I was almost done unloading my shopping cart when another lady pushed her cart in behind me. I glanced at her apologetically, saying, “You’ll be here a while.”
“I’m in no rush,” she assured me.
I smiled and continued unloading. Half of my groceries were already bagged and loaded into another cart, the entire conveyor belt was full of more groceries, and there were still some left in my original cart. The lady behind me observed all this, and tried to make small talk.
“Big trip today, huh?”
“We have five kids,” I explained. “And I try to do a shopping trip for two weeks at a time so I don’t have to come as often that way.”
Her eyes widened. She took in my three-year old and 15-month old sitting side by side in the double cart, uncharacteristically docile as they looked at her. She hadn’t been privy to their meltdown on aisle 8.
“Do you plan out your meals two weeks in advance, too?” she inquired.
I nodded in affirmation, and her eyes got even wider. With awe in her voice, she said, “You’re so organized!”
I sure had her fooled.
To a casual outsider, I may appear to have it all together. I have five kids, and that, as any mother can tell you, is no small task. It’s a full-time job in and of itself. And I homeschool two of them at least for the time being. Within the past year, I’ve also managed to write three books, at least one of which is actually going to become a reality. I keep a blog on a quasi-regular basis, and yes, I plan my meals two weeks in advance. I must have it all together, right?
Ah, but that’s just the glossy brochure. What that doesn’t tell you is what a complete disaster my house is most of the time, because given the choice, I’ll choose writing over cleaning any day. Or how I get so immersed in writing that I stay up until midnight and then wonder why I’m so grumpy the next day. Or how I’ll give the kids a math lesson to work on while I “quickly” finish a chapter I have to write before I lose my great idea. Or how completely inferior I feel when I compare myself to other moms in our homeschooling co-op, as I hear them talk about cool science experiments they do or how they manage to fit everything into a morning, even with four homeschoolers, while I struggle to get everything done in an entire day, just with two school-aged kids. You see, to me, they’re the ones who have it all together.
Do you see the irony here? The lady at the grocery store thought I was organized, while I know better than that. I look at other moms who seem to have it all figured out, and I envy them. But they, in turn, know their own flaws and shortcomings and probably look to someone else who seems to have it all together, and the cycle just goes on. Social media platforms don’t help the cause, either. I’m not gonna post on Facebook, “I just completely neglected my kids for an entire day so I could write a chapter of my book.” Instead, I’ll brag, “Hey! I’m 75% done with Book Four of my series!” Maybe I’ll post, “Ah, there’s nothing like the feeling of a nice, clean, steam-mopped floor!” But I won’t add that it’s been three months since my last steam mopping. So we’re often surrounded by other people’s “best,” while we know our own “worst,” which can make us feel very inferior indeed.
This whole phenomenon can be both good and bad. On the one hand, it’s good not to be too cocky. It’s good to know our own shortcomings and failures, so perhaps we can work on them and improve. But on the other hand, constantly comparing ourselves to other people can make us feel inferior and get discouraged. So it is a fine line we walk, acknowledging our weaknesses but not allowing them to define who we are.
The same can be said of our spiritual lives. We are at the same time both sinner and saint. We cannot deny that we sin each and every day. 1 John 1:8 tells us that “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that we are sinful. But neither does it leave us in despair. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” the very next verse tells us. Or check out Ephesians 1:4, where Paul says, “For he [God] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
Whoa, wait. What? “Holy and blameless?” Hardly! I know my wicked thoughts. I remember how I yelled at my kids just yesterday after they tracked mud in on that clean steam-mopped floor. I’d hardly call myself holy or blameless. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. Because in Jesus, He has taken your sins upon Himself and given you instead His own innocence, as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21—”God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So take heart. Yes, you are a sinner. But you are a forgiven sinner. You are holy. You are blameless. You are pure. Even if you aren’t the most organized person in the world.