So many mornings, I feel defeated by 8:00. No, make that 8:07. The time distinction matters greatly, because school starts at 8:00. If I had gotten my children to school by 8:00, instead of 8:07, perhaps I might not have felt like such a mom failure. But probably not, because already by 8:07, I have rushed through my morning, yelled obnoxiously in the direction of my children, realized one son didn’t brush his teeth and another didn’t finish his homework, and drove my disheveled crew to school in a minivan – the backseat of which looks like it provides a home for a family of wild animals who store half-eaten suckers in cupholders, sleep on beds of crumbled-up candy wrappers and dirty Kleenexes, and gnaw on caps of markers that have long since dried up.
The discouraging defeat is not just from being late and feeling like a hot mess, though. My sense of defeat stems from how I expected the morning to go. I replay in my head how I had planned to wake up early, spend time in God’s Word, get a jump-start on my responsibilities of the day, and serve my family a well-balanced breakfast before we’d head out the door a few minutes earlier than necessary. We would leave ahead of schedule to account for any unexpected delays, thereby avoiding the need to plead with God to make all the traffic lights green between home and school, which I’ve learned is not as effective as a time management strategy.
I didn’t get out of bed early, though. No time in the Word. No jump-start on the day. Instead, I threw on yesterday’s clothes (which were still on the floor) and served my kids toaster waffles drenched in syrup, leaving the house in a discombobulated rush seven minutes later than necessary to get the kids to school on time. Not at all as I had planned.
Discouragement often sets in most acutely when I meet other parents pulling out of the school parking lot just as I am arriving. The parents who got their kids to school on time. I start a mental checklist of how my life circumstances stack up to theirs, simultaneously awarding myself points for circumstances I deem harder and deducting for those that seem to fall in their favor. The final score matters not at all in whether my children are still late for school, or whether I am enough as a mother. Yet, comparison seems to spring forth the strongest in the moments in which I feel the weakest.
Oh, how Satan loves this, by the way. He loves to point out and poke at these insecurities that bother us most. He relishes in opportunities to take away our courage – to dis-courage us – from living our life in the full abundance of grace God offers. He prefers when we view those within our communities as competition rather than as collaborators in the faith. He uses whatever tools he can to suggest that we are not fit for the life to which God has called us. To cause doubt in whether we have it together enough to serve God and others. To oh-so-subtly instill in us the question: What can I possibly offer to God and to the world if I can’t get my kids to school on time? Sometimes, all by 8:07 in the morning.
But as it is with most things, God speaks over our lives differently. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that in fact our weaknesses – those areas of greatest vulnerability and potential discouragement – can glorify God the most: “But He said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Consider this: The greatest, most authentic offering we can give to God and to the world is who we are, right where we are, in each and every moment of our life. Even when who we are, right where we are, is an ill-equipped, emotionally-spent, seven-minutes-late woman just trying to make it through the day. God can work with that. His glory can shine through that.
We are not perfect and we never will be, even on our most perfect days. That’s not how God created us to glorify Him. Perfection is what God brings to the table, not us. Our primary table offerings are weakness and willingness. As we offer our imperfections, our failures, our can’t-pull-it-together mornings, we allow His infinite power to be perfected through us. We serve as an imperfect window through which God’s light perfectly shines.
Friends, pursue excellence. Set expectations (and alarm clocks.) Do your best. But take heart in knowing that God’s grace covers the good, the bad, and the ugly-hot-mess moments, too. Be who you are, right where you are, and rest confidently in the perfect Father who is right there with you.
Elise Knobloch writes to figure out what she thinks. Elise seeks to encourage others to meet God in the common, ordinary, everyday activities of their lives and to laugh at God's ever-present sense of humor. She has a master's degree in persuasive writing, a juris doctorate, and is the author of Enough: Finding Abundant Life in a World Striving for More. Her greatest teachers, however, are her husband and their four children. She is blessed to practice what she's learning about Christ's love daily with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Be encouraged by Eliese and the other Encourage Me Up writers at encouragemeup.com