January 11, 2017: Stoked with a Side of Grace
The first time I felt insecure after the Great Self-Hatred Battle of Sophomore Year, I pretty much flipped. I thought God brought me through this already. I thought He conquered this demon. I thought we closed out this chapter of the story and moved on to something that made me feel more like a hero.
But it seems that what I thought was a page or a chapter – feelings of insecurity, shame, and inadequacy – might very well be a theme in the whole dang thing. I hope and pray that I will never hate myself again the way I did back then. I hope and pray that God will keep me from that. Yet, I still find myself caught by the dreams and expectations I don’t live up to.
Why wasn’t this a one-and-done battle? Why is it starting to look like a war? Why do I keep going around in circles back to the point of not feeling good enough?
Grace, grace, grace. There is grace to be found here.
I think God uses my frequent struggle against insecurity to force me to rely on Him. I actually think most obstacles or burdens we can’t handle on our own are meant to serve that purpose. It’s a reminder that living in my own finite, meager capabilities isn’t sufficient, because when I try that, I end up weak and weary with embarrassment over all I could not be or do.
I’m reading Isaiah right now, and chapter 52 verses 2-3 caught my eye recently.
“Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. For this is what the Lord says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.'”
In Jesus, God has forgiven me for every single failure of mine to hit the target. Every time I’ve fallen short of the perfect standard is wiped away. Grace has removed all my wrongs and less-than-rights. But sometimes, I still live in them, or at least in their aftermath.
I believe our actions have consequences, but I also believe Jesus took away the worst of the consequences for sin, including shame. When I think that I’m not good enough because I should’ve said something nicer or I wish I hadn’t been afraid to do something bold and outgoing, I’m leaning into lies.
Jesus has made me enough.
When He took my sin on the cross and replaced it with new life out of the grave, He made me enough. Any voice claiming otherwise is that of a liar directly out of the pits of hell.
I don’t usually live like that, though. Usually, I let insecurity creep in around the edges until I’m completely surrounded. I place superhuman expectations on myself and then stew in feelings of inadequacy when I can’t meet them. It’s a fight I have seen many times before, but fall back into time and time again. Then comes more shame, and so goes the cycle.
But it’s a fight God has already won and a cycle He has made unnecessary. He has already declared me enough and set me free from shame.
So what am I to do when I’m feeling less than enough for the millionth time?
In the words of Isaiah, shake off my dust. Rise up. Free myself from the chains on my neck, the ones I put back on after Jesus died to take them off. There is a difference in being set free and living in freedom. I don’t live in freedom all the time, but I am free. Grace did that. And grace picks me up when I fall back into the trap of shame. Grace carries me back into the freedom she gave.
Why do I still struggle with insecurity after all this? I forget that I’m free and lean into the lie that I’m not enough. And my gracious God redeems every moment I spend walking away from His freedom. He leverages it all for His good purpose. He continues, in all of this, to teach me grace. And that might be the most gracious thing of all.
I’m so excited for this semester. I have a great schedule, classes I’m really looking forward to, and a group fitness pass at the gym all ready to go. I have God-given friends who easily slipped back into our old routine after a month apart. I have emotional and spiritual energy all stored up from Passion conference and time at home. And yet, while I’m stoked for this semester, I know it will not be perfect. I know I will not be perfect, but I don’t want to try to be. This semester, my aim is grace, and that’s what makes me most excited.
“Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20b)
(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)