• Dana L. Butler

For When You Feel Like A Disappointment [And It Might Actually Be True]

The criticism came from an unexpected source.  In the moment, I wasn’t even aware that it had hurt my heart.

I shrugged it off and moved on through my day.

Later that evening though, when I had time to think, the words scrolled back through my brain.

They stung.

I’m sure the intention behind them was not to hurt – but they did.

Ow.

The words stung because they referred to an area in which I had a hunch I was weak.  An area I was afraid I was failing.  Afraid I wasn’t measuring up to people’s expectations.  Afraid people’s needs weren’t being adequately met.


Facing the Root Issue

I processed internally, the words echoing in my mind.  The stinging persisted.

“Surely everyone else doesn’t feel the same way.  What about so-and-so, and so-and-so?  They’ve had their needs met for sure.  They’ve told us so — ”

On it went – this inner dialogue that circled and circled and turned out to be utterly pointless – a vain attempt to cover over the root issue in my heart.

The pain was a pit in my stomach.

The next day I was driving down the road and this song came on the radio.  It’s one that I’ve heard a number of times, but this time it hit my heart like a ton of bricks.

It was “Strong Enough,” by Matthew West.  Here’s the chorus:

I know I’m not strong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be I give up I’m not stong enough Hands of mercy won’t you cover me Lord right now I’m asking you to be Strong enough Strong enough For the both of us

And the realization came: I don’t have to jump all these mental hurdles.  Don’t have to prove the critical voice wrong.  Don’t have to rehearse to myself all the reasons I’m not weak in that area where I fear weakness.

What if that critical voice was actually telling the truth?  What if I really have been weak?  Really have failed?

I needed to face it: I really might have completely failed.

AND –

What if my failure in that area has let down more than just the one person who actually voiced the criticism?  What if multiple people’s expectations have gone utterly unmet?

What if I’ve disappointed them all?

Ugh.

As a natural people pleaser this possibility makes my heart shudder.  Hence my mental gymnastics, trying to prove the criticism wrong.

But mental gymnastics are exhausting.

And under the surface, the root issue is fear.

Fear of failure.  Fear of people’s opinions of me.  Fear of letting them down.

Unshakable Identity

So that song came on the radio and it was a perfectly timed reminder from the Lord:

“Dana, you don’t have to be strong in this area.  It’s okay if you’re weak.  Lean into Me.  I’ve got this.  I’ve got these hearts – all of them.”

Really Lord?

Yes, really.  He’s really big enough to pick up the slack where I’m weak.

And my identity and value are not found in my abilities to coach or lead or be an amazing friend.  They’re found in Him.  

And when I define myself radically as one beloved by God (Brennan Manning – Abba’s Child), suddenly all these whispers of fear have to shut up.

My identity isn’t shaken.  Even when I fall flat on my face.  Even when I disappoint a whole crowd.  Because my identity rests in Him.

And really?  Here’s the bottom line:  I’m not God.  

It’s not my job to meet the needs of every heart.  People need to realize it’s His job.

need to realize it’s His job.  And to let all those expectations, actual or perceived, slide right off my shoulders.

God’s Invitations In Failure

And inherent in my every failure is an invitation from God – both for me, and for those I’ve disappointed.

For me, it’s an invitation to press into my true identity.  I’m not defined by my failure – I’m defined by His favor.

For those I’ve let down?  It’s an invitation to learn to know Him as their true Source, the Provider of every need, as opposed to seeking those things in a human being.  To know Him as the One who heals and restores when human failure has caused pain.

So.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Defining myself radically once again as one beloved by God.  Perhaps apologizing to those I may have disappointed.  [You can do that confidently when your failure doesn’t define you.]

And moving forward.

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