Tonight as I was scarfing down my dinner, I looked at the walls around the kitchen table, streaked with white mystery stains, airborne crumbs and sticky fingerprints. I took a deep breath and a bite of my dinner. I reminded myself that one day when my children are grown, I will live in a clean and controlled environment again. For now, the sticky stains are a small price to pay for being a mom and living with my amazing and adorable kids. Like all moms (I’m sure) I feel like cleaning is an endless cycle. I bleach the bathroom floor and the next day it looks dirty and disgusting again. I wash the bed linens and someone pees their bed the same night. I sweep dog hair into my trusty long-handled dustpan just as the dogs roll and romp on the sofa, hair flying freely through the air. Some days the entertainment center is so dusty I can write myself reminder memos with my finger.
And even though I know this is just a season in my life, sometimes I snap and go into a cleaning frenzy, scraping, wiping, removing all the cushions from the sofa and complaining loudly to anyone who will listen.
And so it is with my spiritual life too. I sometimes let the mess pile up for so long that the clutter and filth of my sin just becomes a regular part of my day. I step around it, I ignore it, put off dealing with it, and “save it for a rainy day.” And what happens when I do this?
Saturday, I snapped.
Ugh, I hate to remember it – but it needs to be told. Like the sweet and warm-hearted stories of our family, there are also other stories less enchanting, less charming, but just as honest and real as those ooey-gooey ones.
I think I’ve been saying whatever I want, blurting out my opinions, letting off a little steam, and becoming far too tolerant of my deepest flaws. I’ve become comfortable being unkind, judgmental, territorial, demanding, pushy and even . . . obnoxious. Ouch . . . that hurt.
Gather around, ye saints of God – it’s confession time.
Okay, here it is: I’ve got this terrible habit of comparing myself to others. I also tend to put myself on a pedestal in some areas, and become overly critical of those who can’t seem to “get it together” or those (like the birth moms of my children) who have failed in awful, ugly, public ways.
And that is, my friends, so, so ugly. And I am so, so ashamed to admit it. I think that my own insecurities stemming from my personality and the battle with infertility have given me some kind of superiority complex where I overcompensate for my perceived weaknesses by puffing myself up in other areas. (If this sounds like freshman Psychology ramblings, I do apologize.) But the truth hurts. In my mind, I had become comfortable with talking about the failures of these women, even making light of it, insulting them whenever possible, or just being passive aggressive (in the case of the one I deal with occasionally.)
And Saturday I blew it. I let a little “difference of opinions” get the best of me. Not only did I scream into the cell phone “We are not in a partnership!” I also screamed the words: “YOU ARE NOT A GOOD MOTHER!”
In front of my kids.
Did I mention I did this in front of my kids?
No, it was not my finest hour. I slammed down the phone after my big fat baby-fit and saw seven pairs of eyes staring at me in horror. Their eyes mirrored mine and my sister Becky’s the afternoon we found mom’s sexy lingerie drawer while playing dress-up. The look in their eyes said: “Our mom does that?”
I immediately grabbed my car keys and purse and ran out the door after giving John the “look.” He knows that look means I am about to blow my top so he needs to take over. Not that he wasn’t already doing everything else- cooking dinner, supervising chores - while I was engaging in a pointless tug-of-war and making a giant jerk of myself.
I drove around for about thirty minutes to get myself “grounded.” Some scream, some cry, some drink, some smoke a joint, some pray, some squeeze a squishy rubber ball. I drive. So I drove into town, my heart hammering in my chest, knowing that I had made this mess and I had to clean it up. This is the truth:
I may not think she’s a “good mother” but it is not my place to say, er . . . shout that. I really messed up.
So I came back over the mountain and prepared my speech. I came into the house where John was serving chicken, pasta and green beans and the atmosphere was strangely quiet. I apologized to all the kids for losing my temper. I apologized for being critical and cruel, and for my words. John offered me dinner but I couldn’t eat. Instead I came into my bedroom, picked up the discarded cell phone and sent a truly humble apology as a text. No excuses – just “I was wrong. I am sorry.”
My apology was accepted.
And then I had to come clean with God.
One of my favorite parts of our church service on Sunday is the “call to confession” and “prayer of confession.” I didn’t grow up in a church that practiced this as a specific, corporate part of the service. But I admit, it’s my favorite part. I like that we have a specific, identified time in the service to pause and reflect and to really search our hearts. And it doesn’t take a lot of searching when you know you acted like a big fat jerk not even eighteen hours before the church service.
I had already confessed to my kids, to the person I offended, and yes, to God on Saturday. But Sunday I accepted God’s grace and forgiveness and decided to move on. And just like that feeling when you have worked all day to clean your dirty house – it feels so good.
It feels so good to come clean.
So, in closing, let me say that if I have offended you, led you astray, or used my words to hurt you, please forgive me. God is dealing with me about this!
Some day I’m gonna get this house in order!