Redeeming Joy

“…accidentally, I’d let my life subtly turn into a performance.”

Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen

In light of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I read an article that said, “Rather than pathologizing the despair and emotional suffering that is a rational response to a culture that values people based on ever-escalating financial and personal achievements, we should acknowledge that something is very wrong. We should stop telling people who yearn for a deeper meaning in life that they have an illness or need therapy. Instead, we need to help people craft lives that are more meaningful and built on a firmer foundation than personal success.”

This very point hit me like a ton of bricks just a few months ago after reading Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. Something stole my joy and I was determined to pinpoint the culprit. Before finding the book, I had reached my own emotional rock bottom. I went to my former Dr., a complete mess of tears and postpartum hormones in total desperation and was put on a new anti-depressant (for the umpteenth time, and after saying I would NEVER do it again). One of the side-effects was “suicidal thoughts” and for the first time in my life, that actually crossed my mind. I cried out to God and begged him to give me the resources I needed to get off the medicine and finally find the root cause of my mental illness (more on that later). *I realize medicine can be a lifesaver for some and am not downplaying that. *

After finding physical and emotional healing, I pursued my spiritual journey in a deeper way and Counterfeit Gods landed in my lap.

For the first time I really heard and understood that I didn’t need to do “some great thing” to heal myself of my sense of inadequacy or give my life meaning,  for God to love me, or to “prove myself” to anyone.

WHAT?

My whole life had been built on doing “some great thing” (I just didn’t know what it was yet). My whole life was in constant pursuit for that great thing and I longed for it as if it were a long-lost lover.

In reading that book, I realized I had become addicted to success and achievement, yet I wasn’t any happier. No matter where I put my hope, it was never enough and it was always a disappointment.

Travel.

Marriage.

Kids.

Education.

Business.

Success.

Money.

Likes.

Followers.

None of it could really satisfy me. As Keller says, “It’s not that you should try to love these things LESS, but that you should know and love God more.”

It finally hit me that no matter how much success I achieved, it couldn’t deliver the satisfaction I was looking for. No matter how much money I made, or promotions I received, I still felt like an impostor on the inside. It wasn’t until I read Counterfeit Gods that the truth sunk in….I don’t need to come to God (or peers, or family or even myself) saying, “Look at all I’ve done or all I’ve suffered.”

We can’t redeem ourselves through our own pursuits and relationships because we are already redeemed. I don’t want my self worth dependent on my career, success, money, relationships, or looks….I want to be FREE.

The enemy tells me that my freedom can only be found in finally proving to myself and the world that I am important. I am in control. I am liked, happy, and enough. (Nothing to Prove)

The more I grasp the gospel, the less power these things have over me. I still fall short DAILY (hourly even) but this conviction has been planted in my heart for a reason and I’m excited to keep pursuing it. Faith in the gospel restructures everything…our motivations, our heart, our self-understanding, our identity, our view of the world. Striving was stealing my joy and I am on a hot pursuit to get it back.

So, what does that look like in my world?

It means stepping back from social media. Stepping back a bit from some of my business ventures until I can find a way to work without letting it consume me. Taking a break from my constant need to learn, and DO.  Resting in God, His word, and surrounding myself with trusted friends who will hold me accountable. Fixing my eyes on Jesus instead of myself. Setting up constant reminders that I HAVE NOTHING TO PROVE.

As Allen says, “Maybe the ones who recognize they don’t measure up, are the very ones the God of the universe picks to move wildly in and through?”

Jesus doesn’t need me to be strong. And neither does my mom, my dad, my kids, my husband, my pastor or my friends. As a good friend recently shared, “There is POWER in our humility.”

Salvation is received through my weakness, not my strength, my success, my achievements, or my own “awesomeness.”

I have a feeling that simply recognizing this pressure, this need for performance, these “counterfeit Gods,” may be the first step to not only healing, and redeeming our own joy, but our culture as a whole.

 


Finding Rest

It feels more apparent now than ever that our world is a messed up, broken place.

Walking into a movie theater, mall, sporting event and even church can give me the heebie-jeebies, constantly turning my head to see each new person who enters and make sure they aren’t toting a gun. This is not normal. This is not how it should be. But I’ve so easily crept into the behaviors that it’s starting to feel natural.

There have been many nights that I’ve laid in bed for sometimes hours, wide awake, fearful of all the horrible possibilities of random tragedies that could occur even in my small town, no amount of self-talk able to get me to sleep.

I have made the mistake of watching the news before bed and been awoken several times with nightmares of guns, terror and violence.

As my pastor said in his last message (Redemption Songs, Pt. 2: The Benedictus), every day we are met with another tragedy. Evil is running rampant in our world and it makes us scared. In our fear we clamp down. We want it stamped out. We think we can eliminate the threat and stay safe, but what keeps us up at night is knowing deep down that we can’t. History says that we can’t educate sin out of people and we can’t destroy evil permanently. The longing that we have for safety is good and natural, but ultimately, it can only be found fulfilled in Jesus.

As a control freak, I admit that this makes me crazy.

But as a Christian, there is good news.

Paul says in Col. 2 that on the cross Jesus didn’t just atone for sin, but as he hung there, rejected by both heaven and earth, he also defeated evil.

He took the worst that evil could dish out—he bore death, and then he defeated it.

As my pastor said, “Our hope for a world or peace, safety and security is not more legislation, it’s not closed borders, it’s not less guns or more guns. Our hope is in a savior that has already defeated death, who has  given those who have faith in him that same victory–that death cannot permanently touch us–and has promised to come again to be the one to put evil down fully and finally.”

As we approach our next election with debates and campaigning, I will remember that as a Christian, I need not put my hope in a stronger ruler.

Our king has come and defeated our greatest enemies and he will come again.

I have to rest in this or I may never sleep again.

💛


A Redemption Song

Last week I drove home from a meeting and it suddenly hit me that I was just not measuring up.

Anywhere.

Not as a mentor to the teen moms I work with.

Not as a leader in my business.

Not as a friend.

Not as a woman.

And most importantly, not as a wife or mother.

Every which way I turned I was bombarded with awful thoughts about what a failure I was in every aspect of my life.

Each time I tried to think of something positive I was reminded of yet another example of a time or place I had recently failed.

I’m not mentoring anyone specifically in YoungLives. I’m a failure. 

I haven’t been working my business enough. I’m a failure. 

I feel like none of my friends like me anymore. I’m a failure. 

I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’m a failure. 

I’m not paying enough attention to my husband. I’m a failure. 

I’m not spending enough time with my kids. I’m a failure.  

I sobbed the entire drive home. Then for another thirty minutes in the shower. And maybe another hour or two (especially after trying to watch Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors….#allthetears). After a glass of wine and venting to a good friend I was feeling a little bit better but still about 80% failure.

I had listened to our most recent sermon (Redemption Songs, pt. 2: The Benedictus) that day but hadn’t finished it, so the morning after my mini-breakdown I turned it on and the last 15 minutes took my breath away.

It was like our pastor was speaking right to all those fears and feelings of failure.

He said, “We may try to deny it through distraction or effort but we know deep down that we don’t measure up.”

Yes,  how did you know?! I don’t measure up!

We know that something isn’t right. The bible says we feel that way because we are in fact sinners who have in fact betrayed God, so, yes, we are guilty. It’s true. We feel guilt and shame because we have broken our relationship with God. We are sinners by human nature. We can’t help it.

But there is good news…God has promised to deal with that sin. He has decided to freely forgive us. Through Jesus, God is coming to do what He promised to do–redeem us, be our forgiveness, bear the weight of our betrayal, bear our guilt before God.

As my pastor said, there is no amount of self help, positive thinking, or therapy that can deal with the problem of sin. And as I learned that night last week, there is no amount of tears, wine or venting to friends, either.

The only thing that can reconcile us to God is the finished work of Jesus.

This is what Christianity is about. And this is why I keep going back to Holy Cross PCA every week.

Every Sunday I hear the message that Jesus didn’t come to teach me how to get to God. Jesus came to GET ME to God. (So it’s okay to place my trust in Him).

Every Sunday I hear that it isn’t about better rules for me to keep, it’s about a better keeper of the rules. (Who is FOR ME).

If you trust in Christ then your sin has been removed for you.

So, DON’T TAKE IT BACK.

Rid yourself of the shame, the guilt, the failures.

Because Jesus is enough.

How refreshing! How freeing! To hear this good news for what felt like the first time.

To know that…

I am no  longer defined by my failures. I am defined by Jesus’ successes.

I may be a sinner, but  because of Jesus, I’m not a failure!

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