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They can’t know what I’m really thinking. I need to have all my thoughts cohesive. Nothing too specific. I don’t want “them” to find chinks in this armor…
The “Them”. The “Those People”. The “They” who are always accusing, always judging, always misinterpreting my thoughts and actions. The ones I’m afraid will realize that I’m just like them—that I’m imperfect, too.
Ahhh, afraid. They mustn’t know I’m afraid. I’m a Christian! I believe in God. I’m not supposed to fear. Because if I show fear it will mean that I don’t actually believe in God, or that my faith is weak. Weakness! No, no, they mustn’t know this.
God is good. God gives me strength.
Yes, they need to know that I am strong. None of this weakness thing.
God has been teaching me a lot lately.
Yes, yes, I’m becoming intelligent.
I’ve been struggling with many things—wait, no, not struggling—I’ve been dealing with many things—ah yes, that’s better, not to imply that they’ve been exceedingly difficult lessons—and God is faithful. End it about God, there we go.
I’ve said nothing. This is ridiculous. I am not perfect. The “these people” need to know the truth. They need to know what I’m actually dealing with, maybe even with some detail…
BUT WHAT IF THEY THINK—
…no, let them think. Maybe they, too, need to recognize their own imperfections through the light of God’s grace and forgiveness.
BUT WHAT IF THEY SAY SOMETHING AWKWARD?
Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. 🙂
This preface could seem a bit ridiculous, but I am sure most of you can relate.
A moment seldom passes when we are not thinking of how to please the ever-present “they” in our lives. What will they think, what will they say, how will they treat me, and the threatening questions ensue. At the risk of combining too many topics into one post, however, I’ve decided that this current writing really isn’t about the they or them. If anything, it’s merely a plea that you sympathize with my impending vulnerability. I believe that the best we can offer anyone is pure, unfiltered honesty. Especially when it pertains to the goodness of God revealed in one’s life.
So here we go, ready or not.
For most of my life, I have struggled with being imperfect. I don’t think I fully understood it until recently, but that’s what it is. High school helped me realize other girls were skinnier than me, or had better curves. Media awareness blatantly stirred in the sexual hype, and by last summer my self-image issues had gotten almost uncontrollable.
(Wait, did I just say self-image issues?)
Yeah. I did. And the first thing people always do is look at me (or you, or whoever made the statement) and in this ghastly tone they blurt out, “So you think you’re fat?” Well, no, actually, if you must know. I never thought I was fat. I just never thought I was thin enough. I didn’t think I had enough allure. I didn’t think I was proportioned enough or that my stomach was flat enough, or that my face was attractive enough.
Did I think I was fat? Oh no. This isn’t an issue solved by relentless dieting or exercise. This was all-out warfare. I could pick myself apart in seconds. I would let it challenge my value as a woman saved by grace. Everything I did was extreme. If I would exercise, I would keep telling myself I could do more. If it pertained to food, I could always eat less. It was becoming a cruel game, as I would see how far I could inhale so that my stomach would get closer to the inside of my back.
Did I have an eating disorder? No. But I toyed with the thought, often.
Did I not have a loving family? Did I lack friends who were there for me? Did I not have a “saving” relationship with God? How could this be? What was wrong in this recipe for perfect Christianity?
Maybe you laughed when you caught the word “perfect” in the last sentence. I can laugh about it now, too…well, at least it can make me smile. I was striving for an unattainable perfection in my mind. I was wanting to know if I could be loved more or accepted more or be delighted in more…and I wanted to have something to do with it.
But that’s not how grace works. That’s not how mercy works.
See, God takes us in these pitiful, wretched conditions and He picks us up and says, “Hey, I want to see My glory made known in your life. I am going to give you value and worth and you’re not going to get any credit for it, because I want everyone to see the way I love. And nothing you do can ever add or detract from my love. I am giving you the fullest capacity of my love right now, it can never grow and it won’t ever shrink. All you have to do is accept it the way I am giving it to you.”
Well, that was a difficult and long lesson to learn. As most of us know, the power of sin is in secrecy, and any detrimental habit can only be broken when exposed. Revealing this to friends and family was hard, but holding on to it alone was torture.
Before you start sending sympathy cards, though, I have to add that God wasn’t finished working. I’ve noticed His “little” projects always seem to last longer than I originally thought. (Although if He told me the duration at the beginning of the project, I’d probably just throw the blueprints back at Him…so maybe His ways are better…)
Anyway, dealing with the self-image junk allowed for a deeper, bloodier layer to be peeled back inside my heart. I thought self-image had a hold on me, but a closer look revealed that fear was clenched in a death grip.
I was ready to leave at this point. Surely God wasn’t big enough to face my fears for me. I mean, Fear has been controlling my life for so long…couldn’t God have intervened before?! Yeah, um, I think I’ll just keep quiet and maybe He won’t notice.
Too late. He noticed. And He pursued that enemy more than it had been pursuing me. I just needed to be willing for the change.
There are so many ways a person can write about fear. Different angles, aspects, theological tangents…I guess what I’m beginning to understand is that fear is rooted in unbelief, which is nestled in a lie. Seriously! Because when I choose to believe the Truth, any fear is cast away. If I believe that God is my refuge, I don’t fear for my safety. If I believe that God has forgiven me, I don’t fear the ghosts of my past. If I believe that God has redeemed me and made me new, I don’t the depths of hell. If I believe that God is my strength, I don’t fear failure or weakness. But I have to know the Truth, and I have to actively choose to trust it.
Therein was the majority of my problem: I could recognize the lies in my life, but I had not been replacing them with Truth. So instead of fighting my battle, all I was doing was announcing my enemies. (Pffft…whole lotta good that does, huh?) But through godly counsel I learned that I need to retrain my thinking; I need to call the lies for what they are, but then I needed to restore my mind to the right place.
I had the perfect opportunity to do that yesterday.
I decided to go out running—which doesn’t mean I ran the entire time—and on my way back I decided that I could run the rest of the short distance back to my car. I hadn’t gone very far when the eerily familiar¸ raspy voice began to breathe down my neck:
“Youuuu can’t dooo this. You alwaysssss quittt before you plan to. You’re gonna quittttttt now…aren’tttttt youuuu?”
I began to slow down. The voice was right. All it usually took was for me to question my ability, and I promptly obeyed its threat. But yesterday was different. Yesterday, the verse from Philippians 4:13 resonated through my ears, as though it was in my bloodstream. “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”
So I started saying that aloud. And I ran harder.
“I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.”
“I can do all things through Christ.”
“I do not give up.”
“I. DO. NOT. QUIT.”
You see, Satan lost a battle yesterday…
…because Jesus won a long time ago.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…
…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”
– Galatians 5:1, 6b-8