A Word about Grace

Grace Requires Nothing of Me

“The list goes on forever
of all the ways I could better
in my mind.
As if I could earn God’s favor given time
or at least ‘congratulations.’

Now I have learned my lesson
the price of this so-called perfection
is everything.
I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”
– “Atlas: One” by Sleeping at Last

(A young friend, Kat Lovell, shares a clear word from God regarding grace.)

The words of this song brought a serious, much-needed perspective shift to my life last week. They were first read aloud to me by a friend while I sat on her bed and cried as I shared the frustrations sitting on my heart. Throughout the week I continued to pull the lyrics up, quietly considering them again and again.These are the words that stuck out to me, that really hit home: “Grace requires nothing of me.”

Hearing those words felt like remembering something that I had almost forgotten––something very important. It felt like waking up. So, some context: I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist for years. I used to think that I simply had high expectations for myself, and that it was a good thing (and don’t get me wrong, that can be a good thing). However, there is a major pitfall to all those expectations, and it really sneaks up on you.

Here’s what happened, as a result of my perfectionism: I developed this image of who I thought I should be, and whenever I didn’t live up to that image, I criticized myself relentlessly. I was always trying to be “enough.” Kind enough, smart enough, thoughtful enough, good enough. To be the perfect teacher, friend, student––everything. And when I didn’t feel “enough,” I berated myself and tried harder. But that didn’t make me better––it just made me a tired, striving, burnt-out girl.

By beating myself up for perceived imperfections, I had become subconsciously convinced that God would not really love me unless I was perfect. But oh, how far that is from the truth.

We say “comparison is the thief of joy” a lot. It’s easy to notice comparison when you’re comparing yourself to another person and judging your qualities against theirs. But a more subtle type of comparison comes when we are judging ourselves against the person we’re convinced that we should be. But grace does not require us to be perfect in order to receive it. It is so good to recognize weaknesses, and to seek growth in those areas. But when your full focus is on your own weakness, that can so easily become how you define yourself.

Habbakuk 3 says:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
YET I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Worth does not come from success.
Value does not come from accomplishments.
Purpose does not come from a completed to-do list.

There will still be crappy days, low grades, cranky moods, gloomy skies. And if you and I are trying to glean satisfaction from ourselves and what we can do on our own––we’re going to feel like straight-up failures. But when our worth/value/purpose/joy comes from knowing that there is a God who is with us and doing such great, wonderful things in us, even when we don’t feel it? THAT brings a sweet relief and a calm that whispers into the gloom: “It’s okay. I AM enough. Trust Me.”

To live a life that speaks a message of grace, we must first have grace with ourselves. Self-betterment is a good goal––but that doesn’t mean pushing yourself down whenever you mess up. It means looking at your messy places with compassion. It means seeing yourself exactly as you are, and saying: “I am not all that I think I should be. But I am also not who I once was. I am growing. I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately,
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”

 

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