Hello, blog world! I’m Sara. I’m equal parts terrified and excited to meet you. Blog world, you are altogether new to me, filled with possibility and opportunity. In you, I am sure I will find both rejection and acceptance, doubt and confidence, fear and faith.
As I embark on this journey with what I must be the most clunky and awkward first post in the history of the world (or so it feels to me), this is the truth to which I am clinging:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Writing, like everything else good in life, is an act of obedience to my Father in Heaven. In His infinite mercy and due to no merit of my own, God has made me His workmanship. But I am not the end of the story. He didn’t make me His workmanship so I can be a trophy on His shelf. No, He has prepared good works for me to do—specific purposes and callings and opportunities to bring Him glory. I am simply to walk in them.
So here I am, walking into the call to write. I have received no promises for how you will receive my words, my heart on a web-page. Yet, I am not without hope for I am wrapped in the promises of the Lord. As I step out into the great, unknown blogosphere, I am not alone.
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Let me start with a confession, or rather, an ongoing struggle. I am a recovering achiever.
For as long as I can remember, I have been achieving, setting high standards and jumping higher to reach them, doing whatever it takes to be successful. Honestly (and I mean this with all sincerity), I am great at it. By most every external standard, I am near perfect. Good grades. Varsity sports. Ministry leadership. Honor council. Competitive corporate job. Loving wife. Social and driven and thoughtful and put together. Achieving makes me feel powerful, secure, and in control…if only for a moment.
Something that accompanies my achiever’s personality is my desire to do and earn and work. If something needs to be done, I do it. If there is a problem, I fix it. If there is a need, I fill it. I don’t stop until everything is under control, my control. Achievers, like me, are responsible, competent, and reliable.
When an achiever is also a Christian, the tower of expectations grows up and out. I try my best to keep up with the outward moral imperatives. I work hard to display a loving, humble, servant-minded, others-oriented heart. I can preach amazing grace and unconditional love to those around me with conviction, but for so long they didn’t seem to take root in my own heart.
Is any of this sounding familiar?
What we, achievers, don’t tell you is that we are drowning in our responsibilities, swimming in a sea of our shame. There is no off switch for achievers – we drink up everyone’s expectations, throw down the shame and guilt, and hope it motivates us to keep going like a toxic, Christian energy drink.
In reality, we are exhausted. Our busyness, our lengthy to-do lists, our frantic living all find root in a lie. We hurry and work through life because we want to prove and believe that we are loved, worthy, and enough. Somewhere inside, we remain unconvinced that grace is truly a free gift and we wonder if God is really all we need.
For me, the exhaustion and busyness was only a symptom of a life-threatening disease that had taken over my heart. What someone could see on the outside by looking at my schedule and deducing my stress level was only the fringes of the storm going on inside me.
I needed to be good for God. I needed to be impressive to you. Mostly, I needed to feel in control for me.
Over the years of achieving, I had built a machine where a young girl once stood. You see, machines don’t make mistakes.
But one day, the machine stopped working properly. I was still doing the same things on the outside, but I became numb inside, fearful and distrustful and angry. I couldn’t shake the aching loneliness. I couldn’t connect with those I loved most. Joy and peace seemed out of reach, like memories becoming more fuzzy as they fade into the distance.
God, in His kindness, rescued me. When my achieving life had used up all I had and left me hungry—deeply and profoundly hungry—He took me to the feasting table and told me of abundant life.
He told me of a new way of living, by receiving from Him instead of going to get it (whatever it is) on my own. I learned that God doesn’t want a machine. He wants a daughter (Ephesians 1:5). He rejoices when I am dependent, not perfect (John 15:5). He is glorified when I trust, not when I work hard on my own (Romans 15:13). He does not tire of providing more abundantly than I could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)
Ellie Holcomb put it this way in her song, “You are Loved”:
“Well He knew before you ever took a breath / There’d be days when you’d forget / How beautiful He made you / But you are loved, oh / Not because of what you’ve done, no / Even when your heart has run the other way / Nothing gonna change His love / And you are wanted / Not because you are perfect / I know you don’t think you’re worth that kind of grace / But look into His face you’ll know / That you are loved”
So I am on a journey to become a receiver. When I started this journey, receiving looked like quiet reflection, prayer, stillness. Where I am now, receiving is a disciplined exercise and a counter-cultural choice in the midst of a crazy world, not apart from it.
Receiving requires me to flex the underutilized muscle of trust by daring to watch and wait instead of get up and busy myself. Receiving has freed me to look for what God is doing instead of placing the responsibility on my own shoulders.
Leaving behind a life of achieving in favor of a life of receiving has come at the cost of my control. I can’t keep insisting on my way and fixing my eyes on my own hands while also experiencing the freedom and peace of knowing my Provider and King. It doesn’t work that way.
But let me tell you, it is worth it. It is worth it every day. Feeling in control is a cheap substitute for being safe in my Father’s arms, even when the road ahead seems dangerous and unknown.
In this blog, I guarantee you will see this message as a theme. I can write this post, for the most part, in the present tense because I am sharing my struggle today, my temptation even still to achieve instead of receive.
My encouragement to you is to receive God’s invitation to begin again, to reject the achieving life that has promised you abundance and left you shame ridden and dry, and to experience the freedom and peace of receiving. Together, we will let God be God and learn how to be His beloved children.