I used to be that person. No, not strong, infallible and powerful, but someone who wished she could come across that way to the world (remember, recovering perfectionist here).
But if I were trying to advise you in how to do something (or stop doing something), wouldn’t it be better if I could relate to the challenges you face, and better still if I had gone through those challenges (or similar ones), myself? Whether I had succeeded the first time or failed 1,000 times and finally figured it out, you’d be more likely to come to me for advice … or at least for empathy, right?
Sometimes a “superhero” needs to just be real.
Sunday, we had a visiting missionary in our church services. He has written before on his blog about how missionaries are expected (by some) to be perfect saints, and, in fact, some missionaries try to perpetuate that myth. The tendency is to think you can’t show vulnerability or you’ll turn people off to Christianity. After all, isn’t following Jesus supposed to make our lives rosy and perfect?
In John 16:33 (NLT), Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” He never said life would be perfect; He said he’d never leave us to face life alone (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Our missionary friend knows this truth. In fact, his wife and daughter couldn’t be with us Sunday because they were with his wife’s family, grieving the unexpected loss of his father-in-law a week earlier. And Sunday evening, he told us that he had just gotten a call from his mother; she and his dad were meeting with hospice the next day because his dad is dying of cancer and the end is that close.
IT IS WELL
There is plenty to be weary about, but this missionary friend told us, “It is well.” He knows where his source of strength comes from, and it is not from striving and trying and wearing himself out in an effort to attain perfection. As he told us Sunday morning, Jesus didn’t come to heal the well, but the sick.
The missionary’s wife has written beautifully, too, about the struggles they face on the mission field and, heck, just as human beings living in a broken world.
I use the word beautifully a lot when I share others’ words, and the common denominator – the thing that causes it to be beautiful to me – is that the speaker is letting herself or himself be vulnerable.
I’m writing about being real today because I’m tired and I want to let you know about it. I know my mission, but lately the path to fulfilling it has seemed to take a lot out of me. I’m learning a lot, but some weeks I feel as though I take two steps forward and one step back. I’m working on learning how to discern the essential from the nonessential, but figuring that out is not easy or simple.
The one below – picking out a birthday card for my mom last week – was an essential. Waiting until the day of … not the wisest decision. But I allowed hubby to help, and he picked out a beautiful card for her. (I think I’ll keep him.)
Here are 10 things you (and I) can do to stay on mission when you’re tired or weary – or when life is just plain hard:
- Be honest. Don’t try to hide the fact that you’re hurting. Talk to a trusted mentor. Ask for prayer from your circle of friends. You don’t have to go into all the gory details, but share what’s on your heart. We were made for community. Reach out.
- Take a break. If you can’t take a full-blown vacation, escape for just a day, or even an hour. This will help refresh your mind and your body. If you can do this on a small scale every day or week, even better.
- Spend some time examining the things that got you to this point. Don’t think about it for five minutes and quit; really reflect on what’s going on in your life.
- Remember your “why” (aka “look at the Big Picture”). Have you figured out your mission – your purpose? If not, get in touch with me or a trusted mentor to help you through the process. Remembering your why is probably the most important thing on this list. I have it as a reminder on my idea board, in notebooks, on my bathroom mirror and as a hashtag when I post a workout to my running app. Remembering my “why” carries me a long way when I’m tired or wondering why I’m doing this.
- Decide what’s important. Figure out what is essential for you to fulfill your purpose and what is not.
- After thinking through what’s important, focus on the No. 1 thing on the list. Get rid of what isn’t essential to your mission, with the realization that you cannot do everything. (I’ll be writing a review of the book Essentialism as soon as I finish reading it – so much great advice.) Last weekend, our missionary friend’s wife and daughter stayed behind in their home state to grieve with their family before they return to the mission field. This was their No. 1 priority at that time. (If family is not near the top of your list, it should be.)
- Pray. Some of you who read this blog might not pray to God, so substitute the word meditate. I pray to God for peace, comfort and guidance. If you don’t pray, at least take some time for peace and calm so that you can gain clarity.
- Ask for help. I’m not talking about divine help, notwithstanding Item 7. If you have a task that’s overwhelming, ask someone to help you accomplish it. As wise King Solomon said, you get a better return for your labor; a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
- Celebrate what you’ve already accomplished; recall the progress you’ve made – even the small stuff – and take time to appreciate it. If you have trouble remembering any of the good, ask a friend! (See Item 8.)
- Let go of “perfect.”
This isn’t a comprehensive list. What have I left off? (See, I’m asking for help! Leave a comment above with some of the things on your list.)
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8 Tips for Saying No Graciously