Contentment is made elusive by comparison. Our culture tells us that enough is never enough. We always need just a little more money, time, talent, success. We sit in our air-conditioned homes, richer than most people on our planet, and we feel empty and emotionally bankrupt.
No amount of money in our bank account brings the love we desire, the excitement of each new success or conquest wears off, and we try desperately to jam everything we can into the limited time we are allotted each day. We rush forward, failing to just be. And when we look around at our kids we think–Wait, you can’t be this old already! And all too many marriages fall apart after the kids finally burst from the nest because the parents rushed away so many days that when they turn to spouse, they find a stranger.
I noticed this mentality in our society, but it wasn’t until I was talking to a friend several months ago that I realized how it had infiltrated my own heart. As we talked, I poured out my frustrations that there never seemed to be enough time for everything I wanted to accomplish. (Why of course it is reasonable to think I can be an awesome mom, wife, involved in church, planning activities, a great blogger, writer, entrepreneur, poet, sewer, baker, etc. all at once right?! Perfectly reasonable . . . ) I shared how I would love to open a store on Etsy, but I simply didn’t have the time to work on anything. Some days I felt so overwhelmed by all I wanted to do, that I did next to nothing at it left me feeling depressed and worthless. How does one balance it all I asked my friend, searching for the elusive answer.
Fortunately, she called my bluff. Time wasn’t the issue. Balance is pipe dream. She gently reminded me that I had enough time. She said it helped her to vocalize the affirmation: I am happy with the time that I have. You can strive for harmony, but quit the charade of balance.
I continued to return to her words long after our conversation. Enough time? This mindset was truly foreign to me. Logically, I knew I should scale back, but there was a big part of me that grew distracted looking to my right and left and complaining to God, “But Lord, look! That woman is doing it all and her life seems balanced!”
You would think by now I would have learned not to complain. But God, firmly, yet compassionately, brings me back to reality on a daily basis.
God whispered into my dissatisfied heart “Her life seems balanced. You do not see the sacrifices she has made or what happens off Facebook. You need to trust me in this season of life. You will have enough time for what you need to do. And what you don’t have time for, well, maybe you don’t need to do it.”
I still struggle each day with unrealistic expectations fracturing my attention and bargaining to destroy my worth. As I lay in bed each night, I force myself to dwell on what I did do, not what I failed to get done. Thus I internalize the truth that God is enough.
When I begin to measure my worth by standards of success, I fail to measure up. When, instead, I hide my hope and identity in Jesus, I find radical worth: A place at God’s table as his cherished daughter. A seat I could not buy or earn. A position I was not born into or rewarded with based on merit. This gift of grace and adoption God gave me was the first of many gifts that He would bestow. None of which I deserve.
With my heart centered in God, I step back to remind myself that time spent engaging with my husband and daughter–giving them my undivided attention–is never a waste. It is an investment.
I am slowly, sometimes painfully, learning to live with sticky fingerprints, scattered toys always underfoot, a light layer of dust, and floors that, well, always seem to need vacuumed or mopped. As someone who likes her physical space to be orderly and peaceful, embracing the messy life has taken gobs of grace and daily intentionality. Yes, I am trying to be more intentional about letting my house be a mess.
But the reward is invaluable: Joy is hidden in the crevices of my daily life, even among the dust bunnies burrowing under my couch. Giggles fill our hallway as our daughter runs and plays. She flops onto couch pillows scattered all around the living room, squealing in delight. She goes around and hugs tight each stuffed animal she has strewn across the house, then holding them tenderly like a little mother. Her daddy strums on the guitar and she is there, gazing adoringly into his eyes with her grin as she plucks the strings. And, before bedtime she pulls book after book off her bookshelf to bring to me, finally crawling into my lap to enjoy story after story, her head pressed against my heart, her eyes heavy, and her hand waiting expectantly to turn each page.
Dear mothers, when it feels like motherhood has consumed every ounce of your day and strength, and you dream about what else you could do with just a little more time–remember that the time you have is enough. This season of young motherhood with its smeary fingerprints, tantrums, and sleepless nights will come to an end all too soon. You don’t have to do it all or be everything to everyone. You are enough.
Will you have find the joy amidst the mess? Will you have offer yourself and your family grace when plans fall through? Will you invest in love? I hear it has the best return upon investment because its reward is eternal.
I can’t always answer “yes”, but I am learning. Will you join me on this journey that graciously grants us with new days and new moments to redeem?