That seems to be the most recent lie fighting to claim the forefront of my mind. Failure as a mom. Failure as a friend. Failure as a human. Failure as a follower of Christ. The standard I have for myself gradually creeps up so high, whether by my own expectations or by the words I have warped from the people around me. Despite the intentions of criticism and advice, it doesn’t always feel constructive. Especially when you are an overcoming shame puppet. I used to feed off my own mental self-destruction prior to surrendering to Jesus. Shortly after true salvation and marrying Brenner, I decided to read and then destroy all of my old journals from middle school to college. The common theme throughout each journal was hopelessness. Yet a small glimmer of the light of Christ still shined through the dark cracks. Back in those times in my life, depression and anxiety ate me alive. After a time I didn’t really want to leave that pit. It became comforting to never hope for anything, to never be let down. But see I was missing one small whisper, one massive truth..my hope was in the wrong things.
In the present, my flesh still constantly fights to place myself on the throne of my life. Though I wouldn’t say this at first glance, when I dig to the root of my shame and fear, the root of feeling hopeless or feeling like a failure is this: I can easily idolize myself and other people. Though I should have no other gods before the One True God, I can easily place other things before Him and sugar coat the sin by calling it a ‘prioritization issue’ . It’s a sin nonetheless, and confession and repentance are needed for real change.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
Now I’m sure by now you’ve just had several sharp intakes of breath and you’re either relating one hundred percent or your trying not to judge me. That’s okay, I’m just sharing my heart and it is a broken thing. But it’s being made whole by the God who rebuilds the ancient ruins (Isaiah 61:4). He is creating in me a pure heart. I started praying that consistently over myself two years ago. In the beginning it sounded sweet, it sounded like I would feel pure and righteous as God was doing it, pink skies and fluffy white clouds. I’m sure there was an angel baby floating somewhere playing a harp in that imagination. But as He has truly began to shine truth and love into my innermost being, I have never felt more dirty. I have never felt more small than as the sheer weight of the glory of God has entered into my hovel of a soul. Not because God’s judgement has pierced me and minimized me due to my sin. No quite the contrary, I recognize my own faultiness, my own finite humanity because it is only in these broken weaknesses that I am seeing the depths of God’s love for me and the extreme heights of His strength. He is creating in me a pure heart. With every speck of dirt removed He is telling me I am loved, that I am worthy of this love. He is reaching the deepest, lonely glaciers of my soul. I see the speck in my own eye, first. This is helping me to love God, myself, my family, my friends, strangers, and my enemies more genuinely. Love is coming out of the destruction, a temple for the living God is being made out of the ancient ruins. Again, I will confess that my mundane mind can not make sense of it. Still His grace is sufficient for even that. Jesus tells me that I’m not a failure, that He has chosen me (Ephesians 1). That He has made me righteous. (Romans 3:22) I can’t be both a failure and also righteous. I chose Jesus.
Every time I let God in a little deeper, every time I release clenched fists over all He’s given me to gain a posture of open palms, every time I surrender myself to His plan, every time I say yes to Him, I am transformed. The journey can feel like a back and forth emotional/physical/spiritual roller coaster. And it is when we look horizontally, as Paul said,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV)
Which is why a few lines down, Romans 8, tells us there is no condemnation for those of us who live in Christ! We must keep our eyes fixed on the vertical, on Jesus. We are dying to our flesh and living by the spirit. That is what this roller coaster is. And God doesn’t just throw us to the wolves, He chips away the dirt and grime over time. He takes away the shame of our sins completely. Like the white shirt I wore in hopes of my toddlers staying tidy, but they’re kids and tidy just isn’t happening realistically yet. Lazarus came up from behind me, jumped up and “Hulk squished” me. That white shirt was soon marred with whatever substance was on his hands. God tells us that even then, He makes us white as snow.
I am becoming more like Jesus. I am learning to trust Him, to love..truly love. He is faithful to complete the good work He has begun. So now I face the chaos with hope, I tell the wind to “Be still.” And when I don’t have the strength to sing the words, when praise takes everything in me to conjure up a note, still there He hears my silent rock of a heart’s cry and He responds with a melody that He sings over me. He is love. He is better than we know, His love, deeper than we realize. It feels intense, because it is.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now I’m found
but now I see.
Thank you, Lord, for Your love. It is enough. You are enough. Be my compass today, Be my peace. You are Jehovah Shalom (The Lord my Peace). Make me whole with, Your shalom peace. I pray this in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
This song “P E A C E” covered by Amanda Cook has been renewing my mind daily over the past week. Check it out!