Dirty dishes fill the sink. Thankfully, I’ve at least managed to empty the dishwasher so it is waiting to be filled. There is flour and powered sugar all over the counter and floor. Lemonade is waiting to be made. My soon-to-be five year old (as in tomorrow) knocked the bowl of softening butter all over himself while trying to jump up onto the chair he’d put by the counter so he could help make his birthday cake. This was approximately five minutes after forgetting the lid was not on his gatorade bottle when he thought it would be a good idea to make a tornado in the bottle by shaking it around.The various ingredients for the cake are partially mixed, waiting to be fully mixed. The oven stopped preheating some time ago and is just warming the kitchen now. I’ve yelled at them multiple times, have gotten increasingly irritated and angry at all of the interruptions, I have a zillion and one browser windows open of articles I want to read today, I’ve chased my toddler around and put him in time out numerous times for leaving the house alone, and can’t believe that it is 1:00 and I really have nothing of consequence to show for my morning. Make that 1:35. That’s how long it took me to write this paragraph (see parts about chasing my toddler).
Mornings (and often, full days) like this make me question my sanity and make me doubt my parenting skills as well as my usual impression of myself as a fairly decent human being. Because, in times like this, I feel anything but human. I feel like some crazed monster who has taken over my body and mind and soul. I feel inadequate, imperfect, and weak.
I don’t like feeling those things. I’d rather feel worthy, whole, and strong.
The other day, Rachel Held Evans posted a video of Nadia Bolz-Weber speaking to a Lutheran youth gathering. It was a fantastic talk for many different reasons, but there was one thing that especially stood out to me. At one point, Nadia talks about God using all of us, not just our strengths and our gifts, but our failures and weaknesses too.
Around same the time I was watching this, I was taking a couple of Spiritual Gifts Surveys (I like to take them every so often). If you aren’t familiar with those, they are assessments that give people a general idea of what their gifts are so that one can better understand how to use them in the life of the church. And, really, don’t we all want to do what we are good at doing? Who wants to do something he or she is bad at doing? I certainly don’t.
But in her talk, Nadia spoke about being a flawed person. “I am a flawed person,” she says. “I should not be allowed to be here talking to you. But you know what? That’s the God we’re dealing with, people.”
And then, shortly after that, she spoke the most beautiful and encouraging words:
“This God has never made sense and you don’t need to either because this God will use you; this God will use all of you, and not just your strengths but your failures and your failings and your brokenness and God’s strength is perfected in human weakness so your brokenness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful so don’t ever think that all you have to offer is your gifts because God’s going to use you too, God’s going to use all of you.”
God can use my failings and weaknesses? God can use my irritation and my anger and my yelling at my kids? God can use my messy house and my messy thoughts and my far-less-than-perfect life?
Today, one of the windows I had open was from a church in Minneapolis, Jacob’s Well, where my friend Andy spoke recently. I’d asked him if it would be online so I could listen and he’d told me they’d had a lot of technical issues so probably not. I checked again today, and there it was. I listened sporadically (see previous comment about toddler, plus the five year old kept needing things too) and at one point Andy started talking about the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. As the music played, for the first time today I smiled and felt some joy returning (I’m sure it helped that it was combined with one son playing outside, one son napping, and the spoonful–or two or three–of chocolate buttercream frosting that I had to make sure was ok to frost the cake with) and felt the irritation and anger leave.
Early in Nadia’s talk, she said “God always comes to us and makes us new, and than makes us new again, and then makes us new again. It’s called death and resurrection.”
I don’t know how God can use my failings and weaknesses from today. Maybe it is just in such a simple way as to remind me–and to let you know–that new life is always possible, not just once, not just at one time in your past, not just something to look forward to in your future, but right now, and every minute of every day. We can continually be made new. The horrible person I was this morning does not have to be the same person I am this afternoon. I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start over (although, I’m sure I’ll have to do it then too…and the next day and the next…you get the idea). With God’s grace, I can be a new person, right now.
What a wonderful world.
Edit: After I wrote this, I thought it would fit in the “Life Unmasked” Series at Joy in This Journey. You can find others here.