How Then Shall We Live?, Identity

Striving: For Breath & For Rest

The beginning of this semester was awesome for me. I loved my classes, I was on top of all my assignments, I was getting 7+ hours of sleep every night, and I had a certain amount of free time to see my friends.

I had so much energy and drive that I was actually working ahead in all of my classes. Not only did I feel good about my grades, but I also felt good about myself. I forgot what a break felt like- I was accustomed to “overworking” myself (even though it didn’t feel like it) and not taking much time to rest.

Then Fall Break came, and for the first time in months I let myself breathe. That breath turned into twenty breaths, and then I kept breathing until a deathly, overly dramatic gasp escaped me on Tuesday night.

I found myself completely taken aback at all the time I had wasted and all the homework I had due the next day. My resolve turned from “finish well and before schedule” to “get it done five minutes before it’s due.” I started struggling to get things done, losing my initiative to start projects (or finish them), and just feeling really weighed down.

I’ve felt like that ever since then- no perseverance, no satisfaction, no hope. I really don’t want to do much of anything, especially assignments, and I don’t get any satisfaction from the things I end up completing. Instead of finding joy in learning, I find myself checking the time in every class… in theory, in worship, in chapel, in voice lessons.

I’ve been spending my free time alone, trying to get rest, but it’s never satisfying. Without good grades to give myself worth, and without spending time with friends to tell me I’m loved and appreciated, I feel empty. I feel like I’ve lost my identity as a good student and a good friend.

I feel lost. 

I don’t know how to change myself and I don’t want to put in the effort to try. If I can’t live my life well, I just want to give up.

Obviously I’m living selfishly right now. If I had streamers and cake, I’d throw myself a pity party (and none of you would be invited, because none of you would come, because everyone hates me, and I’m going to die alone with my cats).

Now, of course that’s an exaggeration… but sometimes that’s how it feels. And I’m actually not sure if this blog is even relevant or useful or interesting to anybody at all, but I can’t really think about anything other than my lack of perseverance.

I’ve been praying for help, but it’s not all up to God.

Some of this is riding on me.

I think a lot of it has to do with how I think of myself.

I’m not a machine, even though sometimes it seems as if my professors think so.

I can’t keep pushing myself without rest. So where does my rest come from?

Obviously not in my accomplishments. Not in my relationships. Not in my pride…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

This is what I need to hear. Jesus is telling me to drop my load and follow him… To find rest in the Father and to give up my striving after the wind.

To find rest…

I don’t think that means I have a free pass to drop out of college and to live with my parents the rest of my life. But, I do think that it means that my idea of rest is all wrong. I can’t rest in myself. I can’t expect twenty-minute naps to relieve my soul.

What can do that is resting in my Savior and giving up my expectations of myself. I need to follow His agenda, not my own. My goal isn’t to make it to the finish line, but to fix my eyes on Jesus until I get there. Only then do I find true rest.

~ Rebekah

How Then Shall We Live?, Identity, Worship 1

Perfection VS. Excellence

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.