And, when you’re like us, raising kids with any kinds of special needs, the last 5 minutes before departure for church is the perfect time for your 10 year old to soil herself, deny it, and require United Nations-level negotiating skills to get her out of her beloved (soiled) jeans and in to the much less cool ones.
Come to think of it, that we arrived only 20 minutes late is pretty darned awesome.
But I didn’t think so then. As we pulled up to the church and unloaded the first 3 kids, only to discover the 10 year old had soiled herself again, it took everything I had not to become the Hulk and punch my car door in.
Being a good Christian mom, however, I coaxed her from the car,
dragged led her to the ladies’ room, and attempted a smile for the greeter whose eyes widened as she beheld the child with the sweatshirt tied around her head sulking behind me.
Not the perfect morning.
Or was it?
After willing myself to help her clean up, and letting her figure out how to do so with only 3 baby wipes left in our stash, I began to see it.
Shame. All over her face. And her heart. And, if I was honest, all over mine, too.
Because her mess reminds me of mine. Hers outward, mine hidden. She poops her pants when she’s overwhelmed. I smile when I’m angry. What’s the difference, really?
So I let my heart speak louder than my perfect in that moment. I knelt down on the bathroom floor, unwrapped her face from the sweatshirt she hid behind, held tear-stained cheeks in both hands, and said the words that shatter shame:
I. Love. You.
The words that pour light into a dark place. That break the power of perfect and shame. That bring back to a moment the real reason we’re all here anyway.
“’The most important commandment’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: …’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these'”- Mark 12:29-31
How do we break up with perfectionism and let love into ugly moments?
- Stay. You can’t change this hurting person or the situation, perhaps, but you can be present. Stay, and simply BE there. The words may be necessary, or maybe not. But it’s the being there that matters.
- See. See what’s behind the broken. Behind the stinky behavior and smelly attitude. It’s not easy. So ask the One who sees us behind the sweatshirt—that He’d give you eyes to see who He sees in there.
- Stand. Stand for their life. Pray, out loud in the middle of the public bathroom if you have to. Stand for the truth, for the Word, for this person’s best.
- Celebrate. (I know, it’s not an “s” word, but humor me). Celebrate that they let the sweatshirt fall away. That they let you love them. That they joined you in breaking up with the perfect none of us lives and they’re choosing the perfect God gives freely instead. Celebrate that they’re trying, that they’re alive, that they matter to God.
Perfect is a myth, friends. We’re never going to have it in this life. But we can get pretty darned close to the One whose perfect love is always right there. Right there in the bathroom, in the stink of life.
No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:12
Post adapted from Laurie’s book, Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful (Abingdon Press, 2014).