Breaking Up with Perfection

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You're sitting in the coffee shop waiting for him to arrive. You've planned out your speech and decided that you will remain strong. After all, it's been a long time coming. 

He's rude, arrogant and never sees the best in you. He picks at your flaws without ever seeing a flaw in himself. He sets standards that are impossible to meet but leave you feeling like somehow you were supposed to measure up. He promises happiness while leaving you feeling empty, tired and condemned. His name is "Perfection" and it's time you break up with him. 

Most of us wouldn't say that we struggle with this concept of "perfection." We wear messy buns, take no-make-up selfies and champion the "this is me" raw and real posts on instagram. But are we truly free from perfection's clutching grip or is this just another fad that we hope will give us a sense of identity and belonging? 

For years I struggled with this overbearing weight not because I thought that I could ever achieve perfection myself, but because I sensed that there was this standard that everyone else was somehow meeting that I wasn't. I believed I was living below where I was supposed to and that God expected better of me. It's hard to have a loving and free relationship with someone you believe is constantly disappointed in you. 

But what if I told you that is wasn't God who held you to this impossibly high standard? What if I told you that "perfection" wasn't a badge that was ever meant for you to wear? What if you were given permission to not only be free from the choking grip of perfection, but also empowered to live a larger life than you ever could on your own? 

Jesus didn't come to give us a higher hurdle to jump over than the people of the old testament. He came to set our hearts free, hearts that have become buried and burdened by the lies of the enemy. He came to strip away the barrier that "perfection" had created separating us from Him, so that we could have a loving, intimate and care-free relationship with our Father. 

Eternal lie means to know and experience you as the only true God, and to know and experience Jesus Christ, as the Son whom you have sent.
— John 17:3 TPT

The enemy wants you looking at yourself, your works, your mistakes and your less-than-perfect moments. Because left alone, we will always fall short. But we were never meant to walk alone. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening. They were guided by Him, upheld by Him and established by Him. He was completely their's and they were completely His. They weren't condemned because their gaze was fixed on the One who had breathed His very own life into their lungs. 

Their eyes weren't on themselves... until they fell. 

Have you ever noticed when Adam and Eve started feeling ashamed and condemned? 

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.
— Genesis 3:9-10 ESV

Notice Adam doesn't say he was afraid because he had sinned. I'm not even sure he truly knew what that meant. But he was afraid because he was naked. How can you tell if you're naked? You look at yourself. 

Wait.. weren't Adam Eve technically naked this whole time? Yes, yes they were. But they were too busy looking up to their Maker to look down on themselves. 

I'm sure you've heard the saying "your life will follow your focus." But if this is true, then why aren't we shifting our focus onto the One who will bring freedom and peace to our hearts? If the answer is staring us in the face, why aren't we being transformed? If the enemy can't hide the truth, then he'll mask it as "too good to be true." 

The word "Gospel" actually means the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news. It's a story so brilliant, so loving, so captivating and so inviting that it can't possibly be true - or at least it wouldn't be possible for me. But notice the word "nearly" above. What the enemy would have you pass off as impossible, God would use to break off all shame and condemnation from your life. The only question that remains is will you embrace His truth over your life? 

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
— Luke 19:10 NKJV

Notice this verse says Jesus came to save that which was lost. He didn't just come to bring you up to Heaven with Him one day. He came to restore ALL that was lost. Remember how Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening, free from guilt, shame and condemnation? This is what He came to restore. And this is the life that is waiting for you to live right now, not just someday in eternity. 

If you take anything away from this then take this. You are deeply loved, unwaveringly accepted and securely held in the arms of the One who made you, and loves every detail. 

There was nothing you could have done to earn His love and that is why there is absolutely nothing you could ever do to un-earn it. It says in Hebrews 11:6 that faith pleases God and our Father is thrilled when His children don't look to themselves and the glaring imperfections we face, but rather to Him and His goodness by faith. 

Just take a look at Jesus. Did he go around condemning people for not measuring up to His standard? Did he put down the hurting, condemn the broken and lecture the weak? The only people he came out against was the religious crowd and it was because they were the ones attacking his people with rules and shame, the very same people he came to save. 

Jesus is the exact representation of our Father's heart (Hebrews 1:3) and is therefore our roadmap to Him. Just like the woman caught in the act of adultery, He intentionally dismisses her accusers, wipes away all condemnation from her life, and then empowers her to live a life above the sin that had once ensnared her heart (John 8:1-11). And He came to do the same thing for you. 

If you'll let him, he will wipe away all your fear, insecurity and shame, letting them fall away through the piercings in his hands. And once again, like it was always meant to be from the beginning, you can walk together hand in hand in the cool of the evening. 

Don't allow fear, guilt or condemnation to keep you from your Father. He's already put these enemies under your feet. Like old gum stuck on your shoe, don't pick it up and allow it's ugliness back into your life. 

So here it goes. He's walking in the door. He takes a seat and stares blankly into your eyes. What will you say? 

"Listen, it's not you, it's me. I've found someone new. He loves me and we're going to spend the rest of our lives together." 

You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together.
— Song of Solomon 2:15 TPT

To the Girl Who Feels She's Let God Down- or Failed Too Much

Overcoming Shame + Guilt // Christian Advice for Women // Letting God Down
 

"Ouch!" I coughed as brown dust covered my eyes and the inside of my throat, making it's way into my lungs with each gasp for air after hitting the ground hard. At least I had a robe on. Things could always be worse, I guess. 

I knew I should never have trusted him. He told me his wife was out of town and I believed him... Until she came busting in through the door with her religous army behind her. 

"That's her!" she yelled, pointing at me with daggers in her eyes. "That's that tramp whose been whoring herself all over town. Get her out of here. I want her out of my sight!" 

Clearly she wasn't out of town. Did he know that? Surely he wouldn't have lied to me- especially knowing the consequences for me. I looked over at him in desperation only to be met with a blank face that refused to look my way. Had he been lying to me this whole time? Was he lying when he said he loved me? When he said his wife was cruel and left him for someone else? Was everything we had just been a means to some twisted end? 

Ugh! I felt so stupid! I felt so used! How could I not have seen it.. He didn't love me. He probably never did. And now here I was being dragged out like an animal and no one even gave him a second glance. I was so embarrassed, so ashamed! That is, until fear took a hold of me as I realized I was being dragged to my death. 

I begged and pleaded my case to a bunch of disinterested old men until I ran out of excuses. Was I guilty? Did I deserve to die? I knew what I did was wrong, but did no one care about my broken heart at all? 

Before I knew it, I was in the dirt, contemplating if this was the last thing I would ever see. I heard them arguing and fussing. I started to beg God to kill me now before the stones started to fly my way, but wait, what was that? It was a voice... Definitely a man's voice but it was more kind and calm then any man I had ever heard. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! 

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 

What was he saying! Surely they would stone him next. And why were they asking his opinion anyways? Whoever he was, he bent down and started writing in the dirt. I tried to make it out. Sarah... Rebecca... Tamar... Margret... what the heck was going on? What did this mean? 

All of a sudden one of the really old and grouchy ones left. Just dropped his death stone and walked away. But not before I saw a little glimmer of shame in his eyes. A feeling I've worn for a long time. I'd recognize it anywhere. Then another left. Then another. What did these magic names mean?!!! 

I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do. By this point a crowd had gathered and I was one of the main attractions. But who was this other guy? 

I glanced at the crowd and locked eyes with a little girl, holding her doll close to her heart as if to protect it from the dangers at hand. What had I become? How did I go from an innocent girl that was protected and loved to a convicted whore lying in the dirt like some freak show? I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to run away... But before I could, that voice started speaking to me.. to ME! 

He said, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 

I looked up at the face of my mysterious savior and with a shakey voice I answered back, "No one, Lord." Was this... no... it couldn't be.. but what if... 

He replied, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." 

All of a sudden my heart began to swell up, the brokenness didn't seem to matter anymore and I picked myself up to look into his face. And what a beautiful face it was. But it was more than that. It was as if he was seeing the real me. Not the wounded, dirty and forgotten woman standing in front of him, but that little girl who so desperately wanted to be loved, to be delighted in and cared for. It was as if he was taking pride in me, like a painter takes pride in his masterpiece. Did he know me? Had we met? All I knew was I deeply wanted to be known by him, and somehow it seemed like I already was. He was more real to me then any man had ever seemed. 

Sensing that my show was over, I wiped some dirt off of my forehead and turned to go home. People started talking again but there was only one voice that I heard. 

He said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." 

I glanced over my shoulder to see his gaze looking my way. I smiled and kept walking, taking what he said as an invitation that there was more to come for me. He was certainly not an ordinary man. 

-Personal adaption of John 8:1-11


We're almost all too familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery, but I think sometimes we tend to de-humanize her, taking her out of her humanity, shame and drama and putting her up on our Sunday school shelf as a "lesson well learned." We forget that this was a real woman, with real problems and real failures, who was redeemed by a very real God with real love and real mercy. In a way, her story is our story- one of brokenness and guilt. And the same Savior who lifted her out of her condemnation, is the same as the One who is trying to pick you up, dust you off and say, "Neither do I condemn you." 

But wait! There's more... 

One of the most beautiful things about Jesus is that He doesn't just leave us in our brokenness. He just loves us too much! He not only extends to us the love and mercy that we don't deserve, but he instills in us the power to "go and sin no more." 

In Hebrews it tells us just where this "power" comes from: 

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power...
— Hebrews 1:3

Did you catch that? The entire universe is held together by the "word of his power." His power is completely wrapped up in His word. That means, if He were to ever break His word, the universe would cave in on itself and we would just cease to exist. Thank you Jesus that He is faithful! So if Jesus tells you that you can "go and sin no more," the power for you to carry that out lies within those very words He has spoken to you. 

When Jesus says "do not fear," He has given you the power to not fear in those words. When He says "love your enemies," His power resides within you to overcome even the greatest of offenses. When He says "you are a new creation in Christ," you can trust that in His word lies the power to transform even the most broken of hearts. That's why it's only the truth that we know that set's us free. We must allow His words to wash over our hearts, instilling into our souls the overcoming power that this world can't offer to us. Only then will we be able to move forward without a chip on our shoulder, free to inspire others to live a life beyond their limitations. 

We don't know what happened to this woman after her encounter with Jesus. Maybe she started a family, maybe she helped other women who were struggling, maybe she she became an evangelist who would not stop talking about the mysterious savior who picked her up out of her brokenness. Scripture doesn't tell us her fate after that day, but one thing we can be certain of, Jesus instilled in her the power to live her life above the trap of sin through the very words he spoke in kindness and deep affection. 

But what we have is even better! After their encounter, Jesus left. Today, Jesus said he will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us at all times through His Spirit living on the inside of us. We have total and complete access to our Savior who is there to mend every broken piece that hurts. But He doesn't just want to heal the brokenness, He wants to set you free to be a light to others. 

Search out the scriptures and find the words and promises He has spoken to you. Look for them as buried treasure and ponder them in your heart. Then you will release the power you need to overcome every attack of the enemy. Your Savior is near. He cares. He's always been there. 

Write these chapters well, 
Jess


Want to learn more about how you were created to be brave?

Check out the Becoming Brave Online Bible Study and learn to awaken the unique ways you were designed to bring courage to this world. 

How to Battle Insecurity

The insecurity bug gets us all every now and then. But calling it a bug is quite misleading, for it’s more like a leech: the longer it’s left attached to you, the more life it will suck out of your veins. Pretty picture, right? If we’re waiting for this world (or anyone in it) to give us our security, then we’ll be waiting around for it forever. So how can we walk in the confidence and security that we long for so desperately?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

The insecurity bug gets us all every now and then. But calling it a bug is quite misleading, for it’s more like a leech: the longer it’s left attached to you, the more life it will suck out of your veins. Pretty picture, right?

All we have to do to get insecure these days is open our eyes and look around. There’s plenty for our wandering hearts to get insecure about because we live in such an uncertain world full of uncertain people with uncertain motives and agendas. If we’re waiting for this world (or anyone in it) to give us our security, then we’ll be waiting around for it forever. So how can we walk in the confidence and security that we long for so desperately?

We do battle with insecurity when we replace every lie with the truth.

I’ve heard it this way before: You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from making a nest in your hair. We can’t always stop a negative or insecure thought from popping into your mind. And if you consider that a failure then you’ll walk in constant defeat and keep yourself in bondage to it. But we do have control over our thoughts once it comes.

We have to decide if we’re going to receive this thought as our truth or cast it out and replace it with the word. I would say I’ve always been pretty good at knowing when a lie has weaseled its way into my thoughts. But I would simply acknowledge that it was a lie and then move on. I didn’t realize that if I didn’t take the thought captive, cast it out and replace it with truth, that lie had legal right to stick around and filter everything else I saw and heard through its murky lens.

So how can we detect the lies? After all, they’re not always so easy to identify. It says in Hebrews 4:12 that the word of God is alive and powerful. It’s sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, and exposing our innermost thoughts and desires. When we spend time in God’s word, it comes alive in our hearts and separates the lies from the truth. The light always exposes the darkness.

When a lie comes against your mind, expose it with the word of God and replace it with His truth.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

If you’re unsure of God’s love for you…

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
— Romans 8:38

If you’re uncomfortable with your body image…

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
— Psalms 139:13

If you’re afraid you’ll end up alone…

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.
— Deuteronomy 31:6

If you’re uncertain about your future…

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
— Jeremiah 29:11

Write down the lies that plague your mind and then write out the truth from God’s word to counter those lies. That way, whenever they try to come knocking on your door, you can answer back with confidence, wielding the sword that’s been entrusted to you by your heavenly Father. 

So don't let those insecure thoughts get you down. Rise up, cut them down, and speak the truth. Then throw your shoulders back and walk like you own the place because, well.. you do! 

xxo,
Jess

Moving Past Your Past

Every one of us has a past that tries to creep it's way into our present, whispering it's promise to always be there in our future. While it's sometimes hard, or seemingly impossible, to silence the thoughts and fears that arise, it is vital to walking in freedom and fulfilling the unique call of God on your life. We must all find a way to live above the lies, hurts, and wounds that trip us up from time to time. One way we do this is by speaking the truth in the midst of hurtful and victimizing emotions. 

As long as your meditating on how wrong the lie is, your mind is still focused on that lie. Your life will follow your focus and if the enemy can just keep you thinking about the lies- even if it's in a negative way- he will keep you on the path to self-defeat. It's only when we begin to replace the lies with truth that we begin to walk in freedom. 

Today's culture will tell you that you are the victim and that you deserve to stay that way. While that was true, Jesus paid a very high price so that you were no longer bound to the flesh and it's desire to play the victim. Victims are absolved of all responsibility and are owed everything from everyone. Living this way will keep you stuck in a prison cell of your own making and the one who has the key is you. We have to choose which we want more in this life: to remain a victim or become a victor. There is no middle ground. 

The lies in your head and the emotions you feel because of them are frauds of the truth. They aren't connected to truth because they are not connected to your identity or who you truly are. If God doesn't grade you based on your performance, then neither should you! Your past is right where it should be, in the past. Cling to truth and you will begin to walk beyond it into all of the glorious plans that God has in store for those who are brave enough to trust his word...


25 Verses for Moving On

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-14 (AMP)

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not ignore or nullify the [gracious gift of the] grace of God [His amazing, unmerited favor], for if righteousness comes through [observing] the Law, then Christ died needlessly. [His suffering and death would have had no purpose whatsoever.] -Galatians 2:20-21 (AMP) 

Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. -Isaiah 43:18-19 (AMP) 

For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. -Galatians 5:17-18 (AMP) 

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.” -Luke 9:62 (AMP) 

But My righteous one [the one justified by faith] shall live by faith [respecting man’s relationship to God and trusting Him]; and if he draws back [shrinking in fear], My soul has no delight in him. But our way is not that of those who shrink back to destruction, but [we are] of those who believe [relying on God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by this confident faith preserve the soul. -Hebrews 10:38-39 (AMP)

But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt. -Genesis 19:26 (AMP) 

The righteous keep moving forward... -Job 17:9 (NLT) 

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. -Romans 8:28 (AMP) 

Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. -Romans 8:1 (AMP) 

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. -Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you. -Psalm 32:8 (AMP) 

And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? -Matthew 6:27 (AMP) 

The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm. -Exodus 14:14 (AMP) 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! -1 Corinthians 9:24 (AMP)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. -Psalm 51:10 (AMP) 

I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [firmly guarding the gospel against error]. In the future there is reserved for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and longed for and welcomed His appearing. -2 Timothy 4:7-8 (AMP) 

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. -Philippians 4:8 (AMP)