Friday, January 10, 2014

Truth is a Battlefield. {I know, "Love Is" too.}

After that title, I realize that Pat Benatar will be singing in your head over the weekend. Sorry about that but I can't help it. I'm a child of the 80s. 

I've had several ideas of posts for the new year. But they haven't felt right or timely. Instead they've felt like topics to distract me from the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter is that I've been struggling with some age-old patterns of shame and perfectionism in recent weeks. 

Just when I think I've kicked these bullies to the curb, they come lurking around again, taunting me in everything from motherhood to marriage to how I order my days to how tired I feel.  

So I've decided to face things head on, digging deep into the realities that plague my soul and sabotage my spirit. The post I wrote Tuesday about "falling off the wagon of awesomeness"--it fleshed out how the enemy of perfectionism targets me in the everyday. Uncovering the layered insidiousness of it all is so helpful in being able to think through ways to retaliate. 

But this is no ordinary enemy; retaliation can't be fueled by anger and fought with conventional weapons. We lay down our knee-jerk weapons of anger and work harder and fake indifference and we choose to ignite our minds instead. This may sound like pacifism but it's not; our minds carry the message to our hearts. And when how we think begins to change the way we feel, we get a much-needed revolution. 

On a particularly bad day, how we think may not be able to influence our hearts so much. Sometimes the emotions follow suit. Sometimes they don't. But we can choose what's true even if it doesn't feel real. We can think through truth and pray through truth and hope through truth anyway.  

Even though it's a battle, this kind of perseverance isn't characterized by striving and gutting it out; it's characterized by a gentle, steady, kind perseverance of the truth. Truth that we roll over and over and over in our minds until it seeps into our DNA and begins to change us from the inside-out.

Often we think we need to uncover the lies we tell ourselves and combat them with truth. And we do. Most of us are believing all sorts of lies and letting misguided definitions of ourselves and others steer our daily living. 

No wonder we feel so defeated.

But I'm realizing that sometimes we have to fight truth with truth. 

I combat the truth of my own shortcomings with the greater truth of Jesus' overcoming on my behalf.

Let's turn to mothering for an example. {If parenthood isn't a battlefield, I don't know what is.} 

Yes, I failed my child today. In all sorts of ways, I didn't love well. 

This is true so let's just agree on that.

But it's only part of the truth. Here's what happens when we allow that truth to define us and guide our thinking:

I failed my child today. Again. I've been a mom nearly 13 years and I still can't get it right. Things may never change. I give up on improvement. There's something fundamentally wrong with me as a mother.

Or you may be more prone to this angle of self-talk:

I failed my child today. Again. I've been a mom nearly 13 years and I still can't get it right. I'm going to work even harder tomorrow. I'm going to read all that stuff on Pinterest about "75 Ways to Pray for My Child." I might even get on amazon and order a another new book on parenting. 

What's the first part of that truth again, the "bad news" if you will?

I failed as a mother today. I didn't love well. 

Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I spoke harshly. Maybe I was graceless. Maybe I wasn't sensitive. Maybe I didn't hold her accountable for her actions or words because I was tired and didn't feel like it. The specifics don't matter. What matters is that I stopped when I was only through the first half of the truth.

I stopped before I could fight the "bad news truth" with the "good news truth."

Here's what happens when we allow the good news truth to triumph over the bad news truth and change our thinking. For me it's sort of a confessional and conversational prayer. I've said something to this effect when I'm making dinner or sitting in pick-up line or trying to go to sleep:

You know why I'm here again. I failed as a mom today. I didn't love well. It's not the first time and it will probably not be the last. God, you and I both know these things. I'm sorry. Help me. Only you can bring about lasting change in this area and I'm trusting that you will. You promised that you'll be faithful to complete the good work you began in me. Thank you that you don't love me any less when I screw up. Thank you that if I was awesome at this, you wouldn't love me any more. You love me because I am yours and not because of anything I do or don't do. And because you love me, it grieves you to watch me stewing in my own failure. So will you help me? Most of all, will you remind me of your great and unshakable love and will you allow that to define me today? Thanks.

The thing about the bad news truth is that if you stop there, what started out as some unpleasant truth {I fail and sin and struggle} can snowball into our identity and that's where it becomes a lie.

I fail repeatedly. Therefore I am a failure.

And that's not true.

For those who are in Christ, we can instead say:

I fail repeatedly. That's why I need Jesus. His righteousness defines me. And because this is the most awesome truth imaginable, I want to pour my life out in thanksgiving and love. I want to love my kids and my spouse and my neighbor and my community in the unique ways that only I can because of Jesus' great love and sacrifice for me. Though I know I won't do this perfectly or even all that well, He's working it out in me. In the midst of this broken world filled with broken people, He's bringing about redemption. He uses even me and all my shortcomings to do this. Crazy. It's not about being perfect or able; it's about being grateful and willing.

I used to think that my faith was a free-fall. That it was like one of those team-building games you played at youth group or camp where you fall backwards without catching yourself or bending your knees because you have faith that those behind you will catch you.

I've even heard spiritually authoritative people explain our faith and belief in God like that. How if there wasn't mystery and unknown and unanswered questions, it wouldn't be faith. Don't think too hard. Don't try to understand. This is faith. We believe and we fall back and we trust that God is there and will meet us. 

And that sounds good, until you realize that's not really how it works.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about unanswered questions and the mysterious union we share with Christ. The mystery of a life hidden with Christ is beautiful to me; that's not what I'm refuting. 

But I've come to realize that the Christian life is a contemplative life. Not in a quiet, peaceful sort of way {though it can certainly be that at times.} 

Rather, we are tenaciously mindful of the Truth that defines us and sets us free in our everyday lives. 

I'm not wistfully and nebulously free-falling. I'm processing Truth every single day through every single situation and in every single pit. 

I have to know what I'm believing in any given moment. Why? Because the trenches of the everyday are a battlefield and what I'm believing directly influences how I'm living. I have to constantly go back to good news truth and knead it into my errant thought-patterns and persuasive emotions and discouraging circumstances.

Because I'm a Christian, I am always thinking. This sounds exhausting and sometimes it is. But it actually leads to a soul-level restfulness. 

I filter the bad news truth through the good news truth so I can rest in Christ's finished work. I stop the bad news truth from snowballing into bad news identity so that I can confidently live who I really am. I bask in good news truth and allow that to change everything.

Ann Voskamp saysThe enemy of your soul only has two battle plans. 1. Blind you to who God is. 2. And blind you to who you are.

For perfectionists and for those who wish they were a little more perfectionistic,

For those who fail and then allow that failure to define them,

For those who are trying harder and those who are tired of striving and have given up altogether,

Fight for the good news truth...and rest.

The fight can be messy. You have to confess and repent and look at gross stuff about yourself. But stuffing it or ignoring it or justifying it will just make you sicker. These are things I know. You have to get it out. You have to take what's hidden or embarrassing or seemingly easier to just ignore, and bring it into the light of Jesus. 

Then you let him take it... 

And you watch as the most upside-down exchange occurs. You give him your mess and he gives you his righteousness and all that his righteousness entails: grace, love, a sound mind, freedom, courage, forgiveness, loving others unconditionally. And that's just the beginning. 

You don't have to earn it or promise not to screw up again. You simple receive it. And I do realize that for most of us, this is not simple at all. And that's why we fight with our thoughts. Scripture tells us to take every thought captive. That's combat imagery right there. Why? Because being defined by bad news truth and being defined by good news truth can feel like war.

Press on friends. Persevere and find rest in the deep, deep love of Jesus.


I bought a little book a couple years ago on a desperate afternoon. My cousin had recommended it and I felt like I needed something that would help me think through good news truth applied to my current situation. It's called Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary  by J.D. Greear. It's a great resource, very practical and accessible. 

My favorite part of the book is "The Gospel Prayer." I'd like to share it with you since it's helpful and short, a reminder of good news Truth when you're in the trenches of messy circumstances or messy relationships or the mess of your own failure. 

The Gospel Prayer

In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.

Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.

As you have been to me, so I will be to others.

As I pray, I'll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.

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1 comment:

  1. The Gospel Prayer is beautiful. I'm always so burdened by the expectations I place on myself, and it's far too easy to forget the truth and actively bring those expectations before Jesus. It is a constant exercise to bring it all into the light, but what a blessing it is to be reminded.


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