This post was inspired heavily by the sermon I heard at my church, Crossroads Community Church, by Pastor Robert Barker.
Some of you may have heard my testimony before, many of you have not. I accepted Jesus when I was 16, an age that is often difficult for most people as you juggle youth, growing up, fitting in, varying responsibilities. You know what I am talking about because you lived it to some extent, too.
Even at the young age of 16, I had already put on the garments of trying to be perfect. I carried A LOT of responsibility at home (writing checks for bills, cooking dinner, listening to conversations with my mother that I never should have heard, etc.), I carried a lot of responsibility at school (lots of extra classes, always got the good grades, etc) I did side work here and there (cleaning houses, working at my mom’s real estate office) and so on and so forth. Looking back I know that I did that to some extent to cope with many dysfunctions in my life. But yesterday, at church, my Pastor’s sermon brought a whole new level of understanding of my actions.
For, you see, I was desperately trying to cope in a family that had issues – and let’s face it people, everyone reading this had some sort of issue in their family. It may have been parents that lived during the depressions that worked and worked and worked and never spent any money. It may have even been the garments of perfection to the outside world I am describing here! You get the drill. My family was not BAD. Get it? Anyway, added to the family dynamic was the fact that I was realizing my own issues – attraction to girls. So the pressure to develop an image that people would notice instead of my huge flaw (as I saw it at the time) was subconscious but very real for me. So I worked hard at school, I tried to be the model daughter, I wanted to be perfect so that THIS would be the noticeable feature to all around me.
And, as anyone who has presented to the world a person that was very different from the one that existed INSIDE, you realize that at some point you can’t stop putting on that mask. At some point you may even forget its a mask at all…..you may even start believing the lie that you’ve worked so hard to present to the world. Then there are days where it takes SO MUCH energy to put that mask on, it costs so much emotionally and physically and spiritually, but you’re too far into the lie to turn back. And that’s a painful place to be. And on those days, the self loathing is so overwhelming, because the truth of the lie stares you in the face and you KNOW that there is not one good thing about you! Maybe because the truth makes it so, or maybe because the lie that has been so expertly perfected is so truly horrendous. And good liars/presenters – even necessitated to cope and survive – know that this presentation of the lie is a shame all to itself.
My Pastor reminded me of that.
So that’s where the 12 Step Program comes in. I have touched on this area before in my life, as I walked through one with a beloved family member who broke the chains of addiction over 15 years ago. I learned SO MUCH about myself, my family member, along with my brother who went through the process at that time as well. Yet, often when you think of these steps you think of drug or alcohol addicts needing it. But let’s again agree – EVERYONE can have cycles in their lives that are not healthy. And I am one of those people…….
Step 1 loosely translates for our purposes as “we admit we were powerless over our dysfunction—that our lives had become unmanageable.” I love the way my Pastor put it, “we are powerless.”
Romans 7:17-20 helps us to see the phenomenon. The Apostle Paul, revered by so many Christians for centuries, understood this as well. He writes, “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” We KNOW what we are doing is wrong, we even THINK about doing right, but yet we still do wrong.
There’s something freeing in admitting all my fake efforts, that really only work at perpetuating a lie that is hard to sustain, have been done before me by others! And that there is a way to break this cycle! And the first step in doing so is to say, I can’t break that cycle without God. HE can help me, because even as I sit here and say I want to break it, I know I can’t. And it’s hugely freeing to admit that!
So I urge you to take a look at your life today and ask, “Do I need the peace of the Lord in this area of my life?” Is there a piece of your life that can be hugely replaced by the Peace of God, all by saying, “I can’t do this Lord, I need you”? Maybe you’re not a perfectionist like I fight to be, but what is stopping you from knowing the wholeness God fully intended for you? God can help!
Next, Step 2……………………..