That list. You know the one. The one that you have to finish and if you don’t finish it then, well, you aren’t sure what will happen but it won’t be good.When I was in college, I had a subconscious check-list I wrote out in my head. Every day, there was a list of things that made me feel successful or unsuccessful, depending on whether or not I did them. In a sense, my identity was based on this list. While some of the items on there were important, there is quite a difference in productivity and identity. When we begin to determine our worth as a direct result of what we do or do not do, we are teetering not only on the ways of the Pharisees; we are also leaning toward a self-sufficient life… a dangerous and futile place to roam.
These days, I fight the battle of this to-do list:
Now, this list is not conclusive, and does not include the obvious things like baths, feeding (which takes over an hour at times), and naptime (which we have been encouraged is extremely vital to the girls development). I do not say this as a, ‘Look at how much we have to do’; for I know there are many of you who have lists much, much longer and much more strenuous. I point this out to say that even now, I am tempted to base my self-worth on this list. It is easy to finish the day, sit down, and if I haven’t done at least ¾ of the check-list, to feel defeated, like a failure, or even like a bad mom. But God.
“For freedom Christ as set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”.-Galatians 5:1
For freedom. These lists, they can sometimes constrain us and make us feel like we are slaves to the schedule, slaves to the day. Yet God. He reminds us that if we are binding our worth to a check-list, we are seeking to please man instead of seeking to please God.
People desire performance.
God desires love.
People desire perfection.
God desires a heart after the only Perfect One.
People put up guidelines and rules.
God takes the burden and load for us.
People pleasing. It is so easy to fall into this trap of pleasing man. The problem is, we cannot please everyone. Items on the to-do list will go unchecked, and then what? If we are basing our identity on completing these so-called lists, we will find ourselves falling short more often than not. However, If we put our worth in and base who we are on God and who He says we are, we find freedom. For you see, our God is not a God of checklists, but a God of love.
We cannot please everyone. We get stressed and even defensive when we try. What we are really saying behind these walls we put up is this: Don’t you know how hard I’m trying to do it all right?
I don’t know what it is like to parent a typically developing child, but I do know that as the parent of two children with special needs, the moment I wake up, I am already fighting this battle of performance- both of the girls and my own. I am immediately battling the lies that say we must do more, try more, perform more, in order to be more. The lies that say if I’m just allowing my children to be themselves and enjoy the day without “working hard” or “doing therapy” that I am failing them. Oftentimes even well-intentioned family members or friends encourage this, “We are proud of you if you do something” mentality. But God. He says that before the sun came up, my worth and identity was already secured in Him. He claims that who I am, who Ally and Bailey Grace are, who YOU are, is based on whose we are- His. No checks on the checklists required.
So these days, Hugh and I have determined to focus on teaching the girls about the important things in life, mainly the things after this life. These are not the “normal” things of development, but the deeper things. The things that will last. Point blank, we are not going to make development an idol in our family’s life. This is unbelievably challenging in a world that pushes otherwise, yet the truth is this: whether our girls had special needs or they did not, the way we parent them really hasn’t changed much. We are still striving to help them to know God, see God in all things, glorify Him, and live out the purposes He has called them to. And, the beautiful thing is that they can do this whether they meet another milestone or not! He has equipped us each with all the things we need to do His will in each of our lives (Hebrews 13:20-21). Our praise pleases Him most (Psalm 69:30-31, Psalm 104:34). He has called us to not get caught up in the things of this world, for our aim is to please Him (2 Timothy 2:4). What sweet relief this gives me as a mom! The truth is, if you are in Christ, He is already well pleased with you (Matthew 3:17). While doing things for His glory is a fruit of the love He has placed in our hearts, it is not the very thing that determines our worth.
In the journey of disability, illness, and the like, I believe people are called to different things. I also believe that through transforming our minds and looking to Him instead of the culture around us, He gives us the ability to see His will more clearly (Romans 12:1-2). Some people will make His glory known through being healed, and we can see this both in His Word and in modern-day stories around us. As I have said before, at this time, He has not called me to pray for healing for our girls. This is just not how the Spirit in me has asked me to pray, regardless of what my flesh would sometimes want in the present. And, regardless of how crazy this may sound to some, I want to be a woman who looks for God’s glory over man’s praise (John 12:43). While this may change tomorrow, for now, we must balance this fine art of going to therapy, “working” on some things at home, and helping the girls’ development; while also living life, enjoying our family, and not obsessing about the things that at the end of the day have no eternal significance. (After all, did anyone’s tombstone ever read, ‘Could sit unassisted?’) The truth is, all of our days are planned out, numbered, seen, and known… and I don’t want to spend a single one of them thinking I know what’s best over the One who created and designed us. Not only is this futile, it is miserable. Hugh is always quick to remind me that more than anything else, our girls need a mom who is confident in whose she is and joyful…not another physical therapist!
So, we play. And, we giggle, and watch movies, and go on stroller walks, and visit friends, and read His Word, and listen to praise songs, and we love, and love, and love some more. We remember that man’s nostrils simply have breath for a moment, and then they are gone; yet God breathed and in that very breath created all that has ever been and all that will ever be (Isaiah 2:22). We strive to grasp that regardless of how weary we may be, despite how little checks have been marked off for the day, what we are doing matters because it is bringing glory to the very One who instills hope for something more in each of us (Colossians 3:23).
Friends, your identity is found in Him. It is not found in the checklist, or the constraints the people around you have put on you, however well-meaning they are. Today, may we seek to be a people who rely on Him to tell us what to do, instead of looking to the culture around us to determine our schedule. May we rest easy in the fact that no matter what, we are safe in Him. May we find joy in the little things, knowing that little love is BIG in His eyes. The only thing to check off today is fixing our eyes on Him, love, and He’s always been faithful. Let’s rejoice in this today!