Category: Identity

Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard to Prove Ourselves

 

I walk down the country road that slices through farm country, and these waving fields of corn and hay seem to envelope me.  Something about their verdant leaves bowing in the wind makes me feel secure here.

The corn fields will be ready for harvest soon. Any day, the tractor will come and sheer the fruitful stalks, and acres of stubble will blanket the ground like a four-day beard of golden whiskers.

I find myself remembering springtime, when I walked with the kids on this same road, and the farmer scattered seeds into muddy earth. I told the kids there would be corn here by the end of summer, and September seemed a lifetime away.

We drove past these fields as spring burst into summer and wild turkeys searched the soil for food. We spotted deer among the green sprouts as they grew, and we marveled at the slow change as stalks grew tall and lush.

On this evening, alone with the sinking sun and geese overhead, I can’t help but consider what it took for this field to bear a harvest. Every tiny seed of corn had to die and break open for the new plants to emerge.  I’m reminded of the way my body seemed to break with the birth of our two children.  I remember the way my body had to break if I was going to perform with excellence as an athlete in high school: burning lungs on cinder tracks as I prepared for big races and lying flat on the infield of the track in the aftermath.  I had to endure the pain of pushing my body in order to get better.

Looking at the corn, I’m also reminded of the bread Jesus broke so that he could feed thousands of people from five meager loaves. I’m reminded of his body, broken so that I might have life.  It seems life springs from brokenness.

John 12:24 reads: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I memorized this verse sometime in my early twenties, but I haven’t pondered the implications for far too long. What’s this actually look like lived out in my life right now?

I list the applications in my mind: Putting the needs of others in front of my own; being vulnerable when I really don’t want to; connecting with God instead of feeding my ever-hungry flesh; biting my tongue; speaking hard words of truth that don’t come easily; reaching out of my comfort zone and into the lives of others; slowing down; forgiving; letting go of grudges; admitting I don’t have it all together; standing before a holy God and confessing my sins with a broken heart.

A subtle theme threaded through my applications seems to speak of living as a woman who has nothing to prove. A woman with something to prove makes sure others notice her, acts strong and controls her emotions, strives to achieve more, keeps it all together, and carefully portrays competence and confidence in all situations.  Living with nothing to prove is living broken, like the seedlings planted in damp soil.

When I know I have nothing to prove, I can be real. I can let my guard down.  I let the subject drop without having the last word.  I don’t have to be right.  And when I am right, I don’t have to make it clear that I’m more right than others.

When I know I have nothing to prove, I can bear reproach without falling into a pit of self-loathing. I can bear false accusation quietly and without a need to speak my side of the case.  I can be misunderstood, left out, and overlooked without being deeply shaken.

When I have nothing to prove, I am broken before the Lord, and I admit that I need him for life and breath and everything else. In my utter dependence upon him, I am set free.  I know that he is the only One who offers the kind of strength I need to survive, and I trust that his strength is only made perfect when I’m ok with being weak.

I breathe the truth in deeply, aiming to recalibrate my life as I prepare to walk through a door with shouting little voices and toys scattered across every inch of the floor. I trust that in this dying to self, the most beautiful kind of life will rise from the ashes.

 

 

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