When You're Tired of Coloring in the Lines
"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." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
I was elbow-deep in soapsuds when my 4-year-old's cries prompted me to drop my dishrag and race to the other room. Maggie had been coloring a picture, but when I reached her side, the paper lay crumpled and torn on the floor.
"Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.
"I can't color in the lines," Maggie complained.
I retrieved the wrinkled paper and smoothed it with my palm. The kitty on the coloring page looked like it had been caught in a crossfire.
"See?" my preschooler said, as she rubbed the crayon furiously over the holes on the paper.
I could feel Maggie's frustration as I watched her shoulders tighten with each squiggly stroke. The more she pressed that plum Crayola upon the page, the more the picture ripped beneath her efforts.
"I just can't make anything beautiful," Maggie declared.
What a curious remark from this child who sculpts gourmet cakes from Play-Doh and creates masterpieces on the driveway with a fistful of sidewalk chalk. An artist indeed, my daughter doesn't yet know that beauty isn't always measured between the lines.
Maggie sighed and set down her crayon, and I recognized myself in her try-hard weariness. There, in my 4-year-old's furrowed brow, I saw the mom who had once tried to live within a set of invisible lines.
No one had written out the rules of good parenting for me. They were the result of my own expectations, noble ideas shaped by well-meaning mommy books, fabulous Facebook posts and my personal good-girl gospel.
My lines declared that a good mom keeps a clean house, bakes bread from scratch and arrives everywhere on time. A good mom knows just what to do when her teen slumps into silence, when a toddler refuses to eat her veggies, or when a 6-year-old strings a web of lies.
No matter how hard I tried, my life kept spilling outside the lines.
I was certain that a good mom never lies in bed at night wondering if she is ruining her children. (But sometimes I do.)
A good mom never delivers her child to the wrong soccer field on the wrong day at the wrong time. (But maybe I've done that once or twice.)
And a good mom never leaves the house with dirty-faced children or forgets to pack her kindergartener's lunch. (But I'm guilty of both.)
Perhaps you've lived within a self-declared set of lines, too.
Maybe you believe that good wives serve dinner by candlelight and always have the laundry done. Or that good friends always reply to texts and certainly never forget a birthday.
Maybe, like me, the harder you try to live within the lines, the more your soul rips beneath the weight of your efforts.
But here's the good news for try-hard women like us: God's not offended by our flaws and imperfections.
God's Word tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9a, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
That verse was what finally compelled me to trade my invisible lines of expectation for the compassionate contours of my Savior's grace. When I finally stopped obsessing over my flaws and began focusing on His faithfulness, my life took on a new kind of beauty.
Maggie was still crying over the rips in her coloring page, so I tipped her chin and asked her to watch as I placed that picture, holes and all, against the window.
Morning sunbeams streamed right through those holes in the paper and cast a glorious rainbow of light upon the carpet at our feet. Maggie grew quiet staring at the shimmers on the floor and slipped something small and purple into my hand. "I don't need my crayon anymore, Mommy. I like my picture just like that."
So we stood at the window together, watching glory stream through the gaps.
Dear Jesus, I am tired of living within my self-invented lines of expectation. Show Your strength through my weakness, Your sufficiency through my flaws. Make my life beautiful to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
It's Mother's Day this weekend, which can sometimes create angst either in our roles as adult children or as moms. Take some time to prayerfully consider the invisible lines you've created for yourself. What is one unnecessary expectation you could trade for God's grace today?
Name three of your unique "holes." How could Jesus display His strength through your weakness or imperfection? Invite Him to shine His glory through your gaps this week.