With all the talk of true love, kisses on the balcony and which bridal couple did what best, I’m reminded of my own wedding day.
I was closer in age to Princess Diana than to her son William’s bride, Kate Middleton. Still just like most brides, I had a dream. I don’t know what vision you had, but mine was to be a perfect wife—to be all Richard desired and make him happy that he married me.
But my initial goal turned into obsession. I felt compelled to modify my personality, beliefs, talents and hopes to match his. It looked good, but it felt awful.
Eventually, my unrealistic expectations led to burnout. The outward me could no longer live in disharmony with the inner me. I had to do something or crumble. Yet the thought of changing the way Richard and I related to each other scared me.
“What if you don’t like me or our marriage when I share the real me?”
“I will,” assured my husband.
At first, I didn’t believe him. And truthfully, adjusting our conditioned relational patterns—the way we had learned to interact with one another—felt unfamiliar and awkward to us both. Yet gradually we’ve grown more comfortable sharing our needs, vulnerabilities and desires. We’re discovering how to combine who we are on the inside with what we appear to be on the outside. I think we’re growing into the individual persons God created us to be. We’re also enjoying our imperfect relationship. And I’m grateful.
(And this all reminds me of 1 Peter 5:6-7 in The Message, “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. Live carefree before God.”)
How about you? In which of your important relationships do you experience difficulty being your imperfectly human self? Consider sharing one uncomfortable reality about yourself to that person. Ask God for courage to be genuine.
* Story adapted from a devotional in my book, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life.
Right before our family moved from sunny California to snowy Minnesota ( and yes, the snow was this high!), I read Psalm 27:4*. My heart’s desire was to know God intimately and enjoy His friendship. So, I wrote a JCW (Joan Carol Webb) paraphrase of the psalmist’s words and prayed, “Lord, what I want most of all is the privilege of being with You every day of my life, delighting in who You are and basking in Your majesty and greatness.”
Then God seemed to urge me to read Psalm 27:5*, too. I didn’t like that verse much, because it mentioned “troubles” and the hint of unpleasantness ahead. So I ignored it, until God prodded some more. So, I added the following words to my prayer, “There I’ll be when trouble comes, safe in Your presence.”
A week after we arrived in MN, I had premature labor pains and lost our baby. I felt like my head was in a vice, yet sensed being unexplainably safe. I had heard God’s words to me and prayed them back to Him, relying on His trustworthiness. And He carried me during a devastating time. In the midst of it all, I experienced the desire of my heart: To know God intimately.
Today consider asking God to give you a specific verse/promise and then turn it into a prayer. To help solidify it in your mind/heart, jot it down and date it and watch how God responses.
Want to share your verse-prayer? I’d love to “hear” it.
(Just to be clear: God’s loving presence doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the loss and grief. Or that I don’t experience the pain now, even years later. Recently while sitting with a loved one who suffered a miscarriage, we hugged and cried together over our lost babies. And I have a lump in my throat right now as I write about baby Matthew–although I know he’s in the arms of Jesus.)
*Psalm 27:4-5 NIV:
4One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
You realize the person aiming this advice at you means well. Still it’s not easy to do when things seem so messed up.
Okay, face it: Sometimes faith seems far away. At other times faith surprises you and swells up inside. For example, although Abraham had previously tried to control his own future (lying about his wife and getting a surrogate mother for his promised offspring) when he faced the confusing circumstances on Mt. Moriah concerning his young heir Isaac, Abraham had faith that God would see him through.
Though you try with all the discernment you can muster, you’ll never know exactly what tomorrow holds. If you’re like most people, you wish you could. It’s frustrating when well-intentioned attempts to “direct” your family, job, health, church, or the economy fail to produce the results you want.
Yet frustration can give way to faith:
If you’re open to it, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your answer. I’m seriously thinking about my response right now . . .
While at my grandson’s baseball game last night, I heard three different parent/child interactions that caused my heart to hurt.
Oh, I was on a roll! Then this morning, I opened my new copy of the magazine InTouch and read how Dr. Charles Stanley answered the question, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DISCIPLINE A CHILD WITHOUT BREAKING HIS SPIRIT?
Stanley wrote, “Let’s distinguish between two words: personhood refers to who children are deep inside, while actions refers to their behavior. Never try to break a child’s spirit, which crushes his sense of self. All discipline should target inappropriate actions without injuring his personhood.
“Here are some errors to avoid:
Well, Dr. Stanley, that’s what I was trying to say to my imaginary audience while I drove home alone last night. You did it better. Thank you! So today I take the message to you: my blog audience.
On this Good Friday, I’m grateful Jesus came to give his life so that we as parents can experience God’s love, patience, forgiveness, nurture and mercy for ourselves. And although we’ll never be a perfect parent like God is, with Him as our loving Guide and Savior, we can splash grace onto our kids.
Just wondering: How do you splash grace on your kids–even when they’re trying your patience?
It’s Easter week and I’m thinking about Christmas! But it’s not what you suspect. I’m not in my perfectionistic-mode of planning, shopping and preparing my holidays that far in advance.
I’m thinking about Christmas, because Easter is the reason for Christmas.Which leads me to reflect on JESUS.
During His 33 years on earth, Jesus surrounded Himself with perfectly imperfect people who decided to admit their needs, take risks, make mistakes and grow. These are the kind of people who formed His staff and ministry team.
Actually, He didn’t spend much time with those who feigned perfection, appeared on-top-of-it-all, made unreasonable religious rules, blamed others for their dilemmas and remained preoccupied with appearances.
Instead Jesus preferred working, playing and living with people just like you and me. He enjoyed imperfect partnerships back then, just as He does today. What a relief-producing Easter thought!
How will this truth make a difference in your Easter holiday this season?
Easter Gift-Giving Tip: Include a copy of the book The Relief of Imperfection in your Easter baskets.
Balance itself has no specific objective. It is a constant state of motion and flex.
To understand this, imagine the following. [You might even wish to take a break from sitting at the computer to actually DO this! Oh, go ahead. Nobody’s watching and if someone is, she won’t care!]
This imaginary activity is designed to give you a picture of what you’re attempting to do in balancing the different aspects and roles of your life during any given day. Balance doesn’t mean scheduling an equal number of hours to each role or activity in your life. Not only is that unrealistic, it’s impossible.
Developing balance is a skill (just like standing on one leg is a learned skill.) Remember God cares about all areas of your life and He wants to help you flex with your roles and goals. Today consider asking God to help you cultivate this skill. You can do it. It’s a doable and reasonable process!
I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you develop balance and maintain equilibrium? What frustrates you about all this?
Years ago while recovering from burnout, I enjoyed a few days away on a personal retreat. Sitting alone, I listened to the recorded music of a soloist singing: “God is in love with His people. God is in love with me.”
Tears filled my eyes. For a woman who doesn’t cry much, this surprised me. My soul empty for so long, filled with fresh hope. Yet my next thought threatened my newfound contentment: “But is this true that You’re in love with me, Lord?”
Returning to my room, I searched for affirmation. Then I read, “The Lord appeared . . . saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’” (Jeremiah 31:3).1
“It is true,” I whispered. “God is in love with me.” I remember praying: Lord, help me continue to believe that You’re in love with me even when my mind and emotions insist otherwise.
This Week During a Personal Retreat
Last weekend I took time to go on another personal retreat. (I’ve come to appreciate these get-away times.) Before I arrived at the retreat center, I met with a spiritual director and shared my longing: to feel God’s love in addition to knowing it. (Yes, it’s very similar to that long-ago desire.)
She listened and we chatted about the push/pull I often experience in each area of my life: work, self-care, relationships, service, dreams, spirituality. We talked about the almost constant the tug-of-war I experience between the fast-paced/goal-oriented side of my personality and the reflective/slower side.
She said something like, “You don’t have to fight this push/pull, Joan. It is a part of you. Talk with God about that and then listen for His responses.”
I acknowledged and felt a myriad of emotions during my retreat (yes, that was smile-able progress for me.) During an agitated time, I prayed, “What do you want, Lord?”
“Nothing right now, Joan. I don’t always want something extra. You’re the one who always wants something more from yourself.”
“So take a nap, Joan.”
“Uhhh, okay, Lord.” My shoulders relaxed; the agitation waned. I felt cared for, listened to–and loved. Like God wanted my needs to be met. Ahhh.
The next day when the agitation reared it’s head again, I didn’t berate myself–and neither did the One who is indeed in love with me.
So here’s a message for all you who long for God: God’s in love with you, too.
Consider planning some time for a private retreat or a few hours away from your normal schedule to connect with yourself and God. If you’d like to dialogue about how, when, where and why to retreat, send me a comment.
Here’s a few photos I snapped during my retreat this weekend.
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.