Dying a Little Each Day

WHY am I so hard on myself? I wondered in exasperation,
at me in the bathroom mirror, toothbrush dangling from my mouth, studying the
tremendous duffles that had taken up residence under my eyes. They, and the
cursed wrinkles lining my forehead (both of which probably only I notice) told the tale of precious time
wasted in my mind’s laundromat, ruminating over tumbling worries, drying—well, over-analyzing my circumstances to death.
They spoke of years spent struggling to keep all of life’s balls in the air, in
avoidance of my worst fear: succumbing to that dreadful “F” word: Failure.     
My dreary toothbrushing thoughts were sparked by an earlier encounter
with my stressed-less, “don’t worry, be happy” husband, who gawked incredulously
at me for the millionth time since we married, studying my worried countenance
with its furrowed brow, as I verbally beat myself for another of my
mommy-fails. Stopped in his tracks, he said, simply, “It must be miserable to
be you–why are you so hard on
yourself?” That moment of truth, dished up (in love) by my partner in life, was
not pleasant to swallow, let me assure you. But he had a point…sharp and
painful though it was.
Even there before the mirror, going about my innocuous bedtime
routine, in the midst of a soul-searching, Holy Spirit moment, I wouldn’t give
myself a break! Case in point: what
was I trying to prove, and to whom,
exactly?
I’ve been prone my whole life to setting sky-high standards for
myself that no human could reasonably summit. My high-strung, creative,
somewhat melancholy temperament, though God-given and useful for good, makes me
susceptible to a joy-snuffing pursuit of perfection. And a consequential pattern
of failure, frustration, depression, when I inevitably miss my own mark.
In my pensiveness, I often wonder, why am I so intent on
being perfect? Where, along the way, did I take that wrong turn onto the
darkened, briar-lined path of performance-based grace? Abiding in the vine is
just that: life IN THE VINE. Because apart from our Vine, we wither and cease
being fruitful. We require the Vine, because it is our saving grace—the only way we become perfect, redeemed, and
whole. (John 15:5)
There in that moment, as I scrubbed my tartar into
submission with a flattened brush, desperately needing retiring, I sensed the
Lord gently admonishing me, “You don’t have to die for your sins.” Mmm-hmm, Jesus already did—yeah, sure, I
know that.
But did I? Really? At
the heart level? And if so, then, WHY all the agony over the years, fretting
over getting everything just right, trying to do it ALL (and a bang-up job of
it, too), waking in the wee hours to nagging worries and self-authored convictions
(rather, condemnations) that I just wouldn’t hand over to my heavenly Burden-Bearer?
I think it would be safe to say that no, I did NOT know I
didn’t have to die for my sins, at least on some level. Well, now, that realization took me aback like a
two-by-four to the forehead! Me, the one of great faith, the one who supposedly
rested in the Lord’s graceful
embrace, and inspired others to a life of surrender and freedom in Christ? It
was as if I had accepted God’s gift, but left it unwrapped on the mantle, too surreal,
too beautiful to touch.
I had been dying a little each day. And needlessly. This was
NOT the abundant life God promises in His Word.
I believe the self-condemnation affliction is rooted in love amnesia. Sadly, we often forget how
deep and wide God’s love is for us. He, in all His majesty and glory, reaches
down to lavish love on us lowly sinners, the apples of His eye! If we could just
digest the magnitude of this love like no other, seeing ourselves through His
Heavenly lenses, I think we would soften. Relax. Give ourselves a break,
watching our Father love us so tenderly and take such unmitigated delight in
us.
A reading of the Song of Solomon, God’s love letter to us, gifts
the reader with a glorious picture of God’s magnificient love for His children.
“He brought me to the banqueting
house,
and his banner over me was
love.” Song of Solomon 2:4 (NKJV) A study of this Scripture reveals that
banners were plentifully found decorating palaces in the Bible times. However,
the banner in this verse is unique in that it is the only one hanging at this banquet, and it is LOVE. The “Beloved”, or
God, goes on to compare us adoringly to the choicest things He can dream up:
wine, apple trees, fillies in Pharaoh’s army, doves, lilies, delicious fruits, honeycomb,
the moon, and the sun, to name a few.
Consider another example from Scripture. The prodigal son fled
the comforts of home in pursuit of the world, with its glitter and glamour, only
to find that it didn’t deliver. Upon returning to his father, head hung in all
his unworthiness, the son probably expected to be chastised and alienated. “But when he was still a great way off, his
father saw him and had compassion,
and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him…the father said to his servants,
‘Bring out the best robe and put it
on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring
the fatted calf here and kill it,
and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was
lost and is found.’” Luke 15:20-24 (NIV) (Emphasis mine) Once again, the
father’s banner over his son was LOVE.
Are we getting
the picture here? He LOVES us, friends. Like, really, and truly, and fully, in spite of our unattractive
parts, and not because of a darn thing we do! And I submit to you that to reject the one
who God loves, is to reject God.
I am still very much in process of learning what it means to
let go of my proclivity to perform and do
to earn God’s favor. My Maker is steadily chipping away at this part of me,
this dross that only impedes my Christ-like progress. I’m learning to give
myself a stinking break. Living abundantly means basking in God’s grace for me,
an imperfect sinner. There is no sense in wasting precious, abundant living
time, castigating myself for my imperfection. Jesus already went through that,
for you, and for me.
Come to the River…
“THEREFORE, THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN
CHRIST JESUS, BECAUSE THROUGH CHRIST JESUS THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT WHO GIVES LIFE HAS SET YOU FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH.” Romans 8:1-2 (NIV) (Emphasis
mine; I felt the need to shout this one out loud for all to hear!)
“He will take great delight in you; in his LOVE he will no
longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17b
(NIV, Emphasis mine)
Personalize…
Have you, really,
accepted the gift of God’s grace for all that it is? Your ticket to rest and freedom

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