“Did you happen to bring her jacket? It’s a little cold down here!” she smiled as she asked.
Immediately my head swirled. “She thinks I’m a bad mom. She probably thinks I had my daughter too young. I probably did. I probably am.” All of this was laced with anger and resentment and happening in my mind.
I don’t even remember how I responded to the question, just how it made me feel.
This tiny interaction with a sweet friend working in the nursery is burned in my memory.
It happened during a time in my life where I was very vulnerable to any outside interactions. I was dealing with anxiety that I had no idea how to face. I could barely leave my apartment. Every time someone talked to me I tried to respond the best I could and then I’d think about the interaction obsessively. “I hope she doesn’t take what I said the wrong way. I hope that was ok. I hope I didn’t make her feel weird. I wish I wouldn’t have said anything. I wish I wouldn’t have gone.”
I started turning down opportunities to be with other people because I would have crippling stomach pains before hand.
Looking back I can’t help but wonder, “who WAS that?”
I am a confident person. I like to be around people and (usually) people like to be around me. I have a strong personality. I will always be honest and wear my feelings on my sleeve. People like that, because I’m not hiding myself. You know where you stand with me.
But back then, I felt like all those things were weaknesses. “I’m too loud. I’m offensive. No one would like the real version of me.”
A lot of things in my life have changed since the fateful morning my friend asked me if I had brought my daughter’s coat to the nursery. The thing that stands out however is this…this isn’t about me.
I mean that in many ways.
The coat thing wasn’t about me, or the age I had my daughter. It was not even about if I am a “good” mom or not. The coat thing was about another person caring about the well being of my daughter.
There is so much pressure and expectation when things are about me. Some are from outside influences, but mostly it’s things I pile on myself. “I should feed my family only organic foods. I should make sure I send my kids to the best, most expensive schools. I should buy a 3 bedroom house. I should do my best to ____”
Can I tell you how much freedom there is in realizing that this is not about me? If God decided to take me to heaven tonight, I can tell you confidently that His plan for the world will still go on without me holding it together. God is not reliant on me or my human abilities. Heck, even the things that I feel like I have some control over I do not.
The greatest responsibility I have in this life is to raise my children. I have a few things I want more than anything–for them to love God above all, to be strong in this life, and to share what they have with those around them. But guess what? None of that is actually about me. I can strive and push and strain and the reality remains that my children will have to choose their own path.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”-Rick Warren
The issue with thinking about me so much was that it meant I couldn’t think about God. I couldn’t see past myself. It was like I lived in a state of constant self-obsession. Every reaction from someone else was a reflection of me…right? A crabby cashier-my fault. A text message going unanswered-my fault. A fitful night for my daughter-my fault. Writing this down sounds like lunacy, but it was my reality.
Realizing that my focus could and should be on more than myself has been like taking the weight of the world off my shoulders and giving it over to God. Yes, there are still things that I am responsible for. There are still things I have to give my time and attention to. The thing that has changed is who I am thinking about when I am fulfilling my responsibilities. I am giving my children a bath-not so that others will see their clean hair and cute outfits and assume that I am an excellent mother who has it all together…I am giving my children a bath so that their physical bodies can be healthy, so that they can grow up and serve the Lord well. This applies in every area.
Luke 12:22-26 (ESV)
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
Friend, thank God this isn’t about you! Your life here on earth is not a meaningless toil to achieve some sort of status. God holds your life in the palm of His hand and you can rest knowing that it is actually all about Him.