by: Staci Stallings
One of the biggest lessons of my life was when God started showing me how disastrously hard I was being on myself. Even when I started to come out of striving for perfection and I started to try to learn to do life differently, one of the hardest things to learn was to not beat myself up over not relying on God and His love. I know. That sounds bizarre, but it’s the truth.
I would get mad at myself for not remembering to let God do it, for trying to do it myself, for not putting all of it in His hands. It took me a while to see that God did not require me to beat myself up even over my perceived missteps. I had accepted His forgiveness and love of me, but it did no good if I did not forgive myself and love myself. Accepting that was a hard step because I wanted to do whatever I was doing “right,” and if it wasn’t right, my go-to emotion-thought was “I failed.”
Then, ever-so-gently, God began to show me that what I perceived as failure was not failure at all to Him. To Him, it was about me learning, not about me being perfect. A friend of mine told me about bending light. She said that if you have a candle in a jar, if you look at it through the glass of the jar, the flame seems to wobble and split. That’s because of the bending of the light through the glass that the flame appears not to be perfect. But if you look not through the glass but from above, the flame appears as it is meant to be—whole and perfect.
That’s the way God sees us—from above. He doesn’t look through the cracked, chipped, and broken glass of our lives the way the world does. He looks only at the whole He created, and He loves that whole and wants only for the whole to come to once again love itself.
And so I had to learn to be gentle with myself. I had to acknowledge that I wouldn’t get it right all the time, that sometimes I didn’t have all the pieces and that even in those moments of failure, I had done my best. I had to come to understand that my best sometimes wouldn’t attain what I wanted, but that was okay. It was a learning experience, and God uses each and every one of those for His glory.
When my brother, Raef, committed suicide, one of the hardest things was to remember to be gentle with myself, to remember as I found holes in what I could’ve said, should’ve said, could’ve done, should’ve done that I had done my best. If I had known one other thing to do, I would’ve done it. But I didn’t know what else to do, and so in this most difficult time, I had to forgive myself and be gentle with me.
I had to be gentle with me and not try to be the rock, to accept the help of others, to admit my limitations—like I needed sleep and food. I had to be gentle with myself when heartache came out as anger, and to the best of my ability to be gentle with those around me. My sister Shelly said at one point she got so angry, and then she said, “I realized, if this had been me, Raef would’ve been mad too.” She found gentleness with her honest feelings. That is one of the lessons I’m most grateful for, and the one I am most constantly learning and relearning.
Staci’s book, “Whisper If You Have To”
touches on many of the lessons she learned in the deepest valleys of her grief.