From February 2011 to July of 2013, I had 4 different surgeries for the same injury, a broken navicular bone in high school. It was a cycle of adjustments, doctor’s appointments, ice and crutches and pain medicine, physical therapy and slow progress.
Looking back on those three years in college, part of the women’s track and field team, the season of injury cultivated a belief in my heart: there was an expectation I needed to meet but couldn’t. Collegiate athletes should look a certain way, they should be this kind of strong, that kind of disciplined… but my injury wouldn’t let up, so I felt as though I couldn’t be what people were expecting of me. I constantly compared and fought discouragement. I believed a lie that I wasn’t good enough unless I met expectations of others. And that mindset stayed with me, digging roots, and it spread to other aspects of life without me even realizing it.
The stories that make up our past are the stories of how we arrived at the person we are today, but they don’t necessary tell the truth of who we are in this current moment. Let me give an example.
I am a recovering earnaholic, as I like to say. I taste more freedom today than I ever have, but I will always have a vulnerability toward using performance and pleasing as measures of my worth.
It took a long time to realize that I wouldn’t find freedom with my normal tactics of operating. Performance and pleasing would never produce the fruit I long for. Why? Because the fruit I crave can’t be created by me or manufactured or wrestled into existence. The fruit I desire for myself and my little world is produced because I’m attached to the Vine, not because I’m an awesome grower.
I’ve heard Shauna Niequist refer to it as a limp, the apostle Paul calls it a thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), and to me it’s the natural bent I have when I’m not taking thoughts captive, or prioritizing communion with God, or living open-handed in trust. We all have them, right? Whether from a particular season of our life, or conditioning from a past relationship, or simply from our personality, we all have a vulnerability that attempts to turn our attention away from the gospel of Christ and onto ourselves.
My limp, thorn and bent is a belief that I’m not enough as I am but I should always try harder and be better and do more to be loved, and I prioritize everyone else’s wants and needs while ignoring my own.
Like the cycle of injury, surgery, recovery and physical therapy was for the healing of my foot, the cycle of forgiveness, freedom and kindness is the way of healing for my soul. Not shame or hustle or fear.
Maybe I won’t be free of this limp until I’m in Jesus’ welcoming arms at the end of this life, but each and every day God heals a little bit more. I’m hearing Paul’s words for me: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”
I offer you a glimpse into my brain. The way of living most natural for me is the 4 P’s (Perform, Perfect, Please, Prepare), and but the new way opened by Christ and assisted by the Holy Spirit is the 4 R’s:
Return to God. He gave you a heart to know and love Him, be His child. Come as you are, with what is.
Release what it is in your hands, heart or head to Him. Roll everything onto His limitlessly strong shoulders, giving it all to Him in prayer.
Receive what He has for you, His presence, help, love and other promises. He is your God. Believe that.
Rest in the truth of His nature, no matter how you feel or how your circumstance appears to be. He is your hiding place.
Maybe God has set you free in a huge way over the course of your life with Him – hallelujah! But that one area, no matter how big, isn’t enough. He is shaping and sharpening us in the image of His Son, and since Jesus is perfect, there will always be another place in which His truth can set you free. Don’t allow guilt any footing on the grounds of your growth, but embrace the gospel and grace in it. May we keep returning and releasing to, receiving from and resting in God as He leads us Home.