I sense a blog series coming on. ‘Fridays are for…’, it would be called.
But I don’t need any more self-imposed pressures in my life and if I were to say that I was going to do such a series, then I would feel committed to produce something every Friday in this vein. Since I suffer enough from drivenness as it is, I think it would be better not to feed this addiction to productivity by committing myself to any more unnecessary self-expectations!
Speaking of drivenness, though, you may remember last Friday’s post where I was processing some of the learning over that week, much of which had come from a sermon in the college chapel. Last week, I’d made a commitment to engage seriously with this sickness of the soul which is drivenness. I’d reflected upon the power inherent in God’s Word for personal transformation and I’d determined that I would invite Christ to begin to work wholeness into my life in this area by setting myself to learn to abide in his Word, especially during this Lenten period. The verses which particularly resonate with me at the moment are Luke 10:41-42, where Jesus rebukes Martha and points her to Mary’s example.
Well, in case you’ve somehow managed to escape this dynamic in your life so far, let me warn you: when we deliberately invite Jesus to transform a specific area of our lives and we commit ourselves to an openness to this work within us, we’d better be prepared for some action! I think I’d forgotten the power inherent in the Word somehow. Life gets in the way, doesn’t it? Yet, this week I have been reminded so clearly of it.
Only twenty-four hours after last Friday’s post, I started a meltdown of faith which lasted till Sunday evening. It was actually about this PhD and my self-perception as not being capable of it. (It had no bearing in reality; things are not going badly at all for the stage I’m at but since when did the world of my mind and self-perception follow reality?!)
Now, truth be told, the trigger for the meltdown is irrelevant. It could have been anything; it’s just that the PhD is a metaphor for a lot in my life right now and is perhaps the biggest and best arena for God to teach me the lessons which I have so far persisted in not learning over the last thirteen years of faith. That, I think, is why it was the PhD which was the arena for the meltdown.
The real underlying trigger has nothing to do with the PhD; rather, it is drivenness to achieve.
Or, in fact, as I am beginning to admit more and more these days, it is drivenness born of a fear of failure. I actually don’t care about success at all and don’t really know how to enjoy it. But failure? Well, failure itself is actually not so terrible (you can always move on!) but the fear of it is potentially debilitating to me.
And it was in the midst of me falling apart at the seams during the last weekend that God showed me that he means business in dealing with this drivenness. You see, sometimes you have to see the depth of the problem before you can see how badly you need a Saviour. It’s all very well me blogging about it from a reflective distance but I need to live inside of this issue sometimes before I accept how much of a problem it is.
And, indeed, what the problem is.
Because I’d thought it was just a generic drivenness. Yet, truth be told, it’s more specifically a drivenness not to fail and an honest (albeit messed-up!) belief that I really will fail whatever it may be that I’m currently working on. People laugh at me and tell me to look at my track record when I admit this. But it doesn’t help because there’s a bit of my brain which can’t compute it (though I recognise that their logic is impeccable)!
The fun and games of all of this over the weekend has forced me to name a lot of what I’ve just expressed above. I’ve moved from a generalised understanding of the problem to a slightly higher-resolution view than I feel ready for! Yet God didn’t stop here.
Yesterday I had a coaching session booked into the schedule. It’s been booked for months. Little did I know when I booked it that it would be so timely for engaging with the issues above. But, oh, how he knows! (God does make me laugh sometimes. Often, actually!)
That coaching session was a great chance to unravel the drivers for this relentless need to achieve/not fail but also, and most importantly of all, to start exploring what I can do practically to deal with the wrong beliefs which feed these drivers, replacing them with the truth. I saw clearly, again(!), quite how powerful and subtle my mind is in ‘sorting for the negative’, a phrase I believe that I may have borrowed from the NLP-ers to describe that propensity which some people have to filter out compliments about them or other positive data in favour of less favourable feedback about them and negative data. I also started to think about how these drivers affect my working practices, particularly in the context of my self-expectations in my pastoral role.
Since then, I have been reflecting. (Hence that title which you read many(!) words ago…’Fridays are for reflection’.)
- What are the false beliefs which I seem to cherish so closely? And what are the specific truths from Scripture that need to replace those? What would it take to stop ‘sorting for the negative’ and start believing those positive things which others are saying to me and about me?
- What needs to change in how I work, whether my pastoral role, my research or my various freelance projects?
- What personal goals do I need to set so I can start to get precise about what a change in this area might look like and also so that I can stay accountable to others about them?
And, even as I ask myself these questions, I get to thinking about you, my readers! I don’t suppose I’m the only one struggling here. I may be one of the few who’s brave enough to splurge it all on a blog (the contradictions of this introvert, eh?!) but I’m sure I’m not alone. I’ve even been having conversations at church about this over the last week and I know that so many of us are trapped by believing lies about ourselves which are contrary to Scripture. Some of those I have talked to have decided to join me in this forty day Lent challenge which was offered in a sermon they didn’t even hear! They are excited about internalising God’s powerful Word into their lives and seeing the changes which will surely result.
But what about you?
I dare you.
What else are you living for, after all, other than the excitement of a life which is being conformed to the image of Christ?
Take a risk. Invite the Lord to name one area where he wants to transform your life. Search the Scriptures for a verse or two to anchor your experience of the process. Learn it; internalise it; pray it over yourself.
And then hold on tight.
Because something beautiful and scary and exhilarating will happen and you will never be the same again.