The hustle returns. My striving is starving me. I have to ask God to nourish my soul and fill me once again. My life with God in the center sounds less like hustle and more like hush.
"You need to be better." The summary of my childhood. I hustled to be better than my three older siblings, to be the perfect daughter. I was terrified of breaking the rules, and made mental notes to do or not do what my siblings were doing in order to please my mom and dad. My parents rarely disciplined me because I would melt if they used that tone of voice or hint that they were disappointed. "You need to be better," rippled into my teen years too, but my desire to be seen as perfect now included the opinion of everybody else. All A's. Student body president. Team captain of the soccer team. Hustle, hustle, hustle.
My perfectionism was insatiable, eating away at every good thing in my life. While playing soccer as a freshman in high school, I lost over 30 pounds. I wasn’t eating and I was working out all the time, even after soccer practice. Though my parents took me to every professional to help me, and my friends and family tried to nourish me with their love, I kept on starving. I never felt deserving of any love I received.
That year I was stripped of my life. I had to quit soccer. I lost the upcoming student body election. I was empty. But God.
Jesus said "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13)
That year God filled me up again, not with food, but with himself. God used a youth pastor to tell me the story of the woman at the well in John 4 who was trying to fill herself with men. I was the woman at the well, just trying to fill myself with other's approval. No amount of hustle could save me. No number on the scale. No grade card. No checkmark on the never-ending list Satan himself was crafting for me. Jesus Christ shredded that list and saved my life. He gave me freedom from myself by giving me himself. He filled me with the spring of water welling up to eternal life. "You need to be better" transformed into Jesus whispering, "You need Me."
My older cousin reached out to me at this point in my story and mentored me. She shared that she had the same struggle, but that God was using it to pull her to himself. Up until that part of my life, I idolized my cousin. I wanted to be her. But God. He showed me again that no human is perfect. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23.)
God has given me so much joy and freedom in my life since he started to invite me into his story of grace. Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love." Psalm 139 says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God has overwhelmed me with his love and satisfied my soul. Praise the Lord, I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God.
What does that look like now, over ten years later? God led me to become a counselor so that I could help others like I was helped. God has given me multiple opportunities to encourage others to the path of freedom, much like my cousin did with me. There have been so many times I've had to ask God to change the inner dialogue I have towards glorifying Him instead of myself, especially in times of transition. Getting married. Having a baby. Starting a house church. Quitting my job to take care of my son.
If I am not careful, perfectionism can creep its way back into every detail of my life. Some days, I'm pinteresting how to make baby millet cereal or trying to make the most gourmet potluck dish for house church or staring at my post baby stretch marks in the mirror or running mile after mile and I'm left empty. The hustle returns. On these days, I pray that God would show me that my striving is starving me. "God, nourish my soul and fill me once again." So my life with God in the center sounds less like hustle and more like hush. This side of heaven this will be my soundtrack. Hustle, hush, hustle, hush. "I will quiet you with my love." And he does. Every time.
Author: Jillian Vincent
Photographer: Linnea Banz