The Pain of Pleasing

Hi friends,

Can I be vulnerable with you today? I’m in seminary now, and with that comes finals. There were a few tests and projects here and there, but something about pressing all of them together in one week shifted things for the easy going attitude I’ve carried all semester. I’ve known for a while that I struggled with perfectionism and people pleasing, but I saw this week these sins in their purest form.

Yes, I believe they are sins simply for the fact that if it is not of Christ, it is of the enemy. But that’s not what I’m sharing about today. I’m sharing with you because of the pain I felt this week in realizing how far off I am from knowing in my heart what my mind believes.

After the first exam, over material that usually comes easy to me, I left knowing I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I didn’t bomb or miserably scrape by. I know I passed, but I know I didn’t get an A. And for the first time since, I think early high school, I was upset about it. I was really upset. I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t stop mulling over the questions I know I missed. I just couldn’t let it go. I could step back mentally and see what was happening. I was seeing the ugly head of perfectionism.

I asked myself, why do I care so much? Do I really care what my professor thinks? I don’t care what others think because I never share my grades. Who am I trying to be perfect for? Myself? That was the answer I settled on. I wanted to prove to myself that I really am smart. To prove that I am good at something. I wanted to prove that I really am good at theology and knowing things about God.

But that, I realize today, is the problem. I have replaced knowing God with knowing about Him. In my head, I have equated being a wise theologian with being intimate with God. Seminary has become a way for me to think I am close to God. It’s become a tangible way for me to  see where I am in my closeness to God and achieve what I want. And what I want is to prove myself, not to me, but to God.

Friends, this is the deepest wound I carry. I just want to please God. More than anything in my entire life, I want to make God proud of me. I want to make Him happy.  And so I strive. I work and work and work at the things I think will make God most happy. I berate myself for falling short of the bar of perfection. I condemn myself and criticize myself in hopes of creating enough motivation to somehow achieve what I couldn’t before.  I can’t remember how many times I have wept because I just want to please Him.

Deep down, all I want to know is that I’m enough. That I’ve done enough. That I have done all He has asked or desired from me. That’s all I want. Truly. Above marriage, above motherhood, above financial security, above health, above success, above everything… All this striving heart wants to know is that He is pleased with me.

See, I know in my head, ya, He’s pleased with me. He’s proud of me. I don’t have to do anything because Jesus did everything already. I know those things. In my head. I know I should stop striving. I know I should stop trying to please Him. But I just haven’t come to the place of being able to.

I don’t have the answers to this. I don’t have a method of walking out of it either. All I know to do is cry out to Abba Daddy and ask that He would intervene in this crazy striving mess I’ve made. I have to come to this place of being able to receive what Christ has done for me. I have to receive. But I can’t even make myself do that.

And so I’ll wait. I’ll wait on the Holy Spirit, trusting that some way, some how, He will help heal my heart. He will take this pain of pleasing away from me, and then I’ll be able to truly understand the love of the Father.

I’m 19 years old in my faith, and yet I still have so much to grasp about my Abba. It’s weeks like this, where I see where I really am in my walk, that I am so humbled. I recognize I am still such a little one in my faith. I find peace knowing that only He can change my heart. And so I’ll wait. Doing my best to be still and receive. But in the end, I know it is all in His hands.

God never meant for us to feel the pain of trying to please Him, others, or ourself. And if He doesn’t want that for us, it means we don’t have to. He is faithful. I know that with my entire heart. I know He is faithful. Now I pray that I may be faithful to Him by choosing belief instead of doubt.

 “For it is faith that is God’s pleasure.” – Nika Maples


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