The day after I posted killing babies, I found myself really struggling with “What will people think of me?” The one thing that kept me from writing it before last week was the near-constant presence of that question in my thoughts. To say that I have captured that thought and properly disposed of it would be a lie. But I am making progress. The “really struggling” day was somewhat like a cockroach infestation. Every time I squashed one fear another came scurrying through my mind. Some moments there were several running around in my head and I had a hard time deciding which one to go after. The infestation has now been downgraded to a pesky little mouse who occasionally comes out from a dark hiding spot and quickly runs off looking for another place to hide.
During the cockroach infestation I was afraid to look at the caller id each time our house phone or my cell phone rang. What if it was a family member calling to tell me what an embarrassment I am? I held my breath each time I looked at my email for fear of the same. I did not want to leave my house. I really love my house and I usually don’t like to leave it, but being homebound this week was out of fear that I would bump into a neighbor, or one of my children’s teachers, or someone who works with my husband. I was completely consumed with “What will people think of me?”.
And then…. we needed groceries. My grandmother has always prayed for good parking spaces and on more occasions than I could ever possibly document, I have witnessed those prayers being answered. Following in her footsteps, I prayed as I entered the Trader Joe’s parking garage. As I rounded a corner near the entrance, I thanked God for making a great spot available exactly when I needed it. I would not have far to carry all of my grocery bags which would save me the trip back to the entry to return a shopping cart. As I pulled into the parking spot I looked at the car to my left and then the car to my right. Giving myself a mental applause for positioning each end of my car approximately eighteen inches from the cars on either side of me. And then….
As I set my eyes on the wall in front of me I realized that I had parked at (no less than) a twenty degree angle. I opened my door and looked down at the white line that defined my spot. It disappeared just under my door. My mental applause was quickly interrupted with, “Well, crap. How am I going to straighten this vehicle with the line of cars waiting for parking spots sitting still behind me?” While waiting for an opening that would allow me to back up and attempt to park in my defined space, the following thoughts went through my head…. “Way to go, Kaci. There goes all that time you were going to save by not having to return a shopping cart.” and “See what happens when you try to align yourself with the wrong perspective?”
Scratching off the items on my grocery list was accompanied by recalling a few golden nuggets of scripture.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”ESV
1 Corinthians 4:3-4 “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
As I contemplated what my husband would think if I bought four bottles of Goddess dressing, I realized something. I do not care if he thinks I’m crazy. That stuff tastes good on anything! I also don’t care what other people think of me. At least that’s what I am going to tell myself until I totally believe it.
That mental applause I mentioned. It was in response to the satisfaction I felt when I realized that the drivers of the two neighboring cars would have a comfortable straight path to their doors. Yes, folks. I actually did a little clapping in my head over the thought of creating a straight path for people I will likely never meet. As I tucked those extra bottles of Goddess dressing in my cart I grasped just how important it is for me to stop worrying about who approves of me. Yeah. I know. Great epiphany for a forty-year old that’s been preaching it to her kids since their first day at the playground. I just wish the act of seeking ONLY God’s approval wasn’t so much easier said than done.
When I was in labor with my oldest daughter my Mom told me to always pay attention because my children would teach me much more than I would ever teach them. Seventeen years later I continue to marvel at the lessons to be learned just by paying attention to the four little people I’ve been entrusted to parent. That daughter of mine has never really cared what other people thought of her. She has always been willing to chase after and defend the desires that God has planted in her heart without fear or distractions. I would say I want to be more like her, but that would mean I learned nothing about occupying a space that is not my own.
God has weaved my life into quite an amazing story. He has given me the gift (or at least the ability) to document my story and share it. He loves me enough to
force allow me to back up and try again until I pay attention to the path I’m supposed to be on. He gives me redemption AND sweet parking spots. He covers me with a grace that I do not deserve and that flows more freely than my stockpile of Goddess dressing across fresh avocados. And… in those moments when I stop worrying about what other people think and stop comparing the journey I am on to the journeys of everyone I know, I get to experience fulfillment.
Do you know what real fulfillment is? Have you ever spent large amounts of time making faces and funny noises with the hopes that an infant will smile at you? The kind of fulfillment and freedom I have experienced in the days since writing killing babies can only be compared to the first time my daughter smiled at me. On this day, in 1995, after five weeks of cooing, fake-sneezing, speaking some language that I acquired the minute she popped out of me, and contorting my face for the little bundle of potential propped up on my knees….. she smiled at me. That precious little smile was followed by a joyful little squeal. In the months that followed I found myself leaning over her carrier in a restaurant and making a fool of myself in anticipation of that smile. The minute she was born I laid down my pride, let go of caring what other people thought, and got busy trying to make my baby smile. Making her smile was my God-given purpose. It was something that could only happen in my space. If I had been busy trying to make the neighbor’s kid smile I might have missed that precious moment. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, that pesky little mouse showed up again and starting asking me, “What will people think of you?”
My space is now occupied by a second daughter. A daughter who represents second chances A daughter who also bares the scars of an absent mom in the first few years of her life. No one saw her as a purpose in the weeks and months when she needed someone to teach her how to smile.
Just typing that hurt. Who knows how many people in this world are scarred because of the times that I took off on a journey that belonged to someone else or simply forgot what my purpose was because I was too busy seeking the approval of everyone but God.
My Mom was right. I can learn a lot by paying attention to my children.
Now I just need to make sure all my mousetraps are properly set. 😉