And we desire that each of you do not become sluggish but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promise.

Hebrew 6: 20

2011 is a year of promise.

The word “promise” refers to something guaranteed with assurance but it is also a verb; something I pledge to do.  This year I promise to walk fully in God’s promises. children of God we are granted exceedingly great and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:4)  I desire to be overwhelmed by them rather than overwhelmed by the circumstances in life.  I yearn to persevere victoriously in life with energy and joy and not be sidelined with flat tires or an empty gas tank.  I am ridding myself of weight this year by casting off self sufficiency and a performance based people pleasing mentality, which serve only to make me sluggish.
I am a very responsible person who works hard. I think everyone should. The trap I fall into is the mistaken idea that I have to prove myself worthy of a relationship with Jesus.  It is then that I lose my grip on God and grow exhausted by trying to satisfy others’ demands and striving to make everyone happy.
Ironically, when my focus becomes performance oriented my actual performance suffers.
For too many years I operated  by a deception that kept me anxious and striving for worthiness, yet never quite acquiring it.  No amount of work and effort was enough.  I failed to fully grasp that I am saved and loved and safe in God’s love.  How grand is that.  I am free to work and perform without taking myself so seriously.  (God ignores those things I get so worked up over anyway until I hand them over to Him!)
Many students today take on this same mindset. When the focus is placed primarily on performance and pleasing others, it causes some kids consistently to over work in an effort to meet expectations and gain approval.  Others choose the opposite path because of fear that their efforts will not be good enough. “Better to not try than to try and fail” becomes their approach to school, sports and relationships while they hide behind an “I don’t care” facade to cover their deep fear of failure.  It took me years to see through the disguises that students (and my own kids) put on. Their masks come in all sorts of shapes.  Some of the most popular versions include “I must be the very best”, “I am not interested” or “I won’t try”.
Erin, my oldest daughter, used to have major melt downs, resulting in explosive blow ups. I was puzzled by the fact that these episodes always followed some unintended gaffe on her part.  Trying to reason with her and correct her during these episodes would only make her more agitated and overwhelmed. Then I finally figured out that she would escalate her own mess ups into blow ups out of disappointment in herself. Assuming others were disappointed as well, her tenuous security (pleasing others) was pulled out from under her and she would descend downwards, often in dramatic fashion. My usual response was to become upset and argue, which served only to increase her frustration.  Expressing my unconditional love to her at those times however, when it was hardest to do, was the very lifeline she needed in order to rise back up.  She craved the assurance that nothing she would say or do would make me love her less; that as my daughter I loved her even in her ugliest of moments and despite her failures and sin.
This is the way God loves us, with a love that is incomprehensively high and endlessly deep, graciously coming down to us even when we mess up, or give up, or act like fools. His promise of love motivates me to rise up in freedom and safety and serve Him out of gratitude rather than to earn favor.
He is a loving God Who can be no less that He is. Because He loves us, we can love others, bearing witness to what He is really like by our lives and actions. How true are the words to the 1965 popular song “What the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of”.  The world needs God’s unfailing love shining vibrantly in us and through us, offering hope and security in a culture that promises neither.
Next blog:  His Promise of Provision.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8: 37-39