perfect brokenness perfect completeness

perfect-5

You know that ‘thing’ that threatens to break you?

It’s that thing you deny exists and try to run away from? Yeah, that.

It’s okay, you can turn around and face it. There’s hope when you walk towards it and through to the other side because I’ve lived it.

Perfect has been a ‘thing’ for me. I bristle when someone calls me perfect or perfectionist. Perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect performance, perfect response and yet, within the bristle, is a craving for it as well. It’s the craving that made me examine my heart and the hold that perfect had on me.

It has long held me hostage in my relationships, my mind, and in the quiet space of me and God. Perfect has used my fear of rejection to keep me in a place of denial that I really do have issues with perfection.

The deal, though? Perfect became a noose. It became a strangler in my journey towards authenticity in my relationships, with myself, and with my God. As I attempted to break up with perfect, perfect’s hold threatened to break me.

As I began to crumple under the pressure of perfection, God began a different kind of breaking in me. You see, if perfect had broken me I would have been left with shards of perfection that I would have tried to hold and pretty soon my hands would be full and perfect would fail, I would fall and break again into tiny pieces.

God’s breaking is a healing kind of breaking.  And it’s a necessary break. Perfection was so woven into the fabric of who I was that the only way to put me back together again, in the way God saw me, was for him to completely and utterly break me. I needed to be so broken that perfection could be separated from the essence of who I am.

When brokenness happens because God is doing the breaking then he can be trusted to do the putting back together, and the putting back together is the part where his touch can bring healing and a whole lot more wholeness than I ever could bring in my own strength of breaking up with perfect.

God broke me and I was left in shards at his altar.

The initial breaking was painful. Like, I want to never lift my head again painful. It caused sleepless nights where I writhed in heart pain and questions. I would lie in bed listening to the creaking of the old house and the cycling of the furnace and the sound of the coyotes in our backyard and wonder. I would wonder if my heart was repairable. Everything I based my identity on-performance, acceptance, and approval-was suddenly stripped from me.

I was unable to perform to my level of standards in music.

I was failing in church leadership.

Friendships were broken.

I’ve been rejected at the core of who I am.

I have complexion issues, wild hair, and a tongue that’s difficult to control.

I’ve lived through some dark days of groping for God in my own strength.

These were some of my shards and he’s been piecing me back together. He’s filtering through the rejection and discarding the lies that I have long believed about myself.

He is teaching me to say ‘thanks’ for those monthly outbreaks, crazy hair, and to slow down and think before I speak.

He’s showing me that he’s the one who does the growing in my spiritual walk, not me and my efforts.

To be honest, I’ve run from the breaking. I’ve scurried like a rabbit before a prairie fire not realizing that I’m not the rabbit, but I’m the prairie grass that brings life and beauty, and sometimes the prairie needs a good burn.

Perfect.

Only when I’m broken of perfection can I be made perfect by  a perfect God.

Perfect in the biblical sense means to be made complete. My relationship with perfection prevented my completeness in God. God’s desire is for me to be complete in him. I can know him completely and love him completely when I am released from the noose of perfection.

I’ve grown since the initial breaking. I’ve come to see God’s hand in the breaking and to trust him with the healing because as I submit to the breaking and the healing I see how he has discarded the threads of perfection and picked up the pieces of me that glorify him best and he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.

So, yes, perfect and I have broken up, and yes, we still get together. But the breaking up with perfect is really done best when I submit to a brokenness before my God and when I do, I find that I receive long-lasting healing instead of the bandaids I apply to my ‘perfect’ issues.

Perfect brokenness is what I strive for now. Complete brokenness before a God who sees me, heals me and loves me enough to break me in order to make me new.

He is perfect and there is none like him and in the security of love he provides I find the true meaning of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stepping into grace

perfection-part-3

I’m doing a lot of confessing here and it’s time for another one:

I adore fall.

I love the beauty in the changing leaves, the crisp temperatures, and the October blue skies. I love watching the farmers gather the crops and the glow of the setting sun on the dried corn calls to me and awakens a yearning within. But there is another reason I love fall.

Summer brings with it anxiety and self-criticism. I tear myself down about the big and small flaws of a body that’s jiggly from bearing four children which only intense training would repair and said person lives fifteen miles away from any gym. That kind of self-criticism. I battle these thoughts all summer and by the end of the summer I’m weary of reminding myself to stand tall and confident and all I want to do is crawl into my cozy sweaters, jeans and ankle boots.

My perception is not necessarily my reality and I know that my value is not tied to my physical appearance or my productivity, but I still struggle with this truth and my heart tells me the struggle goes much further than just my outside appearance.

I’ve been writing about breaking perfect and I’ve dealt with perfection in my relationships, in my thought life, and now I must address the one area that affects all the others and that’s when perfect interferes with my relationship with God.

Often what we do on the outside indicates issues on the inside and this is true for me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear more layers and long pants, but when I look at the deep in my heart I see what I’m really trying to do with all my covering up and accessorizing. I’m trying to cover up my imperfections, or at least my perceived imperfections, as if I can distract God with spiritual accessories. I might be able to fool you and myself, but I will never fool God.

Hebrews 4:13 lingers in my heart and reveals my futility in trying to hide. This verse states that nothing is hidden before God and that everything is exposed and laid bare. Everything. My impatience. My anger, selfishness, dissatisfaction, my doubts, and my fears. This verse releases me from the exhausting effort of hiding my weaknesses.

My weaknesses are not liabilities and something to be hid, but they are opportunities for me to come boldly to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is not a pat on the head and the encouragement to keep trying to live right or even the freedom to live as I please, but it’s the empowerment that enables me to exchange impatience for patience. Anger for acceptance. Dissatisfaction for contentment.

I hide behind perfect because I’m ashamed of my failure at my inability to make these exchanges on my own. Hebrews 4:13-16 stops me in my tracks. It shows me how wrong I’ve been for trying to cover up my heart ugliness behind the facade of perfect, and I’m relieved by the exposure because the hiding gets exhausting, and rubs against my need for truth.

This is the truth: God sees all and knows all and will–he will give me grace when I need it. I don’t need to slink, sneak or sulk my way to his throne, but because of Jesus- the one who faced all the same temptations I do and yet did not sin–because of him, I can boldly, with confidence, come to the very throne of God and receive empowering grace.

Grace to face my imperfections and say: ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for my struggles. Thank-you for my fears. Thank-you. Without imperfections in my life, I wouldn’t need God and and I desperately need God.

He’s authentic in every way with me and desires authenticity from me as well. He sees me. He sees the things I would rather pretend do not exist and do not love about me. But he sees into the hidden recesses of my heart and loves me despite the ugly that’s found there.

I can strip myself down to all the ugly and he will receive me and empower me to choose his way of living. Impatience for patience. Anger for peace. Dissatisfaction for contentment. Doubt for belief.

I’ve been invited to boldly come to him and so have you. We don’t need to get prettied up, even though it’s fun to get our pretty on. Ours is the kind of relationship where we can come confidently in our beauty and in our ugly because grace trumps perfect. We don’t need to stay in the shadows, but can walk boldly up the red carpet to his throne, fall at his feet and receive empowering grace. We can exchange our version of perfect for his perfect love poured into us through his grace.

 

it’s a break up that continues

perfect-part-2

I broke up with perfect, but sometimes we get back together. Ugh. Perfect makes itself known in my relationships and it has snared me in the fear of man that steals my authenticity and shapes me into a plastic version of myself.  I confessed I was afraid of you and now I must confess I’m afraid of myself.

I’m afraid of disappointing myself, and I fear failing my expectations. What if I have to buy new clothes because I can’t stick with an exercise program? What if I wrinkle my face into a permanent scowl because I’m perpetually disappointed in myself? What if I try, again, to organize my life into some resemblance of order and once again, fail? Why can’t I have endless energy? Why am I so jiggly? Why am I crabby in the morning and why do they expect me to be cheery? What if I give something my everything and it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough?

And there lies the root of my alliance with perfect. If I’m perfect then I’m good enough and the maddening what ifs stop taking over my mind. This is not a healthy place.

Enough.

I am enough. You are enough. But why do we struggle to receive this truth? Why do we wrestle with God over this?

It could be that I’ve confused my ‘fear of not being enough’ with being aware of my sinful nature and the journey toward holiness.  I’m wide awake to my failures and struggles: selfish ambition, fear, impatience, and judgement.  But those aren’t the things that make me ‘not enough’ and overcoming them isn’t what makes me ‘enough’ either.

So what makes us enough? It’s found in the depth of God’s love for us which is a deep, deep well we can draw from and find the sweetest of waters. He loved us while we were trapped in sin and we love him because he first loved us.

If this is truth then where does the alliance with perfect begin? Does it begin when we don’t believe ourselves worthy? Is the idea of a love freely given so far outside our comfort zone that we make ourselves work for it?

Our experiences with perfect are not going to be the same. We live in a society that tells us we can have it all. We reach higher and higher instead of resting in God’s expectations of us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but we burden ourselves when we add intentions outside of what he’s called us to do.

It seems easier to beat myself up for failing to follow through on that popular exercise program or that my calendar is still hopelessly disorganized or that I didn’t reach out to a hurting friend because I was self-absorbed with my problems. I failed again.

Perfect leaves no room for failure so I put even more pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, including myself. This is exhausting and impossible. It becomes a merry go round that takes me lower and deeper into the pit of perfect and further and further away from the truth of God’s expectations. 

Discovering God’s intentions has been the most freeing antidote to breaking up with perfect. My problem is that I think I need to add amendments to them creating an atmosphere of scales and balances.  I think to myself, ‘Oh, God says to be perfect? Well, I’d better not make any mistakes and not ever let anyone down,’ while disregarding the fact that God intends for me to be complete in him, which is not some twisted version of perfect that my mind thinks up.

God’s expectations for my life involve making him Lord of my life and doing what he wants me to do. The problem comes when I forget to listen and that’s usually when  perfect and I get back together.

Making him Lord means freedom from perfection because we don’t have to worry about fulfilling the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. It means we get to find out what he expects of us and release our fears of not being enough because he says, ‘Beloved you are enough. Rest in me, listen for my voice, and you will be complete.’

 

 

breaking up is hard to do… part 1

breaking up pt.1

Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.

Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder  if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.

So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.

There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.

However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.

God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.

Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.

The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.

But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.

1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!

The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate  I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.

Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.

I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?

Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.

commitment vs surrender

Which does the Lord want? Does he want my commitment or does he want my surrender? What exactly do these two words mean? I tell myself that I need to be more committed to spending time with the Lord. I need to be committed to loving people and serving others. But it is hard. I have weeks where I fail more than I succeed. And then I have weeks where I don’t do so bad. But it’s in the empty weeks where I stumble and fall and see just how clearly wretched I can be and how I just don’t want to do ‘this’ anymore because it is so so hard. So I looked up these couple of words and I found something I hadn’t known before.

Surrender:

  • to yield something to the possession of power to another
  • to give oneself up in to the power of another
  • to give up, abandon, or relinquish
  • to yield in favor of another

Commitment

  • to pledge
  • to bind or obligate
  • to give in trust or charge
  • to entrust for safekeeping
  • to do, perform
  • to engage oneself

The differences are subtle and it would be easy to exchange one for the other and mean the same thing, but I see something different between the two that is vital. It appears that with commitment I still retain authority over whether or not I commit. Commitment involves me doing something–pledging, obligating, or giving someone charge of something. Surrender involves yielding. Yielding is getting out of the way and giving authority of oneself up to the Lord.

I have been committed without  surrender.  Commitment without surrender has led to my lack of consistency in my walk with Christ. When I commit without surrender I am telling myself that I get to choose when and where I am committed to Christ. Maybe it’s just on Sunday mornings or when I am out and about, but the commitment can wane when I am with my family and I allow myself to act and say things that I would never dream of acting or saying to anyone else.

But surrender is where consistent Christ-living occurs. Surrender must be active and present for commitment to become woven into our daily moments no matter what we face. Maybe I need to be less of a committed Christian and more of a surrendered Christian. Maybe our churches need to preach more about surrendering instead of committing. Maybe we have it backwards.

Surrender first. Yield oneself to the power and grace of the Lord. Surrender all we are and hope to become. Surrender our pain and our joys. Surrender our wills to the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Surrender to the One who holds us in his palm and whispers love to us in the darkest of days and deepest of nights.

Commitment second. Once surrender occurs, commitment is a natural progression. Surrendering leads to a people working through the power of the Holy Spirit and commitment alone leads to a people working through themselves which leads to inconsistency and legalism. Surrender is a yielding to the Lord’s authority and then giving him our pledge to live as he would have us to live. Without surrender commitment is empty and becomes a choice.

I know that each day I need to get up and surrender again. And sometimes I need to surrender every moment to the One who is my hope. I wish I could say this is an easy thing, but my heart deceives and who can know it? It is a fight to remain in that surrendered place and so I often I slip out of it without even realizing it.

I can only describe my experience with slipping out of that surrendered place and it usually starts with a dissatisfaction with the way things are.  I begin looking around at all the pain and hurts in those around me and myself. I begin to focus on the unanswered prayers or the news that smacks me around and down. I begin being too aware of my present and not aware enough of his presence. These are clues that I have slipped out of surrender. Another clue is  when commitment wanes and becomes too hard.

It’s both surrender and commitment. Working together. Complementing each other. Bringing purpose to our days. I need to choose both. Surrender and commitment, but commitment becomes a whole lot easier if I surrender first. Surrender is a loss of freedom that gives me freedom to commit and live for the Lord.  It’s both and.

 

 

 

the three paths

Our human nature is bent towards compensation. We screw up and try to fix things by doing more or giving more. Our kids are mad at us for a decision made and we try to ‘make’ it up to them through various ways–whether it’s a gift or privilege or event. We hurt our spouse and try to compensate by buying them something or taking them somewhere. We feel inadequate in our jobs or volunteer position so we work harder or volunteer more and longer. It becomes a continuous cycle of do more, try harder then repeat.

The Israelites were great at offering sacrifices. There were numerous sacrifices and the priests were busy day and night presenting the sacrifices of the people to the Lord. And somehow, we, along with the Israelites think that is all that is required of us.

But what if it isn’t?

What if we have it all wrong?

What if it isn’t in our serving, our giving, our support of missions, or our doing the ‘right’ things? These are so important, but can easily distract us and deceive us into believing we are giving God exactly what he desires.

What if we are missing the mark in understanding what God really wants?

Look at what the Lord says in Psalm 50:7-11:

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
    O Israel, I will testify against you.
    I am God, your God.
 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
    your burnt offerings are continually before me.
 I will not accept a bull from your house
    or goats from your folds.
 For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.”

Do you hear the Lord’s cry? He is not rejecting all that we give and do for him in his name, but he is calling us to something greater.

Psalm 50:14-15

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and perform your vows to the Most High,
 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

The three things He longs to receive from us are:

…thanksgiving

…fulfill your vows

…call upon Him

Thanksgiving. It seems too easy. It seems too hard. In the good times, thanksgiving doesn’t seem like it is ‘enough’, and in hard times, thanksgiving is too ‘hard’, so we think we need to ‘supplement’ thanksgiving by doing more and giving more and being more. To offer thanksgiving with a heart fully engaged does require sacrifice on our part. In the good times, we need to be satisfied that our thanks is enough and sacrifice our desire to do more on the altar of His acceptance. In the bad times, it is a sacrifice to give him our thanks because it hurts and giving and doing more doesn’t hurt as bad as standing before the Lord and telling him, ‘This is awful, I hate what is happening, but you are good and I thank you for your kindness and mercy and grace and greatness,’ and really mean it.

Vows. It seems as though vows don’t hold the same weight as they once did, it seems as though commitment is a choice based on the whim of the moment or what is best for ‘me’. But the Lord says to fulfill our vows to him. When we accept Christ’s redeeming and resurrecting work in our life, we enter into a covenantal relationship with the Lord to believe him, to be faithful to him, to trust him, to be made like him and to stand firm. That is fulfilling our vows to him.

Trouble. It follows us. We cannot escape it. What we do when trouble smacks us along side the head will show us where we place our trust. Do we ‘pull up our boot straps’ and dig in? Do we face it with a ‘stiff upper lip’? Do we try and deal with it in our own strength, which is so very feeble and inadequate? Do we call upon the Lord only when we have exhausted all other options? Look what the Psalmist tells us: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you’. The moment we run into trouble or trouble comes running into us our very first response should be to call upon the Lord. Do you? Do I?

Three things the Lord counts as sacrifices offered to him:

thanksgiving,

commitment to him,

and dependence on him.

In this we will honor him and isn’t that what we want to do? Isn’t that what this life surrendered wholly to him is all about?

His glory.

His honor.

Him.

 

misunderstood brokenness

grace is one of those topics that the  more I discover about it the more the mystery grows. I peel a layer and unearth a beautiful facet about grace, then another layer is revealed and I begin to peel that one away as well. Sometimes during the process I feel I lose all that I know and understand about grace, but as the next layer is revealed what understanding I lost crystalizes as it comes into focus.

Brokenness. It’s a facet of grace that I wouldn’t consider. Unless I experienced it.

I thought I knew brokenness. I am a child of a broken home. I am the descendent of broken relationships. And with the brokenness comes all different kinds effects: insecurity, fear of rejection, fear of success, emotional issues, physical issues, self-image issues, God-view issues, and a host of other problems. If you had asked me, I would have described myself as a broken plate that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God put me back together again–with my cracks showing and empty places where the missing pieces were too small to replace. That’s the kind of brokenness I understood.  And it’s a kind of brokenness we all can relate to.

We all have cracks. We all have missing pieces. We all have the ‘what-ifs?’ We all have spots in our lives with missing pieces that we ask ourselves ‘would that piece be missing if…’. I say let’s let God piece us back together, but let’s let Him place the pieces as He sees fit.

Brokenness. It was my companion. It was integral to my integrity. It still is. But just as with my understanding of grace, I needed to have a new understanding of brokenness.

The brokenness I experienced was a direct result of my life’s circumstances. Many were not even my own choices. I didn’t choose to come from a broken home. I didn’t choose to have a generational line of broken relationships. Those weren’t my choices. The effects of those choices–were they mine or were they an unavoidable consequence?

Both.

A toddler or young child doesn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with the heart sorrows that affect him or her. But, they grow up with a residual feeling that they can’t define,  yet it defines their life, their choices, and their worldview. In my case, insecurity and fear of rejection were the core results of my broken life.

It was by God’s grace, by His tender, pursuing grace that He brought me to a place where I was willing to be broken by Him. Insecurity and fear of rejection were my armor. They don’t make good armor, but I had fooled myself into thinking that they did. I hid my true self, the self God wanted me to be behind that faulty armor. I tried my hardest to make sure that people liked me and I would mold myself into being whatever someone wanted because then they wouldn’t reject me.

People had become my god.

But my heart wanted God to be my God.

Brokenness. Broken by life’s circumstances or broken by God? Both are facets of brokenness and God’s grace is at work in both. God will love us and pour His grace on us throughout our circumstances. He will walk us through the fire and the storms and the fields of beauty.

However, He will also break, if we’re willing, the things in our lives that prevent Him from being God in our hearts, our lives, and our homes. My battle with insecurity and fear of rejection was broken by a gracious God. It was a painful journey, but He poured His grace into the broken pieces and has begun the process of putting me together in His plan and in His time. And He longs to do the same for everyone. The question remains….will you?