The following entry is a guest post by my friend, Sanet.
She asked that I share her testimony with you all, based on my “Raising the Standard” post. http://t.co/TdKo0upVtK
I hope you’ll be encouraged by her testimony!
If you had gone through something similar, or just feel burnt out in general, I’ll be MORE than happy to pray with you and trust God for breakthrough!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a direct message on twitter at @corneliagrace.
In response to Cornelia’s “Raising the Standard” post, http://t.co/TdKo0upVtK I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts and experiences. I might not have concrete advice to offer on the matter, but my hope is that those who relate to striving for excellence will have their hearts comforted or touched.
In the past three to four years, I’ve come to realise that I am a very goal-driven person. I don’t make lists and I don’t get neurotic about finishing things just right, but I am definitely passionate about grabbing every opportunity to achieve the dreams I’ve dreamt. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad trait to have, it can be harmful.
I applied for university in July 2009 and received my acceptance letter in November of the same year. University had been a dream and I cried with relief and thankfulness at the prospect of seeing it realised. Throughout my life, God has always been an important part of every decision and every step that I take. When I prayed about getting into university, my prayer was similar to one I’ve prayed a thousand times before and will pray (by God’s grace) a thousand times more: “God, if this is Your Will, I pray that I’ll be accepted. If it’s Your Will, I know I’ll be accepted. If it’s not, I won’t be. Please help me to accept Your Will in my life.” The fact that I’d been accepted was thus a clear sign to me that it was the path God wanted me to follow, and as such my desire to excel and please and honour God was stronger than it would’ve been otherwise.
During my first year of studies, I achieved high marks with relative ease. At this point, I still hadn’t found my “goal” in life and I wasn’t too concerned about it either since I trusted (and still trust) God with my future. It is my hope that during this time my heart was set sincerely on pleasing and honouring God with my studies. But it’s not difficult to become selfish and it’s not difficult to become proud. As my goal for my future became clearer, I became more and more driven to succeed. Not only succeed, but to be the best. To stand out. For people to notice me. My reliance on God continued, and as I topped my classes and stood out to my lecturers, I continued to thank God. What IS difficult, however, is keeping our hearts pure. The line began to blur and I no longer knew whether my efforts were in honour of God or in honour of myself.
I worked even harder. I slept little and ate less. The first time I realised that I was being counterproductive was in the latter half of my first year: I had been working late for a few nights in a row and, as a result, overslept for my early Wednesday morning Creative Writing class. It was the first time I had ever missed a class. This might not seem like a big deal to most, but it was a VERY big deal to me. I learned two things that morning: 1) overworking does more harm than good, and 2) it’s almost impossible to put on mascara whilst crying. Unfortunately, I failed to take (1) to heart.
Second year rolled around and my goal was firmly set. With this goal came several steps I felt I needed to take in order to get where I wanted to be. I applied for several overseas scholarships and took on more credits than my degree required. In my second year, my faith was put on the back seat as I tried to keep up with the frantic standard I had set for myself. Looking back now, I realise that meeting my standard was always impossible. Even now, I’m not satisfied with what I achieve. Perhaps this is God’s way of telling me that I’m not supposed to be living up to myself and trying to please myself, but that I should be setting my eyes on Him.
The second semester of my second year was the worst semester I’d ever had. Until first semester of third year, that is. I missed two weeks of class at the beginning of the year as I’d been in Germany for a scholarship program, and was once again taking on more credits than needed. I’ll never regret having gone to Germany, but I do regret trading my health for good grades. Cornelia was right when she said this about me: “[H]er performance driven dedication to being a good student and honouring God with the best possible results had led her to the brink of physically and emotionally burning herself out.” In fact, it wasn’t only the brink. As I’m writing this, I’m in France, having achieved one of my dreams. Also, I’m sick. I get sick on a monthly basis despite taking immune boosters and following a healthy diet. Which is a step up from the weekly basis at which I was sick during my last year of studies. I suffered from iron deficiency and broke out in a rash, and every time I was about to get better, a secondary infection would hit me and I’d be worse off than before. On top of that I battled dilapidating stress and depression. I regret it. I regret placing academic excellence before my own health and I regret trying to achieve God’s will through my own power. I did have friends along the way who taught me to value myself more and prioritise myself, and for that I’m very thankful. And of course, the damage isn’t irreversible and through Christ all things can be redeemed. But it’s not something I’d want to live through again and certainly not something I’d advise.
Luckily that’s not the end of the story. Although I went about it a bit haphazardly, my achievements are all thanks to God. If God had been completely absent from my life during those few hectic years, I don’t even want to think what I’d look like right now. During my time here in France, my faith in God is slowly being built up again. I’m learning all over again to trust God more and to place my worries and burdens in His hands. I’m healing and the feeling of NOT being stressed is so wonderful I’m almost afraid to go back to do an Honour’s year. I still try to honour God with my life, but it’s something I’ve realised I can’t do alone, nor do I really want to. I’m not all that good at scriptures, but I think the following might be appropriate:
“9 God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP).
God is faithful even when I am unfaithful. In knowing that, I know that He is nurturing the desires and dreams He has placed in my heart. I don’t have to break my back to try and achieve my goals since God will keep His promises and I’ll find myself in the place I’m meant to be at the time God has ordained. My efforts should be in participation with God through Jesus Christ and only then through His Grace will I be able to fully honour Him. As I continue to grasp hold of the opportunities that come my way, I’ll continue to remind myself: God and I are doing this together.
- raising the standard (firechronicles.wordpress.com)