Beyond Black and White

I’ve always viewed life in black and white terms.  All or nothing.  Victory or death.

This “right or wrong” approach might work in a maths exam but when applied to people it’s devastating.

Given such stringent criteria, how do I assess myself?  Success or failure?

If I’m not the best, then I’m nothing.  And if I hit setbacks, I’ll just transfer my energies to another field.

If I’m a student, I’ll work harder and longer than anyone else.
If I go running, I’ll do it for hours at a time.
If I’m going to lose weight, I’ll do it properly.
If I write a book, it has to be a best-seller.
If I’m going to work for my church, I’ll be the best minister on the planet.
I’ll have an enormous, godly family.
And a successful career.
I’ll be an inspirational superwoman.

In my own life I look back at the fall-out.  How did it all pan out?  Booker prize?  Thriving ministry?  Cookies and kids?

Let’s just say it hasn’t happened how I planned.  In fact the strategies I’ve used to construct my identity, have only undermined it.

One of the biggest struggles in recovery is facing up to what you’ve done.  How should I now view those failures?  Again my black and white thinking comes into play.   I can run from and deny the devastation my selfishness has caused.  Or I can seek refuge in the self-condemnation which actually requires no change.

But Scripture reminds me that neither option provides the solution.

Hebrews 12:2 reminds me that in order not to lose heart, I fix my eyes on Jesus.

What does this mean? Is it a pastel-coloured wall-verse decorated with cute animals that hangs in the kitchen? A pious sentiment that I use to deflect others? A smokescreen for overwhelming anger and sadness and self-pity?

No, it’s reminding me, among other things, of the Lord who works through mess.

As I look to the Cross, I see the greatest good coming from the biggest evil.  I see the life that comes from death.  The Lord who is able to work in and not despite my brokenness.  Who can redeem even the years that I have thrown away.  The Lord who IS my life.  Who has always been my life.  Who is working to change, not just the paintwork of my life, but its very foundations.  Who can transform my marriage, my friendships, my heart. Who is teaching me to accept a life that goes beyond black and white.  That enters the mess and can handle the greys.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Black and White

  1. This is helpful, Emma. But hard, too. My friends tell me that it will be great when i am ‘well’ or ‘freer’ and I know they mean this in love. But I can’t help using it as a stick to beat myself with. Just one more way in which I don’t measure up. And it’s horrible to feel that they are ‘waiting’…

  2. Hi Jo

    Yes it is hard and you’re right, expectations can be a stick to beat ourselves with. But perhaps this is another outcome of black and white thinking – I feel like my friends want me to be instantly, completely different. But do they? Which expectations come from them and which come from me?
    What do we want to measure up to?

    Also I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking in rigid categories since I can remember, so there’s a fear that to lose this is to lose myself.

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