Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
I sang in church last Sunday, just as I do many other Sundays. I had moments when I felt like I really connected with the Holy Spirit in worship, and I had moments when I felt like my own mess of a brain got sidetracked with details, technique, or insecurities. Our band had the typical moments of consonance and moments of dissonance. There was room for gratitude, and there was space for frustration.
On that Sunday, I struggled to pull my focus from the lies. It didn’t matter how many people pulled me aside after service and said how moved they were by worship, how nice they thought my voice was, how happy they were to see me, or how petty my dress looked.
No matter what happened on stage or what anyone offered as feedback, I chose that day to listen to the voice of the enemy. The day set the stage for the perfect storm: I was hormonal, I was sick and tired, and I was being targeted because, well, anyone and everyone in ministry is targeted on Sundays.
It’s real life in a pastor’s family on Sundays: The kids will be particularly monstrous. PMS WILL absolutely hit the hardest. Someone will for sure get a cold or have more intense allergies or asthma. Mom will definitely wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Both kids will have arisen 10 times on Saturday night. Dad will have a migraine.
It’s a guarantee. We will be riding on God’s grace, breath prayers, and instinct on Sundays. We come to expect it. And most of the time, We find that Sundays end up victorious.
But some Sundays, I get blindsided. A week ago was one of those Sundays.
Though it was a difficult day, it provided an excellent glimpse in the mirror for my broken heart.
Before being sick, much of the time, I could muffle my self-hate by production. If I did well enough, the voice that insisted that I must pay for my existence was hushed just enough for me to go on with life.
The problem lately, however, is that my performance–centered perfectionism and multiple chronic illnesses don’t co-exist nicely. How does a person who is defined by how well she achieves and how much she gets done transition into a lifestyle where rest, self-care, and extra limits become the norm? In working to establish a non-works-centered identity, I have sought a more grace-centered definition of self (in other words, I have begun to embrace the truth):
I am beloved.
I am chosen.
I am welcomed into the family of Christ.
My behavior is an overflow of my identity in Christ; thus, my behavior or lack thereof does not change my core identity.
Before I spoke a word, aced a test, won an award, or received any external praise, my God was dancing, singing, and rejoicing over me.
I am enough in Christ. Period.
In some very unexpected ways, chronic illness is forcing me to look my perfectionism square in the face and see its cracks and origin of brokenness. I am forced to lie in bed or get pushed around in a wheel chair and wrestle with my independent, prideful, self-sufficient, driven personality. I desperately needed all of this to happen in order for me to find my true identity in Christ.
And sometimes, it seems that I am making peace with my new life of simply “being” enough in Christ.
Then, there are days like last Sunday.
Days when no matter how much I do or how well I do it, I still feel like an absolute failure, a colossal phony, and a blight on this earth.
These are the days that I am reminded the depth of my brokenness. Those are the days when I recognize that my works-based mentality houses an intrinsic flaw: no matter how much I do, and how well I do it, I will never feel like I have earned my space on this planet.
Before I was sick, I sought to redeem myself. The problem is that my debt feels so overwhelmingly huge that I could never earn my space on this earth. But this mentality is rooted in the core, base-level lie: I am evil and am not meant to exist.
But last Sunday was just one day. It was a day that reminded me of my entire former life: before I met Jordan, before the miracle-working God began transforming my heart and mind.
It was a day that led me to my knees, prayerfully surrendering the lies to the Father who is writing the truth on my soul.
Last Sunday was a day that was an unusual day: it was not the norm. Seven years ago, those lies invaded my every breath, and they went unquestioned and unnoticed. Now, they cannot creep in without a very noisy alarm system sounding.
I am thankful for this process, though it has been painful. I am thankful for my illnesses, though they are heavy to carry. I am thankful for messy relationships, tear-filled nights, painful revelations, and the agonizingly beautiful process of refinement and healing.
I can look at the odd days, when the lies sneak back in, and I can see what was once the rule has now become the exception.
The Lord has started a new work in my heart. And from what I have gathered, it is sticking. The once deeply familiar lies are becoming foreign and offensive. The once unfamiliar truths are beginning to embed themselves into my heart and mind.
Forget the former things, do not consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, so you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The healing that God has worked and continues to work in my heart and mind is unbelievable. The girl that used to live in this body is almost a stranger, until I bump up against her on my days of struggle.
There will be more tough Sundays: days when I can’t win, no matter how hard I try, when no amount of complements can outweigh the self-hatred that is stirred up in my mind. But on those days, like this past Sunday, I will be armed with the Spirit of Truth that lives in my heart and communicates through the Word. That is the Spirit that merits my attention, my focus, and my energy.
The Spirit of Truth says:
1. I am infinitely valuable and cared for.
2. I have a purpose, a future, and a hope, and I am called into the light of Christ.
1 Peter 2:8-9
3. I am forgiven, redeemed, and restored. Psalm 103: 4-5
4. I lack nothing, because the Lord is my Shepherd. I am at peace.
5. I am equipped for good and lavished with grace.
2 Corinthians 9:8
6. I live in the Light of the Lord and am unafraid of the darkness.
7. I am safe and strong, because the Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.
8. Nothing can move me, because the Lord is my firm foundation.
9. God is within me; I will not be moved.
10. Yahweh rejoices over me, calms me with His love, and celebrates me.