With the same jimmy-rig-finnegling of the back door key that I've done a million times before, and the same frustration I've felt walking into our back "yellow room" filled with shoes and weird lunch bags and tupperware that doesn't stand a chance of being disinfected, and the same relief-tumble I've done a million times before into the house at midnight after a long day...
a staggering truth hit me. and rattled me.
"Relationships are hard."
Hitting me like a freight train, I'm not so sure why this time. But I realized, for the rest of my life, relationships will be hard. It will be a fight to keep peace, it will be a fight to understand one another, it will be a fight to care for others when apathy seems so much more fulfilling, it will be a fight to communicate fully over the long haul, and it will be a fight to love one another deeply.
It will be something sorta like, say, trying to grow a garden where thorns and thistles plague the ground.
And true confession, friends: I'm not a gardener. Gardeners need resiliency to fight day after day against the weeds, and they need hope for blooms to spring and they need patience to wait.
Where there are thorns and thistles, I allow them to sprout into full weeds. And I give up hope for a beautiful garden.
I end up with poison ivy, and ragweed, and that awful crabgrass that grates your skin. What an eyesore.
What I want, though, is a garden full of red & yellow tulips and tiger lillies, and roses. And I want huge hyacinths. Like the ones I've only ever seen my mom be able to grow.
When unattended to and given up on, gardens begin to look like wastelands your neighbor calls the city council about.
When tended to, cared for, and prioritized, gardens offer beauty -- a sort of beauty you sit in for peace, a sort of beauty that speaks rest, a sort of beauty that you offer gifts from, etc.
I wonder how different relationships may be.
Relationships -- whether friendships, romantic, or parental, are hard work -- they take care, time, and patience. Relationships require resiliency and hope. They require a certain weeding so blooms can sprout.
Relationships, just like gardens, are hard work. But, the beauty in the end, is worth it.
Praying grace & resiliency into my own relationships. I'm eager create my relationships as gardens of beauty in which I can sit for peace & rest and in which I can pull from to give gifts to the world.
This post brought to you by an archived, unfiltered, personal journal musing this past winter...
A sterile word I'd never thought I would wrestle through. A recently-made cliche female describer. A something I've always prided myself on not being -- and if you saw the laundry piles in my room, or the old coffee cups stacked on my dresser, or my current sleep t-shirt with a few too many toothpaste stains on, you'd know why....
It’s never quite been a word that’s struck a chord with
me. I never thought I struggled with
perfectionism.It seems like an
elementary sin.Don’t we know we can’t
be perfect?Don’t we know we will never
be complete and faultless this side of heaven?Aren’t we all very well aware that we are messed up – that we can’t
excel in everything we do – that others are going to be better than ourselves in lots
of areas – that it is impossible for us to be masters of everything we put our hand to?Aren’t we all convinced of the need of grace?
It seems ridiculous.
Turns out, however, this word has seeped its roots deep down into my soul.
I am a newly discovered perfectionist.I have no tolerance for incompetence.I want great – not good.Good is the same as mediocre – and might as
well be overlooked.
My dear friend, Kala, sent me a perfectionist checklist.And the irony?I am perfect on the Perfectionist
10 Ways to Know You Are a Perfectionist:
1)You are highly conscious and hyper critical of
2)You aim to be the best at everything you do,
even if it is something you are not interested in.
3)You spend copious amounts of time to perfect
something even at the expense of your own well-being.
4)You set absolute ideals.There is only black and white – no gray.
5)You are your harshest critic.You beat yourself up over the smallest thing
that goes wrong.
6)You mull over outcomes if they did not turn out
the way you envisioned them
7)You are defensive toward criticism and have a
fear of failure because they suggest imperfection.
8)You only care about achieving the end goal,
paying no heed to the journey.
9)You have an all-or-nothing approach.
You are conscious of any situation in which you might give others the
perception that you are not perfect.
Nailed it!I am perfect
at being a perfectionist!Ten for ten!
I think this all began to surface after this stupid CRU
panel last week that I felt like I bombed.I had nothing to offer.I was
good, maybe.But couldn’t reach “great”
that night with a ten foot pole if I tried.Not even with Inspector Gadget arms.Great was out of reach.And I
wanted to crawl into a hole.I
internally contemplated getting up off the couch on stage and walking off.Stage right.Why was I up there anyway?I
wanted to come home, crawl into my bed, and leave staff.Why was I even on staff?Clearly, students have better people they
could learn from.More attractive people
they could model their lives after.Nobody wants to model their life after the “mediocre” stage panelist –
people chase after the great stage panelists.Those who have wisdom packaged and beautiful
and enticing.I had none of that.
Here’s the deal.If I
can’t hit a home run, I don’t even want to take the field.I would rather ride the pine.Who needs a single hitter – or a bunter –
when they can have Hank Aaron?Or Albert
Bell in his prime?Give me the pine,
And therein lies the problem.
If I can’t hit it out of the park, I don’t want any part of
The desire for perfectionism keeps me out of the game of
Perfectionism is paralyzing.and condemning.and harsh.and accusatory.and, on certain days, abusive.
Perfectionism keeps me out of the game.It locks my feet in stocks and lays my head
ready for a guillotine.Is that dramatic?Maybe.But perfectionists use dramatic language – they are all-or-nothing,
after all.What’s a perfectionist to do?
To chase after perfectionism is to always come up
short.Perfectionism does nothing but
raise the bar – and condemn my heart.Perfectionism
is the whisper of the enemy.That manipulative twit condemns me by whispering, “you are not good
enough,” “why are you picking up that heavy bat – you are lucky enough to not
strike out,” “you are nothing more than mediocre,” “your ‘good’ is not worth
your time – and worse yet, nobody else wants your ‘good,’” “if you can’t
perfect this skill, your friends and people around you will overlook you,”
“don’t waste your time.”
The enemy wants to keep me from playing the game.He wants to cut me out.And he does so by whispering into my soul:
Dreams fill my mind of being great.No kid grows up dreaming of simply being
good.No little girl grows up dreaming
she’d be the princess sidekick to the girl who gets the guy. No little boy grows up dreaming about being Michael Jordan's Scottie Pippen.No kid grows up dreaming of a mediocre life
with a mediocre $30,000 salary and living a life of routine, and monotony, and
simplicity.I dreamt of grandeur.Of influencing thousands – er, wait, millions
– of people.Of my funeral being the
largest the town had ever seen.Of
articles written about how I changed the world.Of marrying the best man every other girl was jealous of.Of others’ vying for my time and attention
because I had something remarkable to offer.Of changing the world.Of being
great.I never, no, not once, dreamt of
being good.I never, no, not once,
dreamt of being just pretty okay.
And these dreams are good.And appropriate on some level.Until they become my chief end and goal.And until my illusion
of grandeur eclipses the Grandest of all.
Greatness and perfection have, ironically, made me into a
The answer?How to
pick myself up out of this freaking wheelchair?
Simplicity loosens the chains of perfectionism.Simplicity hurls my paralytic body back into
God takes the simpletons and makes them great.God takes those who aim for HIM – and authors a most
majestic story out of their lives.
David was a little shepherd boy.Noah drank himself into oblivion.Gideon was insecure and unsure.Martha worried her pretty head into crazy-person status.Moses stuttered like my 3rd
grade substitute teacher.Abraham was an
old, old man from a pithy background.Leah was kinda ugly.Timothy was
just a kid.And Peter was a nothing more
than a lame-o fisherman.
These men and women were simple.And normal.And many were so far from any sort of greatness.
But what did God do?He CALLED them.He called them His own.He called them into friendship with
Him.And these simpletons
responded.And they loved Him.They were
faithful to Him – even in their doubts, and wonderings, and failures.At the end of the day, they wanted God.
They didn’t shoot for greatness.They didn’t shoot to be the father of
nations.Or the greatest King Israel had
ever seen.Or, even, to be one of the 12 men who
would change the face of the world forever.
God.And loved Him.
And HE made their
God.And He will write for you a story
Rid myself of the complexities.
God, rid my soul of the complexities I’ve heaped on.Rid my soul of others’ opinions, rid my soul
of its selfish dreams of grandeur, rid my soul of any desire to eclipse You as
the Greatest, rid my soul of good being
despised & gag-worthy.God, rid my
soul of false aims.Simplify me,
God.Simplify my soul.I want one aim.And it’s to love you.
I want the easy yoke & the light burden.You offer freedom.I have foolishly chosen slavery.Perfectionism has become my slave
master.Forgive me, God.I want YOUR Kingdom life.Not this faulty, counterfeit, heavy life I
have chosen for myself.
I want to be the perfect girlfriend.I want to be the perfect missional team
leader.I want to be the perfect friend.I want to be the perfect public speaker.The perfect mentor.The perfect blogger.The perfect fashionista.All with the perfect body and the perfect
bible verse to impart wisdom and the perfect distribution of couch pillows when
the guests come over.Tidy up,
Wagner.You have a mess.Clean your proverbial room, do the dishes,
light some candles, shove your laundry in the closet.Don’t let them see.Your house is a mess.Hurry up, the guests are coming.
unannounced.Now, I’m jittery and
nervous and insecure.Here it is,
unannounced guests.Our trash smells
like possum and our dishes are piled to the ceiling with god knows what growing
on them and I haven’t actually changed my sweatpants in days.May you, unannounced friends & guests,
who see the mess and smell the stench, somehow find beauty in the real.In the “taking-off-of” my fig leaves &
loincloths that cover my “nakedness” and in the exposure of all things real,
ugly, and authentic.
God makes imperfections beautiful.Perfection is actually ass-ugly.And pretentious.And uninviting.
The heart of woman: to be captivating.And ravishingly beautiful.And stunning with a dash of
We struggle with perfectionism – wait, I, I, Lori Wagner –
struggle with perfectionism because I
have been falsely convinced that
beauty is perfect.
Beauty is not perfectionism.Beauty is in the removal of our fig leaves and our loincloths.The loincloth – the first bloodshed ever seen
in God’s story.We took matters into our
own hands.We KILLED to cover ourselves – to HIDE our imperfections.
But WAIT!Now, PRAISE
JESUS!Praise Jesus.HE has SHED HIS OWN BLOOD that we make take
off our own fabricated loincloths and expose ourselves for who we truly are.IT IS FINISHED.Stop your striving.The final blood was shed.And we
do not have to hide.We do not have to
We. Do. Not. Have. To. Be. Perfect.
I do not have to
I do not have to hide.Jesus has covered my imperfections by the final “it-is-finished”
bloodshed of the cross – and NOW – he makes beauty from imperfections.
God, I want to pick up the bat.Even if all I ever do is hit a single.Or, worse, a bunt.Or, my worst nightmare, I strike out.
The beauty is in
the courage of picking up the bat.Not in the result of the hit.
The game is worth it.Riding the pine blows.And numbs
I will pick up the bat.And I will celebrate each swing.By God’s grace.