Ciao, Superwoman

EnjoliI couldn’t tell you the exact moment or time, but at some point in my adult life I decided to quit trying to be Superwoman.  I neither brought home the bacon, nor fried it up in a pan, nor wore fabulous size six Qiana pants with four inch strappy heels while smelling great and changing a diaper.  (Thanks all the same, Enjoli.)

To be perfectly honest, it’s not like I really could have been Superwoman even if I’d wanted to.  I’m an okay cook; I have some talents but none in abundance.  I’m not athletically inclined, although with a good band or d.j., I can dance for hours (and I don’t care what I look like.)  I don’t mind hard work but I don’t thrive on it either.  I’m smart enough, maybe smarter than the average person, but I’m no genius.  I suppose I lack ambition, or else realized that it was like Tom Cruise in Top Gun: my ambition was writing checks my body couldn’t cash.

The real turning point was when I stopped caring about whether or not I impressed people.  Oh, there is a freedom to that – not trying to impress someone else, not seeking another’s approval, not really giving in to other people’s opinions.  Sure, part of that turning point is a pretty natural part of maturing and moving into, ahem, middle age.  But it’s theological, too.

I don’t so much preach what I think the congregation needs to hear as I do preach what I need to hear.  I preach a fair bit on God’s love and the goodness of creation, including the creation of humanity.  I also preach about God’s good intention for us.  And about God’s unconditional love.  While I never say it as eloquently, I completely agree with something Richard Rohr wrote:  “God does not love us because we are good.  God loves us because God is good.”

God loves me regardless of whether I am Superwoman or not.  In fact, if I’m trying to be Superwoman and I’m really not, I’m pretty sure that means I’m not living into my full humanity, that I’m not living into the unique, flawed, and splendid person God created me to be.

Writing that and reading it on the screen just now – “if I’m trying to be Superwoman and I’m really not, I’m pretty sure that means I’m not living into my full humanity” –  I’m good.  But the world sends other messages.  The world says, “Yes, you couldn’t get those size six Qiana pants over your knees, and they are out of fashion.  Your college GPA was just a few points too low to quality for xyz.  You took time off from your career to stay home with your new baby – that was a great choice but you’ve been out of circulation too long.  We need a little more sweetness and light, a little less truth and wit.”  You know – you’ve heard the world say it to you, too, whether you’re Superwoman or Clark Kent or Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

There are true wunderkind out there – people for whom talent and genius and personality of the highest order come naturally, and they’re  living their amazing lives with grace and ease.  And there are wunderkind out there who crack under the pressure; I’ve known some of them and they are not happy people, and they care too much about what they look like when they’re dancing.

In the end, I’d rather be happy and mediocre than wildly successful and constantly stressed out and miserable to be with.  (I do have gorgeous moments of being mediocre AND stressed out and miserable to be with.  Oh well.)  My trying to be Superwoman left no space for imperfection or messiness or people who were imperfect or messy or loveable.

So today I claim that I am free – free to set off the smoke alarm whenever I try to broil something; free to forget the words to the Lord’s Prayer when I’m leading in worship; free to send an angry, not-very-pastoral email to a teacher that I regretted sending as soon as I hit ‘send’; free to do things that disappoint God and disappoint me.  I am free to fail, and free to get up and try again.  And that is super.

wonder woman

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6 thoughts on “Ciao, Superwoman

  1. awesome! It brought a lot of past memories of when I tried too hard to be superwoman – to my daughter, to my husband, to my community, to my church, to my family – to everybody but me. Thank you for that memory it was not all that bad, and yes, Ciao – big time Ciao!

  2. Why is it, Beth, that when I hear you say these things, I believe them? What a great combo of gifts you have for emotional honesty — and extending grace. It’s a balm to my soul. Thank you!

  3. Beth – So fabulous…don’t know how you find time to write such wonderful pieces with all the responsibilities in your life (pastor, mom, wife, etc.). You are a “superwoman” whether or not you ever believe it…and…you dance! {;-)

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