by contributing writer Kristen Webb
On New Years Eve my family went to the church skate at the coliseum. I was enjoying skating, not really thinking about anything in particular and then I noticed the song that was playing. I recognized it as “Jesus, Friend of Sinner’s” by Casting Crowns. I have heard it lots of times and have always liked it. I enjoy how the song talks about not judging people, but loving them instead. This is a value I have been passionate about since I was young; but on New Years Eve, the song hit me in a completely different way.
It overwhelmed me and healed me as I was gliding along among all those people.
I have struggled since I was a teenager with feeling like I am a failure, especially when it comes to my Christian walk. I think this stemmed from being a perfectionist and feeling I had to be perfect for God to be pleased with me. I felt like He was angry every time I made a mistake! This tainted my life and made everything a struggle. I thought life was just hard and that was the way it had to be. God said we would have trials and I thought the fear and sense of failure I was experiencing were the trails God was talking about. I just figured I needed to try harder to be perfect and endure all the emotional stress failing brought me.
But now I see that I needlessly endured the very things Jesus died to free me of.
What sort of things were affected by my perfectionism? Everything I did was affected!
Once, when I was helping out with our youth group, I created a permission slip for Snow Camp but forgot to change the date from the year before. Handing out a permission slip with the wrong date ruined my entire day.
Looking back I can see how silly this was because in the grand scheme of things it really did not matter to anyone else that the date was wrong. The youth knew that the permission form was obviously for this year not last year.
My whole day was made up of numerous events like the permission slip—of me judging myself and finding myself lacking. It was like I was continually playing this game to trying to be perfect and keeping score in my head. If I lost any points during the day I would feel like a failure, which led to depression and thinking I did not deserve anything good.
Looking back, I wonder if I was trying to fix the hole in my soul by being perfect.
I was sexually abused as a kid and it really messed me up inside. I did not deal with what happened or go to God to heal me, I just buried it all and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. I think I was trying to fix my broken heart by being perfect and I felt that if I could just not make any mistakes the deep hurt in me would go away.
The devil had me right where he wanted me.
This solo attempt to fix the problem added a huge amount of pain and stress to my life. There was no way I could be perfect so this just made my failures more painful, and spiraled me further into hopelessness. I was haunted by condemnation and felt unworthy and insecure.
But all the while, I was careful to not let others see my weakness. I taught others about forgiveness and grace but felt it did not apply to me.
So when I was gliding along and I heard the song about Jesus being a friend of sinners I had an epiphany: I realized all the things I felt God was mad at me for were sins! That made me a sinner and the song said that Jesus was a friend to sinners!
This song about God’s grace did not just apply to others but to ME.
God was not mad at me or even expecting me to be perfect—He was wanting me to grasp His forgiveness and fully embrace His love for me. He died to free me from sin, and did not expect me to try harder but to trust Him. I couldn’t do this on my own and I was not meant to even try…which is why my life was such an endless, epic fail.
I was hoping that being good would impress God and somehow fix my broken soul.
But trying to be good without God actually fueled pride and separated me from God. God is not impressed when we try to be good on our own. The fact that I failed so often in my own strength was no surprise to God.
God was so aware of our weaknesses that He sent Jesus to die on the Cross to be our SAVIOR. I totally missed the crux of Christianity: the fact that I needed a Savior to save me from my sin—not just to forgive my sins so I could have a relationship with God and get into heaven but to free me from the power of sin in my everyday life.
All that pressure I had been putting on myself slipped away as I grasped that God’s grace and mercy applied to me too.
I did not have to be perfect to please God, and my righteousness came from Jesus.
Relief overwhelmed me as I realized God loved me just as I was—a sinner—someone who makes a lot of mistakes. I don’t need to marinate in condemnation when I blow it. I need to accept God’s forgiveness, rejoice, and move on. All the shame I had been holding for years washed away. I could finally admit that I was not strong, that I had huge issues and that I was not the wonderful Christian I was trying so hard to be.
By believing all of Satan’s lies I had tortured myself for years. But the the comfort that was flowing into my life as I skated around was so freeing. Being free from pride and shame felt amazing. I had been trying so hard to have it all together and it felt great to have permission to be a mess.
It was going to be okay because my success did not rest in me but on God.
I don’t need to try to be good on my own strength. That is not my job! I can trust God to transform me and, if I stay close and listen and obey, He will lead me and change me.
While I was writing this blog another Casting Crowns song came on that describes how I don’t have to figure it all out by myself. It is called, “Just be Held.”
It is not by trying harder that I become someone God is pleased with, but by trusting more completely and surrendering all to Him.
Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters – one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years. You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.