Exhausted. I can’t do one more thing, answer one more question or take one more step. I feel pulled in several directions at once. Feeling like everyone wants a “piece” of me and I have no more pieces to give. Desperate for rest, but not the kind sleep gives. The question echoes in my mind, “Where do you find real peace?” Despite my best intentions, I end up in this same place before long. If I wasn’t an over achiever, I would’ve given up long ago.
So I try again. Another self-help book, course or tip sheet. Confide in a friend, ask for prayer or find another Bible study to immerse myself in. Again the over achiever kicks in and I re-evaluate my priorities, tweak menu planning and cleaning schedules. Set my alarm 5 minutes earlier to get a jump on things and get to work earlier. Things get better for awhile, but each time I end up back in the same place, only sooner. Then there’s that nagging question in my mind, “Where do you find real peace?”
what is driving me?
I ask myself all the time, “what is driving me?” For years I never got a real answer. Until I faced a crisis in my life that caused me to take a long, hard look at myself. My marriage wasn’t going well, and life dealt us some hard cards. Baggage from my own past trauma seemed determined to push its way out and my resilience was at an all time low. I wanted to blame my husband for our marital trouble and had good reason; until I looked in the mirror. I knew despite the case I built against him, there was plenty of evidence against me too.
Working in hospice and palliative medicine we’re trained to notice depression, and I knew I suffered with some of the symptoms. But I also knew I had no time for depression or any other ailment. I kept pushing through the exhaustion. Sleep was my only escape and every morning when my alarm went off at 4:30 am, my first thought was , great, only 16 more hours until I can get back here again. Basically at this point, thoughts of escape drove me each day. While asleep I felt no pain and avoided facing my failures, problems and past. Still, I never felt “rested”. Each day I pushed through to get back to my “sleep escape”, but eventually that no longer worked. That’s when I knew I needed to stop running.
The show must go on
I realized it took the perfect storm of events for me to finally face the truth about myself. Honestly, I don’t think I saw it before, but now it became clear. I spent years “performing”, seeking approval and acceptance from others as my identity. Past trauma locked my own identity away telling me she was not loved, accepted, heard or valued. Since I couldn’t be myself, I created someone I thought everyone wanted. Now I faced the fact that not only was this identity a lie, but no one seemed to want her either.
I never felt so lost. This was a true “identity crisis”, would the real “me”please stand up. Then again, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. At the same time the problems pressed and the past refused to be silent. At a loss as to which part to play, I became numb and withdrawn. But ever the achiever, I managed a public veneer and continued my job and basic responsibilities. I might be a lot of things, but I wasn’t a slacker. Ultimately, I could no longer ignore the pain inside and that ever present voice asking, “Where do you find real peace?”
apprehended by peace
Little did I know, but facing this identity crisis resulted in freedom for me. After so many years of “performing” and keeping up with a created identity, I could finally be myself. You see, as long as I believed the lies from the past, I was a prisoner. I kept running, hiding, allowing my past and everyone else define the real me. I felt exhausted all the time because I couldn’t rest, I had to keep up, remember what everyone wanted, be that perfect person. Plus, the lies from my past , continually swirled in my head causing me to feel under constant siege. I never attempted to dismiss them, just let them echo endlessly.
Until peace apprehended me in the form of the Prince of Peace. I knew and served Jesus many years, but it was a one-sided relationship. Refusing to let Him see “me”, or so I thought. I kept myself from Him the way I kept myself from everyone else. Yes, I know how foolish that sounds, He’s God, He already knew me. Still, I “performed” for Him too. I said what I thought He wanted me to say, and did what I knew would please Him. I truly believed the Gospel, I knew Jesus died on the cross to redeem sinners. The problem? The lies told me I wasn’t loved, accepted, heard or valued by anyone. Even though I believed, followed and served Christ, I was “earning” His approval. I also believed the lies: I wasn’t the type He died for. That all changed the day I finally asked Him, “Where do you find real peace?”
peace apart from performance
Peace is not a “thing” or state to have; real peace is a person. Christ offered me His own serenity, “My peace I give you.” John 14:27. All of my striving to find approval and acceptance from others was misguided dependence that could never offer peace. Jesus beckoned me to find real peace and rest in Him; “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-29. The peace and rest that Christ offered is not found in worldly approval or acceptance.
This peace and rest exists in the assurance of Christ’s love and acceptance of me. For the first time I understood I was made in the image of God and therefore valued. I am precious in His sight, He redeemed me, accepted me and loves me. Isaiah 43:4. My identity exists in Him; in who He says I am. This assurance removed the performance mentality from me and silenced the lies. My relationship with Jesus grew more intimate and vibrant, I no longer came to Him fearful and striving for approval; I longed to rest and be with Him. This new found freedom literally energized my soul.
Where do you find real peace?
My encounter with the Prince of Peace transformed everything about me. Free from the prison of performance, my relationship with God was changed, but so were all of my relationships. My problems didn’t magically disappear, but my perspective changed. I found serenity in suffering. God promises never to leave or forsake us, (Deuteronomy 31:6) as a result, His peace will never leave us. Instead of fretting to fix everything myself, I learned to calmly rest in Jesus allowing Him to use each painful problem for His purpose.
I still struggle sometimes with identity issues, but now rather than hearing the lies on an endless loop in my head I am able to combat them with truth. I recognize when I slip back into performance protocol, because peace eludes me. Even when things feel like they are falling apart around me, I have a deep, abiding peace. I no longer shift into attempts at controlling everything and everyone. I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I can do nothing to earn it. Where do you find real peace? In a relationship with the sovereign God of the universe, for His presence is peace.
But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He, Himself is our Peace.Ephesians 2:13-14
Feature Image Photo by H. Emre