Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Performance-based acceptance...

My awesome blog buddy Joel, from Grace Roots, has set up a synchroblog. The theme is "performance-based acceptance." Unfortunately, it's something I know a little too much about. I have several stories I could share about how I tried to measure up to someone else's ideas of what my walk with God should look like. Here's one of them:

To be honest, I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't feel like I had to perform a certain way to be accepted. My world, as a child, revolved around two things: my mom and my church. I got heavy doses of the need to live up to certain standards from both of them.

As a result, I built my life around doing what was expected of me, hoping to get the love I needed. I served the church in any way I could. I pledged myself to "full-time Christian service." (Are there part-time Christians? Oh, that's for another post.) I taught Bible studies, I led singing, I preached, I did everything I knew how to do. But I never thought it was enough. So I kept trying to do more.

Part of "doing more" involved planting a church in the area we live in. That's not a bad thing, but church planting is a lot of work. When you think that you have to meet everyone's expectations in order for you to be loved, it becomes overwhelming. After a while, I couldn't keep up with all the balls I felt I had to juggle. Finally, I had to let them all fall, and walk away from all my old notions of what it meant to serve God and others. I left pastoring, and dropped off the radar screen for a while.

The really awful thing about having people expecting me to perform a certain way was that I came to see God doing the same thing. I was working so that God would love me, would accept me. That was great when things were going well, but when something went wrong, it was torture.

I know now that my uncertainty about God loving me were based on messages I got from other people, not from God Himself. I find myself listening more to His voice, and less to those voices that tell me what I must do to please Him.

For me, the best part of living loved by Father is that I get to share this news (it's really Good News!) with other people. I'm shocked by how many Christians need to hear the gospel. You know--the real gospel, the one that says we are loved and accepted because of what Christ did, not by anything we do.

For the past few weeks, we have been fellowshipping at a very traditional congregation. Instead of being draining, it's been fun and liberating. It's great to be able to love on people, and not need them to validate me. It's also great to be able to preach God's love and grace, without giving them obligations they need to fulfill.

Grace is such a radical concept that I think there's always a desire to make it safer, more controllable. One way we do that is by putting performance obligations on people. But that's not God's way. That's man's way of taming grace...

(To read the rest of the blogs participating in the synchroblogging wonder, go here...)


Bino M. said...

Thank you Richard for sharing your story! It greatly blessed me!


Joel B. said...

Wow, Richard, thanks for sharing! I can totally relate to the whole ongoing feeling that whatever I'm doing is never good enough! That was a huge issue in my walk with God. Indeed, like you say, it can be really good things... but juggling all those balls in order to keep everyone pleased is just an impossible thing to do. Like you, I essentially perceived God in the same way, thinking He had all these great expectations of me.

And you're so right... those thoughts are not from Him, but rather are based on the perceptions others have created about Him. He simply is not like that, but rather tells the tired and worn out to come to Him!

It's so great to read your story, and to see how you've not only overcome, but how you are presently living in this freedom.

Heh... you say you're "shocked by how many Christians need to hear the gospel." Isn't that sad? And yet an opportunity at the same time. Paul Anderson-Walsh has given words to what my heart has felt for the past several years, calling it the "gospel to the saved." It's not just 'the world' that needs to hear the good news, but the church as well, and I think God is doing a huge worldwide work in which He's bringing the church back around to the true gospel.

Michelle said...

Yes, Christians need the gospel too! :) This is a great post, especially since it seems the gospel gets pushed out of ministry more and more.

Jennifer said...

The message of His grace warms and overwhelms me! You tell the story of the gospel in a way that very few others do. Thank you for blessing my heart with His message.

I'm so glad I married you!