Health, Wellness, & Self Care,  Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Recovering Perfectionist,  Whitespace: one word for 2014

Guilt-inducing hymns, the try-hard life, and recovery

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A dear newly-married friend messaged me last night, asking my to hear my opinions and thoughts about a certain matter. She has known me for a long time and watched me as my blogging has taken the direction more and more of writing through my struggles of not being so hard on myself, embracing my limitations, and doing the best with what I have.

But she wanted to know: Is there a place for more positive encouragement? For wives and moms to be encouraged to set goals high, to be inspired and push themselves, and to know that hard things can be done?

Her words went straight to my heart, and I laid awake pondering her message in the late night hours. Sleep evaded me for a while as I turned her questions over and over in my head.

Guilt-inducing hymns, the try-hard life, and recovery

Somewhere between the tossing and turning, old hymns started coming to my mind:

By and by when I look on His face, I’ll wish I had given Him more…

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus, I know my Lord expects the best from me…

I thought back over 27 years of life and asked myself those questions again. Could I, should I be doing more? Should I be trying harder? Setting more goals? Pushing myself?

But all I see is the fatigue. My greatest regrets are the times I tried too hard, pushed myself too much, worked too hard, and didn’t give myself room for me and my own needs.

By my own admission, I am a recovering people pleaser, perfectionist, and legalist. I know all about the try-hard-and-then-try-harder-some-more life. High goals and expectations of myself were the only way I knew how to live, and worse – I was misguided in thinking that living that way the only way possible to please God.

I was the honor roll student. The first place spelling champion. The first place musician. The cream of the crop.

The songs I sang week-in, week-out only reinforced this way of life and piled on the guilt when I lived any less than my best.

Guilt-inducing hymns, the try-hard life, and recovery

Give of your best to the Master, Give of the strength of your youth…

I look back at 27 years of health struggles, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. While, granted, some of that simply is genetics and the way my body is – part of me has been wondering how much of it was caused by pushing myself academically, musically, and spiritually to give God my very best?

I gave of the strength of my youth. And now, I barely have the strength to get through the day.

I told my friend this about perfectionism, legalism, and people pleasing:

These aren’t just character flaws. They are like an illness that has literally devastated both my mind AND my body. The result has left me simply surviving, trying to cope.

When you are recovering from an illness, you lie on the couch and watch TV and drink fluids. You don’t push yourself, or set goals, or do anything but recover. And right now, I’m in recovery. And probably will be for a very long time.

My life right now (this year primarily, but the last 3 in general) has been all about doing less, trying less, underachieving, resting, and being okay with that. That’s what whitespace is all about for me. That’s where I am, where God has me, and I won’t apologize for that. He calls to me and says “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you REST!” and so I’m coming to him broken and weary and sick and barely holding together and I’m okay with that.

And I write from that place in hopes of encouraging others that they can do the same.

So no, you won’t be seeing encouragement from me that “hard things can be done.” Because right now, even the “easy” things are hard. Just waking up in the morning and getting through the day is hard.

If your reality is different from mine, that’s okay. If you have energy and spirit and want to be inspired to do hard things and pushed to be better and set goals – then that’s great. But I can tell you that that’s not where I am and therefore, my blog probably isn’t for you.

The truth is that my writing often comes from a very broken-down and weary place. And the very best I have to offer – to God or anyone else in my life – is broken pieces of a life I’m trying to piece back together.

I’m trying to learn a new way of living. A way of resting, truly resting, in God’s grace. But that’s a process. And sometimes, in this process of recovery, it might look like I’m just not even trying at all.

As I shared in one of my recents posts

You tell yourself to stop trying so hard. Stop trying to be perfect. Give up. Relax. Let go.

But you feel lost because you aren’t sure what the difference is between that and just not caring about anything or anyone at all. You aren’t sure if you know how to find a middle ground. And you spend so much time in this place between the two and your steps feel uncertain and you worry about yourself constantly because you are pretty sure that not caring at all is not the answer but aren’t sure how to do anything besides that and stressing out about all. the. things.

This place I’m in is very messy…painful. And I’m sure it can be depressing or downright discouraging to observe. So you won’t be able come here and find someone who is put together or who breathes inspiration into your life. Sometimes I wish I could be that for you – but I can’t and won’t pretend to be something that I’m not.

But what you can find here is a work in progress. A mess, yes, but one that I still believe God can and will make beautiful…in HIS time.

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