Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today I was encouraging my daughter as she was completing a math assignment. Although she knows her numbers, as a lefty she is frequently tempted to write some of them backwards. She recognizes this tendency and before writing her answer she insists on checking what the correctly written number looks like before writing it down.
Today I drew the line and in order to stop what I feared was becoming a bad habit said, "Enough. No more looking and second guessing yourself. You can do this!" I saw fear and hesitation appear in her eyes. I encouraged her that it was okay if she wrote her answer incorrectly...that she would learn from making mistakes. After several long moments of encouragement mixed with silence and hesitation, I was thrilled to see her take the plunge and write her answer. She did it! What a milestone! This was going to be one of those memorable homeschooling moments I would look back on for motivation. I was so proud of her and me too.
I must admit though that my heart sank just a little when I looked down to see a little number six written backwards. It was the right answer, but written incorrectly. When I showed her a correctly written six, she immediately recognized her error, her face turned red and tears filled her eyes. What had just been a glimmer of hope had turned into a glare of humiliation. As if I had just tricked her, she backed away and burst into tears. "I don't want to make mistakes," she said. As hard as I tried to convince her that it was okay and reassure her of my pride in the fact that she succeeded just by taking the plunge in writing her answer without looking, she could not be persuaded. She wanted perfection and in her eyes, she had failed.
I've thought about this moment a lot throughout the day. Discouraged by her struggle with perfection and with my inability to get through to her that it's okay to make mistakes. I'm not a perfectionist or at least not your typical type, so it's hard for me to relate sometimes. I'm a last born only girl, she's a first born only girl. We're different, but we're both sensitive. I felt her pain, but struggled to relate to her intense desire to be perfect.
But tonight it hit me when I read a blog about something I love and yet struggle with...homemaking and hospitality. I love having friends over and making them feel comfortable in my home, but as a mother of three under 5, I struggle in keeping a company ready home. The tasks seem endless some days. Although I pull things together well enough to humbly host small group once a week, the idea of unexpected guests knocking at my door is downright frightful most days. I would be caught and exposed rather than hospitable and welcoming. My image of, not "perfect", but acceptable hospitality and homemaking would be diminished to embarrassment and chaos.
Suddenly I felt some very familiar feelings to that of my daughters. And I had to face my own words of encouragement and apply them to hospitality. It's okay to make mistakes! You just have to be brave enough to try and be willing to fail, learn and improve as you go. Just because I may not be the best homemaker in town doesn't excuse me from sharing hospitality with those God places in my life. Yes, it may be daunting some days, but perfection is not the goal! I just have to be willing to take the leap and share this home full of love and imperfections with those who enter our home...invited or unexpected. Sometimes our homemaking may look a lot like that little backwards number six, but if we have the courage to open our homes faults and all, at least we have taken the first step in practicing hospitality in order to bless another. It kind of reminds me of Christ's parable of the talents.
May God bless us as we surrender, with humble hearts, the areas where we strive so hard towards perfection, yet stumble. May we seek him and his strength for the tasks at hand and allow his grace to cover us when we fail. He knows we will, but calls us to a life of obedience and surrender of our pride in order to glorify not ourselves, but him alone.