This morning I woke up feeling defeated. I woke up and I was reluctant to say hello to you; it felt difficult to meet your eye. Things have been piling up so much that when I look at the other week when we spent so much time together and how I was keen to sit up in bed and write in my journal it feels like that was another woman, not me.
I've been feeling 'What's the point?' ish. You know, that mood I sometimes get where bright sunny days might as well be rainy ones, and the rainy ones just illustrate how I'm feeling.
'No point in trying; it'll go wrong. It always does.'
Life is full of banana skins and I seem to slip and fall over on each one. Sometimes it's easier not to bother getting up. I'm covered in bruises and these last few days it's been easier to stay lying on my back on the floor.
And when I'm in one of those moods, things quickly escalate. The little voice in my head is quick to point out the breadth and magnitude of the problem. What a short temper I have with the children, how quick I am to believe the bad thing instead of the good thing, what a lot of rubbish I have in my head, all the things I've said that I shouldn't have said, all the things I've avoided doing that would have been good.
Recently I've been increasingly aware of how much I get wrong. I've been feeling like a total failure. A mess. As a mum, a wife, a friend, a person. I've been feeling guilty and inadequate and depressed. I know the difference between conviction and condemnation and yet I still couldn't sort out which one was swamping me. I have been feeling really bad.
So this morning was a bit like yesterday morning and the morning before. Tuesday. I think that's round about where it started to go wrong. My life sort of jacknifed and the traffic piled up behind it. By this morning I had a major incident on my hands and the emergency services couldn't get past the multiple roadblocks.
If that's not taking a metaphor too far.
Today I decided I was going to spend some time with you. I was just going to lay it all down in front of you, because I can't hide anything from you. You know the things, the words, the thoughts, the glares and shouts already. No point in pretending. I was going to sit down and just be. With you.
And then a friend asked me if I fancied a coffee and I jettisoned our plans and had coffee. And cake. And then another coffee. When I finally got home, I felt even guiltier. I even walk away from the only One who can genuinely make me feel better in favour of comfort food and a good whine with a friend. The little voice pipes up, helpfully: 'You really don't get anything right, do you?'
So I switched on the computer. I didn't even make a coffee because I'm sort of full of coffee. I faffed about on Facebook and the BBC news for a while and then turned to my email. My little pile of daily devotions was untouched from yesterday because reading them made me feel even worse. Funny how the very time I need you the most is the time I try to hide from you? Reminds me of Adam and Eve hiding from you in Eden. The more things change, the more they stay the same, hey?
I fell for it. I know you can see me, but I hide anyway. When she was tiny Katy used to hide her face behind a cushion because she hadn't worked out that just because she couldn't see me didn't mean that I couldn't see her. But you know what? Even though you knew where Adam and Eve were and what they'd done (and indeed, the breadth and scale of it), you still loved them.
So anyway. Rick Warren said this to me. You meant me to read it on Tuesday to save me a lot of hassle, but I was avoiding you at that point.
"'As a father is kind to his children, so the Lord is kind to those who honour him. He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.'
God understands you completely. He's fully aware of your humanity. He knows your faults, fears, failures, and frustrations. He doesn't expect you to be Superman or Superwoman." *
Well, that's good. Superwoman I'm not.
The New Living Translation puts it: 'He knows how weak we are...'
How weak I am. You know how weak I am. Oh, Lord, how is it that so often I can know something in my head but still not understand it in my heart? These past few days I've been feeling so worthless because of all my failures and mistakes that I've not wanted to come to the very person - the only person - who is able to pull me close and tell me that it's alright.
Rick went on:
'If you're a parent, do you love your children at every stage of their development, or are you waiting until they're mature to love them?'
Well. I love my children more than I can possibly say. They drive me up the wall sometimes and often by bedtime I'm quite ready to sell them on ebay but when I watch them sleep ... my heart swells. I see them make mistakes a million times a day and I love them anyway. I get cross and I snap and I lose my temper and shout and yet I don't stop loving them, not even for a moment. I am so far from being a perfect parent, and yet I love my children. I hope so much that they know that they're loved; I think they do but I'm sure that I could do better, but the point is that if I, impatient and imperfect, can love my children as babies, as toddlers, as preschoolers, as infants and juniors and beyond, then why do I doubt the love of my heavenly Father? Why do I doubt your forgiveness? You've demonstrated it often enough.
My Elizabeth can come to me any time, no matter what she's done, and I'll always want to wipe away her tears and hold her until she feels better. It would break my heart if I felt that she couldn't come to me for comfort because she'd let me down. I can feel my eyes prickle with tears at the idea that she might avoid me when she badly needed her Mummy.
Here's what I know:
There's nothing I can do to make you love me any less than you do right now.
There's nothing I can do to make you love me any more than you do right now.
Not all the stuff that's gone wrong this week. You know about it all, but you love me anyway. You want more for me, but you love me right now, as I am. You'll help me do better, but when I fall over, as I have, and as I will, you still love me and you'll pick me up and pull me towards you and hold me close.
'There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.'
And that's me. I am in you, and I am not condemned. When you died for me, you died for the bad stuff that I hadn't even done yet. All of it - I wasn't even born, but already you knew me, you had plans for me, and you knew I'd mess up a million times a day. And yet you died so that we could be together. That's how much you loved me then, and how much you love me now.
No condemnation. You will never make me feel guilty and miserable about the things I get wrong. When I feel hopeless and pathetic, that's not from you. You're not waiting for me to achieve a certain level of holiness or insight or spotless living before you'll love me; you love me right now, right here, with my grubby track record and the certainty that despite my earnest efforts (should I make earnest efforts), tomorrow I'll mess it up all over again.
So, Lord, thank you. Thankyou that you came and found me when I was guiltily lurking in the undergrowth like Adam and Eve pretending that you couldn't see me just because I wasn't looking at you. Thankyou indeed for coffee and cake and even more for your Word when I need more than comfort food.
Thankyou for loving me no matter what. It makes me want to be be a better person; but before I fall back into the gottabeperfect trap again, I want to say it again:
Thankyou for loving me no matter what.
I'm going to let Rick Warren have the last word:
'When you come to Christ and say, 'God, here's my life. Everything I've ever done wrong, every time I've ever made a mistake, all those stupid things I've done. I want to put my life in Jesus Christ,' Jesus wraps you with his love.'
I guess I'm not very good at letting other people have the last word.
*Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Connection Daily Devotional (devotional by email)