A friend on Facebook recently shared a picture of some journals with affirmations on their covers. You know the kind—with a loopy, fat-brush-style font telling you to “Make Ideas Happen” or “Be Humble and Rule the World.”

    “Anyone else notice how demanding journal covers have gotten lately?” she asked.

    Here’s this cute little blank book, designed to be an instrument of peaceful reflection, to help you process, plan, write, pray, or sketch your dreams—and it’s been twisted into a blunt force weapon of the Law.

    BE BRAVE WITH YOUR LIFE!

    DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY DREAM!

    ENJOY LIFE!

    EAT MORE CAKE!

    They start off sounding cute and positive and encouraging but, as with any Law, we’re quickly forced to acknowledge how often and how far we fall short of the ideal.

    When you’re not what your journal says you should be

    Be brave with my life? Some days I can barely work up the nerve to just keep things going, in a safe status quo. Do something that requires actual bravery? No thanks!

    If I can’t quit a daydream, is it really a dream? That sounds more nightmarish, to me. What if my dream is to quit? What if I just am a quitter? Never able to stick things out, never able to follow through. I guess if that were the case, maybe I’d quit journaling long before the cover really got to me in the first place.

    Enjoy life? On the day my kid’s in the ER? When I’m surrounded by moving boxes, and the stress of a major life change is making the whole family tense? When I’ve made the same mistake all over again, and created more work on top of work?

    The only one of those I can pretty assuredly do with any regularity is Eat More Cake, and even that brings with it the guilt of unhealthy food choices, added weight, and money wasted on new, larger clothes.

    An alternative affirmation

    These kinds of affirmations will always fall tragically short of creating any real, lasting, positive change in us. Because that’s what the Law does—it simply exposes our sins and our brokenness. And we’re left there, surrounded by the shattered pieces of our attempts at the ideal life, these false affirmations exposing our failures for all the world to see.

    And into our broken, sinful being, the good news of the Gospel comes as a sweet, healing word of grace. Jesus comes to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

    Jesus is brave. Jesus never quits. Jesus is Life itself.

    Jesus, our Savior, puts those demanding journal covers in their proper place: at the foot of the cross. By his death and resurrection, he removes forever the shame of our failure to live up to the Law of the ideal life.

    “[A]s far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12 ESV)

    Take THAT, you demanding journal covers. My Savior’s got me covered.

    Christ > your shortcomings

    Do you know someone struggling under the Law of the ideal life? Maybe you have one or two demanding affirmations that you think should be encouraging you, but that simply expose your shortcomings. Take a moment to share a word of true Gospel with your friends. Fail gloriously at those demanding affirmations, in order to demonstrate the ultimate power of Christ at work for you.

    Above all, hear the promise of Jesus, for you and for all who are overwhelmed by the demands of the ideal life: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV)

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