Throwing Away the Standards — Broken & Hopeful

This last week I got to speak to a MOPS group about anxiety, and the impossible standards or expectations we so often place on ourselves that result in this anxiety and overwhelm. I thought it might be helpful to share some of this here on a blog post as well, as I know it isn’t just moms who struggle with these feelings.

As I was flipping through social media recently, I found “10 Things You Are Doing Wrong With Your Kids”, “5 Ways To Make Your Body Look Like You Never Had a Baby “(not really, but that’s what they were saying), “3 Things to Do Right Now With Your House To Make It Look Like a Designer Lives There”, “What Your Husband Really Wants and How You Can Be That Desirable”, and (maybe the worst) “What God Wants You To Do To Be The Best Christian You Can Be.“ I know this kind of pressure isn’t just found on social media, but can come from impossible standards you feel from your parents, your church, yourself, and God.

I like to identify these expectations we put on ourselves so we can choose to do something different, and to listen to a different voice. There are so many voices that scream at us about what we should be doing, what we should be afraid of, and what we are doing wrong. I want to be a voice that reminds us all that God never put these expectations on us—we did that ourselves or accepted the ones that others put on us.

The first expectation that comes to mind is that we must be enough or adequate for everything in our lives. This is really tricky when we imagine we are doing it all wrong, or at least not doing nearly enough for what this should look like in our lives. So often we feel that we are not only inadequate, but also forgotten and invisible. We can often run down a list of all the ways we have failed during a day, and sometimes do this to ourselves because we think it will help make things better tomorrow. Spoiler alert—it won’t!

Jesus says that we are enough because He is enough. In John 15, Jesus says that apart from Him we can do NOTHING. That means you nailed His standard for you before you got out of bed this morning. He sees you and your sacrifice for your daily life right now, whatever that looks like. He never puts this pressure on you, though to perform well enough to matter or to feel like someone notices you. He sees you, and He loves you. Not when you get it all right and prove that you are enough for all the circumstances of your life, but right now.

Another expectation is that we can maintain control of our lives, something I would suggest is only an illusion as I don’t think we ever really have control. This realization can be terrifying, like if you are in a jumbo jet and the pilot passes out requiring you to fly the plane, and you don’t know how to fly a plane. I think there are two options at the point of recognizing you don’t have control. One is to clamp down even further and try to gain control in this way. I don’t believe it works, and it makes those in your life suffer as you try to push them in a direction you feel is right.

The other option is to entrust your life, your loves and your future to God who loves you and is bringing beauty from ashes every day. I don’t say “let go” because that to me sounds like I don’t care and am just casting off whatever it is with little regard for what becomes of it. I must, instead, entrust the people and things I do very much care about to One who loves them more than I ever could. In this place, we can acknowledge our lack of control, but also throw ourselves into dependence on Jesus as He works to bring good out of our circumstance.

A third expectation we often put on ourselves is that of maintaining an image to prove we are not a failure. When we project a façade, we are trying to protect ourselves, as well as posture to those around us that we are doing well. We can compare, judge and condemn from behind this image, and the goal is to make ourselves feel like we have worth. This image can be physical, relational, financial, spiritual—we make all sorts! One of the greatest reliefs of my life was when God blew up my image and I was forced to put it down. It felt like death, but I realized on the other side that it was freedom and I was so light when I didn’t have to hold it up anymore!

A man several years ago told me that you can’t love and compare at the same time. When I look at others and ask God for His love for them, and His eyes for them, there’s no room for comparison. I get to focus on who these people are and how much God loves them, while also soaking in who I am as God tells me. He says that I am loved, seen, delighted in, enjoyed, sung over and so much more. I want to operate from overflow, not overwhelm. When I am filled up with His love, it comes spilling out to those around me and I need an image anymore.

If you find yourself struggling with some of these false standards for your life, I would suggest sitting down and writing down all the fears and standards you feel rule your life right now. Offer them to God as a sacrifice, recognizing that you will never achieve enough to feel that you have met the standard and are satisfactory. The measure is off—it’s unrealistic and unachievable. Instead, embrace what God has already given you. He loves you now, not just when you meet a standard. In fact, He is the only way we meet expectations. He provides all you need to live life without the guilt and shame bearing down from the missed standards. The life of Christ is your resting place, your source for life, and the empowerment for the impossible—even the impossible of your own life.

Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:17-19

Re-published with the permission of Hannah Morrell at Borken & Hopeful, a ministry created for those who feel broken to fin hope in Jesus.

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