We’re pushing into my least favorite territory in the entire moving process: picture hanging. I hate picture hanging. I don’t know where to put things, so they all end up in the center of a wall, or, if there are more than one thing, splitting the wall evenly. Herein lies the problem: I’m a perfectionist. I have to measure five times to make a mark on the wall. Then once I’ve made that mark, I have to check it three more times because I don’t trust my own mark. Was I not there one minute ago measuring and making that very mark? Then I put it up and obsess about the fact that it’s not exactly perfect. Nothing is ever exactly perfect. It’s too high. It’s too low. Did I really mark it there? Really?
In our last house, having let months lapse with pictures lined up along our hall waiting to be hung, the morning of my grad school graduation party arrived. I couldn’t bear to leave them on the floor, so empowered by my new and totally non-related degree (plus a sense of urgency and some Hawaii-bound carelessness), I took and hammer and pounded in a dozen nails in random places, hung everything, and called it a day. I can remember my dad–from whom I inherited most of my perfectionist tendencies–standing at the end of the hall with his mouth agape. But the pictures were hung! Immediately! And they weren’t all in the center of the wall, or splitting it, or anything. In fact, there was nothing organized about them at all. And yes, that did bother me for the rest of our time there. So while I got the job done without belaboring the details, it bothered me all the same.
In my bible study, we’ve been talking a lot about generational sin. These are things that get past down from generation to generation–ancient ruins, as in Isaiah 61:4, and sour grapes, as in Ezekial 18:2. Think big things, like depression and addiction, and small things, like perfectionism and people-pleasing. I’m sure one or two must come to mind. They’re things I take as given–I got my obsessive attention to detail from my dad, for instance, and my people-pleasing from my mom. Good traits, except they become who I am, preventing God from honestly showing me. They are really traits that I have taken from them, things that I am now carrying on my own, and they weigh me down. God cannot do with me what He wants–at least not as effectively–when I’m carrying burdens that weren’t really mine to begin with. And to be fair, they probably weren’t my parents’ either. The kicker? if I continue to carry them, M and K will pick them up too. That’s how generation sin works (Exodus 20:5).
It seems like it would be such a relief to just lay them down, except that, as mentioned earlier this week, it’s a lot less about letting go and much more about prying them from my grabby little fingers. The haphazard picture hanging didn’t solve anything, because I really didn’t let go of that obsessive quest for perfection. This is, again, a job for someone bigger than me, and one that I know that I have to take on, as much as possible, one finger at a time, or risk passing these burdens along yet again. It boosts my spirits that the Bible promises that we can stop this cycle: “But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things… He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live” (Ezek. 18:14, 17). If I can see these sins, if I can manage to “get a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezek. 18:31), I can pass along this heart to the next generation–to a thousand generations (Exodus 20:6). It’s worth prying, hard as it might be.
Or in today’s case, hammering without obsession but not without care, accepting and letting go, and perhaps using that need to hold on to grab the hand of God, who can hopefully lead me someone just a little more important. We’ll see how that gets things hung.