My head fell gently back into the plush rocking chair, shimmering through the darkness as I hid in the corner of the darkened church nursery…storage room. This was not my family ministry desk and this was no office. I was drowning in the choppy sea of meetings, feeling the weight of my need to consistently exceed expectations, offer my highest performance at home with my family and trying so hard to be that woman God smiles down upon.
I was following all of the rules.
God had to see me.
He had to see how much I was doing for Him.
But if this amazing, always-in-control God of the universe indeed saw me and recognized my efforts, why wasn’t my storm getting a little easier? Even a break from the rain would be nice.
My eyes started to close slowly. I was breathing in the reality of life without brain cancer, yet suffocating from the uncertain health of our soon-to-be third child – the baby I was told would not survive past the first trimester. I was the only full-time minister on staff at the church and I was doing my best to fill as many shoes possible to keep things going until a new senior minister was found. I returned home after work to a loving husband and two boys that desperately wanted my full, energized attention.
God, you see this don’t You?
You see how hard I’m trying to please You?
You surely see how scared I am right now.
Do You see how exhausted I am from trying to hold it altogether?
Where are You?
Author of “Limitless Life” Derwin Gray defines religion as –
“Humanity’s attempt to reach up and earn God’s acceptance, love and blessings through good behavior or by keeping a specific set of religious principles or laws.”
At that time in my life, I never viewed myself as religious, but simply trying to please the Boss (God) with my efforts. I needed Him to accept me so that I could get a break from the trials I felt storming through my life without ceasing.
Hi. My name is Bethany Boring and I’m too tired to be religious.
I knew the right verses to point to in times of need. I journaled, maintained a devotional time and strived to be the best family minister, wife and mother possible (in that order too). But it never seemed to be enough to gain a better connection with God that I so desperately desired. Nothing was ever enough.
I was exhausted trying so hard to earn God’s favor. I wanted Him to notice me, pick me up out of the storm, dry me off and place me on solid, dry ground.
I wanted Him to see me as His brave warrior. Yet, I was hiding in the middle of a dark nursery storage room.
My inability to stop cost me much more than just the peace that I longed for from God.
For 9 years in full-time ministry I never stopped. I always had to do more, reach more, prepare more, baptize more, grow more and teach more.
During my battle with cancer, I was literally warned by my doctors that if I did not slow down, I would run my body to the ground. When my legs failed, I used a cane. When I could no longer walk, I used an electric scooter. When I was tired, I found caffeinated drinks that my system would tolerate. When I was receiving chemo, I was blogging, preparing lessons and emailing schedules.
Hi. My name is Bethany Boring and I still have trouble stopping.
When you are stuck in the religious frame of mind, you can never do enough for God, yet you believe you must keep trying.
The difference between religion and grace can be summed up quite easily.
Religion says “You are a sinner and God can never accept you the way you are. Keep working at it.”
Grace says, “You are a sinner and you have the right to be called His child through Christ. Come rest.”
Religion adds more demands onto your plate.
Grace allows you to be accepted whether your plate is full or empty.
Religion shouts, “You will never be good enough!”
Grace allows you to hear Him singing, “You are mine.”
Religion leads to exhaustion.
Grace leads to freedom.
Religion is for those that can’t stop, but grace is the only fuel source that can keep you going.
God allowed the storm to keep blowing for quite a bit longer before I finally realized that I could never do enough to earn His love. But one day, I found myself stopped, surrendering to Him while holding the pieces of my shattered heart. As I sat with my head hanging low in my time of surrender, God held me as I laid still, trembling with fear.
When you finally stop running, you truly don’t know what to do.
This was how I first met Abba.
The moment I stopped crying to get His attention, was the moment He planned long-ago to allow me to feel Him cradling me in His arms. I had been squirming too much, crying too loud and stuck in an outrage in my own trouble for a very long time. It is impossible to feel Abba Father’s embrace until you learn to lay fully accepted and gracefully still. His arms had always been there, I was the one that never stopped to notice. I was the one that never trusted Him enough to hold me this close.
Once you experience the Abba’s love, there is no going back.
Once you realize His unconditional love really is – unconditional, suddenly you want to drop everything to sit in His arms. You long to feel His heartbeat. You see His hand at work throughout your life, in the lives of others and no day is ordinary anymore.
You have a real relationship with Abba Daddy…and you start to wonder if it can really get any better than this.
Yes…it does get better.
Because you are accepted, not trying to earn acceptance.
Because you are loved, not trying to earn love.
Because you know Who you are, not trying to prove who you are not.
In January, I accepted a passage that I wanted to define my year, if not my life. It describes this relationship I am growing-in daily and how it is transforming my life. I still struggle stopping, resting and simply allowing Him to call me His. Yet, not a day goes by that I don’t feel Him embrace, calling me to rest in His arms as He carries me through the storms of life. I am right where I want to be.
This post was written for the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies “Limitless Life” Week 3 Blog Hop. Find more information about Proverbs 31 Ministries and the various online Bible studies they offer here.