Sitting down at my desk to prepare my testimony, I noticed a cord sitting next to the pile of receipts I need to go through. On the other side of the receipts are my tax documents, which remind me that I need to start on my taxes. But the cord: the cord I borrowed from my roommate because I need it to connect directly to my old computer’s hard drive. It died, and I’m hoping I can salvage some of the files. That’s been on my to do list for a long time.
Then I look over at the old laptop, which is sitting next to an iron. The clothing kind. That died several months ago and I’m still trying to figure out if/how/where to recycle it. (If you know how to recycle an iron, I’d love to find out!) I pretty much can’t ever just sit down at my desk without being reminded of all these tasks, or in other words, all these reasons why I’m behind and not doing enough.
This is a common experience for me every day. My life, and its physical artifacts, seem to expand before me in a never ending To Do list, casting a shadow that I feel like I’ll never get out of. Sometimes, it becomes debilitating, and when I start to shut down because I’m so overwhelmed by everything I need to do, I just have further proof that I’m a failure. The tasks feel like a pack of wild animals circling a piece of meat too small to share. I feel like my time and my mind and my abilities will never be enough to go around. And often, that makes me feel like I’ll never be enough.
I have been feeling called to give testimony this season ever since I heard the prompt. But it was just another item on the huge, scary To Do list that never ends. It probably wasn’t going to happen…just like most of the things I’d like to do. (See, that was one of the demons). Then, earlier this week, I got the resolve to do it. It was Wednesday evening, and I was snuggling with Ari, Reed’s dog. I stroked her fur, nuzzled her head, and tried to keep her from licking my lips. Ears are fine.
It was nice. I had had a long day, and it was kind to give myself a break to cuddle with Ari. But then I heard a demon lean in and whisper that I was not working hard enough. I wasn’t doing enough. Snuggling with Ari was a luxury. I had clothes to put away, books to read, sorting of stuff I want to donate. I needed to be producing something. I was wasting my time.
I couldn’t even give myself this break! Another voice just had to point out that at that moment, I could have been producing, and doing something more worthwhile. My value, it reminded me, is not inherent; it needs to be proven and earned.
I could feel the different parts of myself fighting inside. And part of the conflict was over whether I’m good and enough. That’s when I thought again about the prompt we were asked to consider this season.
“How has your call to follow Jesus moved you to confront the evil or demonic forces of the world?”
Sometimes, those evil demonic forces aren’t out there. There right I’m here, using my own voice against me. When I tell myself that I’m anything less than a good and beloved child of God, that voice is a demonic force. I think my mind is pretty full of demons, actually. I think things about myself a lot that are from the devil, and full of empty promises.
I feel like a waste of space and oxygen when I’m not productive.
I hold myself to high and harsh standards. And I base my self worth on those standards.
If I sleep in too late on the weekend, even if I’m tired from a long week of hard work, I feel like a piece of trash–like a useless human.
I feel guilt every day.
I feel dissatisfied when I do something that is less than perfect.
Against me, my demons wield every kind of judgement and cruelty that I pray I don’t direct at other people.
I know that I should be kind and graceful and loving to people, but sometimes I forget that that includes me. I’m one of the people I should be nice to.
I believe that the first thing God said about us is that we’re good. But sometimes it’s really hard to fight the voices that tell us otherwise. One thing that helps sometimes is mediation. Meditation, as I’ve learned about it from Buddhist perspectives, helps me become more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It helps me get into the moment and out of my head. It helps me hold the knowledge that I am good, and recognize that the voices who claim I’m not good are evil. I’m sure that many of you have similar voices to mine–even if they’re whispering different things in your ears.
On Wednesday, the demons told me I wouldn’t be able to give testimony. They said there wasn’t time to be polished and practiced. They reminded me about my standards. I would need to workshop the story and make sure it was tied up with ribbons. They told me that what I brought to you here wasn’t going to be enough.
But I’m here anyway, because I’m trying to remind myself that my life doesn’t need to be a performance of perfection to be valuable and good. I’m already good. That was the first thing God said about me. I have said multiple times in church before that I renounce the devil and the devil’s empty promises. Today, renounce them again. And I’ll probably have to renounce them again tomorrow. But I’ll keep trying. Because I deserve love from myself. And I hope you know you do too.
-Eric Halvorson/February 4, 2018