“I’m feeling sad,” I said to my 13 year old daughter when she asked why I heaved a deep sigh.
“Why are you feeling sad?”
“Because I feel like a failure as a daughter and a mother.”
I had just dropped my parents off at the airport. Even though I wanted them to come, even though I miss them terribly when they’re in Hawaii and I’m in Boston, even though a good Chinese daughter should selflessly serve her parents and declare there’s always room for family. . .
It’s been a tough four weeks.
You can’t stuff 2 elderly Chinese folks who want ramen and turkey necks for lunch and an outing every afternoon into an already slightly crowded home with a working mom who’s trying to lose 10 pounds during the holidays while her husband works a new job. Not to mention the 3 kids who all have agendas of their own.
It’s been chaos, with extra doses of shrieking, bad behavior, and frustration—and I’m just talking about me!
In the bedlam, I get judgmental. I judge my kids, my parents, my husband, but most of all, myself.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be gracious? Why can’t I be loving? Why do I look like an even more rotten mom than usual when my parents are around to observe? Why can’t I cheerfully serve my parents, husband and kids even if “Acts of Service” is so NOT my language of love?
I can’t stand who I am in the hullabaloo.
Years ago, I learned that there are 3 ways to think about sin:
- Breaking the letter of the law—say driving at 31 mph in a 30 mph zone
- Breaking our own conception of ourselves— i.e. “I’m a kind person, I just did something unkind—how dare I be unkind when I’m not that sort of person?”
- Actually hurting others and damaging relationships.
According to the teacher, God really only cares about the last category of sin—hurting and damaging others—but we spend a lot of energy on the first two.
Bells went off in my head.
I have an overweening addiction to feeling significant, thus I constantly find myself in turmoil and Sin Category 2 because of how I “sin” against my concept of myself.
A spiritual director once told me the classic name for my condition is pride. I reject that I’m God’s beloved daughter in whom He’s well pleased—the gift of Jesus—and rail against God that I’m not who I want to be.
Jesus had something to say to folks like me—he called us white-washed tombs with rotting bones inside. Of course, my real challenge is I’m all too aware of the rotting bones inside, and really just wish I could look a little more white-washed on the outside.
So here I am again.
Why do I care about:
- Behaving like a good filial Chinese daughter more than truly honoring and loving my parents?
- Acting like my conception of the ideal mother more than engaging with my kids?
- Looking like a successful minister more than ministering so others can flourish?
- Gaining weight more than focusing on health?
- Checking off that I did spiritual exercises more than experiencing God?
My daughter looked a little shocked when I confessed my feelings of failure last night. It felt a little risky since anyone who has teenage daughters knows their favorite pastime is critiquing their moms.
“I don’t think you’re a failure as a daughter or a mother,” she said
“Really, why? How don’t I fail?” I was groveling. I wanted to hear something good.
“What? You want a legitimate reason? I was just trying to make you feel better.”
Oh well, that’s something.
I guess details don’t really matter because ultimately she knows I love her, she loves me, and in the midst of all the mayhem, love abides and even abounds. Just like with my parents. Just like with Jesus.
We’re family. We mess up. We’re never who we hope to be and hurt each other as a result, but we keep on loving nevertheless.
Lord help me to be satisfied with just that.
This was first posted on What She Said