I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
- Philippians 4:13
Matt and I are currently leading our church through Dave Ramsey’s class on finances called Financial Peace University. We took the class at our church in San Diego, and it was a huge part of our financial progress in our early days of struggling through adulting and finances and getting life prioritized.
One of the things I love best about the class is it gives you a group of people who are open and honest about their life. It’s almost a support group, where the walls we put up to the rest of the world come down and we can honestly encourage and challenge each other on our own journeys. Everyone there is at a different stage, with different goals or agendas, and coming from different backgrounds, so we’re all at different spots along the journey. Each path is unique, yet there is commonality in the desire to better ourselves and what we have been given.
It is so easy for us to look around and compare ourselves to others, convinced that everyone else has their life put together, while the truth is that none of us have our lives together perfectly. Only yesterday we got a message from an old friend asking for advice and looking for some guidance because she wrote that Matt and I seemed to have our lives together and were inspiring.
Oh girl, if you only knew! I seriously kind of cracked up laughing and loved the compliment, because we do NOT have our lives together perfectly! Like, even remotely. I feel like our life, while an awesome ride, is a bit like a train hurtling 200 mph around life's twists and turns, about to derail and with no ability to brake. Yes, I struggle with comparing myself to others and feeling inadequate. We have friends who are our same age and already have 3 rental properties while Matt and I feel suffocated by one mortgage. My mom friends all have around 4 million kids each and still have time to look perfect while I bounce back and forth between overwhelming gratefulness to sheer boredom with two kiddos.
And we're not unique. It’s a given that everyone struggles and not everyone has everything together perfectly. But more importantly, we need to stop celebrating these weaknesses or justifying our own lives by constantly acknowledging our own flaws and even kind of celebrating in these weaknesses. Everyone has seen the posts circulating on social media that almost glorify their own failings. And while it is good to be honest, our failures shouldn’t be celebrated as their own kind of victory. It’s a kind of warped narcissism.
Instead, we need to grasp on to the victory that is in Jesus. None of us is perfect, but those of us who acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior have all the victory we need, and the only perfection that is attainable and that actually matters.
If Matt and I seem like we have our lives together, it is because we don’t relish in our own struggles but joyfully claim victory in Jesus, and perfection in being his. Yes, we obviously are not perfect. We disagree, we struggle with self-control and discipline, we are selfish and we can have a rather large lack of direction. I lose my temper with my kids, want to be slothfully lazy, and would much rather think of myself than others.
But none of that matters, and it doesn’t matter that someone next to me struggles with it too. That can be somewhat encouraging, but that in of itself is kind of a failing too. I shouldn't rejoice in other's failings, or give myself excuse to fail because someone else is too. Honestly my only encouragement should come from the fact that in Jesus I am made perfect. I am completely forgiven and my redeemer lives. Our goal should be not to celebrating weaknesses, but acknowledging without glorifying or comparing.
We all need to stop looking sideways and instead look up.
I find huge relief in giving God the true glory and credit for our only source of perfection. It gives me so much grace to make mistakes. Matt and I make mistakes all the time. We fail and we fail big! And then we get up, try all over again and fail again! The wonderful freedom is that where you fail, God will be there. He is there and pursues us when we fall away. He rejoices when the prodigal son returns, he seeks after the one sheep and rejoices when it is found.
The Old Testament is filled with men that are celebrated for their faith, even when their personal lives were full of huge flaws. Gideon is remembered for his faith, even though he made idols. David is remembered for having a heart passionate for God even though he murdered and committed adultery. Moses was given the privilege of intimate communication with God, even though he lost his temper and was hesitant and reluctant to do what he was commanded to do.
Adultery, idolatry, passivity, etc- what have you done that others have not done as well? Where have you screwed up that has made you unreachable by God?
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
There is great freedom in giving yourself permission to fail. Fail in effort to go big or go home. The very title of this blog, Broken but Running, perfectly represents the way we are to live our lives; we will fail, we will make mistakes, but we will keep running the race to Jesus.
I don’t celebrate my mistakes, and I don’t really look forward to making them. But I have found such wonderful freedom in owning up to my mistakes and being transparent when I fail. My aunt was recently asking about our last experience with displacing two foster kiddos that were in our care last week, and I summed the week up by saying it was the hardest thing I’ve ever failed at yet.
I don’t purposely go out and do what I want because I know God will pick up my slack, but I don’t fear trying to follow God or do the right thing simply because I know I will get it wrong. I keep waiting for the time when we get too old to make mistakes, but unfortunately I don’t think that time ever comes. You think by now I’d be old enough to know how to basically not screw things up, but much like the Israelite nation I seem to fail over and over again. In this God is given more glory because he is the only one to take credit for anything good that comes out of our meager efforts towards him.
Stepping out in faith, pursuing even at the risk and often moments of failure along the way, both teach us more about the powerful nature and infinite reach of God, as well as how he created us each individually and uniquely. I don’t believe that an infinite God beyond our comprehension has paved just one route that all of us take towards him. Matt and my marriage, lifestyle and choices look different than yours and than many other people’s and that is ok.
The road to God is narrow, and there will be certain similarities in the lives of those who follow Jesus passionately. But God also calls and directs each of us in incredibly different paths, lives, and adventures. The sheer variety of life stories of everyone who believes in him is testimony itself as to how much higher his thoughts and ways are than our own. Why limit him to one kind of lifestyle, family, or career? That doesn't mean that we have permission to go crazy and live whatever life we desire because God will pick up the pieces. It's not permission to live a lifestyle that isn't in accordance with the Bible.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were...We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
- 1 Corinthians 10:6-12
There are consequences to our actions, and we shouldn't joyfully celebrate our failures themselves. But we can celebrate how God uses our mistakes and failures to glorify him, the lessons that we learn in the midst of our mess, and the way that God can loves us so deeply in the midst of our failings that he creates beautiful blessings out of our short comings.
For example, Matt and I are surrounded by a lot of families who live the American dream of house, career, kids, etc. all in the right order and right neighborhood. And I see God working in their lives and them praising and being used by God to glorify him and reach the world in their lives. For Matt and I, life doesn’t really look like that. Our story is a little different, and we’ve failed and triumphed in different ways than the people around us. And that’s ok too! There has been a lot of lessons learned from all of our cumulative stories, life experiences, triumphs and failures. We can always learn from each other, be inspired, and ultimately be free to be different. God created us all uniquely and differently; we all work as different parts of the body, and we all have been gifted with different strengths. Each and every one of these unique characteristics can and should always be used to glorify God. But instead of looking to each other for ultimate direction, we should first follow Jesus, and then consult each other for council.
At our marriage ceremony, we emphasized greatly how much we wanted to be used to build God’s kingdom here, and follow and prioritize him. We wouldn’t be following God if we hadn’t made the decisions we have, and our friends and family have followed the same God on their paths as well. Our stories look very different. Sometimes ours looks a little crazy. When we first told people we were moving across the country to live in a tiny house people thought we were nuts. I’m so glad we did it anyway- God was definitely directly leading us in that transition and I am so grateful many times over he did!
So if your story looks a little different, if you don’t fit in the mold, if you feel behind or ahead of others, stop looking at other’s to dictate your path and choices. Look to God first. If he directs your steps, trip and fall and tumble straight into his arms, admit your mistakes and relish in his grace along the way. And if you fail, which you will, get up and keep pressing on. Be joyful that God is bigger than you, brush off the dust and keep pressing on, hopefully a little wiser than before.
If we were done making mistakes, we would have already attained perfection. And I don't know about you, but I hope that I continue to grow. I do not want to be the same person at age 40 that I am at age 28, and I know and am so glad I'm not the same person I was at 19! This growing up is a beautifully messy process and one we should rejoice in because hopefully, if we're doing it right, every night we go to bed a little bit more like Jesus. I hope one day I look back on this post and see the mistakes, see the failures and where I went wrong, because it will mean I have continued to grow and mature, to know more and hopefully to love more like God.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7