Thursday, November 20, 2014
I'm Free to be Me
“Why did God make me mean like you?” This was the question posed to me by my 6-year-old daughter. While I smiled at her inquisition, it didn’t stop my heart from twisting inside of me. “God didn’t make us mean,” I informed her. “We just need to ask Him to help us make better choices.”
The most difficult piece of raising my youngest is the fact that every time I look at her, I see my reflection as if in a mirror. She’s filled with passion and can’t contain her emotions. There’s not much of a filter on her mouth. Her strong-willed personality is a battle almost every day. When I’m faced with the need to offer instruction and discipline for her, I find myself hopeless. God, how do I help her change when I don’t even know where to begin changing myself?!
Most days, I wake up embracing the truth of Lamentations 3: God’s mercies are new every morning. Then the day begins and I face failure, disappointment, sin, comparison and discouragement. Most of these hit hard before everyone is even out the door for the day. I struggle with who I am and why I can’t ever seem to overcome.
“You are too hard on yourself.” I hear this often from those I love. Yet, I’m left with a flood of frustration because I feel the need to be… although I can’t quite identify why.
Maybe I demand perfection?
Could it be that I just don’t think I ever do enough to please God?
I relate well to the main character in the movie, Mom's Night Out. Allyson, a stay-at-home mom, finds everything about her night out going wrong. She laments, “I’m a failure. I have failed again. That’s all I do. I can’t… no matter how hard I try… how much I give… I’m not enough.”
“For Who?” She is questioned by the biker friend lending a listening ear. He doesn’t beat around the bush when he directly confronts her woes “… for you? Not enough for you?”
Tears came to my eyes as this unlikely character spoke truth into this broken momma. The words targeted my heart. Just like Allyson, all too often, I feel like I’m not good enough. I’d like to be just about anyone else other me.
In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Author Brennan Manning states “Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if it is only personal discipline and self-denial that will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing… sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency.” In these words, I felt God opening His arms as the loving Father to accept and comfort me. I continued to read the words by Thomas Merton quoted in the book, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”
“You are accepted,” The Ragamuffin Gospel continues. “Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”
It’s me that isn’t okay with me. My husband loves me. My daughters love me. My family and my friends love me. Most of all, God loves me… just as I am. Jesus gave his life for me so that I could spend eternity with Him. How could I question that pure love by fighting against the person God created me to be?
I am passionate. Yes, that means I struggle with containing negative emotions. Sometimes this plays out in the ugliness of anger. However, most of the time, it displays itself in the beauty of love. My weakness can reveal strength if I allow it.
I am strong-willed. Sometimes I can appear stubborn and demanding. More often, it allows me to confidently lead others in following the greatest commandments: love God; love others. Yet what God is showing me is that I am leaving out “…as yourself.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can’t love others the way God loves if I’m unwilling to embrace the woman He created me to be.
The lesson I am learning is that guilt is a messy motivation. I cannot guilt myself to live better. God has never asked me to live in guilt. As a matter of fact, Jesus came so I could live in freedom. As I read the Bible, this message is engrained into my soul: “Where the Spirit ofthe Lord is, there is freedom!” (John 8; Galatians 5; Romans 6)
It’s time to quit beating myself up. Allyson (in Mom's Night Out) writes on her mommy blog: “I’m a mess. But a beautiful mess. I’m His masterpiece… and that’s enough.” It’s time I embrace that message and live it out. God defines who I am. Not me.
Bottom line: In Christ, I’m free to be me! (…and so are you!)
Do you struggle with placing high demands on yourself that God never placed on you? Take time to read the scripture referenced in this post. God’s desire was to free us. I want my life to start reflecting this more.
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10