Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach

Perfectionism, Guilt, and a Scapegoat

While I was thinking through perfectionism and guilt, I found that I was having difficult, grumpy conversations with people.

I wasn’t able to meet my own standard of perfection and now I was looking for someone else to blame. I was devastated when someone pointed out my error and frustrated when someone upsets my plans or what I felt I had to do. It’s my standard and I can’t meet it so I have to blame someone otherwise I have to bear the guilt.

By making myself the lawmaker, I erected my own laws according to my own kingdom purposes, and I judged anyone who got in my way. This may take the form of depriving one’s children of the appropriate amount of food or of adequate clothing in order to be a good steward or one may think that loving one’s neighbor means she has to have every neighbor over for dinner each month, or that working as unto the Lord means that one must put in 80 hours a week.

Elyse Fitzpatrick explains that “elevating personal preferences to the status of moral rightness ultimately makes life oppressive.” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety 91). It leads to fear when one cannot obey his own standard, panic when others fail expectations, and “the nagging feeling that everything is about to blow up” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety 91). Amen! I now see that that was true of my life.

Recognizing that I was punishing others for my failure to meet my own standards has made a huge difference in my social life. I now spend more time with others and am more gracious to others when they fail, even though I have a long way to go. I see things as more of an opportunity and less burdensome.

One key moment illustrated this change in my life. One of my intern messed up. It was a small thing, it wasn’t eternal, but it was a common sense thing and she messed up in front of my boss. That would have absolutely devastated me five months ago and I would have punished my intern with my disdain and coldness. In this case I let her know how she should do that task in the future.There was a second of “I want to run away. I’m not good enough at this job,” but instead of lasting anywhere from one day to a week and starting a downward spiral, it lasted less than a minute.

Women to Women

So, so thankful for opportunities this week:

Monday: Time spent with coworkers who all happen to be dear, close friends (Who gets to say that?)

Tuesday Morning: Redemptive conversation with my boss (Who has a boss who knows them, knows their sin, loves them anyway, is willing to help them, and who cares about their faith, their walk, and their future?)

Tuesday Lunch: Keller Family lunch (Waiting to hear two little boys tap on the front office door is always the highlight of my Tuesday.)

Tuesday Afternoon: Hosted different people in the office. I really like this part of my job.

Tuesday Evening: Hanging with Esther. We had dinner in the caf with a student from her dorm and then ran errands together (Costco, Marshalls, TJMax). Once again, time filled with redemptive conversation and I also bought a beautiful purse. When you can do both of those things together it’s extra bonus points :).

Wednesday Afternoon: SLS Class on what it looks like to speak the truth in Love. (Once again who gets to do this as part of their job and who gets to work alongside coworkers and students who are passionate about this because they love Jesus? Who gets to be excited at an opportunity to hear their boss speak because what he says is true and helpful and because you’ve seen his life match what he is saying?)

Wednesday Evening: Women to Women was a joy. We had such neat girls. We had fun, lively, humorous, encouraging and redeeming conversations. It was so good to hear what Heidi, Kim, and Kaylin had to say. Heidi hung out after the girls left and I enjoyed chatting so much that now she’s gone, it’s late, and I’m typing this post :).

And there is more to look forward to:

Thursday lunch: with Betty Price

Friday lunch: with Jess Stucky

Friday night: Piano Extravaganza on campus starring one of my wonderful interns (Well starring might be a stretch, but she is the reason I am going).

Sunday: Potluck and a walk around the lake with friends.

Love it! Thanks, Lord, for delighting to give us good things and for orchestrating redeeming moments, conversations, and friendships. Thanks for being faithful even when we are faithless. Thanks for your sovereignty and that you work to change our hearts. Thanks for placing us exactly where we need to be when we need to be there and for preparing us beforehand for what you have in store.

Letting Limitations Lead to Worship
August 9, 2010, 7:34 am
Filed under: Christian Living, Counseling, Discipline, Gospel, Lessons Learned, My life

I am not God. Limitations are an intrinsic part of my humanity and one that I rejoice in because of the evident reminder of my need for God. I am not like Him and I am thankful He is who He is and that He is without limits.

I’ve had a hard month and I’m only now starting to come out of my funk. The month was harder than it had to be because I fought against my humanity. Everything that came my way exposed my humanity, my failures, and my limitations. It also exposed my exalted views of myself. I thought I shouldn’t have to sleep. I should be able to provide everything everyone needed. I should be able to help everyone that needed help and solve everyone’s problems. I should be able to do everything without error. I should be able to contemplate everything that needs to be taken care of and I should have the strength, time, and resources to do it.

I had some role confusion. There is no doubt that there were tasks I needed to be faithful in and that things fell to me that shouldn’t have. There are some things that just need to get done. There are some things that it would be unloving to people to not administrate  in a timely fashion. More came than I had planned. If I would have known, I wouldn’t have made commitments I did. I didn’t know. No one did, but God did and He used it to show me that phrases like “provide everything,” “help everyone,” “solve everyone’s problems,” “meet everyone’s needs,” “without error,” “think of everything” are all phrases that can only be ascribed to Him. When I understand His role and my role I can act in faith and trust in Him. He provides the strength I need to do what He calls me to do.

When I recognize that I need sleep, I thank God for the rest He provides and pillow my head on His sovereignty. When I need to stop working in order to eat. I thank God for the bounty He has given us and for my enjoyment of food. I thank God for creating my body with a need for sleep and a need to eat which act as regular stopping points to remember He is God and I am not. When I see a need and I want to help but my resources, my time, and my energy can’t meet that need, I thank the God of all comfort and the God who provides that He is a very present help in time of need. I remember He doesn’t need me to meet that need. I am limited, but He is infinite. I grow tired, but He never sleeps. I am weak, but He is strong. I am sinful, proud, rebellious, and had no power against sin; but His son lived the perfect life, died to pay the penalty for my sin, called me to Himself, and put His righteousness on my account, so that I could have a restored relationship with Him. That leads me to worship.

I do not deserve this.

Let people’s love lead you to worship. I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to have other people serve me and love me in a way that is extravagant and undeserving. I experience a great deal of love for my birthday that was undeserved. Knowing who I am, how much farther in the sanctification process I need to go, knowing how imperfect my love towards others is, knowing how often I fail or hurt others and then experiencing the extreme love and lavish gifts from friends and family is hard but good. Hard and good are the two biggest descriptors for life, especially life in Student Life :).  I’ve experienced a lot of kindness and grace from others this year. Sometimes I wanted my bosses to just yell at me (I know I’m weird). I didn’t always know how to handle their grace. Here are some major lessons I learned in this area this year:

1. God’s people are to be like him. I didn’t have a problem with God’s grace, but I wanted to earn people’s love and grace. I didn’t expect people to act like Christ, but the gospel is active and it transforms. All believers are being transformed to be more like Christ. I shouldn’t be surprised when followers of God respond with kindness, grace, patience, goodness, self sacrifice, and the list goes on. The student is becoming like the Master.

2. It honors and glorifies Him when his people look like Him. This is incarnational ministry.

3. God’s grace to me is often exhibited by the love, encouragement, rebuke, or admonition of another believer.

4. I should let another person’s acts that make me ask, “But why would she do that for me?” lead me to worship their Creator. It’s not about deserving. I do deserve wrath, but that’s where the good news of the gospel comes in the same good news that I am reminded of when another acts in a way that can only be explained through the work of the gospel of Christ in their life.

5. Often it is my sinful pride that desires independence and self-reliance instead of the inter-connected relationships with others that Christ intended us to have. We weren’t created to live independently of one another.

…and here are some pictures from my birthday:

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July 15, 2010, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Christian Living, Community, Counseling, Discipline, Friends, Gospel, Lessons Learned

I have realized my tendency on this blog  to portray everything as up beat. Posts include stories adventures, pictures of smiling people or pretty things, and humorous anecdotes. Even the things that may seem convicting to a reader are encouraging to me. I’m learning them. I’m understanding God, the gospel, my identity and life better. That is encouraging!

In person I think I tend to have the opposite problem. I want to be realistic. I don’t want to have a Pollyanna mindset and miss out on God’s grace in the difficulty or on displaying God’s grace to others in the difficulty but I also sinfully want people to appreciate what I am doing or experiencing and to have a sympathetic view. It is ALL ABOUT ME.

Both extremes are very wrong.

I started this draft after a long, hard day at work yesterday. I wanted to be done; I wanted to go for a run and keep running far, far away from here. I asked God in the car on the way home if it was ok that I didn’t like the life He had given me. I asked when things didn’t go my way, “Do You hate me?” I asked it knowing full well that my attitude was sinful and that my premises were deeply flawed. These feelings felt true, but thank God I have an inerrant standard to compare them to and they were lies. I acted like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum over a silly, insignificant desire knowing full well my parent’s love for me and that my parent my good. I said to myself, “His goal is not your goal. He is concerned with your sanctification, not with your ease” – Ding, ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. That was true.

…But like a little imp that continues with her pouting knowing it is wrong, I quickly crossed my arms, scowled, and stomped my foot (not literally). My response to this truth was, “But I don’t want sanctification right now. I want what I want and this isn’t it.” With all these thoughts whirling in my head. I began this post. All that to say, don’t think that my life is all adventures with friends or loving, conflict free times with family (I don’t think that people I live life with would think that, but someone just viewing pictures on a blog might). Don’t think that I only see beautiful things or attend fun events. You would be bored if I complained or shared pictures of the dead rat or dog droppings on the side of the road, but know that those things exist in my life too (literally and figuratively).

I am finishing this post in a very different mindset. I still wonder if I’m in the right job or if  I should be in this area or if I should pursue X or if I should studyY. I’m still tired and want to cry, but I deeply want Christ’s good for me. I long to see Him glorified. I confess my doubt and my self-centered worship. I recognize that part of being upbeat is not a Pollyanna mindset, but a recognition that God is sovereign, He is at work, and He does it all in such a loving, fatherly way. He will not leave me alone to pout. He will not leave me in my funk. I am a redeemed child of God and as such I cannot continue in sin. He will continue to discipline me until I act in repentance. This is good for me. When I see disobedient, bratty, grumpy kids, I don’t want to be around them and since they aren’t my own, I don’t have to. Thank God does not act according to my inclination. He doesn’t leave my when I’m a brat; He  faithfully corrects and lovingly changes me.

All I wanted last night was to be left alone in my funk, but He didn’t allow that. He used people in my life to bring me out and to remind me of who He is. My roommates responded lovingly even when I was a grump; a guest at our house testified to God’s provision and personal care in her life; I went to a game night (where we didn’t play any games) and was encouraged by hanging out with friends who it is restful to be with, who make me laugh, and who encourage me. Being alone would only have made matters worse. I would have sat there, sulked, and dwelt on my woes and the lies I was believing. I often want to get away when I see sin in my life, but God sanctifies in community.

All this dwindles down to core truths: My life is not free of sorrow, I grow weary, I am not free of sin, but it no longer has the power it use to over me and it is no longer held against me because of Jesus’ death, by faith I can stand because Christ’s righteousness is credited to me, I serve a loving Heavenly Father who will not leave me in my sin, Jesus died me to save me out of my sin not to leave me in it, I can live joyfully in this life because of these gospel truths, God has designed us to live in community and He deserves all the  glory. Amen?


What am I singing and how did it get into my head?

I had a phenomenal run yesterday and by run I mean run/walk/jog/walk/jog/walk/walk/walk. Despite not being officially a run, it was great exercise and I pushed myself farther than I have the last couple months and loved it. I did the pushing more in the first half of my jaunt than the second. Towards the end I found myself singing II Cor. 4:17-18 one of my favorite passages. It says, “For this light and momentary affliction is achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

I did not notice that I was singing the passage or the thoughts which led up to that point until I reached the end of the verse and sang the reference. At that point I asked myself, “Self, what made me start singing this verse?” I then traced back my thought process. As I walked I felt the pain of pushing my body. I thought about the pain and how the pain was not there when I was 20. I thought about aging, which then led me to think about the outer man decaying but inwardly being renewed day by day (verse 16 of II Cor. 4). By the end of that verse I was breaking into song. My spontaneous singing/humming has also happened a lot recently as I find myself day dreaming or as I think in a critical manner about others. I often find myself humming Philippians 4:8 and am reminded of what I should be thinking on: whatever is true, noble, excellent, praise worthy.

Thank you, Sovereign Grace Ministries, for your CDs of Scripture verses. I also appreciate the Seeds music for the same reason. I would much rather chase my thought process backwards to see how I got to thinking on what is right and true than to try to follow my thoughts and heart back to the beginning of wrong, false, or impure thoughts that led to a mess of sin.

My Jr. High students may have laughed at the fact that for their Scripture memory each week we used a song, but music helps the memory. The passages with a corresponding song will be the ones they remember. I know for me personally I want the Scripture to be deeply ingrained in my heart to affect my life. If a song will help do that and will help me bring it to memory when I am tempted to sin, then bring them on!


I had two reminders of grace this evening. The first came in the form of a SLS meeting at my job. SLS stands for Servant Leadership Staff. They are a group of students who humbly and boldly seek to lead by serving others on our campus. Sitting in a room tonight with all of this year’s staff who have faithfully served and with the new generation of SLSers who will be serving next year was exciting. Seeing 200 college-age kids saying I want to be held accountable to loving God and others and to serve was also a good reminder of how God’s grace produces fruit and super-natural desires in our lives. It is not natural for humans to want to give of themselves for others, especially that annoying, insensitive, wingmate, but because these students’ have received God’s grace, they are motivated to move out and love others. They sign up to be held accountable to that. Because they are disciples of Christ, they want to disciple others. Because God has been gracious to them, they want to extend grace to others. Because they have received love, they choose to love. Grace motivates. Grace drastically changes lives…

… it also changes the speed of my vehicle. While singing on my way home from said SLS meeting, I was aware of only a few things: 1. God is great 2.  It seemed a long way home  and 3. The roads were virtually empty aside from the one car a ways behind me who eventually pulled up next to me at an intersection.
At the red light, the car honked. Normally, I hesitate. Do I look when a car honks at me? Is it better to just ignore the honk? Since one of my coworkers drives the same route home, I looked over. Next to me sat a police car.
Here’s a little background of my relationship with cops: Normally I am terrified of police. The one time I was pulled over my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t get my license out of my wallet. Given that it was New Year’s Eve, I was certain he was going to assume I was drunk and impound my car and haul me off to jail. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t had a drop and any test would reveal that (except for maybe the test of walking in a straight line – I don’t know if in my fear I could have accomplished that feat), in my mind that CHP officer could do me great harm.
Tonight, however, when I turned and saw the police man, there was no fear. I didn’t think I had been doing anything wrong. Boy was I wrong. I thought perhaps he was going to tell me something was wrong with my car. After figuring out how to roll down my passenger window, he spoke. “You need to slow down.” Apparently I was driving 2o miles over the speed limit and a ticket like that can be around $700. I thanked him and you can bet that the rest of the way home, I drove the speed limit. Grace shouldn’t be abused. It should motivate you to obey.