Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comparing, Conceit, Condemnation, and all those other traps we fall into...

So, I tend to spend a good portion of my inner thought life comparing myself, my homemaking, my wife-tending, my mothering, my walk with God, my (you fill in the blank) to others around me. can anyone else relate? I vascillate (sp?) between puffing up my pride or crushing my own spirit with self-defeat and self-destructive thoughts. Doesn't matter what it is, my heart always seems to find something to dissect, to figure out 'how i measure up' to others, or to believe that's directly in opposition to what the Father says about me and about Himself in His Word. If I'm twig skinny (think, mid-90s as a young adolescent), I want to have curves. Now that I have some 'mommy-induced' curves, um...can i please have the skinny back? ;) If my hair is short, I see a sister's gorgeous flowing locks and want it long. If i see a mom who seems to have it all together with her toned body and five kids in tow (not thinking of anyone in particular - just pulled that one out of a hat!), then I beat myself up for not looking likewise and 'having it all together' (much less brushing my teeth and getting a decent shower everyday!) and I have only one kiddo. A friend gently reminded me today that God gives us grace for the here and now. I have one baby. There's grace for that. Perhaps someday, I'll be blessed with 3, 4, 5 who knows. and there will be grace for those numbers, too. Wow. timely words.

I've been thinking about all of these things in light of the barrage of information we process, the thousands of "windows into peoples' lives" we proverbially look into on a daily basis (thanks, facebook), and all the goings-on of people's worlds and how EASY it is to be like, 'Wow. I'm such a loser." I've been guilty of this attitude too many times than i would like to admit. But the thing is...perhaps there is something greater going on here and something better...

About three days ago, I was having a rough day. I mean, really rough. unshowered, hair = rat's nest, still in pj's in the afternoon, crying, 'down'. You get the picture. I felt like a total failure. Yes, i try to keep a clean home, meal plan, workout, write creative letters to grandmothers who want to 'hear from' Kathryn, edit photos to make them radiant for others, keep up the laundry, reach out to friends and open my home for hospitality, fulfill my ministry responsibilities at church, makedinnergoonwalkswithmybabybeallthingstoallpeoplebeagoodfriendspendtimewithGodparticipateinlocalcharitiesfundraisedonategivegivegive...AAAHHH!!!! and sometimes, it just all comes crashing down in a messy little (sometimes BIG) pile at my feet. I just try, try, try. do, do, do. compare, compare, compare. beat myself up, pride myself in, beat myself up again, puff myself up. you get the point.

that afternoon, Luke graciously assumed responsibility of our precious child and gave me some time to decompress (in between feedings, of course. still working on getting her to take a sippy cup since bottles are a NO GO with this girlie! haha). I plopped on the couch, opened my Bible and just cried some more. I felt so drained, weak, inadequate, like I was not 'measuring up' to "everybody else" (whoever "everybody else" is and who's to say they are demanding i try to 'measure up' to their imaginary standards anyway, right? ugh, the lies we tell ourselves!) i kept stumbling upon promise after promise and wanted to share a few with you here. Another sunbeam from the Father was from Kathryn's little Jesus Storybook Bible. We try to read from it every morning followed by 'prayer time' (which consists of her affectionately trying to suck on my chin or bat at my face or pull my hair like nobody's business! man, that hurts! whilst i keep my eyes tightly shut to prevent my eyeballs from being severely poked by inquisitive baby fingers and pray aloud. she thinks i'm talking to her, of course, and giggles! too cute!) This morning's entry brought healing tears. It's just like God to surprise us with His scandalous love spontaneously 'splashed' here and there when we most need a fresh awareness of it. 

The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:30-31

"I will go before you and will level the mountainsI will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret placesso that you may know that I am the Lordthe God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3 

I just felt like God was speaking directly to me with these passages. (reading through the Bible right now with my Coast Guard Ladies Bible Study and it's been honestly amazing to see how nuggets of scripture have cast such a brilliant glow when reading them anew. And in the 'dry' OT, no less! I've read through the Bible before but I would say this is the first time I've approached it through the lens of seeing the entirety of Scripture as the Grand Drama of God's Redemptive Plan through Jesus. Every verse breathes His name, tells part of His story. Even seeing how Moses, Isaac, Joshua, and others were 'types' of Jesus and foreshadowed His divine personhood & ministry while on the earth). 


Here is the story about God surprising His downcast people with His gracious, lavish love. Taken from the Jesus Storybook Bible and the Scripture references if you are interested in looking them up are: Nehemiah 8-10, Malachi 1, 3, 4 and Ezra 7

Have you ever been to a party that lasted a whole week? How about a sermon that went on all day? Well, that's what happened to God's people after they came home from being slaves. They had forgotten how God wanted them to live, or who they were supposed to be. So Ezra and Nehemiah read them the rules God had given Moses.

But something odd happened: the more the sermon went on, the sadder they got. Why? Was the sermon that boring? No, not really. It was strange, you see. As Ezra read the book of rules, it worked like a mirror. It showed them what they were like, and they didn't like what they saw. They saw that they had not been living the way they should. They saw that they were cruel and selfish. "We've blown it," they cried. "Now God will punish us!" They thought they knew what God was going to do.

But they didn't.

Of course, they might have picked up a clue from Ezra's name which means, "Help is here!" And an even stronger one from Nehemiah's name, because his name means, "God wipes away our tears." And that, as you'll see, is exactly what God was getting ready to do.

Ezra looked at God's children. Great, hot tears were welling up in their eyes and streaming down their cheeks. He stopped his sermon - mid sentence - and shut the book. "We're having a party!" he shouted.

And so that's just what they did! All week long.

"God wants us to be happy!" Ezra said. All day they listened to stories about the wonderful things God had done for His people. How he made the world. How he gave a special promise to Abraham. How he rescued them from slavery. How he spoke to Moses and showed them how to live. How He brought them to a special land. How He rescued them - no matter what, time after time, over and over again - because of His Never-Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

They remembered how God had always, all through the years, been loving His children - keeping His promise to Abraham, taking care of them, forgiving them. Even when they disobeyed. Even when they ran from Him. Even when they thought they didn't need Him. Then God told His children something more...

I can't stop loving you.
You are my heart's Treasure.
But I lost you.
Now I am coming back for you.

I am like the sun that gently shines on you,
chasing away darkness and fear and death.
You'll be so happy -
you'll be like little calves running free
in an open field.

I am going to send my Messenger - the Promised One.
The One you've been waiting for.
The Rescuer.

He's coming! So get ready!

It had taken centuries for God's people to be ready, but now the time had almost come for the best part of God's plan...

God Himself was going to come.

Not to punish his people - but to rescue them. God was getting ready to wipe away every tear from every eye. And the true party was just about to begin...

And finally, here is another verse that penetrated my downtrodden heart...

"Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14

I don't have to 'be', 'do', 'try'...fight. I'm called to be still and let another fight for me. He already has (and continues to) fight for my joy, meaning, identity, significance, growth, acceptance, the list goes on. I'm called to hide myself in Him in order that His beauty would be my beauty. His heartbeat would be my heartbeat. His joys and sorrows would become my joys and sorrows. And even His ultimate triumph was given freely to me as if it were my triumph.

Moses went up to meet with God and came down the mountain visibly radiant. The people marveled at his face and said to one another, 'he must have been with God'. When people hear my words, see my actions, interact with me, do they say, 'Wow. She's really wrapped up in herself - either building herself up or always kicking herself down." or do they say, "Man, she's radiant with the presence of the living God." I honestly don't know nor am I fishing for answers with this post. but i do want to be emptied of my own real or imaginary fears, real or perceived failings, beat ups, pride, self focused agenda, pride, self, self, self. Since kicking yourself to the curb or puffing yourself up, I am learning, is both centered around self...not something more than yourself. I believe living this life is more than personal happiness (is there such a thing?), personal achievement, personal advancement in whatever area you strive for. What if living this life is about living it for something beyond yourself? Below are two books that I want to just throw out there for anyone interested. One i've read and one i've yet to read...

Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall. Here is an interesting post about it. It's a classic and you can find it for a decent price on amazon. 

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. This can easily be read in one day but it's meaty and the Lord really spoke to me through it. Tim Keller is a solid author. Whether or not you are a Christian, this book (and i believe the one above) would bless you. Here is where you can order it. And below is an excerpt from it that stuck like silly putty to my heart:

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble.They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. (emphasis added)

Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.

True gospel-humility means an ego that is not puffed up but filled up. This is totally unique. are we talking about big self-esteem? No. So is it low self-esteem? Certainly not. It is not about self-esteem. Paul simply refuses to play that game (I Cor. 4). He says ‘I don’t care that much about my opinion’ – and that is the secret.

A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.

...and speaking of delighting in the here and now, forgetful of oneself... 

take a baby lost in her own little world. She's perfectly content with the simple things in life, takes no thought of trying to be someone or something else she is not called to be, trusting, restful, always wanting to learn new things from others, and is quietly happy to just be near her mother at all times...I want to be like that. eyes fixed up and out. heart staid upon higher, more glorious endeavors than the old 'self', quietly content as long as my Heavenly Father is near. 

Which He is.

1 comment:

Trace said...

Beautiful post, Lizzy, and beautiful observations. I appreciate you, Trace

"True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings."