Grace, Not Rules

Do you struggle with wanting to be perfect? I do.

I want things lined up. Organized. In order. But not in an “obsessive compulsive” kind of way… more in a “if I will it, it should be” kind of way; in a “where my mind wants me to go, my body automatically follows” kind of way. What if everything I intended to do I actually did? I would be perfect if intentions cut it. But nay. So to better ensure that I follow through on my intentions, I resort to rules.

So let’s talk about rules.

I’m not one who tends to think that rules are meant to be broken. Fortunately or unfortunately, I grew up as a rule follower. I still am. What is quite unfortunate for me, though, is that most of the rules I set out to not break are the ones I set. Me. I set them. And when I break them, I’m hard on myself. I beat myself up. I forget that I set them.

For instance, once my first alarm goes off in the morning, I’m no longer allowed to sleep on my stomach because the chance of oversleeping increases dramatically. I have to drink a water between every non-water drink. I’m not allowed to initiate. Or flirt. Or cuss. I have to decide my next gym trip as I’m leaving this one. Then I have to go. I have to write consistently. Or journal. And I can’t start a sentence in my own blog or journal with “And” or “Because” or have run-on sentences or partial sentences. I have to quit checking my (stupid) Facebook feed so much. I need to follow through on everything on my to do list now. Everything I say I’m going to do or need to do, I need to do it and my feelings don’t matter because I made the decision and that’s enough. I can go on and on.

I make these rules. It’s not that the rules are bad, but its my response to breaking them. I beat myself up. I feel like I’ve let myself down. That I have to make the next rule more stringent. More dramatic. Get up earlier, quit coffee, work out harder when I go, etc. Worst of all, I convince myself that I’m undisciplined. So I try to create some accountability. I feel like I have a problem. Like I won’t be successful.

At the end of the day, I’m not missing discipline. I’m missing the understanding of grace.

Understanding Grace

Grace isn’t a free pass to not do. Grace is an understanding that even when you don’t do or fall short, you can still receive. You can still win. You are still awesome. You are not rejected. You are not a failure. It’s subtle, but it’s important. The Lord actually said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corin 12:9). Wow. He’s there where I’m not. The less there is of me, the more there is of Him. He completes me. I don’t need to have or be it all.

Why is this hard for me to get? Where did this desire to APPEAR perfect come from?

I think perhaps similar to most – my upbringing. My home was broken, like a lot of people’s. It was crazy at times. It was always loving, just unconventional. However, it needed to look good. It needed to look stable, and normal, despite how far from normal it was. Because I’m a verbal processor, I found outlets to get things off my chest rather than internalizing them, thankfully. Looking back, those experiences have shaped who I am and composed my worldview. Due to how I grew up, I realize that no one is perfect and that everyone has a story and people are the way they are and see things the way they do for a reason. Yet, I deny that I too have a worldview for myself. I understand you’re not perfect and I am very compassionate for your experiences and what has shaped you. Yet I don’t want to reveal my own shortcomings. I need to appear strong. There is something inside of me that wants to impress you and wants you to trust me for how put together I am.

That is why this blog is healthy for me. It is healing. It helps me be authentic by sharing mistakes and misconceptions I have and reveal that I am not perfect and that I have things I haven’t figured out and I have things to learn. The beauty is despite this, I am growing and changing because of the things the Lord reveals to me, what He allows me to walk through, and the grace He gives me by blessing me when I haven’t earned it.

As a matter of fact, God cautioned against assessing obeying the law and rules as a standard of righteousness. He said, “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:20-24). This means that no matter how hard I try, I will still fall short.

So how about this rule: no rules.

Strive to be the best you can be, but allow for grace when you fall short. I believe that as the righteousness of Christ, you should want to do things right and be obedient and want to please Him, but the more I come to understand that I can operate under grace and not the law/not my own rules, the more free I will be. Free from perfectionism. Free to just be. Me.

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