“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.
“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”
There’s a difference, you know.
I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).
But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?
The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.
Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.
Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.
Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.
All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.
I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.
While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.
And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.
I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.
So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.
Yes, yes, I need Jesus.
Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.
The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.
And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.
I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.
Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.
Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?
I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.
All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure — I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.
This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.
They’re right, you know.
I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.
I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.
The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.
And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.
And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.
Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.
It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).
For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.
If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.
And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.
Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.
You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).
And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.
We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.
We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.
Something that God has really laid on my heart lately is that He is the one who does the work when it comes to changing hearts and lives. Try as I might, I can never truly bring someone to a relationship with Christ. Sure, God may use me. But ultimately, it’s all Him.
As I was reading through some old journal entries, I found one from about a month ago that was based off of 1 Peter 5:2:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.”
I had asked God how I could best be a shepherd of His flock. Naturally, I wanted to please God and do the right thing. I wanted to see people come into a relationship with Him through my work and through my great “shepherding”.
But I missed the big picture.
It wasn’t about me.
“You hand them over to Me,” He responded. “I take care of them best. Yes, I use you, but sometimes you need to just entrust them to My care.”
What a hard lesson to learn!
Look back at that verse. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care…” Not everyone in the world could possibly be under my care. There’s no way I could lead and watch over that many sheep! And more importantly, we are told to be a shepherd “not because you must, but because you are willing…” Sometimes I think my motives are a lot more innocent than they really are. Am I really trying to share Jesus because I earnestly desire for their lives to be changed and their hearts to fall in love with Him? Or am I just trying to check something off of a list, maybe to be seen as a “good Christian” in God’s eyes (or even the world’s)?
I’ve been really humbled this week by the fact that I can never measure up. I can never be good enough or perfect enough to earn God’s love or grace. It’s given to me freely. In fact, to try to earn it discredits the Cross. Look at what Paul says in Galatians 5:4:
“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
What I’ve learned about being a good shepherd is actually quite relevant. If I try to win people over for Christ in my own strength, I’m making it about me. If I’m evangelizing and making disciples with the hidden motive of getting God to love me or be pleased with me more, I’m making it about me. And if I make it about me, what good does any of it do?
Sometimes being a successful shepherd means realizing someone is a way better shepherd than you. And God is the ultimate Shepherd!