“Where have you been? You haven’t been home like all week.”
My 13-year-old sister said this to me last week, and at first, it made me laugh. “I’ve been busy!” I said. “I have a ton of stuff to do.”
My family knows I’m busy. I’ve heard it’s an oldest child thing, and maybe it is, but whatever the reason, I hardly ever find myself with free time. Every morning, I take multiple trips to the car, loading in my backpack, my Mary Poppins-style purse (it’s truly bottomless), my lunchbox, my guitar, a bag of workout clothes, and sometimes another outfit for whatever I have to do after my workout. I honestly don’t think I can remember the last time I was home before 7:00. I’ve become so busy that my sisters have an ongoing joke about it: they say they are convinced that all I hear in my head is times and dates and people’s names and places and all the things I have to do, and nothing else. “Guitar lesson at 4:00.” “Workout at 5:30.” “Therapy at 7:00.” And in between all of that it’s, “Get that check cashed,” and, “stop by the grocery store because you’re out of Keurig cups,” and, “get something for dinner somewhere in there but make sure it’s healthy and low-carb and not too expensive.” And I laugh when my sisters joke about it, because they’re right. A lot of the time, this is all I hear in my head.
But sitting in the chapel at school last week, I was trying to pray. I wanted to be praying – believe me, I had a lot of things to pray for. But as I sat there, folding my hands and closing my eyes tighter and tighter, I found myself unable to: every time I tried to talk to God, my mind darted in another direction, reminding me of another thing I had to do after school, another thing I had forgotten to write in my planner, another thing I hadn’t triple-checked the time on. And as my mind began to race faster and faster, it hit me how many things I actually had to do. My hands started sweating. I can’t do all this, I thought. There’s no possible way I can get all of this done. I almost got up and left the chapel, because I felt a minor panic attack quickly coming on. But all of a sudden, in the middle of all my inner chaos, I heard this voice in the back of my head say these words:
“You are My beloved daughter, with whom I am well-pleased.”
This calmed me instantly. We’ve all heard the verse – Matthew 17:5, when God’s voice comes from the sky and says to the people with Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And I had never thought much about it. But a few weeks ago in my Sunday night girls’ Bible study (which is typically the highlight of my week), Miss Kara, who leads our Bible study, read that verse to us. And she said something that helped me tremendously. She said, “In this verse, God is talking about His Son. But what we don’t realize is that we are all His sons and daughters. And He says this about all of us, too.”
She then asked us to close our eyes, and she read the verse to us again, in a different way: she went around the room and said, “This is My beloved daughter ______, with whom I am well-pleased.” And she filled in the blank with each girl’s name in that room. I had never thought of that verse that way. And it really struck a chord with me.
But in the chaos I’ve been wrapped up in in these past few weeks, I forgot. My mind has not only been a jumble of things I have to do, but also, a mess of little phrases I tell myself subconsciously. You need to be skinnier. You need to eat less. You need to stop spending so much money on coffee. You need to get your nails done (badly). You need to practice your guitar techniques. You need to write more songs. You need to get your eyebrows waxed. You need to make cupcakes for your advisory, just because. You need to be better. Better at everything. And the list just goes on.
But sitting in that chapel, when I remembered that verse, two things hit me:
- I don’t have to do it all.
- If God is pleased with me, why am I not?
When I thought about it that way, I almost had to laugh out loud. God, the Creator of the entire world, the King of the universe, is pleased with me. He is proud of me, He loves me, He does not find any flaw in me. So how does it make sense that I should? It was then that I realized how down I’d been on myself, how displeased I was with my productivity. No matter how much I do, I still feel the need to be doing more, to be being more, to be making more progress. And all the while, I feel the need to have it all together, to be 100% stress-free, to have every loose end tied up in a bow. To be perfect. And what I’ve failed to realize is that this is simply impossible.
And I think we all fall into this. We look around, and all we see is perfection, because, I mean, social media. DISCLAIMER: I DON’T HATE SOCIAL MEDIA. I love it, in fact. (I mean, hello, I’m running a blog here.) I am a firm believer that social media is a huge tool to be used for good – I believe social media can be used to inspire and encourage and communicate. But I also fall into the trap of believing my life should be a compilation of every single one of my Pinterest boards. World travels, juice cleanses, trendy hats, perfect abs, “easy no-bake gluten-free protein bars,” DIY body scrub, DIY room decor, DIY – well, DIY everything. And then I look at Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, and it just gets worse, because there I see my own friends having the time of their lives on spring break, and going to concerts I forgot to get tickets to, and playing with their new puppies. And I think to myself, I have to have and I have to be all of these things. Now, maybe I’m the only one who does this. And I hope I am, because it’s miserable sometimes. But if I’m not, if perhaps you fall into this trap too, I have a message for you:
Fear not. #1, You’re not alone. And #2, You’re wrong. You do not have to have and be all of these things.
Now, before I go all Selena Gomez “Who Says,” on you, let me elaborate. I’m not gonna just sit here and say, “Be yourself! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks! Be proud of who you are!” Because we all know it’s not that easy. But as usual, I think I’m going to turn this one over to someone else: one of my favorite Christian singers, Francesca Battistelli, in her song “Free To Be Me.”
“I’ve got a couple dents in my fender / got a couple rips in my jeans / I try to fit the pieces together, but perfection is my enemy / On my own, I’m so clumsy / But on Your shoulders, I can see / I’m free to be me
Lord knows I’ve got a couple dents in my fender. In fact, I’ve got a whole lot of dents in my fender – metaphorically and literally (but that’s a story for another time. There’s also a crack in my windshield, as you can see in the picture above.) But as Francesca so beautifully explains, God doesn’t care. God knows we’re not perfect. God knows we’ve got dents in our fenders and rips in our jeans and coffee stains on our shirts and skeletons in our closets and, well, cracks in our windshields. But we are His beloved children, and He is completely and totally pleased with us. There is nothing we need to do that will make Him love us more. But perhaps more importantly, there is nothing we can do that will make Him love us less.
So embrace the dents in your fender. Embrace the rips in your jeans. Let the cracks in your windshield show, because that’s how the light gets out. Understand that these things are a part of life, and if you didn’t have them, you wouldn’t be human. If you’re struggling, or hurting, or stressed out, or just feel like a big hot mess (like I do a lot of the time,) don’t bottle it up. Let it be known. Tell someone. It’s okay not to be okay. We’re all trying to be perfect and to have it all together, but none of us are, and none of us do. So why do we pretend? One of my favorite quotes is, “Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” And I’m trying to do that these days. Whenever I feel myself start to get overwhelmed, when I recognize that I’m doing too much and for some reason still feel obligated to be doing more, I take a deep breath, laugh at myself, and say these words in my head: God is pleased with me. There is no reason I shouldn’t be.
So take it easy, my friends. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Allow the dents in your fender to show. But more than anything, be pleased with yourself. Because if God is pleased with you, why shouldn’t you be?
God loves you more than you know,