Wednesday, March 14, 2012

failure...and perfection

I hate to fail.
When I was 11 or 12, I got up to start my normal school day and my mom informed me I had a history test. I was unaware that it was test day and I was unprepared. I remember begging her to let me take it the next day so that I could study, but she remained steadfast. I can still feel the pit of dread in my stomach as I sat down…That test is the one and only B grade I ever received in school. I cried. Not just a little sniffle, but REAL tears of total devastation. I felt like such a failure.
I played city league basketball when I was around the same age. My dad was my coach and my best friend Tara was on my team. What could be better than that, right? Except I was REALLY BAD. The only thing I was good at was running down whoever had the ball (I was pretty fast). Even then, once I caught up to the person, I had no idea the correct way of getting the ball from them, and I would either foul them or just stand there dumbly…I did not play again the next year.
I took gymnastics for several years as a child. When I was 6 I was pretty good at the uneven bars. I think that’s because I was strong, and the uneven bars are all about upper body strength. As I got older, though, I got tall, and gymnastics isn’t really a tall girl’s sport. As soon as I realized I was only mediocre as a gymnast, I quit. It wasn’t really my passion anyway.
 I failed my driving test twice. That doesn’t count as an F grade, by the way, because it wasn’t in SCHOOL. The first time I failed it was on parallel parking. I guess a lot of people fail on that, so I decided not to beat myself up over it. The second time was not my fault. My dad taught me how to do a three point turn…but he taught me the way he learned in Kentucky a million years ago, and apparently it’s not the way they do it anymore, at least not in civilization…and so I failed again. I had to actively restrain myself from beating my dad up over that one. The third time I took the driving test I was perfect.
When I as in first grade I got first place in a science fair competition. I even beat out the 3rd graders. A few years later I entered another one…but I didn’t get first place that time. That was my last science fair entry. It was my least favorite subject anyway.
I was a fast runner, as I said before. I loved to race…but only if I was sure I would win. I wasn’t interested in racing someone who might beat me. My brother was also fast, and Daddy would have us race in the front yard, just for fun. Except it wasn’t fun for me, because sometimes my brother would win. We traded back and forth for years on who was the fastest, until the year he grew A LOT. As I had fewer inches to haul, I was faster from then on. I LOVED to race him then!
Obviously, I hate to fail. Coming in second is the same as failing in my mind. It took me a while to come up with all of these examples of my failures, partly because I try and forget my imperfections COMPLETELY, and partly because I don’t do that many things I may fail at. I INTENTIONALLY avoid anything I might not DO well. I didn’t finish college because I didn’t want to study for as many hours as I would need to in order to make all A’s. The two semesters I did take…I had a 4.0. I am pretty sure I haven’t picked up a basketball in 20 years. I am VERY sure I haven’t tried any tricks on the uneven bars in a couple decades. Obviously I have to drive, but since the failures weren’t really my fault…I can let that one slide. My husband is the science teacher in our house. And as far as running goes…I am gonna say it’s because I am getting old that I don’t race anyone anymore.
I have decided that this is is a major character flaw. What’s the big deal about SUCKING at something? I am always telling my kids it’s okay not to be perfect. “Just keep trying and have fun!” …except I DO NOT want to do that myself. I want to win, I want to impress, I want to be perfect.
Can I share a secret? I AM EXHAUSTED!!!!!!!!! Keeping my house perfectly clean, my yard perfectly groomed, my children perfectly mannered, my days perfectly organized and running smoothly, my marriage operating flawlessly, my quiet time with the Lord happening with perfect regularity, my stomach perfectly flat, my cats perfectly using the toilet, my KIDS perfectly using the toilet…it’s a lot of work.
It’s too much work, in fact, which is why most of it doesn’t happen. My house is FAKE clean. It may look nice when you first walk in, but if you open a closet or drawer…you can guess what will happen. The front yard is very nicely groomed, but the backyard...I’m not telling, and you are not allowed back there. My children…well, they are children. They never do ANYTHING right all the time. But they know the lecture about how to behave in public BY HEART. My quiet time is often anything BUT quiet, and sometimes it’s a two minute prayer of desperation while I am hiding in my bathroom. The cats, and the kids, do NOT always use the toilet perfectly…but we’re working on that. I work tirelessly (sometimes) to flatten my stomach…but I have had four kids, so it’s mostly a lost cause.
And all marriages fail to operate flawlessly sometimes…probably a lot of the time, because there are 2 flawed people involved in a marriage, and flaws do NOT create flawlessness. But you want to know another secret? When I realize I am failing in a certain area of my marriage, when my husband kindly informs me of something I am doing that hurts his feelings, or something I am failing to do that hurts his feelings…I usually go into a room by myself and cry my eyes out. And then I spend weeks agonizing over what a terrible wife I am and making mental lists of all the things I will do differently so I never fail in that area EVER AGAIN. I do all this even knowing I will most certainly fail to be a perfect wife again sometime in the near future.
I know I am not perfect. I KNOW IT. I am awful at all things electronic…AWFUL. And I am a terrible dancer. If you haven’t already seen the video (posted by my husband) of me and my daughter dancing in our living room…that video is proof of my imperfection, because you have NEVER seen a worse dancer, I am sure. I only agreed to dance with her because I thought no one else would ever see it, and my kids think I am a great dancer. They might need glasses.
Sometimes I am a bad friend, sometimes I am a bad mom, sometimes I am a less than perfect wife, housekeeper, daughter…you name it. I have been bad at EVERYTHING in my life at one time or another. So why can’t I just accept that I am flawed, and move on? The people who love me accept me, and love me even though I suck at things sometimes...
The Lord loved me even before I admitted that I suck at being perfect. He loved me, died for me, and took my failures even before I admitted to being a failure. He accepts me even while I am still failing. There is a verse (I can’t remember where it is, because I SUCK at remembering references) that says “Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.”
I always fail…even though I hate it. My whole life was a failure from the start because I couldn’t be perfect. And no one expected me to be, not even the Lord. He knew I would fail, and so He sent Jesus for me. He sent Jesus to TAKE my robe of failure, filthiness, sin…my ugly dirty robe of humanity. Jesus took it from me, and GAVE to me HIS robe of righteousness, of royalty, of perfection. When I accepted HIM, I acquired perfection. Not because I had earned it, not because I could EVER earn it, but because OF HIS GREAT LOVE AND MERCY TOWARD ME! All my striving for perfection, all my trying, all my failing, all of my worthless efforts, there is NO REASON FOR THEM.
In HIS eyes, I am perfect because I am HIS.
It’s quite a relief to know I don’t have to be perfect at everything. No, it doesn’t mean I am going to stop cleaning my house, or toilet training my cats and kids, or trying to make my stomach defy the laws of nature. I guess I am just hoping that admitting my failings will help me (and maybe you) accept that it’s OKAY to fail, that it’s OKAY to be imperfect. HE DOESN’T MIND. He loves me in spite it, He loved me before I admitted it, and He doesn’t even see it anymore. When He looks at me, He sees that I chose His Son, and that is enough.
So, if you think about it, there is essentially an A+ next to my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life, written in the blood of Jesus. Not because I earned it, but because I accepted it.
I’m probably going to spend the whole day thinking about that A+ and smiling. I do LOVE a perfect grade, after all.


  1. I promise I dance worse than you.

  2. This is so good. And all of the references to your cats using the toilet crack me up.

  3. It's mostly b/c you're a first born (yep, I'm STILL reading that book). As I was reading I was thinking, "whew, now she won't be so anal about her floor being clean" until I got to the, "No, I'm not going to stop cleaning my house." part. :) Oh well, I guess character adjustment is better than behavioral adjustment anyway. I LOVE the imperfect you!