When I was younger, I looked up to several Contemporary Christian singers so much that I tried to look and dress like them. I had this dream of being just like them one day: on a stage singing songs about Jesus while looking very polished and very “together”. I had the opportunity to meet a few of my favorites while living in Fairfax, Virginia.
As life continued, it was easy to see that I didn’t have it all together. I had my own style that wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t make the same choices other people would have made in my circumstance. Unfortunately, sometimes people didn’t understand and could be very critical. There were times in my life that I felt so very alone because of this. If I stepped out of my shell, most of the time I ended up feeling unwanted and like I just didn’t fit. I have dealt with depression on and off in my life, much of it during several of my years at college as well as after I graduated from Gardner-Webb. If you have read many of my other blog posts, you know about some of my heartaches and disappointments. It was difficult to open up to people about a lot of my pain. It seemed too hard to put into words. And honestly, sometimes people didn’t have much compassion. I would at times get a lot more judgment and bad advice than wisdom and Biblical encouragement/edification. So I would close myself off except to those friends that were there for me and stayed by my side through the hard times. I kept myself close to the people that showed me that they cared. I am forever grateful to these friends and mentors. The pictures below only show a portion of these people with me during some of my hardest times. There were many more. Please forgive me if I haven’t shown you here.
I broke down in college one day to my accompanist, Libby. I had been trying very hard to keep myself together, push through my heartache, keep my high grade point average, keep a clean apartment, and also push myself to practice the heavy amount of music I was working on at the time. However, it had finally been too much. I lost it on a few people. I took my pain, loneliness, and exhaustion out on some blinds. I threw some of my things across the practice room and watched them break. I broke. My heart was broken, but I didn’t want it to stop my life. However, something had to give. Sweet Libby said words to me that have forever impacted my perspective. She told me that I don’t have to wash those dishes every day. She said I don’t have to get it all done. It was okay if I let some things slide sometimes. The expectations I had for myself were too high, and I needed to recognize this and give myself a break. I am human, and humans experience pain. The floodgates broke loose for me then. It took me a long time to truly allow her wise words to sink in and take root in my lifestyle. I still had high expectations for myself, but I learned and am still learning that it is okay to admit that I don’t have it all together. And I knew she wasn’t saying that I shouldn’t do my best. However, sometimes my best in difficult circumstances would not be the same as my best at easier times in my life. If God could forgive me, I should forgive myself.
Sometimes these expectations for ourselves are even harder to temper when others have equally high expectations or even higher. We can so easily be critical of each other. Sometimes even if we know someone is dealing with something hard, we are quick to judge his or her responses. We are not all the same. We all respond differently to various situations. I remember some people telling me in college that I just needed to get over it. I remember people staring at me and saying nothing even though I had tears running down my eyes. Such painful memories. Yet, I cannot forget those that broke threw the walls I put up and allowed me to share my heart. Thankfully, God knew what I needed, and He provided people to walk with me through the hard times. And He provided healing for my heart. It took a lot longer for me than I expected, and likely longer than it would have for other people.
As a Christ follower, I want to make a difference in people and show the love and grace of God. That is our calling. No matter what we do, we should do as for the Lord, with excellence and a servant-heart. It is very easy for us Christ-followers to expect a very high standard for each other. We want the church to make a positive impact on the world and set a good example. There is nothing wrong with this. However, when we hurt, it is easy for us to mess up. It is easy for us to handle things poorly. Sometimes we are just really misguided, or we need a different perspective. In these times, we need to build each other up with compassion. We need to gently work through the walls so that we can effectively edify our brother or sister in Christ. If we cannot do that with each other, how can we do that with those that do not yet realize their need for Christ and grace? It is in our genuine and honest need and acceptance for mercy and grace that the lost will also see their need and hopefully accept it.
We need to stop pretending or expecting to look like what some people think a Christian should look like. We all come in various shapes and sizes, with various strengths and weaknesses. We do not all share our passion of God in the same way. We will not always be calm or happy or energetic. We need to accept that none of us really have it all together. We are all are in need of grace and forgiveness for each other and for ourselves.
I am hoping to read Karen Ehman’s book, “Keep it Shut” soon. My mom is reading this, and I have heard many good things about it. I love her words from this book, “Let’s aspire to use our mouths with Godly purpose. To build…not to break. To bless…not to badger. To encourage…not to embitter. To praise…not to pounce.” Every single one of us need to learn how to do this for one another. We will be a better team together with compassion and words seasoned with grace.