You may need to be told this as much as I need to repent of it.
Tidiness is not the gospel. In my life or in my house.
Achieving the next raise or promotion is not the gospel.
Weighing a certain amount or wearing a certain jean size is not the gospel.
Raising children perfectly as a flawless mother is not the gospel.
Being a wife who is always full of grace and respect is not the gospel.
Always having a smile on my face, being "just fine", and staying polite in every circumstance is not the gospel.
Having everyone's approval, acceptance and praise is not the gospel.
The Gospel is Jesus. That will always be it. But if you're anything like me, these are often things I run to instead of Him.
Even though I go through times when it doesn't feel like enough, that there should be one more stipulation, at least one rule, at least one box to check mark ... there never will be. The Gospel is good news, and that's why these things can never equate.
I am not enough, and nothing I could do would ever be enough.
I need Him.
He has fulfilled everything.
How is something so simple still so incredibly difficult to embrace with my whole heart?
You'd think I would want the freedom. That I would to sink into Jesus' arms and rest at the first recognition of the truth.
But what I've come to understand is that while I would do anything for that rest and freedom, there is nothing more I can do except believe. Jesus has done everything.
Now I want to be clear, what I'm talking about is earning. Not effort. Grace is not opposed to our effort—our discipline in the faith through the Holy Spirit. But it is opposed to turning our obedience, our effort, into earning. I am guilty of this every single day. I turn good and worthy things like studying God's word, prayer and discipleship, into things I have to achieve, with the make believe consequence of God's disappointment and punishment if I don't.
But that is the devil's lie, isn't it? That if we don't do, God won't either? That he will no longer love us, that he will no longer provide for us, or care for us if we don't perform, checking off all the boxes daily?
I fall for this lie so often, and I am ashamed of it. But continuing to hide our shame is to the enemy a steady IV flowing freely with B12. He seems to gain more and more energy toward our destruction, isolation, depression and idol worship. So I'm refusing in this moment to give into it.
I need to admit that I have made that list of false gospels my idol. (Plus a few hundred others.) I wake up and want to work out or read my Bible, eat well throughout the day, succeed at work, come home and kiss my husband, doting on him while making a beautiful, healthy meal, loving on my children, giving baths and bed time stories, cleaning the house, then soundly falling asleep to perform perfection over again the next day. Then I don't, and I feel like a failure, apologizing and feeling ashamed for not meeting a standard I was never being held to in the first place. But yet I find myself striving for it over and over again. Doesn't this sound exhausting?
I learning the hard way that it is.
I think the problem lies in the fact that I love my own glory too much. When I'm truthful with myself, this is what comes bubbling up to the surface even though I've tried to tie anchors to it and keep it hidden away, down in the depths.
I love my own glory more than God's.
Reaching my goal weight, being a perfect parent and wife, succeeding at work, having an HGTV-worthy home, and always being "just fine" have become idols because I want the earthly glory, attention and accolades that come with those things. Not to mention the comfort. The ever-illusive comfort of the so-called perfect life. Some of these things are good, but I am exchanging the best for good, and that will only lead to heartache and burn out.
I am so miserably broken. But He is so unbelievably merciful and good and kind and loving.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We feel like we are not enough many times in this life. And the difficult truth is, we are not apart from Christ. We are not yet in glory, our identities are not yet fully restored. But the question when we experience the not-enoughness will be, will I believe and accept shame for my lack in this world, or will I see my deficits for what they truly are? In light of eternity, they are covered by Christ, and my identity in Him now says I am enough to the only One who matters. To the only true One who can say whether or not I am enough.
I think it's interesting that were told to take up our cross, not to take up the cross. The cross of Jesus has already been taken up by him. It was the burden that we couldn't bear. It was the cross that we couldn't take up. Yet we are still called and commanded to take up our own cross daily and follow him. What that looks like in your life I don't know. Taking up your cross might look like practicing better discipline in healthy eating, reading your Bible, prayer or loving your husband well. I know for me it looks like all these things. But it also looks like weaning myself away from using these things as my identity instead of Jesus. I run to my career, I run to being a good parent, I run to my marriage—I run everywhere but to Him.
When I forget my identity is in Him, my worship gets misplaced. And when my worship is misplaced, my life feels anxious and full of strife. Not joyful, not restful, not peaceful, not loving, not forgiving. My life looks a lot like the world because that's what I'm running to instead of Him. And I will always leave those places empty and wanting.
Where our identity is, there our worship will be also.
When our identity is placed in what we do, how we present ourselves, or our accomplishments, we are kneeling to those things in worship. But when we remember our identity is only in Christ, we are able to worship Him and embrace the peace that comes from deep and abiding rest in His work on our behalf.