I share a table with 8ish (depending on the week’s attendance) deep, soulful, introspective women. They consider the role of ‘mother’ to be a prized position, never to be taken lightly, but they don’t think of themselves as merely that either. They’re friends and lovers and writers and students. They’re feminists, rebels and devil’s advocates. We have seasoned moms and newbies mixed in with seminary grads and high school dropouts (I’m probably stretching it a little with the ‘dropout’ bit). But there we are, all of us in the chaos of parenting and the overall messiness of life...together.
This past Tuesday, we closed our table discussion with one very wise mom sharing a theory. She said something along the lines of this: each of us wear our own unique world-view/self-view set of glasses. The lens through which we look, informs all of our thoughts, perspectives and judgments (towards others and ourselves). She suggested that we each take a moment to remove our “lenses” and replace that lens with a fresh pair; God’s lens. As much of an effort as it might be, she offered that this could be an opportunity to see ourselves the way God does. Wiping each of our slates clean...no longer the loser, ‘never meeting the mark’ mom (the way so many of us moms feel) or that ‘type A’, overachieving mom, trying to juggle it all while still looking sane. No longer the fear riddled mom or baggage laden wanderer but...what?? Who or what does God say we are??
Quickly another mom (a brilliant mom), chimed in with a rival thought. It wasn’t entirely different, just a shift in perspective. She suggested that instead of changing our lenses to better view ourselves, we might consider adjusting our lenses to properly view God. This mom, whom I deeply respect, made a special point to say that if we could focus on God and his majesty, on his holiness and loveliness, than we’d have no need to see ourselves. We would, in essence, become a non issue for ourselves. No more obsessing over our weight or other physical issues that drag us down mentally and distract us. Around the table, none of us disagreed with either perspective.
After I left though, my analytical brain started working overtime. I began to think that although both perspectives were very wise, each lacked a fullness without the compliment of the other. It seemed the perfect depiction of the beauty of humanity and our need for one another. Balanced thinking doesn't happen alone, it requires multiple contributors.
So, here’s where I think the sweet spot lies: We need to see God for who he truly is; we need to see him accurately. Not as a punitive judge who acts like the Karma patrol, perfectly poised to spank us every time we act selfishly or sinfully. And not as a withholding, unloving, ungracious, bitter and unforgiving father. Not as a distant, detached or overly serious old man with a HUGE white beard up in the clouds...somewhere. But as the loving, generous, lavish, friendly, faithful, forgiving, powerful, pure and just God.
But If we focus only on who God is and cut ourselves out of the frame, we miss a significant piece of the picture...US. We’re nearly EVERYTHING to God. So we mustn't seek to minimize ourselves in such a way. God doesn't!
Strength comes when we marry who God is with who God says we are. He says to each of us, I love you ALWAYS. I want YOU and you're worth EVERYTHING to me. Your life is valuable. I’ve chosen you. You are forgiven and pure. You’re an overcomer and you don’t need to be bound by those burdens! You are beautiful and not a mistake!
If we place our identities in motherhood, a career, relationships, our abilities or our appearance...what happens when that thing (or things) we’ve cemented our value to is rocked?? Maybe that dream job disappears or the kids grow up and leave...or heaven forbid, we grow old and our outer beauty is replaced by deep, deep smile lines upon frown lines upon “elevens” (elevens - the two lines that separate one’s eyebrows)...and all we’re left with is the hope of all hopes that our inner beauty outshines that mountain of wrinkles. Geeeez!
Having inner beauty that covers any number of wrinkles is an admirable intention. But arriving there is a whole different thing. The truth is that none of us, including me, will ever possess genuine inner beauty, uncorrupted by selfishness, insecurity, jealousy or the preoccupation with that awful suspicion that others (all of them) live better and happier than us, unless we fasten our identity and value to that one immovable thing...God.