Yesterday, a member of the church told her faith story in church. Her name is Jill and she told of the struggles of her life. It is the October 28, 2012 message and is worth listening to online on the church website.
Jill talked of always feeling like she never measured up. Her learning disability caused her to struggle to do middle school math in her upper years of high school. Her brother and sister had great capabilities it led her to feel that she was not as good and therefore not as loved. What Jill said of her high-achieving siblings was, "I turned their praises into my pressures."
I talked with Jill as she prepared to tell her story and I knew the big pieces - the low self-esteem, the looking for love with guys that were abusive, the turning point in getting pregnant and deciding to "hold myself accountable" and do the right thing, and ultimately encountering Christ on a Saturday night service at St. Andrews. I had even read the line about turning "their praises into my pressures." But yesterday, when she spoke those words live, that line had impact. At least for me.
I listen to countless stories of people who do exactly that. They compare themselves to others, feel like they don't measure up, and put pressure on themselves to somehow make up ground they feel is lacking. As a result, the honest internal self-talk is self-deprecating and the external actions range from seeking to prove something to the world to unhealthy attachments to people to self-destructive or self-medicating behavior.
It took Jill getting lost in worship one night to have a new vision for her life. When God flooded her heart with his presence and she told God how sorry she was that she had been ignoring him, everything changed. When Jesus became real for her as forgiver of her sins and leader of her life, all of the burden of shame, and feeling less-than others melted away. She lived for years comparing herself to others and feeling like she didn't measure up to others. She internalized this with her siblings: "I turned their praises into my pressures." When she encountered God in worship, God led her to be able to reverse that pattern. She didn't say it this way, but what she now lives is a pattern in which God has turned her pressures into praise.
If you feel a lot like Jill, listen to her story. She allowed herself to be open to God, put herself in settings to encounter God, and God did the work in the heart. God turns pressures we put on ourselves that cripple us into praises for his deliverance of those very pressures. He did it for Jill. He can do it for you.