I read a lot of books, but I don’t finish all of them. I used to think this was horrible and I was somehow breaking an unwritten law stating I would never be able to read another book unless I finished every single one page of every miserable book. I embraced the freedom from closing Mansfield Park by Jane Austin for good and decided barely getting through the movie was good enough. Books that enter the hallowed circle of “fully read” meet this criteria: they include a decent amount of humor, make me think, are edgy without being raunchy and are well-written without annoying grammar mistakes. One of the best books I have read in a long time that exceeds this criteria is the new book For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. I was hooked after reading the first few pages of the first chapter “Worst Beam Ever.”
Here’s how it starts:
“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.
Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.
You can’t balance that job description.”
The first time (and second and third times) I read this I laugh and was inspired because I realized that God was not calling me to be perfect and my family was not demanding it either – it was all me. I was so immersed in this circle of Pinterest perfection and felt like the growing cracks of spreading myself too thin would soon swallow up my hundreds (okay, thousands) of unstarted Pinterest masterpieces. I used to beat myself up over our jungle-like landscaping that I have no clue how to maintain, boring dinners that didn’t follow 10-course meal standards (even though my family could care less), and the crazy birthday details for my daughters first two birthday parties that she won’t remember. These are not the only areas of perfection I was failing to achieve.
See, I just made you think about all outlandish expectations and titles you have been trying to cram on your beam that you haven’t been able to balance for years. My beam has never been in balance (queue memories of juggling 40-hour work weeks with a semester of 21 credits in college). Motherhood didn’t suddenly make me lose my balance – I never had it in the first place. Yes, this is why the book For the Love is fitting for people – yes, probably mainly women – in any season of life.
While pondering my beam, I thought about what I had pushed off my beam while juggling the obligations that probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I used to put things like a clean house and an over-extended work schedule (which is in a much better balance now) in front of relationships. We all need people, but no one likes to be around someone who seems “perfect” because they know it’s not who the person really is. I’ve learned that keeping relationships (healthy ones) on my beam means my people will see the mess and even bring me coffee and treats because it makes the mess and chaos seem more manageable. A few months ago a dear friend of mine said she was worried about the hectic schedule I was trying to maintain. Instead of brushing her off and letting her know that I had everything handled (real friends can see through it anyways!), I thanked her and immediately started pushing a few deadlines and taking some things off my beam because I knew she was right. This is what relationships are about, not maintaining perfection so we can pridefully say, “Look at what I did,” while running on coffee steams and no sleep.
Stop. Just stop and think about your friends who will let you know they are worried about you. They encourage you to leave the mess and take a break and they even feed you. These are your people. This is your community. Really? Community doesn’t sound so complicated anymore as it did at one time. Thank you Jen Hatmaker for pointing this out and not being afriad of starting the Supper Club many years ago. You will have to buy the book to learn more because Jen explains it way better than I can and I’m pretty sure I’ll be slapped with a lawsuit over plagiarism if I just copy and paste the entire book here.
I’ll leave you with this one last thought from Jen: “The only thing worse than this unattainable standard is the guilt that follows when perfection proves impossible.” Perfection IS impossible, so let me do you a favor and kick it off the beam for you.
For the Love Book Giveaway!
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