Breaking the silence.
Today I received word of a review about my writing. It was constructive feedback.
And I was deeply discouraged.
I spiraled down. Down. Down.
I was paralyzed, feeling as if my whole world hinged on one person’s opinion.
“Why continue?” I wondered. My thoughts flowed along in this vein: “I might as well give up writing. I put my all into it and I fell woefully short. People will see this and dismiss me. I need to crawl into a hole and stay there for a good long while-not show my face. My life is useless.”
Two sentences sent me into a tailspin and made me want to give up, at least, for a while. Shawn tried to console me-to no avail. I started to really believe these thoughts of mine. I was in danger of allowing these words to define my reality. So, I shared my discouragement with a few friends, told them about how I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl into a hole, because a hole is where I felt I belonged, because I was a failure.
Slowly their words of encouragement began to comfort me and Shawn’s words, too.
And also, Jesus’s life.
I started to think about Jesus and all of the criticism he received though he was perfect. How did he continue when his very identity, and ministry for which he was created, were called into question-given mediocre and harsh reviews by those who were supposed to know? Somehow he kept on going and thinking of others when everyone criticized him and when his very closest friends abandoned him. He continued faithfully even when he felt invisible and rejected. “How Jesus? How did you do that?” I wondered. I think he was able to do it because he chose to feed on the will of his Father no matter what, no matter if feeding on the will of the Father garnered little praise and affirmation from others.
I want to be that way.
Today, my friend Sharon posted a piece by Ann Voskamp. These words by Ann ministered to me at the bottom of my tailspin:
When the world strives — the wise still. It’s the only way to feel God’s embrace.
You can give up the need to compete in the world — when you accept being complete in Christ.
Sometimes the way to win is to never enter the race.
The words of constructive feedback that destabilized me aren’t bringing forth the end of my world. They do not have final say on my life and on my ministry or on my worthiness. They do not tell me whether or not I matter. When I look at the face of God I see delight. He delights in me, the way a healthy and good parent delights in a child. Those who know me best, my family, friends, and church community, see me and delight in me as I delight in them.
This comment made today has its place. But it doesn’t see me completely. It is not a word on my whole life. It is feedback to take. Not a defining word. Not a word to live by.
I then started thinking about a few of the words that I do live by. I thought I’d share them here with you (in no particular order):
Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.
~ John Wesley
I have come that you might have life and life to the full.
~ Jesus (John 10:10)
Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.
~ attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo
This is what the Lord says:
‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,’
declares the Lord.
~ Jeremiah 9:23-24
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
~ Proverbs 24:11-12
What words do you live by especially when things feel like they are falling apart?