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January 6, 2009

GFL Devotional Journey – Day 2



Did you feel like Sally had you in mind when she wrote today's devotion? I sure did. As soon as I read her introduction to today's devotion, I felt like this could be a prophetic nudge from the Lord about an all-too-familiar topic.

Because, you see, I've always been someone who wants to be not only good at things, but distinctively the best. I'm naturally driven and inquisitive, and find peace in lists and accomplishments. My default is please others and follows the rules. This propensity to overachieve easily went in to hyper-drive when it came to school. In fact, the only intentionally disobedient thing I remember doing in elementary school was to sneak into the forbidden teacher's lounge and steal extra homework from the recycling bins. Later in high school, I took high-level classes and worked hard for straight A's. When people at church told me God would take care of all my needs, I would sneer, "Oh yeah? God's going to write this paper for me?"

Clearly, I have problems.

While my parents praised my grades, they knew that I sometimes let stress rob me of confidence in God and ultimately of my submission to him. One day, I found a note on my bedroom desk. During his morning devotional time, my dad had been praying for me and felt strongly about Titus 3:14, which says: "Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive." Dad jotted me a note (below) which simply reads, "Titus 3:14. Live this out and let the grades fall where they may."

note-%282%29.jpg

I think he knew that my perfectionism was breeding self-centered anxiety instead of concern for other people. He was telling me that true productivity happens when we love others like God loves them. And he was enabling me to be free from a bondage to overachievement.

For me, this verse and memory are what Sally refers to as "antidotes to overachievement." Like her, I think prayer and meditation ? taking the time to refocus and let God get a word in ? are invaluable solutions to anxiety. When I really open myself to God in prayer, I begin to feel so small compared to him?and it's wonderful. That insurmountable task doesn't necessarily solve itself while I pray, but God gives me the ability to see its importance for what it really is: not very. Do you ever feel this way when you pray?

I think I'll take Sally's advice and take an extra helping of the Psalms this year. And her suggestion to take your devotions outside and pray while you walk is a great one! Here's another suggestion for those of us who are Type-A, left-brained, overachieving, or whatever you want to call us. A rocking chair. I often sit on a glider while I do my devotions and find it to be a non-distracting way to occupy the body and the over-active part of the brain, which enables me to focus more fully on prayer and meditation.

Whatever your antidotes, may you find a way, in Sally's words, to "toss an ?achievement' mindset into the garbage and spend some time in God's presence simply being the real you."

Comments

Yes, Hollie, I did feel as though Sally had me in mind when she wrote today's devotion, and, like you, I've long been an overachiever. Good was never good enough - I had to be the best. But, God never intended that I be the best at everything.

Somewhere along the way, God has shown me that my striving is all in vain unless it's empowered by His love. My love, my strength, my passion all fail, and I find myself like that deer - parched, panting with thirst.

The antidote is the Living Water. As I cry out to Him, lapping up the refreshement of His Word, His presence restores me and I remember, my hope of success lies in Him. Thank you, Jesus!


I, too, was touched by the devotional selection for today. I'm hounded by that constant, unrelentless lie to just keep doing, and then all will be well. Praise the Lord that all is well right now, just the way I am, because of Jesus. There's nothing more to it. My perfectionist desires must fall to the side if I'm to run with perseverance the race set before me. Of course, I'm sure some of us found the "antidote" humorous in light of yesterday's devotional. I appreciate the suggestions for prayer and meditation--but only as outpourings of wanting JESUS. He is the Deliverer; THE ANTIDOTE to all of our sins and diseases.

I loved Sally's phrase, "As if us trees moved the wind.' How aptly that describes what my overachieving pride takes me to. I am one lovely tree!

Reading the Psalms, for me, was something I discovered when sitting on the beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a favorite vacation spot for my husband and I. So many references to the constancy of the sea, and the waves, and the ocean. It always calms my body and my soul down to listen to the rhythm of God's creation. It never stops, never ends, always there. Just like God is.

I have been called an achievement junkie - I couldn't get enough of proving to everyone that I could do 'it' whatever 'it' was. Give me the toughest project - I'll get 'it' done. Give me the toughest employee to manage - I'll get 'it' done (and often at a high cost to that person!). If I wasn't achieving something, particularly something that others could see, I wasn't really happy.

Then a couple of years ago, I was doing one of those rambling readings through Matthew (no one could SEE that I really wasn't very good at this bible study thing, so why do it?). In Matthew 6 a phrase jumped off the page at me - it was repeated several times. '...they have received their reward in full.' Jesus was referring to the pharisees who did things for others to see, but their hearts were not right. Hmmm.

I think it took a week before it finally dawned on me that was what I was doing - and I was getting my reward in full...and nothing more. The ghost of the achievement junkie still haunts me every now and then - but I usually (not always!) catch it before it rewards me in full with another load of shallow reward.

The most significant thing I can say is "Me too!". As far back as I can remember I strove to be the best, to be outstanding. There were times in my teenage years where I look back and see that I was in bondage to this drive. Then I met Jesus and began reorienting my life. It's been a slow process, and surely not one that is finished, but I recognise the freedom Jesus and his purposes have given me from myself.
A residual consequence is that because I have always wanted and needed to be outstanding at what I do, I have ended up shying away from some things, or occasionally new things, if I fear I won't be "good enough". These days I'm aware of this tendency and try and have the courage to be vulnerable, and cast my fear of man aside.

Oh, wow. It's like you caught me at my usual thoughts: "If I don't do it, it won't get done!" And being still, without my thoughts wandering off like a stray sheep, has always been nearly impossible. At least I don't feel like the Lone Ranger at this point! God made me this way for a reason, and maybe if I manage to hold still long enough I'll hear from Him on why......

Oh My Gosh! This was all in my video as my daughter would say! As I pondered the question of what fault I have as a leader, the Lord reminded me that I am an overly perfectionist -- I will re-do someones work if it does not meet my expectations! How bad is that. Psalm 32 revealed for me some interesting thoughts where prayer is concerned. My insights was that I draw closer to God as I expereience prayer; His presence draw nearer to me -- my soul long to cry out to God that I may disclose my innermost feelings before him - but sometimes I am too busy. When I want to know the way of the Lord the deep calls unto the deep - regardless to how loud my busy day becomes - the Lord knows how to quiet it down. I thank God for THIS quiet time!

"Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our striving cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace, The beauty of Thy peace."

@Sally - have you ever read Mao II? The Japanese are so work orientated that they don't know how to holiday. So they take their cameras along... ;)

I smiled as I read the first paragraph of today's devotional. I'm a "Type A" with a "capital/bold A". Sally's statement "I'm so busy doing the work of leadership that I sacrifice being for doing" was an arrow to the heart. I have sacrificed the joy of the Lord for the success of the event.

God finally got my attention a couple of years ago after I had coordinated a women's event. Everyone talked about what a blessing it was and I was so exhausted that I had missed the blessing. What a wake up call.

Today I make a determined effort not to get in God's way. I'm still a "Type A" but allow God to focus me on what is important. It's hard, but I'm learning from Him.

You all amaze me with your giftedness and humility! Thanks for sharing your stories and reminding us all that we are not alone in our struggles.

Frizella, thanks for suggesting Psalm 32. I especially liked verse 7: "For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory."

Louise, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite songs, "In Christ Alone." It, too, deals with the issue of striving:

"What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand."

I was struck by the fact that in my quest to be all and do all, perfectly- I miss several important godly points. First is my arrogance and pride that I am or should be the best amd that the success of a project rests totally on me. This not only exhausts me but it denies the truth that apart from Christ I am nothing. Second as a leader, I dis-empower those with me, when I don't allow their contribution or their gifts to function.

This is all depressing as I recognise this unhealthy pattern that could correctly be called... sin. And so I read David's words of Psalm 42 and realize that my only hope is in God. I can only help others or lead and I focus on Jesus and hope in God.

@Terri - I'm sure we can all talk about this kind of wake up call "Everyone talked about what a blessing it was and I was so exhausted that I had missed the blessing." Thank you for your honesty. You're so right. Makes me think back over the last couple of months especially...did I miss Him?

@Hollie - I love that one, too. I remember clearly getting a picture from God whilst singing 'Who is there like You' when I sang the line 'And in Your grace I rest' - He showed me what that really means. The picture was of a person lying in a hammock with a long piece of grass in his/her mouth and there were words underneath the picture "Not a care in the world". Isn't it amazing how He really made us to live?

Hubs used to have the famous Do Not Worry passage taped to the back of the bathroom door. I STILL didn't get it. On an Alpha away weekend someone gave me these words from a song:
"Strivings and all anguished dreams
In rags lie at my feet
And only grace provides the way
For me to stand complete"

As you can see...it's a repeating refrain to God's song in my life...

@all - thanks for posting. It's so comforting to feel that I'm not alone.

"sacrificing being for doing"......ouch.

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