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Part 1 of a series called Unconventional Gratitude, something near and dear to my heart, is a challenge to be grateful for your flaws.
When you choose to be grateful for the little and big things every single day, it can be life-changing (jump in on the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge to see it in action!). Choosing to be thankful for family, smiles, and quiet mornings with steaming mugs of coffee is certainly worthwhile!
But, what if your heart of thanksgiving dove even deeper? What if you were even able to be grateful for those challenging, messy, ugly-crying-into-a-pint-of-ice-cream parts of life?
I believe Christ calls our hearts to overflow with thankfulness, in good times and bad. And if a grateful heart for the good things can change your life, imagine the transformational power of unconventional gratitude, saying thank you (and meaning it!) even when everything hurts.
Walk with me this month through 3 areas we tend to skip over in our gratitude journals.
Grateful for Flaws
When I was in middle school, I crossed my arms all. the. time. It wasn’t because I was cold or irritated. It wasn’t a show of teenage rebellion or some unconscious way to distance myself from people.
I crossed my arms because I was convinced it would help hide my stomach, the part of my body I was most ashamed of.
I wore baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts in hopes that it wouldn’t bring attention to my unsightly belly rolls, but even that wasn’t enough. My arms needed to be crossed as an extra precaution. I had to do everything in my power to make sure people couldn’t see my most obvious flaw.
Bathing suits were the absolute worst. If I was in the water, I was fine. Even laying out in the reclining plastic chairs was alright because I could cover up with a towel. But that walk between the chairs and the pool steps? It was awful. Without any baggy layers, I sucked in my belly as much as I possibly could, held my breath, and took that walk of shame, feeling completely vulnerable except for the coverage of my arms that stayed crossed with every self-conscious step.
And, of course, all I ever succeeded in doing with that constant arm-crossing was to draw more attention to my stomach, not less.
And isn’t that how it seems to happen? The more we do to cover up those things that we are most insecure about – the flaws in our bodies, our character, our finances, and our families – the more we unintentionally end up accentuating them.
I don’t believe that wanting to be flawless is a bad thing in and of itself. God, after all, created us in His image, an image of complete and utter perfection. Stunningly, beautifully flawless. Desiring to be more like Him is godly and good.
But, the fact is, we aren’t flawless.
Our faces break out, we overeat and our midsections expand into muffin tops, and our aging bodies groan and ache. We snap at people we love, saying things we don’t mean as our patience grows thin. We make mistakes, fall short, and choose the wrong path on a daily basis.
It’s something that, as an ever-failing perfectionist, drives me absolutely batty.
When I look into the mirror and see all of the scars, blemishes, and war wounds that permanently mark my body from a clumsy childhood and my 100-pound weight loss journey, it’s discouraging.
I’ve worked so hard and I still don’t have my dream body.
When I feel stress caving in on me and I respond by lashing out at those closest to me with harsh words and tones with a dash of passive aggressiveness, I’m once again reminded of my personality flaws – I’m still selfish, I’m still impatient, I’m still a bit of a control freak, and my trust in God is not as rock solid as I desperately wish it were, it’s disheartening.
I’ve tried my absolute best to be kind, patient, understanding, and good and I still fall short.
When my energy, my creativity, and my productivity run out before I’ve reached the end of my to-do list and I feel like a failure for not following through, it’s disappointing.
I’ve invested all that I have into my work and my relationships and my best is still not good enough.
If I let myself, I could wallow in these things for a good long time. I often feel deserving of a good dose of self-condemnation, so beating myself up over these areas where I fall short seems like the right response.
So, if we can’t change the fact that we have flaws and we also can’t change the fact that we desire not to have flaws, how do we reconcile the two in a way that doesn’t leave us in a constant state of frustration and discontent?
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18
As an insecure 6th grader, I was far from thankful for my stomach rolls, but now, as a 30-something who still has just as many flaws – in my body and otherwise – I have learned to be grateful.
Looking back, I see how that stomach of mine kept me humble. I never saw myself as superior to anyone else, so I was always thankful and willing to connect with all kinds of friends, no matter how they looked (in middle school, that’s kind of a big deal). I was never the cool kid, which was devastating to me at the time, but now I am so thankful that I was saved from all kinds of temptation. I was never offered drugs, alcohol, or involved in any sort of dangerous or risky activities.
As an adult, I still secretly wish I could have the perfect body, but now I’m grateful that I don’t root my value or worth as a person in how I look.
And, most of all, I’m grateful that all of the flaws in my life, the many places where I fall short, remind me of my great need for God.
I don’t have to hide my weakness from Him because He is the One who created me, just as I am – as a woman who desperately needs a Savior, day in and day out.
Without my flaws, my insecurities, and my inadequacies, what need would I have for God?
What would send me running to Him for guidance and support?
What would drive me to draw near to Him, depending on Him to meet my every need?
On my bad days, my insecurities drive me to selfishness. I obsess over how people are perceiving me and judging me. All I see are my flaws and I invest all of my energy into beating myself up for falling short of that unattainable bar of perfection.
But on my good days, when I choose to be grateful for those flaws, my weaknesses draw me into God’s presence. I depend on Him on new levels and my relationship with Him deepens and becomes more intimate. I hear His voice more clearly and I see His strength coming through in those places I tried so hard to hide.
That heart of gratitude changes everything.
Look for places in your life to practice unconventional gratitude this month.
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