Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The illusion of the "perfect" woman - Part 2

A few weeks ago I looked at some issues surrounding what we perceive to be the "perfect woman", and some steps to take to avoid feeling defeat and frustration as we look at others.

Another issue that I think is a big one, is that so many people read blog posts, or see other people around them,  and think that other people seem to have it all together,  feeling utterly disheartened when their own lives are not the same.

They see their struggle to keep up with housework, and wonder how these ladies, with their lists, charts and various other regimes, keep it together all the time.

They are swallowed up with tears of frustration as they struggle to cope with small children testing their patience, and wonder how these ladies keep their children contentedly occupied every hour of the day.

They are trying to juggle home educating, run a home and please their husbands, without success, whilst other ladies seem to be able to keep all their plates spinning with ease.

Their days never quite turn out how they plan, despite others seeming to manage a seamlessly easy life.

They shout and yell, whilst others remain calm and dignified.

Their children are naughty, whilst others seem to have children who are "perfect".

The seemingly "perfect" women around them, make them feel discouraged and disheartened as they look at their own "mess".  Never thinking they could reach a life anywhere near the same, and hardly feeling like attempting at all.

So many books seem to outline all the positives - what we should do, and how to do it.  And yet, it seems so hard to actually make it work.

Feeling of inadequacy and failure can crowd into the mind.

"Why can others manage the perfect life, and I can't?"

So, how do we battle feeling like that?  How can we wade through the hard days, and become the woman we long to be.

Our reasonable service

Firstly, we need to seek God's Word for ourselves, to find out what GOD expects of us.

What are HIS instructions to us, in our Christian walk.  Does HE expect us to have our children all pristinely dressed, never putting a foot out of place, with immaculate houses, and highly organised schedules?

Or, does He expect us to honour Him in our actions, our attitudes and how we live out our Christian faith, above anything else?  Our love for others coming above our love for the "perfect" home and family.   Serving the Lord, before serving the expectations of the world?

I'm not suggesting, for a moment, that we do not TRY to do all we can in our homes and families.  I am saying that we can put false expectations upon ourselves - undue pressure - by not putting first things first.

I will never forget what my husband said, when preaching on the verse from Romans 12:1

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

A living sacrifice.  

Is that how you feel your life is as a mother?

That you are being put through the refining fire - that sacrificial flame?

Do you find that having your whole life as a sacrifice, as you seek to serve your family, is just too hard?  

Trying to keep up with all that is expected of you?  Struggling to maintain your sanity?

Do you see what Paul tells us, though?

It is our reasonable service.

That means, it's not UNreasonable. 

God doesn't ask us to do anything that is not reasonable.

Why not?

Because whatever He leads us to do in this life, He gives us the grace and strength to DO!

What a  great help this is! It should give us much hope, to remember that God is our sustainer.  When we are weak, we cast ourselves upon Him.  When we are struggling, we throw ourselves into His loving arms. 

In fact, we are told in Corinthians that it is WHEN we are weak - when we feel the frailty of our humanity, and the struggles of our life - that we are strong!  It is when we see our weakness, that God's strength is perfected.  It is then that we are totally relying upon His strength, rather than our own "strength".

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
II Corinthians 12:9&10

Do you see what else it tells us?  When we are having these trying days, and we think it doesn't measure up to what we see in other women?  We are to take PLEASURE in it, and GLORY in it!!!!  We can be thankful that we DON'T "measure up" to those we see, because God is giving us an opportunity to give HIM all the glory, in our weakness.  He is giving us an opportunity to rejoice in His grace and goodness. Yes, of course these other ladies have things to be thankful for as well, but we can be thankful right in the circumstances WE face!

Dealing with misplaced expectations

The other thing we have to remember about these women is this - just because they share how well things work for them, does not mean that they have it all together, or that they expect you to do the same!!  Someone may have told them they appreciate how they do things, and could they share it?  It is then shared in the hope it may encourage someone else, in their womanly role.  Not for a MOMENT would they expect that it should make someone else feel inadequate, small, or a failure.  All they are trying to do is encourage and bless others.

If you read it and feel inadequate, there are a few choices.  You can take it in the well-meant way it was shared, and try it out for yourself.  If it doesn't work for you, that's ok!  Their shared experience was never meant to be the standard YOU need to follow.  It's just what works for them, and MAY work for you!

Next option, you can decide that it is not "your thing" and leave it alone.  (Remember, we're talking about how we live out our lives in a practical sense here - if it's a Biblical truth or command, you can't choose to leave it!)

What you should certainly NOT do, is look at every single great idea, and try them all at once!!

Above all else, we should not be bitter or ungrateful that, what we perceive to be, the "perfect woman" has her life all sorted, and we are wading through difficult days!

Odious comparison

I think that another problem often comes when we think we must do it all as "perfectly" as the women we look at, and compare ourselves to.  As I said in my last post, comparison is a huge drain.

When we see these ladies - either witnessing their lives in person, or seeing them written in a blog or website or book - we may be tempted to think that their lives are never a struggle.  That they never have moment of stress or hardship.  

The moments of serenity we see, are HUGELY unlikely to be what they experience all the time!!  You may not always hear them share about the hard days, but they are most undoubtedly there.  How do I know?  Because we are all sinners, and we cannot maintain perfection in anything.  Simply because we are not perfect.

Not anyone is a perfect wife.

Not anyone is a perfect mother.

Not anyone is a perfect woman.

We ALL have tough moments, in all our roles in life.  Moments where we feel total despair, because everything has gone awry.  We ALL have days when we feel that everything has come "unstuck" and we are being a total failure as a mother.  We ALL have days where we are ashamed of our behaviour as a wife.  

Anyone who looks at the small snapshot of someone else's life that they may get to see, and thinks they have it all together, is far wrong!

We all have a totally different set of circumstances with its own highs and lows.

So remember that when you think that others are having a "walk in the park", while you struggle with everything you put your hand to! You cannot compare their circumstances to the situation God has place YOU in.

Doing it all for HIS glory

Ultimately, the rule of practice for all our lives must be that the purpose for doing ANYTHING, MUST be for God's glory.  Not to meet expectations of others.  Not because someone else says it's the best thing to do. Not because you THINK it might be better than something you already do.  Not because you are trying to please or impress other people.

Soli deo Gloria

For God's Glory alone

If you are trying to fulfill all those other things, in effect you are not giving God the glory.  If our motivation is misplaced, then we are not glorifying God.

In a nutshell, we need to remember that each of our lives is unique.  As much as God has given certain rules to follow in His Word, a lot of life is very individual to the circumstances that God has planned for you.  Within your own life you need to seek out what is best for your own family.  By all means look and see what others do.  Read about what works for them.  Learn about possible ways tat you can improve your own life.    But, do all to his glory, more than anything else.

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