Today, I am pleased to introduce a new friend in the blogosphere, Mary Beth. She burst into the blogging scene this spring with a streak of excitement. Since then, she has established herself as a friendly and godly woman with a heart for sharing her faith. She blogs about faith and family at New Life Steward. I encourage you to stop by and spend some time in her blog.
When I asked Mary Beth to join me in writing about freedom in Christ, she replied with excitement that she knew just what she wanted to say. I was not disappointed and I am sure you won’t be.
I was known for my pony tail in elementary school. I had long hair with blonde streaks, and it was always pulled back in a perfect ponytail. The local newspaper chose me to pose in a “Back to School” ad one year simply because of my ponytail.
Every morning, my mother would spend 10 minutes fixing my hair with hair spray, a thick bristled brush, and my detail-oriented eye. I would not stand for any “mountains” or “tacos” as I called the bumps that sometimes appeared. When my parents decided to go on a week long cruise for their twentieth wedding anniversary, the biggest issue in our home was who would fix my hair?
I wanted and insisted on a perfect ponytail. People expected me to have the perfect ponytail. I was famous for it, but somehow I survived that one week without perfect.
As I got older, the perfect ponytail was not the only perfect thing I began to think people expected from me.
As a student, I must have perfect grades.
As a leader in the youth group, I must have perfect attendance at all church functions.
When in public, I must have a perfect smile and agreeable attitude with everyone.
As an adult, I must perfectly balance motherhood, my marriage, a career, and my home.
So I worked hard, and I met those expectations. I was that “good girl”. I thrived on the praise I received. Sometimes I was motivated out of fear and pride, but other times the motivation was genuine.
However, somewhere along the way, I began to believe two lies:
1. The expectations I perceived that others had for me were also God’s expectations of me.
This set me up for a life of constant striving. If others were not pleased or seemed to want more from me, then God must not be pleased either.
This manifested itself most apparently in my education. I put so much pressure on myself to make perfect grades and be at the top of my class. In graduate school, I had calendars and lists of when things needed to be done to make sure I was on top of things. I did not want to let anyone down. I was incredibly fearful of someone being disappointed in me.
2. In order to “protect my witness,” my life could never appear to be anything less than perfect.
Another way this lie was whispered in my ear was this: Now that you are a Christian, you have to live up to that title. You don’t want to mar God’s reputation or be a stumbling block that prevents someone from believing the Gospel.
Talk about pressure! I spent so much of my life thinking that I had to put forth this image that life as a Christian was without struggle. I’m not saying my life was a mess and I spent my days covering it up. Most of my memories of the past are good. I have been blessed. But I still believed that lie, and it affected how I presented myself to others and my view of myself.
The Truth to Combat the Lies
1. “See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand” Deuteronomy 32:39
The truth is that no matter how godly and respectable those around me are, they are not God. In the end, I have to discern God’s voice among all those that are clamoring for my attention and obedience.
This does not discredit the benefits of wise counsel, but in the end I will answer to God for my choices. I must follow His voice alone.
2. There are two points to combat this second lie:
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
All this time, I’ve been striving so hard to display a put together life, when right here it says that through my weakness, Christ’s power is best displayed! Here I thought it was my job to show the world how wonderful the Christian life was, but really, my job is to humbly admit that I can’t do it! Then God can show His power in my life.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44
My job is not to draw unbelievers to salvation. That is God’s job. He may choose to work in my life to do that, but my responsibility is to act in obedience to Him and leave the rest up to Him.
Belief in those two lies bound me. I became a slave of sorts to them–constantly feeling the need to work to meet expectations and carrying the burden of living the perfect Christian lifestyle.
What lies do you believe? How have they bound you in slavery?
I’m still working to let the truth take root in my heart, but the freedom is already coming. Freedom to rest. Freedom to rejoice right where I am. Freedom to focus on God alone.
What is the truth that combats the lies you believe? How has the freedom that comes in believing the truth changed your life?
Just like that one week in elementary school with the unperfect ponytail, I will survive without perfect. I might even thrive!
Photo Credit: Clarkston SCAMP