Here I am – starting a blog that I said I would never start – for the second time this week. You see, I had written and thought I’d saved a draft of my post already once this week, but now it’s no where to be found. I’m just learning about this mode of communication.
I didn’t want to start a blog. They’re becoming quite trite – an educational form of running. It seems everyone is writing these days, regardless of skill set or knowledge base. I don’t say this to assert I have a superior skill set or knowledge base, but I merely want to communicate that because of all of the blogs available right now, I’ve struggled to believe that I could bring anything new or unique to the face of computer screens. My past as an English teacher no doubt adds to the resistance: perfectionism oftentimes stifles me from even starting something new – it has to be done well or not at all. But it’s for this very reason that I’ve decided it’s time to start a blog: it’s not about how perfectly or imperfectly I write. In fact, this tendency toward perfectionism has placed much weight on my heart and shoulders throughout my days, but I’m glad to say that I’m learning, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that it’s not even really about me. Timothy Keller has called this realization to which I’m arriving The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. So it’s out of this desire to center on Someone far greater than myself that I’m laying down my expectations, putting aside my fears of what others may think, and committing to use my knowledge of writing for whatever the Lord may purpose. Because it’s not about me; it’s about Him.
I’m not even sure where to begin. My desire to communicate effectively often takes me back 26 years to the time I was three and _________________ happened. (My family and friends have all just laughed at the many memories they have of when I’ve been asked a simple question like “Where did you go for lunch?” and begun an answer with “Well, we went out with some friends last night and were up kind of late…” Several minutes later, I’ll arrive at the answer.) Don’t worry. I don’t plan to do that now. Perhaps the best way to start this blog is for me to begin with my purpose. I want the name of Jesus Christ to be made famous – that others would see Him and desire Him – that the yokes of slavery to sin would be replaced with the freedom of commitment to Christ Jesus. My own story of struggle has taught me these truths.
Earlier this summer, Chris (my husband of three years this October 8) had purchased a beautiful hanging basket for me. The flowers were vibrant colors of the sun: orange, yellow, and red. We watched the vines spill over the sides of the basket for days, but then the plant took a turn for the worst. You see, I don’t seem to have a green thumb, meaning I oftentimes forget to water plants. Ha! After several days without water, this plant had shriveled up. The leaves looked dead to me, and I was ready to throw the plant away. But Chris, my big picture dreamer, saw life where I saw death. He encouraged me to keep it around; he committed to the watering of the plant and pruned away what portions were dead. We both watched over the course of the next several weeks as that plant came back to life. It didn’t have as many roots any more, but those flowers were more beautiful and full than before. Isn’t it beautiful that creation speaks to the existence and work of the Father (Romans 1:20).
My life has been much like this plant. I was alive, thriving in the ways that I knew to thrive. I grew up with a wonderful, loving family, whom I treasured above the Lord. Rather than seeing it as a gift for which I should be eternally grateful, my family became a source of great pride. I wasn’t left to suffer the sorrows of many of my peers. This must have meant that my family was chosen by God for greater gifts. You must understand that it hurts me to reveal these elements of pride, but it’s time for me to expose what has lingered in the darkness. I am devastated to say that rather than showing great compassion for the hurts and sufferings of others, I walked with my nose in the air, proud that I wasn’t relegated to the likes of many of the others in my life. My heart did not look like Jesus’s. I was reading my Bible and attending church, engaging in deep discussions and even leading devotions. But I guess you could compare this to a time period in which I was watering myself or the leaves but not my roots. It should NOT have been a surprise to me when I looked up to realize that my plant was “dead.” And yet it was. It’s crazy how pride blinds us to our faults and makes us play the victim in disaster.
In the summer of 2008, I began a very sudden, very unexpected battle with depression. Perfectionism had caught up with me, and I could no longer “play the part.” The scariest thing: my family could not save me. Nope – it was just me and God. And I was terrified, not used to experiencing ongoing feelings of hopelessness and despair. It was during this time as well that the devil begin to wreak havoc on my brain, filling it full of lies and causing me to be confused and doubtful of all I thought I had known. Depression is not of the Lord, but the Lord used it to prune away the dead plants and leave less roots than before. But I’ll save more of that story for another time.
Six years later, I am watching the Lord “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). And those flowers that were once dead are becoming more beautiful than they ever were before. God is a God of restoration. I want to leave today’s post with a beautiful message from the prophet Isaiah taken from Isaiah 61:1-4:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion —
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
I don’t know what life looks like if I let go of perfectionism, but I believe that the Lord is going to show me. And I believe that with it will come great, great freedom. Because here’s the truth: the evil one binds in yokes of sin, but Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). That’s a promise for freedom. Join me as I explore how God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5) through His son, Jesus.