When my daughter, Lucy, was six she had an assignment to give a presentation at school. We practiced and practiced until she knew it like the back of her little kindergarten hand. When she came home from school, I asked her how it went, feeling confident that we… I mean she… nailed it.
Lucy told me she did a good job, but that she was the only one in the whole class who didn’t bring a prop to go with the presentation. A feeling of panic swept over me as I scrambled to find the assignment directions. Sure enough, right there in black and white it said, “Please have your student bring an item to go along with his/her presentation.”
Immediately my familiar insecurity gremlins began to shout their accusations over the loud speaker in my brain. “Attention, you under-achieving mom! Why are you the only parent who missed this? Lucy’s teacher is going to think you’re an idiot. Was that kindergarten assignment too much to handle?” Yep. Those gremlins are mean.
When I was young I thought growing up meant making less mistakes. But now that I am (kind-of) a grownup, I’m realizing that punishing myself for my shortcomings is counterproductive. When mistakes happen, they have the potential to make me stronger, wiser, more humble and compassionate. Every bone in my perfectionist body rails against this idea. It’s not my first instinct to embrace my weaknesses, but it’s a practice worth fighting for.
Day by imperfect day, I’m learning that failure is an opportunity to recognize my utter dependence on Jesus, and a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow. There is no way to walk through this life without occasional lapses of judgement, broken commitments, or hasty words spoken in anger. But who’s unattainable standards am I trying to uphold anyway? If Jesus chooses to extend grace to me when I fail, who am I to withhold grace from myself?
There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about God quieting us with his love and rejoicing over us with singing. He doesn’t tell us that he only sings when we’re perfect, the song continues even when we mess up.
In the years to come, I’m sure there will be countless times when I burn the lasagna, forget about a soccer game or to fill out a field trip permission slip. In those moments I know the insecurity gremlins will take to their bullhorns in my brain again, but when they start shouting, I don’t have to listen to them. I can listen instead to the voice of love singing over me. And maybe when I listen to His songs, my mistakes will start to look less like losing and more like learning.
The next time I drop the ball or come up short (and there will be a next time), I want to choose grace. I want to model for my children what it means to be a healthy grown-up who knows how to fail well. I hope to show them what it means to lose without losing heart.