I imagine perfection as the color blue, light & icy. At first, it appears to be a positive motivator to work hard but slowly chokes me with cold lies that I am incompetent and lousy. Perfection leaves no room for mistakes.
I imagine excellence as the color green, vibrant & spring-like. It’s a constant reminder in my face, pushing me to move forward to grow in all areas of life. Excellence allows for learning, often times from failures.
My intrapersonal dialogue jumps back and forth between icy blue and bright green, changing like Arkansas weather. Some days, I can encourage myself to live confidently because of the change I’ve seen in my life. Others, I burden myself by replaying negative scenarios while asking how I can change. What’s wrong with this process? My motivation to perform well is unhealthy.
Often, the motivation that pushes me to live righteously is performance focused, rather than living out of God’s love. I find myself setting high expectations to meet the needs of my responsibilities. I sacrifice sleep to complete a design project. I give up extra social events to build community on my hall. I replace time in the Word with emailing authorities. In this lifestyle, I exhaust myself by living to fulfill my expectations, even God-honoring ones.
I am learning that freedom from obligations comes when I live in the outpour of God’s perfect love. His love is enough to satisfy my deepest needs. He fills my cup with forgiveness and grace. When I work hard to push forward out of a deep appreciation for God’s love, it is natural. Giving to others from an overflow of God’s love means surrendering my burdens to God & carrying His “yoke [that] is easy and…light” (Matthew 11:30.) Choosing to work hard out of motivation from the Gospel creates space for grace that I can choose to extend towards myself.
I find hope in the Gospel described in Matt Maher’s song Lord I Need You,
“When sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me”
As I feel burdened by my sin, I recognize that God’s grace extends beyond my failures. As I accept His grace for my mistakes, I find Him. As I find my Gracious Father, I am set free from obligation. As I am set free, I am reminded it is all by Christ Jesus’ holiness in me.