About a week ago, my husband said something to me that kind of bugged me to the core. It was something about my personality, something about his perception of me. It bugged me because his perception of me didn't jive with my perception of me. And maybe it bugged me because months earlier, I had two friends say something similar to me. (Not close friends who know me to the core more like acquaintance friends so I initially discounted what they said.) But when my husband repeated it, I was perplexed.
The real issue was that apparently there are people who view me as a free spirit, a relaxed carefree person who approaches life in a bit of a haphazard way. I have never considered myself with any of those words. Ever. And for some reason, I didn't want to be perceived that way.
I am analytical to the core. Generally speaking, things do not just "happen" in my life. Planning, organizing, and bringing order out of chaos are key to me. Despite being outgoing and feeling the need to be around people, I am task oriented and have a hard time investing in the time it takes to really love on someone. But I am also a visionary type personality, a dreamer of sorts who, to quote my mother in a newspaper article on our adoption, has always been out to save the world. However, my need for plans, organization and order doesn't manifest itself in everything I do. I can let dirty dishes sit in my sink. (Yep, they're there as I write this.) I just went 4 months without balancing my checkbook. (My accounting program on my computer crashed and I was dreading starting over.) Maybe that's where the free spirit stuff came from.
Or maybe it's because I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. Even as a little girl, being in control was important to me. I was bossy and opinionated and driven. I refused to play softball in elementary school because I couldn't hit the ball. (Nevermind that hardly anyone else could.) In 4th grade, I cheated on a beginning of the school year test that was designed as a lesson in following directions because I couldn't bear the thought of failing it. (You know the kind, where the first direction is do not do anything on this paper but write your name, followed by a lengthy list of instructions designed to make you forget that first simple direction.) I wrote a ten page paper in 6th grade. I have never received anything lower than a B and honestly still don't know what I would do if I did. I had very strict ideas on what was right and wrong with little room for mistakes by anyone, both my friends, my enemies, and myself. But God has spent time over the last 15 years shaping me, encouraging me to take on a deeper understanding of grace and Sovereignty. And through that, I've come to see how grace means letting go of a lot of that. That control, anxiety and worry are really sins and that I have to stop those behaviors. I suppose hat has probably resulted in the perception that I am more of a free spirit.
So why did it bother me so much that someone's perception about me might be askew? Maybe because I don't like being put into a box. (And if you must put me in a box, at least put me in the right one!) Truth is, no one likes being put into a box. We are all complex and multi dimensional, with likes, dislikes, flaws and strengths that may or may not fit into nice neat pigeonholes.
I think it's one of those things that motherhood has made me more aware of. We, as women, like to carefully place people into cute little cubbies. We adoringly look at the labels we put on some of those cubbies, lovingly eyeing the special crafty script that labels those cubbies. Meanwhile we cringe at some of the cubbies, and slap a Sharpie emblazened piece of masking tape underneath, indicating our level of acceptance for those who fall under that label.
There are so many categories of women and I think the blogging world has made me keenly aware of that. Uber trendy moms who are thin and fit, who buy from Pottery Barn and the Gap, who send their kids to public or private school, while they fill their days with volunteering or with magically keeping up an impeccably decorated home, usually with an insane amount of white furniture that never has grubby black fingerprints . Homespun moms who homeschool, make their own bread from the flour they've ground themselves, whose elementary kids read classics like Wuthering Heights and whose family has never seen Dora the Explorer because they rarely watch tv. Organic moms who seem flexible and earthy, who take joy in creating or buying cute as a button homemade clothing, who know where to buy hormone free milk or free range chicken, who make green smoothies to drink after their family's ten mile bike ride. Working moms who would be grateful if they could get supper on the table from somewhere other than Pizza Hut, who would love to exercise but aren't sure if they should since it means leaving the kids at daycare for an extra 45 minutes, who treasure the weekends because they mean sleeping in and family activities like movie nights or baseball games or going to the park.
It's all a bit much, isn't it? I'm none of those labels. I find myself fitting the stay at home label by default as I'm a stay at home mom who loved her job but felt like her kids needed for her to be at home. So at times, I find myself dreaming about how I could get back to work. I am a planner by nature, someone who would love to have a carefully scheduled day full of colorful crafts for the kids, challenging academic type activities for their developing brains, limited tv time, nutritionally balanced, homemade meals, and God centered times and conversations. But I resist too much structure because I don't want my 3 year olds on a regimented schedule, because 3 year olds need fluidity and freedom. And even if I worked really hard to come up with such a schedule, actually following it would probably take an act of the Almighty. I'd love to be the health conscious mom who is somewhat close to a healthy weight, who takes her vitamins and calcium, and exercises every day. It just doesn't happen. And while I do like crafty stuff, I certainly don't find myself having the time I need to actually get any of that accomplished.
There is just this strong desire to fit into some cubbyhole, to be in one group or another, to be perceived in a certain way. But I don't fit. And I don't think most of us do. For some reason, Satan likes to convince us that we must identify with one group, that one group is better than the other, that it is very important how others perceive us. And women fall for this all the time.
The truth is God designed us not to fit into a stunning set of drawers, cubbies, or handmade, fabric covered boxes. Instead He has placed us in jars of clay, jars that while perhaps unique in some ways are still made of clay. Plain, old clay. It's nothing special on it's own. In fact, on it's own, it's simply dirt. (And not every good dirt at that. When wet, it's sticky and mucky. When dry, it's hard and crumbly.) No, clay is only good when held in the hands of the Potter. A Master Potter who crafts each vessel with a specific purpose in mind, a purpose that is not worthy of a label. Perceptions of ourselves, perceptions of others, that need to belong or be accepted-it's all secondary when you consider we're all the same old lumpy clay, shaped by a God for the purpose of making His name famous.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 - But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.