A New Year?

It’s my first blog of the new year, or ever actually, and I feel like I should be writing something super inspirational and motivating.

But instead, I find myself stuck on communicating the let down that New Years always seems to be.

Before you give up reading this and assume that it’s going to be a negative reflection on 2014, I promise there is a happy point to this, so hang with me.

I’m not talking about the “I didn’t have someone to kiss at midnight” kind of let down. 

I’m talking about the kind that borderlines on sadness that another year has gone by and not enough has changed in me.

Even on a night that is dedicated to “new beginnings” and “fresh starts” I found myself making the same stupid decisions I was making before I even knew Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t do anything crazy.  I did something worse.  I hurt someone that I care about.

Not intentionally, but I hurt them.

If I’m being totally honest – it’s made me go back and take a hard look at my relationships.   What I see on the surface isn’t very pretty.  I’ve literally done this with everyone I care about.  Sometimes even in this very same way.

I sabotage trust, respect, and worst of all in some ways the name of Christ.

Heavy right?  I promise there’s good news in here.  To get to that part, I need ask you the question that’s been eating at me all day.

How can I nail it 98% of the time, and then REALLY screw up the other 2%? 

How can I nail it 98% of the time, and then REALLY screw up the other 2%? 

To unpack this more: Why can’t I be perfect?

The perfect friend.  The perfect daughter.  The perfect girlfriend.  The perfect niece.  The perfect employee. 

Seriously, how hard can perfection be?

Before I go any further, I should confess something that you may have already realized.

Perfectionism and control are my addiction.  They are always the first place my brain wants to go when something bad happens.

Somehow in my mind I actually think that by using them I can find a way to eventually achieve perfection and I won’t ever screw up again. 

And the worst part is, like an addict, I’ve spent a good part of my life actually trying to do this.

Needless to say, perfectionism and control began to look really tempting today.

So naturally, I did the only thing that is always guaranteed to help clear my mind – get coffee.

As I sipped the best Americano I’ve ever had – thank you Jen! – I began to make a list of the people in my life that I’ve hurt.

Sounds positive right?  But I swear, there’s a happy point to this.

I began to walk through each of these situations in more detail.  What was I thinking before and during? How had I reacted?  What did I do or say after?  How had I handled my apology or lack there of?  How did the people in my life react?  How long had I beaten myself up after? The list went on.

I mean I really looked at this.

There were two constant themes I noticed in all of the scenarios I walked through today. 

The first was God’s Grace.  

The second was that I have a major problem.

The first was God’s Grace.  

The second was that I have a major problem.

I can see as clear as day that when I sin, I actually go through a process in my mind where I try to rationalize what I did.

Essentially, I spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy trying to find something in me that is good enough to make what I did okay.  To fix it.  To make it go away.  To redeem it. 

Not only is that totally impossible, but it’s hands down the most frustrating, tail-chasing experience in the world.

We cannot provide our own grace.  We cannot provide our own salvation.  We cannot provide healing and reconciliation.  We cannot provide perfection.

There’s not enough “good” in me to cancel out the “bad”.

Now before you give up on the happy part of this, let me explain how this is actually a good thing.

There is literally nothing you can ever do that cannot be covered by God’s Grace.

The sooner I accept that I can’t “cancel out” sin on my own, the sooner I experience this freedom.

All I can do is repent to God, and to those I hurt.

I’m responsible for my side of the fence.  And no matter how many times I have to re-paint it, God is faithful to provide a new coat.  A fresh start. 

I just have to be willing to let go of my desire to be perfect on my own long enough to receive it.

I’d like to be able to close this blog being able to say that in my 30 minutes drinking coffee and writing this I let go of my desire for perfection and have totally received the Grace offered to me.  But that wouldn’t be truthful.

I still feel terrible.  I still want to be able to go back in time and retract the pain I caused.  If I’m being totally honest I also selfishly and very unfairly want the person I wronged to forgive me on my time table, and in a way that makes me feel like I’m not an awful person who genuinely doesn’t deserve a second chance.

Pride.  Remorse.  Guilt.  Embarrassment.  Control. 

I’m still fighting.

But I do know that God is faithful.  And my process of learning to walk in Grace instead of my own strength is getting much quicker than it used to be.

That doesn’t ever excuse what I did.  It was 100% wrong.  But I’m learning that my VALUE hasn’t changed.  My worth in Christ hasn’t changed. 

He knew that I was going to fail big 2% of the time – and He gave His Son to be the 2% for me.  He gave His Son for moments like this.

He knew that I was going to fail big 2% of the time – and He gave His Son to be the 2% for me.  He gave His Son for moments like this.

Talk about humbling. 

I will never be perfect.  But He is.  And His power is made perfect in my weakness. 

Even in hard moments where I screw up and feel like an idiot, I’m thankful that He chooses to remind me of the power of His Grace.

Without Grace there really is no hope when we blow it. 

With Grace, there is life and life abundantly.

That’s a miracle!  That’s a happy ending every single time we screw up.  There is always Grace.  There is always redemption.  I mean seriously, how amazing is that!?  See, I told you this would end happy!

As 2015 kicks into high gear, I cannot be more thankful that God provided a way to cover the 2% for me. 

My prayer is that 2015 will be a year where we can all say with confidence that His Grace is sufficient.

I’m not saying to go out and intentionally screw up – I’m just saying when those moments happen – do the impossible.  Give up control.  Let God take you through His miraculous process of Grace and forgiveness, and walk forward in the confidence that you are STILL HIS BELOVED.

Wiped clean.  White as snow.  Whole and pure before Him. 

No matter what victories or failures happen in 2015 – His Grace is available for us.

That’s the best gift I can think of for a New Year!    

I don’t know about you, but I’m bringing in the New Year rejoicing that His power is made perfect in our weakness!

by Kari Trent Stageberg

I love Jesus, my family, helping nonprofits, sunshine, football, YoungLife, sushi, my friends, Blue Bell ice cream, traveling, Fall, and life’s amazing adventures.  

I would LOVE to hear your story, and feature you on the blog! To share your story, please contact me at [email protected]