Last time, I told you about my old habit of trying to be whatever people expect me to be. And how this compulsion came back to smack me in the face during the 2013 Soli Deo Gloria retreat. But once this fact hit home, I didn’t just sit there saying, “Well lookie there, I’m riddled with performance anxiety” without trying to get free of it. Here’s what I did about it…
First I asked myself why I think every spiritual question must apply to me, when I can take or leave questions about other areas. Seriously, if someone asked “Write down your worst memory about hiking Death Valley” I wouldn’t feel as if I had to provide a real answer. A big, fat “N/A” would do nicely.
After some thought, it occurred to me that in matters of faith, I depend on my performance, my “right answers,” for a sense of worthiness and significance. A quick look through my journal showed well-organized Bible study notes: The date and passage at the top of each page. Hanging-indent paragraphs, each beginning with the verse under consideration. Afterthoughts neatly footnoted.
It looked like a textbook.
So I turned to a new page and—this was a big step but I won’t blame you if you laugh—forced myself to ignore the lines and write diagonally. In the middle of the top half of the page I wrote,
Stop being SO rigidly methodical.
Around that I jotted down characteristics and lies that held me back:
Starchy. Tightly wound. Must fit in. Competitive. Inside the box. Performance-driven. Coloring only inside the lines.
In the middle of the page I wrote a core truth:
In HIM you are free.
Below that, I wrote more specific truths:
Uniquely me. I don’t have all the answers; yay! Authentic. Margins are okay. God is FOR me. No carbon copy of anyone else.
Those randomly placed, every-which-way words had a remarkably freeing effect on me. Of course, the following pages of my journal feature the familiar hanging indents and neat paragraphs… but I no longer feel as if I’m taking an essay exam every time I make notes on a passage of scripture.
Instead, I come before my God with an open heart and simply communicate with him. Since he knows me better than I know myself, there is no reason to guard my words. In fact, transparency is a major factor in true intimacy, which is what I want.
The retreat was three months ago now, and I often need to be reminded of things I learn. So a paper clip bookmarks my “freeform” journal page. When that “compulsion to perform” crops up, I go back and read the truth aloud…
In HIM you are free.
Thanks for reading,
PS: Join me over at Jen’s for the Soli Deo Gloria blog party!