We were at a Bible study I attend for moms, circled around a table, one of several small groups that met in various rooms around the church building. Each of us were "checking in," updating others on how life was going, if there was anything we were stressing about, etc., etc.
In a flash I thought about everything I could say. I thought about the way so often we say we're doing "fine" when really what we mean is "I don't feel like troubling you with my burdens that would probably either bore you, scare you, or both." I remember a pastor saying once that "we could be walking around as if we're completely fine when really inside our soul is hemorrhaging."
I thought about the way I'd been reading a magazine the day before about this group of women that had met for dinner and conversation and to talk about one thing they were going to work on in the coming months, and how I'd seen their examples, their bad habits, their fears, and thought that I had every single one of them. About how often I think, "Where do I begin?"
I thought about how I could share the way Ethan's behavior the other night left me in tears. Again. That I lost my temper so badly I had to apologize, even while I was wondering how I was ever going to find a system of discipline that worked. About how other people out there are having their kids follow pretty Pinterest chore charts, and I can't even focus on chores because I'm just trying to get us through the afternoon without a meltdown.
I thought about how I've forgotten what it feels like to sleep eight solid hours; that I drink too much caffeine and tell myself I won't but wake up tired and start the cycle again. Or I eat and then get angry at myself for eating too much. About the way I still have oodles of baby weight to lose and how what I seem to have lost most of all is willpower.
I thought about how I could say I am tired of chewing my fingernails to bits and of the same old insecurities. That I hate that I'm almost 40 and still haven't a clue as to how to smartly apply makeup or do my hair. Or decorate my home. That I can't seem to stick to a budget, that Dave Ramsey would probably glare and wag his finger at me sternly. That I sometimes wonder when I'm actually going to grow up.
I thought about how I still have so many doubts and so many fears. I thought about the way, when I sing at church I hear such amazing things in my head, but when my voice actually comes out of my mouth and I'm up in front of people it never quite goes as beautifully. That's what my entire life feels like, sometimes. Potential that I'm not maximizing.
I thought about wishing I had a sister, because then maybe I'd be better at relationships with other women rather than being so darned brooding, so serious, so into books and intense things rather than fun and gossipy chit-chat and shopping. I hate shopping. I hate it more now since I have so many extra pounds to lose. And because I wouldn't say I have a lot of fashion sense. Or extra money to spare.
I thought of the ways I want to be...living with purpose, selfless, teaching my kids to be giving and caring, sitting around the table doing Dr. Dobson-like family devotions, taking on Christmas giving projects, versus how things really are: everyone fighting over the computer, quibbling over things that don't matter. Am I living shallowly? How is it already my girl wants to YouTube Taylor Swift first and foremost? How is it my kids are complaining already about having to go to church or to do anything for anyone besides themselves? Were my own self-absorbed ways somehow oozing into their little personalities?
I thought of spending too much time on social media and knowing it, knowing that sometimes I just wanted to feel connected to other people, to feel as if someone else cares, that my life and my goofy self actually matter?
I thought of all the organizing I haven't done; all of the good intentions that don't mean anything; all the ways I feel I've failed.
I thought of all of this in a few seconds, and I couldn't stick with "I'm doing fine," because one of the few things I'm good at seems to be keeping it real. Even if others undoubtedly are put off by my over-sharing.
If you can't be at church and be real, why be there at all? So I mentioned how I felt: the sense of thinking that I have so many things to work on, I don't know where to start.
What I learned is that even in the midst of feeling like a failure, being real, being authentic, feels refreshing. And I learned that I'm not alone. There are others out there thinking similar thoughts; fighting similar battles.
There are no pat answers or quick fixes. That's not what Christianity is about and it's not what church is about.
I don't know exactly how I'm going to finally sleep well or stop being a worrier or be more organized or eat better. I'm sure it starts with a healthy dose of self-control and a determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other rather than throwing in the towel.
But before any of those things, I am reminded of that verse in the book of Matthew. Peter goes to Jesus and asks how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. He wants to know if seven is enough, but Jesus replies, "Not seven, but seventy times seven."
And I wonder if that's what I have to do with me. Forgive. Not to give myself the license to do whatever, to never work on things or improve or be disciplined. But just because living with the weight of everything you've done wrong or every way you're not measuring up is no way to live.
Every little failure is yes, a failure. But it's also a chance to learn. To learn to receive grace. And to learn to accept this flawed, temperamental self as clay that can still be molded. That can still become something more beautiful. That already is, when I catch just a glimpse of myself, the way God sees.