Note: this is the written down speech I gave to my church.
Good evening, it is great to see everyone one last time before I leave to work at Summit Ministries (a Christian apologetic camp) until the middle of July. I have been blessed to grow up in this Church with this group of people and I feel very loved. Thank you all!
Last year I talked about some of the things I’ve gone through in my life. I realize that some of you were not here then and I don’t expect you to remember my life story anyway, so I want to summarize those events in order to highlight how I let fear, guilt, and perfectionism hold me in chains throughout my life. I believe most people go through bullying at some point in their life and it can affect them in ways that they don’t realize. I hope you can relate to my story and use it to help you in your story as well. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the past year about how to deal with these feelings and beliefs.
I like to tell people I’m a chill person, that very little ruffles my feathers and I can take life in stride. That statement is true…on the outside, but usually on the inside my mind is churning with thoughts, worries, and judgments. Fear and guilt have held me back in chains far too often in life.
I’ve always dealt with fear, but until recently I did not realize how much it dominated my thoughts and actions. When I was a child was fearful. I was stubborn and impulsive. I had ADHD and my parents will tell you they did not understand what I was struggling with for many years. They loved me and wanted what was best for me. They did what they thought was best. I do not hold any grudge towards them and we have a great relationship. I could not have asked for better parents and I wouldn’t be who I am today without their love and guidance. But when I was young I feared not being good enough. I feared not living up to others expectations. I wanted acceptance and approval, but I believed that those were earned by how good I acted rather than who I was as a person. These beliefs taught me to hide my feelings, to not tell others when I was feeling sick or sad. I did not believe that my personal struggles mattered to others. I felt guilty when I did not live up to expectations. Most people saw me as a well-behaved little kid, but at home I struggled to obey the rules and often acted up.
In junior high and high school I continued to feel fear and guilt. I experienced rejection from some people, apathy from others, and bullying from some. I felt lonely. I feared being myself and retreated inwards. I feared that I would never have friends and no one would like me. In basketball, which was my passion, I did not achieve any success until my senior year of high school. I felt like a failure at one of the things I enjoyed most & worked hardest at in my life. I felt guilty that I was not living up to my ideals of success in basketball. I felt guilty because my efforts as a basketball player was not respected by my teammates, and seemingly my coaches as well. I started to believe the lie that I was not worthy of love, that I was somehow less than others. I let others dictate my worth. Eventually, God blessed me with the opportunity to go back to my old private school. I made friends and became social again. I was given the opportunity to be a leader on my basketball team and achieve success. We were able to reach the final four and I received several honors.
In College I began with a positive experience. However, as time went on, I experienced guilt because I felt different than many of my fellow students. I did not fit the social norm there. I feared once again that there was something wrong with me, that I was less than others. I retreated into myself once again and was unsocial. School also became harder as my classes became more advanced. I experienced a lot of anxiety over assignments. My senior year was the climax of those feelings. My last semester I took 17 hours including senior research in order to graduate. I also worked part-time. I feared the workload. I let the feeling grow in my mind until it crippled me from actually being productive and getting things done. I felt constant guilt for procrastinating, but I compensated by almost shutting off all social interactions and from doing healthy things like playing basketball. I did do two healthy things in admitting my need for a mentor and a community to support me. I began going to a counselor at LCU and a Christian college group at Texas Tech. At the end of the semester, I rushed to complete everything I needed to in order to graduate. I did end up graduating, but not without a lot of grace and help from professors. I’m sure my advisor, our own Dr. Kenneth Hawley, wanted to kill me, but here I am still alive today. I am truly grateful.
The fall semester was a very tough time in my life, one of the low points. But it helped me learn valuable lessons and discover myself. After graduating I did a lot of thinking and reflecting. I realized how much I had let fear and guilt rule my life. I realized how unhealthy and unproductive those feelings had made me. Throughout my life I had focused too much on the past and the future. I had let the past dictate my present. I thought because of past failures and ideas about myself that I could not do certain things in the present. I let anxieties about the future cripple me into being unproductive and not venturing to try new things. I imagined the worst case scenario happening which made me unhappy and unmotivated to complete present tasks. Fear can be a motivator. It often has been in my life. But it is never a lasting agent of change any more than shame is. I’ve noticed that the feeling will fade and my actions will as well unless motivated by something else. That something else is love and conviction 1 John 4:16 & 18, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
This spring I have been learning to focus on the present. My counselor told me three powerful acronyms for fear, the first is: Faith Exits And Runs, the second, Forget Everything And React and the third: False Evidence Appearing Real. I am trying to use the past to teach me lessons of change instead of repeating the same mistakes again. I realize that fear is from the devil and that it is a lack of faith in God, and his plan. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control. “I am focusing less on the unknown future, knowing that I can only operate in the present. I still make plans and goals, but I realize and accept that God could change my direction in life at any time. James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I also realize that I have let my past affect my relationship with God. I always knew that God accepted me how I was. He forgave me for my sins. I knew these truths in my head, but I had not accepted them in my heart and did not operate that way in life. I operated on the principle of a scale. On one side was idealism/perfectionism, and the other side was impulsiveness/rationalism. My heart told me that God is worthy of wholehearted devotion. So when I built up the motivation and religious fervor I made a huge list of how I thought I should be following God. I would try to complete my list daily, which usually lasted around a week, before I gave up in disgust and guilt that I wasn’t good enough to live up to my expectations. I thought I was a failure as a Christian, as one who followed God. So I would run the opposite way and live for a time in compulsiveness. I would try not to think about how God wanted me near, and justified my actions by telling myself I knew what to do whenever I felt ready to try to follow God wholeheartedly once again. The cycle was exhausting and depressing, but I repeated it over and over again through the years growing up.
My counselor helped me realize that perfect is the enemy of good. God doesn’t want us to come to him perfect, he wants us as we are. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. God knows I am a sinner and I’m going to fail over and over again. He simply wants me to try to follow him to the best of my ability. When I set the bar instead of letting God I fail, but when I accept his standard and help I live in freedom. Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” When I try to be perfect I quickly become overwhelmed and fail. But daily trying to be good in Gods strength I succeed and build on the day before. Pastor Scott Sauls says, “We are not called to be perfectly awesome. We are called to be imperfectly faithful, because we have been perfectly loved, liberated, and highly esteemed by the Most High.”
I am daily striving to live with a penitent heart, to be humble enough to admit my wrongs as convicted by the word, instead of dwelling on my wrongs in guilt, I try to be convicted by them and repent so that I may strive to change and allow God to work inside of me freely. Guilt is a toll Satan uses to keep people from being effective. I am also striving to live in faith, not fearing the future or any manufactured fears. Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” This pursuit of faith is helping me understand and desire the great leap into the unknown. Madeleine L’Engle says, “We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”
Fear held me back from doing what I needed to, but also from enjoying life. When I stopped fearing I thought and considered so many more possibilities that before I didn’t even consider possible such as leaving Lubbock, joining new social circles, and going to Baylor. Once again after a dark period in my life God has opened the doors for me. I have been accepted into Summit Ministries staff starting in May. I have also been accepted into Baylor’s grad school with a full scholarship and TA position this fall. While God has shown me the way, he has not revealed what all will happen. By focusing on the present, striving for good instead of perfection, living in conviction, and having faith in God’s guiding hand, I have found freedom in Christ. Because of this freedom I am at peace with God’s directing hand and whatever life throws at me. Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I hope you have found this same freedom and peace in your own life. Thanks and God bless you all.