Earlier this week, the sign went up in the yard. Up until now, there have been a lot of scary things about our move to Clarkston, but this one has topped it all. It’s not so much scary due to the physical part of the move, or even the adjustment part of the move. It’s scary in a way that I’ll call the “backpack” way.
I’ve gotten to the bottom of my backpack of coping mechanisms (the contents are few: control, persistence, performance, humor, and People Magazine). Having thrown out control a few weeks back and having let my subscription to People expire, I’m left with only a few ways to cope. None of them is very promising. Humor helps, but I’m finding that humor is too close to cynicism, which can border on bitterness, and that’s no good. Persistence is important, but I’m not sure that going to Clarkston running on pure resolution is going to be very helpful in my relationships – old or new. So, that leaves my very favorite old standby: performance.
I hate it. It’s the auto pilot setting of my life. It’s nasty in its ability to generate pride and fear simultaneously. When it fails, it generates shame and depression.
The reason I’m so bummed that performance is still in my backpack has to do with my heart’s desire for our move to Clarkston.
You see, I don’t want it to be about me. (I don’t even mean that in a humble sense right here.) I mean I don’t want the me part to get in the way of the God part. I don’t want my performance-self to kick in stronger and harder in a place that will only, only, only be redemptive and sweet if the grace of Jesus is the illuminating, energy generating force behind what we are doing. In my wildest spiritual dreams, freedom would be losing the backpack altogether and finding that the gospel grace of Christ makes carrying a backpack totally unnecessary. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25
When performance reigns, I go to bed at night measuring myself against the standard of the day, and then congratulating (cross averted) or crucifying myself. This process yields pride or shame. This belief that I’ll write the rules, measure myself against them, and then judge myself and pronounce a verdict is all a sinner’s attempt to circumvent God’s love, to get around the two most important words of faith: surrender and trust. I think, too, that performance is my way of validating myself so that I won’t have to believe that God really loves me THAT much. It’s a little like the old Rich Mullins song that says,
“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And it keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”
This morning, I took performance-girl to the real cross. The one that matters. She has been around my whole life, but I don’t think that I ever recognized that she needed to die in order for Jesus to live. Call me dense, but I’m really not sure I’ve ever seen how prideful she is until just today. I think I thought she was just a good mix of Sunday School and stewardship. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for being the author of furious love that melts stone hearts. When echoes of performance ring in my ears, please remind me that she’s been swept away by the reckless, raging love of Jesus.