Can you sum up your life in 6 words or less? For me, that’s 1 word for every 6 years of life and I still struggle. How do I capture my entire life in six words?
Never-ending aspiration, resting in grace.
This certainly isn’t complete, but I’m sure a psychologist could do a number on me with that sentence alone! When I think through my life, one of my first thoughts is the goals I’ve accomplished, tried to accomplish, or want to accomplish. I quickly define myself by my achievements; personal, professional, spiritual, athletic, etc. In fact, one of my Strengths Finder strengths is Achiever.
This drive can be a great quality. It keeps me focused, driven, always striving. As with all strengths, it can also be my downfall. I am never satisfied. It is difficult for me to celebrate success. A mild level of stress is normal because I feel the urge to perform at the top at all times.
My aspirations, if left unchecked, will lead quickly to discontent and dissatisfaction. I recently heard discontentment defined as “a restless aspiration for improvement” and the words hit me like a ton of bricks. This. Is. Me. How quickly my drive, goals, and ambition become a burden, impossible standard, and distraction! There is always improvement to me made, always another standard to meet. I constantly battle performance-based standards. If I perform, then I am accepted. If I achieve then I am worthy.
In my mind this drive to perform is separate from my relationships with family, friends, God and only confined to school, sports, work. However, I am not naïve enough to think that is really true.
Similarly, the answer is not for me to not care, to squelch the personality and strengths God gave me. I cannot make “fixing myself” another goal to achieve. Instead, my satisfaction must come from outside myself. My worth, my value cannot be determined by me. I will fail even my own standards.
The beauty of the Gospel for me is that is frees me from my own standard – a standard I can’t even keep! It frees me from the performance trap of always comparing myself to others and “succeeding” or falling short.
Ironically, the times I’ve felt most rested are almost always surrounding the times I’ve failed the most. My failure is met with an acute realization that I am not good enough. My efforts and discipline are not enough. However, by God’s grace I am forgiven and made whole. This fractured life I live is being made new. I see this in Scripture and I feel it now when my roommates forgive me for being a jerk. My discontentment is busted and I am able to rest in grace. Amazing Grace.