I’m giving up on perfect and just doing some good

psalm-37-1

Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down in January.

She just doesn’t know it.

Six years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.

Pretty soon, I had three girls in elementary school,:that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.

My kids are typically on top of this, too.  If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.

Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right?  When are you coming?

But January zipped right past me with days off school, half days with weird schedules, and what felt like endless doctor’s appointments.

My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home on the days off.  Doesn’t that count?

No.  That does not count.

Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth:  I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by a wacky school schedule and a packed calendar.

 

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life:  Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.

I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.

I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.

But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.

IT’S THIS:  CHOOSE TO BE GENTLE WITH MYSELF.

It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.

It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.

It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.

It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.

It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.

AND YES.  THE STRUGGLE IS REAL TO LET GO AND CHOOSE GRACE.

I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January.  It’ll probably plague me for a long time because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.

Then I read what the Psalmist said:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).

Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.

It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”

But that’s not what God asks of any of us.

God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.

He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good.  Choose the right things.  Show up day after day.  Be faithful.

Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.

He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.

HE GIVES US THE DESIRES OF OUR HEART WHEN OUR GREATEST DESIRE IS FOR HIM.

And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires?  It’s to love my kids to Christ.  One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.

You cannot be perfect today.  Neither can I.

But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.

AND WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE A LITTLE GENTLE WITH OURSELVES TODAY.

SHRUG OFF SOME SHAME AND STEP INTO SOME GRACE.

LET GO OF SOME EXPECTATIONS AND CLING TO THE FREEDOM CHRIST OFFERS.

Originally published February 26, 2016

Why I Am Blaming Gloves for Missing the Bus Twice in One Week

We missed the bus two days in a row this week.

Yes, we did.

I think we typically only miss the bus once or maybe twice in a whole school year.  If that.

So, twice in a week like this?

That’s crazy talk.

I know what you’re thinking—-that mom is seriously failing at getting her kids out the door.psalm 62

Maybe so.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the bus showed up early.

Or that it’s absolutely beyond all limits of seriously c-c-c-c-cold here in Virginia for November (all those of you from the north can pick on me for whining later), so it takes us like 20 minutes longer to get ready in the morning than it did when the kids could just pick up their backpacks and head out the door in short-sleeved shirts.

We missed the bus the first day because, after just a few times of needing to wear gloves this year, my kids had already lost every pair of gloves we possessed.

I drove them to school and then spent the rest of the day digging out purple, teal, black, white, and pink gloves from every crevice, cranny, and pocket of my home.

So the next day, I laid out their hats, coats, and gloves in advance.   That’s wisdom: learning from your mistakes when your kids missed the bus last time (as in yesterday).

Then we had a miss-hap with the gloves.

Seriously, who designed these things and why do children’s fingers always stick together like they’ve been drizzled with crazy glue when they need to go into gloves?

The bus drove past our house while I stood at the front door trying to push my five-year-old’s fingers apart so they would fit into the frustrating finger holes.

Please can it just be spring already?

The truth is, I am a slave to the bus route.

And I am a slave to the school bells.

Also, the after school activity schedule, the church service and meeting times, my infant son’s naps, my kids’ bedtime, the alarm clock, doctor’s appointments and meetings.

My life is shackled and chained by the calendar, the agenda, the to-do list and the daily schedule.

I’m a slave to the expectations and needs of others.

I’ve spent this month studying about the Sabbath, reading about the Sabbath, and changing my life so I actually keep the Sabbath.

I’ve focused completely on how God created the Sabbath on the seventh day.  Rest is part of the perfection and completion of His creation.  It is a way for us to re-connect with our Creator God.  That’s what God said in Exodus 20:8-11.

But I read this also and find there’s something more:

“Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

In her book, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer writes that:

The Israelites had never developed the discipline of declining.  They had been trained to acquiesce and comply.  But now the Sabbath would help them remember they were free.  Free to say ‘no.’  Free to rest.  Free to no longer be controlled by that which they were previously mastered.  Free to enjoy their relationship with Yahweh.

The Sabbath reminds me that Christ also has set me free from slavery.

For one day a week, I choose to please Him and Him only.  I remember that my value isn’t based on productivity.  I am not what I do.  I am who He created me to be.

Priscille Shirer also writes:

He loved them simply because they were His.  He had chosen them.  That was enough.

Egypt demanded performance.

God offered rest.

It doesn’t matter how many times my kids missed the bus this week.  Or whether I caved in and bought my child mittens instead of gloves.

I will never perform enough, produce enough, or be enough to earn His love and affection; but He gives it to me abundantly anyway.

Sabbath reminds me of this: He loves me.

Sabbath speaks to a weary heart and says, “You’re free.  You don’t have to do and do and do. Just rest in Him.”

Do you ever feel like a slave to the to-do list, the calendar, the schedule or other people’s expectations?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Practice Sabbath-Keeping’?

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

“The Bad One”

“I’m the bad one in the family.”

She announces that at lunch as she munches on some strawberries.

I lean in close, thinking I misheard.  We were, after all, sharing this deep, meaningful moment in a crowded school cafeteria with the background noise of about 80 other second graders.

“The bad one?”

Who has ever called her this or slammed this ill-fitting and utterly cruel label onto this beautiful and loved daughter of mine?  Like an over-sized dunce cap on a child in the corner, this identity reeks of shame.

I wait for her to identify the name-caller, the bully that’s been filling her head with these lies.  Surely, it’s not me.  I review seven years of my Mom-speeches and Mom-conversations to see if I’m the culprit.

But she claims that role for herself, telling me, “I’m the one who gets the most punishments.  I don’t have self-control.  So, I’m the Bad One.”

It’s little more than a logic exercise for her as she shrugs her shoulders and delivers the explanation all matter-of-fact and void of any emotion.

This is the internal dialogue she’s been having, the way she has accused herself, identified herself, classified and labeled herself, gathered the evidence and declared herself guilty all on her own.

What’s a mom to say?  I feel the pressure of a moment, how to explain love, grace, discipline, and salvation all right then and there as she unwraps her granola bar?romans8

But I can’t.  I can only start the dialogue, open it up right there and begin the surgery, then return to that wound over and over to clean out the infection, the festering pus of lies, until she’s healed and whole.

So I begin.

No more calling yourself “The Bad One.”  You are loved, totally loved, no more or less than any other member of this family.  You sin.  We all sin.  You need to be disciplined sometimes.  We all do.  But Mom and Dad always, always love you.

I consider the self-condemning lies and slander I fill my own head with and I think about the whispered and anguished confessions of my friends struggling with their own self-hatred.

You’re the Flaky One.

You’re the Stupid One.

You’re the Ugly One.

You’re the Fat One.

You’re the Mess-Up.

You’re the Failure.

You’re the Awkward One.

We shackle ourselves in this way even though:

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT).

Christ offers us the freedom of grace and we choose the imprisonment of self-hatred.  We are, far too often, are harshest critics.

How Satan loves to use that against us, keeping us from obeying God’s call and preventing us from resting easy in grace by preying on our weaknesses.

As Mary Demuth writes in The Wall Around Your Heart:

It’s time to recognize, stark as it may seem that when you abuse yourself, you participate in the same kind of destruction that Satan wants for you (p. 73).

And, just like the conversation with my daughter, this isn’t something fixed in two minutes, five, or an hour or more.  It takes time, this gradual healing and move toward wholeness.

It begins by rejecting the labels we’ve placed on ourselves and the lies Satan has shackled us with, choosing instead to accept that Christ calls us:

Friends…His Children…and Beloved.

We’re not worthy.

Maybe that’s what we think.

Yet, even as Judas trudged into the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayed the Savior with a kiss, still Jesus said:

“My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for”  (Matthew 26:50 NLT).

Even then, He chooses “friend”–not “betrayer,” or  “backstabber” or “The Bad One.”

Later that evening, I scan the aisles at a thrift store and stop periodically to remind this child:

Don’t take your shoes off and try on the 50 pairs of high-heeled shoes.

Do not crawl underneath the clothes and skip from aisle to aisle.

Do not pounce on the couches and jump on the cushions.

Do not touch every ceramic, glass, crystal, porcelain, or other thoroughly breakable item you see on every shelf we pass.

I tell her the truth: This behavior is unacceptable and I will discipline you if it continues.

BUT….

I love you.  I want to help you learn to make better choices because of that love.

I try to teach this to my daughter, beginning right there at a school cafeteria table.

I try to teach this to myself.

Sometimes we mess up, make mistakes, and sin.  But we are saved, redeemed, transformed and wholly loved by the very God who created us and uniquely designed us for a calling and a purpose.

God doesn’t label us, abuse us, condemn us, shame us, or hate us.

He made us.

He calls us.

He equips us.

Yes, He loves us.  That’s the truth.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Accepting this Gift

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

That’s what I ask, but there isn’t anything right now….and that’s hard.

It’s hard to be one so used to serving, doing, and giving now mostly watching as another serves me.9550030_s

This, after all, is a love note I write to my family: one husband, three daughters, now one tiny son.  In lunches packed, laundry washed, games played, songs sung, books read, homework helped, appointments made, chauffeuring done, I say, “I love you.”

But this is his message now to me in these first two weeks of life with a newborn, and it’s beautiful and yet all so overwhelming because part of me rebels and revolts, thinking, “I should be doing this.”

Yet, it’s my husband clearing up the dinner table, washing each dish, and there he is driving three far-too-busy daughters to dance classes three times a week and shuttling children back and forth to school and then from school day after day.

He pushes the cart in the grocery store and carries the baby carrier into the church.  He serves the cereal in the morning and then bounces a restless newborn while I fix ponytails and bows into long blonde hair.

He forgoes sleep so I can sleep.

He’s been serving me all along, all these years of working hard and caring for me in many ways.  But now it’s all-the-time service; it’s middle-of-the-night and throughout the day every day and it’s taking over my jobs and chores in addition to his own normal tasks.

I find it so hard to rest and accept the gift of love…to allow someone else the chance to say:

“I love you” as I wash this dish.

“I love you” as I care for these children.

“I love you” as I sacrifice and as I serve.

It still feels like it should be me giving, not receiving…doing, not resting….loving, not being loved.

Yet, I sit for so much of every day and every night now, cradling a newborn, feeding him, changing him, cooing over him, praying for him, running my hands over his soft skin and kissing his totally kissable cheeks.

And I think….

What if this helpless babe refused my help?

What if, in his need, he declined my acts of love?

He’d be utterly desperate, hungry, filthy.  He’d be completely incapable of thriving.  He could try as he might to function with determined independence, but he’d fail and he’d suffer.

He needs me to love him.

And I need to let others and let Christ love me with this unmerited, unselfish, undemanding grace, as well.

Paul wrote:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God” Galatians 2:20-21.

Nullifying grace. How could we do this?

How could we take the amazing grace of God as it pours down all over us and soaks us right through and reject it, make it thoroughly null and void and ineffective in our lives?

Surely it’s by trampling all over this sacrificial gift of God of blessing and forgiveness, salvation and daily mercy, with declarations of our own independence.

It’s refusing the gift and trying instead to earn it.  It’s refusing to receive and demanding instead to be the one doing, serving and giving always.

It’s shaming myself for imperfections and living trapped in self-condemnation instead of accepting the freedom Christ offers.

And really, deep down is the ugly truth, it’s making faith all about me and my performance, and not at all about Him and His sacrifice.

Like Peter, I’m tempted at times to refuse the humility of Christ as He bends low to wash my feet.  How shocking to see the Messiah on His knees.

Foolish Peter—he didn’t know how much He needed a Savior who served, so he told Jesus at the Last Supper, “No…you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8 NIV).  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Foolish me, how I forget that I need:

Grace

Mercy

Sacrifice

Service

Forgiveness

Without them, I have no part in Christ.

Peter submitted.  He stopped protesting and willingly accepted the gift:  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9).

This is what I need to learn…the submitting.

Sometimes, I need to let others give to me when I am needy and when I am weak.

And grace from Christ….that’s not something I need “sometimes.”  It’s grace I need moment by moment, day by day, new every morning.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

Originally posted July 6, 2012

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one. firefliesfreedom

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems foolish and yet we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed.

So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Keeping It Simple and Sweet

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord and He answered me by setting me free”
(Psalm 118:5).

I grew up in a family of five kids.  Life at our house was rowdy, busy, loud and fun.  We were always joking.  We were forever playing games.

Like canasta

Now, canasta was “the family game.”  Sure, we plowed through rounds of Monopoly or Yahtzee, Scrabble, Othello or Clue pretty frequently, too.  Playing canasta, though, was like an initiation rite for us.  Friends and boyfriends or girlfriends all gathered around the table at some point and we began the canasta lessons

Okay, so first we are going to tell you about points.  You see the goal is to reach 5000 points before anyone else.  So, Jokers are worth 50.  Got that?  And Aces and 2’s are 20 points.  Now, Jokers and 2’s are wild cards, but everything else is a natural card.  Cards 8 and higher are worth 10 points and anything less than that is worth 5 points.  Except for 3’s, you see, because red 3’s are special.  If you get one of those, you have to put it down right away on your board and you get 100 points for that at the end of the hand and you get another card to replace it.  Unless you don’t put anything else on the board the whole round in which case the red 3 counts against you.  Got it?  Okay, so now let’s talk about how to freeze the deck . . .

It was dizzying really, trying to explain this game to a newcomer.

Sometimes, it may feel like it’s just as complicated to explain the gospel of grace.

It’s not because grace is so convoluted or hard to understand.  It’s us.  We tangle the web until it’s a jumble of mis-explanations and unnecessary additions.

But Jesus said we should have faith like a child and that means that God’s Good News, the Gospel, is simple enough for a child to understand.

Last night, I listened to my oldest daughter recite her memory verse for church.  Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We broke the verse down and chatted about it.  And as complicated as it may have sounded at first, the message was simple.

We sin and so we’ve earned death.  But because of Jesus, God gave us eternal life.

That’s the whole salvation message right there.  Simple.  Straightforward.  And easy enough for my child to understand during a simple evening chat on our living room sofa.

She learned the verse that summed up Jesus’ entire purpose for coming to this earth: “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).  And she can tell you in one quick verse how we accept the gift of eternal life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So, why do we make it so difficult?  Why do we add in requirements and make judgements?  Why do we create hierarchies of sin and levels of righteousness?  Why do we create rituals and blessings that hinge on extra expectations?

That’s what the Pharisees did.  They tried to trip Jesus up with complicated questions about the after-life and regulations about the Sabbath and whose sin was to blame for a man’s blindness.  They delighted in the complexity of the law and rejected the simplicity of grace.

In the same way, we ourselves stumble into being spiritual lawmakers at times.  But we are always doomed to failure in that system of rules and regulations and hoops to jump through.  We become chained, trapped and imprisoned by the law.

Paul called it slavery.  He said it was a “yoke of bondage” that we accept even though “Christ has made us free” (Galatians 5:4).

Free.  Free from condemnation.  Free from perpetually feeling less than.  Free from always having to perform to earn approval, salvation, and nearness to God.  Free from the oppressiveness of perfection.

That’s not to say that God lacks depth or that it’s enough to skirt the surface of the Bible, dwelling in a shallow and superficial understanding of our faith.  Just because the gospel that God has crafted is simple, doesn’t mean God is.

Even Paul, the accomplished Jewish scholar and rhetorical expert, admitted sometimes God was just too much for him to fathom.  He exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33).

And so we plunge the depths of God’s Word, rolling up our sleeves and becoming students of the Bible, not to earn religious accolades, but to know Him.  We want to worship Him in “spirit and an in truth.”  We want to love Him not just with our heart and soul, but with our mind also.

But at the end of the day, we need to be able to explain grace to a child, partly so we can maintain our own focus.

When I was an English teacher, I occasionally marked students’ papers with K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple and Sweet.  That’s what our God did for us.  He knew our propensity to miss the point because we’re ensnared in confusion, so He kept grace simple.  He placed the freedom of the gospel within easy grasp.

If we’re making it difficult, if we’re expecting perfection, if we’re demanding impossible standards and if we’re imposing obstacles to salvation, we’re missing just how simple and sweet God’s grace really is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Free to Dance

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her second chapter: “The Very Real Problem of Pantyhose” 

***********************************************************

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”
(Galatians 5:1).

My mom will still tell you I was the best little four-year-old ballerina in my class.  I knew every step in our recital routine perfectly.

Performance night arrived and I was decked out in my ballet outfit and felt super fancy with my parasol.

Stepping onto the stage, I glanced to my left and realized my teacher stood in the wings.  She mouthed the words, “Watch me” as our music began.

So, I watched her.  She stepped.  I stepped.  She twirled.  I twirled  She lifted her pretend parasol up.  I lifted up my prop, as well.

I thought it was odd that she was also frantically shaking her head no and making strange motions with her hands in between each move. Then I noticed that all the other girls were one step behind me and the teacher, and I was mortified on their behalf.

They were all doing it wrong! An entire stage full of tiny ballerinas, and I was the only one doing the routine correctly!  Could they not see the teacher shaking her head at them and telling them what to do?

Determined to obey the instructor, I dogmatically refused to match my steps to the other girls in my class.  After all, who was most likely to be right—the teacher or a dozen four-year-old girls?

What I didn’t realize was that the teacher had been one step ahead of the routine the whole time.  She was showing us the move that was coming next, not the step we were actually on.  So I, in all my stubbornness, had been one step ahead of the actual routine for the entire performance.

That, my friends, was the end of my very promising ballet career.

On the other hand, I’ve spent years of my life worrying about what the audience thinks of me and fearing what will happen if I make a mistake and mis-step.  Not that my ballet fiasco is to blame for that, but it’s there nonetheless.

It’s the very real straightjacket of people-pleasing.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper writes, “Jesus provides freedom, regardless of what’s been cramping our stories” (p. 19).

I don’t know what restricts you or binds you or has you so tied up that you miss out on the glorious freedom that Christ brings, but worrying about what other people think of me—well, that’s been my personal prison for a long time.

And even those of you who boldly announce all the time that, “I don’t care what other people think of me,” may deep down in the depths of your tender soul do just that.  Maybe you desperately care about what other people think after all.

You want them to have a high opinion of you.  You want them to agree that the choices you’ve made as a woman, as a wife, as a mom are the right ones.  You want people to see you’re an awesome mom and you’re a great wife.  You want them to be blind to your mistakes. You want them to buy into the persona you’ve created for yourself—that you’ve got it all together, that you’re smart, strong, capable, and surely superwoman in the flesh.

And our great fear, the thing that just rips us to pieces—is what happens if people realize we are . . . . not perfect.

And the thought that even when we’re doing the right thing or doing our best, some people won’t approve . .  that’s devastating.

In Genesis 29, we read about a precious woman who longed with all her being to be good enough and to perform well enough to earn her husband’s love.

There wasn’t ever any doubt about it.  Jacob’s “love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah” (Genesis 29:30).

My heart just breaks for the unloved Leah.  So did God’s.  “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive” (Genesis 29:31) and in quick succession, she gives birth to three sons: Reuben, Simeon and Levi.

When each son was born, Leah revealed what was in her heart:

  • “Surely my husband will love me now” (verse 32)
  • “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too” (verse 33)
  • “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (verse 34)

She was buying her husband’s affection with babies.  More particularly, the male sons that a man in Jacob’s time and culture prided himself on.  Rachel may have been loved, but she remained barren for many years while Leah delivered son after son.

Still, Leah never once was able to perform well enough to earn Jacob’s love.

Eventually something clicked in Leah’s heart.  After having four sons for a man who still didn’t love her, she finally declared at the birth of her fourth baby, “‘This time I will praise the LORD.‘ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

For one brief moment in her life, Leah threw off the crippling chains of trying to please a human being and flung her unhindered arms open wide in worship of God.

Because God cared for her immensely and unconditionally.  God thought she was beautiful.  God thought she was worthy of notice.  God lavished on her the gift of four healthy sons. 

And that, for the moment, was enough.

Is it enough for you to know that God loves you?  Is it enough to know that you are obeying His instructions?

We people-pleasers can’t often escape from the binding fear of what others think about us in one magical moment.  No, it’s a battle.  It’s an active choice we make over and over to make pleasing God our supreme life passion rather than allowing the expectations of others to bind us hand and foot.

Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Christ offers you freedom.  Glorious freedom.  So, stand firm in that.  Stand confidently assured of your calling.  Dance to the song He has given you and perform only for Him.

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I’m excited to share with you one of my most favorite songs on the freedom that Christ brings.  I hope you are blessed by it.

Hear the song here: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JM2C1MNU

Free by Ginny Owens

Turnin’ molehills into mountains,
Makin’ big deals out of small ones,
Bearing gifts as if they’re burdens,
This is how it’s been.
Fear of coming out of my shell,
Too many things I can’t do too well,
afraid I’ll try real hard, and I’ll fail–
This is how it’s been.
Till the day You pounded on my heart’s door,
And You shouted joyfully,
“You’re not a slave anymore!”

“You’re free to dance-
Forget about your two left feet
And you’re free to sing-even joyful noise is music to Me
You’re free to love,
‘Cause I’ve given you My love
and it’s made you free

My mind finds hard to believe
That You became humanity and changed the course of history,
Because You loved me so.
And my heart cannot understand
Why You’d accept me as I am,
But You say You’ve always had a plan,
And that’s all I need to know.
So when I am consumed by what the world will say,
it’s Then You’re singing to me, as You remove my chains-

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King