Wednesday, April 12, 2017

By What Measure

"I focus so much on the long term that I miss the here and now 
and the things that God has already changed in me."

This morning in the swHw app, Michelle Myers wrote: "It is impossible to humbly accept God's standard of grace for ourselves while pridefully holding others to a standard of perfection."  Clearly, this is true. If grace is for me, it's for all. But as I wrote it in my journal (because I am forgetful), I started to wonder if the opposite is also true. Meaning: Is it impossible to humbly accept God's grace for others while pridefully holding ourselves to a standard of perfection? Now, we're getting somewhere.

Every month I write monthly, weekly, and daily goals. I do this to steward my time well. Unfortunately as productive as I can be when I'm focused, I can be equally unproductive when I am distracted and think I have more time. True story. The tracking sheet I use has a progress bar and boxes to check so that I can visually see growth. This is wonderful because I'm a visual learner and it makes me feel like I am accomplishing something when I still see other things that need to be done. But what about the boxes that go unchecked? Am I okay with them?

Sort of. Two of them aren't checked off on Sunday and I'm good with that because one of them is for my workout (Sunday is a rest day) and the other is for the devotional app I read and it isn't updated on Sunday. Those two empty slots are fine. But what if I missed another one? Would I be okay with that? If I'm honest, the answer is no.

I strive for perfection in the things that me. Ultimately those things are beneficial for others, particularly the people I live with, but especially for me when it comes to my emotional stability.  And if I'm not doing well? Let's just say you might want to pray that I get an extra dose of Jesus on those days because it's not pretty. But what does that reveal about the condition of my heart?

The truth is, if I am more concerned with meeting a standard of perfection that I have set, I'm pretty much ignoring that God made me His masterpiece to do the work He prepared in advance for me to do. I am famous for saying, "If it doesn't get done, clearly it wasn't on God's agenda" others. Not myself. And if this wasn't a problem that exists beyond my life, there wouldn't be a pretty pink book at Target called Grace, Not Perfection. (yes, I have it.)

So, why is this a problem? If I look at my life, I'd say it's because I don't feel like I deserve God's grace. I know the things I've done, the things I fail to do, the things I want to re-do, and that all makes me certain that I have to earn it. But that's not even remotely Biblical. So how do you stop this madness? How do you stop striving towards something that you can never attain?

While it's incredibly tempting to think there is more to it, I'm beginning to see the answer is prayer.

Just before Jesus is handed over, He tells the disciples to pray that they would not fall into temptation. (Luke 22:39,46) Why? Because He knew how easy it would be for it to happen.

If we can take an honest look at ourselves and see our weak spots, can't we also specifically pray for them? And if we can, do we? I know I don't. I figure if I know them and I am consciously aware of them, then I should be able to handle them when they cause trouble. But if that were the case, that I could truly do it on my own, I wouldn't need Jesus (which clearly I do), I wouldn't need His Spirit to guide me (and without that I'd be completely lost), and I wouldn't need the promises of God to cling to when things get rough.

As a woman, I tend to be hard on myself. I focus so much on the long term that I miss the here and now and the things that God has already changed in me. And since He is the one that provides the growth, I should not be hyperfocused on making it happen myself. I need to start believing that when He said that He will finish what He started, He actually will. And if He didn't give me a timeline with a completion date, the last thing I should do is decide one myself.

Jesus, more than anything You want me to follow You and go at Your pace. Teach me how to slow down and enjoy the journey You are taking me on instead of striving towards a goal You didn't set. You asked me to run the race, You didn't tell me to map out the course and determine the appearance of the finish line. I'm sorry that I've rejected Your grace for me and traded it in for the idea of perfection. Help me to accept it now as the gift You always intended it to be. Amen.

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