Anjuli Paschall understands the never-enough always-aching anxious desire to just keep going. It isn’t just something she feels. We all feel it. Underneath the bustle of endless dirty dishes is a quiet longing for more. We want a soul-awake life. Perhaps Anjuli’s words can usher you into the moment-savoring life you crave. It’s a grace to welcome Anjuli to the farm’s table today…

Guest Post by Anjuli Paschall

It was the perfect day.

I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist in the classical sense. I don’t need the towels straight, but I do need to be perfect for others. I need to have control. Sometimes I think I have a sixth sense of perceiving the feelings of people and the mood in a room. I can read people and the room like I can paint by numbers; it’s so easy. It is my superpower. I have to use it for everything to be perfect. In fact, I must use it. Many “musts” dictate my life.

I call these my ten commandments. Thou shalt not make people unhappy. Thou shalt not upset people. Thou shalt have control. If I break these commandments, something inside of me breaks.

My perfectionist tendency is a strong, almost desperate need to secure everything on the outside, so everything on the inside of me feels powerful.

This perfect day with summer’s arrival was just another day I carried everyone’s emotions. Nothing is better than a summer evening. The gentle warmth, light breeze, and sun that never seemed to set allowed the day to go on forever. My little girls brought out every one of their stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets. They created an observatory to watch the stars from our back deck. On our backs we stargazed, tracing the constellations as though our fingertips were wands. It felt like magic.

Everything was perfect.

My daughter Noelle asked me if she could go to the stars. A painful pulling started to take place inside my soul. Immediately, I imagined my children grown up and gone. My perfect day, tearing.

“Even on my most perfect day, I realize I have no control.”

I am exiting the baby years of motherhood, and I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to let go. All I feel is my heart ripping open as my little girl dreams about touching the stars, moving away, and living a life without me right beside her. Right here, right now, with her next to me, I still have control.

Even on my most perfect day, I realize I have no control.

Probably the most terrifying Bible passage for me is Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I don’t think Jesus is saying to hate people in your life; I think what Jesus means here is don’t cling to people to give you life. Jesus says hate. The invitation is to hate. The invitation is to break.

My “thou shalt nots” need to be broken if I am ever going to live. My idols need to be destroyed.

“My “thou shalt nots” need to be broken if I am ever going to live. My idols need to be destroyed.”

If you could see my idols in physical form, there would be a statue of each one of my children, Sam, and my perfect life with lots of people plopped right onto a shelf like trophies. A statue representing each of my relationships, from parents to sisters to lifelong friends. Statues of my house, the books I’ve written, and my master’s degree. I’d have a statue of my accomplishments, what people think of me, my skin color, my wedding day, motherhood, and my need to manage everyone’s emotions. But the biggest statue, my gold one, would be me.

But the truth is the lower I bow and the more I worship these idols and statues, the more I am walking in death. It’s my own hell. If you have walls lined with self-made statues, you know the death I speak of.

When we go through life quietly chanting, “Please like me, love me, be okay with me, don’t blame me, don’t expose me, don’t leave me, protect them, protect me, give me prosperity, give me power, give me safety, give me worth, tell me I’m good, tell me I’m perfect, give me pardon,” it is like walking in death.

The chanting can be subtle or screaming, but our idols will never be satisfied. We will only live in slavery. The more we worship them, the more the need grows to worship them, the more we must worship them. We need our idols to affirm our goodness. This is the death of a soul.

Dying to the worship of these trophies we’ve elevated as gods is what Christ invites us to do. Die to this empty way of living. Lying with my girls on the perfect day, Jesus was inviting me to smash my idol of the perfect life. Smash the idol I’d made of motherhood. Smash my need for control. There is almost a violence in the smashing. An obliteration. A force. A demolition.

“My identity isn’t in being a superhero, influencer, savior, or soul carrier, but in being a child of God. I belong to God.”

My identity isn’t in being a superhero, influencer, savior, or soul carrier, but in being a child of God. I belong to God.

The only superpower a mother has is to give up power.

I want my sons and daughters to know a mother who sets them free to follow God’s story in them, not a mom who loves with strings attached, suspicious eyes, and a controlling spirit.

Wake up, sister. You don’t have to be bound up inside. Christ can untangle your heart. Watch the movements of your soul. Watch the way your soul-eyes search for power. If you want to see your idols, ask yourself what would smash you if you didn’t have it.

On this perfect day with the morning light and summer breeze I felt my body release.

It was the perfect day. Perfection came through accepting my powerlessness and waking up to God, the One who is all powerful. His power doesn’t demand my perfection or chanting or soul smashing. His power is humble and gentle and kind. His power breathes life into fresh flowers. When all my imperfect statues and “thou shalt nots” are broken, I can finally experience love. The kind of love that sets me free. The kind of love that whispers, “Now, go see the stars.” It was the perfect day.

Where do you turn when you feel empty and incomplete while walking through the fog of mundane living? In Awake: Paying Attention To What Matters Most in a World That’s Pulling You Apart, Anjuli Paschall helps you notice God’s presence in all you do and invites you to wake up to the love of God—a love that is always with you, always pursuing you, and always offering you more of the abundant life you’ve been longing for.

[ Our humble thanks to Bethany House Publishers for their partnership in today’s devotion. ]