Thursday, October 27, 2011

Confessions of the Heart


Do you ever feel like a failure? Are you a perfectionist? Do you get discouraged and even depressed when you see the same problems in your life day-in and day-out? Do you find yourself exhausted trying to please everyone in your life? Do you fear failure...or disappointing someone? Do you project your expectations on to others and get angry when they fail? Do you want to see changes in your life, but you just can't figure out how to make them happen?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then today's post is for you!


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Confession time. This post is about me. It's about the things I've struggled with for many years. But more importantly, this post is about the incredible transformation that has taken place in my life over the last two years. I hope it can be an encouragement to you...

People who know me will probably be surprised by this confession. I don't wear my emotions on my sleeve, as they say. I'm very good at "performing" and looking like everything is under control. I have those perfectionist tendencies. I had to look up "perfectionist" in the dictionary and it means "a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards." Um....yep. That's me. Or, I should say, that WAS me. I now fight these natural tendencies with everything I've got, because I know how damaging this kind of mindset can be.

But back to my story. I was so blessed to grow up in a Christian home, a loving family, and a wonderful church family. I accepted God's gift of salvation at the early age of 8 years old; and because I was sensitive and wanted to obey, I didn't get into much trouble in my teen years. I went to the same private school my entire life, and was a very successful student there. I felt loved and accepted and I was able to perform at a top level, academically and socially.

As I look back, some of my struggles really started in college, but then were compounded in my early years of marriage and, after that, during motherhood. Now let me just say quickly that my husband has been a true gift from God, a stabilizing force in my life, and a wonderful example to me of Christ's love. This has nothing to do with him. It's all about me. 

Growing into adulthood is difficult for everyone. Outside PRESSURES increase. Maybe you live alone, work at a STRESSFUL job, or have an INTENSE college schedule. You don't know people and you have to PROVE yourself to them...EARN their respect. Suddenly, your PERFORMANCE levels really matter. You're dealing with a world where RESULTS are pretty much all that matter. Okay. You get the picture.

Then you get married--WHEW! Big changes! You have to learn to adjust to a spouse in a whole new way. While it's a wonderful experience, it can also be very difficult because you're breaking new ground, changing the path you're used to, adjusting to a new path that includes him. Learning to submit to someone else doesn't come naturally. Nope.

Next stop...MOTHERHOOD. No one can really express fully what this word means and all that comes with it. You just have to experience it. Here are just a few words that pop into my mind when I think about motherhood: love, anxiety, joy, sadness, service, exhaustion (amen!), peace, fulfillment, fear, pain, amazement, work, did I mention love?...I could go on and on.

Okay. So here's my point. It's a natural part of growing to face more pressures and more stress. Things are harder. You feel the overwhelming pressure to perform...

And there's the kicker. Because what I did was this...I began to relate my performance in life to my value as a person. I began to take the "world's" message to heart: PERFORMANCE equals VALUE. Think about that. Do you do that?

And because I'm a perfectionist, my idea of performance was extremely high. So when I couldn't peform (which I can't, because I fail every day...I'm NOT perfect), I felt discouraged. Over time, I got depressed. I gradually began relating my value in God's eyes to my level of performance. For example, the more I went to church, taught Bible studies, performed in church ministries, didn't lose my self-control, etc., etc., the more God was pleased with me. On the flip side, the less I did of these things, the more God was displeased with me. I began thinking perhaps He was tired of dealing with me. I was frustrated with myself. Surely He was too. He would probably put me on a shelf soon. There are others who are better than me that He can use.

WOW! Do you see the lies of the enemy? As I write this, it's so obvious to me that this stuff isn't true. But somehow, these lies slowly creep back into our way of thinking all the time.

So, I have answered YES to every question I listed at the top of this post at one time or another. Over the last 10-12 years, I have struggled with these issues...misunderstanding who God is and how He feels about me. In fact, I even got to where I didn't want to read the Bible or go to church, because it would just remind me of how I was failing. Also, people hurt me. Maybe someone said something critical or harsh. Or maybe I just assumed they were thinking things they weren't. People offend. That's also part of life. And I had not learned how to deal with those offenses. They were harboring deep in my heart and making me bitter, and I didn't even know it!

I wish I could describe the pain I felt during all of this. Unless you've experienced it, you just can't understand. And this was over the course of many years. For the most part, I could bury these feelings deep down and not think about them. But ultimately, they were affecting every area of my life.

Now here comes the good part! God saw me in all my self-made misery; and because He loves me more than I could ever fathom, He guided me to some special people and reminded me of things that I knew in my head but needed to know in my heart. Simple things. But things that I needed to remember.

1) God guided me to some young moms my age in my church that I had never really gotten to know. These ladies are now some of my closest friends. Before, I was lonely. I felt I didn't really have any friends besides my family. But it was own fault. I was too afraid of rejection or disappointment to try to gain new friends. I finally decided (after praying about it) to just put myself out there and show myself friendly. It ended up being so easy! I am so thankful for the support group I have now! They have been with me through thick and thin. They've helped me see things in new ways. They have encouraged me, listened to me, and have helped me open up. They have reminded me of how much God loves me.

I highly recommend getting a good support group of friends around you! :-)

2) Through my friends, God guided me to FlyLady. I know that sounds funny! But I really think He did. You see, I know that He cares about the small details of my life, and part of that is managing my home (actually, that's a pretty big detail of my life)! I have seen amazing improvements in my housekeeping and really every area of my life. But what has ministered to me the most is FlyLady's overall philosophy...you don't have to be perfect! It was her website that first helped me to realize that my perfectionism was bogging me down and causing stress and strife in my life. Go check her out at http://www.flylady.net/!

3) Another thing God showed me was that I had anger in my heart toward certain people who had hurt me. It was keeping me from having a clear perspective and peace in my heart. It was making me bitter and, ultimately, hurting only me. It was time for me to forgive and forget. Give it up to God. Let Him deal with those hurts. During this revelation (because I didn't even realize I was doing this), I read Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way by Gary Chapman. It was so eye-opening and helpful. I recommend it if you are dealing with anger.

4) Finally, God gently began reminding me of His love and grace. I won't go into all the details because this post is already super long, but through some different things going on in my life and with people that I love, God has shown me again how much He loves me! He's never going to give up on me. In fact, I'm His child and He values me in spite of my failings. He does not love me based on my performance. Let that sink in!! God does not love and value us based on our performances! He is not displeased with me. His grace has covered my entire life, and it's only through His performance that I will ever see any changes in my life. Wow! That really takes the pressure off of me and puts it all on Him. I can just rest in His grace!

Over the last two years, God has steadily shown me these things. I am now looking at my life through the lens of GRACE. Actually, I really try not to look at myself at all. I just look at Him and concentrate on Jesus and what He has done. He has already conquered sin and death! In MY life...not just in some general sense.

Sheila Walsh communicates this idea so well in her devotional book Good Morning, Lord!:

"It has taken me many years to understand that God wants you and me to simply embrace what he has already done for us on the cross and rest in that forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewed relationship with him. I have also discovered--and maybe you have too--that when I am trying so hard to live a good life, my focus is on me. All I see is where I am flawed and failing. But when I take my eyes off myself and my performance, when I instead focus on the love of God and the companionship of Christ, I find not only amazing joy but real peace too. Jesus wants us to live in his victory. He has already overcome the enemy. He has already paid for our sin. 


Yet the power of sin and the presence of evil in this world are both very real--but neither one is any match for the love of God. After all, God is in the redemption business, and Jesus has said that his grace will be enough for whatever we face. There is nothing you or I will face today, tomorrow, or ever that we will face alone. Jesus will be there with us, and he will provide everything we need to walk through it."


So true! I want to challenge you to take your eyes off yourself and look to Jesus. Begin to see things through the eyes of grace. Think about this keyword grace. It means "unmerited favor." God's favor (His love) has been bestowed upon us even though we can never deserve it. If you look at things through the lens of grace, how will it affect your life? How will it look when you are communicating to your husband? To your children? How will it affect your church relationship? Your relationship with others? How will it affect your heart and your mind?

Since discovering these truths with heart knowledge (not just head knowledge), I have looked on in amazement as God has worked in my life to bring about changes and improvements I would never have thought possible! I am so thankful to know that He will never stop working on me. He will finish the work He has started in my life (Hebrews 12:2). YAY! :-) These realizations actually bring me closer to God. I view Him as a loving friend, father, and teacher rather than a God of rules and regulations.

It all comes back to this...I love Him because He first loved me (I John 4:19).

I hope this testimony has been an encouragement to you. Grow in grace....










Linking up here!

4 comments:

  1. Love your vulnerability! Thanks for sharing your journey. I know it's going to be helpful to a lot of people!

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  2. Thanks, Lauren. I hope it's encouraging to people in similar situations. So thankful for your friendship! :)

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  3. That's the kicker, isn't it? Moving from head knowledge to heart knowledge! Thanks for sharing!!

    It's so good to "meet" you! I'm stopping by via the Blog Bash 2011... have a BLESSED weekend!!

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  4. So true, Ashley! Many times (especially if you've grown up in a Christian family) we know the "answers" before we are even aware of the "questions." So although we have lots of head knowledge, it takes a lifetime of experiences to translate into heart knowledge. So glad my journey isn't over!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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