It’s funny how certain phrases and names can stick so firmly, isn’t it? I can barely remember what we did last weekend, but I will never forget the words of my sixth-grade teacher: “Emily, lighten up.” My face blushed red and I turned so no one would see my tears. I was embarrassed and felt scolded and ashamed that I had disappointed my favorite teacher with my overly serious, overly-perfectionist, overly-concerned-with-what-others-think-of-me ways. Lighten up.
I don’t think he meant anything mean; he was completely accurate in pointing out my need to chill out. But it hurt because it collided head-on with what I was leaning on to prove that I was enough. Here’s the thing: when you feel like your value is based on what you do and how well you do it, everything becomes really important, and you will do all you can to make sure it’s all done just how you think it ought to be done / how you think it’s expected to be done. Your identity is at stake!
But what if this isn’t actually true? (Hint: it isn’t true!). Instead of trying to inform the questions of our value with our behaviors and outward actions or listening only to what our society or family or we say about ourselves – what if we believed what God says about us? What if we take my teacher’s advice and lighten up?
The weight of pleasing others is too heavy. The burden of trying to prove yourself worthy is too much. It’s tiring to hustle for significance, exhausting to be bossed around by insecurity, and no matter how hard you try, eventually self-effort will fail to satisfy. I know that’s not very good news, but this is: Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). Or, in other words, “My child, lighten up.”
Because of Jesus, you can remove from your shoulders the weight of man’s approval and instead tune your ears and focus your eyes on what God says about you and how he would have you live. Can you imagine moving through your day with the confidence in knowing that who you are in Christ is enough and never too much? Knowing deep down that you are okay not because of anything you do or do not do but because of the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf, a good, kind, merciful God looks at you with tenderness. What a gift!
The above excerpt is from the soon to be released guided journal Living Freely and Lightly by Emily Lex. Join Emily on a journey of spiritual discovery as together you explore what it looks like for you to live freely and lightly, accept Jesus’s invitation to recover your life, experience real rest, and learn His unforced rhythms of grace.
Learn more about Living Freely and Lightly and about a special preorder bonus offer good through September 12.