Sometimes I think words of affirmation are my love language. I get an email from Nicole, the editor from Marvel who’s been showing me the ropes of comics editing (my dream job!), which says, “You killed it with these notes, and caught a lot of stuff that I missed,” and that message makes my week.
But then I think about it, and it isn’t the words. As superficial as it might be, I need to feel like I’m good at something. I need to feel successful. Should that be what defines me? No, and I’m working on that. But full-time parenting does not come easily to me. I feel like a hack most of the time. Same goes for writing. Is the challenge worth it? OF COURSE. Still, I’m the type of person who needs to see measurable success. To be able to check something off a list as “done,” not just “done for now.” That’s why I hate never-ending chores like laundry and dishes. (Come to think of it, aren’t all chores endless?)
But nothing about parenting is a checklist. At least not in the daily grind. Sometimes the only things I can check off are the three meals I make each day. But I can’t make my kids eat those meals. I can’t force them to be good, or to make smart choices, or to love me. And I don’t really want to.
Immeasurable things are forever things. I can’t quantify my love for my kids, but I know it’s a constant. If it were quantifiable, I might feel guilty.
“We’ve got your status reports back, and you were less forgiving on February the 5th, 2015.” “On days in which you get less than 8 hours of sleep, you are showing a 46% increase in irritability.”
There is no better teacher of grace than caring for someone who depends on you.
And yet—we are humans. Confined to time and matter and space. We are measurable beings with immeasurable souls. And we need to feed our souls with love, but we need to feed our bodies and minds with physical, measurable things. We need to believe we are progressing as people, and to progress, we need to see or feel an increase.
Our most basic need is physical—to keep from starving, we eat until we are filled.
We also have a very real mental and emotional need—If we have low self-esteem, if we feel as though we are failing, we need to experience some success to feel fulfilled.
Our highest need is spiritual—”The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” Added bonus for Christ-followers: letting our will decrease while the Spirit increases (John 3:30).
But it is difficult to realize that highest need if we are physically starving, or are mentally or emotionally unfulfilled.
Many Christians are like the one mentioned in James 2, verses 14–17:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Christians—You can send Bibles to poor nations, but are you feeding them? You can preach to the discouraged, the losers, the marginalized, but are you helping them succeed and feel as if they belong? Are you offering jobs to those who need them?
I think that depression and self-esteem are huge problems in this generation because we forget that we need to be fulfilled holistically—to eat good food, to feel successful or worthwhile or as though we belong, to engage in something Bigger than us and Eternal and Immeasurable. To feed our bodies, take care of ourselves, and take care of others.
The more people I meet, the more I see our discontent coming from one of those areas. Each is a real, desperate need. We need food, shelter, water. We need to grow as humans. We need to love and be loved.
So let’s take care of each other and take care of ourselves. Let’s work together doing something tangible while building intangible connections. Let’s bond over the dinner table and over the workbench. Let’s find something we’re each good at and celebrate each other.
If you want, share a recipe, share one of your accomplishments or talents, and share a word of encouragement—could be scripture, an inspirational quote, or a song.
Let’s be better people in 2015, whether we can measure it or not.