By Jennifer Hallmark
Hello, world! It’s Saturday. January 20, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.
Guess where I’m going today? I’ve kept it a secret from most of the people I know. Before I tell you, I’d like to explain how I got here. Or try anyway.
I’m the oldest child in my family, a melancholy introvert and a creative perfectionist (in recovery). 🙂
When I was six-years-old, my dad became sick. Really sick. It started with numbness in his feet and legs and progressed until he was unable to walk. No one could diagnose what was wrong with him. Within a couple of years, he was unable to work, even in a wheelchair.
We lived in Florida at the time but moved back to Alabama to be close to the family. Within a year, my parents and I gave our hearts to Jesus.
Somehow, in the years to follow, I imagined that if I could only do everything right, maybe my dad could get back to how he once was. Between the seventh and twelfth grade, I only made three B’s. Two in typing (yes, I’m that old) and one in physics. I did well in sports and was very involved in our youth group at church.
At the age of fourteen, I sincerely sought God for two weeks and saw prayers answered as He drew closer and became more real to me than ever before. By the age of sixteen, I was as sold out to God as possible and made a vow during a time of prayer. I told God I would never drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, or go to R-rated movies. For a good Baptist teen, these were the five worst things I could think of.
A few years later, I married, moved, and joined a new church. Unfortunately, the church was steeped in legalism and by the time I reached my late twenties, I was well on my way to being a modern-day Pharisee. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I was judgmental, critical, and all the other things that make up a “religious” person. I’d lost sight of my first love.
Then, when I was twenty-eight, my dad died suddenly of an aneurysm. My world crashed. I didn’t know what to do. My works had not lengthened my dad’s life like I thought. So, it must be my fault he died. If only I could have done better. I despised myself.
A few years later, I changed churches again, and God slowly brought me back to my first love. Then He began to show me who I’d become.
For the last twenty years, He’s been peeling back layer after layer of law and works from me, where I had tried to earn His love instead of accepting the free gift. It’s not that wanting to do the right thing is bad; it’s the ulterior motive behind our actions. In my quest to be perfect, I listened to anyone and everyone who seemed to have the answer to what I needed to do rather than listening to God.
If a preacher on television said you need to pray for an hour, I added it to my list. If my church said don’t smoke, I didn’t. If a teacher said my kids needed to do something, I tried to do it. Occasionally, God broke through my bent to the law of works, and I was actually led by the Spirit, but so often I wasn’t. Instead, I was driven by people’s opinions and my fear of what others thought. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t seem to change.
This resulted in my health steadily declining in my thirties. I experienced burnout over and over again as I continually struggled to change. But as much as I wanted to change, I still wanted validation from people for everything I did. I wanted to always ask permission before doing something. But the problem was, especially in gray areas, people differed.
As a teen, I had obeyed God out of my love for Him, looking to Him as a Father. At some point, I let my fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of people’s opinions, and fear of God’s disappointment take control. In my mind, God was no longer a Father. He had become my taskmaster.
It took years in the Word and stepping out time and again in faith to break the hold of Phariseeism to begin trusting God and His grace.
Today I’m taking another step. I’ve stressed over this decision to the point of a full-blown panic attack. But I’ve decided to look at it as an adventure instead. An exploit, which me, my friend, Joyce, and God are going on together.
I’m getting a tattoo on my foot that says “fearless.”
Some of you might think I’m crazy for stressing and worrying about it. Others probably think I’m crazy for getting a tattoo. My mom probably won’t understand.
I don’t know if I fully do.
But after six months of thinking about it, I’ve reached a place of relative peace. I asked Joyce to go with me and talked with my husband about my decision.
It’s so not me. But deep down, it is me. The creative writer part of me. So, I’m diving in, taking the plunge, stepping off the cliff and building my wings on the way down.
God’s with me and I’m okay.
Come back next Wednesday and I’ll let you know how it went.