I Shall Not Want

Six years old. Lying in bed staring at my wall. Too afraid to fall asleep. What if I have a seizure? What if I lose all control? Can’t breathe or stop my limbs from flailing? What if no one knows and I’m alone in this as I sleep? The “what ifs” start young.

My mom comes in nightly. Novels read. Curly Bear tucked close. Prayers whispered. Lastly, we read Psalm 23 together. Gazing at the framed verse beside my bed we read the old words together…The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…that was the routine. That was my comfort when I was too afraid to fall asleep.

Ten years later and the Psalm 23 poster and the nightly routine are gone. I’m living in my own little self-imposed hell, not allowing any hope or grace into my hardened heart. The only comfort being certain death and thus lasting reprieve. You’d find me dead before you’d find me whispering Psalm 23. No hope-filled words crossed my lips in those days.

Countless therapy sessions that ending in tears and no visible progress (and I’m sure my therapist questioning why she still saw me) later. Countless prayers cried out on my behalf by more people than I can thank and days lived that simply left me wondering why God kept me alive. I still wanted, wanted for everything, yet didn’t take hold of anything before me.

Twelve years since I first memorized Psalm 23 and I still, I still, don’t have it down.  God is still bringing it up and washing the words over me. The seed He planted, the little lesson of the Psalm 23 seed, is still being grown.

This past summer my therapist brought up Psalm 23, that ever-recurring verse of mine. We recited it aloud together in her office, my safe place. Since then, it’s been my unconscious heartbeat. That one line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Day-in and day-out. Coursing through me, washing over me, reminders all around. I can’t move past that first line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The truth is, if God wants me here, sitting, meditating on this verse, then here I will sit though I know not why. 

One week prior to today. The only instruction, rest. Eno beneath, friend (hey Bess!) across, trees above, the familiar heartbeat all around. God, what would you have me rest on today? One of my old favorite songs came to mind and hasn’t left since.

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“I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

Just as the words and music wash over me, so does my Shepherd’s voice whispering “I’m your good good Shepherd, you shall not want for anything.” 

I don’t know about any of you, but I have lived and still live out of want, out of a place of lack. My go to is, “I can’t. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not good enough.” I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who is living out of want and throwing “I’m not good enough” around like candy.

In this first month of college I have slowly been nudged and convicted of my posture. It’s a posture of defeat, of failure, of distrust, discontentment and jealousy. It’s not where God would have me. It’s not where He would have you, either.

College has brought up a slew of things that I thought had been laid to rest. This college month has had it’s fair share of, she has more friends, more invites, more attention, more opportunities, more control, more laughs, thinner or prettier such-and-such.

In this new life I’m living, where I feel so small and unknown, God still whispers and sings over me, “When you taste my goodness, you shall not want. No, you shall not want.” We need not, no it’s a command, we shall not want.

I shall not want for friends, for community, for comfort. I shall not want for attention, for my God’s eyes are always upon me and His ears are always attuned to my voice. I shall not want for opportunities or growth or real conversation. And neither shall you for just as the Father’s eyes are always upon me so are they always upon you.

I spent so much of life, still do, living out the posture of “I must do enough to be (good) enough.” I must work hard enough, workout enough, dance enough, rehearse enough, study enough. Anorexia drove me to “I must weigh little enough to be good enough, to be loved and accepted.” Depression drove me towards, “I must do everything I can to disappear, because my presence is not good enough.” Anxiety drove me to a place of “I must be perfect to be enough.”

No grace. No grace at all. No recognition of Christ’s covering. No acknowledgement of the blood shed for me. Nothing but “must” and “should’ and “have to.” Pressure. Performance. Lies. Comparison. Want. Lack. That was my posture. This is still my posture many days, my posture towards God. But for every “I must” and every thought that makes me feel inadequate and not good enough I can counter with the Truth. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

But, you know what? Just as Jesus sings “You shall not want” over me, He sings it over you too. Just as Jesus covers me, He covers you. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

Challenge for this week:

What are your “I musts” and the thoughts that make you take on a defeated posture? What makes you live out of a posture of want?

What would you insert into this statement? The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for ________. Now repeat that statement as many times as needed this week, until you believe it.

Breathing Room

Lord, I need breathing room.

That has been my prayer the last couple weeks. When my therapist breathed those words out and I breathed them in– breathing room– a weight I didn’t even know I carried, lifted.

Breathing room. Space. Leeway. Margin. However you say it, I need it.

I’ve never had breathing room. I’ve lived the last 8 (at least) years in a confined space, a box, a little square drawn in the sand. I’ve lived stuck. Stuck in a tight spot. Claustrophobic but afraid.

Eating disorders, many mental illnesses and compulsive behaviors leave no breathing room. They are the tightest-of-tight boxes and the smallest-of-small spaces. There is no room for anything but the rules, the expectations (of self or others), the behaviors. There is no bending from anorexia to go to a birthday party. There is no pausing over-exercising, self-harm or purging just because there is an opportunity to travel. No. No, because there is no breathing room in any of those situations. There is no room for error, no room for a change in plans. You do not stray from the black line. You do not change plans. You do not change your mind. You simply do not, because there is no room for that.

There is no room, because room, margin, leeway. They all mean mistakes, errors, mess-ups, mishaps — failure. Room to breathe means room to fail. And I have never allowed room to fail. Perfection, yes. Failure, absolutely not I’d rather die.

Perfection leaves no breathing room. Anything outside of the realm of perfection, of the expectations placed upon us, is utter catastrophe, sending the world into a dizzy.

I grew up sticking myself in that little box out of fear, desire to please, perfectionism. No one had to put me there. I didn’t need anyone to draw those black lines of my “allowed square inch.” I did that myself.

Strangely enough, I have always hated tight things, anything that confines me physically. I am seriously claustrophobic, yet I am drawn towards this tight confining life. The life that says when and what you can eat, who you can see, what you can do and say, unwritten rules galore.  Rigid, unrelenting, changeless, unforgiving.

So when I heard those words — breathing room, give yourself breathing room– I thought “Can I? Can I really?” All the confining I had done on purpose. All of the restricting I had inflicted upon myself. All of the rigid rules. I did those things. I inflicted it, enforced it. I gave myself a life of confinement, a life without air, without any room to breathe, to fail.

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I gave myself that kind of life, but now I’m choosing to give myself a life that breathes. I need  to give myself room to have hard or bad days. I need room to get overwhelmed and cry. I need room to be imperfect. Because life is not perfect. My family and friends are not perfect. College will not be perfect. There will be overwhelming, hard, straight up bad days where I just want to throw my hands up in defeat. Without breathing room those days are too much, unrecoverable. Those days are failure and make me want to quit. But, insert some breathing room, stretch that square inch a bit, and that same day can be called good. I can laugh at that day. I can pause, breathe deep and say, “this too is good.”

That extra room means that what would have been failure in my teeny-tiny perfect box can instead be called grace, growth, good. That extra room means release of the pressure to be good enough, an end to the proving and the living up. That extra room means God has room to move. Room to change me, bend and break me, mold and challenge me, love and grow me. In my confining life there was no room for anything “else,” not even God.

As I have thought and prayed over this need for breathing room, God gave me this — You don’t need more breathing room. You already have all the room you need. I gave you all the room you could possibly need on the Cross. Just take it. Use it. 

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(image via Pinterest)

Talk about dumb-struck. Of course I have all the room I need. Jesus gave me all the room in the world to fail and fumble and fall on the cross. He gave me so much room, grace (unmerited, undeserved favor), to mess up that I will never be able to use even half of it. It’s immeasurable the grace He has bestowed upon me. James 4:6 says, “But he gave us more grace.” He didn’t just give grace, He gave more grace and even more on top of that. His grace has no constraints. It is freely given to all. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Not just the good or the perfect or the tall or the thin or the pretty or the smart or the talented, but to all. Yet this grace was not given because of something I did. No, this grace is a gift. It’s a gift that God gave in His Son. It’s a gift that cost more than we will ever be able to comprehend. And it’s a gift that we choose to breathe in and live out of daily.

I will leave you with this question — do you need to use more of your gifted breathing room?

Because HE Never Fails

I’m going to be really honest here, college is coming (less than 2 months! Woohoo!) and I couldn’t be more excited, but I also can’t help but feel Mr. Fear sneaking up to ruin it all.

I’d been feeling the usual anxiety symptoms (racing heart, sleepless nights, cold sweat, unable to catch my breath all while doing nothing, I might add) and wondering “where are these coming from?” It’s summer! Life is good. My biggest worry, is what I’m going to do with the girls I’m nannying today. No need for these pesky anxieties to be around. But one thing I’ve learned is this: anxiety can come when you least expect it & it’s always trying to tell you something about your heart.

I ignored it, until it randomly overtook me in a familiar office and I was encouraged by a friendly face to dig deeper. Anxiety is never surface deep. So dig I did with my trusty guide.

The digging wasn’t pretty but, boy oh boy, was it needed! After years of trying to put this fear to rest, the fear that left me spiraling out of control, here it is again.

We dug up this: What if I fail?

Those words came slowly. As I realized they were behind the anxiety (again!) I didn’t want to admit them. But they won’t go away until I admit them, so I let them out softly.

“What if I fail? What if I fail at college? What if I fail at the things placed before me in Nashville? What if it’s all too much, just like before?”

Admitting those words hurt more than I can say because I’ve worked hard to put my past where it belongs, the past.  But I’m only human and for all of my trying, I fail even at putting my “failures” behind me.

That shadowy figure on my shoulder peers over into my present and future, speaking lies that I subconsciously believe until I’m jarred awake by this: The LORD is within me. I will NOT fail because HE does NOT fail.


(Photo: Pinterest)

The lady guide in the chair across the way spoke them over me and I felt them deep. She’s right.

I won’t do college perfectly. I won’t do this whole roommate/suite mate thing perfectly. I won’t do new city, new church, new surroundings perfectly but I will NOT fail. No matter what happens, from now until I’m old and grey, I will not fail when I rest in Him, because there is NO failure in God.

It’s that simple. It’s that complex and that deep. It’s that real. No failure in Jesus Christ.

•not even one of His promises has failed (Joshua 23:14)

•He will NOT fail me or forsake me (1 Chronicles 28:20)

•His covenant with me will never fail (Psalm 89:28)

•my plans will fail but His plans won’t (Proverbs 15:22)

•the worst may happen in life, but His salvation is forever & His righteousness will never fail (Isaiah 51:6)

•His compassions (His mercy, empathy & concern) never fail (Lamentations 3:22)

•God is LOVE & love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)