Laying It Out

Laying It Out October 25, 2013

I finished reading The Pursuit of God. I cannot recommend it enough, but I feel like it should come with a warning. That book shook me to my very core. It convicted. It challenged.  Right now I am caught in a tug of war between my will and my belief. It’s hard to let go of certain aspects of your life when you’ve treasured them for so long. Among the things that I realized I needed to change, was my need to care less about what others thought of me. This is not to say that other’s opinions don’t matter, it is more that God’s opinion should matter most. Yes, He created us to be social, to need community, to need friendship and fellowship — but if we heed voices that don’t point us back to Christ, we have misunderstood one of the primary benefits of  being in the body of Christ.

As you can guess, I get my fair share of feedback for the things I talk about on Facebook, Twitter, here in bloggery, and of course in conversation. Accountability is a blessing. I am a strong proponate of being challenged. I don’t want to be left to myself. If I’m doing something wrong, I want to know about it. Friends don’t let friends walk around with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of their shoe for all the world to see.  The problem isn’t really the feedback I receive (although critique brought in genuine love with the goal being restorative is preferential), the problem is what I do with the feedback.  I’m certainly not saying that I don’t have friends who offer godly advice. I have been blessed with several, but too often I’ve turned down the volume on their words and allowed unhelpful critique to tear down and overwhelm me.  I need to learn to discern truth from lies. I need to take wise criticisms and cultivate them after discarding the chaff.  This has been my internal fight for the last several weeks.

Throughout my life, I’ve struggled most with feelings of worthlessness. Depression has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember.  A sneaky voice has whispered in my ear that my very creation was an accident. That I always have and always will be a disappointment to everyone and that the world would be better off without me. I’ve felt like a hopeless screw up and that I thought I should probably just be quiet and fit in. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ask questions. Don’t speak up. Be cool. Live your life in such a way that nobody will ever be inconvenienced. Haven’t I caused enough trouble already? These thoughts are all lies and I’ve wrestled with them my entire life. But this year, since I started learning more about God, I’ve struggled less and less with this generally and my despair was gradually replaced by joy, but then someone will throw some hostile criticism at me and I would trip on it and fall into the same old puddle of lies. I’d forget the worth my Maker placed on me.  I’d start feeling like a total loser again. Shame. I’d feel lots of shame —  but God doesn’t work like that.  He doesn’t guilt trip us into obedience.  Notice that shame  was only manifested after the fall? God is The Perfect Father, no decent parent delights in discipling their child, even when it must be done. Love does not tear down, it builds up.  In Mark 2:17, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of why He came to Earth,  “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  I echo the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 when he declares, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”   I know I am not worthy of my own merit — nobody is. My worth was not established by my ethnicity, my marriage, my children, my appearance, my works, my possessions or anything else of this world — my worth is not founded in my online persona.  I know all this academically, but making my soul believe it is much more difficult. I know I am His daughter and He delights in me.  He thoughtfully designed every aspect of me from the freckle on the tip of my nose to the one on the bottom of my foot. He knows me better then I know me.  He even gave me particular gifts to bless others with. This is true for ALL of us. We are all made in the very image of God and that, in of itself, makes us a somebody. When I felt the quickening to pursue Him this year,  a deception had already been launched to hinder my pilgrimage. The war has been won, but the battle within myself rages on. In regards to my current struggle, I was blindsided by “friendly” criticism. I had no idea sharing articles on the internet would make such a ruckus! No, of course I don’t think I’m infallible and perfect. I know not everything I do, say and share is useful to everyone. But I also know that we can glorify God with everything we do and that when we seek after God, we will find Him. And I know finding Him will change us. I am seeking Him as best I know how. I feel compelled to share, even though it often seems counter intuitive to saving face (maybe it is).  Even writing this feels ridiculous and I know it will probably annoy some people. But at the same time, I can see Glory shining right through me. It is making me transparent. So much so, in fact, that I don’t even recognize myself anymore. Being open and honest and revealing my thoughts isn’t something I want to do. Who wants to be vulnerable? As I type, my hands are shaking and my heart is beating fast. This feels like folly, but I know it isn’t. I can rest in knowing that this will help someone. At the very least, God is already using it to help me.

While I am uncomfortable saying all this,  I think it is important to be honest. We all know that nobody is perfect. Yet somehow, it is still easy to forget and then we feel needlessly ashamed of our own shortcomings. Remember that shame is a tool of the enemy. We aren’t supposed to wallow in our sins, beating ourselves up, slaping our own wrist or worse. Doing so would hinder progress, it stalls restoration. Ultimately self-deprication does not point to God and sing the praises of His grace.  When our sins are revealed (regardless of how that happens), we need to own up to them and take responsibility. Confess and make restitution and then we try not to sin again — even though we know we will — and when inevitably do, His forgiveness — His grace is ready and waiting to wash over us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When we hide our sins and secretly berate ourselves with them, we aren’t allowing His grace to free us. What glorifies God more than proving that He is bigger? He is the Ultimate, the Almighty, The Beginning and  The End.  My life is littered with God’s grace, I need to talk about it because this gift is available to anyone who wants it. Its no secret. All my failures and mistakes, the ones past and the ones to come, God’s grace can handle them.  I am weak, but His grace is waiting patiently to cover my sins and make me strong.  Grace like that is hard to find, especially when it comes to internet criticism, but I have been blessed.  Grace comes to me from loving friends, family and from my God.  This is something I can really get excited about. This is a game changer!

As I fight with myself, I know in my head that I need to tap out and let God fight this for me. If I can stop struggling for just a minute and rest in His truth and take Him at His word, then I know this battle would be over. So easy to say, so difficult to do. If you are still reading, I am asking for your prayers. Pray that I have the strength to surrender to Him. Pray that I trust God knows what He is doing and can rest in comfort there. Pray that I can discern truth from lies and pray that I can found my confidence in knowing who I am in Christ.

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  • Alyssa

    I just wanted to say how much I have appreciated your writing this year – someone shared a link of yours months ago, and I’ve been encouraged by getting your blog in my inbox. The Lord has worked through you to encourage me at very timely moments already this year, and this comes at the right time, when I am struggling very much with someone close to me who is very competitive. Thanks for the words to lay it down and please God. God bless you!

    • I am so thankful to know that God is using me to help you, Alyssa. May the peace of the Lord be with your spirit.

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