I am 10. Perhaps 11. A neighbor through the woods has access to the pool on post. I have seen the high dive before, been both fascinated and worried by it, but on this afternoon, I decide to try. I get out of the pool feeling a little chilly and very exposed. I climb up the ladder that feels solid, but it’s slippery enough to make me nervous. I walk out, feeling the sandpaper and the worrisome bounce of the board. The handrail only goes as far as the pool deck, and my stomach drops as I leave it behind. My toes hang over the end.
I can’t. I scoot to the ladder. Others are waiting their turn at the bottom. I hate that I have to climb back down in front of them, but I can’t go through with this madness. An older guy (I’m a tween, so what this means is anybody’s guess—is he 25? 45? 75?) is on the pool deck, perhaps returning to the locker room. He sees my hesitation and shouts up, “You can do it! Just step off!”
I walk back across the bouncy sandpaper to where my toes hang off. I look down. I still can’t. Again, I sidestep carefully back to the ladder. Old (?) Guy shouts more encouragement. I turn back around to the pool. The kids at the bottom are now shouting some combination of encouragement and “just hurry up already.” I don’t blame them. Embarrassment and determination fight against the desire to not be an inconvenience, which fights against my desire to please my neighbor (whom I idolize) and this kind, encouraging stranger who still hasn’t gone wherever he was headed.
I don’t know how long this goes on. It feels like it was a solid 15 minutes, but could it really have gone on that long? I have no idea. Maybe it is only thirty seconds. Eventually, I step off the board. In my mind, I see me falling off like a rag doll (dropped vertically, thank goodness). The water doesn’t hurt much, but the wedgie is more than I bargained for. On the way back to the surface, I think how glad I am that I have a second to address it before anybody sees me. I feel triumphant for jumping, but embarrassed for taking so long.
I’ve been thinking about this high dive experience lately. I’ve gone off them countless times since. Never anything fancy, mind you, but even now I’ll climb up when I have the chance, just because I can. Exposure therapy is real, and after plenty of dives, I no longer hesitate. My stomach lurches a little, not unpleasantly, and down I go. It’s always the same: a little rush, then the water, probably a wedgie.
I’ve assumed throwing myself on the grace of God would be the same.
I’ve been hurling myself the ledge of failure onto grace pretty routinely for a while now. I’m constantly aware of my sin and my lack. I look around at my little people and see that I can’t guarantee their salvation or even their morality. I can’t even consistently manage to parent adequately. I look at my husband and know, while I love him the best I can, my best falls far short of what I want to give. I’m selfish, and it shows up in a marriage, even if I’m growing.
This failure causes weird spirals basically every day. Sometimes several per day.
I receive another report from another teacher that my kids are creating mayhem. I have no idea how to fix this. I am doing my best, but I seriously can’t try any harder to be consistent, and I’m sure that’s what they need. If there’s some other secret ingredient to raising kids who behave in class (like all the rest of them!), nobody has told me.
I’m taking a shower (always the shower!) and a thoughtless thing I said today or last week or when I was 23 comes to my head and I cringe. I hate that I said that. It sounded so bad, and I didn’t even know. I wish I could undo it. Now there’s not even a way to make it right.
I look at my to-do list. Oh, that’s right. I should do that thing. And also THAT thing. Shoot. All of these things actually need to be done, and sooner rather than later. I straight-up cannot. And I don’t know how to make that okay.
This ramped way up right alongside my limitations earlier this year, and this is a gift. I can’t muscle through and try harder anymore. I actually have to fail.
So I fling myself on the grace of God.
I can’t get it all done, and things are going to fall apart if I don’t. Jesus, HELP. Are you going to make it fit in? Show me what’s not really necessary? Send help? Something’s gotta give, and I can’t give any more. I’m spent.
I hate that I said that. Hate how it came off. JESUS HELP. It can’t be unsaid. Can it be fixed? Is it too late? Can I repair it or do I just need to let it go?
I don’t know how to make these kids want to make good choices, and they’re being disruptive and I feel like a bad mom, and I feel like everybody knows I’m a bad mom… Jesus, this isn’t mine to fix. I am small. You are large. Give me wisdom to do my best, but my children and my reputation are in your capable hands.
My issue here is that I expect it to be like the diving board: once I make that leap a time or ten, it should be less terrifying, right?
But it isn’t. It still feels like failure. I’m quicker to jump, not because I’m less afraid, but because I have learned hesitation only prolongs the fear.
The outcome here varies. I force myself to recall that I haven’t died of failure yet. Sometimes He fixes it. Sometimes He fixes me. Often, I just feel the discomfort of failure, knowing that His grace is enough, even—especially—when I fail.
It’s so common right now, especially in self-care circles, to see beautiful pictures with the words “You are enough” added over the top. My limitations—my life, really—has been teaching me that this isn’t, strictly speaking, true. And that’s actually fine. I don’t begrudge anyone their “enough” memes, but you won’t see them pinned to my vision board (if I had such a thing) or shared on my feed.
I fail. I will continue to do so. But God has abundant grace for me, for my failures.
I am not enough. But there is grace enough.