There is a vision in my mind of the kind of mother I want to be. She is the version of myself I am when my house is clean, my laundry is caught up, the meal plan is made, I don’t have any looming deadlines, and am getting a reasonable amount of sleep. She is gentle and kind, creative and fun, proactive and thoughtful, composed and self-aware, resilient and ready for whatever the day may throw at her. She looks a lot like Miss Honey from the children’s story Matilda.
But then there is another version of me. The one who gets rattled. Who isn’t sleeping enough. Who is out of patience and out of ideas. She’s desperate and manipulative. She’s reactive and removed. She’s embittered and inconvenienced. She looks a lot more like Miss Trunchbull, Miss Honey’s foil in the children’s story who shames and punishes and is altogether miserable.
I am encouraged when my circumstances lend me the time and ability to play the part of Miss Honey. Phew, okay, maybe this is who I really am. But the moments when I look more like Trunchbull are terrifying. One day my children will sit on a therapist’s sofa identifying all the ways that their mother is to blame for their shortcomings. Could this be who I really am?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
While it hardly feels good to encounter that version of myself, Jesus has a good word for her in the Sermon on the Mount. Glimpses of Miss Honey in the mirror make me feel like I’m okay. Like I am “good.” Like I am “enough.” I’m relieved when she shows up. Phew, I think, maybe I’m not so bad after all if I can just get a little sleep and keep things in order. When that preferred version of myself shows up, I can keep my faith in my flesh and my circumstances. But seeing that other side leaves me convinced of my desperate need. It leaves me empty handed and without excuse. And spiritually speaking, that’s an excellent place to be. This is the person to whom Christ refers as “the poor in spirit.” She is not a victim of spiritual blindness. She is fully aware of her own spiritual poverty.
This is the person who is able to mourn. She is sorrowful over her own condition. She grieves without denial the reality of what she knows she is capable of. And this godly sorrow leads her to repentance. To meekness. To humility.
The first three verses of the sermon on the mount describe an emptying of self. It’s sort of a resignation of effort. An admission of what and who we are without Christ.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
The fourth beatitude is the key to understanding them all. Blessed are the ones who see their deep and profound need and recognize that Christ will meet it perfectly. Not clinging to or running after the idealized version of themselves.
We don’t need to be conformed into the ideal version of ourselves. No, it is not Miss Honey who we should be running after. She cannot bring us peace. We need to be conformed into the image of Christ. He offers us his own perfect record for the moments where our failures would tempt us to despair. He offers us his example when we are tempted to strive for some other standard. He offers us his spirit to empower the change we are so desperate to experience. He is far more beautiful than whatever version of ourselves we may be longing to obtain. And abiding in him will make us far lovelier than we could ever have hoped to be.
O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer;
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
*Note: I am especially grateful for my pastor, Bill McCutchen, for his faithfulness to preach the word of God and make application easy.