By Heather Spence
Every Sunday I feel like I’m bringing a knot of something with me. It sits in my chest. Like a lead ball, suffocating life. Sometimes I think I can name it. At other times I can’t.
Today I’m calling it failure.
The list in my head that I think I’m failing at is long. It’s pretty brutal as I tally up my perceived shortcomings, my past successes with current changes. I’m in a boxing ring with myself. And I feel paralyzed by it…bloodied and paralyzed.
If I can’t have a little mercy with myself then how can anyone else?
Growing up in a performance based environment it’s hard to live in one’s emotions for long enough to break the cycle of the over-expectation of perfection. I mean…come on…buck up and get on with it! Right? (did you catch the sarcasm there?)
Just the other day I finished The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom’s story about her time in a concentration camp. Okay, that sentence doesn’t do the story justice. Not one iota. This is a story of personal triumph in a God so big he manifests himself over the tyranny of Nazism which consumed nations.
She shared how during the cold winter she would figure out how to get herself and her sister Betsie to the warmest part of the group during roll call. She would use all sorts of reasons in her head for the action but what it boiled down to was that it was still a selfish act. That God required selflessness even in the midst of these miserable conditions.
But then, the selfishness started working itself into other things and soon she became dull to the wonders and workings of our Lord. Only confession renewed her!
And here’s the thought…if she struggled with selfishness in the midst of a concentration camp under inhumane neglect and abuse then how do we, who live so very differently, overcome it??
The other thing she shared near the end of the story was after she was released from the concentration camp and returned to her home she resumed the work of hiding Jews. At least she tried. But it came apparent very quickly that what the Lord had gifted her before was no longer available to her.
Here is where I stand…weighted with failure and fear, paralyzed that I’m not meeting up to the idea of success, that I’ve disappointed people. Looking square in the face all that makes me feel insecure. What am I going to choose? Selfishness that withholds from myself and others? Or will I choose to speak and say out loud, “I feel like a failure! Someone hear me and tell me you understand then hold my hand while I bawl like a baby.” Will I choose to believe that the Lord has a gift that will meet my needs in the place that he has led me to right now? Will I accept that just because it’s different doesn’t make me a failure?
A few weeks ago, while waking up, I had a dream that I was out to dinner with a man (not my husband). We were talking and eating and laughing…I still remember the feelings in my body were total and complete. Sheer acceptance of my person. When I realized what I was watching (because dreams are in third person, right?) my initial response was, “No! That’s wrong!” Then when I looked again I suddenly knew that it was Jesus that I was having dinner with. Not just some ordinary man. When I fully woke these words echoed across my mind, “Jesus, lover of my soul” and I was at rest. Every angry feeling that had been surging through my body simply melted away. I felt deeply loved.
Our counselor told us this last week that we can know something in our heads but our limbic system may not know it. It’s a young place. I’m in a young place right now. Jesus still loves me deeply in this young place where everything feels like it’s spinning out of control. It takes me more time to think and work through all the waterfall of emotions…the defunct coping mechanisms I’ve used my whole life…one can easily feel like failing.
I’m so thankful that the God Corrie ten Boom discovered in the Nazi concentration camps is the same God I’m discovering in my failure and fears. That he is a God who is bigger than…a God whose arms are wider than…a God who loves deeper than…a God who went to the cross so that I could be free in the midst of the hardest things life throws at me all in the same day.
Living out of being loved by God…it’s the gift for me today regardless of how I feel.