A couple of years ago, my husband, parents and I took a trip to London. It was amazing. We fell gloriously and unabashedly in love with this vibrant, diverse, historic city. The sounds, the smells, the tastes, the sights…it was a feast for the senses. I wanted to bottle it up and carry it home with me, but there’s no way to bottle up a city like London. You can’t ship it home in a box, or fold it into your suitcase. It’s impermeable. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to take some piece of the city back.
I like necklaces–not the shiny, polished, gem-encrusted pendants you find in jewelry stores, but the simple, enameled, stamped, or even carved necklaces that represent a specific time, place, or opportunity. In London, at a gift shop in Buckingham Palace, I found a necklace that symbolized just a tiny fraction of our magnificent London adventure–a crimson, enameled English rose locket.
I scooped it up as quickly as possible and snuggled it deep into my overflowing suitcase for the long flight home. I’ve worn the locket several times since I first bought it, and each time the clasp on the back of the necklace slides closer and closer to the pendant itself. In most necklaces, this is an easy fix. One simply pulls the chain through a loop at the top of the pendant until the clasp and pendant form a perfect, parallel line. Yet, the chain links on my crimson English rose are completely dysfunctional. Instead of slipping easily through the loop at the top of the pendant, they get stuck inside. It’s infuriating. No matter how hard I pull on the chain, the links stubbornly refuse to dislodge themselves from the pendant’s upper loop.
Recently, I decided to perform a thorough examination of the loop and links to see if I could correct the problem and bring the necklace back to its original alignment. I twisted the links nearest the loop to try and force them through the circle. I pushed on the link lodged in the loop with my fingernail to try and get it to budge. Nothing worked, until I released the slack on the chain. With the pressure lifted, the link collapsed and flowed easily through the loop, link after link after link. I pulled the chain taut once again. Sure enough, the gentle flow of link through loop came to a grinding halt. The pressure on the chain caused the links to rise perpendicularly to the loop, thus preventing any movement from taking place. The links needed some slack.
Often, in our own lives, we hold on too tightly. We rigidly refuse to bend our will, our wishes, our way of doing. Because of this, we get stuck in negative patterns of thinking and being, telling ourselves that if we work harder we’ll be able to put our lives back into balance. My friends, this is a lie. When we try to shape our lives by force, it often ends in dissatisfaction. This is because we’re relying on our own power, our own insight, and our own will rather than on God. Instead of pulling tighter, stretching ourselves thinner, and holding on for dear life, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to accept our own humanity, embrace the fact that life is messy, and look to God to order our days.
Last week, I let my ten-year-old each chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. We had an abundance of them, I wanted them out of the house, and breakfast is not the time or place for a power struggle. He washed them down with skim milk, and I made sure his lunch included whole grains, fruit, and a veggie (like, one mini pepper). I could beat myself up about this. I could berate my parenting abilities, buckle down, and offer some sort of repentance to the faceless online parenting judges. But instead, I cut myself some slack. I accepted the fact that sometimes, the day-to-day minutae of parenting is going to be messy. I’m not always going to make the right decisions, and my kids will sometimes eat cookies for breakfast. However, I trust that God and I are working through this parenting thing together. I lean on him when I don’t know the answers, and he helps me see the path to take.
Just as we need to cut ourselves some slack, we also need to extend that slack to others. Everyone deserves grace, and we need to engage in the practice of offering it. If we want balance in our lives, we need to seek peace in our interactions and relationships with others. We need to follow Jesus’ example of love and hospitality. And we need to accept the fact that others are human, too. That’s so much easier said than done sometimes. We can’t love as God loves on our own, but only as an outpouring of God’s Spirit within us. When we are focused on God, when we trust and rely on him, his Spirit fills us up from the inside, so that we may share his love and grace with others.
When we let go of our own need to control and perfect, we are better able to focus on God. God is able to bring our lives into balance, but we have to cut the slack and let him have control.
Blessings and Peace,