Everyone has expectations for life, whether we know it or not… Have you been surprised, disappointed, or thrilled by where God has taken you? I can say that I have experienced all of those emotions, and more, when it comes to the path that God has taken me on. You see, I never for one minute expected that I would experience failure, in any form. Why would I? My early years growing up seemed to indicate that I would skate into the future with continued applause for my athletic, academic, and musical gifts, for my spiritual leadership and understanding, and because of the compassion for others that seemed to come naturally to me. While I certainly did not voice those beliefs, or even consciously realize they existed, once God started peeling back the layers of my heart, I quickly realized my foundation was built on my success, rather than God’s grace. How could this be? I grew up in a Christian home, gladly served others, and make all the right choices.
What I didn’t realize, however, is that I was lively largely through my own strength and sufficiency, rather than through the power of the Gospel. Much of this is perhaps the process of sanctification we go through when we grow up in the faith, without experiencing the darkness of life that those coming from outside the church might know before surrendering to Christ. For me, my misunderstanding of the Gospel centered on the fact that I really didn’t need God that much, and I didn’t know it. I knew all the right answers, I knew how to please my parents, teachers, and ministry leaders. But without a knowledge of my desperate and real need for Christ, doing all the right things could only fuel me for so long…and it fueled me until I woke up to the fact that life could be too much for even me, that there would be a limit to my ability to overcome and succeed.
God graciously arranged a series of events in a particularly trying season of my young adulthood in which it would be nearly impossible to ‘do everything right’. No amount of effort on my part would be enough to rescue me from this perfect storm, so to speak. This storm was lovingly sent to me by my Father, to show me that my efforts would never be enough in and of themselves to win His favor, to save my soul, or to secure my place in heaven with Him forever. As utterly overwhelming as that season of life was, I look back on it with gratitude. Gratitude for a Father that would love me enough to allow me to fail, and yet stand close enough to pick me back up when I cried out for His mercy.
Because that series of trials centered around the fact that I was doing too much and trying too hard, I gradually realized that I needed to give in to His love, accept His grace, and accept the help of others. He showed me that I was at times refusing the very gifts of grace that would not only sustain my soul, but show me that life does not rest on my shoulders but on His. I realized that in all my efforts to try harder, and to make life work, I was destroying my health, my relationships, and my relationship with my Father. Could it really be that caring for myself, rather than pushing myself to try harder, would show me who I was, who He was, and what true community centered on the Gospel could be? Yes, that was the Truth that introduced me to the Gospel in extravagant new ways.
And so now, instead of trying harder, I give in to His love and power more often than I strive for perfection. I ask for help and prayer from family and friends, more often than trying to appear like I have it all together while my soul silently shrivels up inside. When life feels impossible, I more quickly stop, evaluate, rest, and care for my needs, rather than ramping up with new ways to make ‘life work’.
I hope what God has been faithful to grow within me will encourage you to be open to His grace, rather than insistent on doing life on your own. I also hope you will be inspired to learn about self-care that is based on the Gospel, not on our own strength, which can actually lead to idolatry of self, rather than worship of God. There is no perfect system to genuine, compassionate self-care, but slowly accepting that gift of grace has ushered me into deeper connection with God and a fuller understanding of the Gospel. Because I am created in the image of God, I can choose to care for this temple, my body, in which He dwells. I do that not because it makes me more righteous, but rather through faith in His Son, I am already righteous. His love for me through Christ frees me to accept grace for myself, grace that empowers me to care for my body + mind + soul, grace that empowers me to encourage that in others, and grace that picks me back up when I get it all wrong (because I do, often.)
And while God does not guarantee physical, emotional, or spiritual healing this side of heaven, we are called to pick up our mat, responsible to do what is within our power to care for ourselves. Choosing to care for ourselves is an act of faith and obedience that fosters deeper connection with God, ourselves, and loved ones, but something many of us neglect, to our detriment. And depending on the day, I fall in that category too! I certainly have not ‘arrived’, but am thankful to be aware of the battle of living under the law vs. grace, and how this affects our self-care.
Here in this online space, I hope to discuss realistic but effective nutrition, cultivating healthy relationships, dealing with past wounds, meditation on the Word of God, making space for creativity, and gentle exercise options. All of these things are part of the story God has written for me, and the opportunity He has given me to know His love.
Are you ready and willing to be changed? Stick around, friend, because I’m guessing if you stumbled upon this blog, God might have that same gift of grace in store for you! He is both fierce and tender, but His intentions for your life are good and can be trusted. His ruthless love will change you in the most unexpected and beautiful way.
Will you say yes to His invitation of love?