Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finding Grace (and crying) over Spilled Milk

I felt the jar slip from my loose grip.  At that moment life turned into slow motion.  For a split second I thought I could catch the glass milk jar in mid-air on its way to the tile floor.  But just as quickly as the time seemed to slow down, it returned to real-time again and before I could move, I was staring at puddles of milk and shattered glass.  Sigh.

As I surveyed the mess and rushed the pups out of the kitchen, I could feel my frustration and anger begin to surface.  Why didn't I just use both my hands to get the milk out of the fridge? I have all these things I want to do today, and now I'm going to be spending the next 30 minutes - at least - (because I'm that thorough) making sure not one minuscule piece of clear sharp stuff is left for a dog or a cat to eat - or to get inconveniently lodged in mine or Jeff's foot.  Why can't I just be more careful?!

I say these kinds of things to myself a lot.  Why can't I just..?....Why didn't I..?...If had done it this way....I really should have done...

It seems too often we find the fault within our actions or choices without taking our critical glasses off to see that life really will go on.  That tiny delay caused from a tiny inconvenience or perhaps careless decision really doesn't alter the universe in such a horrific way that we will never be the same again.  Sure we can't go back in time, but who's to say we really would have done things differently if we could?  Now that the milk has spilled, of course I would love to go back in time and use both hands...but where's the lesson in that, right?  What's the point of the spill and the broken pieces if you know how to mop & sweep them up in the first place?

If we could just be perfect or do things absolutely right, without breaking anything, would life really be so much better?  Easier to navigate?  That much more efficient?  Would not having to deal with the stickiness because we know exactly how to avoid it, or how to sweep it under the rug before it even happens make life any more awesome or worth it?  I don't think so...

Wishing that we could just do it perfect the first time neglects the fact that we are human...that we aren't perfect...that, every once in a while - if not more than that - we will spill the milk.  We (or life) will shatter the glass of our "perfect" day, or the glass that conveniently wraps itself around our hearts and conscious, protecting us from painful realities, from recognizing our own brokenness.

Maybe it's just me.  But I absolutely despise "messing up."  I have the audacity to think that I can simply glide through life, carefully observing what I do & how I do it - the words I say, the choices I make - so as to not mess up; I try to take every step...just avoid every avoid risk or drama or inconvenience that could arise.  It's exhausting & boring.  And it doesn't work.  Because I'm human.  Messing up is absolutely unavoidable.  Which is why I feel the blood begin to boil and my nerves tense up when I stare at that spilled milk on the floor.

My dad jokes with me about this broken piece of myself.  When I was little and things didn't go as I wanted them to, I would get really mad and throw a hissy-fit and stomp around the house yelling "this just gets on my nerves!"  I would literally act like the world was ending because my Sunday morning cinnamon rolls got burned (that's a story for another blog...).  And my parents would just sit, watch, and lovingly smile - reveling in this silly characteristic of their youngest daughter.  It really was going to be okay, I just didn't know it yet, and I had to figure it out in my own time.

Learning the lessons of our mistakes is one of the first pieces of wisdom we are taught as children.  And it is probably the most difficult one to grasp.  Learning from our mistakes does not mean that we will be more perfect next time; we might be better, but not perfect.  And sometimes our grip on life can be so tight that we lose sight of what it really means to live.  I'm not saying that we should have no hold on our lives, our actions or decisions - but rather, letting go, or living with one hand a little more open than the other can be freeing and life-giving.  Plus, messing up and learning from our mistakes teaches us to make room for grace - in our lives and for others.  Grace is something that is given to us without our control or our judgment; it is given without keeping tally marks of our good works.  And we need to remember it...hold it for ourselves...and gently give it to others along the way.

We won't always be able to tiptoe through the shattered glass...there will be days when the sharp edges will prick our toe or slice our finger.  And I think we are good to remember that it's okay to cry over spilled milk.  Because life can be downright frustrating sometimes!  It can be spoiled and sour...or too lukewarm and lumpy....sometimes there's not enough of the good stuff to fill our bowl...and other times, it's just plain awesome and refreshing - right when we need it to be.

But after my literal spilled milk episode, I'm learning not to shed too many tears over it.  Because as we all know, there are these things called paper towels and vacuums...and there are these great people called friends & family....and there are adorable, happy dogs that will lick it up...and a gracious God that will forgive.

Life goes on...and so will we.  Next time, maybe a little laughter will loosen the tightened nerves in our neck.  Maybe a little more grace in the clean up process will help us move on... and make the most of the next glass.

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