Last night I went to bed anxious that the impending snowstorm was going to wreak havoc on my already cumbersome commute. I fretted about getting enough sleep (I’m coming off of a rough chemo weekend) and leaving early enough to get my Tuesday morning meeting.
Interestingly, as I slept, I had a dream that I somehow contracted tuberculosis. A doctor diagnosed me and when I told my family, coworkers and friends, they all insisted it wasn’t any big deal. There was some obligation I was supposed to attend – an event or appointment or something – and everyone urged me to just go. That I probably didn’t really have anything serious. That it was silly to prioritize this minor problem. The expectation was clear – go. Be “on.” Deliver.
In this dream, I had a deadly, highly communicable disease, and I bowed to the pressure of expectations. I typically don’t think much of dreams. Mostly because mine are usually filled with mundane, normal stuff or complete, utter nonsense. But this one seemed to have a message.
Sometimes I do not feel ok about resting, unplugging or eschewing my responsibilities. Even in this season of my life. I don’t think it’s because people actually don’t let me. I think I make assumptions about what is required of me. And what people will think if I fall short.
Don’t get me wrong – I take the breaks I need to…sometimes I’m just totally deflated and have nothing left. But I never really feel ok about it. I feel like I’m slacking, failing and letting everyone down. I feel judged. Again, it’s not anyone’s fault. I own it.
Sometimes I wish someone would send me away – see, I can’t send myself…someone actually sending me would be, I don’t know, permission. An allowance to unplug from my obligations.
While a weekend at some lovely spa would be outstanding, it won’t fix my problem. My problem, and this is absolutely not exclusive to cancer fighters, is that, sometimes, my worth is tied up in what I do. How much I do. How satisfied people are with my performance. In all areas of life.
Do you do this to yourself, too? If you think about somehow, magically, being totally free of obligations and expectation, does it make you want to just cry with relief?
There’s good news, but it’s pretty blunt. Jesus is the only answer to this. My identify has to come from who I am as a child of God, wholly and dearly loved. I am not good because I’m well behaved, productive, efficient and freshly showered. I’m not valuable because I cook a decent vegetarian chili or can juggle 37 projects at once. Those things are good and they make me ME. But they aren’t what determine my worth. My worth comes from He who created us. I’m worth something because He says so. Even if I’m laying on the couch eating a cronut.
The tricky part is grappling with the feelings that come with falling short of people’s expectations. Or, more accurately, the expectations I believe they have. This is where it helps to have people around you that love you, and while they do want you to make your bed and go to work and send Aunt Martha a birthday card…they don’t love you because you checked off your chore list. They love you over and above and around your shortcomings.
Once I was late to pick up my daughter from my parents’ house and I had a complete, total breakdown. I was so afraid they would think I was being disrespectful, irresponsible, selfish. But when I got there, a sloppy, messy, snot-filled, teary-eyed mess…I was met with grace.
The other day I sent my husband into the snow to pick up some take-out I’d ordered for us. Turns out, I placed our order at a different location of the Mexican chain – one 20 miles away. When he called to tell me, I expected anger at my stupid mistake. I had done almost nothing the entire weekend, so sick from chemo. And the one thing I tried to do: epic fail. But my husband just took care of it and brought me my quesadilla anyway. Grace.
Grace is so sweet. I expected ridicule. But I was received lovingly. And I was so relieved. I was reminded of how God deals with me…daily. If you want to really rock someone’s world, give them grace when they think they deserve your disapproval, your disappointment and your cold shoulder.
I’m working on my issues with fearing letting others down. I’m working on remembering who we are in Christ. Let’s be liberal in reminding each other of that. And liberal with our dispensing of grace.