Living Loved When Living’s Hard | Day 9
Reading | 1 Peter 4:1-11
“Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (HCSB)
I call myself a recovering perfectionist.
I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian setting. Both the church I attended and the college I graduated from were stereotypically known for having pretty strict rules: no drinking, no dancing, no electric instruments.
Most of my life, I felt constant pressure to fit into a specific mold of what a true Christian woman was. We all know what she looks like: bakes goodies, has an obsession with fancy table settings, and likes to host themed brunches with mini muffins. She is always super sweet and hugs people all the time.
Bro. That is not me. Not even a little bit.
I mean, I tried. I followed every rule. I tried to be as perfect as possible.
I even baked cookies.
During my college years, I was surrounded by women who fit perfectly into the mold of the perfect Christian woman. And I was slightly envious of them. Honestly, I still am. I wish I could create small talk with anyone and be automatically known by my super friendly demeanor. But at the end of the day, that’s just not who I am.
I tend to be somewhere between the Proverbs 31 woman and T-Swift. I love me some Jesus, but I’m snarky, a little sassy, and I have a slightly irresponsible and immature heart. I have the sense of humor of a fifth-grade boy, but I’m passionate about my faith. I’m fairly certain the only reason I’m able to keep my sarcastic remarks under some sort of control is because of the Holy Spirit. Bless.
My attempts to be the poster-child of my perfect, but wholly imagined Christian woman was like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.
I’m 99.9% sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this. We all have some idea of what the perfect Christian looks like, and we work and we strive and we hustle trying to reach that. We see how “perfect” other people’s work for Jesus is, and we get caught up in the comparison trap:
“If only I could talk like she does.”
“If only I could teach like she does.”
“If only my house could look like hers.”
If only, if only, if only . . .
Friends, these are the thoughts I catch myself struggling with, but that isn’t how Christianity is supposed to work. God created each one of us with different abilities, different strengths, different personalities. And the truly amazing thing is that all those qualities are different aspects of His image, of who He is.
Throughout the New Testament, there are descriptions of spiritual gifts. Basically, these are supernatural abilities that God blesses each one of us with after we place our trust in Jesus Christ. The sole purpose of these gifts is to produce something beneficial, something that will further the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 12:7).
Our gifts should not be something that causes jealousy, discontentment, or division between us. In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter tells us we are to use our gifts to serve one another. Each one of us is gifted uniquely by the Holy Spirit. How amazing is that?! We should use our gifts with hearts full of gratitude and purpose, not hearts wishing for someone else’s.
We are blessed with different abilities so we can work together as one, as one body, as one team. Whatever we are gifted to do should be done to better that bond. If you’re good at speaking, then speak up! Share the Word of God with your audience. If you’re great at encouraging, start lifting people up! Reach out to those who need a little pick-me-up. If you get fired up doing things for people, help out! Look for things you can do for those around you. If you are blessed with confident, childlike faith, look for those who are doubting. I promise you’ll be a comfort to them.
I pray you don’t find discontentment in your gifts. We’ve spent too much time being jealous of things that don’t belong to us. I look back on the times I tried so hard to be that brunch-planning woman. How many opportunities to use my gifts did I miss because I was stuck trying to be who I felt I was expected to be? Were there positions I filled because I thought I was supposed to when in reality, doing so took that opportunity from someone who was truly gifted in that way?
When we try to stay on a track we’re not made for, things tend to not go very well. Forcing ourselves to be used in ways that aren’t meant for us is not going to be completely beneficial. Sure, some success or growth may come, but that doesn’t always mean the best decision was made.
God chose to bless you with the gifts He did because they fit you and your calling. There’s a reason He created you with your personality, your passions, your desires. Every part of who you are is useful to Him. Follow His leading, and He’ll keep you on the track meant for you.
I’m nowhere near perfecting this. I’m still learning how to listen to that still, small voice, but I’m finding that when I’m focused on Jesus, I’m less concerned about the expectations of others. Even though it’s a whisper sometimes, His voice is drowning out the opinions of people who don’t really know me. I’m finding that when I listen to my slightly irresponsible, impulsive heart, the God who created it, and the friends who love me, I’m enjoying my decisions more. I’m beginning to do things for the enjoyment and the fruit they produce, not out of some falsely contrived obligation. It’s helping me build my life around connections and relationships, not the world’s definition of success.
Keep fighting to be who God created you to be. He’ll use every part if you let Him.
✌️ – Tonya
Is there anything you are doing that is purely out of obligation? Are you fully embracing your gifts or are you struggling with comparing yourself to others and their abilities?