Monday, 31 August 2015

The blessing in saying you're sorry

I have been known to be more than a little judegemental of my friends. I'm ashamed to admit it but also oddly grateful as it reminds just how much I need God's grace. Like, seriously. 

I remember a pastor saying that if we ever knew what really goes through his mind we wouldn't want to be his friend. I imagine the same is true for all of us at times. It certainly applies to me. 

For a long time I judged one friend in particular. I held her up to a particular standard and made her feel condemned when she didn't meet it. She became a Christian a few years ago (hallelujah!) but has gone through dry periods, as we all do, and had to deal with family opposition to her new found faith.

As I learnt more about God I had this expectatinon that she should have learnt more too. She should know that lying to your parents is wrong, that you should go to church and spending time with God was more important than study.

Basically I was saying to her, "Why can't you be as righteous as me??" Praise God that I can laugh at myself now. It's completely ridiculous.

Many of you will be familiar with Jesus' parable about judging others in Matthew 7:

'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.' (Matthew 7: 1-5, emphasis added)

And let me tell you, I had a whopping great plank in my eye. 

As a consequence of this we were drifting apart. It was quite painful and I judged her for that too, thinking she was being inconsiderate and didn't really care about me (hello Rejection Monster). 

So fabulous. 

The truth is my "holier-than-thou" nonsense had alientaed her and, understandably, it was harder for her to relate to me as I kept riding around on my horse Self-Righteousness (fun fact: she actually rides horses, unlike me). 

So what changed? 

To be honest I'm not entirely sure. For a while my parents had been calling me out on my judegemental attitudes, but I put up my defensive shields and hid behind my hurt. Eventually though God, through His Holy Spirit, led me to a place of repentance.

As we caught up for lunch one day she told me, somewhat defiantly, that she wasn't going to meet up with a mutual friend for a Bible study. I felt my usual disappointment and muttered something about understanding but hope she does it anyway, blah, blah, blah. By the way, nothing wrong with those statements but trust me when I tell you that my heart was not in the right place.

I decided to talk to her in greater depth about her decision towards the end of our lunch. I prayed
 silently that God would grant me wisdom and help me to be loving (at least part of me knew I was 
doing something wrong!). When it came time for that little chat I found an entirely different speech emerging from my mouth.

I talked about our friendship, that I cared about her and I knew she cared about me. I said that I still
wanted to be friends and how she felt was important to me. The upshot was that for the first time in a long time she was able to open up to me.

She explained that she often felt like she was disappointing me when she missed church, for example, and that made her feel bad. She felt like she couldn't really talk to me and it wasn't that she didn't care about me but that she didn't want to be judged, 

"I'm sorry." 

Those words mean so much. When we come before God and say "I'm sorry" we are entering into a place of forgiveness and ultimately greater freedom from sin. I was so blessed to be able to apologise to my friend and be forgiven. God is good!!!

What about you? Do you have any stories of forgiveness you'd like to share? 

Photo credit:
1. Image by QuotesEverlasting. Used under CC license
2. The Mote and The Beam by Domencio Fetti via Wikipedia. Public domain. 
3. Image by copyDude101. Used under CC license

Monday, 17 August 2015

Writing the "perfect" post

I remember reading Rachel Madden's post on this topic and just getting it, you know? It made so much sense to a fellow (recovering) perfectionist. I want to have the perfect post, a beautifully crafted manuscript of exquisite aesthetic value (getting my money's worth out of that thesaurus ;) ).

I'm almost drooling thinking about it. Sigh...

Perfectionism is a pretty lie. It reminds me of a South American Dart Frog. Those vibrant colours are gorgeous but they are oh so deadly, much like the toxicity of perfectionism I discussed a few weeks ago. 

So, if I can't write the perfect post what can I do? 

There's the usual tips, like breaking up dense text with pictures. You can see in my earlier posts that I didn't always add images but now Creative Commons is one of my bestest friends :)

But really this post is about not worrying and giving up the desire to be perfect. Sorry.

Let peace, rather than worry, rule your heart.

Collaboratively I bet we could write pages and pages of the little tips and tricks we know about blogging and writing a killer post. But how often do we say "don't worry about it?" I don't mean in that namby pamby blasé way but a down to earth, God centred plea to just stop worrying. Seriously. Stop. 

My second semester started a few weeks ago so my blog has gone on the backburner for a while. This is generally considered to be a reasonable thing to do but it's still been a nagging worry.

Instead of getting on with my studies I'm wasting energy worrying. I'm constantly justifying my actions and reminding myself why blogging can wait another day, another week (or two.. *cough*). But it feels like I'm letting someone down. I don't think it's a specific person, more likely that nasty idol of perfectionism

Me, hiding from the nasty idol. 

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3: 3-7)

Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). Through Him we are freed from those passions and pleasures and by working out our salvation (Philippians 2: 12) we become more like Him: righteous, holy and sanctified. 

My prayer: Lord, let us no longer be deceived but earnestly seek your face, to walk the narrow path and be filled and renewed by your Holy Spirit. 

God bless and have a wonderful week (or two/three/until I have a breather from study)! Oh and, as a moment by moment lesson in letting go, I accidentally lost half this post . . . half of my beautiful, exquisite post *sob.*

Photo credit:
1. Image by Sascha Gebhardt. Used under CC license
3. Image by black panther. Public domain. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Shaking the hold of perfectionism

I used to see perfectionism as something of a virtue. It was one of those qualities you'd admit with a wry smile and a quiet chuckle. It wasn't a bad thing per se. Sure it could be a little exasperating for people around you at times, and that was unfortunate, but it was just part of you. You couldn't help it, right? 

We should come with a warning label. Seriously.

In the past I would meet such admissions from my fellow perfectionists with that same wry smile. But more recently I have responded with a sad expression and a shake of the head. Whether or not I actually say it aloud I have come to the stunning conclusion, by the grace of God, that perfectionism is just no good for you. 

In fact it's toxic. As toxic as any other sin. 

A lot of Christians around the blogosphere write about perfectionism. I was surprised by this as my perfectionism had seemed unique. Turns out I was wrong... Again. 

But I suppose that feeling of uniqueness is what happens when something becomes, or seems to become, part of you and your personality. It is so ingrained that you can't imagine life without it. It's unique, it's special, it's ME. 

So why would I throw a piece of myself away? 

That bring me back to my original point about perfectionism being rooted in sin. The easiest way to see it is the standards we set for ourselves, and more importantly why we set them so high. 

We believe that our lives must be perfect. We must achieve the perfect grades, be the perfect friend, family member or romantic partner. Getting something "wrong" is a disaster, a blemish upon our record. And just to clarify "wrong" is defined as anything less than perfection.

Our value and self-worth lies in getting everything right (perfect) and we will bend ourselves over backwards to achieve this. Take the example of when I was determined to get both of my friends to church, even though dad had told me we could only take one. I had to be a "good" friend and couldn't stand to be seen as anything less than exceptional. 

In all of this you can see I'm something of a silly goose but that whole toxic sin part may not be obvious so I'll make it clear: In seeking perfection I am living in rebellion against God. I am embracing the lie that I that I can save myself. Afterall all I had to was get everything "right." Jesus is great and all but I can do this on my own, thanks all the same. The consequence of this is that I am telling God "your love and your salvation is not enough." Rejecting God and His truth is living in rebellion

Perfectionism has had a hold on me for a long time. It's hard to let go. But I remember those moments of brokeness before God where I've told Him how much I hate it, that I despise it and curse it as sin. God hates our sin, but He loves us. It may sound odd but I want to hate my sin more than I want to hold onto it. 

So how am I shaking the hold of perfectionism? By choosing to hate it and love God and His way more. His way is the narrow path, where I must daily crucify my flesh and choose to follow Him. At this point putting to death perfectionism feels like I'm killing part of myself but even then... I don't want it anymore.

Photo credit:
1. Image by geralt. Public domain. 
2. Image by Anthony Will photos. Used under CC license
3. Image by benhewittcreative. Used under CC license
4. Image by jill111. Public domain.