(Rachel’s mother was interviewed for this devotion.)
When I was in the second grade, I got Bs on my report card. It was my first encounter with them. I cannot remember how many there were or if there was a mixture of Bs, B+s and B-s, but I remember sitting at the front of the bus on the way home, sobbing. How had this happened? How could I have allowed this to happen? I wondered how I could boost my grades. The bus driver, Mrs. Bullock, looked very concerned.
When I got home, my mother immediately asked what was wrong. I showed her the paperwork and said, “I can do better than this!” My mother was not upset or angry. “Rachel, these are still good grades. I am not mad at you. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
I looked at her and knew she was right, but I explained, “I want As.” I continued to cry, and for a little while my mom tried to comfort me, but I remember thinking that she thought I was being a bit ridiculous. She explained to me that I could do better next time, but I was firm in my preference for a flush of As marching down my report card and collapsed dramatically on my bedroom floor in a flurry of tears, my pigtails flopping beside me.
When I think about this story, I chuckle because it’s the perfect example of how I am wired. I love perfection, and I have always been that way. It is quite satisfying when things are accomplished just so.
I also remember in my second grade year, my teacher, Mrs. Brassfield, called a meeting with my parents. We sat in tiny chairs at a tiny desk. Mrs Brassfield said, “Rachel writes her name on her paper, erases it, and writes it again. She’ll do that several times.”
As I sat quietly in my chair, I thought, “I just want my name to look good.” I wanted to look at my penmanship and think, “That’s some good handwriting.” I rewrote my name until I was satisfied. Again, my parents were not alarmed and explained that I just operate that way. They added (in case Mrs. Brassfield was wondering) that they were not pressuring me.
As an adult, my desire for perfection takes different forms. I do not collapse on my bedroom floor in Pride and Prejudice fashion anymore. It emerges as stress because I put too much pressure on myself, and lack of sleep because I stay up late trying to get many things done.
Lord is telling me to chill out. He is not using those exact words, but that’s my translation of what he’s saying through Psalm 46:10. “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
When I strive, I attempt to do what I am not capable of doing on my own. I don’t let go when I need to because I think five more minutes of my efforts will actually make a difference. Sometimes, those five extra minutes do make a difference, but the downside is that I am a bit more frazzled than I was before. I am learning to do my best with the time that I have, and when there is no more time, I let go. Sometimes, I let go begrudgingly, but when things turn out okay, it reminds me that God is faithful, good, and to be trusted with the best efforts I put forth in the time I am given.
The Lord is risen! And the risen Lord wants His children to “chill out,” because He paid it all! Let us live our lives as He intended—in Bonhoeffer’s words the life of “costly grace.”