, claiming Jesus one minute as I demand his example be displayed in my kids, while showing a completely opposite resolve on my own part in the next. And why? Simply because things didn’t go my way. My day was upended by a fit, my morning routine disturbed by human error. The truth is I don’t like not getting my way. My selfish desires often hijack whatever needs are in front of me, clouding my judgement. I resolve to do better the next day only to find myself in the same predicament, shocked by the words coming out of my mouth. My tone is demining, my patience completely gone.

Day after day of these exhausting battles slowly erode at my hope and my peace. So many of my days are marked by the piles of guilt I seem to pick up along with the toys, and carry with me. Guilt that I yelled again. Guilt that I ate too many cupcakes. Guilt that l said no to that snuggle, no to the attention they needed, no to the one on one playing cars. But also feeling guilty when I say yes because I know that every time I say yes, I'm saying no to something else. To the other kid screaming for my attention, to the laundry needing to be folding, to the dishes in the sink. The pressure to be it all, and do it all, and constantly feeling like I am failing, is overwhelming and so defeating.

The longer I fight, and fail, at the battle with my desire for perfection and my unmet expectations, I'm finding that expectations and disappointment go hand in hand. The more I buy into this fear I'm failing the more I start to doubt the goodness of God. The more I second guess if I can actually trust him with everything I'm carrying, the more I scramble to control the unknowns and the derailed moments. The more pressure I put on myself to fill in the gaps, the more expectations I put on God to be or do things he never said he would. This inevitably leads me to becoming more and more disappointed in God when he doesn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted him to, or grant me the easy way through life I sometimes demand. In light of this, it becomes clear that the route of my disappointments in life are not because I've been dealt a bad hand, but instead, they all begin with my unrealistic expectations I put on myself, and yes, sometimes God.

Enter Grace. Over and over in scripture I have read about the law and grace. About how when you know Jesus you are no longer under the law and the rules but Gods undeserved favor. But what does this really mean? The law in its stripped-down form is, the system of religious thinking that gives sin its power. Without the law to tell us we have done wrong; we wouldn't know we have sinned. Every time I strive on my own to keep that law, the perfection, that control, that don't mess up or else mentality, I'm feeding right into Satan's plan to kill, steal and destroy my life and suck any joy I may find out of it. On the opposing side is Grace, which say's I don’t have to keep that law any more. It's all been covered. So, when I know this and still strive for perfection, I'm declaring with my actions I don't actually believe God can cover it all. That he isn’t big enough for my messy days, from my house to my heart.

So often the law is the loudest voice in my life. It screams I failed when I raised my voice today. But grace whispers, his mercies are new every day. The law demands I have to have a clean house, flashy Instagram feed and be a size 6. Grace declares that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at my heart. The law accuses me of already failing my kids so bad that they will need therapy someday. Grace promises that I'm not big enough to mess up God's plan for my child's life. The law say's I have messed up far too often to ever deserve all of God’s love and I should probably work a little harder to prove my worth. God's grace tells me, he sent his son to die for me, to defeat that law forever, because he loves me with an outrageous love.

I don't know about you, but I really need that love tonight. I need it most nights, so will you sit with me in the peace and presence of Jesus for a minute? Forget the dishes, forget the toys, forget the words you said too harshly today, let the love of Jesus wash it all away. Let go of the control, release the expectations, surrender the bags of guilt, and receive grace. The burdens we carry are far too heavy and Jesus longs to take them from us. Even if we have to meet him there ten times a day and surrender it all again. I guarantee he is not sitting disappointed in us, but instead ecstatic to meet us there. A place where there is room to fall and not have failed. A place of second chances. A place where we are gifted the space to let go of the guilt and grasp hold of the grace in every moment of our lives.

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