The List Goes on Forever
of all the ways I could be better
in my mind
As if I could earn God’s favour, given time
Back when I was still agonizing over figuring out my Enneagram type, I thought I might come at it from the side when I found out that each number has an associated “deadly sin”. Whichever’s is pride, I thought, will be it. I must have crazy pride because of these ridiculous expectations I have for myself in areas I don’t even notice in other people; how I can never rest— never really rest because of that voice inside that weighs and criticizes everything in sight, for whom all my work is never, never, never done, never enough.
Then I learned that’s very much a “1” thing. The inner critic, it cracks the whip: the feeling of “should” lies thick on my body, nearly tangible at all times, but especially when I’m at home— the place where I have the most ownership and control.
The white-knuckle checklist fervor with which I handle life has synergized well with some elements of the stay-at-home mom role; I’m always on top of the “tasks”. But this manner of getting by is not working well with other aspects of motherhood, and sadly for me, these are probably the most important aspects of motherhood.
I tidy, wash, wipe, fold and prepare, but I have a hard time sitting down and playing, being in the moment, soaking up the now. It feels too much like “doing nothing” because I can’t check it off a to-do list.
But I am surfacing to the mind-breaking realization that not everything belongs on a to-do list. Not everything works as a neat task. Motherhood is a long game— arguably the longest game there is, because, for better or worse, we really bear marks of our mother forever. It is important that I slow down and play because the clock is ticking on the years they need me like this.
It’s strange how the days simultaneously feel too long and too short. The kids draw on my physical and mental stamina during all their waking hours, but in an attempt to not put my entire energy reserve into motherhood alone, I love taking on little graphic design contracts as if to make sure I “still have it”— if I ever did “have it”. But it adds to the not enough time feeling.
I know all my hard work buys me some temporary mental peace, accomplishment, and creates a nice environment. But what is it costing? Every clean-freak mom has forced herself to let the dishes wait and really enjoy her kids. That’s a goal in itself, I’m not discounting it, but I’m talking about a cost even deeper than quality time during their fleeting childhood. I’m talking about vital soul rest.
I have always wrestled with the concept of the Sabbath, but never more than now as a mom. God wants us to spend a day doing no work, but He also made newborns and toddlers. So, what’s it gonna be, because keeping these two in the green is hard work every day. And yet if I’m honest, it’s not the tasks of the home that really tire me out.
It’s the voice. The voice that constantly says, “I should, I’d better…” For whom the work is never done.
I hold onto the voice when I should be holding onto God. Because, strip it all away and what is it, really? A yearning to prove myself. A never ending slog to find out if I really am good. A need to look back and say all that work was enough.
But in truth, I am making an idol out of that inner critic. It tells me that all my work defines me, but gives me no mental peace. Ultimately, the only way to truly rest and be free of the endless, frantic trying is to accept a gift freely given. The most beautiful gift possible for a 1— a perfect work, completed.
My unending work does not define me. Christ’s finished work defines me. Even though I still have to do dishes and raise two boys, the backdrop of it all is, “it is finished.” The biggest job is crossed off the list and the rest are just details. God’s rest is not only in the future; God’s rest is now.
In addition to a deadly sin, each Enneagram type also has an associated “virtue” and when I saw what it was for type 1, all tension left my body: Serenity.
I saw the still water. I felt the quiet breeze. A glimpse of there being nothing left to prove; all work done. My soul yearns to be a woman of serenity.
A Sabbath mindset, I would say, is the path by which type 1s can truly accept and understand salvation.
I hold it all more loosely, yet somehow much more dearly;
I spent my whole life searching desperately
To find out that
grace requires nothing of me