It’s easy to get stuck in the rat race of life, always running faster and faster, trying to keep up. We hear every voice and message that vies for our attention, telling us to be more of this and less of that in our image, career, marriage or relationship, and friendships. We get stuck when we buy in and dive headlong into pursuits of anything other than Jesus. When we get sucked into these empty pursuits, we find ourselves trying, doing, pleasing, and perfecting until we’re nearly dead.
The pull to perform, to try harder, and be better in every arena of my life is something I have always felt very strongly. If I wasn’t doing well, then I needed to try harder. If I was doing well, then I could still do better. There was no state of ‘enough’ that was attainable. There was always room to be smarter, faster, thinner, and better. But no one can live like this forever. It’ll suck the life right out of you, leave you dried up, empty, and never feeling quite good enough. It is that deeply felt, crazy making feeling of not being enough that can drive us to extremes.
In high school I struggled with an eating disorder and engaged in really destructive behaviors and thought patterns. The thoughts that were infecting my mind seeped out into my behavior and, as is with many negative behaviors, the behavior became the focal point. Actions are the easiest to spot; they’re the easiest things to ‘fix.’ I spent months in and out of doctor’s appointments, seeing nutritionist and counselors. There came a point in the recovery process that I was ‘normal’ in terms of weight and daily calorie consumption, but a behavior can only be curbed for so long if the mind and thought processes are not rewired.
It’s no real surprise that my eating disorder resurfaced again during my college years. When it resurfaced, it was apparent very quickly that this was not going to be a quick fix this time around. It wasn’t as simple as stopping the destructive behaviors and negative thoughts. There was some fundamental rewiring of my mind and heart that would have to take place only in the tender and gentle hands of Jesus.
Life was no longer about what I did or didn’t do. It wasn’t about trying harder, doing more, being better; it was about letting grace win out. For the first time, grace began to wash over me in a way that left me feeling like I was drowning in its beautiful depths.
That’s what grace does; it leaves you helpless, it renders all your devices and tactics useless. Grace makes it impossible to continue performing. Grace obstructs your pursuit for perfection. Grace at its very essence cannot be earned or lost. It’s nature is so vast that it cannot be measured or quantified.
Learning that I am loved, wholly, truly, fully, deeply, and passionately loved for who I am, not what I do or don’t do, is what began he work of rewiring my heart and mind. The harsh black and white of legalism, perfectionism, and endless striving begins to fade into gray hues of grace.
Everyday I wake up, I still have to set down my list, turn over my agenda, relinquish my perfectionistic tendencies, and let grace be enough so that I don’t have to try to be. It’s messy but so beautiful. It’s freeing and maddening yet altogether so incredibly worth it to live a life where, in the words of Anne Lamott, ‘grace bats last.’