The Chart

These past few months have been quiet ones.  Time to reflect and listen for God’s direction. Today I am starting some new posts, about my life.  They are different than the Hebrew lessons, but each story reveals greater understanding for who we are in God’s eyes and of greater importance, who He is.  Hope you enjoy them.

The Chart   The Chart

It was Monday. In our house Monday was wash day.  The four of us kids were devouring the last of our pancakes and maple syrup at the kitchen table. Mom was unloading wet clothes from the washer into her wicker laundry basket.  Before she started out the back door, she stuck her head into the kitchen.

“You gremlins finish your breakfast,” she said. “I am putting you in charge, Mary Ellen.  Make sure and clear the table.  When you finish eating get your beds made.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Mom often called the four of us ‘gremlins,’ a term of endearment to her.  I was the oldest, my sister Ginny was two years younger. Johnny was three years younger and Becky, the baby in the family, completed our quartet.  She was, two years younger than Johnny.

I gathered up the plates and scraped the leftover pancake bits into the trash.  Ginny grabbed the glasses and silverware and dumped them in the soapy dishwater.  Johnny was only five, but he busied himself wiping off the tablecloth.  “Put the rag in the sink when you’re through,” I said. Then you can go play.”

Ginny helped Becky out of her booster chair and carried her into the playroom.  I left the kitchen to go and get our bed made.  All was going well until I heard mom come through the back door.

“Mary Ellen, get in here.  Who made this mess?  I thought I told you to clean up the kitchen.”

“We did,” I hollered.  But when I got to the kitchen, I saw why she was mad.  There was a brown stream of coffee on the floor from the table to the back door.  Coffee grounds pooled in the middle of the floor.

I spun around and yelled, “Johnny, where are you?  Johnny?”  I went in search of my little brother and I found him playing with his truck in the back bedroom.

I got down on the floor and looked him in the eye.  “Johnny, did you spill the coffee in the kitchen?”

“I was making a river,” he said pushing his truck back and forth on the linoleum floor, refusing my gaze.

“A river?  You are in big trouble.  Mom wants to see you.”

He got up and ambled to the kitchen.  “You’d better hurry.  She is furious.”

Mom was standing over the coffee grounds with her hands on her hips when we got to the kitchen. “Johnny, did you do this?” she asked.

“I was making a river,” he said, looking at the floor.

“Well here is a towel,” she said shoving the towel at him.  “You clean it up.”

“Mary Ellen, where were you?  I thought I put you in charge.  This will be a black mark for you.  When I put you in charge, I mean for you to be present and supervising.”

Opening the cupboard, mom got out the black crayon and added a black mark to my chart.

“Well, what about Johnny?” I asked.  “He’s the one who made the mess.”

“He wouldn’t have done it if you’d been here to control things.  Now go finish your chores.”  She turned, put another load of wash in her basket, and went out the back door.

Punishment for my sisters and brother’s behavior was a pattern set early in my life.  I was the oldest. The responsibility for supervising my siblings when mom and dad were absent, was mine.  It was all recorded on the chart.

My dad was an ex-pro football player with a strong work ethic who valued rules and regulations.  I can remember being little and Dad sending me to my room when I moved too many squares playing the ‘Uncle Wiggily’ game.  He was a stickler for following instructions.

My mom was one of seven children.  She didn’t spank us much.  Instead, she disciplined us with guilt.  “Why did you do that?  You know better.  Shame on you.” I got shamed a lot.

They both valued a chart for teaching us to appreciate the practice of working and receiving a reward.  To them it was a teaching tool and a way to keep our active household in order.

The rules of the chart were these, if we did our chores, we received red tally marks. If we didn’t do our chores, mom added black marks.  Every time we got a black mark, a red mark was crossed out.

We also received black marks for misbehavior.  If we were sassy, were mean to one of our siblings, or didn’t follow Mom’s instructions we were punished. Black marks were added.

At the end of each week, Mom added up the red marks to tally our allowance.  We received a nickel for each red mark. I was good about doing my chores, but I often got black marks, because I failed in my duties as overseer for my siblings.

Mom told us, “God has His angels watching.  They keep a written record of the bad things you do and report them to God.”

I saw God as my judge.  His purpose was to catch me doing something wrong so He could punish me and teach me His ways.  In my eyes, I was never good enough, ever.

The church we attended fostered that same rule based religion.  God was the ultimate judge and the fact that Jesus paid for all my sin was never mentioned.

My mom and dad also expected us children to excel.  Average was not acceptable.  I sometimes lied to receive their approval.

As an adult the need to perform and excel continued.  It carried over into every relationship.  In every job I ever quit, my boss had to hire two people to replace me.  I always took on more than my share of responsibility to gain acceptance.  I could not refuse a request.  Pleasing others was a priority.

One day as I cried out to the Lord in utter exhaustion, He said, “My love for you is not based on your performance.  I just love you.  I love you more than you can conceive.  My anger burns at religion that has turned your face from Me.  It has veiled your eyes from the beauty and depth of My love for you. It’s impossible to feel loved when legalism dominates. Where a religious spirit operates, love is measured by performance.”

This was hard to believe.  “You love me when I do things wrong?  Am I hearing your right, God?”

“Mary Ellen,

I love you when you’re happy

I love you when you’re sad

I love you when you’re joyful

I love you when you’re mad

I love you when you’re loving

I love you when you’re full of pride

Winter, summer, spring or fall

From My love, you cannot hide

It never changes

It never varies

It’s always available

My love is never out of stock.

“Rest in Me.  You want peace in your heart and the end of striving.  Lay down your list and let Me hold you. You must clothe yourself with Me.  You cannot represent Me half dressed.  You have to give up your self-initiated works and rest in My love.  You must trust Me in complete surrender.  Let Me redress you.

Let Me remove your self-effort and self-condemnation and overshadow you with Myself.  I love you.”

His love was overwhelming.  I wept and wept.  God loved me.  I didn’t have to do everything perfect for His approval.  If I made mistakes, He would still love me…It would take years for these truths to take root.

~~ How About You? ~~

Does your life look anything like mine?  Do you have a chart?  Maybe you have some other criteria to gauge your acceptance with God or others?  I encourage you to read back over the words He spoke to me and the scriptures below.  Insert your name and hear Him speak them to you.  In His eyes, we are equal. Each of us is His favorite.  He fashioned every one of us with unique characteristics and personalities.  He loves variety and each of us brings Him joy.  We were created to love Him and share His love with the world.

Here are some of my favorite scriptures.  They do away with our man made charts and reveal His unequaled love.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17

And this:

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

And last of all: Colossians 2:13-14

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

God loves you.  His love annihilates our charts.  Meditate on these truths and let Him begin to remove the veil and be surprised by His love.

Please leave a comment.  I would love to hear if this spoke to your heart. ♥

6 thoughts on “The Chart

  1. Wow Mary Ellen. Your testimony says so much to me. God is Love, He can be angered but only to the unrighteous and evil doers, but even then He still loves them and hurts when they don’t love Him back. His Fatherhood to me, you and all is all so surpassing to our dad’s and mom’s here on earth. When we surrender to His Agape’ Love, He is faithful to us….always. Tears me up when I think of His Love for me, for us all.

    Thank you for being who you are, I would not change a thing about you….much love to you today, Rob

  2. I totally relate to everything discussed in the above article. When I was growing up all the way through my twenties, I felt this overwhelming pressure put upon me by my parents to always be perfect. Mistakes were unacceptable, and were punishable by my father’s law. In our household, his word was law. I had to obey or suffer the consequences. I had to always be perfect and set a good example not only for my younger siblings, but for my school mates, the others in my church,and for my cousins even if they were older than me. The problem is no one of those mentioned people ever followed my good example. The only means for my gaining acceptance from my parents and others was if I excelled in something and was a success at it. Otherwise, they didn’t give me their approval or praise nor accept me unconditionally.

  3. Performance is a killer. It steals your joy, your value, your peace. God never intended us to live our lives performing for acceptance. It isn’t until we see ourselves in Him that we are free to be, trusting in Him who loves us completely. My prayer for you and for all of us is that we enter that oneness and learn to live there in joy. God bless you Kiki. In His eyes, you are loved, accepted, approved.

  4. Ty, Mary Ellen, for helping me remember God never keeps score, and I am always free to be me!!! God bless you for these words.

  5. You are welcome. No, our scorecard was nailed to His cross. Repentance is simply a turning around and remembering who we are because of His love and then choosing to throw aside everything that doesn’t look like Him and going on, living His life in our world.

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