WIMD Pulse - August 2014
By Autumn Dawn Galbreath, MD
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV).
This has become a really important verse in my life over the last 10 or 15 years. I don’t know if any of you can relate, but I’ve had a bit of struggle with performance and with basing my identity on how much I was able to do. I’m not totally sure, but I think this started as a young child – maybe even at birth.
All I know for sure is that I don’t remember a time when I did not think: “I need to be better at (pretty much anything I did);” “People will like me more if I do X, Y or Z;” “My parents will be disappointed if I’m not the best in the class;” “I’m not good enough;” “I need to try harder...do more....” The consequence of thinking this way is that pretty soon you find yourself pretending like you can do things that you can’t do or that you know things that you don’t know – because your worth depends on it.
If you believe in your heart that you are only valuable if you are doing more or doing better, then you have to pick up that performance every day and put it on like a heavy suit of ill-fitting clothes and make sure that no one ever sees you without that suit on. You get worn out with all the work it takes to do more and do better, and to make sure that everyone thinks you are doing more and better.
At this point, you may be asking, “More than what? Better than what?” and that’s just the point! Against what standard could I compare myself? Perfection? Well, I was never going to fully achieve that goal! I could always find someone who was doing more than I was, or who was better than I was at whatever activity we were doing. It’s a completely defeating way to live – because you never arrive at your destination. You are never good enough for yourself. You never think you are good enough for other people....or even God. Now, I would not have told you that I was trying to be good enough for other people and for God. I knew about God’s grace, and I was genuinely a believer in Christ. But somehow the truth I knew in my head had not made its way down to my heart, where I kept on running faster and trying harder – and hiding more.
The problem with hiding behind a façade of performance is that you end up as a captive in your own prison. You can’t engage with people authentically because it’s too dangerous – they might see through the façade and find out that you’re not good enough. You can’t engage authentically with God because you’re too busy making sure He’s impressed with all that you are doing. And you can’t engage authentically with yourself because you’re not even sure who you really are – are you Super Woman, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all that stuff? Or are you some female version of Clark Kent – mild-mannered bungler who can’t quite get things right? Or are you someone else entirely, but it’s been so long since you’ve let yourself show, that even you can’t remember?
In the middle of this exhausting existence, constantly running races and holding myself to an unknown and unreachable standard, the Truth hit me over the head like the proverbial 2x4. For me, it took coming to the point at which I had to admit that I could not continue the performance. I was too tired. It was too much work. I had to admit that I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t good enough. And it turned out that that was the Truth – that I wasn’t good enough, and that God never intended me to be good enough. He knew all along that not a single one of us is good enough to make it on our own efforts, apart from His all-sufficient grace. In fact, He didn’t even want me to! He just wanted me to stop and rest – to be still in His presence, and to know that He was all I needed. To know that I was valuable and loved just because I was, not because I did.
And with this Truth came Freedom, just as the verse says. The Truth about who I was and who God was brought me to Freedom from that performance prison – freedom to know God, to know others and to even know myself. Freedom to be loved, imperfections and failures and all. You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you Free!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse and these life experiences as I prepare to go to Philadelphia – the city where our freedom as a nation was born – for the WIMD conference where we will celebrate A Legacy of Liberty. WIMD is the place where I experience my own personal freedom the most – as I love and am loved by a group of women who don’t expect perfection and who embrace even my failures. I truly do have a Legacy of Liberty - most importantly through Christ and His sacrifice to set me free from sin and death, and also through friends who walk with me as imperfect but free Christ-followers!
Many, many of those friends are WIMD friends, and I am counting the days until I get to see all of them. I hope you will be among them!!