“Give chance, leh.”
Sure, that’s easy – when it comes to giving others a chance. But it’s so difficult when it comes to giving myself a chance.
I’m 21, and I’ve been going to church all my life. From Sunday school to student ministry, I’ve learnt quite a lot on how Christians should act.
Be joyful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16), for example. That’s a command, right? So I have to be joyful. I have to suppress all my anger, hurt, bitterness and any other negative emotions.
But … I’m only human. I will get angry, hurt, bitter, and all the rest of it.
And when I do, I feel defeated. Like I’ve failed. The very fact that I could even have these feelings make me detest myself.
Get your act together, Jolene! What’s wrong with you?!
In the midst of the struggle, I forgot to love and be gracious to myself. I’d bought into the lie that I can be perfect as long as I try hard enough. But then why would I even need grace?
I suppress these feelings as much as I can – I don’t want people to know that I have such struggles. I don’t want it to show.
So when people ask if I’m alright, I say I’m fine. And in my head, I repeat the same words over and over again in an attempt to convince myself that everything is going to be fine.
But the more I try to keep these emotions in, the more they want to fight their way out. In fact, they come up even stronger than before. It’s a game of tug of war I am very evidently losing. And soon, I start to believe there is no way I could possibly emerge out of this mess. Paralysed by negativity, I let myself be convinced that I have lost the fight.
People tell me that God has won the battles for me, and I have nothing to fear because I am fighting from a position of victory. Strange – I don’t feel victorious.
I am not good enough, I tell myself – that’s why I can’t control my emotions. I should be ashamed for breaking down and stressing out. I can’t withstand the wind, let alone storms. If others can do it, why can’t I? Why am I so weak? God won’t want me as His child.
Then God speaks.
“Why are you so hard on yourself, my child? It’s alright if you can’t do it. I never expected you to do it on your own strength. Why would you hold yourself to that standard?”
In the midst of the struggle, I forgot to love and be gracious to myself. I’d bought into the lie that I can be perfect as long as I try hard enough.
But then why would I even need grace?
I’ve learnt that fighting from the position of victory doesn’t mean the fight will be an easy one. It simply means that my Father is here to fight for me, and with me.
Loving is God’s speciality. In the pursuit of holiness, I’d forgotten about that. While this doesn’t excuse us from pursuing the maximum standards in all aspects of our lives – especially holiness – we also have to fight to make room for the work grace in our lives. I am forgiven – and now my job is to learn to accept that truth.