To My Soul,
For so long you have aimed to achieve. Your prideful pursuit:
Aim for perfection.
But it hasn’t worked out that way, has it? It is a rotting lie that if we work hard enough, long enough, we achieve perfection.
The truth is that when perfection comes, if it comes at all, it lasts for the briefest of moments. Maybe two seconds, two hours, or two days. Regardless, after sinking the arrow in the prized target, peace inevitably recedes and anxiety creeps back in. The next target swings in the distance. There is always the next thing to achieve. It is time for this way of life — long periods of anxiety relieved only by fleeting moments of relief — to go away.
From across the field, Shauna Niequist reminds us that it is a “myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth.” We need instead to start discerning “the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.”
Hustling earns us anxiety, not worth, not peace. And peace is what we want, my soul.
So where do we aim our bow and arrow to find peace? Where can we find “peace at all times and in every way?” There is only one target, steady and sure: “the Lord of peace Himself.”
In place of aiming to achieve, we can aim to abide. Aim to abide in Him. For in Him, we will find a peaceful dwelling.
“I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you.” Here, my soul, here is where we can find peace, worth, and a new way in the field. Here is where we will find a soul, The Soul, that will not reject us, leave us, scorn us, orphan us, or brush us aside.
Come, we will use our arrows like sickles to cut a new path in the field. Don’t be afraid, a new path must be forged. And indeed a new path has already been forged. Yahweh says the old way has gone, the new way has already come.
When our aim is to achieve, we put our own performance at the center. But when we aim to abide, we replace the importance of our efforts with the omnipotence of Yahweh’s grace.
When we aim to achieve, we point our arrows at the temporary, the fleeting, the here-today-but-of-no-importance-tomorrow. When we aim to abide, we lift our eyes from the quick hits to the eternal, the long-lasting, the weightier matters.
When we take the well-trod path of achieving our worth, we obsess over how the outcome reflects on us — how we look, sound, impress. Let us take a new path where we abide in our God-given worth. Where we shift our obsession to how the outcome reflects not on us, but on Yahweh — His kindness flowing through us, His love securely holding us, His ways continually shaping us.
When we aim to achieve, we give credence to the lie that the swinging target must please an audience of many. But when we aim to abide, perhaps we can steady ourself with the truth, give preference to the soulful ones in our lives, and delight an audience of One.
When we aim to achieve, we seek validation on what we did and how our efforts are becoming our success. But what is so much more important is that when we aim to abide, we begin to cherish validation on who we are and who we are becoming by His grace.
On this new path,
when I feel myself holding on too tight,
when I taste the anxious acid in my mouth,
when I hear myself snippy and snappy,
when I sense fear inching up my neck,
when I see the lights dim in you, archer of my soul,
I will walk away, walk outside, walk to Him.
I will lift my eyes and lift my vision.
I will breathe out the lies and breathe in the truth.
I will unclench my hands to make a cup for His great love.
But I sense, O my soul, that you don’t believe this just yet. That is ok. Hold my hand, we will journey together. Brennan Manning gives us hope. He wrote this to his own soul that bought into “the elaborate game of pretense and deception,” and he writes it to my soul as well:
“…my gift is to take you where, unknowingly, you have longed to be—into the presence of Jesus. Your days of running riot are history…I know you will get disgruntled at times and start to act out, but the longer you spend time in the presence of Jesus, the more accustomed you grow to His face, the less adulation you will need because you will have discovered for yourself that He is enough. And in the Presence, you will delight in the discovery of what it means to live by grace and not by performance.”
Yes, precious Yahweh, teach us how to live by grace and not by performance. Seeking to abide, not to achieve.
When selecting our arrows, let us select kindness, gentleness, and peacefulness.
When pulling back the string, let us pull for mercy, grace, and justice.
When picking our stance, let us kneel humbly, bend meekly, and go low.
When aiming the bow, let us ask Yahweh to draw near — near enough to just fall into His arms. No distance rendered. No strain realized. No strength required.
Only, always, in everything abide in Him, O my soul.
~ Image Bearer & Daughter of the Most High
Shauna Niequist’s latest book “Present Over Perfect” became one of my road maps this past year for replacing achieving with abiding.
Our copy of Brennan Manning’s book “Abba’s Child” is highlighted, underlined, dog-eared, and generally beat up which just goes to show that I’m still working out how to truly, deeply, completely see myself at Abba’s Beloved without the need to achieve anything.
All text is Copyright © Nicole Clark and all photographs and videos are Copyright © Mike & Nicole Clark (full usage terms), unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved.