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I was a perfectionist. Then I had kids.

Life is messy. Sticky. Goopy.

Some days, I feel I could run a cleaning business. Based on the number of hours spent washing, changing, tidying, scrubbing, folding, and wiping, I often feel that parenting is just one giant exercise in cleaning up.

Before I had kids, my house was fairly clean. My car smelled fairly nice. My schedule was fairly organized. My life was – for the most part – under control.

And control was the key. Control allowed me to manage my responsibilities. Control gave me the power to change my circumstances. I liked control.

Actually, I loved control.

As an ENTJ (the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment is spot on for me), it felt fulfilling to have a sense of control in my life. That’s why parenting was such a major adjustment. I suddenly lost control of so many variables – my time, my space, and even my feelings (Okay, why do Subaru commercials have to be so emotional? I think I cried at every single one of them when I was pregnant).

In the early years of parenting, I honestly felt like I lost myself. I felt that I had to become an entirely new person in order to accommodate the needs of my growing family. And – if we’re being transparent – that’s exactly what I needed.

Being a perfectionist implies a need for control. 

Now, hear me on this: it’s not wrong to be a perfectionist. In fact, perfectionists almost always understand the most efficient and effective way of doing things (seriously though, that is a huge advantage in the workplace).

But, for me, I tried to take perfectionism to the extreme. I wanted my life to be perfect. I disliked messes and inefficiency. Actually, I loathed messes and inefficiency. That’s where the problems crept in: I created a massive, unbridgeable gap between my expectations and real life.

Life is messy. Sticky. Goopy.

And there’s really no way to control that. Accidents happen. Projects fail. Finances take a nose dive. Anniversaries get forgotten. And people aren’t perfect.

Hear that?

People. Aren’t. Perfect.

In the age of social media and photo editing, it’s easy to assume that some people are perfect. But you only see the best images. The best days. The highlight reel.

In reality, we all fail. We all have weaknesses. We all struggle. And we all need forgiveness.

In the process of cleaning up the messes in life, I’m learning one giant lesson: Forgive us, as we forgive.

Jesus’s followers once asked Him how they should pray. His answer was clear:

“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13)

The truth is this: we are in debt, and we must forgive our debtors. The language doesn’t say “forgive if you feel like it.” Instead, it acknowledges that all are in debt, and that all must forgive.

I’ve made a number of messes in my lifetime. Too many to count. From the earliest days, most of my messes were beyond my ability to clean up. Someone else cleaned it up – undoubtedly my mom and my dad. Life is coming full circle, and now I am cleaning up after my own babies.

Forgive us, as we forgive.

I’ve been hurt. Mistreated. Abandoned. Neglected.

Forgive us, as we forgive.

I realize that I’ve also caused hurt in other’s lives because of my failures.

Forgive us, as we forgive.

We cannot live successfully without accepting the reality of life’s messes, and embodying a willingness to clean them up. To forgive. To move on.

Life is messy. Sticky. Goopy.

And there’s beauty in that. There’s a realness in that. There’s forgiveness in that.

The human experience isn’t about creating the cleanest, fastest, or prettiest track record. It’s about connection, forgiveness, and doing this messy thing called life together.


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