It seems in my life that when Heavenly Father wants me to learn something, I am given a challenge to overcome. If I fail to pass the challenge the first time, another challenge soon comes along–wearing a different disguise, but testing me in the very same way.
It takes me several of these challenges, before I finally learn what Father is trying to teach me. And then it takes me a dozen more challenges to actually practice what I’ve learned and become what He wants me to become. Transforming knowledge into wisdom can be a painful process, but how else can we expect to become the masterpiece God has designed?
I feel compelled to share my challenges with you, even at the risk of knowing how weak and vulnerable it makes me appear, in the hopes that if you are struggling with a weakness of any kind, you know you are not alone. We all have struggles and challenges, and whether yours are different than mine or similar, we can cheer each other on in this race of life.
The following insights are taken from the pages of my journal over the past month. I recorded them as the Spirit whispered to my heart–giving me knowledge and awareness into why I have the weaknesses I have and how to heal them. The Spirit teaches us line upon line, little by little, one puzzle piece at a time.
Insight #1: This life and all of the social situations that accompany it, are not about me. It’s not about my needs being met, but about others feeling loved and comfortable and wonderful around me. We are striving to be disciples of Christ–and He came into this world not to be ministered unto, but to minister. For a girl who has been seeking for approval and acceptance from friends and peers her whole life, this is not an easy principle to live. My heart knows it’s true, but the actual practice of living it is not easy. However, that being said, my eye is on the prize and I won’t stop trying no matter how many times I fall. Because my ultimate goal is that I can develop enough charity that when others are around me, they feel like they’ve been in the presence of one of the servants of the Lord…one of His handmaidens.
Insight #2: When I’m inwardly secure and confident, I can build and lift others with greater success. How I feel about myself is directly tied to my unity with the Savior. Therefore, if I want to make everyone feel like gold when they’re around me, then I need to work on my relationship and unity with the Savior.
Insight #3: The way to increase my unity with the Savior is by letting God’s love fill me every morning. It comes by praying for His love to surround me and then moving into my day from this place of all-encompassing love. And then, each night, it’s making an accounting to Him of my day and asking my standing before Him. It’s letting His opinion be all that matters–asking Him to be the measuring stick for my day, and letting Him speak peace to my heart. It’s letting Him say, “These are the things you did that were pleasing unto Me. And these are the things you could do better tomorrow. Your day was acceptable to me and so are you.” It’s letting Him tell me the things I need to change and lovingly teach me how to do so. It’s letting His validation of me and my actions be the only thing that matters. Then it’s having faith enough to believe Him.
Insight #4: The Lord taught me why I struggle with perfectionism. He whispered to my heart that the root of this weakness is because I crave acceptance and belonging. (Note: my family members have always been there as my truest, dearest friends, full of acceptance and love for me. Yet I had so many experiences of rejection from friends during my school years that social situations have become sources of great anxiety for me as an adult.) I think if I can just be better, people will like me more. But the result of striving for perfection in everything around me–in my appearance, my home, my family, my hobbies, my writing, my everything, is often the opposite of what I am aiming for. People pull away because “perfection,” even if it’s only surface-level perfection, has the tendency to make others feel inferior. But when people pull away, I just try all the harder to be even more perfect–because I think if I try harder, people are bound to like me better, right? Wrong. The cycle just continues. The Lord told me I need to obtain and rest in His love and assurance in order to not need the acceptance and approval of others. And if I stop focusing on myself and how well I’m accepted because I’m secure in the love of my Father and Savior, then I can reach out and ask heartfelt questions to others that will make them feel loved and valuable and feel of the Savior’s light. This is a landmark revelation for me and I know it’s true. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to live yet. It’s just one more bit of wisdom for me to add to the ever-growing puzzle of revelation God is gifting me.
Insight #5: I need to think of Jesus Christ as my friend more than I ever have. I keep thinking of all the struggles I have had making and keeping friends throughout my life. All I have ever wanted was to fit in and be accepted and belong and have true friends. But then I read in John that Christ says, “I have called you friends.” And in the next verse, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” This brought a few bitter tears to my eyes and called me to repentance because the Lord is essentially saying, “Jamie, you have not chosen Jesus to be your friend because you’ve been so wrapped up in finding friends of this earth. And yet, even so, Christ has still chosen you to be His friend.” Will I accept Him? Not just as my Savior, but as my Friend? I think a miracle would take place in my life if I chose to accept Him as my truest friend. I think I would finally find the place I belong. And so my quest for deeper friendship with Jesus begins.
This path of overcoming perfectionism, insecurity, and social anxiety is not over. In fact, it’s just begun. All my life I’ve been stumbling around in the dark, trying to find a way to overcome these weaknesses. But through personal revelation, I have now found the path. It’s not a path to stroll along, but more of a mountain climp–uphill and rocky. But the way is lit up ahead just far enough to take a few steps before I reach the edge of the light. And then I will need to step into the dark, having faith that the Lord will light up the next few steps on the path after that. I trust Him with all my heart. He will never forsake or abandon us. In whatever you are facing in your life, look for the Lord. He is there, with outstretched arms, waiting for you to take His hand and allow Him to journey with you, as your guide, as your friend.