Humans are born with an innate need to succeed. To please others, to do a good job, to achieve. I think I was born with a double dose of this need.
The need for achievement. It's a bit like an addiction, really. Something you need whether it's good for you or not... Years ago now I made a conscious decision to stop comparing my work with the work of other people, but it still creeps in sometimes. You see what other people are doing and you assume you have to do the same.
I need to write more books. I need to build a bigger online presence. I need to build a recognizable brand, have online classes, host a creative retreat, change lives, move people, heal the world...
I've been praying for contentment. Not the kind where I pretend to be content, but genuine, down in my bones contentment...and I think throughout the past few months, I've discovered where it lies.
In the small things of my life.
And while I feel like perhaps I've had the start of this revelation before, it never sunk in the way it has now. See, when you're an achievement addict, you get all of your self worth from what you accomplish.
This makes for some very stressful days. You run around and do and forget to sit still and fail at domestic things in the quest for greatness...as you attempt to achieve more. And I have to tell you... it's exhausting.
Lately I've been thinking about the way I spend my days. What I do with each minute matters, and if each minute is spent trying to achieve but failing to connect with anyone, then I don't think I'm truly living out my purpose.
What if I'm called to live a small life? And by small I don't mean "small", I just mean, what if I shed the need to achieve? What if I let all those stressful expectations I have for myself just go... let them fall away like a cocoon does as the butterfly emerges?
Do you really need a large audience to shine?
What if I'm meant to shine right here in my little life? How can I make that happen instead of being critical of myself all the time for what I haven't achieved yet?
Don't get me wrong. I think God loves when we work at hard at something, but what I've realized is that working hard isn't a replacement for loving well. I LOVE hard work. I love work. I love getting to the end of a day and feeling like I was productive.
But does it make Him love me more? Not a chance.
And I think that's what it all comes down to. This need to earn love and approval. Somewhere along the way I got it in my head I had to work for grace. If you've ever been in a situation where how you were treated depended on how you performed (that's manipulation, by the way), then maybe this is for you.
Because I can tell you...you don't earn grace. It's there for the taking. And God's love for you isn't contingent on whether or not you checked certain things off your spiritual to-do list.
What if we just let it go?
What if we worked hard at loving well first and let everything else fall into place? What if we focused on the people right in our little worlds, on their reactions, on their needs, on their lives?
Wouldn't that make our lives shine a little brighter?
I'll keep you posted.