If there is one feeling in my life that stays with me no matter how I try to shrug it off, its the feeling of immense pressure.
Part of it comes from being firstborn. There is a natural pressing forward and striving for better and better that comes with being the first child. Parents can't help it, and mostly don't even know that they are doing it...but they push their firstborn more than anyone else.
I did it with my kids too. I began encouraging my daughter to try to walk when she was 8 months old. A month later, she did. I coached her to say words very early as well, and taught her Bible verses and songs before she could even form all the syllables she needed to recite them.
And then I had the boys...
I taught Clay sign language because he hadn't started talking yet and I was tired of hearing him grunting when he wanted something. But I didn't pressure him to talk. No sir. I had all the talking I could handle coming from his big sister.
While I weaned Faith early from nursing, convinced that it was time for her to move onto more grown up pursuits, I was slow to let go of Nate...he nursed longer than any of my other kids, and I didn't pressure him at all. He was ready when he was ready.
When Gabe started acting like he might want to walk, I had a panic attack. "Push him down," my husband advised, only half joking. There was no pressure on him to achieve that milestone. Quite the opposite, in fact. We were pressuring him NOT to walk.
My daughter still feels that firstborn pressure, and I try to lighten it some by reminding her that she doesn't have to be perfect, she only has to do her best.
This week she bombed a spelling test. It was a list of really tricky words, all of which require simple memorization, because there is no logical reason for their spelling. When I had finished grading the test, I turned the paper over and said simply, "We're going to have to retake this one, Faith."
She began to cry. She asked how many she had missed. She wanted to know her percentage score. I told her it didn't matter, that we just needed to spend more time on the words. Her response? "I can never look at myself in the mirror again."
The pressure of being perfect is ingrained in the firstborn.
It isn't just birth order, though, at least not for me. I am also "Dan and Patty Bausum's daughter." There is a whole separate level of expectation to go along with that.
If you know my parents, you know what I mean. Their stats speak for themselves.
They have been married for 35 years.
They raised 5 children.
Mama home schooled those 5 children for a total of 21 years.
Daddy has been a pastor for around 20 years.
They are marriage counselors.
They are both gifted speakers and Bible scholars.
They both sing and dance and cook.
Everyone who gets to know them loves them tremendously.
That. Is. Too. Much. Pressure.
I can't live up to that! People look at me and, after knowing who's daughter I am, automatically expect me to be a clone of them.
I home school my kids too, sure, but every day carries with it the weight of knowing that if they don't turn out as brain surgeons...its my fault and I've scarred the family name forever.
I have been married for nearly 15 years, and most of that time has been happy. But when we have a fight, I do NOT tell my parents about it. Because I need to be perfect in their eyes.
And even though I know I'm not, and even though they have never looked at me and said "Be perfect..." I feel the need to strive for perfection anyway. I am constantly under the pressure of their legacy to me.
I work hard to keep my house clean, because if anyone ever stopped by and saw it as it would be if I didn't work hard...I would be horrified that I had marred my family name forever.
I cook supper every night (well, almost) because that's what my mom did my whole life and there is an expectation that I will be just like her.
Here is the flaw with all this striving for perfection: Its unachievable. Its a facade. We cannot do it, regardless of the pressure we or others put on us.
My kids work hard in school. But sometimes they bomb tests. Or forget the name of the letter 'U.' Or have to count on their fingers to answer an addition problem.
I spend more time cleaning up my house than is really good for me, probably, and still its dirty. At this very moment there is a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwear in the middle of my living room floor...and no, it is not a clean pair.
Not even the Gold Medal Olympic athletes are perfect in their winning performances.
Perfection is impossible.
So why put all the pressure on myself to be so?
My mom would probably not be shocked to see the underwear in the middle of my living room floor.
My dad would certainly not be surprised to learn that my husband and I have arguments on occasion.
They would most assuredly still love me, and, I daresay, still be proud of me.
They are proud of me because I am their daughter, not because I have pressured myself into some fake perfection mask that's impossible anyway.
I can't be anything but who/what I am. And all my striving and working and faking aren't making me a gold medal winning Olympian. They are just wearing me out and beating me up with failure.
"It's okay." The Lord whispers to me when I cry to Him about my failings. "I have done all the work you could not do. My Son walked perfectly so that you don't have to. I see you through the filter of The Blood. Give me your burdens. Sit down and rest beside me, little girl. You don't have to strive so hard."
So I will curl up beside Him today, and lay my head in His lap, and just BE there.
He is proud of me because I am His child. And His grace is the same for me whether I only make a few technical mistakes in my Olympic performance, or whether I fall on my face. He still wants me to carry the flag that identifies me with Him.
His great grace.
It finds me.
It wraps me in it's perfection.
I breathe in His grace.
I breathe out His praise.
All. Consuming. Grace.
"For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14
Throw pressure to the wind today. Lay your head in His lap and breathe in His grace.
There is no pressure. You've already won.