A week before Easter Sunday, Todd Wagner, one of the pastors at Watermark Community Church stated, “People say what they think and do what they believe.” Oof. That hit deep.
I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that while I “know” a lot of things, I don’t really believe them. There have been several instances this past semester where my actions proved that although my head knows something, my heart hasn’t fully grasped the truth. In other words, I’ve realized that while I say I believe a lot of things, my actions say otherwise.
As someone who is more of a thinker and less of a feeler, it’s typical of me to intellectually understand the truth of something but not really internalize it. Last semester I discovered that while I understood my identity is in Christ, I never really believed it. I sang songs in church about being a child of God, but my tendency to perform and people please proved that I found my identity in my accomplishments, achievements, and the opinions of others, not Christ.
The same was true about my trust in God. Although I said I trusted Him in all things, my tendency to hold onto money with a tight fist and overthink every little dollar I spent told a different story.
In both of these instances, I was relying on myself: my performance, my abilities, my actions, my diligence. While this resulted in a whole slew of problems, I want to talk about the two most prevalent: perfectionism and self-dependence.
While I’ve always been a perfectionistic, independent individual at heart, these thought patterns and destructive habits have showed up more than ever in the past few weeks. Although I’ve always taken a strange sense of pride in these two characteristics, I’ve come to see them as fatal flaws.
Perfectionism is a disease, one I have suffered from all my life. It is at the root of my anxiety and OCD. It results in a constant feeling that nothing is ever good enough, including myself, and causes me to inevitably feel like a failure when I don’t meet my unattainable standards. A couple Fridays ago I had a mental breakdown because of all the pressure I was putting myself under. I had applications to finish, books to read, a job to go to, papers to write — the list goes on.
As if a heavy workload isn’t stressful enough, I was also subconsciously expecting perfection from myself. My applications had to impress the reader and make me stand out from the rest; Every page of every book needed to be read, annotated, and fully understood; I had to be asleep at the “right” time in order to be well rested for my 5:00 am shifts; my papers had to impress my professors and show off my writing skills.
I felt like my time was running out and that there weren’t enough hours in the day to complete everything to my standard. And, well, that’s because there wasn’t. I realized the problem wasn’t a lack of time to finish everything, it was my incessant need to finish everything with absolute perfection.
My mom consoled me the day of my breakdown, as she always does, and made me realize how internalized this notion of perfection was ingrained in me and also how much anxiety it was bringing me.
She asked that afternoon, “Do you trust God?” I answered, “Yes.” To which she responded with her typical tough love approach, “Well obviously not if this is happening!” (I don’t remember her exact words but that is the gist.)
Her words got me thinking. If I claimed to truly trust God, why was I depending on myself so much? Why was I depending on my performance and abilities? Why was I putting so much pressure on myself instead of casting my cares on God? Why is it so hard for me to simply rest in knowing that not everything I do has to be done with perfection?
It’s times like these that I need God’s grace the most. Ephesians 2:8, a verse I have heard many times before and have memorized reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
As mentioned, I’ve heard this verse countless times before. And lately, I’ve let myself forget the weight of these words and the important, life-giving truth they hold: I will never be enough, but I don’t have to be because He is. (Thank you, Jesus!)
If you find yourself in a similar pickle, then I suggest meditating on the wonderful truth that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
It takes time and effort to internalize a truth. It takes diligence and persistence. If I don’t continually remind myself of my identity in Christ, I start measuring my worth by my performance and achievements and the opinions of others. If I fail to ask myself each day whether I truly trust that “God works for the good of those who love him,” all my peace is gone and I’m left depending on my own strength again.
So moving forward, I hope you’ll join me in pursuing peace through a renewed mindset: one that not only knows, but fully believes and walks in the truth that Jesus is enough: His death, His resurrection, His perfection.
Grace and peace,
Little side note: The title of this blog is a lyric taken from Sleeping At Last’s song about the Enneagram type 1 (which I am). The song is simply titled “One.”