Parenting has added a whole new vocabulary for me. A recent new term is one I coined, after my daughter started doing, what I call, “frustration hands.” When she’s having trouble communicating what she wants or something is hard (a common occurrence for a toddler), she has started wiggling her hands in frustration at what is happening or her limited ability to control it. And soon after that, there tends to be some form of tears or meltdown, unless I’m able to quickly join her in the mess and figure out what’s going on.
As I watch her, I see myself. Or more accurately, I feel the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, this is you. And I have to agree. While my frustration doesn’t typically make its way to my hands, I relate to the hot mess moments and just wanting to be farther along or in control of more things. I have frustration-hands in my heart.
I think one of my worst faults is that I tend to be pretty hard on myself. I may be quick to offer grace to someone else, but it takes a lot of work to offer it to myself. And the cruel irony is that when I fail to offer it to myself, it starts being harder to offer it to anyone else. Frustration hands at myself soon become frustration hands at everyone else, whether they know it or not (since I tend to be a little better at hiding my emotions than a toddler on some days.)
Grace is the only way to break the cycle. Grace is the only way for there to be a way out. Grace is how I am free from frustration hands.
I want to be better at this. I want to be quick to offer and accept grace. And I think I’m slowly making progress. But I get my own version of frustration hands with the Lord, when I just want to be better already. I just want to be farther along. I just want to be done being in process. I want to be the master. I’m tired of being the student, with the messing up and falling down and failing. [cue frustration hands.]
I recently had a pretty low day (picture lots of tears, some in public places and a whole lot of LOUD feelings.) And when I started tracing it back, I found that there simply wasn’t much grace. I didn’t have much grace for myself. And I didn’t have much grace for other people. I was angry and bitter, holding tight to my own ideas of being right and feeling like I was out of options of things to try. But thanks to Jesus using the kindness of my husband and one of my dearest friends, I felt grace start to seep into my heart.
Allison Fallon writes about the practical steps to forgiveness. So often we talk about forgiveness as this abstract thing that we all need to do, without saying what it really looks like in the grit and grime of everyday life. I loved her words and found myself relating more than I would have guessed when I started reading. One of the steps she recommends is to write out “I forgive myself for buying into the belief that…” and finish the sentence.
As I wrote out my list, I saw what my heart has been believing. I saw why grace has been so hard to receive. I saw why grace has been so hard to give. And as I wrote and let myself off the hook, I felt the grace start to seep in.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I am stupid and should have foreseen how hard this would be.
It is okay to not know the future. I’m a human, not God. I was doing the best with what I knew at the time.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I have something to prove.
I don’t have anything to prove. I am saved by grace, not what I do.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I know what the Lord is doing and have a clear view of what is happening.
I have a peephole in the fence, compared to the incomprehensible VASTNESS of what the Lord knows and does. It isn’t my job to know everything. The Lord asks me to trust him with what I don’t know. Sometimes what the Lord is doing looks crooked from my angle. And if he is behind it, then that is the better thing.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that weakness is bad and should be avoided at all cost.
The Lord works in my weakness. In fact, my weakness gives space for him to work. He likes it! Weakness doesn’t need to be avoided. It is part of being human. And part of being used by the Lord.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I know what is best and that things aren’t going well simply because I am not in charge.
I don’t always know what is in my own heart, let alone what is in someone else’s. My heart is full of selfishness, even on my best days. The only one who is truly good, who can make decisions with all the information is the Lord. Trusting in myself and what I can control is not the answer. Trusting in him with all my heart and NOT leaning on my own understanding is what will make my path straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I wasn’t doing the best I could with what I knew.
Most people are doing the best with what they have. This includes me. I thought I was doing the best I could. And I was. Hindsight is always 20/20. I have new information now. I am doing different things because of that. I’m still doing the best I can with what I know. I am growing.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that naming emotions and naming the Hard means I have to listen to them nonstop.
Listen to these words from Sally Lloyd-Jones:
It’s not the thoughts that count; it’s what we do with the those thoughts. Jesus didn’t listen to those awful thoughts [Satan whispered to him]. He didn’t believe them. He sent them away. An old proverbs says, “You can’t help it if birds come and land on your head. But you don’t have to let them build nests in your hair!” (Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, 69)
It is okay that I didn’t realize a nest was being built on my head. It is okay to brush some twigs out of my hair. The Holy Spirit can help me take every thought captive. He will help me not to listen to those awful thoughts and send them away.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that growth is a neat destination, instead of the messy process that it is.
Philippians 1:6 says that we will be finished when Jesus comes back. It is okay to be in process and messy until then. It is okay to fail and need help. Being neat and tidy and arriving are all my own expectations, not from the Lord. He has so much grace for me in process.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I can avoid failure and relapse and can be successful without falling down and getting back up.
I’m not God. That is pride talking, thinking that I can do it right the first time, every time. It is a hard pill to swallow that the Lord might want me to be messy for him to be able to use me. He doesn’t look at the same things the world does. It is easy to forget that. It is okay to be messy.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that I can fix myself and don’t need Jesus.
All is grace. I can’t save myself. I can’t fix myself. There is nothing I can do without Jesus. Have mercy on me, Jesus, a sinner.
I love what Richard Rohr says about looking at our own hearts:
“Many avoid the path of self knowledge because they are afraid of being swallowed up in their own abysses. But Christians have confidence that Christ has lived through all the abysses of human life and that He goes with us when we dare to engage in sincere confrontation with ourselves. Because God loves us unconditionally – along with our dark sides – we don’t need to dodge ourselves. In the light of this love the pain of self knowledge can be at the same time the beginning of our healing.”
It is only because I am ALREADY forgiven that I can forgive myself. It is only because I am already loved that I can continue to grow, as messy as it may be. I don’t have to be afraid of frustration hands, when they come. I don’t have to be afraid of what I might find in my own heart. I don’t have to be afraid of what it looks like to be in process.
The Lord sees me. The Lord forgives me. The Lord loves me. Frustration hands have nothing on that.