Shortly after we opened our Christmas gifts last month, I made a resolution that I would blog weekly, but before the countdown to January 1 reached zero, I declared that resolution canceled. I couldn't do it. If people ask why I haven't blogged, I say it's because I'm busy. Finally I told someone last week that I couldn't blog because I've had nothing to say - unsure whether it was God humbling my spirit or the enemy attacking a joyful past time, I've felt entirely unable, unworthy and unequipped to write and share my thoughts.
But something shifted this week. Through a number of simple, everyday minor mishaps and pitfalls, I came to the crushing realization that I can never earn or be worthy of God's love.
Okay, that's not entirely fair. That concept is a fairly main tenant of the faith I've professed for the past 12 years and that my husband is a pastor of, so I've course I had mentally realized that. I would correctly mark "true" on a true or false exam. But I've never actually emotionally accepted it.
Somewhere deep, deep down in the very pit of my being, everything I did was still with the aim of being good enough, and I lived in fear of the grace offered so freely.
I'm not a good gift receiver. You can ask almost anyone who loves me. A couple of years ago, my parents got me the most beautiful Michael Kors wool coat for Christmas. Instead of proclaiming my joyful thanks and trying it on, I thanked them weakly... and then cried. Like, a lot. I thought about starving children and people with no coats at all and what a crappy kid I was to my parents when I was a teenager, and 300 other reasons that I didn't deserve that gift. And I hid it in the back of my closet.
In a lot of ways, that's been my experience with God's grace. It's been a gift left unopened. I've put it in the fire extinguisher case, behind glass that says, "Break only in case of emergency." Really appreciate that it's there God, but I'll try to just get through without it when I can.
Most of who I am... the person I identify as... is based on my efforts. I am an achievement junkie, control freak and perfectionist.
How hard I've worked... What I've fought to overcome...What I'm able to provide in my relationships, church or community... that is how I find my worth.
Even my college majors were due to me being hard headed. I chose English because my junior English teacher called my final writing project "uninspired and lacking substance" and told me that "she bet I was surprised" that I got a 34 in English on my ACT. (Frankly I always preferred the STEM fields.) I chose Psychology because in some strange way, it represented a mastery to me of my mental illness. I was an expert in my own undoing, which gave me some semblance of control.
I began working (albeit serving hot dogs from a giant ice cream cone) when I was 14. I actually had to have my guidance counselor sign a work permit for them to be able to legally employ me. But I wanted a job more than anything. I wanted to finally be able to EARN my way.
I measure the success of my relationships by what I can contribute to them... and I assume that others do too. When Nate tells me to relax... take a break... I interpret it as some kind of trick. How will he know I'm a good wife, if I can't show that I've cleaned the house and folded the laundry and sent an encouraging text message and brought home a good paycheck? How will I know I'm a good mom if I haven't read the kids three books each and made sure they can recite the alphabet and count to twenty?
Even my spiritual journey has been some sort of weird holy checklist of obeying God's calling, while simultaneously working upstream against my crippling perfectionism. I told Nate frustratedly a few weeks ago, "I feel like I'm not doing anything for the Kingdom!"
Where is my worth, if I can't measure it?
Last night Blakely asked me a question that I can't stop thinking about. The girls always treat the 28 minute drive to Pekin in my car without a radio like it's the greatest torture known to man, so we sometimes play a game where we ask each other random questions. After asking about favorite foods, favorite colors, and more, Blakely asked me, "Mom... What would you do if you were a Princess?"
"Um, what?" I laughed.
But I can't stop thinking about it. If I truly believe that God is King... why don't I act like a princess? Why do I live out of scarcity and my own efforts? Why do I reject the Kingdom for my own fear of being unworthy without some checklist to "prove my worth"?
This is the part of the blog where I'd usually wrap up my thoughts with a nice bow, maybe a platitude or two. But I can't today. Honestly, I couldn't for the last 552 days. I couldn't write in my blog because God is untying and unraveling all of my bows. But maybe it's His way of telling me to just open up the gift already.