Tired of performing?
A story of realising Jesus has done enough.
One day, back in high school English class, I took an ‘F’ on a very important speech. Now if you knew me then, you’d know that’s the last thing I would every resort to. I don’t regret it. I simply could not be Joan of Arc in front of my classmates, and breathe at the same time. I was less afraid of flunking and planned my extra credit. So with extreme stage fright, and not an ounce of theatrical training, it’s a wonder I acted so believably for the first nineteen years of my life.
Even I was fooled... Fooled to think I was a Christian.
I was a “good girl,” that’s for sure. I was involved in church, mission trips, and had a laundry list of good-deeds. Compared to my peers, I was moral, kind and pure. I looked outward for approval and received it. I compared side-to-side, and usually won out. As I fled imperfection and denied its evidence, family and friends clapped their hands. But the very steps I took to reach perfection, were the very efforts that kept me from seeing the better way. The only Way.
I was a sophomore in college, and when I first heard that Christianity wasn’t built on good works or being a good person, I was devastated. For so many years, I had been dancing myself like a puppet. I had pulled strings, worried for the audience, and saw no end to the show. Sure, I enjoyed the praises, but I was unhappy. I was only nineteen years into an endless marathon, and I was tired.
I was tired of befriending others, in order to surpass them. I was tired of living for a better-than reputation. I was tired of hurrying, hiding, and happy-ing, for others’ approval. While my life looked great from the audience perspective, it felt awfully cruel backstage. I performed and I bowed and there was applause... but I stood all alone. Is this it?, I thought. I didn’t consider it for long, however, because my audience was waiting.
Yes, He was.
For the first time in my life, giving up became my heart’s desire. I didn’t want to perform any more. I couldn’t. I had become hollow like a puppet and unknown by the audience I looked to. This was God’s time to move, and He did. It was my turn to seek His greater performance. I looked up. I listened. I heard. That’s when I was invited off stage.
God placed true believers all around me, and long before I knew it. They were God’s living stage hands and they loved me enough to tell me to stop. Stop performing, Kelly.
Only by the Spirit of God can we see the subtle-but-deadly difference between works of law, and grace through faith. Only by this same Spirit, will we invite others to point out what needs to be corrected within us. God’s stage hands are rarely persons of great stature or fame. They are, in fact, past puppeteers, themselves.
When I learned that all my efforts, reputation, and recognition had absolutely no effect upon my standing before God, I was shocked. I had been trying to fill a bottomless bucket, and now I was in trouble for it! But when I saw that God was offering a new bucket, a full and overflowing one, I was invigorated. I had never met someone like Jesus, before. And when I said this seemed too good to be true, I was told that this is grace. That was the day I leapt off stage. That was the day I clapped my hands.
The applause of Heaven comes by God’s plan, not ours. God’s plan includes God’s love, and God’s Love does not include puppets. It does not demand performance, it accomplishes it. God’s love propels. His Light illumines. His Truth transforms and God Love infuses real, live people.
As God poured His life into me, my heart began to plump. A little less like a raisin and a bit more like a grape. I was revived like an athlete on a water break. Dormant heart-seeds began to sprout. Others helped me fix my eyes on the vertical, and my goal shifted from wanting to be well-liked, to wanting to be good. Little by little, even within the same “good girl” choices, my motives changed. They went from preserving my own reputation, to announcing God’s reputation.
Every decision we make will either honour, or dishonour, the Lord. Every choice we make will either shame, or glorify, God’s name. We will move closer to the darkening stage, or further into the Light. We will look up, or look out. We will meet our Saviour, or meet our striving.
Thankfully, God is also our Father of Light, he is in the business of illumination. God gladly exposes what the dark hopes to hide. Thankfully, God does not expose our sin and inabilities, in order to condemn us. He exposes them, to free us. God’s light exposed my puppet strings, and then He freed me from them. God’s Son exposed my mistakes, and then He freed me from them. God’s Love exposed my weaknesses, and then he freed me from them.
So I choose Christ. Every day, I must choose Christ.
Choosing Christ makes God my strength, my reason, and my unalterable identity.
Choosing Christ means I humbly receive what I desperately need, but I cannot earn.
Choosing Christ means that I stop performing.
I suppose if my life came down to just one speech in English class, then I would do it again. I would take the “F.” But it wouldn’t be with a plan for extra credit. No, I would take the F because I know that I cannot play the part, and breathe at the same time.
Christ’s performance was enough for me. I will clap my hands.