I compete with my used-to-be self as much as my assumptions of what other moms can do. Nursing a newborn in Costco while shopping and chasing my two-year-old…I can’t do that anymore. Panic floods my head when I think about taking three kids to buy the new shoes my oldest needs AND return clothes I mistakenly bought. But, I think I should be able to handle what I once couldn’t. I think I should be able to do everything I once could. When our third child was born I barely stopped. Maternity leave doesn’t exist when you are a stay at home mom with older kids around. It wasn’t a healthy choice, it wasn’t even the right choice. I believed the lie that I was supposed to do everything and that when a new baby was brought home I was supposed to keep that same pace. This lie of business, of consistency and perfection is one Satan so silently whispers. “Keep up, don’t stop, don’t fall behind…” We want to be out in front, noticed, appreciated, valued, looked up to. When we strive for this we create competition at the risk of real community.
This competition isn’t always a conscious choice, it is rarely admitted and it is often not even realized. This is how Satan wraps his chains around us. If he did it in obvious ways we would see him coming and have time to put up protection, build walls, say “no”. But Satan doesn’t come loudly and obviously he comes quietly sneaking. Ephesians 6:13 tells us, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” We are supposed to put on our armor before the attack!
So often I am surprised and unprepared. I am tired and my eyes are blurry. I am overscheduled and don’t have time to listen or think. It is a reactionary way of life. But, I think God calls us to be proactive, prepared, and aware! This is how to leave the competition and live in community. When we live in competition it is a reaction to the way others look, behave, or live their life. We respond to the actions (assumed or actual) of someone else. It is contest that destroys friendships, faith, ourselves, families, marriages, children. It is an opposition that is difficult to overcome. We want to feel good about ourselves, lose that mom belly as fast as our sister, have date night as often as our friend. We think we should be as happy as we once were, have the patience we used to have. We believe there is a problem that we can fix and we want control over how people view us.
In this tournament of talents we put on a mask. Sometimes the mask is make-up, sometimes it is a clean house, sometimes it is smiling while holding hands with your husband who you just screamed at on the car ride over. I want to argue that presenting to the world this beautiful picture is what makes us feel lonely. We are unaware of the game going on, the war Satan is waging in the spiritual realms. The battles look different for each of us. The masks we adorn, the way we medicate the pain, or the problems we ignore are not the same. We were created to be a body, to live in fellowship…community with one another. There is freedom for differences. We need communities, churches, families, schools full of people with a variety of abilities.
My children need something different than your child so I shouldn’t do everything you do. My husband has different expectations so it is a good thing if I know those and respond to his needs and not the ones I know from my friend that her husband wants. My life looks different than a working moms so shouldn’t my wardrobe? She has more heels in her closet and wears make-up 55 times in 60 days when I wear it zero…that is okay. But, we turn these into competitions and definitions. Putting roles and jobs and tasks into tightly defined boxes. We struggle to admit that being a mom is hard because we don’t hear anyone else confess that. We tell our-self to stop crying over the miscarriage we had three years ago because we think we should be over it by now. We wear heels to church because we see the other women doing it and even though we have to carry our 6 month old and wrangle our 2 and 4 year-old we believe we should be able to do it in heels! Maybe you can, if so, do it! But, do it because you like them, wear make-up because you feel less frumpy, cry about how hard motherhood is because it is! Be vulnerable, be honest, be you. We don’t need a band of friends who all look like us, make the same choices and have the same stress level. We need a community of people not striving to be better but striving to better each other. We need people around us to be encouraged by, to challenge us, to spark creativity, to learn from, to be honest with, to fight this spiritual war with.
As I wake-up to all the fantasies I have believed about who I should be I am aware that I am much stronger than that made up woman who said “yes” to everyone. I have beauty to create even though I create it differently than women on my social media accounts. I can teach my children well although opposite from many of my friends. I have energy to work-out when I stop worrying about my pant size. I have more friends when I admit my failings and ask for help.
This battle between flesh and blood (Ephesians 6) is one of competition that leads us away from community with God and with others. I want to celebrate how well friends manage their families instead of feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do what they do. I want to rejoice in the success of my friend who is a working mom instead of being jealous she gets time outside her home. I want to ask my husband for a day off instead of pretending I am super-mom. I want to admit what I can’t do so I can do a few things well. I want to cry to my friend so when she needs to melt down she doesn’t feel so alone. I want to allow myself to change and do things differently. I want to be a homemaker out of love instead of with tight fisted, jaw clenching determination. I want to show you who I really I am because I want to see you in all your mess for all of God’s glory.
In community there is strength, togetherness, and loyalty. In Christ there is acceptance and love. Protected in His armor we can fight the battle in the spiritual realm that convinces us we have to pretend and strive.