My sneakers pound the black belt of the treadmill. Faster. The speed picks up. Faster. The voice whispers again. I push harder. The treadmill picks up speed and I break into a sprint to keep up. Faster. Longer. Better. I gasp for breath but my sneakers keep pounding.
I blink and I realize it’s not the treadmill that’s pushing me – it’s me. Do more. The voice whispers. Be more. Everything begins whirling as I frantically try to gain control and keep up. But it all goes faster and faster. Keep going. You’ve got to be better.
And as I try to keep up, I begin to wonder – when did I have to start being the best at everything? The perfect student, the perfect teacher, the perfect friend, the perfect Christian? The girl who outwardly has everything together and knows exactly where she is going in life? The girl who can never slip up?
I am constantly running, trying to be faster, better, stronger. As exhaustion sets in, I grit my teeth and push through it. My students need me. My family needs me. My church needs me. To admit I can’t do it all is weakness. To share my struggles with someone else makes me look needy. But I’m supposed to be the person who has it all together- weakness and neediness are not options. And so I push – harder and harder. I will be the best. I will succeed. And I will do it on my own.
And the treadmill spins out of control.
I fall down. Hard. Embarrassed. Glancing around to see if anyone witnessed my disgrace. The voice that urged me on now cruelly sneers at me. Way to blow it. What a failure. Did you really think you could be good enough? Now look what you’ve done – you’ve ruined it all! And I sit there on the cold ground as the treadmill keeps going beside me. But I’m not on it. And I wonder if I’ll ever be back on it.
Maybe I have failed in an aspect of my classroom management. Maybe I missed the deadline. Maybe I disappointed my administrator or my students’ parents. Maybe I let down my own family.
But as I sit there humiliated in the stillness, a kind voice calls to me. Come unto me and I will give you rest. Give me your heavy burden and take mine instead, for it is light, and you will find rest for your soul.
Tears stream down my face as I pant heavily. No, Lord, really, I can do it! Just give me another chance! I’ll try harder. I’ll do better.
Daughter, you can’t do it. And that’s okay! You were not meant to be able to do it — to bear this burden of perfection. I have already borne it for you. I have taken it off your shoulders yet you insist on fighting me to try and take it back. Be still. Be still and know that I am God (and you are not!).
And it hits me – I am not God. I am not perfect. I do not have everything under my control. I can’t be enough for my students, their families, my family, and my church. I can’t meet all of their needs.
But God is enough for them – and for me. I just have to step back, slow down, and trust Him with what I can’t do.
So when my best is not good enough – when I fail? By God’s grace, He will help me to stand back up. He will put me back on the treadmill…but He puts His hand over the controls. He is the One who is going to set the pace this time. He knows what I can handle with His help.
He is not disappointed that I can only do a 2.0 mph pace instead of the 8.0 mph that I want to do.
He allowed me to spin out of control to bring me back to the point of dependence on Him. He knows that other than Satan, I am my own worst enemy!
It isn’t His voice I hear telling me that I am a failure. His voice is whispering,
I have loved you with an everlasting love…
Nothing shall be able to separate you from my love…
And knowing that God’s love for me didn’t change because I wasn’t good enough today? Well, I can face anything if I know that He still loves me! Back when I accepted Christ as my Savior, God knew I would fail. He didn’t adopt me into His family because He knew what an amazing addition I would be! He chose me, knowing full well all the ugliness and messiness I would bring along with me!
How thankful I am that I serve a God who rewards faithfulness, not perfection.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again… (Prov. 24:16A)