I'm a bit of an affirmation junkie. I like making cool things and I like it even more when I like how they look when I'm finished...and when others tell me they like them too. It's not a big leap to realize that I like when people like me and when they like the things that I do.
I struggled to keep good (really good!) grades and made it through a tough program. I married a great guy and strive to be a good wife and mom to all the kids God has given us. I've always taken pride in making things...including special gifts by hand, the best I could do to show my love for others.
It actually seems pretty straightforward that I'm still trying to earn the Father's love, even though I'm supposed to know I already have It. My strategy is to earn His Love by good behavior, checking off my to do list, making Catholic faith-filled stuff to try to win others over, raising good kids and hoping they're some sort of credit to my husband and me. I'm quietly nervous that there will be some loophole, something I've overlooked; not quite passing the test, hoping to scrape into purgatory on my scrambling efforts.
Plagued by comparisons all my life, I continue to pursue some impossible expectations based on my skewed perception of values and abilities of others: other Catholic bloggers, other moms, other women. You see, I give others plenty benefit of doubt. I often set them up on the most favorable pedestal and park myself somewhere in the shadows they cast.
There is little mercy or wiggle room in the expectations I have for myself. My little victories sometimes have limited life while my stumbles or face palms taunt me forever. Assuming the disadvantage, I'm just not ever going to be more like those I compare myself to.
I need to make peace with the person God created me to be.
Discouragement comes easily when expectations seem unattainable.
Just like on that bus in Rome, the Lord answered a question rolling around forever in my heart. I didn't even realize I was asking the question or how much I needed to hear the answer, but more articulately put than I could express...the words formed the realization while I prayed before Mass. I almost said it out loud...in surprise:
'Like hey!.... "You don't have impossible expectations for me!" '
It wasn't a booming voice or even a directive in the first person. Maybe it's not profound to you...but it kind of is...to me. It was like the answer was formed in my head (and my heart) to answer the question I hadn't really asked. The realization that His expectations for me are not unattainable, but actually within my reach...is profound for me in the face of my life-full of comparisons and expectations I burden myself with. But they are my expectations, burned out of pride and they don't take into account His Mercy.
It's not lowered expectations or compromised standards. They're still ambitious expectations for a Child of God.
- They're realistic...because they're real. He sees the real me better than I can and He loves me completely.
- They're informed expectations because He knows me...better than I do.
- They're affirming expectations because they give me hope.
The Lord knows me and all my quirks and fragments; faults, weaknesses and failings. He doesn't put unrealistic aspirations in my head to frustrate me.
He isn't even frustrated by my state in the spiritual life.
- I haven't disappointed him, progressing too slowly.
- I haven't scandalized Him with my repeated struggles and sins.
- He knows the good that I'm capable of and while the choices I make surely impact my path, He refuses to jeopardize my free will.
- He knows where I fit and He has the time to let me figure it out.
All I need to do is to remember to call out to Him, rely on Him...and my perseverance in that struggle is what endears me to Him.
He wants me to succeed...in holiness. Most importantly, He wants me up there someday in Heaven with Him and He knows just what it takes....and more specifically....what I need to do, to be, to get there. He knows my disposition, my heart's intentions and even my doubts and He still has confidence in me.
Heaven isn't this unattainable carrot designed to keep me busy, or frustrate me as I narrowly miss the gate on some technicality.
His Mercy...and His Love for me...
are unconditional and inexhaustible,
as He perpetually holds out His Hand
to lift me up.
Copyright 2016 Monica McConkey. www.EquippingCatholicfamilies.com
Images copyright 2016 Monica McConkey. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Monica, mom of 5, blogs about Catholic crafts and family traditions at EquippingCatholicfamilies.com. She is an author and creator of Super Saints quizzing cards and over 45 Saint, Sacrament, Catechism and Prayer-packed Craft Kits to help teach the Catholic Faith. The Catholic teaching tools and gifts are available through Arma Dei, the Catholic family publishing company founded with her husband Bill.