My scarlet letter.
"F" is for Failure. For me, it is worse that shame and fear, as both of these were mostly birthed out of what I have so often thought of as my failure. Thankfully, I have found myself learning so much in the last few years about what has tempted me to falsely rely on my own abilities, and kept me from abiding in the truth, that is, resting in a place of dependency on the Lord. There are thoughts that have so often plagued my mind: "If I can only be good enough or do the right thing enough, then... (fill in the blank something I need or desire)." This kind of thinking and surviving led me to a life of striving and disappointment in so many ways - ways that I wish I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self to stop it and just be. Seriously!
Let me be transparent with you and share with you some things I often fail at:
- Being an encouraging wife
- Being a mom who prays enough for her kids
- Being a servant to all I meet
- Being an intentional home-schooling mom
- Being a good friend
- Saying the right things at the right time
- Keeping my house clean
- Eating and serving foods that fuel our bodies
- Just having fun
- Being connected to people that feel disconnected from me
- Serving God in a foreign country
- Spending money on the right things
- Filtering my mouth
- Losing my temper
- Having realistic expectations
- Wanting to really try again & again at something that has seemingly never worked
- Sharing the love of God with my kids at home
- Allowing my home to be a place of freedom
- Spending enough time with the Lord
There it is - a list that really amounts to being the footnotes below my scarlet letter. If I am honest, it feels a bit unnerving when I think about all of you reading my list. You see, the enemy wants me to keep this stuff hidden. In the dark. He says that I am supposed to set an amazing example for all to see while I am serving overseas. He tells me I am supposed to always do the right thing and never struggle with the wrong thing. All ideas that sound so appealing at times for my heart to believe, because these ideas seem like such noble goals that all believers should have. But, the problem is that once the enemy convinces me to believe all of these "noble-sounding" ideas, he reminds me of my list, and then tells me that my list is not compatible with who I am claiming to be, and that my list is really the list of my disqualifications - ah yes..there it is...good ole' condemnation, which, in turn, leads to guilt, shame, and even spiritual paralysis if I keep believing it.
I used to be like the girl from The Scarlet Letter, always figuratively wearing a permanent reminder of my failure, because I thought, "surely I deserve to be treated as less-than because of what I know about myself and my failures." But then I had an epiphany. I am just like you, we are all just human. Why did I feel I deserved to be treated in accordance with my shame and guilt that Jesus had already defeated on the Cross?" That is when I really knew that the enemy had been lying to me all along, and that with the combination of his lies and my human failures, he was blackmailing me to live a miserable, ineffective life as a believer! Thankfully, God has rescued me from this place and I have now found the enemy’s kryptonite, his Achilles' heel. It is the Light!
I have learned that being appropriately transparent (sharing with you something that is really just the reality of my journey) allows you to see me where I am, and invites God to shine his Light more brightly into my dark, hidden places. The Light destroys the enemy's power over me. With my "secret list" exposed, the tool that the enemy used to extort me into paralysis no longer has any power over me! What's even more ironic is that God always knew my list. He knew the failures I wrestled with. He knew that I struggle tempering my anger. He knew that I would not be an "on-point" homeschooling mom when we uprooted our home and moved to a new land. He knew it all, yet he still called me (my whole family really). He knew that our kids who wrestle with their faith would be surround by unbelief and have to wrestle their own issues on deeper levels. He knew that the “opposites attract” marriage I have lived in would continue to grind away my last shred of pride and selfishness. He knew. I love that about him. He already knows. The Light was never needed so that he could see all of me. The Light was needed so that I could see and declare God's victory in my life that already exists in the kingdom.
So I am thinking that if I have struggled with the shame and guilt from my previous failures, I can only imagine there are others of you who walk around feeling the same. So, in this moment, let me, in the power of Holy Spirit, rip off your scarlet letter and let’s burn them together! Our new reality is that we are daily trying to experience more of God than yesterday, and that we will let that allow us to make a difference in the places where we are. No more hiding. No more darkness. TF