Saturday, April 28, 2012

Picture Perfect

You know sometimes I just see people and they just look so perfect.  Their hair is perfectly coifed, body perfectly toned, and their kids are well dressed sitting politely in a row.  They don't seem rushed or frazzled or worried about how they are going to pay next months bills.  It's hard not to be jealous.  I just get tired sometimes of feeling like I'm trying so hard, and everyone else is just doing better than me.  I know we are not supposed to compare and other people have struggles and blah blah blah, but sometimes...sigh...sometimes it just hurts.

For lent, I asked God what He wanted me to give up.  I always like to give up a certain food group and pretend I'm giving it up for God and being such a good Christian - the truth is I'm usually just hoping it will make me skinnier.  It doesn't always happen this way, but I felt it in my heart, loud and clear - God told me that He wanted me to give up my desire for perfection.  Maybe that's a walk in the park for you, but for me, that's the hardest 40 days of my life.  I am not perfect, never have been, but boy, I like things to be neat and tidy, and if they are not going to be at home I like to at least look like I have it together when I walk out the door - I think we all do to some degree.  Anyway, it's the hardest thing I have ever done, but probably one of the best things.

And I realized, while giving this up, that when I was giving up things being perfect, trading this mental and physical emotional energy for things more imporant like spending time with God, loving on my family, and in general just focusing on what my real priorities were, I felt more relaxed....UNTIL...the worst - I just made it out of the house alive, got where I was going with kids dressed, fed, and buckled, but I had no makeup on, didn't brush my hair, and was wearing a t-shirt again, and some perfectly dressed woman with her perfect children walks past me.  Barf.  And then I felt it, that anxious energy rising again...perfection...I want to look like I have it all together.  But then I got past that, and I let it go.  Then, worse than that, someone I care about or look up to overlooks me because I look disheiveled or comments that I look tired (no I'm not tired, thank you, I just did not have time to put makeup on today, but I'm here aren't I?)  But then I got past that.  And then here's the real kicker - some well dressed woman with her perfect kids who volunteers for everything under the sun and her life just must be stinking perfect dares to tell me "Why don't you just...".  It took all the power within me not to smack that woman, and then cry.  But by God's good grace I didn't and He showed me that they are struggling with holding themselves to a ridiculous standard too and that their "perfection" is really a fascade....sometimes we just think it's better if we can at least convince some people that we have it together - at least that way we can get some respect, right.

A wise woman told me that we are often comparing our "backstage lives" to others' "onstage lives".  It's so true.  We often see people in their element or workplace or at church and they just seem to have it all together, and it just feels like their images of perfection, even their facebook photos and cute tweets are stomping our sense of worth into the ground.  But the truth is that most of that is just image management, very little is real.

Dave Ramsey says not to try to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are broke - and I think that applies to more than just money.  Many people are broke physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally...and their image is all they have left, it's protecting their shred of dignity.

In the home stretch of lent, God revealed something to me. that if I am going to be His servant and truthfully, I ever just want to walk in wholeness, I am going to have to give up perfection for the rest of my life.  It is freeing, even though it is a challenge, but more than that, I think we have a responsibility to live that way.  I don't want to stir up jealousy over a fake image of me.  And I don't want to spend more time trying to look like I have a great life than actually enjoying this life.

It is challenging to be authentic, to be real, but it is worth it, not just for your own freedom, but for the freedom of others too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Struggles suck!  There's just no way around it.  It just sucks.  And when you have been working and fighting and finally get a breath of air and feel like you are almost above water just to be sucked back down and fighting again, well, that's just...I don't know.  It's just hard.  It's painful.  And then if you are a Christian, you start to think - is it me?  Do I bring this on myself?  --- probably sometimes.  But we are supposed to be overcoming, victorious, prosperous - right?!  Sometimes I feel like - where is the victory?

The victories and glorious mountaintop moments of achievements are special, precious, and wonderful, but they are also rare.  When going through the mountain range, there are many mountains to climb, and much more valley and climb than mountaintop.  And the truth is, that if we never struggle - we are not relateable.  And if we are not relateable - we are ineffective.  We are a once beautiful polished trophy of hard-fought victory now collecting dust on a shelf.  And that is NOT what God created us for.

At some point you have to make peace with the fact: "It is not about me".  You are divinely created with a great purpose, but it is not to promote your celebrity.  It's all about pointing to the God of this Universe who sent His son to earth to become a man and die on a cross for our sins and be raised from the dead - all this so that even in our flawed humanity we could receive Christ's salvation for our sins and be free and once again know the intimacy with our creator that He intended. 

And if we never suffer, if we never struggle, we might have lots of fun feeling self-righteous and enjoying the fact that we are going to heaven when we die, but we are not bringing anyone else with us.  Other people want to know that you get it, that you care.  And suffering makes us aware, understanding and compassionate...it's one beauty of having a relationship with Christ, struggles make us stronger and more tender, instead of bitter. 

"We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." - Hebrews 4:15-16

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stuck

Do you feel stuck?  You have all these dreams in your heart, and you are working so hard and trying to reach for the sky or even just working to make it day to day and there is hardly anything to show for all your effort?  Do you feel like you are going around and around the same mountain? 

I've felt that way lately.  God and I have been going through some things together, and I feel like I keep coming back to the same issues.  I think, "God, I thought I had already gone through this, why am I here again?  Why am I not further along?"

But He's just been reminding me that one, those dreams are placed in our heart for a reason, submit them to Him, trust in His timing, and I'll see them come to fruition.  But also, for His blessings to be blessings and not a burden, He has to build strength and character in us, or we'll fall. 

Jesus tells all who feel tired to come to Him, to watch Him and work with Him, He'll show us how to really rest.  But the phrase that He keeps playing over and over in my head is His "unforced rythms of grace" (Matt 11 Message translation). 

When I googled the word "unforced" this is the response I got from Answers.com

    Done by one's own choice: free, spontaneous, uncompelled, volitional, voluntary, willful. See willing/unwilling.
Doing the right think willingly, by free choice?   It sounds almost too good to be true, but I promise this is what God has been trying to ease into my heart.  His way, is unburdensome, and when we come to Him, He will take all our trying and effort, and turn it into good fruit, and a work from willingness and desire, not trying to do the right thing.

Unforced rythms of grace.  It ebbs and flows naturally, we just have to relax into His arms, His current of grace - it's a gentle song, lovely waves, drawing us ever closer to His plan.  Think of a sunny day floating down the river; your lying back on your float, eyes closed, as the warmth of the sun touches your face, and you close your eyes and allow the waves gracefully carry you down the river...unforced rythms of grace.

And as I fall into that, I see progress, but I still feel like I should be further, I'm going around the same mountain.  Tonight God gave me this image - when you look at the roads on a mountain they rarely climb straight up and down, they wind around the mountain, easing you to the top, so even though you may have come to that side of the mountain before - this time you are higher.  And even though you may have been around this mountain before - this time it is a shorter trip around.  And all the while building the strength to be able to stand at the top. 

I'm holding on to this tonight, that I am making progress, and everything is in His time and season.  I need to enjoy this season for now.