For Those Who Strive

This is for you. 

I may not know you very well, or I may not know you at all. But I think we share much in common. There is something inside of you that strives. 

You pride yourself on being a fighter. You don't give up. Whatever you may encounter, you push through it and come out stronger. You have a drive and dedication that other people look up to. You can take care of yourself and your own issues, and you don't need to burden anyone else. You instead can be their anchor as well as your own. You are independent and you make your own decisions. You don't back down from a challenge, and you don't take the easy way out. You are unfailingly responsible and dependable. You don't just meet expectations - you exceed them. When you want something, you drive yourself into the ground to fight for it. You are never satisfied with yourself. But you're strong enough to keep toiling every day to get closer to who you want to be and what you want to achieve. You're strong enough to be a champion.

At least, that's what we tell ourselves, you and I. 

Maybe that isn't quite you, on the outside. But I think there is a fighter inside every one of us - a hungry, courageous, desperate fighter who will do whatever it takes to prove we're worth something.

You put up a tough exterior. But inside, there are days when your heart is melting. You say you're fearless. But the truth is that you're desperately afraid of losing people's respect and their high opinions that you strive so hard to deserve. When people ask you how you are, you can smile and say you're fine. But it's not always true. You think you're invincible, that you can and should take on whatever challenge comes your way. But there are days when you come face to face with your own limitations and discover just how fragile you really are.

And that scares you to death. There's no time to be human when there's so much more you could become. So instead of acknowledging that you can't handle everything, instead of admitting that you are not okay sometimes, instead of giving yourself permission to step back and breathe, you just keep striving. You don't want to rest; you haven't worked hard enough to deserve it. If you did pause, you'd realize how exhausted you really are. And you're afraid that you wouldn't be able to pick up your old pace again. Better to push through without thinking of how hard you're driving yourself. Better to numb yourself and keep running. Better to risk burning out than appear weak. And anyway, you're not going to burn out. You're stronger than that. 

If you'd ever let yourself think about why your mind works this way, or how you got to this place, you might see that down at your core you are desperately insecure. You might think you accept yourself for who you are, but you don't. You say you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be - and that's true, to a degree. But more than that, you want to be better than everyone else. If they've pushed through what you're struggling with, so can you. It's easy for you to look compassionately at them and say they need a rest, or that they should stop pushing so hard, or that they should take care of themselves. But you'll never say that to yourself, because you think you're better and less needy than them. What you mean is that they can be human, but you don't have to be. And the last thing you want is for them to find out that you actually are. 

You are not alone. 

None of us is immune to the unwillingness to admit we can't do it all. If there is something that strives in each of us, then there is something that is desperately twisted in all of us. If we let ourselves actually think about what we're doing, it's not that hard to see how warped it is. There must be truth that we're refusing to admit and determined to cover up. There must be reality we won't let ourselves acknowledge. And that must mean we've been telling ourselves lies all along.

The truth is not quite the epic tale we wish it was. The truth is not polished, heroic, or legendary. It doesn't tell us what we want to hear. It doesn't show us that, given enough effort, all this striving will pay off. And it doesn't let us fool ourselves any longer.

The truth is this: I am human. I am limited. I am fragile. I am weak. I am vulnerable. I am sensitive. I am not always capable. I don't know everything. I am not invincible. I am not always okay. I can't do it all. I'm flawed. I'm not who I wish I was. I can't go it alone. I'm imperfect. I want to give up sometimes. I can't always meet expectations. I will disappoint people. I can't just keep going all the time. I'm not always brave. And no matter how hard I strive, I will never be able to fully overcome any of this.

Where's the hope in that? At first glance, there doesn't seem to be any. If you can admit the truth, you've taken a bigger step in the right direction than you ever could by striving. But without your self-deception, you're even more hollow than you were before. You can keep trying. But trying not to be human won't change the fact that you are.

And so here we are: vulnerable, fragile, human. Together in that. All different in the way we strive, but alike in that we do. A collection of individuals who are no better than each other no matter how hard we try to be. 

But we are not alone. 

The truth doesn't leave us here - empty, weak, with nothing to offer. It goes further. It gives us something unexpected. We want to be stronger, but it doesn't give us strength. It shows us instead that there is grace

It's not grace that can come from ourselves. And it isn't the grace we can show each other. It's a grace so whole and so powerful that it could only come from a source wholly unlike us. It's a grace sufficient to cover every weakness we have. It's a grace that tells us that we are worth something - not because of what we've done, but because of what's been done on our behalf. It's a grace that shows us that in spite of everything we're not, we are still loved, accepted, cherished, valued, and enough. It's a grace that says we don't have to strive anymore. It's a grace that cries out that all the work is finished. 

It's a grace that says this: "You don't have to be, because I AM."

You've come to the end of yourself. You have no strength left. There is no effort of your own that can help you overcome what you are. But you still have hope, because there is still a hand reaching down to you. There always has been, even in the midst of all your striving. It offers you grace. It wants to give you a love so rich and strong that it is beyond your human ability to comprehend. It wants to do what you can't. 

You don't have to strive anymore. All that is required of you is just one more effort: to reach out, reach up, and take hold of that hand - and allow its warmth to thaw your striving heart.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth...For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:14,16