i have a very ambitious spider that lives in my window. he toils and spins his mighty web no matter how often i knock down all his work. talk about being driven. talk about accomplishment. that spider’s got the stuff. it’s truly impressive.
i’ve been thinking a lot about ambition and drive lately – about what our motivation is, what it should be for all the things we do. i’ve struggled with motivation as long as i can remember. i remember Mama basically driving me, pushing and hollering for me to get a move on (not uncommon for a teenager) yet no matter how much she pushed, or how upset i watched her get, we were consistently 5 minutes late. 5 minutes. how infuriating that must have been for her. i just didn’t care about being on time. what i did care about was how upset she got at me. but even the shame and guilt of causing your mother to be consistently 5 minutes late to work wasn’t enough to consistently get me up the first time the alarm went off, or the first time she called. i would be on time one day, then back to being late. why? seriously, it couldn’t have been that hard to just get up and move FIVE minutes sooner – move just a hair faster when brushing my teeth or putting on my clothes. but i never learned to change my slacker speed and in college i missed the trip of my life because of the tardies i racked up with my choir. We were going to New York to sing at Brooklyn Tabernacle. The pinnacle of awesomeness for me at the time – i grew up listening to Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and it was one of my life’s goals to make it to New York City… and i missed it. because i was late too many times.
my first report card from my college career. i remember being a bit of a mess my first semester freshman year. i remember crying a lot. i felt persecuted by my Freshman Seminar teacher – she led the class in yoga and i was the only one that refused… she called me into her office and gave me a talking-to about sampling life’s smorgasbord of variety… i was sure she was trying to brainwash me and make me a New Age drone. hahaha. anyway, it was unbelievably stressful yet i pulled through the year with a 3.4 average. I was incredibly proud of myself and couldn’t wait to show Mama how well i had done. all i remember was her looking at my report card and saying – “what’s this B for”… and i was crushed. utterly undone. everything i had accomplished, all the studying, all the pushing through the emotional turmoil was for her. and that was all she had to say? the next semester i made a 1.4… i didn’t understand at the time that you can’t live your life to please others… no matter who they are, no matter how much they mean to you. i floated through the next 5 years of college engaged just enough to make it through. i came out with a smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-board C average. and i didn’t care. what did it matter? who cared anyway. i knew if i tried really hard, i knew if i studied i could make all A’s – but why? i didn’t need to prove it to myself, obviously i couldn’t make my mother happy even if i tried really hard… so that was it. i set myself on auto-piolot and just got through.
self motivation. it never existed for me.
guilt, shame, the desire to please – these things have motivated me in the past. for a brief moment at least. When the heaviness of shame got too much to bear i would pull myself together and clean my room, or stay up all night studying for that test (which i would make a 100 on), or hurry up and get there on time… for a while. until the pain of shame and guilt started to wear off because of my good behavior. so i’d give myself a break. “see how good i’ve been doing?? look at that grade, see how nice my room looks? i deserve to just stop for a while” and then it would start all over again. this my friend is what we call a cycle. I read an incredibly enlightening book at the beginning of a stint of counseling i did when Chloe was a baby – about 7 years ago… it was called “Tired of Trying to Measure Up”… it rocked me. i couldn’t believe how spot on it was, how it described my life and the condition of my broken down soul. all the need to please and live up to a certain standard just transferred from my mother to my husband and eventually i came to resent him for it as well.
cycles of destruction have been the reining factor in my life for as long as i can remember. but i am strong. i have faith. i believe in a God that overcomes this life. so – when i would hit the bottom of the current black pit i found myself in, I would give myself a spiritual pep talk, focus on what i knew to be true and for a while i would emerge from that ghastly pit… but just like shame and guilt are terrible long-term motivators, so is religion. and i would proclaim God’s goodness because i knew i should and if i just “do the right thing” then i’ll be all right – and for a moment i would soar, until the temperamental winds of religion would fail me and send me crashing to earth again. again. and again.
i know enough to know that this does not describe the life Paul talks about. i know enough now to understand that if our motivation is to please others (no matter who they are) then we will lose our will to do the task – to accomplish the goal – and we will resent that person for not being able to fill us up when we need it… i know it was never their job in the first place. i know our perspective – healthy or warped – dictates to us how we receive the messages in those people’s words to us. the black gaping hole in my chest is real. and unfortunately it will never be filled by a person – this i know. i know that we were all created in need. we were all created the way we were – on purpose – by a loving God who wants to fill us… boy we miss it. all the time. I also know enough to realize that just because i KNOW these things doesn’t mean i walk in these Truths. that I cannot do it. That is what Grace is for. so…
that’s it. that’s all i know. i can now see where wrong perspective has warped my understanding and application of Truth, i know that God’s grace is the only way to walk in it… and here my story ends. for today anyway. fortunately this is not the end of what He has written about me. so until next time…
grace and peace to you.