When I started working at CPH in 2015, one of the first things I got to do was a strengths-finder personality test. Everyone in the marketing department had their top five strengths listed on little labels by their desks. Here were my top five:
Achievement. Intellection. Input. Learner. Empathy.
I had never put words to the idea that I am achievement-oriented, but it made total sense. It was why I always wanted to get good grades in school—so I could say that I had achieved those A’s. It was why I had always felt good when I was productive.
But not everything in life can be so neatly defined. How do you achieve being a good friend or spouse or parent? How do you achieve being a good Christian? How do you achieve contentment and happiness?
When My Achievable World Imploded
God gave me a hard lesson (well, a million hard lessons) when I became a mom and an international missionary almost simultaneously. I gave birth to my daughter in August 2020, and two and a half months later, my family accepted an appointment to be missionaries to the Dominican Republic. By January 2021, I had quit my job, and we had moved to the Dominican Republic. My husband’s job was business manager for the LCMS Latin America and Caribbean region. My job was accompanying spouse and stay-at-home mom.
How could I achieve being an accompanying spouse? By just existing when my husband did all the work? Did I achieve being a good stay-at-home mom by keeping my child alive throughout the day and not yelling at anyone? What about all those other things that made me me? What were my achievements when I no longer had a paycheck from the job that gave me a sense of fulfillment or when I no longer gained self-esteem (plus nice calves) from running? Was I supposed to melt into the background while everyone else lived their interesting lives?
This is not to say that being a mom, being an accompanying missionary spouse, or fulfilling any other home-based role is not an achievement in itself. In fact, I had always wanted to be a mom, and I had happily checked that off my list of life achievements.
The problem was that my achievement-orientedness was more than just a personality trait or a motivator. It was the measuring stick I used to determine my identity. And when my life was no longer structured around things that were obviously achievable, I didn’t know how to operate. I had lost sight of how God measures my worth.
God’s Love for Us Is Not Based on Our Achievements
When God looks at me, He sees not my achievements but His Son, Jesus, earning my salvation through His death and resurrection. He sees Jesus’ broken body on the cross in place of my body. He sees Jesus’ blood being poured out in place of my blood. He sees the waters of my Baptism washing my sins away and marking me as His child.
He looks at me and says, “Erica’s a sinner, but I love her anyway, so much so that I sacrificed My Son to die in her place so she can live with Me forever.” He loves me whether I embrace the life He has given me or say, “Really, God?” He forgives all my sins, even the ones that involve me questioning Him.
As evidence of the fact that God doesn’t measure us by our achievements, Jesus holds up children as an example of how we should be in our faith. We read in Mark 10 that when the disciples tried to shoo children away from Jesus, Jesus welcomed the children to Him—children who achieved nothing more than just being there to sit on His lap. Then Jesus said we should receive the kingdom of God as children do.
He was saying we should rely on Him with the helplessness of a newborn who can’t feed or clean or transport itself or give back to its parents in any way. Children don’t earn their parents’ love; their parents just love them anyway. Our heavenly Father loves us the same way. He just does. And it has nothing to do with anything we do.
Jesus Achieves Our Salvation
The dissolution of my achievement-structured life made me fall on my face in front of God (again) and be reminded that my worth is not determined in any way humans measure worth, like successful life things, status, health, or money. God measures my worth by Jesus’ blood, which was shed for me.
The only achievement that makes me worth anything in God’s eyes is Jesus’ achievement—of my place in His kingdom as His child who will be loved forever.
God doesn’t measure us by our achievements. Learn how He measured eight biblical characters.