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Don't let trying to be good enough be your purpose in life. It will  become an anxiety thing and you will become a driven person.

    “I’m not anxious about my purpose in life, because I only want to do God’s will.”  Brother Lawrence

Our search for our purpose in life can be a source of anxiety!  If our focus is being good enough.  Many of us have been there and have the T-shirt that says "Good Boy" or "Good Girl."  We believed that we needed to be good enough in order to be loved, accepted and forgiven by God.  We want to be accepted and not rejected so we try to be good enough and this drives our anxious search for purpose.

One core belief driving our need to be good enough is the conclusion that ‘only if I am good enough will I be loved in this family.  How easy it is for children to become convinced of this!  If parents do more criticizing and correcting than affirming and praising then the child believes it.  If parents use language like “bad child” when disciplining this quickly suggests to the child “There is something wrong with me and, therefore, I need to do something to make myself good.”

We can be driven by a need to compensate for our past sins, mistakes or failures.  We may become unhealthy in our fixation on punishing ourselves.  If so, we may become accident-prone and undermine success in our life.  At the same time, we may have the need to be good enough, find our purpose in life and serve God.

Brother Lawrence outlines a time in his life when his prayers were about “death, judgment, hell, heaven and my sins.”  He set his standard high trying to achieve “the same maturity it had taken other Christians years to achieve.”  Many times, he fell short of his high standards and became convinced that “everything – even God – was against me.”  Sometimes it got so bad that he thought he was on his way to Hell and that there was no salvation for him.

What helped Brother Lawrence is that he started his Christian walk with an attitude of complete surrender: “My intent was to give myself to God all at once.”

His focus was not just prayers to God.  “When I wasn’t praying, I kept myself carefully in God’s presence.”

In this regard, Brother Lawrence knew God was always near him, in the deepest part of his heart.  This gave him enormous peace and joy.

Finally, there came a time in Brother Lawrence’s life when a sudden change came upon him where he was no longer concerned and worried about being good enough, about not being saved, etc.  He experienced a profound inner peace.  He served God out of pure love.

His deep surrender continued: “My only request is that He do whatever he pleases with me.”  It is in this context that he says: “I’m not anxious about my purpose in life, because I only want to do God’s will.”

It is as if his core beliefs about needing to be good enough to please God, his overly high standards for himself and his worries about not being saved – that is, loved, accepted and forgiven by God – were overwhelmed by the experience of “the actual unceasing presence of God.”

What was left for Brother Lawrence was not to worry about a grand purpose but to submit each moment to God’s presence.  “I’m not anxious about my purpose in life, because I only want to do God’s will.”

He continued to keep his attention on God in a simple loving way.  “This is my soul’s secret experience of the actual unceasing presence of God.  It gives me such contentment and joy.”

Brother Lawrence is a beacon of hope to those driven to a nervous or emotional breakdown by the anxiety producing pressures trying to be good enough to be loved. 

Are you among those who have gone the route of trying to be good enough?  Have you experienced any of the following outcomes in your life?

These can develop and become worse over the years of our life unless we get better, get healed, get delivered from this pattern.  Suppose you continue to let "being good" be your life purpose.  As you move into your middle years of your life you fail to get a breakthrough you may experience a breakdown - a personal emotional 'nervous' breakdown, relationship breakdown or career breakdown.  If you being good turns you into a drive for achievement and the accumulation of wealth and status to prove yourself, then may find yourself ripe for a heart attack and a physical breakdown.

My freedom from this pattern began with teaching by John and Paula Sandford at a training in Christian Prayer Counselling at a College in Alberta.  The year was 1980 and John and Paula Sandford had not yet written "Transformation of the Inner Man" where they published their observations.  When John and Paula Sandford taught on the topic of what they call "Performance Orientation" is when I got it.  Performance Orientation was me!

That evening a shared (confessional) my observation with my pastor roomate.  We prayer about my strong personality pattern of  what the Sandfords called 'performance orientation.'  I did not know how important this moment was.  That time of prayer began a process of freedom from the straitjacket of people pleasing, being nice, avoiding confrontation (and intimacy) that is had been in for 36 years - a process that continues to this day.

Freedom is a an event and freedom is a process.  There was a noticeable degree of immediate freedom and there has been years of relearning and further freedom from this pattern of trying to be good.

That prayer was an example of life transforming prayer in my life.  My life is on a whole new course because of it.  Recognition of the pattern was followed up with seeking help from another.  I opened up and was honest about who I was.  We took this to God in prayer and allowed God to transform my life.  God did set me free.  That was a freedom event.  Then I had a part to play in learning how to live out that freedom.  That is the freedom process.

by George Hartwell M.Sc. of www.HealMyLife.com  © all rights reserved by George Hartwell 2006

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