Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where is my worth?

I realized yesterday in a conversation with Josh that something deep in me is not necessarily in everyone.

I want everyone to think I'm perfect. It upsets me when people see my faults, and it devastates me when people don't like me. I try to hide my faults and mistakes from Josh as much as possible because i think the more bad qualities he sees in me, the less he'll love me.

I told him this yesterday. I said, "Don't you feel that way?" He said no.

What I realized through the rest of our conversation is that I base so much of my confidence on being "perfect" and being likeable to everyone that when I am criticized, I receive it as a criticism of who I am, my whole identity, instead of a criticism of a behavior I can change.

Josh said, "I am a confident person. When you don't like something I do, I know I can change it."

This isn't how my brain works. I said, if you're a confident person, why are you so willing to change?

He said, "because my confidence isn't in my behaviors. Those aren't who I am." Then he explained it this way, which has been simmering in my head for the last 24 hours:

It's like with our salvation. Christ loves us. We're His. But we don't become His and then never change. We're called to be imitators of Christ. Christ was humble, yet He was perfect. We aren't perfect at all, so we need to be humble and then be willing to change to be like Him. Admitting fault is not the same as admitting worthlessness.

This idea of Christ embracing humility in spite of His perfection is in Philippians 2:3-11.

I think this is a big key to being a good apologizer that I've been missing. Admitting that you're wrong and apologizing is not admitting that you're worthless. It is having enough confidence in what is right that you are willing to change the things that are wrong.

It's not being afraid of being wrong, because you truly want to do what's right, not just "be right" in your mind. It's imitating Christ, not trying to be perfect on your own.

This is going to take a lot of practice for me to internalize. But I feel a little refreshed that I can strive for humility and openness instead of perfection.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who am I serving?

Several weeks ago, there was a message at church called Greatness Redefined. The gist, to simplify it to the point that resonated with me, was that serving others is greater than being served. In God's eyes, you are "great" if you are a servant to those around you, not if you have certain status or image.

It took awhile for this to sink in for me. In a real way, at least.

It sounded pretty simple, because how I often do I tell people to serve me? I don't seek to be served. Well, maybe not literally, if you're picturing the whole feet-washing scenario or treating those around you like your personal waitstaff. But that kind of serving isn't really the point here. Taking it so literally was really a way of copping out.

When I started to think of it in terms of my spiritual life, things changed for me. How much of my spiritual life is made up of me serving, and how much of it is me being served? When I go to church, I'm served by the worship team, the pastor, the people who welcome me and the people who make and set up the coffee. I'm also served by those who maintain the building, the volunteers who run the sound and slides, and a lot more people who I don't even think of. I don't have to give anything back. I just go and get filled up.

When I go to lifegroup, I definitely spend time encouraging the people around me and building relationships, but for the most part I'm served by the leaders who prepare the discussion and the people who give up their home every week to host. I don't have to put much thought into it; I go, I get filled up.

If I'm really being honest with myself, this is how a lot of things all throughout my spiritual life have been. I'm very involved in church, but how much am I really serving versus how much I am being served?

I knew before we moved to Colorado that one of the first things I wanted to do at our new church was work with students. I've never done it on a really deep level before, and while I knew it would be a commitment and an investment, I didn't really know what to expect.

About a month ago, on a Wednesday when I had worked all day and wanted nothing more than to crash on the couch for the rest of the night, there was a student ministries event. It was only one week until my middle school girls lifegroup was starting up, so I wanted to go and start getting to know the girls. But boy, was I tired. I did not want to give of myself. I did not want to be drained for the sake of someone else.

It turned out that God gave me more renewed energy and excitement and strength through serving that night than I ever would have gotten from a few hours vegging on the couch. One girl who hadn't even heard of lifegroups at the beginning of the night left with information about my group and excited about getting involved. Serving was so much more rewarding than being served.

Since then, co-leading a lifegroup and getting to know these middle school girls is turning out to be one of my favorite things I've ever ventured to do. Besides the fact that I am forced to think about something more important than myself at least once a week, I am inspired by their faith and insights, humbled by the fact that I am an example to other girls who are in the same vulnerable place I was in ten years ago, and so excited each week at the potential for God to use me in big ways.

I don't think I can completely explain it, because I know that before I did this, the thought of "another thing to do" overwhelmed my ability to imagine the possibilities of serving. It's just a matter of stepping out and putting yourself in a situation where God can use your gifts to touch other people. Then watch what He will do!

Monday, September 13, 2010

This is where the healing begins

Sometimes, a song can really hit me right where I am. Not even just where I am in a stage in life, but where I am that day or afternoon. Since we've been in Colorado and have two different Christian radio stations, I've been hearing a lot more good Christian music than I ever did in Florida.

Today I finally faced up to some struggles I've been having and shared them with a friend. Talking to someone who will not only listen when you need help but will also give you godly, wise advice is so important. Knowing I'm not alone and that someone I trust will keep me accountable changes the whole battle. After talking to her and, in the process, coming clean to myself, I felt broken in that I wasn't trying to hide or fool myself anymore. I was ready to trust God for real and start handing myself daily, hourly, minute-by-minute over to Him.

This afternoon I heard Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North, which I've always liked but hadn't heard in a while. I really listened to the words and just sat for a while thinking on them. It's a really powerful song, so I wanted to share it.

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear

So let it fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now
We're here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don't fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

Saturday, September 4, 2010

That isn't what you learned about Christ.

Paul wrote Ephesians to believers who were living in a culture of unbelief and sin. As I read Ephesians 4:17-24 this morning, I felt like Paul was writing to me in my culture.
Verses 17-19 sum up the problem:
Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
Here's the turning point in verses 20-22.
But that isn't what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
Here's how we do that (verses 23-24).

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God -- truly righteous and holy.

This is big for me not because I forget that I live in a culture that is full of darkness and hardened against God, but because I start to think the goal is to be a little bit better than the world rather than to be as radically different as possible.

As I struggle against temptation -- and wow, is Satan attacking me in this time of my life -- I tend to live in justifications.

Entertaining "what ifs" and sinful thoughts are not as bad as actually acting on my thoughts, right? I mean, t0ns of people do the things I'm thinking about, so I'm not hurting anyone.

Paul says, "that isn't what you learned about Christ. ... let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes." Notice he doesn't say renew your actions, the things on the outside that are exposed. Renew your thoughts and attitudes. Those desires, lusts, judgments and rages that you keep entrenched on the inside where no one can find you out or set you straight. Where Satan can continue to keep you in secret chains.

Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23,

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.

The only way I can get rid of the darkness that tries to take hold inside of me is to be filled with and renewed by God's Spirit. That means a lot of prayer and honest surrender of the desires that I want to cling to.

Dear X by Disciple describes the constant battle with sins of the heart and has become something of an anthem for me.