After moback to school 1nths of swimming pools and sleeping late, the school year is upon us. For so many reasons, we rejoice in its arrival. The fall means that we get to reboot the family schedule. We buy a new day planner (if you’re a Technology Memaw like myself) and make dinners in the crockpot again. If you are lucky enough to go to one of those schools that requires uniforms, then by now you have spent a mortgage payment on tiny sailor dresses. It is all very exciting.

Also, the school year brings enough devilish anxiety to blow the roof off of a cathedral.

There is a tightness to this time of year. Everything has to be just so. Their lunchboxes are brand new and their hair is freshly cut. We have not had the first “Your precious duckling acted like a turd today” memorandum sent home. And school hasn’t quite been in session long enough to get my favorite notes-home-from-school that should simply read, “SOMEBODY HAS LICE. OH MY LORD, SOMEBODY IN THE CLASS HAS LICE.” In a word, this precipice moment of school starting is blindly self-righteous. Everything is neat and orderly. Forms get turned in and we manage to arrive before the bell rings. And it all kind of makes me want to scream.

Last week I attended our two-year old’s class conference and the anxiety was tangible. We have to figure out uniforms for our precious pumpkins, where to drop them off, whether or not to send them in with what I lovingly call the “you are too old for these” pacifiers. It was all too much for me. At one point I asked about potty training with our daughter and I realized I had just unintentionally upped the collective tension ante. So then I yelled out, “We’ve been wildly unsuccessful! She’s peed everywhere!” And when some of the parents asked if we could send in sippy cups I barked back, “Hope so! We only stopped giving her bottles last week!”

Look, I might have appeared drunk. But what I wanted to be was just real about what we are all going through. This isn’t my first Mama rodeo. I know that no amount of my planning for the school year is going to prevent everything from (at least temporarily) falling apart. Kids get sick. Parents forget to pack lunches. Sometimes your son shoves dirt into a three-year-old girl’s mouth, or so I am told. Our standards for school year perfection are unattainable.

It is all going to fall gloriously apart, it is only a matter of when. And I mean it when I say gloriously. One need only ask themselves when they knew Christ most intimately. The answer is never “when everything was going well.” Usually the answer involves some painful life transition. In these anxious times, the best thing we can be right now is the most honest version of ourselves, which in all actuality, is the most Jesus-needy version of ourselves.

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Pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse has often been quoted for his insight about what the world would look like without Jesus. He said this many, many years ago on a CBS broadcasted sermon. But it holds up all of these years later:

…if Satan took over then all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday where Christ is not preached.

God’s version of perfection is not our version. From our vantage point perfection looks orderly and pleasant. Only, this is never what we get from God. We get a love that chaotically leads people through a desert, only promising to be steadfast. We get the catastrophic mess of the cross, with our meritless redemption to follow. We get a love that leans in to support us because, foolishly brazen as we may be, we cannot stand on our own.

In these days when our children return to school, there is no need to put up high barriers with your fellow parents. Is your three-year-old still in diapers? Does your five-year-old still not know the alphabet? Do you miss their little faces when they head off each morning? Do you start singing George Michael’s “Freedom” the moment they get dropped off at carpool?

It is okay to say all of that aloud. We are all doing this hard thing at the same time with great imperfections. And thank God for that.

Fleeting moments of self-perceived perfection tell us nothing about the God who saved us. They only tell us that our souls are groaning for a God that we cannot fully comprehend. We look to virtues to save us. When really, we are longing for a God who has given us absolute perfection in his utterly remarkable love.