How can I expect people to believe what God says about them if I don’t believe what God says about me. A month or so ago, I felt the need to pray for a heart of compassion. I thought it a little strange, after all, I’m a missionary. I love the poor and I like to think I’m pretty empathetic towards people, even those that annoy me or speak harshly to me. Regardless, we can always use more love and compassion in our lives so I trusted God was leading me to pray this way for a reason and continued in asking. After a week or so of praying for a heart of compassion, I attended this conference on the Father’s Love. This conference was one of the most powerful events I’ve been to. Every single person was touched by God in some way. In efforts to stay on course with my train of thought, I’ll neglect to say much more about the conference for now. There was a time during this conference where we were asked to take some time to pinpoint lies that have defined our lives, spoken to us by authority figures. For many this was their own fathers and for others with was church authority figures. The idea was to realize the lie, build your identity around the truth and to separate the lie from the individual who spoke it and forgive them. Brokenness perpetuates brokenness and often when individuals pass on a sense of rejection, lack of value, inadequacy, fearfulness, and so on, they do so because they themselves have been subjected to similar negative environments. Striving to please people, making decisions based on fear, behaving in ways so as to attract compliments to feed our need to feel valued are so normal for us. Just to come to the realization that this isn’t the way things have to be is a huge revelation! So I’m sitting at this conference and I’m thinking about who I need to forgive. There have been close authority figures in my life who have nearly crushed me with rejection and lack of value. It took a long time, but I can honestly say I’ve forgiven these people and have been totally freed from bitterness. Praise God! There was no need for me to revisit my past and rehash that which was already taken care of. That being said, I felt compelled by what was being said and I was trying to sort my thoughts and identify how I needed to respond. Then God spoke to my heart (He always brings such clarity), “You need to have compassion on yourself. Forgive yourself.” This was a major revelation for me and difficult at the same time.
The realization of the need to have compassion on myself was very powerful for me, but seeing it play out practically in my life is very difficult. Just a week following this realization, I was speaking at church about my move into full-time missions in the Philippines. It went very well and the church was very generous and kind. A friend came along to support me and he said I spoke really well and people were very encouraged. Here’s the unfiltered inner dialogue version of that experience:
Saturday afternoon (the day before speaking at the Nazarene church): “Oh dear! I’m going to a Nazarene church tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one before. Are they very conservative? Should I be wearing a skirt? Oh no! All I have is one frumpy, gray skirt and no one will like me in that. (I got in the car and drove 30min to a shopping center and started trying on clothes. It’s necessary to note that clothes shopping is one of the activities I despise most) Ugh! This doesn’t fit. When did I gain weight?! I’ve been really healthy and it’s not doing anything for me. What’s the point of trying. I’m so fat. I don’t want to talk in front of people tomorrow. I feel gross now. Oh wait! This fits and looks nice! (checking the tag) Rats! Of course I pick the expensive stuff. I’m poor. I’m fat and poor. (Drove another 30min to another shopping center and still find nothing and the same self degradation continues. Eventually I drive back to the house where I was house sitting for the weekend) There is nothing for me. Why did I even go shopping? It never cheers me up. Now I’ve spent the whole day doing something I hate and doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself. Catie, you know better than that. These thoughts aren’t true and they aren’t from God. Why didn’t you rebuke the devil at the beginning of the day. You’ve spent the day wasting time and you know better. How can you expect to talk about God when you’ve spent the entire day focused on yourself and feeding on lies all day. You don’t have anything worthwhile to say. No one will support you, because you’re just a naive kid. You should have spent the day in prayer and reading your Bible. You failed today. Tomorrow isn’t going to go well. (I was house sitting and I realized in the morning that I had forgotten my razor) AH! You’re wearing a frumpy gray skirt, your legs are hairy, you didn’t get enough sleep, you don’t even know exactly what you are going to share, but it won’t matter because you didn’t focus on God enough and so no one will be impacted when you speak.”
Sunday (As I said, the church was VERY NICE and welcoming and it went well, but after sharing, these where my thoughts): “You started that one thought and you never finished it. You forgot to say so many things. People are probably so confused about what you are doing. You lacked boldness. Did you even stand up straight? I don’t think so. (I got in my car to leave and I looked in the mirror and saw that I left my lip ring in and I started crying as I drove home) You left your lip ring in?! All this effort to be conservative and you leave the mark of rebellion on your face?! You spent the entire day yesterday shopping for a nice skirt because this church might be more conservative and you wanted to make a good impression and after all that trouble you LEAVE IN YOUR LIP RING?! FAIL! Total fail, you idiot. You are not ready for ministry. You can’t even handle your own thoughts much less deal with people with any level of maturity.”
All that unveiled honesty to say I realize my need to ease up on myself. Cornily, I kind of had to sit down with myself and apologize and forgive myself. I wasn’t being nice. I was starting to see the importance of what I said at the beginning of this post: If I can’t believe what God says about me, how can I expect any one else to believe what God says about them. God’s been giving me lots of freedom in this area and lots of practical help. My favorite practical help being flossing. Yes, flossing. I’m slowing things down. Routines aren’t really my thing. I pretty much get up and go at the start day and flop into bed at the end of the day with very little ceremony to either times. Things are now changing. I started flossing, drinking tea in the morning (because you can’t rush drinking a hot liquid), and enacting media-free times (shutting things off a while before I go to sleep, going places without my phone, etc). These things have been so helpful in controlling my thoughts! By slowing things down, I’m making time to actually think about what I’m thinking about and speak truth over myself. Instead of waking up, feeling like a loser and go about my day having the evil thought hover in the back of my mind, now I wake up and I don’t turn on any media, I take time to floss and then I sit down to a cup of tea. I just sit in the quiet for a while, thus forcing me to deal with my thoughts. I’m able to take control and speak truth over myself (often by reading God’s Word), stir up desire for God, and sit and day dream of beautiful ideas with God. Then I can go about my day with a free mind. Doing similar practices at night make for better sleeping, dreaming and waking. Apparently floss, tea and a little self control go a long way.
All this learning the past month or so and I feel I’m starting to finally hear Jesus say about me, “Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6) It’s amazing how much God loves us and how much value He places on us. Its difficult for us to understand the kind of love that requires nothing in return. We always feel the need to perform to earn love, its the nature of the world around us. But, God’s love is seriously unconditional and it amazes me!