It was such a wonderful gift to work with Sharon Hodde Miller on this post for her blog series "Hear the Esther Generation," where it was published first. I am truly indebted to her for working with me on this, and for also putting us twenty-somethings on her shoulders so that we can grow and flourish.
I get the pleasure to teach women at my church about the Bible. Most of the time, I’m just overwhelmed at the sheer gift it is to teach, but other times, I find myself burdened and weighed down with the knowledge that I am not good enough to do this. Lies are continuously being screamed in my head, creeping up on me, birthing anxiety, and causing me to search for approval from the women I teach, all while I teach them to find their approval in Jesus Christ.
I feel like a walking oxymoron.
This is the idol I cling to for dear life, and it permits me never to trust, never let my guard down, and bear all of my burdens on my own.
When I phrase it that way, it seems completely ridiculous to hold on to this idol with clenched fists; nonetheless, I still want control over my own life. I want to be able to write my story on my own. I want to be able to say that I did all of these things by myself. I want to get all of the glory. I want to be enough.
Yet, deep down, I know I don’t have control. Deep down, my soul knows I wasn’t meant to constantly fight to be known and seen. Deep down, I know even my best efforts are missing the mark of perfection. Deep down, I know I need someone to save me from my own self.
I long for the false ideal of autonomy, but it only leaves me exhausted and hungry for something different, something better.
This is our pride, and it has been the story of humanity since Genesis 3. And to all of us who know the biblical story, we still need the reminder: despite their best efforts, God’s chosen people failed. Even when they succeeded because of the greatness of the God who went before them, they still found themselves bowing at the feet of other gods.
God’s Answer to Our Failure
In John 15, Jesus prepares the disciples for His departure. Until this moment, Israel has been portrayed as a “vine” in the Old Testament (Psalm 80:9-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Ezekiel 15:1-8, 17:1-21; Hosea 10:1-2), but Jesus here shows himself to be the true vine, fulfilling God’s commandments instead of Israel, who was unable to measure up to the standards and instructions God gave to them.
This teaching is also true for us: Jesus is the one true vine, and those who follow him are merely dependent branches. Jesus not only initiates our new life, but He restores it by His blood, and provides constant sustenance for the great grace of fruit that is born in our lives.
This is the beauty of the gospel. It’s not that we need someone to make our good deeds better; God has a supreme standard and we, in our best efforts, cannot fill that standard. Instead, he has filled it for us. In fact, only shortly after Jesus’ words about the vine, he says, “It is finished,” making it possible to abide and rest forever.
Like Israel, we fail and forget every single day, even when we can see the ways God has delivered us. The answer is to repent and believe—two actions which free us from the bondage of needing acceptance from other things—and place our entire lives in a Person who gives lasting freedom. These two actions reorient us, taking ourselves off of the throne and putting Jesus back on the throne. When I begin to believe the lies that are in my head and look to something else other than Jesus to relieve the anxiety, I find myself more beaten down than I was before. Only Jesus can give true and lasting life.
Repent and believe. Make Him your only life source. Repent and believe. Throw out the idols that you are holding onto that might promise life, but leave you lifeless. Repent and believe. Stop the cycle of exhaustion and look to the never failing love of Christ. Repent and believe. Live by dying to yourself, act by abiding in Him.