I had the privilege of interviewing Jennifer Dyer on Living Inspired this past week (you can download her interview here). She was kind enough to share a little more of her story with us. Enjoy this beautiful piece from Jennifer Dyer.
Once upon a time there was a lady who thought happiness depending on everything being just right.
And it wasn’t…
Does this sound familiar? Do you ever struggle with happiness? Does “happy” depend on circumstances? On your own ability to make things just right?
In fact, I used to go by this formula. Perfection = Happiness.
What a farce! That kind of thinking has led me in all sorts of circles, all of them negative.
Because I am far from perfect. Life is imperfect. Things never go as smoothly as I planned. Only one human has managed to live a perfect life, and He died as a result.
When I first married, I believed if I just tried hard enough, I could be enough. Life would be happy. I spent days obsessively cleaning and straightening. I poured myself into domestic tasks. If I just worked harder things would be great.
I suppose it worked for a time even though I was wound tighter than a balloon string caught in a ceiling fan.
The first major snare came along with my first pregnancy. Instead of pretty and pregnant like those magazine pictures, I was pukey and grouchy. My husband couldn’t even climb into bed without the motion sending off waves of illness, and don’t even ask him about what happened when he drank the last of the chocolate milk…
I studied hard, though, and persevered. I would make this baby into one of those textbook examples of scheduling and behavior.
My daughter had ideas of her own. For her first eight months she cried at least eight hours a day. She cried so loud the neighbors could hear it echoing in the street. We were on a schedule, all right. I would start crying at 5 p.m. because I knew she would start at 6 p.m.
For the first time, my perfect house had turned into a mad house. Toys, laundry, dishes and pet hair spilled in all directions. I couldn’t manage to get myself anywhere, not even to Bible study once a week. This adorable infant had taken my life as hostage. Nothing was as I’d envisioned.
Just after eldest’s first birthday, I thought I had mono… But, no. Eldest was going to be a big sister. Again, life took me where I did not expect to go…
This could go on for pages, but I will give you the quick overview. My second pregnancy required months of bed rest. By the time Rachel was only a few months old, I knew something was wrong. All my careful planning and efforts had again resulted in nothing. She was almost three before she was diagnosed with autism, although we had suspected that all along.
It was a dark time. When I first heard the diagnosis, I felt as though an elephant plopped onto my chest. I couldn’t breathe. My hopes she would grow out of her difficult behaviors crashed like a chandelier dropping one perfect crystal bauble at a time.
My carefully planned future morphed into something I couldn’t control. Messes spiraled beyond repair at home. As I picked up toys, Rachel followed behind me and dumped them out. Steam cleaning the carpet became a daily task.
Fear kept me awake at night in between Rachel’s screaming tantrums. Rachel was past three when she actually slept through a night, and it would be years before she would sleep all night more than a few nights a week.
One day I wound up in my closet, in the dark, crying and crying. I couldn’t keep this up. I was drowning in messes and imperfection. I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to crawl under the bed and die. I was a failure. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t make things work.
I had known Jesus since I was a child. I don’t think I ever lacked faith in Him, but in that moment I had never needed a Savior more. I cried out to Him. Save me. Save me from myself, save me from this mess that is my life. I want to come home, to come home to Heaven where there are no more messes. I’m so tired I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get up off this floor. I just want to die.
No rumbling voice from Heaven answered me, but that was six years ago. And I am still here, although “here” has changed in many ways. There are still messes all the time, but I have learned to laugh about them. I have learned it’s okay to be imperfect, that it is better to be imperfect. I want God to sustain me through my difficulties. In fact I now treasure the difficulties He has sustained me through.
God has held me up through each moment. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was supposed to be a routine surgery, but again things did not go as planned. I developed a raging infection that squeezed the life out of me. As I lay dying on the bathroom floor next to the closet I had locked myself into a few years earlier, I had a very different conversation with Jesus.
I could feel Jesus coming for me. I knew it would be as easy as reaching out. I could leave this life of imperfection and struggle. I could graduate to eternity and perfection.
But I didn’t want to leave, not yet. I begged Jesus to give me more time as a mother. Let me stay here and love these children, teach them more about You. Don’t take me yet, please.
This time I heard a very soft whisper. It is going to be hard, so very hard.
I don’t care. Please let me live longer to be a mom.
I had come full circle. I don’t know what I would have done had I been given that kind of choice a few years earlier while I sat in the dark closet.
I’m glad I wasn’t. I will tell you, the few weeks and months after that bathroom-floor conversation were the most difficult and painful of my life. Yet, I treasure those moments because I could feel Jesus right beside me the whole time. My body was far less than perfect and still is. I have memory issues, I grow tired far faster, I have scars that send lightning bolts of pain through my body when I move the wrong way. I am less perfect than I have ever been, but I am blessed.
And being blessed is far better than perfect. Allowing God to sustain me rather than trying to do it myself has been the biggest blessing of my life. And I am happy to tell anyone who wants to listen how to be imperfect and still find joy in the only lasting and perfect source: Jesus.
May you be blessed, my friends.