I've long joked that I abdicated my role and let my sister take all the firstborn tendencies I didn't want, but the reality is that while I may not feel the need to be perfect, I have wrestled with perfectionism's evil twin, approval, for a long time. A long long long time, folks. I'm tired of trying to measure up.
Can I get an amen?
Nothing pushes my approval easy button quite like Lent. If you're not familiar with the annual practice, it's the 40-day period before Easter when Christ followers choose to identify with the sufferings Jesus endured while being fully God and fully man during His 33 years on earth. I haven't studied Lent, but from what I understand the precedent for this is the biblical account of Jesus' 40 days of temptation by the devil in the wilderness. To show that they are willing to suffer, Christ followers choose to abstain from something that is a source of temptation or distraction. Like chocolate.
Perhaps now Fat Tuesday makes more sense.
Fast forward to the first of this month. It came to my attention that Ash Wednesday was Feb. 10. (WHAT? Four days BEFORE Valentine's Day?) I felt very uncertain about participating because I was very certain that I was feeling a bit lost, exposed, vulnerable, fragile, numb, and detached from myself. I was beginning to hear a whisper in my head, and I knew I needed someone to tell me the truth about myself.
The whisper? You're a poser. What makes you think doing Lent will incline God to tell you anything? God only speaks to the really spiritual people. Sure, you can write, but what makes you think you're an author, let alone an editor?
I wasn't being fooled, but that wasn't quieting the hissing voice of the accuser who was tempting me to believe those lies about myself.
So, even though I didn't feel up to trying to measuring up, I signed up. I didn't promise to give anything up. I only told God that I would pray one prayer every day for the entire 40 days:
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
In years past--the approval years--I've not wanted to know the truth about myself, because I thought I didn't need to hear God confirm what I already knew. What I'm discovering is that His words to me are a lot different than I expected them to be. Yes, He's showing me my offensive ways, but He is also leading me into truth. I'm learning--or relearning--how to see myself the way He does.