Today we welcome Mercy staff Mickenzie as she shares about her journey towards learning to speak to herself as a friend and lean into grace. We all have a tendency to get caught up in unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and if we’re not careful lose sight of who God made us to be.
I’m a “should-er” from way back. If I’m not careful, multiple times a day, I can get caught up in my own head, railing against myself with a list of “shoulds and should nots.” And I know I’m not the only one.
‘I should eat better.’
‘I should have it more together.’
‘I should be able to handle more; I should be more intentional with my time.’
‘I should not be consumed by anxiety.’
‘I should not feel insecure in my body.’
‘I should not have to ask for help and be such a burden to others.’
When left to my own devices, and without intentional thought, I’m entirely too hard on myself.
A few years ago someone asked me a very humbling and challenging question that shifted the way I not only view myself, but challenged my concept of grace. In the midst of vocalizing one of my reoccurring and spiraling “should storms,” she delicately asked, “Would you speak to a friend going through the same situation like that?”
My response was immediate and seemed to come from a place deep inside me: “No, I wouldn’t.”
“What would you say to them?”
I find it ironic that one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. Encouragement is key in friendship. One of my favorite things to do is to call out passions, giftings, and calling in my friends’ lives. I love to come alongside people in the muck and mire and speak life over them. Sitting in the face of that question, I realized that my first response to a friend would not be criticism but rather encouragement.
I didn’t know how to encourage myself.
I had become consumed with a list of expectations. They were high, often impossible, and mostly insane. In my deepest moments of shame they looked something like, “Don’t need. Be stronger. Perform perfectly. Don’t make mistakes. Don’t ask for help. Don’t be too demanding.” I came to the realization that I would never even consider expecting perfection from a friend, but was demanding perfection from myself. If I knew someone who was being talked to the way I talked to myself, I would urge them to get out of such a toxic relationship. I was not a good friend to myself, and I vowed to change it.
In order to become a better friend to myself, I had to return to my identity in Christ. I noticed that the relationships that were the most edifying and rewarding in my life were ones where the other person vowed to see me for who I am in Christ, rather than who I am when I’m acting out of my flesh. I took intentional time to re-evaluate where I was placing my identity, and re-establish who God made me to be. I encourage you to do the same! A great place to start is Mercy’s Who I Am In Christ Freedom Tool – a list of helpful scriptures that remind you who you are in Christ and what He has done for you.
I realized that if I were to truly understand that I am forgiven, loved, cherished, and chosen by the God of the Universe, I would have no need to meet arbitrary standards. Because of what Christ did for me on the cross, I already measured up. I did not need to keep striving, “should-ing,” and soldiering on; instead I could rest in what His actions speak about my worth and identity. I have begun a journey that plays again and again: I go from shame to grace to gratitude.
God is continually teaching me what it means to give myself grace when the “should storm” of shame begins. If I don’t choose to rest in His grace, I am ultimately saying that what He did is not enough. That He messed up in forgiving me.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
When the shame begins to creep in, I am training myself to stop in my tracks and declare my identity in Christ. I am beginning to give myself permission to “just be,” to rest in His grace and sit in the tension and weight of my imperfections. I’m not Wonder Woman. I can’t do it all. It’s okay to not have it all together. Then His gentle voice calls me to release my shame and self-condemnation to Him. Grace always leads to gratitude. When I begin to realize how very loved I am in the eyes of Christ, a weight is lifted off my shoulders. My heart is lighter, and a song of praise enters where there was once an accusing voice. The cross, in its simple and deeply entrenched magnitude, leads our hearts to praise.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
What would you say to a friend who is struggling like you are today?
Would you tell her that she could do it, that she could make it through?
Would you tell her that she is amazing, beautiful, strong and courageous?
Would you tell her that her past does not define her?
Would you tell her that she is enough, just as she is?
Would you tell her that she brings something to the world that it needs?
I’m speaking truth over you today, friend – uttering the words of kindness you’re not able to speak over yourself just yet. But I am also praying that you take a step today to see yourself through the eyes of grace, and that you are prompted to gratitude for all He has done:
You have what it takes. God has equipped you with EVERYTHING you need to walk out this journey.
You are amazing, incredibly beautiful, unfathomably strong and courageous.
Your past, the things you try to hide in the dark corners of your life, has already been paid for on the cross. You are a new creation in His sight.
You are enough. You are lacking no good thing. You were made in His image.
The world needs you. Don’t give up.