Still Stuck On Striving…

It’s my favorite season.

It’s fall.

It reminds me of warmth, of cozy clothes, pumpkin everything, golds, browns, and oranges with hints of white, and of getting to use our amazingly cute fireplace. It is my favorite place in our very old, creaky, and amazingly beautiful house downtown.

Part of my favorite season is driving to see the fall colors in Colorado. And oh my jeez, if you have never seen fall in Colorado I pray for your sweet soul that you would have that privilege one day. There is something about seas of gold and mountain peaks and lakes that will take your heart and shatter it in the most beautiful way. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

And as I am there, in the mountains and driving alone, I’m listening to beautiful lyrics that at first don’t hit me in the way I thought they would.

Instead, I feel guilty.

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It started rumbling in me on Friday and then on Saturday I feel like this thing burst open when I read this post by Jennie Allen. I feel like that piece of her heart as a whole met me exactly where I was and where I still am, but this quote struck me the most…

“We seize more of God when he seizes us through our broken dreams. He is wildly unpredictable, and learning to question and accept his ways is part of the journey of following an unsafe, invisible God. He calls the shots on what happens to us in this short stint here. He calls them, whether we want to let him or not. Our faith must remain greater than our pain and our fears.”

When I’m Unsure of What’s Ahead, Jennie Allen

And I realized that my past addiction to striving for affirmation may lay in a pile of broken chains, from summer 2014, but recently a familiar feeling has started creeping back in. I praise God that I am strong enough now to choose His love first but I question that His love really will embrace me the way I dream of.

Recently I have been noticing that I am now striving for perfectionism to be a quality Christian. As I am driving and driving through the mountains and struck by beauty I am also biting my cheek (its my nervous bad habit that replaced nail biting..) as I listen to lyrics washing me in grace and Gospel truths. Yet all I can think of is what if I get to heaven and God looks at me. What if He looks at me not in the way I am thinking He will.

I’m afraid He’s going to look at me and say,

Celeste, you missed it!! You missed those opportunities to help people, you missed those opportunities to share the Gospel, you didn’t disciple enough people, you didn’t baptize enough people in my name…

 

Now, striving to be more like Jesus and live by His will is so good. It’s good to help those in need, to love people, to pour ourselves out, to make disciples…we are commanded to do that.

And y’all. I am not someone who sits at home idle saying “Jesus, I believe in you and now I just get to sit here in my own bubble and enjoy the rest of this life, that’s it.” That’s not me at all. It takes everything in me to not feel guilty for staying home and resting one day of the week.

I feel guilty for questioning Him and I hold so tightly to control because I am afraid that if I let go I will really hit the bottom. Do you see the cycle?

I realized reading Jennie’s words that I have been broken of the striving for people’s affirmation, but the struggle of striving hasn’t left me. It’s the same principle, different topic. I’ve replaced the need for people’s affirmation with the need to be a perfect Christian and instead of being affirmed by people being affirmed by God.

I’m currently stuck in this place of striving. I’ve been struggling with this balance that I am fully known, fully loved, and fully forgiven but yet I have Kingdom work to do because this Good News is too good to keep to ourselves.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve come out of this season but I haven’t. I wish I could tell you I felt the chains break on this thing, this anxiety, this fear.

fear that my family won’t full grasp grace and accept the invitation of salvation

fear that death will have a sting and that I won’t be able to handle it or that God won’t really love me the way I thought He would when I reach Him

fear that I will lose everything

fear that I will be alone and single forever and that heartbreak will keep crushing me

fear that our world is falling apart

I know those chains will fall.
I trust they will even though I struggle trusting and I’ve told God that.
1 John speaks the truth I have been desperate for and grappling for the past few weeks…

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put out trust in His love. 

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. IF we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love…” 

1 John 4:16-18 NLT, emphasis mine

And before this it talks about real love as being defined as what God did for us. He sent His perfect, spotless, miracle working Son into the world to take away our sins so that we might have eternal life through Him.

The keyword there is might. Only might because we still can deny Him, we don’t have to choose Him even though he freely and willingly chose us. He cried “tetelestai” which translated from Greek means, “It is finished…” because He finished it all for us.

God’s love is perfect even though ours is imperfect.

So, I hope that if you are sitting here with me and you’re questioning or unsure or overanalyzing that you would just whisper to yourself…

Holy Spirit, consume my thoughts

and that you would ask God to meet you there. Because He’s in the room with you, and He’s in the room with me when I feel like I am about to lose it and when I feel undeniably weak.

Our chains might not be broken yet, but they will be.

His smile destroyed my religion
His love shakes down my prison

-So Much Grace, Beautiful Surrender 

P.S. as for these songs I talked about earlier…the truth is slowly stringing out. I’m processing things slowly and I think this is the only album I will listen to on repeat and not skip around. If you can, go get it for yourself and play it over and over and over again until lyrics like this give you chills and send you messages you desperately need to hear.

You can download the album Beautiful Surrender here.

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