Understanding Weakness: On Mistakes, Perfection, and Forgiveness

You’re going to make mistakes. God doesn’t hate you for that.

This is what I should have told myself years ago when I was starting out in college.

It was the spring semester of 2016, and I was taking a mix of online and seated classes at a community college while working part-time as a tutor at the writing center. One of my online classes was a world history course with my history professor from the previous semester—Mr. Z we called him. He was the fun, quirky professor always eager to chat with his students. I met with him multiple times to discuss my papers and upcoming exams, and during one particular meeting, we discussed a paper I was writing for another history class that he was helping me perfect.

As I settled into my seat across from him, I gazed in horror at his marked-up version of my draft on his desk. How could I—I have made that many errors?! Mr. Z sensed my panic and quickly explained.

“Relax, it’s not terrible,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m pushing you harder because I know you’re at the level where you can handle it.”

It wasn’t much of a comfort. I wanted my work to be near-flawless, and he knew that. I always wanted to know all the answers, and if I didn’t, I didn’t want anyone else to know it. When I explained my (admittedly) flawed mindset, Mr. Z said something to me that I’ve never forgotten.

He said, “You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.”

“No, I don’t!” I said (a bit surprised that he hit the nail dead center). You see, I believed that if people saw the chinks in my armor, it meant they would see me as weak, vulnerable, incapable—human.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to be that real with people. You’d rather just go through life with no one knowing anything about what you’re going through or how you feel deep down. That way, when you mess up, there’ll be no one to judge you and no one to know that you don’t always make the right choices.

Making mistakes is for weak people, I told myself, and weakness is wrong.

Yes, weak people make mistakes, but as humans, we are all weak by nature, having an imperfect and sinful nature by default. Weakness isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just natural. That’s why we need God. Through Him, we receive strength to overcome our flaws. What I failed to understand then was that it is OKAY to admit that you’ve made a mistake. You are only human, and God doesn’t punish you for that.

Our sinful nature and inclination to make mistakes doesn’t give us license to make whatever mistakes we want just because, but it does mean that our mistakes should come as no surprise to ourselves. God isn’t surprised that we fall and fail and make bad choices, and He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. There is none perfect but Him. He doesn’t beat us up when we make a bad choice, and neither should we condemn ourselves.

No matter how many times we mess up, if we truly repent and seek forgiveness, then God is faithful to forgive us of our sins (see 1 John 1:9).

When you realize that God’s grace extends to you no matter how many mistakes you make, then you’ll be able to extend that same grace to others.

It was when I learned how to release the self-condemnation that I felt for the mistakes I’d made that it was easier to forgive others for the things they’d done wrong. They were only human like me, after all. I could see my own flaws, my own imperfection in others and knew that if God didn’t hold my mistakes against me, then I shouldn’t hold others’ mistakes against them.

If you don’t forgive yourself, how can you truly forgive others?

You are not perfect. You will continue to make mistakes. But guess what?

It’s not the end of the world if you do. God’s grace is sufficient to cover your sins (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), and His strength is more than enough to help you overcome your weaknesses.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the tempation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)

There is a way to escape the consequences of our weak nature—salvation in the name of Jesus and doing our absolute best to live as He has instructed us to live. God created us to be imperfect beings in need of our perfect Creator.

Lean into that.

Give your flaws, mistakes, and all your baggage up to Him.

It’s okay if you fail. Just remember that God never fails.

It’s okay that you’re not perfect and what you do isn’t perfect. Just remember that His love is perfect.

If you fully surrender to God and trust Him with all you have and all you’ve done, He will take care of you, and you’ll be closer to Him than you were before.

“Are You Invulnerable?”: A Brief Essay on Flaws and Expectations

Last month, I asked through a poll on my Instagram stories who might like to read more of my own creative work and hear more about their background and topics related to the content within my past writings. The response was a unanimous “yes,” and so for today’s post, I’m sharing with you all one of the short essays I wrote for a nonfiction writing class in 2020. I’ll be sharing a bit more in the near future about the story behind this particular short essay and delving into the topics of perfection, expectations, and imposter syndrome. Let me know in the comments or on Instagram what you think of this essay and what you think it means!

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You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.

Chinks. What does that mean? A weak point, a place of vulnerability, an opening for an attack from the enemy. A minor flaw, so says the online dictionary, or weakness in a plate of armor. A detrimental flaw. A special flaw. There’s an interesting phrase. A special flaw. It’s a special point of weakness that directs the enemy where to attack an otherwise invulnerable person. Are you invulnerable?

You’ve held a coat of chainmail—last fall in your history class on the Spanish Conquest. The professor brought in a bit of chainmail for everyone to handle so you all could know how hard the stuff must have been for Europeans to fight in and wear in the heat of Mexico over their wool clothes while holding heavy swords and lances, that is if they could get their hands on one. You put the chainmail on your arm and held it there for a minute. It was a bit like when you stuck your finger in the bowl of cold ice water that the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri had cooled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature of the water the night the doomed ship sank. You held it there when you were about 14 to see how long you could last.

About 30 seconds.

You lasted with the chainmail on your arm about that long, too, because it started to get heavy, and your wrist started to twitch, and the classmate behind you wanted a chance to hold it, so you passed it on.

(Picture courtesy of Dr. John Chuchiak.)

It was a small section of a coat of chainmail—perhaps about 12 inches wide and long. Dr. Chuchiak lectured on how the Europeans manufactured it while they rested between battles. A blacksmith would take thousands of tiny metal or steel rings and carefully interlink them by hand. A single coat of chainmail could take months to finish if a skilled blacksmith worked 10-hour days.

You imagine the misery of knitting steel for a living in 90-degree weather with 60 percent humidity in the Yucatan Peninsula, trying to get a piece of chainmail done for a hotshot conquistador so he’s a little more likely to survive the arrows or stabbing spears of the Mayans than the footman who came over for gold and glory with only a helmet and a crossbow because that’s all he could afford and figured the gold he’d take from the natives would make him rich enough for 20 crossbows, 50 horses, and a land grant. You imagine the fever of smallpox getting to you while linking those steel rings and skipping a section right where the coat will slip over the conquistador’s left shoulder. If the Maya or Aztec crossbowmen spot the opening, the glory-seeking conquistador won’t last long. One small missing chink in his armor, and the obsidian arrow blade will tear through the chainmail as though it were linen instead of steel. A special weakness in an otherwise invulnerable person.

No.

You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor, but it’s not because you’re afraid they’ll attack you. You don’t want to let them down or let them see you’re just as human and weak as they are. You’d rather not cry under pressure or in front of others. You say you’re like a machine, doing what you’re supposed to.

But machines break down, and sooner or later, you’ll crack, too.

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Stay tuned for more posts like this and a special study on depression and mental health coming in the near future. Be sure to follow along with the counterpart to this blog on my Instagram for more Apostolic lifestyle content!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me on this post in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

3 Keys to Endurance

You’re going to make it. Just hold on.

Things you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your resolve is wearing thin.

Sometimes, life can be just too much, you know? Your finances are tight, there’s not enough time in the day or the week to get things done, and your bones begin to ache from all the stress. Maybe you’re tired from work, family drama, or just life. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about all the negative things in the news. Maybe you’re tired of waiting for things to get better.

Sometimes, you just want to lie down, escape, forget about all the stress, struggles, and negative news. Sometimes, you wonder how you’ll get through this.

When will I get to the end of this situation?
When will things finally get better?
How does one endure to the end?

Whether it’s life issues you’re struggling with or anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord calls us home so we can finally be free from this sin-sick world, here are three keys that may help you in unlocking your ability to endure to the end.

1. Though you may be tired, maintain your walk with God every day.

When I was without a full-time job for over a year, the waiting was getting pretty tiresome. There’d be days where I’d feel more confident than others, but on the days where I felt the deadline getting closer and the fear of being jobless with no insurance setting in, I often just wanted to take a nap, watch or read something, or do ANYTHING to take my mind off my fears.

What I discovered was the only thing that gave me peace and strength to overcome that situation was when I met with God each day and dove deeper into the Word.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Keeping up our prayer time then allows God to fill us with His peace that, in turn, keeps us going.

When you’re waiting for a blessing or just trying to get through a trial, perhaps the most important key to enduring that time is keeping up your relationship with God every day. It seems simple, but often our flesh needs simple reminders to get us back on the right track.

Often, my flesh wanted a quick and easy distraction, but those quick and easy distractions didn’t give me strength. They didn’t increase my faith in God. So, I studied Job. I read through the epistles. I made a point to set my phone aside and out of sight during my prayer time in order to get closer to God. And during that time, I grew. I developed my relationship with God.

Through prayer and reading the Word, we increase in the strength we need to endure.

2. Though you may feel overwhelmed, keep up your church attendance.

As my childhood pastor and lifelong spiritual leader Bishop Eddings has always said, “Church attendance is critical to survival.”

God never intended His church to be made up of scattered saints who never congregate together. It isn’t His Will for us to go to church only when we feel like it and to skip service and stay home when we “just can’t deal.”

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)

As we get closer to Christ’s return, we must be committed to attending church even more.

Sure, we’re human. I’ve certainly woken up on Sunday mornings and wished I could sleep in and not have to dress up and go anywhere that day. For many people, when they have a lot on their plate, attending church is the first thing they bump off their list.

But as the song says, “I need you, you need me. We’re all a part of God’s body.” We need each other to survive. When we fellowship with the saints of God, when we worship together, pray together, and glean from the Word together, we increase in strength.

Instead of skipping church when life has you overwhelmed, get to church early to pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, going to church and fellowshipping with your church family can be the healthy distraction you need to get through a difficult situation.

3. Though you may want to isolate yourself, confide in a friend or mentor.

Trying to endure financial, personal, or spiritual struggles alone will deplete your strength and wear thin whatever resolve you have left.

We must talk to God and read His Word, yes, but God doesn’t want us to be without His church. We must keep up our church attendance and fellowship with the saints, yes, but even that may not be quite enough to help us endure a trial.

Tell someone you trust what you’re going through and ask them to help pray for you about it.

This doesn’t come easy to introverted people like me who prefer to “suffer in silence,” as they say. The longer I was without a job and the more rejection emails I received, the more desperate and miserable I became. Though I was keeping up my devotional time and attending church, I needed a bit more help.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to reach out to a trusted mentor and spiritual leader whose advise and kind words and prayers encouraged me. Suddenly, I had a new confidence and assurance that everything was going to be all right. I believed again that I was going to make it. I would endure.

Find someone–a friend or mentor–to support you. If you have no one else, you should definetly always go to your pastor for guidance and prayer, and even if you do have someone, don’t forsake the importance of seeking wise counsel from your pastor.

So, if you’re reading this and feeling weary of an internal struggle or external pressures, you will endure if you do not give up.

Pray. Study the Word. Go to church. Talk to someone.

Endurance requires daily commitment to resisting distraction and defeat.

So, then, how committed are you to enduring until the end?

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Matthew 24:13 (KJV)

2 Reminders For When You’re Dealing with Stress or Imposter Syndrome

Matthew 19:26 in the King James Bible.
Matthew 19:26 reminds us that all things are possible with God!

Do you ever feel as though you’re the camel carrying the basket of straw about to burst and that the straw that will break your back is only moments away?

I am not enough.

You might say this silently to yourself or to God in prayer as you wearily reflect on all the things you have to do and your limited abilities.

I can’t do this.

It’s true.

You are not enough…on your own. You can’t do this alone.

When I’m struggling with imposter syndrome, worrying people may realize how inadequate I am, or when the stress of life weighs me down, here are 2 reminders that give me strength to carry on:

1. Everything I do I must do for Jesus to the best of my ability.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Imposter syndrome causes a person to feel like a fraud, doubting his or her own abilities or accomplishments. I’ve struggled with this often, but each time I do, God reminds me that it doesn’t matter what others may think of what I can or can’t do or of what I have or have not accomplished. What matters is that no matter what I do, I must do it wholeheartedly for His glory.

Whether it’s your work or ministry, as long as you keep your focus on God and direct your efforts and attention toward Him, then you will be able to overcome feelings of doubt and inadequacy.

2. All things are possible with God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

When you have a heavier load than usual, it can seem impossible to get everything done. On our own, we cannot fulfill each of our duties and maintain peace of mind, but with God, we can do all things because He is our strength.

Sometimes, life presents us with seemingly impossible tasks. But God has equipped us with all we need to do all He’s called us to do.

God has given us everything we need to live in this world according to His Word—Himself.

When we become worried about failure or inadequacies, we must put our focus on Him.

Redirecting our focus to Jesus reminds us what this is all for and why we’re here. It’s for Him. We work, go to school, and survive in this world to support the Kingdom and become stronger members of the Kingdom. He gave each of us unique abilities and placed us in specific locations to serve Him and His Kingdom.

We are enough to our God!

When we serve God and give ourselves and abilities to Him, He makes up the difference in our lives. We may have the weight of the world on our shoulders, but He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.

3 Scriptures to Speak Over Anxiety

Anxiety

What will the future hold?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves when life seems more uncertain than usual.

Bills pile up. We’re saving for trips, home maintenance, or a new home or car. We’ve got work and school responsibilities, or we’re in need of a job or financial blessing. It seems we often waste our days away in nervous expectancy for what won’t or could happen. But that’s not what God wants for us.

Anxiety can absolutely consume our thoughts and affect our physical health. I sometimes get more stressed just thinking about stress, and then I try to put away all those things causing me anxiety, which causes me more stress because I know they’re still out there.

For those who struggle with anxiety, overcoming our worries often involves a process of reminding ourselves throughout each day that God knows what we’re going through and has a plan for us. He is our Provider and Comfort.

If you’re battling anxiety, here are 3 passages of scripture to study and speak over your fears so that the Lord can calm the troubled thoughts within your busy mind and speak peace over the storm in your life:

(8) I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
(9) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
(10) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
~Psalms 32:8-10 (KJV)

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
~Isaiah 26:3-4 (KJV)

(6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Our God has a plan for each of us. He is faithful, and He never fails.

No matter what you’re facing, rest assured that He is right there with you.

He will guide you.

He will keep you.

He will give you peace.

3 Ways to Create Healthy Relationships and Reduce Stress This Semester

A light rain falls in front of Siceluff Hall at Missouri State University in August 2018.

The new semester is underway for many college students, and many who are new to college or who tend to leave assignments and studying to the last minute may be feeling stressed already about the busy weeks to come. As a recent college grad who spent five years taking both online and seated classes, I acquired many tips and tricks to help me get through each semester as smoothly as possible. One of the biggest components to reducing stress and finding success in college concerns your working relationships with classmates and professors. Here are just a few tips to get you started on the right track this semester and connect better with others.

1. Get to know your professors.

Having a good working relationship with your professor is essential to controlling your level of stress and having a firm grasp on your workload. Meet with your professors early this semester to talk about their expectations for the class, to ask questions about the course material and upcoming assignments, and to simply chat and let them know with what assignment-related issues you tend to struggle.

Over my five years in college, I met with my professors regularly and quickly learned that meeting with them early helped me make a positive impression on them. Meeting with them to ask questions and inform them of my major and intellectual interests helped open a dialogue that would continue throughout the semester. Because I initiated and continued an open dialogue with my professors, they knew I was serious about doing well in class and was open to suggestions and advice from them in order to meet (and sometimes exceed) their expectations. Meeting with your professors will also help you gain an understanding of how well they think you’re doing in the class and in which areas you may need to improve.

2. Be open to other listening to other viewpoints, but don’t be afraid to explain your own.

You’ll hear a lot of different ideas and points of view in college—something for which I was not quite prepared when I entered college in 2015. I knew what I believed (an essential component to maintaining your Christian lifestyle while in college), but I didn’t realize how open others would be with viewpoints that directly opposed and challenged my own beliefs. There were many (many) times during class discussions that my classmates would discuss (and argue) about atheism, their perceptions of Christianity, capitalism, and other issues regarding history, race, and identity.

Now, I’m quite the polite introvert during public discussion and rarely engage in debate, but there were a few times when I (being the only Apostolic conservative in the room) took it upon myself to explain (and sometimes defend) a religious ideal or conservative principle that another student had difficulty understanding. Instead of berating the student or becoming engulfed in my emotions about the topic, I carefully worded my response and maintained a calm composure, often asking a follow-up question to the confused or frustrated student. What I learned was that a friendly and thoughtful response and dialogue with students of other backgrounds and belief systems often calmed tension in the room and helped the class further our discussion without arguments breaking out.

3. Pray before class each day.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but praying before class each day, whether it’s in your car or walking onto the campus, is essential for maintaining focus on God and giving Him control over your day. When I started college, I attended a smaller community college in my hometown and had classes as early as seven in the morning. There were many moments when I’d arrive on campus at half past six, and as I watched the sun rise, I’d pray over the day. They were often simple prayers, but I noticed that when I failed to do so (due to getting around and arriving late), my days were out of focus. Stress about upcoming assignments and my busy to-do list cluttered my mind and soured my mood as I shuffled from class to class. Praying over your day, your coursework, and your classmates ensures that you start your day with Jesus and surrender control over your work and relationships with others to Him.

If you apply the above tips to your lifestyle while in college, you will not only form meaningful connections with others, but you will also develop stress-reducing habits that will help you move forward with confidence during college and into the adult world.

Happy spring semester to all the students out there! If you know someone already struggling with school-related stress, share this post with them to give them encouragement and motivation.

Fight or Flight? What to Do When Life Gets Overwhelming

I’ve been tired a lot more than usual this week, and the effects of the events at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday have been lingering in my mind. I spent the majority of the day yesterday trying to understand everything going on in our country and world. I read and pondered the updates from insiders on social media, and I prayed.

I trusted that God had everything in control (and I still do), and yet I was still very tired. My brain felt like it would nearly explode from deciphering coded messages and conflicting information from all sides.

What does x mean?

What really happened?

If x scenario doesn’t happen, what then does that mean?

Why did so-and-so say or do what they did?

I later realized my weariness was not due to fear or worry over what might happen but over realizing the significance of where we are and what will happen next.

We are in a spiritual war, and the people of God are fighting a battle against not only powers of darkness but against our own flesh and weaknesses. We are only human, of course, and we need rest. But how do we deal with things when our fight vs. flight mode kicks in? If we’re too weary to fight, what then? Run away from our problems? (A terrible solution, really.) Instead of running away from the issue and from stress, I propose a different kind of “flight”:

Running to Jesus and not away from our struggles.

It’s moments like these when our weariness reminds us that we are flawed and incapable beings who desperately need our Creator. We don’t have the strength on our own to keep going. We aren’t capable on our own to fight this spiritual war and still stand for Truth, but that’s okay because we have Jesus.

When our hearts are overwhelmed, He leads us to the rock that is higher (see Psalm 61:2). That rock is our God (see Psalm 62:2, 6).

David endured many circumstances that seemed overwhelming. His son, Absalom, instigated a rebellion against him, and David had to flee (see 2 Samuel 15). David’s decision to activate his own “flight mode” wasn’t an act of giving up. Instead, he continued to rely on God and run to Him for shelter and strength.

(3) “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me: my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

(4) I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

(5) I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.”

David cried to God and rested, and God sustained him. This word “sustained” means, according to the dictionary, “to strengthen or support physically or mentally.” The Hebrew word that we translate into “sustained” also means “to establish” or “uphold.”

When adversity comes, God strengthens our body and our mind, but we must go to Him in prayer, and we must allow ourselves to rest. The rest we have in Him restores our soul, strengthens our body, and refreshes our spirit.

(28) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

(29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

(30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)