Cracking the shell

My three year old son, Ben, is in a frustrating stage right now– and it’s frustrating for all of us, I might add, including the cat. He wants to zip up his coat himself, but two seconds later, he’s crying for me to do it. He wants to open his own yogurt cup, but then claims he can’t do it. He wants to put on his own shoes, but then begs me to put them on for him. He’s a walking paradox, wanting to be his own person at the same time he wants us to do things for him because he is convinced he can’t do them.  Needless to say, it creates some very tense and unproductive moments in our house (especially when we’re trying to get out the door to some appointment!).

I’ve realized something recently, though– or maybe I should say I’ve realized it AGAIN, because I think I’ve known this about myself for a while– I’m also a walking paradox.  I push against closed doors, scream and cry when I’m not given enough freedom, while at the same time I hesitate to make decisions and take less when I’m offered more. I am more certain today of who I am and what God has created me to be and do, but I’m also more intimidated by the consequences of my actions now than I was when I was in my twenties. I’ve made mistakes. I know what happens when I screw things up.

I never would have categorized myself as a “people pleaser.” I’m way too opinionated and stubborn for that label. I’m a rebel of sorts, and I’ll question assumptions and ask ‘why’ until people are ready to throw me out the window. But someone said to me recently that my thirst for affirmation is holding me back, seriously holding me back… from fuller and more effective ministry, from truly living into my calling. And she’s right.

To be honest, it’s more than that (and I think she knows this, too). Underneath my outgoing, confident shell, is a very frightened girl. She’s afraid of failure and rejection, yes, but she’s also afraid of success. “To whom more is given, more is expected.”  If I gain success, there’s more to lose when I fail the next time. I don’t trust myself.

I was on a seminary retreat this weekend and was praying about some of these things, and I realized the extent of the self-centeredness of this whole line of thinking. I like being self-reflective, but I do not like how self-absorbed I become when I start thinking in terms of success and failure. Because here’s the thing: Who the hell cares, either way?  My life is really NOT crucial to the world! What matters is my First Love, my Lord and His Kingdom. As I become less focused on my job, my job performance, my success or failure, I will be more focused on His Mission to reconcile the world to Himself.

Our retreat speaker gave us a beautiful breath-prayer that I will be using this week:

(breathe in) There is Another

(breathe out) Who lives in me

(in) There is Another

(out) Who completes me

(in) There is Another

(out) Whose righteousness is my own

It’s not about me– how well I do, how I am received, accepted or rejected. Christ lives in me, He completes me and His Kingdom has come, is coming and will come– no matter what I do, this is true. Blessed be His Name!

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