I was reminded this week about the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, and I pictured myself about halfway between the sisters. I can imagine running to and fro trying to get everything just right, bumping into Martha as we hurry past each other in the kitchen. But I’d also stop for just a few minutes to eavesdrop on Mary and Jesus, soaking in just enough of His presence that I was NEAR to Him but not WITH him. That’s what I’ve done this week. I read the Word, I prayed the prayers, I did the ministry stuff, I was faithful in my work and parenting, but at the end of the day I was still leaning on my own strength. Here’s what Jesus told Martha when she bugged Him about making Mary help (He surely reminded me of the same truth this week) in Luke 10:41-42-
“Martha, Martha, [Heather, Heather] you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes our best laid plans don’t quite work out the way we envision, and the way we respond says a lot about us. Earlier this week, a project launched that I had poured a ton of time and creativity into; I felt confident and excited to watch it flourish. But factors outside of my control meant the project just didn’t quite land as expected. I quickly flew into a tailspin of proving myself—hurrying around and hustling hard. I jumped into action with fresh ideas and this striving started trickling into my relationships. I was suddenly caught up in fear that I wasn’t “doing” enough and wondered if I had been a good friend/sister/daughter lately. Which led to more hustling.
Midway through the week, a sweet man in my life and I had a little chat. I was feeling anxious and burnt out and stressed, struggling with my sense of self-worth. I told him, “I don’t get it—I spent like an hour reading the Bible and journaling today at lunch, and I’ve been reading the Word and praying a lot lately but I still feel off.” He asked me to tell him more about what I’d read that day… I shared the parallels I’d found in Jeremiah 17 and 1 Corinthians.
“This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And 1 Corinthians 1:27-31-
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I realized I had been leaning on my own strength and not resting. At. All. And when I trust in my own strength, I am parched like that bush in the wastelands y’all. Here’s what STRIVING looks like in my world:
- Relying on my own strength and understanding/plans
- Proving myself through my efforts
- Easily affected by my circumstances
- Trying to live up to the expectations of others (even if they are self-imposed/assumed on my part)
- HARD WORK, which tends towards legalism to earn the Lord’s favor/the good feelings of others
- Exhaustion (parched desert!)
- Judgment (of myself and sometimes others)
- Anxiety/rushed decision making
So what’s the solution? I find it in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
My striving looks a lot like the first part of this verse- laboring, toiling, weary, tired, burdened, heavy laden, worn out, burnt out. Sometimes with even good things! But my hard work and doing things on my own strength do not define who I am. When I allow myself to REST in His strength, HE makes me strong and brings peace. This goes against everything in my perfectionism that says “keep hustling,” but leaning on Him brings peace and refreshment to my soul. So if the opposite of striving is REST, here’s what we get to experience:
- Leaning on His strength. Finding that it is okay to show weakness, because that is where His strength can carry us and show His power.
- His wisdom (not our own way of understanding)
- Deep roots; we are not tossed to and fro because we are planted (Jeremiah 17:5-9; Psalm 23)
- The ability to be more present and connected with others
- Gentleness for ourselves
- Clarity of thought; sanity!
- Childlike joy as we slow down enough to recognize the sweet blessings in our lives
This summer, I will continue to pray for margin in my life (and in yours!). Not just tiny cracks for time spent NEAR the Lord, but an abundance of time to sit at the feet of Jesus. I pray that you also can spend time resting in His strength, and knowing that no matter what your circumstances bring, your soul can be stilled because your identity is found in the one who made you and who rests with you.
If you’re like me and need extra help thinking about why rest could possibly be important, here are some helpful resources I recommend.
- Sabbath rhythm- I’m so thankful for my friend Alexis Girvan who has introduced me to the beauty of intentionally spending time each week in Sabbath… read some of her work here or this awesome book Alexis recommended to me by Wayne Muller that helped me dig deeper into Sabbath
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
- This Spotify playlist I made that is on repeat in my house lately- “summer rest”
- Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 23; Matthew 11:28
When we put rest in HIM first–when we lean on Him for our source of refreshment–the world cannot take that good portion away from us. I hope you’ll choose rest with me.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18
FROM FEAR TO PEACE SERIES:
A few weeks ago I wrote about my own struggles with fear, anxiety, and insecurity, and I heard from several people that this topic resonated at a deep level. I recently read that “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible. It’s almost as if God knew we would need daily reminders to trust Him and not live in fear. Over the next few posts I will be digging into this topic further; I will be sharing thoughts about fear in a few different areas– insecurities, lack of control/awareness of the plan for the future, worry about daily needs being met, rational/irrational fear, and anxiety. Each post, I’ll share a little bit about my own journey, some practical tips and spiritual tools I’ve found for facing that arena of fear, and a prayer for you.
When I read over the story of Adam and Eve I think of how long the problem of insecurity has been a part of humanity. In Genesis 2:25, it is written that “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” They were living in the garden, unhidden, fully themselves as God created, but unashamed. They had the perfect love of God and had all they could ever need. Yet, in Genesis 3 an enemy came along in the form of a serpent, whispering lies in their ears that who God created them to be just wasn’t enough. When the lies grew greater than the Truth and they began to doubt God’s perfect love, they fell. They stepped into shame, fear, and hiding.
Recently, my friend Hope introduced my to a song called “Fear is a Liar” that includes the lyrics:
Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps. Fear, he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire, cause fear, he is a liar.
Somewhere along the way, lies crept into my mind and heart like ivy–a few insecurities were planted through various situations and relationships that started overtaking Truth. I somehow grew convinced that I had to prove myself to be loved or worthy. I worried about whether I was capable or deserving of the friendships/jobs/relationships/leadership roles I desired. I feared that the people I loved would leave or reject me if I was honest about who I was. I fixated on my perceived imperfections and tried to remove them at all costs. I wore a mask to show others that I was okay and had it all together. I hid in shame when I made mistakes. And I started to rely far too heavily on my own strivings for perfection instead of resting in the knowledge that I was perfectly loved by my Creator and Father.
Over the years, that ivy has choked life out of my spirit– all I could hear was “unworthy,” “too much,” “not enough,” “too different,” “unattractive,” “unlovable.” And the lies starting influencing my decisions. The apples I’ve bitten have gotten me no closer to my ideals of perfection, but just pushed me further from the garden.
I’m not sure what your insecurity is related to, but I want to share with you where MY hope and healing have been found in this area of fear. When I feel alone and fearful about authentically connecting with others for fear of rejection, when I worry that I am not lovable, when I question my worth, I go step 1 on this list over and over again, but I’m also including a few others suggestions that I’ve found helpful over the years:
1. SOAK IN TRUTH (Romans 12:2- be transformed by the renewing of your mind)- Read about who GOD is, and who He says you are! It’s time to get rid of the ivy and stop it from choking the life out of you. The best way I have found to fight lies and insecurities is to memorize and KNOW the Words that God says are true. In Truth, we find light and life… in lies, we get tangled in darkness and death. The more I’ve written God’s Truth on my heart, the more my heart and mind have shifted away from anxiety and fear. Here are some of my favorite verses that remind me of my identity in Him. I write these on my bathroom mirror, sticky notes on my desk at work, in my journal, and I memorize them so that when lies start to creep in I have an immediate response to combat untruth:
- Psalm 139 (THE WHOLE PSALM)
- “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” –Isaiah 43:1
- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” -1 Peter 2:9
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” -1 John 3:1
- “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19
2. LOVE NOTES– Write yourself a love note! When I realized that I would never talk to another person the way I talked to myself, I knew I needed to work on my self-talk. As though you were writing to a best friend, kindly tell yourself some of your favorite things about who you are as a person (remember- you were fearfully and wonderfully made!). If you are compassionate, creative, generous, trustworthy, loyal, funny, servant-hearted, tell yourself why you’re proud to be that person! If a love note is too daunting, just make a list of 3-5 of your favorite qualities that make you YOU! Start to see yourself with realistic eyes- the way God and others who love you see you.
3. COMMUNITY– In insecurity, we sometimes tend to isolate. Fight the urge to let the lies take over, and open up to other safe people in your life. Surround yourself with people you love. Make a coffee date with that friend who you always feel refreshed after seeing. Pick up the phone and call your grandmother (I guarantee you she’ll love it too). My mom has always said to us, “you have to be a friend to have a friend.” Make a list of 2-3 people you want to get to know better and reach out to plan a coffee or lunch within the next week or two (it will give you something to look forward to).
4. SERVICE– Sometimes stepping out of my comfort zone and thinking about how I can love others around me is just the cure to momentarily lift my eyes from my own struggles and insecurities. Next time you are at the library or grocery store, look up from your phone, and smile at the person you see who looks like they could use some sunshine. Buy a coffee for the next person in line. Get connected to a local ministry or service project you feel passionate about, and commit to serving at regular intervals (to build longer term relationships). Make a meal for the friend or family member who might need a little extra support in their current season. As people come to your mind or your heart, shoot them a little text or note to just let them know you are thinking of them
A PRAYER FOR YOU:
Lord, thank You for creating this world and Your children in perfect love. Even though we walk away from Your love at times, I pray that You would continue to draw us back to You. Father, open my eyes to see myself in light of Your love and grace. Cast out fear, and help me to shed darkness and old lies by putting on the belt of Truth– fight these battles with me. Transform my thoughts to remember that You created me in Your own perfect image, that You will never leave or forsake me, that You call me precious, spotless, cleansed.
Thank you for sending Your own son to die for me, for calling my sin “finished,” so that I can walk in light, freedom, and hope. Lord, guide my thoughts away from my insecurities, and allow your Truth to trickle down from head knowledge to heart knowledge. Prune the dead, old human lies I’ve allowed to inform my identity, and plant your Truth deep in my heart so that I can bear Your fruit. Today, I rest in the fullness of Your perfect love, and I accept the words You call me– beloved, chosen, worthy, child of God, redeemed. Help this change the way I love You and serve others. In Your precious name, Amen.
**Important: Please note–I have spent many years with professional counselors and in recovery programs/support groups, but I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. If you struggle with fear that is interfering with your life, I encourage you to talk to someone about it (a counselor, pastor, mentor, trusted friend, support group). Sometimes saying it out loud makes it a little less daunting, or can help you find ways to root yourself in the present moment and release your fear.