I turned 35 in August, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. It feels strange, being so solidly in my adulthood and yet floundering in so many ways. I spend a lot of my days feeling like I’m just not doing it right.
What is “it”? It’s pretty much, well…life. I don’t mean the “I can’t do anything right!” feeling that comes with burnt supper or soured laundry in the washing machine or a forgotten homework folder on the kitchen counter. The feeling I have most of the time is just that I’m not doing life right. There are no obvious failures to show, but more a nagging feeling that if I were more put-together…more organized…more in shape…more emotionally stable and confident and selfless and patient, life would be more smooth than it is now. It would have a certain flow to it. If I only figured out what a 35-year-old wife/mother/writer/speaker/etc. is supposed to look like, then I would be doing it right. Then I would have figured out how to live.
The thing is, there’s no how-to manual for any of the things my life is about. There’s no booklet about how to parent my particular child or be the best wife I can be for my particular husband. There’s no guidebook for being a female in leadership at church, or how to navigate building a following here in the abstract internet world. There’s no guidebook on how to live this particular life that I’ve been given, and as a rule-follower, I feel that lack more profoundly than most people might.
I need rules.
I need structure.
I need steps and procedure and a way of knowing that I’m at least going about things the right way. Then I’d know, at least, that I’m doing what I can. What I’m responsible for doing. What I’m “supposed” to be doing. I find myself envying my seven-year-old daughter, because she has someone to tell her what to do and when. There is very little for her to have to figure out.
As a grown-up, though, no such guidance really exists. And without it, I’m constantly doubt everything.
Scripturally, yes, I have instructions. I know to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. I know to love my neighbor as myself. I know that I ought to treat my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and hold my thoughts captive and never let myself be conformed to the patterns of the world. Even so, the specifics of life are conspicuously without direction.
More than once, my husband has found me leaning on the kitchen counter in tears. Dishes are usually strewn about, homework papers and grocery lists and expired coupons littering the space under my elbows. On one such night, my husband did the best he could to comfort me (as he always does, which is no small task). The next day I found this card in the same spot on the counter where I had melted down:
I probably don’t have to tell you that it made me cry. Because…well, Snoopy nailed it. That little dog was pretty smart, and his little nugget of wisdom is taped to the wall above my desk as a reminder.
What that card said to me (beyond the obvious) was that if I am being myself – really and truly doing what works for me and doing the best that I can at it – I am doing it right. If I am being authentic – doing what feels natural to me without comparison or consideration of how it might look – I am doing it right. If I am giving my family the best I can give them – flaws and mistakes and burned suppers and soured laundry and all – then I am doing it right. If I am being myself, I am giving them – and the world – and God – the best gift I possibly can.
You see, friend, what I am coming to understand is that there are no hard and fast rules for living this particular life that I’ve been given…and that is not a bad thing. Yes, I am alive in Christ and my actions should reflect Him into the world. Yes, as a teacher and speaker of His truths, I am held to certain standards. Yes, there are ethical and moral standards to consider, and yes, I ought to always seek to better myself.
None of that means, though, that I am to fit directly into any mold that the world hands me. People like to tell each other that God broke the mold when He made them, but the truth? God had no mold for making any of us. To create from a mold implies that there is a standard. There is a uniformity to be expected. But from the depths of His creative love for us, He sculpted each of us as though we were the only ones He planned to make. He made each of us with the focused precision of a one-of-a-kind creation. From the smallest, most intricate fibers of our beings, He made us to be nothing more than us.
Friend, there is no mold you have to fit into.
There is no right or wrong way to live this life you’ve been given.
The only definitively wrong thing you can do is to imply that God made a mistake in making you the way He did, and every time you (and I) think that I’m doing it wrong, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re saying that what God made us to be isn’t good enough, so we need to constantly make improvements on what He already said was very good.
Sweet friend, I am learning every day to believe that because my God is perfect, I am enough. I am what I am supposed to be. My prayer for you today is that you would come to learn the same thing.
We are enough when we are us. And that is very good.