When I was a kid, I was told I was fun-loving. This is a compliment–except when you’re told you’re fun-loving instead of hard-working. And when you’re told you can’t make it through life unless you learn to work hard. Then, when you’re told you’re fun loving, it ends up meaning, to you as a child, that you don’t know how to work hard.
So as a kid, I was convinced I was not a hard worker and that I was not going to make it through college–or life. But I ended up at the community college anyway. And, by some miracle, I started receiving As on my assignments. Slowly the world became a different place as my teachers encouraged me. They told me I was smart, intelligent, dedicated, and competent. They believed in me.
Slowly I believed in myself. I grasped the idea that, if I was a good student, I might be able to work hard (even if I wasn’t inherently a hard-worker). So I kept it up and put in great amounts of effort to define myself as a good student, as a conscientious individual, as a hard worker. It’s great to be confident, to believe in oneself, because we all are valuable. But recently it’s dawned on me that there are different ways to define value.
This semester I was offered a great opportunity with Cornerstone University: I got picked as one of a handful of students to present in front of the school in a “Celebration of Scholarship” event. It was an honor, and I was honestly delighted. I would have the opportunity to put forth a great deal of academic effort and then share something I was passionate about with others. I was excited to be granted a role in this event. It was another way to prove to myself my academic ability.
But as I prepared for the presentation, things didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. My research got delayed, my results came back late, and I couldn’t interpret the responses. I was in turmoil. I spent hours trying to figure out the statistics part–most of which was spent figuring out how to get Excel online to work with me. I downloaded add-ons, I watched YouTube videos, I read “how-to” instructions Googled online. This was dedication. I can’t stand doing any of these desperate measures I was going to. But I was willing to put forth great effort to do well in this honorable opportunity.
But after a few hours of this, I still wasn’t getting anywhere. On occasion, actually I was making mistakes that messed up my data and required me to spend time re-entering the data. While I wasn’t moving forward, some of my effort moved me backward.
Hence I did what any desperate girl would do: cried for a few hours.
It was through all of this that I realized my pain and stress related to this project was so intense because I was using this project to define me. In fact, lately I’ve been using my academic strength to define my worth. I’d been finding value in my academic success. I didn’t think I could do well in school. When I received the pleasant surprise that I could, I put too much value in that.
While it’s great to take a healthy pride in my strengths, to let my academic strength define my worth is to cut myself short. God loves me with a relentless love regardless of anything I do. Sure, I can delight him by using my gifts and talents for his glory. But my value does not come from these things. My value comes from his unchanging, unbreakable, uncomprehendable, infinite love for me. When I can learn to rest sure in this constant love, I can have his peace that surpasses understanding for nothing that the future holds can affect my value or my worth in his eyes.
What are you using to define your worth?