Tyler bought me this bracelet months ago. When I first read the quote, it honestly brought tears to my eyes. I know what it’s like to be “perfect,” or at least give the illusion that I am. And I know how it feels to be free from that burden.
My entire childhood I was the preacher’s daughter and the Christian kid. I felt deeply that I had to be “perfect.” And so, as far back as I can remember, I learned to smile, to engage, and to mold to the specific crowd that I was with. But in my heart, there was a constant war. A war between what people wanted, what I wanted, and what God wanted.
I lived with the crippling disease to please my entire childhood and teenage life.
This disease caused emotional and physical damage in my life. If I felt that I had not met someone’s expectations, I would spend days and sometimes weeks or even months, constantly running through the situation in my mind. Even now as I write this, I can pinpoint different memories of feeling like I had utterly disappointed someone. I kept a knot in my stomach that prevented me from eating and caused me to constantly feel nauseous and light-headed. I fell into depression and battled anxiety attacks because of this constant fear of disappointment.
This desire to meet everyone’s standard ruled and ruined my life.
While a lot of this disease to please is a part of my personality that I have to fight (with God doing the hard labor), a large portion of the disease was also genetic and learned. My parents were wonderful examples of loving God and people, but they were also entangled in some very strong false doctrine and legalism that my brother and I were then born into.
A big part of this legalism was the idea that people of certain gifts and callings, specifically preachers and prophets, were the ruling authority over the lives of the members of the churches. Don’t mistake this as me saying that Spiritual authority shouldn’t be respected, it should. But that is not what we experienced. We did not experience authority that earned our respect and trust in judgment, we experienced authority that demanded respect, made you feel that you weren’t capable of making your own judgements, and basically shunned you if you didn’t follow the list of what they said was right and wrong (No, I was not Amish. But some aspects sometimes seemed pretty close).
This idea of “I’m not smart or spiritual enough to understand so I better just trust them” led to constant misinterpretation of the Bible, complete insecurity in my relationship with God, a total misinterpretation of Who God is, and a god-like idea of those in ‘higher callings’ and authority.
We aimed to please and impress those who told us what to do by doing what they said. We dressed the way they told us to dress, did or didn’t go where they said we should or shouldn’t go, and acted as instructed.
If we didn’t agree with what they were telling us to give up, we pretended like we did and continued our ‘sin’ in secret. We who claimed and believed ourselves to be the ‘holiest and closest to God,’ we who made others feel like they were nothing in comparison to us because we were so ‘holy’ and felt proud of it, we who would turn up our noses at those who looked or believed differently than us with ‘righteous indignation,’ we were experts in the art of lying and deceit.
If we believed that the way those around us acted and believed was in complete opposition to God’s plan, we never said so and agreed wholeheartedly while in their presence.
If we decided to study Scripture for ourselves and realized that what the preacher said was actually not what God’s Word said, we kept it to ourselves and continued to listen to his misinterpretation.
We leaned on and obeyed the people around us more than we ever leaned on and obeyed God. Because we didn’t know Who God really is. We didn’t know that He is Love, we only knew Him as a big God, sitting in Heaven, waiting for one of us to mess up so that He could rebuke and punish us for our sins. We didn’t know that He Loved us unconditionally, we only knew of conditional, works-based love.
In all of my working to please and appease, God was rarely on my list. I believed that by doing what the preacher said I was doing what God said. That played a big role in becoming sick and depressed when I felt that I had disobeyed. If the preacher would be disappointed in me, then God would be too. I believed that if I disobeyed I lost all salvation and had to start again from the very beginning. If I were really saved then I wouldn’t be tempted to do ‘bad’ things and I would be stronger to resist.
This mindset and lifestyle were a constant for the first 16 years of my life and the first 4 years of my salvation. When I was 16, I encountered God like I never had before. I met Him, I got to know Him more, and I realized that He was not the big scary God that I had always imagined, He is a kind and loving Father Who always wants what is best for me and expects that I’m going to make a lot of mistakes.
I can’t say exactly when I became 100% free because it isn’t something that happened in a moment. This battle for freedom has been a constant over the last 7 years and its effects have really only been visible in the last 2 years. This is a war that I will fight until the end of my life.
God used people who truly know Him to help lead me away from mistrust into Freedom and healthy relationships. God used His Word to help tear down the many walls and lies that were spread throughout my mind and heart. He led me through Scripture, He led me through books, He led me through trustworthy people, He led me through worship, and He led me through His Spirit out of captivity and into His Freedom.
If you’ve been following long then you have probably seen me say something about my life verse,
Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery(Gal. 5:1).
Now you have a little insight as to why. God used that Scripture, and still uses is constantly, to remind me that Christ died to set me Free and that fact will never change. It is up to me to submit again to the bondage and chains of people pleasing and anxiety or to stand firm in the truth that,
if the Son sets you free, you really will be free (John 8:36).”
I still battle with this disease to appease. It rears its ugly head regularly and I always have the choice to give in to the guilt and fear or bring that shame under the authority of Christ.
I can submit again to slavery or I can flourish in this newfound freedom.
No matter what your yoke of slavery may be, it doesn’t have to be the end of your story. Christ has liberating Freedom for you. You don’t have to do anything to earn it, you simply have to accept it. He isn’t asking you to break the yoke and then run to Him, He is offering to break the yoke for you and bring you into His light and glorious freedom (Matt. 11:28-30).
God is calling you out of slavery and into the center of His Goodness.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.