At the beginning of the year, I wrote a heart-felt post about the word reliance and how I felt compelled to choose it as my personal theme for 2015. I had a slim idea I would be challenged by this term at some point. But we are never fully prepared for what life will bring us, are we?
I am learning to be reliant – fully reliant – on God means to surrender all I depend on, all I cling to and all I find comfort in. I am becoming more acutely aware of how I can so easily depend on daily things to get me through: my health, my kids’ behavior or accomplishments, the state of cleanliness within my home, the amount of sleep I get, my alone time, my coffee, my ability to buy new things, how many deep connections I have. None of these are bad and none of these will necessarily be taken away from me if I surrender them. But I am learning the importance of asking myself, “Am I willing to give this up?” and “Do I believe God could be enough for me if I didn’t have this?” After all, God wants my heart and He wants to be my firm foundation from which everything else in my life is built upon.
Can you guess how this has been going for me? To say the least, it’s been difficult, challenging, uncomfortable and clarifying. Admittedly, I’ve even told my husband, “I think I want off this train…”. Of course I don’t actually mean this. It’s my way of expressing how I’m being pressed and challenged. It’s my way of saying the honest truth: some days it feels harder than anything to give up what I want, in exchange for what God’s asking of me.
One reason it has stretched me is because I struggle with perfectionism. I want things to look and be perfect all the time. I don’t want messy, unplanned, chaos or mistakes. When those things present themselves, I feel out of control, drained, angry and sometimes even resentful. I’m being confronted by my resistance to surrender to God, my limited human capacity and my desire for control. And let me tell you: when my humanness (my angry, drained or resentful reactions to these things) spews out and all over my husband, my kids, myself, or the innocent bystander… it’s all very un-beautiful.
I am understanding, to an even deeper level, how God persistently and un-intrusively stands beside me through it all. He taps me on the shoulder, puts His arm around me and invites me to stop striving, white-knuckling, clenching and expecting the imperfect to be perfect. God’s offer to bathe in reliance on Him seems to be about learning to surrender everything I so desperately want to hold to and enter into His freedom. The human-y part of me hates this idea. The spirit part of me is entranced by it. And on lots of days it feels hard. I guess because it’s hard to teach a “clencher”, a striver, a perfectionist how to just be.
I find it no coincidence that the words “free” and “freedom” have been pulsing through my mind on repeat and echoing through my being on the daily. Reliance. Surrender. Freedom. All are connected. All are a bidding into deeper relationship with Jesus. And right when I seem to be getting the rhythm of leaning into a posture of surrender – of unclenching my jaw, prying open my fingers, and learning to breathe – I get tripped up. I fall back into my carnal mode of pressing to make the imperfect, perfect. I get mad and want to give up because the journey to freedom is freaking hard. But I like what Henri Nouwen said in his book The Inner Voice of Love,
And that’s when I have start over. I have to begin again.
Each time I bravely choose to take a breath and begin again, God reminds me, “I am with you. Do not be afraid.” And I return to His invitation to stop trying to make the imperfect, perfect and just see the beauty that already exists.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together – spirit, soul and body – and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” – 1 Thess. 5:23-24