I like rules. I suppose that’s weird. Maybe it’s because I like things black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. At work when our compliance coordinator gave me a list of 100 criteria we’re required to meet for our accreditation, I jumped into it. I liked knowing where we were doing well and what we needed to fix.
And then during our accreditation survey last year we got marked for partial compliance on two criteria. Three years ago we got partial compliance on a few dozen and still passed with full accreditation. Only getting dinged on two out of 594 is basically unheard of. It was the best survey result my boss had seen in decades of work in the industry.
While I was proud that we had improved, I was also sad that we weren’t perfect.
I’m that annoying person who got As in basically all her classes. I wish I could say that it was only As, but a couple of Bs did sneak in there. And I was so disappointed with myself when they did. (Even over a decade later, I can still list which classes they were.)
I took a logic class in college and I got every homework question right the entire semester… except one. I went to the teacher afterwards and asked how to solve it, he showed me, I facepalmed, and when the identical question showed up on the final I got it right.
In my first performance evaluation in this job, I got a 390 out of 400. Despite the fact that it was my first year learning a job, that my boss didn’t believe in giving perfect scores, that it landed me in the top performance category, AND that I got a promotion, I sulked over those ten little points.
I know. I’m sick.
This desire to follow the rules and be perfect bleeds over from my school life and my work life into my spiritual life. I put pressure on myself to be a super Christian.
Just believing in Christ isn’t enough for me. I also need to go to church every week. And serve in kids ministry. And read my Bible regularly. And lead a team each year at Fall Fest. And volunteer at other events. And tithe at least 10%. And and and and and and…
…and this is all incredibly stupid. I don’t know what I think I will prove. Yeah, there is a part of me that wants to prove something to God. As though my doing all these things will gain me more favor — not necessarily more than other Christians, but more for myself just for me not in a competitive way.
Last year in addition to all of that, I was also helping out with high schoolers. It was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. But I was also exhausted. Even though it was only one night a week, I felt frazzled and worn out and over-scheduled. It wasn’t the high school ministry stressing me out; it was my life pace. (The fact I was running / training more than I ever had before probably didn’t help — even if it did result in a year of great performances.) When my seniors graduated in the spring, I didn’t sign up to continue this year.
This year, my life is very quiet and my schedule is much less full. There’s a part of me that really wants to go back to high school ministry because it was great, but there’s a stronger voice in my head telling me that I NEED to go back and berating all this free time I now have and how I should be filling it up with things to serve Christ.
Never mind that I can NEVER do enough things to serve Christ! That my feeble little works and gifts and acts of service don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to how much Christ has done for me!
Why am I doing this to myself? What am I so reluctant to accept grace? Why do I think that God’s grace got me INTO salvation, but it’s my works that KEEP me there?
Unlike last year’s no-spending challenge, I have no resolutions or challenges this year. Instead I’m spending the month of January doing a type of fast. I went into the fast with the idea that it would be a good time to listen to God and get direction from him on what he wants me to do next.
Now I’m wondering if that’s actually the opposite of what’s supposed to happen. Maybe this time of refocusing needs to result not at all in ideas about things that I could do or should do, but entirely in redirecting myself to deeper life of worship for what Christ has already done.
Maybe I need to learn to be still.
Maybe I need to learn that God loves me through and through and through regardless of what I do or don’t do.
Maybe I need to let grace envelop me and seep into my bones like wrapping up in warm towels hot from the dryer.
Maybe instead of a year of challenge, I need a year of grace.