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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Ten (Explained)

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

My Aunt Bonnie is a faithful reader of this Boy Mom blog, the only person who has ever snail-mailed a handwritten note to thank me for these stories I share. This week she sent her comment in an email: Again, is like a gift in the midst of life! Your recent entry, however, left me unsure of the definition of “ten.” And so, for Bonnie and others who could use more explanation, here is the rest of that story…

A year or two ago our church embarked on an initiative to raise the “outreach temperature” of our congregation. One of the ways we’d do this is through staff accountability. Every few weeks for the past several months, our staff has gathered to tell outreach stories, and to rate ourselves on a one-to-ten scale. From the beginning I was honest. I hate number scales. I hate them when I go to the chiropractor and I’m asked to rate my pain. I hate them in surveys. And I especially hate them in the context of spiritual practice. And so, the pastors I work with let me off the hook. No need to give numbers, I’m free to simply tell my stories. Great. Except for one thing. The number scale has already taken up residence inside my head.

I have long been, for better or worse, a straight-A student. I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude. And it was on purpose. It was THE GOAL. If there was a grade, I would achieve it. I couldn’t seem to help it. This was just me.

But this is not healthy. I’ve known this now for a very long time. Sometime in the midst of my 30’s God allowed me to look at my soul in a mirror of sorts. He was sweet about this, but the truth was real. Perfectionist. People-pleaser. Performer. Pride. I call them my P’s – and if you’ve been reading, you’ve heard this before. And then, during a long and exquisite season, stretching across a half-dozen or so years, God in His mercy not only showed me these P’s, but He radically and wholly set me free. It was the very best thing that has ever happened.

Fast-forward. Years have gone by, and I’m in a different season of family and ministry and time-of-life. I’m just a bit weary. Stretched thin. Vulnerable for some reason or another to the old-me reality. And then. Again. God in His mercy comes to my rescue. Last weekend with His whisper of Ten.

He called me a Ten. Sunday morning, early, before church and the last sermon in our IDENTITY series, which was wholly important. Important, too, that I read that book just before bed, basking in this sense of Being the Beloved. Important the next morning, as I sat on my porch, sweetly surrendered. Not striving. Not preforming. Not thinking about numbers, or what I could do to achieve perfection. Just delightfully aware of what it means to be HIS. And it was right then He called me a TEN.

Back in those days of college-striving, I remember hearing something that stuck with me from a particular class. I was learning to be a teacher, and there was this phenomenon called “Self-fulfilling Prophecy.” People tend to become who you tell them they are. A teacher points out a student’s shortcomings, and the child becomes more of the same. Or the teacher sees a student’s potential, brings it to light, and the child shines. I’ve wondered lately if this is the meaning of Ten. Like Bonnie, I realized I wasn’t exactly sure of the definition. Is it self-fulfilling? What I believe about myself will eventually be true? Or is it a goal? He calls me a Ten so I can do something ten-ish?

Honestly I think it’s even better. Here’s what I picture. I am created by my Heavenly Father. He knit me together in my mother’s womb. Everything He did He did on purpose. I was no bigger than little Maisy, and God already knew the me I was going to be. He knew my Myers-Briggs and my top 5 Strengths and my Enneagram score. He knew my hopes and dreams and the ways I’d love. And all of this, He said, is very good.

But I entered a world wildly broken, and I was broken, too. Sin and weakness and limitations, they’re all a part of this earthly existence. Which is the reason for Jesus. Jesus came to repair the curse and to redeem the broken and make all things new. Including me. Shalom and Salvation and the Holy Spirit. Jesus in me is A Perfect Ten.

Which means. Don’t miss this. The Ten is REAL. It’s not just in theory, or a wish for the future. Not self-fulfilling or the ultimate goal. Not a college diploma or a title I earn. There’s no striving or achieving or getting it right. This Ten is a Gift. A Miracle. Grace. It’s Jesus in me. His Holy Spirit.

He is perfect in me, and I’m perfect in Him.

This is TEN.

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