“No use crying over spilled milk”, the saying always goes. Which is true… unless you’re the one who spilled it OR you’re the one that has to clean it up. That was how my morning started today, and I’m beginning to wonder who ever thought that was a good thing to say in the first place. Whoever they were, they obviously didn’t have kids! However, they might have known a thing or two about grace.
Not 2 minutes into my 3 minute shower, I hear through the bathroom door,
“Mom, I spilled _____ but it’s ok I’m cleaning it up.”
“Wait, you spilled what?”
“I spilled it but I’m cleaning it up.”
“What’s ‘it‘?” I ask cringing, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“Well… you know how you told me I could pour the milk?”
“No. No I didn’t, I told you could pour the orange juice – the almost empty orange juice -not milk! Did you spill milk?”
“Oh you didn’t? I’m sorry… I thought you said milk…”
“Orange juice does not sound like milk! Ok… where did you spill it?”
“Where were you when you spilled it?”
“On the carpet.”
“But don’t worry I’m cleaning it up – I’ve got lots of baby wipes.”
At this point I’m way past my allotted 3 minutes but strangely, somehow, I can’t find summon the mental stamina to get out and deal with it. Standing under the steamy water, I continued to procrastinate while contemplating how difficult it would be to replace the flooring today. I’m not typically overwhelmed by the ‘little things’ that happen throughout the day that are just apart of raising kids, but today milk on the carpet seemed like a catastrophic tragedy. Like seriously, isn’t there a home version of FEMA we can call in on occasions like this?
What’s more overwhelming than soured dairy in my carpet fibers, however, is the prospect of teaching my kiddos that when you fail at something it’s really ok. Kid’s learn best from example, namely mine, but the problem with that is (full disclosure warning) I’ve never really learned that for myself. I don’t know how to fail without internalizing the self-condemnation and shame that failure brings. It’s not that I was never taught, it’s that it doesn’t make sense in my world. In a nutshell my perspective on life is: OF COURSE YOU CRY OVER SPILLED MILK!
So how do we do this? Train little perfectionists to try their hardest and do their best, but not to internalize it or fall apart when they fail? I’ve been thinking about failure a lot lately. Mostly because I’ve been reviewing a lot of mine. I grew up being taught that as believers, all we have to do is give our best efforts to the Lord and he will bless it. But what does that look like? How do we not continue to carry the weight of our burden when we fail? The same reason we can’t take credit for it when we succeed: because it isn’t us. Whether we fail or succeed, when we are believers in Christ, our identity is found in him. We are associated with him. Just like when one of my kiddos makes a mistake in public I’m the one who gets the blame as their parent, Christ’s blood literally covers us so fully and completely that our failures become his failures and our successes become his. That is why he was able to take our sins upon him on the cross – because he chose to take responsibilities for our actions.
I’ve been saved since childhood and I’m not sure I’ve ever fully understood the magnitude of what Christ did for us. It’s not ‘just’ the big stuff – living in sin, breaking the law; willful disobedience. It’s the every day shortcomings, the missteps – the failure that comes from living life and not being perfect. God knew even if we lived a ‘good life’ from the second we gained understanding of our sin to the minute we died, we would still fall short of his standard. Every time I make the wrong parenting move and end up inwardly kicking myself for setting my kid up for a less than ideal outcome. Every time I subtly (or not so subtly) indulge in a bad attitude. Every time I harbor bitterness or refuse to forgive. Every time I give it all I’ve got but still can’t find my way to success…. every sin, every mistake, every missed opportunity, every failure – he bore those burdens for us once and for all, and he is waiting to take them from me today. All I have do is give them up.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
It’s not about being perfect, because we are not capable of perfection, and no matter how hard we might strive for it, it will always elude us. It’s about giving our efforts, our best and our worst, to Christ. Surrendering our weaknesses so that his strength can be made perfect in us.
When I finally allowed myself to make it to the scene of the crime this morning, I had already let go of my need for perfection. I wasn’t trying to hide my irritation, because I genuinely had grace for my sweet girl’s mistake. We cleaned it up together and as we did I gave a few pointers for how to avoid this outcome in the future. She received it well, and the episode ended in a smile. Not because I did a great job masquerading my true feelings, but because those were my true feelings: Of course it’s not a big deal – God gives me grace every day for all the mistakes I make; mistakes that are so much bigger then an accidental spill.
That’s how we train our kids to not sweat the small stuff. Not because it’s fun to fail, and not because we shouldn’t try our hardest, but because there is no shame in failure in the eyes of our Father. He sees us as what we are: completely covered in the blood of his perfect Son. I don’t know about you, but I definitely needed to hear that today. And yes, it was worth a soured carpet to hear it! All these years I’ve been striving to figure out how to learn ‘it’. Do ‘it’. Be ‘it’ enough. Whatever I thought I was missing, wherever I saw myself coming short, somehow I thought I needed to prove to the Lord that I knew. I could. I was enough.
God doesn’t see me as perpetual failure because I can’t seem to succeed, I believe he sees the heart of a beloved child who can’t for the life of her figure out how to pour milk. That’s ok. His grace covers. His power is made perfect in my weakness.
I have the rest of my life to practice pouring milk. It’s a learning opportunity, not a test to be passed or failed.
I will rejoice all the more my weaknesses, because it’s in those moments of failure that his power is shown the greatest in my life. So no more crying over the little things here – it’s small potatoes in light of eternity. God’s grace is much too rich to be wasted!
So raise your glass (or sippy cup) to weaknesses, failures and spilled milk!
❤ This post is dedicated to my Mom, an amazing women who never let me as a child or now as an adult, cry over spilled milk.
And to my husband, who taught me it’s the imperfections we carry that give us our true beauty. (Also, he’s really good at loving people who spill lots of milk.) ❤