On Pressure and Performing – and Finding Freedom to Be You
(This post is part of The Enemies of Grace series. Click here to learn more.)
I tried to start this post with a story, friends. It’s what a good writer is supposed to do, after all. Throw out a catchy “hook” and reel everyone in with a comedic moment or a tear-jerking anecdote.
But instead I just have a question: Am I the only one who sometimes feels less than inspired? Am I the only one who has the days where I just don’t have what it takes?
I started blogging about a year ago, with so many ideas bursting from my heart, I felt like a deer dancing thru flowered forests in the spring. One such inspiration led me to start a series of posts about the “Enemies of Grace.” I outlined my post ideas and started to write, excited to share the ideas I’d been mulling around for a while.
As the days and months passed, however, the posts began to feel more tedious. Instead of dancing, my writing days felt more like slogging through the mud, trying to pull out good stories or inspiring words from all the sticky muck.
Finally, the end was in sight. Just one post left to go in the series. I sent up a plea to the heavens and began searching for the right words to share. Only… I came up empty. All the thoughts I’d jotted down about the topic month earlier just seemed like gibberish now. And despite my valiant efforts to stir forth inspiration via strategies such as procrastination (aka. housecleaning), chocolate, and heartfelt prayers . . . nothing.
Just crickets singing in my head where I’d hoped for at least a nugget of truth to share.
Maybe I’ve just used up all my good ideas, I started thinking. Maybe God doesn’t really care. Maybe it’s just ridiculous to think I should be writing about anything at all . . . (cue sorrowful music from your favorite TV drama here.)
So I did the only thing I could think to do: I decided to fake it. I started mapping out a post with lackluster ideas, to say the least. Trite truths. Simplistic strategies. I didn’t feel very good about any of it, but it’s all I had in the tank. Maybe I can at least think of a clever story to hook my readers at the beginning, I thought with one last glimmer of hope.
(You already know that didn’t happen!)
Here’s the irony of it all, friends. The topic I’d set out to write about? Pride. More specifically, the unhealthy quality of pride, which the Webster’s Dictionary defines succinctly: with “having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.”
Hmm . . . like a woman who thinks she should fake wisdom so that people will think she knows what she’s talking about?
Ouch. Maybe my problem is that I’m over-qualified to address this topic.
Living Without Answers
In the end, of course, I abandoned the “faking it” approach.
More truthfully, God intervened with that approach. As I laid in bed last night God whispered something different to my heart. Words my pastor shared in yesterday’s sermon came back to mind: When we recognize our place in God’s heart, we don’t have anything to prove.
And on the heels of that reminder, this: Why not just be honest and admit that you struggled with this one?
Here’s the truth, friends. I don’t always feel inspired. I don’t always have love and wisdom to share. Much as I try, I certainly don’t always live up to my own ideals. But I do doubt. I fear. I stumble through parenting and marriage and this writing endeavor much like I imagine people stumble through any work God’s given them to do.
Pretending I do it all with perfect faith and perfect ease—that’s just pride.
But it’s a pride that keeps snagging at me, sticky little briars catching at my heart. After all, I’m walking in a culture that’s gilded in pride. We prize individualism: taking care of ourselves, fixing our own problems, creating our own destinies. (And they must be “great” destinies, at that.) If we just work harder, “hustle” a little more, we can all do “great things.”
On the flip side of all this greatness, we have to scramble to cover up weaknesses. Shift blame for our mistakes. Hide our addictions. Jump into the next best experience that promises personal satisfaction. Because never, never, never can we let it be known that deep down, we simply aren’t all we want to be. We can’t let our real selves be seen: What would people say?
It’s all a lot of pressure. A lot to carry. A lot to pretend.
That’s the tell-tale mark of pride, I think. The endless pressure to be more than we really are.
Laying It Down
I could offer the simplistic strategies for combatting pride that I originally outlined for this post—they might even sound clever after I wrapped them up in pretty prose. But here’s the only bit of truth I actually feel called to share today: Sometimes it’s just not ours to do or say.
In a world pushing us to shoot for “greater things,” sometimes God calls us to be quiet and small. To offer a hug instead of platitudes when friends are hurting. To do the simple, unglamorous chores that weave love into the bones of our homes. To confess that we’re struggling with direction, or we’re hurting, or we’re just plain tired—and we need some time to recoup. So often, when pride would push us toward “more,” God’s calling us to see the meaning and joy in less.
Maybe we just have to let God be the one to do the greater things.
What are you carrying today? A longing for greater things? A guilt for not doing enough? A weariness or sadness about life circumstances you can’t control?
Maybe it’s not your job to carry it, friend.
I know, pride is telling you otherwise. It’s asking you to pretend. It’s saying you should be strong. Prove your worth. Build your little kingdom and make it somehow more. But that’s God’s work, not ours.
Maybe the opposite of pride isn’t humility. Maybe it’s simple surrender to God’s plans for our lives—be they modest or grand. Maybe it’s grabbing on to God’s grace and finally, truly, believing that we don’t have to prove ourselves—we just have to be ourselves.
Today, I’m going to check my pride with a few things that help me surrender—some time with my prayer journal, a text to a few friends for some prayer, a short nap. And instead of pretending I have all the answers, I’m just going to encourage you to take a few minutes to look toward the One who does.
What are you carrying today, friend? What would it look like to lay it down? What would it look like to ask for help with the load?
A few days ago, I took a quiet walk down one of the country roads near our home. The winter landscape looked a bit dull and uninspired—barren fields and mucky ditches along the road, looking rather bleak without a blanket of glistening snow to add beauty to their hard edges.
It seemed like a fitting image for the uninspired state of my heart, I mused.
And then, as I glanced at the horizon, I saw a row of trees, their bare arms cutting jagged lines into the pale-blue sky. I noticed something I’d never appreciated in the warm days of summer, when vibrant green leaves decorated their branches: The trunk, the branches, each twiggy little finger—they all stretch upward. Reaching. Pointing. Pushing toward the light and life they need.
I’m going to hold the image close today. Maybe you can too. And together, we can be Tree people. Stripped bare of our pride. Content with the soil where we’ve been planted. And only reaching for more of the One who gives us grace. Only ever pointing toward the one great Love.
(This post is part of The Enemies of Grace series. Click here to learn more.)
[…] “On Pressure and Performing – and Finding Freedom to Be You” […]
Amen, yes! Timely and spot-on…bless you for uncovering and best of all sharing this truth! Blessings of Christ
My friend Meghan told me she loves your blog and I should check it out because you remind her of me. So this is the first post I read and I must say that we could be sisters. I love how honest and down to earth you are and that last bit about trees spoke to my soul in a way only God could have orchestrated. Thank you so much for sharing this!
Thanks for leaving a note! It’s always nice to hear from people who struggle with the same things I do. (Makes life a bit sweeter to know we’re all int his together!) I’m so glad God spoke to your heart. 🙂
Thank you for this, I really needed it today. 🙂
Oh, I’m so glad you found it helpful. I often need reminders of these truths myself!