I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I loathe mistakes, somewhat in other people, but most definitely in myself. If I can’t be the best or do something perfectly, I won’t even try.
Pitiable, but true.
In high school, I quit trigonometry after one week because I received an F on my first quiz. Talk about utter failure.
I once rollerbladed 2 miles on rolling country hills when it was 95 degrees outside, while wearing jeans, without calling my mom to come get me because I didn’t want to admit failure.
I’ve never learned to play an instrument for many reasons, but the biggest was because I couldn’t abide the thought of not being good enough.
I dropped out of Spanish in college because there were people in my class with whom I knew I couldn’t compete.
Decorating sugar cookies are definitely out of the question for me…..
These examples are funny (and pathetic!), but the truth is that while there are many powerful forces in the human race, fear is one of the strongest, as well as one of the most dangerous.
Fear makes us say things that might not be fully true. Fear makes us do things we don’t want to do. Fear also makes us not say things that should be said or it can keep us from doing things that need to be done. Fear affects all of us, but fear combined with perfectionism is especially dangerous.
Fear keeps us from being free. It keeps me from being free. It keeps you from being free.
For years, I have secretly longed to write publicly, but I never acted on my desire for…yep, fear of not being good enough, for fear of not being noticed, for fear of wasting my time, for fear of wasting other people’s time, even for the fear of making grammatical errors! I get so distracted looking at other people’s successes that my own desire to write, seemed pathetic at best. Chris would often encourage me by saying that I should simply write for me and not worry about if other people liked it or even read it.
Of course that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to be good at it, but because I was afraid of not being enough, I didn’t.
A few weeks ago, Chris and I were listening to “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller (on an unrelated note – Read It! Best book on marriage we have ever read!), and one of his quotes struck a chord in me that changed my whole thought process on the subject.
“People choose not to do things because they want to be original, but the majority of the time, if they would just do them, they would actually find that they are indeed original.”
As I considered the potential truth of Keller’s statement, I was reminded of what Paul taught in Philippians 2:1-18. Take a look at those verses with me.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (2:1-2)
Paul starts out by saying that because we have all received love and comfort and fellowship and all those other wonderful things that we enjoy by being in fellowship with the body of Christ, therefore do the same to others. Be unified in the body of Christ by loving and serving each other just as you have been loved on and served. For me that specifically translated to how I have received many blessings from reading other authors, listening to speakers, and I’ve even cried tender tears while reading blog posts.
Just as I have been encouraged and loved on, so should I encourage and love on the body of Christ!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (2:3-5)
Paul continues to talk about how we should go about walking in unity with the Body in verse 3.
With all humility.
Trust me, when I was all worried about not being enough in my writing attempts, I wasn’t giving a single thought to anyone except me! Instead, my attitude should have been the same as Christ when He displayed the ultimate example of humility by literally “making Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and humbling Himself to obedience to death – even death on a cross!” (2:6-9)
Because of Christ’s supreme example of giving up Himself for the good of the Body, Paul encourages us to continue “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12) Not that we should be terrified of God, but that we can live and work and love and serve within the Body because of how greatly Christ did the same for us.
This calls us into action with deep love and respect for the graciousness of a God who loved without boundaries!
I love verse 13 where Paul reminds us “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
We aren’t serving and loving Him and the Bride of Christ on our own strength and power. I’m not blogging on my own strength. I’m not growing my kids in faith on my own. You aren’t leading that women’s group alone. It’s not based on your ability to grow your marriage. God hasn’t called us to these things because He wants to see just how well we can do on our own. Not at all. He knows we can’t do a thing without Him.
But He still asks us to do it relying on His strength to work in and through us. Why? Why even use frail human beings at all?
“So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” (2:15-16)
God’s answer, through the writings of Paul, is two-fold. One, for our own sanctification – which is just a big, churchy word meaning the process by which God grows us and shapes us and literally transforms us to becoming more like Him. Being more like Jesus actually makes us shine like stars in the universe (where the universe is the crooked and depraved world we all live in). That is awesome! Secondly, we are called to be unified in the Body, in the way that He has uniquely called each of us so that we might “hold out the word of life” for others to see.
We are His witnesses when we love like He loves. We aren’t only Shining His Light; we are Sharing His light!
All of this is summed up in the last nine priceless words of this passage:
That I did not run or labor for nothing.
One of the biggest fears that plague many, including me, is worrying that what we do won’t matter. That we will put forth all of this effort and it will be a waste.
No one will read my blog; no one will be encouraged.
No one will come to that women’s Bible study.
No one will join my devotional group.
My neighbor won’t come to church if I invite her.
My kids will make poor choices even if I do the hard work of parenting.
My husband won’t listen to me even if I choose to love on him.
Those one-liners don’t come from the God who called you out and crafted you and created you for a unique purpose within his Church. They come from the enemy. And they aren’t worth another second of your time or mine.
This year, amidst all of our resolution making and habit changing, let’s decide together not to let fear be our constant companion. I don’t know about you, but I would love a chance to shine like a star in the universe and to know beyond all doubt that, if I’m following the heart of the One who loves me and gave Himself for me, that I absolutely will not labor or run in vain. The odds don’t get better than that!
Join me! Let’s shine together as we serve boldly and bravely for Jesus in 2014 and beyond, leaving the enemy of Fear far in our past.
As always, I would love to hear from you. What are some fears that plague you? What have you wrestled with long enough? What would you love to jump out and do, but fear has you pinned back? I would love to pray for you specifically as you take the leap to love and serve because you have been boundlessly loved!