Feeble Knees

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Hitting me where I live

I nearly threw my neck out by nodding vigorously in agreement with Jollyblogger's The Improbability of Life's Successes. Boy, can I relate to this one.

This in particular could also be written about me:

Yet, I have found that even when I get the affirmation I am never truly satisfied. I can always think of something I could have done better, I always have a sense of inadequacy. When the affirmation comes I often have a sense that these folks are just being nice, or if I really did something praiseworthy, I just got lucky that time.

My sister and I call this "Impostor Syndrome" - I think we got the term from someone's article or book, so I can't claim we originated it. When things are going well, we still have the vague sense someone is going to come tap us on the shoulder and say, "What are you doing? You can't do that! Picture Wile E. Coyote running full tilt off a cliff and across a great chasm in mid-air. So long as he keeps running, he stays aloft. The minute he looks down, he immediately stops defying gravity and becomes a "poof" of dust on the canyon floor. It's kind of like that.

It does serve a beneficial purpose. In almost every job I've ever had, I start with a tremendous burst of drive and energy. Because of (or maybe in spite of) my insecurities I push myself to work ten times harder and push myself beyond my limits. As Mr. Feeble likes to describe it, when someone asks me to dig a hole, I don't stop until I get to China. So as far as being a worker bee goes, it's not bad to be so driven. At least my employers get their money's worth (or so I'm told; I don't quite believe it, but okay.)

This carries over into my spiritual life as well, most regrettably. Being so acutely aware of how much I do not deserve the salvation made available to me by the death of Christ on the cross, it then becomes imperative for me to do my utmost - pray harder, pray longer, hunt down every sin and strangle it, serve, witness, serve some more, witness some more, sing, teach, usher, bake, clean, pray harder... You can almost see me suspended in mid-air, about to drop, can't you?

This compulsion to work harder and harder, not believing that what I am able to accomplish is ever good enough, can be deadly in a walk of faith. Judging the quality of our faith based on what we do, and how well we think we're doing, can lead straight into legalism and eventually depression. God in His infinite mercy and wisdom knows just when to allow the forces of gravity to kick in and send us hurtling down into the dust.

During the months and years of working 50-60 hours in a demanding and difficult job, I filled up the rest of my time singing in choir, teaching Sunday school, ushering, baking, taking Bible college correspondence classes, and attending prayer services, weekly Bible study, and two Sunday services. In no time at all it became apparent I was doing a lot of things and none of them well enough, in my estimation. This led to feelings of desperation that I was failing as a Christian, which lead to renewed efforts to do better. My family relationships suffered, I developed chronic, acute insomnia and began falling ill repeatedly. Poof!

It's taken complete abstinence from all church activities to find myself in Christ again, and to once again discover the joys of sitting still and hearing that still small Voice that brings comfort and rest. I've learned again that Charity begins at home, and that neglecting one's family and quiet time for the sake of running off to the church bake sale, womens' retreats, prayer meeting, & numerous bible studies is necessarily what God requires of us. (See Isaiah 58).

Yes, faith without works is dead (James 2:20). But a spent, overworked and dead body isn't capable of much faith! We can only do so much, and admittedly in the whole grand scheme of things our efforts seem so small and inadequate. But little is much in the eyes of the Lord. The economics of grace and faith are a mystery; how is it possible that just five loves and two fishes came to be a bounty to crowds of hungry men, women and children? In all that we do and give, God can be trusted to bless and give the increase.

EDIT: fixed incorrect link to Jollyblogger
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