Why would anyone care to read something I wrote? When there are so many other great—read that “better than me”—writers out there? Who have said it all… better than I can? What makes me special that people would want to hear what I have to say?
Those are the thoughts I battle constantly. I feel called to write, but I also fear writing for reasons I don’t understand. Why was I given this curse? This invisible pressure riding on my shoulders to put words to thoughts, and thoughts to paper? It’s horribly compulsory. I love that word, compulsory. Root word: compulsion or compel: to force or drive especially to a course of action. It’s the reason I get a lot done, this inner compulsion that drives me toward my goals. I was raised to be this way. My mother was and is a very driven woman, who taught me the importance of personal responsibility and despised laziness. I can even remember the definition she taught us, and how as little kids we could never quite pronounce the word properly. It didn’t keep us from memorizing what it meant. “Ponsability: doing a job in the way that you should, in the time that you should.” Looking back now, how she raised seven children without going crazy I’ll never know. Clearly God uniquely prepared her for the task and I’m thankful she rose to the challenge. Back to compulsion.
I’ve been learning a lot about myself over the past several months. Turning thirty will do that to a person. I’ve been turning inward for a bit to discover what I know, what I don’t, and what else I need to learn. Turns out it’s a lot.
I’ve been reading through a book by John Eldridge called Walking with God and he asks the question, “what is your basic approach to life?” He writes that many of us have an approach to life that is not in line with the way God designed. This is more than just how you spend your day, it is a deep seeded, inner motivation that has shaped your personality and the core of you as an individual.
I immediately knew my answer. I approach life with an “All or Nothing” mindset. Life in the extremes. The idea of “fight hard, attack life, attack the day, eat strict to lose weight, work out hard, write as much as possible, fill every free minute, invest in the children, keep the house clean, be a good wife, produce, produce, produce, push, push, push…. until I’m so exhausted, overworked, underfed, sore, used up, short, irritable, drained that I can barely function. All or Nothing. I used to say “this is just how I am.” But after walking more closely with God through the past year, I’m learning I don’t have to be that way. I can change, or at least invite Jesus in to “reshape my personality around His love,” as Eldridge suggests.
So I invited Him in. Through the process Jesus revealed to me that I really have a wrong idea about love. “What agreements have you made about love?” Eldridge asks and I came to the conclusion that I’ve believed love is conditional. I know where this idea stems from. As a teen, I grew up overweight—obese is more accurate. I never felt I fit in, never felt accepted. Little did I know then it was an inability to love and accept myself. I grew up believing the lie “If I was just skinnier I could… If I just lost weight than I could… If I wasn’t so sensitive then… If I was just more like this person, or that person, then I might be accepted, liked, loved.” Conditional. Now, I know God’s love is not conditional. I know God loves me, for no other reason except that I belong to Him, but he unearthed a deceptive root in my heart that essentially said, I’m not worth loving unless I look a certain way, or do certain things. If I do all these things right, than I’m worth loving, if I don’t, than I’m not.
He showed me the fruit of my belief. I don’t truly believe in His unconditional love. I want to. But it feels so wrong. So undeserved. I listen and believe the lies of the enemy all too often that tell me I don’t matter, I’m insignificant, He only loves me when I do XYZ, I don’t do enough, and never will. I found myself living for His approval instead of from it.
What is unconditional love? Perfect love. The Bible says perfect love drives out fear and that’s when it hit me. So much of what I do is motivated by fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of disapproval. Fear of failure. Fear of letting people down. Fear of what other people think. Fear of how I’m perceived. Fear of rejection. So I push, and produce and run myself into the ground with fearful compulsion. “All.” And then when I can’t go any further, when I can’t give anymore, when I’ve spent my last ounce of energy, self-control, will-power, I give in. Retreat. Fly the white flag. Give me that cookie, actually give me three. I’m done with the kids. I can’t handle this anymore. I’m so exhausted. I need carbs! Crawl into bed to escape. “Nothing.” All or Nothing. And when the fear of compulsion runs dry, guilt is right there waiting to take it’s place. Fear and guilt. This is no way to live. This is ping pong. Complete and utter inconsistency and I hate it.
Inconsistency. The other puppet string. I used to say I’m consistently inconsistent. I blamed it on my personality. I’m a free spirit. A rebel. I can’t be tied down by routine, schedules and regimens. But as the years catch up to me, and the longer I walk with the Holy Spirit, I’m seeing this is also an area I must allow Him to reshape.
Ok, I invite you into this Lord. What do you want to say to me in this?
His answer came quickly and clearly, in a phrase I felt rise from my heart: My grace is enough. Huh? Oh great! A nice little Sunday school answer. What does that even mean, My grace is enough?
Ironically enough, my name Anna, means “grace, or gracious one.” Maybe it’s not so ironic after all. Through this deeper search in my heart, The Lord began to unravel me.
I operate so much of my life under fearful compulsion, what I “ought” to do because I’m searching for acceptance, but compulsion breeds rebellion and rebellion breeds inconsistency.
He says, I want you to learn how to operate under grace because grace breeds gratitude and gratitude breeds love and you guessed it, perfect love casts out fear.
I don’t know what it means yet, to be perfected in love. Perhaps it’s not possible on this side of heaven. However, I do know where to go to learn perfect love.
Likewise, grace is a hard concept to grasp. It doesn’t make sense to our finite minds and I’ve never, truly understood it as fully as I would like. It’s hard to define, hard to articulate and even harder to accept. I was wrestling with this when again the Lord brought another thought to mind. It’s defined through your relationship with Me. Of course. Here I am trying to figure it all out, on my own, in my own strength, looking for an answer when the answer is simply: Him. I don’t have to figure it out, that’s what makes Him God. The miraculous mystery of His grace and love, undeserved, but lavishly given. To be enjoyed not questioned, worn, not wary, and accepted no matter the circumstances.
I pray you also find that grace and perhaps skip the part where you think you have to earn it. Let my experience free you from the burden of learning the hard way and perhaps compel you to join me in the pursuit of perfect love.