It’s something we all experience. There are times when the pressures of life are more overwhelming than others. Sometimes the weight of expectations feels as if it might explode inside our chest or crush us. The other day I described the pressure I’ve felt to my husband in this way: “It’s as if I’m a shaken up Dr. Pepper bottle. All the pressure on the inside is about to burst, and when the cap comes off it is not going to be pretty.” Well, this post is the cap coming off, but instead of it being an ugly mess, God has made this into a beautiful story of redemption. After all, that’s what He always does. He specializes in taking broken people and making them useful once more. I am a broken vessel being mended by His mighty hands.
Here’s my story.
For as long as I can remember I’ve run the race for perfection. If you’ve ever been in this race you know how exhausting it can be. It never ends and at the same time, it has only just begun. As a little girl, I chased perfect by aiming to be a people-pleaser. I hated getting in trouble (still do to this day!), and did everything I could to avoid discipline. After all, if I never broke the rules why would I ever need to be in trouble? Perfection seemed to be the right road to take. In middle and high school I kept running the race, only my pursuit for perfection manifested itself in my desire to have straight A’s, win awards for high achievement, and be a friend to all. In college, perfection manifested itself through a heartbreaking way when I dove headfirst into a two year battle against anorexia. The scale revealed my broken heart and imprisoned mind.
In the midst of all these years of struggle and racing for perfection, God has graciously continued to draw me to Himself and loose the bonds of slavery in my heart. I believe that in Christ I am completely free, yet as long as I walk in my earthly body I will still struggle and fight against the stronghold of perfection. Each day, God continues to do the shaping, molding, and freeing my soul needs, and I continue to be made new in His hands.
Because of pressure, I've kept running, even though I've done my best to drop out of the race for perfection.
You know the feeling—it’s the lie that you’ll let people down if you admit you're not perfect or you'll completely fail at life and following Christ if you share your struggles. It’s a horrible and lonely place to be, and it is a place I’ve been for quite a few years now. However, as time has gone on and the pressures of life have continued to burden my shoulders, God has revealed to me that the only way to break through the pressure, and “take the cap off” is to tear down the walls of unrealistic expectations I have placed on my own life, as well as those expectations others have placed on my life for me.
Removing the Pressure
Over the past few weeks, in the quiet of my own home, in my marriage, and in my friendships, God has been tearing down lies I have believed for years and has been unloading, brick-by-brick, the unhealthy expectations I’ve been carrying. This blog post is my opportunity to wave my freedom banner in Christ. It all begins with a healthy, worshipful admission of all that I am not.
- I am not perfect. I have never been and I never will be. But I AM is perfect and He is for me, loves me recklessly, and pursues me even in my imperfections.
- I am not a theologian. I don’t have all the answers to life’s questions nor do I understand every mystery in the Bible. But I do love the Word with all my heart. I love Jesus from the very depths of my soul. This doesn’t mean that everything I write and say will be without error, for I am a mere human. But this does mean that my heart is to know Jesus and make Him known, and I trust that I AM will speak and write through me as He sees fit.
- I am not the "next Beth Moore.” There have been women who have said this to me countless times and the enemy has used this to put me in bondage to what I “should” be. While I love Beth Moore and have learned from her walk with Jesus over the years (as many of you have!), I will never be her or anyone else. I am Gretchen Saffles, daughter of the King of kings, follower of Jesus Christ, and proclaimer of the hope of the Gospel.
- I am not able to do all things. I can't say "yes" to everything, as much as I want to, because I only have a certain amount of hours in each day. But I AM has called me to do things that are impossible in my own strength, and I lean on Him everyday to accomplish the tasks set before me, no matter how small they may be.
- I am not available to everyone at all times. I’ve always been a people-pleaser, mainly because I love people and I love hearing their stories and walking with them on their journeys. However, this struggle has stolen a lot of joy from my life lately. As a 28-year old young wife and mama leading a growing online women’s ministry, I’ve learned the hard way that I cannot be all things to all people. I cannot answer every single question and message because I have limited hours to work. I cannot speak to every person’s situation in what I share. I cannot produce enough to satisfy the masses, but I can be faithful right where I am and with who God puts me with, and that begins with my family and friends.
- I am not without struggle, trial, or doubt. I wrestle with Scripture. I ask God tough questions when I spend time with Him. I have really bad days at times. But God always meets me there in my need. He is I AM who is always with me and He never changes. This ministry is simply the overflow of my walk with Him through the highs and lows of this journey called life. I’m right there with you in the battle and the thick of battle, friends.
relying on I Am
I am not all these things, and I recognize that in a healthy, freeing, God-exalting way. But at the same time I know that I AM is all these things, and I believe that who I AM is defines who I am. In Exodus 3, we read the story of Moses and the burning bush. As Moses was leading his flock at Horeb, the mountain of God, he was met by an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire. A bush was burning yet was not consumed by the flames. Moses turned to see what was happening, and God met him there. God met Moses with His presence, promises, and purposes. He met Him right where he was and sent him out to be a liberator of the Israelite people.
Moses had his baggage. There were a lot of things Moses was “not” that could have kept God from using him. However, rather than passing over Moses God saw him as the right vessel for the job. Moses was not a man with a clean record, a stellar resumé, or a perfect response to God's call. He was broken, small, and full of excuses. Yet, even when he listed his excuses to God, the Lord responded with an affirmation of His character, rather than a “self-esteem” talk to Moses.
“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
I AM. It’s one of the most mysterious names of God, yet one of the most comforting. The name I AM WHO I AM can also be translated “I will be who I will be.” God was, is, and will always be (Revelation 1:8). In other words, this name means “I WILL BE.” Moses was to find great comfort in the commissioning he received from the Great I AM, because the role he was to play could not be completed without almighty God on his side. God's comfort to Moses was to assure him that He would be all that Moses needed.
he will be
Like Moses, I think we often forget that life is not about us. In our own struggles with unrelenting pressures and expectations, we confuse our calling to follow Christ with the desire to make a name for ourselves in this world. Ultimately, we fear disappointing man more than we fear God. This misplaced fear causes us to miss out on an intimate walk with the Great I AM. We cannot know the greatness of I AM without admitting our own limitations and choosing to walk with the God who has none.
God has been repositioning my heart to fear Him alone and walk with Him daily, step-by-step. As He has unloaded the unbearable burden of pressure that I’ve been carrying on my back, He has been rebuilding a healthy perspective in my heart of who He is. He is the great I AM. I am not so many things, nor can I be all things to all people, but I can rest in I AM and trust that He will be all that I cannot be. There’s a greater joy that I’ve experienced in my own life as I’ve admitted my shortcomings and learned to live with limits. Rather than trying to fit an unhealthy amount of work and to-do’s into the hours given each day, I’ve been taking a step back to see what I AM has really called me to do. Most of my frustrations in life have come from the struggle that I don’t have enough time to get done all I need to each day. But, perhaps, my problem is not that I don’t have enough time, but rather that I am doing too much?
Today I rejoice in my God who took the pressure off my shoulders and continues to daily. Maybe you are carrying an unrealistic load of expectations upon your back as well? Maybe you feel like a failure each day or even battle anxiety because you never get enough done? If this is you, rely on I AM. Bring your "should's" and your expectations and pressures to Him. List them and speak them out loud. Ask Him, "God, what have YOU called me to do and what pressures do I need to hand over to you?" Then walk in it. He is I AM, and He WILL BE.
He "will be" my strength. He "will be" my fortress. He "will be" my defender. He "will be" my ability. He "will be" my leader. He "will be" all that I need because He is I AM. I am not, but I AM is. Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and ALL that is within me bless His holy name!