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Don't Be so Hard on Yourself

A couple of years ago, I was a teacher's assistant in a 3rd grade classroom.

My favorite hours of the morning resided between 9-11 am, when the kids would workshop their writing skills. They'd impress us with their creativity & honesty which led to some pretty entertaining story times.

One of the boys in the class - with the cutest little eyes & smile, but behavior that induced headaches - was struggling with staying motivated. Nothing out of the ordinary. He tapped his pencil and held the left side of his face in his palm, staring out the window.

"Hey buddy," I said, using my best teacher grin. He knew what that meant right away. It was an oxymoron, really. A smile that meant I was displeased. He knew he needed to get back to work.

With his best, certainly rehearsed, sigh, he sunk deeper into his chair. "Miss A, I can't do it!"

I gasped, covering my mouth. The class giggled when I suggested that the boy had said a bad word. The word "can't", in my teacher dictionary, is just as bad as any curse word.

He rolled his eyes, seemingly unamused.

"Let me see," I suggested, crouching down beside him.

Quickly, he covered his notebook, blocking my view from the few sentences his pencil did seem to jot down. "NO!"

"And why not?" My hands went to my hips as I tried to steady my crouched balance. Not easy in heeled boots.

"Because, you told me to start each sentence with a different word. And I didn't! They all start with 'I' again. I'm sorry!" His forehead landed with a thunk on the lined paper.

While he thought I'd be disappointed, my response was just the opposite.

I had a conversation with him a week ago about trying to be more creative with the beginning of sentences. I told him that good writers are able to use different beginnings to offer more creativity and produce a better flow to their work. Now, this is a skill that wasn't brought to my attention until high school, so I certainly didn't expect this 8-year-old boy to master it after one week. Apparently, he thought I did.

But, just the fact that my words still resonated in his thinking one week later, and how much he thought he was disappointing me by not getting it completely right, was heartwarming. He wanted my approval!

I took the time to explain to him that I wasn't disappointed at all. In fact, I was just the opposite. Everything in me was leaping for joy that he remembered my instruction, and wanted to get it right! It's okay that frustration got in the way, because that meant that he cared, and that he wanted to improve.

In the same way, Jesus does not expect us to get it all right all of the time.

He's not disappointed when we mess up, or forget to implement His instruction into our daily lives.

Being home all day has me trapped in thought. Because of that, I am more aware of my actions, reactions, emotions and overall character. To say that I have been critical of all of these pieces would be putting it lightly. I've been beating myself up to no end, convincing myself that God is displeased.

How could you respond that way? How could you think that? Why aren't you implementing the lesson that He's been putting on your heart in the word lately?

And then, as I read Romans 5 & 6 this morning, God spoke so clearly to my heart.

The mere fact that I am longing to please God, and don't want to adhere to sinful behavior, thoughts, or reactions, illustrates who my master is.


"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been set free from sin."

Romans 6:6-7


A slave is someone who submits to a master. Before we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we were a slave to sin. But Jesus came so that we wouldn't have to be.

He's not asking us to be perfect. He's not asking us to never sin. We are humans, and we are born with a sinful nature. The word says that Adam & Eve were born in sin, even though there was no law yet.

Even if you never break one law in your life, you are in sin - because no one is perfect & holy like God. It's why we need Jesus.

Whatever you've done, He covered it all.

He forgives you.

He loves you.

Just as that little boy could have written "I" in the beginning of every sentence for the rest of the year and I still would have rooted for him and loved him anyway, Jesus is rooting for you and loves you a bajillion times more.

When you realize you want to change, you know that your master has changed. You don't want to submit to your sin anymore. You want to please your new master: God.

That is what makes the Father proud.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Recognize where you need change, but give it to God. Ask for His strength and guidance to help you through.

My little 3rd grade buddy and I spent countless 1-on-1 hours working on his sentences, and he showed tremendous growth! We need this time with Jesus, too.

The more we spend time in His word and in His presence, the more we will see growth in the areas we want to work on.

Step by step, day by day.

He's already proud of you. You're already forgiven.

Receive His grace, and move forward.


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