Why Can't I Put My Eyeliner On Straight?

You would think after applying makeup to basically the same face (mine) for the past three decades that I’d have certain skills down pat by now. That muscle memory would somehow kick in. That however minuscule each individual improvement might be, the cumulative effect over a long period of time would be some level of expertise.

And yet I still can’t put my eyeliner on straight.

I don’t intend to open up a conversation about makeup application techniques. I have easy access to Pinterest and YouTube with all the tutorials I need, thank you very much. I’m sure plenty of folks can whisk color along their lash lines with the greatest of ease, creating perfect wings right and left. I’m not one of them. I have no ambitions of mastering eight eyeliner options depending on my mood or the occasion at hand. I just want to do my morning routine well and with some consistency.

So I stare into my magnifying mirror, applicator firmly in hand, bemoaning my latest oopsie, black liner creating an odd “U” under my left lashes. I reach for the Q-tips *again* and try to remove the offending substance without making too big of a smear. The “U” blurs into a faint black smudge that more resembles a bruise than beauty. So I reach for the concealer to cover up the mistake and hope that when I pull back from my magnified image, it’s not too noticeable.

And I sigh in frustration.

I’ve got so many things other than eyeliner that I also think I should be better at by now. Basic stuff. Setting the toaster properly so as not to burn my bagel in the morning. Picking a routine and sticking to it for more than a month (they say it takes only 21 days to develop a habit, but my “gift of stubbornness” at least doubles that). Putting on my jeans without catching and potentially breaking my toe in the hem. Walking with my hands close enough to my body so I don’t bruise them on the door jamb.

Remembering to be kind when the grocery store cashier is curt and sullen.

Making room for the car in rush hour traffic as an act of compassion for the other driver.

Putting my husband’s needs first and asking him about his day before regurgitating all the details of my own.

Patiently listening to someone pouring out their heart to me even though I’m tired and emotionally spent.

Loving others because Jesus loved me first.

Yeah…you’d think after a few decades of following Jesus around, I’d do a better job on these things. And yet, I still manage to stray from the path He lays out for me, dipping down into spaces I’m not supposed to go and generally making a mess. I try to clean it up. I try to cover up the mistake. I certainly hope no one will notice. But I notice, and I just think I should be better at this by now.

In these moments of self-berating, I take a step back and try to remember something else I still need practice with - offering grace to myself. Actually, it’s more like accepting the grace that God already gives. I know I’m still very much a work in progress and have a whole lot of faith-growing to do. I’m still like a baby learning to walk. She might get frustrated when she topples again for the ump-teenth time, but her caregivers cheer wildly because she took SEVEN whole steps that time before she fell. And the baby gets up and stumbles forward because she knows in her gut that growing up means trying and falling and trying and falling no matter how long it takes to walk. The problem only comes if she gives up and decides to crawl for the rest of her life.

Same for me. Though an adult in this world, I’m still a baby in the arms of God, learning to walk in faith. I’ll get there eventually, my Father will see to that. So there’s no fault in trying to do this love one another thing and failing. The only fault would be in not trying.

I could also give up on eyeliner, but that would look weird. My lack of makeup skills would be far more on display leaving out this important step because “it’s just too hard for me”, and I’m sure I would be more of a distraction than if I just buckle down and keep at it every morning, keeping the Q-tips within easy reach of course.

Giving up on loving others isn’t an option either, no matter how many times we fail. The simple actions that line every one of our days make a huge impact on our lives and others when we get them right - and even when we get them wrong. We know when we’ve fallen and failed again. God knows it. For goodness sake, pretty much everyone knows it, but there’s plenty of grace available while we’re all still growing up. And my friend, we are ALL still growing up in Him.

The only fault would be in giving up and not trying.

You and I could just sit here on the floor rubbing the rug burns on our knees, and listen to the voices that say God is disappointed in our repeated failures. But if we actually look up, we’ll see Grace Himself cheering on our every attempt, and reaching out His hands to pick us back up and put us on our feet for another try. We may think we’re supposed to have this down by now. God doesn’t say that. Instead, He encourages us to keep trying, no matter how long it takes. One day you and I will walk steady in love, sacrificing ourselves for others the same way our Savior did for us. Perhaps, we’ll even run. The only thing our failures should say now is that we’re still works in progress, and it’s time to keep trying.

All of these thoughts race through my morning brain as I switch from decorating one eye to the other, trying to get my makeup on for the day. With short, careful strokes, I aim my fine eyeliner brush at the lower lash line in the inside corner, slowly pull the color, and then lean back to examine my work.

I actually got it right this time.