A Cup Of Grace

Day 2-Limits

We often learn our limits the hard way. Were there any limits you realized this past year? (Author: Carolyn Rubenstein)

I have always felt this strong urge to rise above what is expected of me, even to the point of where I surprise and even shock people. In every stage of life I’ve had a main goal, from overcoming the obstacles associated with Cerebral Palsy, or just being happy.

The older I got, the greater that urge became; a thirst that I was always able to quench, regardless of the lengths I had to go to. 

It kicked into overdrive sometime during sophomore or junior year. I had made some poor choices throughout the year (well, more like the past two years) and I felt like one of those people who just couldn’t get their shit together. 

I was tired of being attracted to guys that looked good in pictures, but broke my heart every single time. 

I hated that I attracted unbelievably sleazy and down right creepy ones; those that lurked around campus, looking for next girl that they could convince to have sex with them. 

And I wondered why I gravitated toward people that were so broken to the point where nothing could be done to help them, unless they sought help themselves. 

Somehow I convinced myself that I was the problem, and that the solution was that I needed to change. Maybe if I was more like so and so (i.e. a lot of Christian women that I knew) than maybe I wouldn’t feel so messed up. The insecurities that I had felt nearly four years ago, particularly when I was in high school at my home church, were coming back out again. But what I thought were efforts of change and improvement were more like efforts of trying to hide. 

And I was hiding because I was ashamed of the mistakes that I’d made. The mistakes that looking back on it, were regrettable, yet part of navigating college. A lot of what I thought about and considered doing was a lot worse then what I actually did. But I convinced myself that it was bad, merely because I thought about it. 

But the truth was, none of what I was trying to do was because I really wanted to. It was because I believed that I had to. I did it because I feared not being “Christian enough” in the eyes of my church friends and believers. I feared that what was partially my personality and nature would not be “good enough” or worthy of a man to love me. 

So on the outside, I put on a brave face and forced a smile when I needed to. I didn’t bring anything up unless someone asked. And when they did, I always prefaced with some kind of defense, so if and when they did condemn me, it wouldn’t hurt so much. 

It was anything but healthy, and could very well have destroyed me. 

My moment of liberation happened during early November in the apartment of one of my best friends. A group of us were going around and talking about the struggles in our lives, and after I spent a good five to ten minutes going on about mine, another dear friend asked if she could be honest with me. We had actually been meeting for coffee since the beginning of the semester, so she knew all about what I was saying.

I remember  her words very clearly:

“I’ve been watching you go through the same struggles since our freshman year, and you’re breaking my heart. You have to stop beating yourself up, because all you’re doing is hurting yourself. Let yourself be open to loving other people, and let other people love you.”

In that moment, all I could do was cry. That was powerful, and it was the difficult, face-slapping truth that I needed to hear.

Let yourself be loved

Following that night, I realized why “change” wasn’t happening; I wasn’t allowing others to be apart of the journey and the process, aside those in my counseling group. Even then it was tough though, because I still coming off as angry and defensive. In order for any kind of healing to take place, you need to be completely open about your experiences and not rely on the reactions of others.

The other big part of it was trying too hard to mold myself into someone that I wasn’t, rather than allowing God to work in me and mold me over the course of time. When we use our own strength to twist ourselves into the supposed ideal mindset or person, it will eventually backfire.

It’s so easy to assume that our beliefs should enable us to think, act, and ultimately live in the same way. However, we’re each given different gifts, with different personalities, to impact people in different ways.

Still, it can be a difficult path to navigate. While I am much more at peace, I can’t promise that I won’t have set-backs or struggles in the future, especially as I move into new and different stages in my life. By my own nature, I am a determined, hard-headed, and sometimes stubborn woman. I’m a little competitive and will always in one way or another, have this desire to show other people what I’m capable of.

And when I fail, which does and will happen from time to time, I will always ask myself what I could have done differently, or what I could have done better. What I need to remember is that it doesn’t have to take over my life.

Rejection, for what ever reason, absolutely sucks. But while you may not be “good enough” for your church, school, a relationship, perhaps even family, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t good. That I believe is why we have Grace; to be able to forgive and accept ourselves despite our past mistakes, even when the people around us won’t.  It enables us to fully embrace the love and freedom that God offers us, because it is the only thing we’re really guranteed to have.

And when you do, maybe you’ll come to find out that a lot of what you assumed in the beginning was actually not true at all, as I did. Maybe you’ll find out it’s not that people don’t like you, but they don’t know you, because you were so ashamed and hid your true self out of that fear. 

Whatever it is, make a point to get off of that pedestal and give yourself a cup of Grace; not just today, but every day. Drink it in slowly, and remember that every day is completely new. You’re wonderfully made and loved, even in the times where you don’t believe it or feel it. 

All of what I have just written may sound a little off-kilter, given that I am still trying to process what it means and genuinely live it out. All I know is that the standards that I have set for myself are too high, and it’s beyond exhausting trying to live up to them. 

As I said, we’re not created to carry heavy burdens by ourselves. I would not be where I am right now if not for the friends that weren’t afraid to look me in the eye and tell the truth, which they still continue to do. 

I am blessed and I am grateful. But mostly, I feel like I am finally free.

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