We Are Not Our Successes

I’m a recovering perfectionist. 

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I want to get it right, get it right the first time and get it right every time after that. I hold myself to an extremely high standard and will mercilessly pick myself apart in the hours and days following any mistake or error I make (real or projected). I’m constantly re-evaluating my mindsets and behaviors to come up with better solutions for growth. 

This is actually a good thing–a little self awareness and desire to grow never hurt anyone. 

I saw a quote the other day from Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, Scary Close, etc.) that stated, “We are not our successes”.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to get past my failures and mistakes and I’ve honestly taken more pride than I should in the few things I’ve gotten right in life. I’m not perfect but I’m competent enough to deal with interpersonal relationships, to hold a decently high stress job and rise to challenges, to take care of (most of) my financial needs, to serve the Lord in a way that makes me feel productive, etc. 

I’ll be honest, I’ve based so much of my identity and value has been in whether or not I’m doing well. Am I getting it right? Or more importantly, do I look like I’m getting it right? 

There are passages all throughout scripture about the value of hard work or doing well at whatever tasks we’re given in this life.

It is a gift from God to be able to eat and drink and experience the good that comes from every kind of hard work.                    Ecclesiastes 3:13

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…       Colossians 3:17 

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.    Psalm 1:3

These may seem disjointed, but there is this sort of concept that I’m inferring that seems to say “work hard, enjoy success, do this to glorify God”. (I literally used the word prosper non-ironically. Who am I?)

Lately I’ve realized the exhausting pressure of maintaining this image–feeling like I have to get it right every time and no one can know where I struggle or fall short. It may be good to have a good name and do good work, to be successful and productive and all of that, but at the end of the day of that validates me more than the love of Jesus and who He says I am, I’ve missed the whole point. I’ve allowed something outside of my Creator to assign me value and give me strength and purpose. I’ve become a foreman on a project, trying to build without spending any time at all with the Architect who’s designed the entire operation. 

… God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus… 2 Timothy 1:9 

It’s common to hear people say that something to the extent of “I am not the sum of my past mistakes”. I’d submit that an equal and more subtle danger is to reassure ourselves that we’re the sum of our successes, past and present. 
If I can gain my value though my success, I can lose it through my failure. Frankly, that’s more pressure than I care to bring into my life these days. I want Jesus to be my identity; when I think the disciple in John that is described as “the one Jesus loved”, I want that. And I don’t desire in vain, because Jesus gives himself generously to all who seek Him and hope in Him. They are not disappointed. 

My favorite passage right now is Isaiah 41:9-10 because I feel like it calms my fears about who I am, how secure I am and how in the end it comes back to Jesus and who He is and what He will do. It’s not dependent on me and thank God. 

You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’ll forgot it ten times between now and tomorrow morning, but I am so encouraged by this! I’m thankful for this place that I don’t deserve that’s been freely given to me and that is ever secure in Christ. 


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