Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Four Small Words

Still at my parents' house, snowed in.  The kids and I stayed up late enjoying the good ol' cable tv.

I slept hard and deep, the particular sleep of being a child once again.  My parents are almost 70 years old, but nothing about them is "elderly".  They are capable and active and being here always gives me a certain measure of relaxation and a chance to be something other than The Only Grown Up In The House.

So much seems to be happening in and around me lately.  Recently, I remarked that I was "struggling".  I guess that's a good word for it, though it feels a bit less active than a struggle.  Some days I feel paralyzed.  Others, I'm just tired.  It's hard to be creative.  Insecurity lurks underneath the edges of daily life.  I recognize some familiar signs - isolation, fear, feeling responsible for every negative thing, seeing all the things around me that I cannot or do not do.

I know there's some spiritual tie-in here.  The standard line is that if you're not being with God on a daily basis, if you are not living in Christ, then you'll struggle to maintain the daily challenges of life.  Compound that with the responsibilities of working for an institution whose primary concern is leading others towards spiritual health, and we have a recipe for some difficult days.  I will admit that I'm spending more time doing than being, although I'm trying to be.  I'm captivated by what I'm reading in the Bible these days, but the daily routine of study and reflection and prayer is haphazard at best.  It seems like there's always so much to do, and the doing gets in the way of the being.

Yesterday, I read these words about leadership:

"Hey leader, just give up. Throw in the towel, raise the white flag, just quit trying so hard... After all, is this really worth it? Aren't you simply tired of taking arrows in the back from your own team? Hasn't it been long enough to try to change their minds or ways? For all the hard work you've been doing to try to help your organization with no one recognizing your efforts, really... just relax, go with the flow... you'll have less headaches and your days can be so much easier." Mark Meyer

It terrifies me to admit how much I relate to those words. 

Not so much because I'm feeling beaten up by my team; just that those words of surrender sound so tempting.

Not too long ago I was living deeply in the realization that God had led me to leadership.  I was embracing it, relishing it, and accepting the reality of where I was, how I was serving, and my capabilities.  I even wrote about it here.

The joy of that realization feels a bit more like a burden these days.  And the fact that I can't enjoy it, live it up to it, embrace it, forge ahead - all these things bear down on me with the crushing weight of four small words that have chased me throughout most of my life.

You're not good enough.

This seems to be the boulder at the base of my gut, the foundational core of my being.  It is fed, lately, by every mistake I make - every forgotten detail, every neglected email, every error in judgement, every single thing I could have done better.  It fuels the illusion of perfection that has dogged me all of my life.

I thought I had beaten this thing; I thought that therapy and counseling and good decisions and a healthy work environment combined to heal the rawness of this belief that has pushed and pulled me in and out of so many of my life decisions. 

I guess not.

It's still there.

Funny, the leader in me recongizes that there's a great spiritual application here; that the basis of my need for Christ in line with my faith system says that this is exactly where I have to start.  "I'm not good enough; I need Jesus."  Unfortunately, this cycles back to another negative; "You know better.  You need to straighten up and fly right.  You know the answer to this problem.  You are capable of more.  Get yourself together!  Clean your house!  Get back to exercising!  Do the right thing!"

So perhaps the issue is not so much that I'm stuck in the personal negative, but that I'm not functioning clearly in the spiritual positive.  The truth; the notion that in spite of the reality of my "not-good-enough" status, there is something - Someone - greater.  The "propitiation for our sins".

I'm tired.  I'm feeling older.  I'm having trouble keeping a workout schedule.  I'm dragging around ten pounds that annoy me.  My house is a cluttered mess.  I'm mildly anxious about my financial future.  One of my friends is moving on and it makes me very sad.  My eldest daughter is graduating.  My kids are growing up.  I am falling short in so many ways.

I hesitate to post this, because my blog now feeds into Facebook.  This confession might be read, far and wide.  Part of me struggles with the thought that people who see the "Sunday Beth" might feel cheated, knowing that the cheerful, excited, energetic piano playing Christian is, deep down inside, fighting all sorts of unpleasant battles.  The leader in me is afraid that if you see me real, you might not like me so much.  Or your spiritual life might be damaged.  But I've been there before, and the cost of pretending is too high.  

And aren't you just like me, deep down inside?  Haven't you been here too?

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. - Romans 8.26-28, The Message


Anonymous said...

Man, Satan has been working hard in our midst ... those four words have been nagging in the back of my mind (or soul?) for the past several weeks.. SCREAMING at me to just, yes, give up. Then I remember that I am a fighter.. I WILL fight Satan. I NEED my armor.. where is it? Oh yeah, it is under the computer, behind the tax return, behind the piles and piles of STUFF to be done.
I so feel your "pain"... but you will win this battle and you will come out even more wonderful than you are.. because YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH... you are His child, and our friend and leader.
Thank you for sharing.. for honesty and being YOU to help others.


Tommy said...

Once again, I appreciate your transparency Beth. It's refreshing. I often struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I've always been apprehensive about leading and am many times intimidated around other leaders. Like I've snuck into a club that I shouldn't be in. I know that God has placed me in a position of leadership, but I am not always comfortable with that. I take great comfort in the fact that I am not alone. Scripture is full of guys like me (Moses, Jeremiah, etc.). I find during my times of struggle, it's not that I have disconnected from God's Word or prayer (the common prescription for our spiritual woes), but that I am not completely connected with his purpose. I am keeping busy, working my own agenda and saying it's for Him...all the while he is calling me simply to "follow" Him. So, you are not alone. For what it's worth, I am definitely praying for you. God bless you Beth.

Patty P said...

You and I are the same you see? We both feel like there is this perfect example that "We" can become. But whoa, to that notion. For the example has already been set and we are yet frugal attempts to replicate that. The truth is... We aren't good enough. And the truth is... we are all real people who'm God has paid the very real price, for our very real and destructive sin.

All our lives are connected in some deep way. We are realizing it. Day by day.

I thank God for this church and these trying times. "Adapt and Overcome"

Anonymous said...

Just remember that God wants us to look at the heart and not at the outward appearance, guess that means the house.....etc.......
Keep your head up and believe in yourself...


A Friend

Kelley said...

I try to think what would be said to me if I were saying these words... I was taught, loved, cared for, and guided by the best through some very dark times of doubt and pain...and SHE would have said.. "Allow yourself to feel this way. It is okay to feel..and you might as well be honest about it 'cause it ain't like God don't know what you are thinking anyway! So feel sad or beaten or whatever...but don't you DARE tell yourself that you "aren't good enough" cause you and I both know that is simply STINKING THINKING." Yep, that is what SHE would've told me... and she is best leader, spiritual advisor, and/or friend that exists.. so I will just steal her words... and say, "Ya, what she said."

Love you.


anne said...

Though I do love the "Sunday Beth"...I think I love the everyday, real life, struggling Beth even more. I mean, really, who can relate to a leader who has no struggles, who has no imperfections? The only perfect one is Jesus. The reason I find such solace and comfort in worship at PCC is because it is real people, real leaders giving God all that they have, perfect or not. And you know that I can especially relate to being the Only adult in the house, trying to keep order amid chaos and clutter, and to embrace the challenge that I've found in my lap. It is Hard to do. Even on a good day, I cannot escape moments of feeling that I could have done SOMEThing better. But in the end, I think striving toward the goal God has set before us is all we can do. He knows we are not perfect but just as I want my children to keep trying to better themselves, he wants us to continue to try. You are an inspiration. Hugs!

kimbontrager said...

Thanks for writing this Beth. But next time you're going to outright steal words from my brain, at least link them to MY facebook as well so I can share in your fears about who reads it. :)

At this moment, sitting at Panera reading blogs, I am struggling with the background thoughts running through my head about what I'm not doing adequately. I, too, am always shocked by how quickly my thought patterns shift. One day, I'm captivated by God's call, feeling humbled and yet embracing it. And the next day, I'm all cloudy, grumpy, cynical... mostly b/c I don't think I'm living out the call the Right Way.

Argh. That's another deadly word combination 'the right way'. Can't ever live up to that rather vague standard.

Heard John Eldredge say something about what a great strategy the enemy has in trying to steal the hope from those who are in positions of influence and leadership. I now recognize I have a very familiar slippery slope where I lose my perspective and hope. Sometimes I even think I ENJOY it.

You're not alone.

vicki said...

Beth, all leaders and followers feel inadequate. Amen to what has been said. Those guys in the Bible felt the same way. It's easy to "grow weary in well doing." I fight those feelings too. I guess we all do. Sometimes we fight the feelings of "thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought" and other times we just tell God that He needs to find someone else to do it because we are not good enough(Moses) Either way , we seem to be focusing on ourselves. That's satan's favorite trick, hey it works so well. Whenever I find myself thinking , I'm just getting the life sucked out of me and I'm tired, or God needs to get another person for this job, or I'm pretty amazing at this.... I immediately realize who is behind these thoughts. It's not God! He likes to use earthen vessels(cracked pots)because they prove to the world who is really behind all the good stuff. If we did everything great by ourselves we wouldn't need Him, would we? Thankfully that will never happen!!! I'm so grateful that God leads us and we don't ever have to do it alone!!!

I know I've said it before, but I just love that story of Gideon, who was a scared little wimp, but God turned him into a "mighty warrior". I have to remind myself of that story.

Believe me, you aren't the only one who feels this way.

love you so much!!