Have you ever found yourself getting frustrated at the imperfections of life?
I have to say that I’m guilty as charged. This still happens today, but I would say when I noticed this happening the most was in early motherhood.
I remember as a young mother I used to get so frustrated at my imperfect circumstances (sleepless nights, baby paraphernalia all over the house, piles of laundry), myself (my impatience, inability to do everything with excellence, lack of control), and others (my children’s sleepless nights, stranger’s comments about my parenting, other people’s expectations of me).
And when I tried to improve things I just got more annoyed. You see, time and time again in early motherhood I witnessed how trying to put things on a pedestal of perfection soon led to a fall.
I got irritated when I strived for a showroom house, only to discover flaws everywhere I looked. I got frustrated when I dolled up my children for a party, only to find their skin covered in grazes from outdoor play. I got annoyed when I planned a delicious meal only to find I’d forgotten to buy a key ingredient.
The imperfections of life.
One day, I was thinking about my imperfect circumstances and wondering why I felt so frustrated (shouldn’t I be used to imperfection given that I had lived for over thirty years in a broken world?) when it suddenly dawned on me.
My frustration was at heart a deep, unmet desire for perfection.
CS Lewis put it beautifully in his book Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Indeed, my greatest moments of frustration occurred when I no longer had my eyes fixed on Jesus. That unmet need for perfection led to deep frustration at the imbalances and flaws of life around me, and in myself.
The reason I struggled with my imperfections as a mother
I recall the day when I finally understood why I was struggling so much with my imperfections as a mother.
That particular day I’d been dwelling on my shortcomings as a mother and feeling completely inadequate. I’d even mentally compared my situation to an attempt at preparing a perfectly presented ice-cream sundae and always getting it lopsided and messy.
And that’s when I had an epiphany. I yearned to give my children perfection because I yearned for perfection. I was frustrated because I desired to give the children the very thing my soul longed for – perfection – and I failed.
God showed me that my desire to give my children perfection came from Him. But I wasn’t the one to offer perfection. God was.
God desired that I introduce the children to Him. Indeed, who else would love my children perfectly without fail? Who else could satisfy the yearnings of the depths of their souls? Who else would never disappoint? Who else would understand them in every circumstance? Who else could perfectly balance grace and discipline?
It was then that I understood why I’d had so many insecurities and issues with comparing myself to other mothers in early motherhood.
I’d been deluded in my belief that perfection could be given by a human mother. But God showed me then that He alone could offer that perfection. And as much as I loved my children, God loved them more.
I recently listened to Timothy Keller’s amazing preach on this very subject.
The verse on which he based the core of his message is Isaiah 49:15, where God says:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
In his sermon, Keller explained that in this passage God gave His people a metaphor to show the depths of His love.
He took the relationship between a mother and her nursing infant – one of the most loving relationships – and showed His people how even that motherly love did not compare to God’s love for them.
Even if I should one day get amnesia or go senile and forget my children – because I can’t imagine forgetting them any other way – God will never forget them. What perfect, unfailing love!