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Category Archives: People-pleasing

Processing Freedom and Grace

I don’t write this post for any sympathy or empathetic comments. I write it because I know I’m not alone and maybe you and I can process together??


It’s been one of those kind of weeks. The kind where you’re just left depleted and you feel there’s nothing left to give. Your very soul is raw and sore . . . the kind of sore you’d imagine from a deep surgical incision. You’ve received somewhat alarming news, your toddler just doesn’t *get* how to pee in the potty and you’ve cleaned carpets and sofas and several pairs of underwear a day. You get your feelings deeply hurt in a creep-up-on-you sort of way and you feel like the doormat whose “Welcome” was stomped on the way through the door. Your life feels like it’s been hijacked and how do you get off this plane ride and regain control? Where do your boundaries lie, and more importantly, where do your *loyalties* lie and how much do you push yourself to keep on giving, or how do you find the strength to just say, “no” ?


Familiar words seep through and begin to fill:


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Oh. Oh yeah. Just pray. So I do.


I sit Dove-turned-Pixie on the bathroom counter and cut little toenails straight across. I knock glass and it falls, straight into the sink, shattering open. It’s my favorite perfume and it all washes right down the same drain where I spit my toothpaste. I want to cry. Perfume’s expensive and this one in particular was a Christmas present and I can’t believe it was me and not two-year-old Pixie who breaks the bottle.


The irony is not lost on me. The perfume’s name is Amazing Grace.  I walk into the bathroom a few minutes later and I can smell its sweetness, resting in the air. But not because I released it slowly, spritzing it on my neck and wrists. It was violated. Violently spilled down porcelain and now it’s gone.


And I realize, I’ve been literally shattering myself down the drain, trying to be that Grace. I try hard to be the bottle itself. I try to give it all away til there’s nothing left in me to give and I feel emptied way too fast. I know this is not a rare feeling. I think it’s one of Woman’s most beautiful strengths and one of her strongest vices – trying to be all and fill all and love all.

No one else has depleted me. I’ve depleted myself. There’s only One who has already violently poured down Grace – and rather than wasted disaster, it was perfect rescue. The rest of us, we’re finite, and grace has to first be poured on us before we can share it with anyone else. I can only bestow little grace-spritzes from the Source. It seems obvious, but how hard I, Woman, fight it:


I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.



I sniff the remaining scent of Amazing Grace and I shed a few tears. Not because of the lost perfume (well, okay, yes, mostly because of the perfume), but because He gently shows me that Freedom does not come from complete self-sacrifice or giving your life away to every person’s needs. There *is* joy and freedom in those things, if we’re doing those things for all the right reasons, but otherwise we’re imprisoning ourselves to everyone’s whims.


No, freedom comes from allowing Him to be the Grace toward all we love. And if we’re lucky, we get to spritz some grace too.


My hair was suffering. After months of reveling in pregnancy locks (you know, the long, shiny, luxurious strands induced by all those swirling hormones?), I was now in the much dreaded post-partum-hair-falling-out-by-the-clumpfuls-newly-growing-fly-aways stage. But I let my hair keep growing, partly because it was the longest it had been in years and I loved all the braids, twists and ponytails I could do with it, but also because of something much deeper and something much more dysfunctional.


I remember where I was standing, little baby just sprouting inside me, when my father came up to me and said that my “hair looked good” and “he really liked it long”. It’s the one comment I remember him ever making about my appearance. And like an attention-starved little girl, I held onto those words from the dad I always wanted to please. As my hair grew longer, my time to do anything with it shortened and the ends were looking so dreadful that all I could do was put it up to hide the raggeness. It was time to do something. My sweet hubby has always given me the freedom to “do whatever [I] want with it”, but he always said something about “loving to see [my] neck” or something sweet like that, which I always brushed off. He meant it. He meant the freedom that he gave me, but he also meant that he loves to be able to see my bare neck. I don’t get it, but it’s sweet, right?


So, I went to the hairdresser this past weekend, telling my husband, “Don’t get too excited, I’m just getting a couple of inches off – nothing drastic.” But as I sat in the salon chair and watched as Jenni cut off all my ragged, dead ends, I had a sudden moment of bravery.


“I don’t think I’m going to like my hair at my shoulders, Jenni. I think it’s just going to feel sort of . . . there. Not short, not long, just . . . there.”


She smiled, placed her finger a couple of inches higher than my new, current length with a question on her face.


And with a little trepidation, but even more confidence, I said, “Nope. Let’s do it all the way. Shorter!”


I must have had 8-10 inches taken off. Needless to say, my hubby was pleasantly surprised when I came home that afternoon. I couldn’t stop smiling. And I haven’t missed a single one of those inches one bit.


Like a little girl, I held onto my father’s view of me, when the love of my life just wanted me to bare a little more of myself to him. The man who chose me never pushed his opinion on me, loved me through thick and thin (no, the pun wasn’t intended, but there it is!), but truly just wanted me to chop off all that extra weight, all the pretense, all the deadness just so he could see more of me!


How often do we hold onto the seemingly starved areas of our need for fulfillment and worth in place of our true fulfillment and worth? How often do we grasp for a false hope, a self-concocted place in life, a love that never was what we wanted it to be, instead of letting go and reaching for the beautiful, freeing love that is already offered us?


A split hair can’t grow, and a woman like me, trying to walk the fence of pleasing man and pleasing God, won’t get anywhere. I have to cut back all my hopes in false places – all my trying to please others, my trying, trying, always trying I have to cut it all off. None of that trying grants me true love and acceptance – it perpetuates a groveling to keep up with an image that isn’t even mine anymore – trying to hide how thin I’m stretched . . . my raggedness, all the while, carrying me further and further from the One whose image I truly want to reflect.


Maybe you can relate?


Sisters, may He free you and me from all the false, safe hopes we have for our lives, that we may be completely bare to the One who created our strengths and allowed our weakness. Let us cut back all we think we are, or think we should be, and give room to the One who is making us into what we will be.