If you didn't read yesterday's post, bring yourself up to speed here.
A week or so before The Big Day, a friend who loves a good book as much as I do suggested a new title and author. I picked it up and knew immediately it was going to speak to some areas in my Christian life that needed attention. You see, I already knew something was off. I had a slight idea, but soon I would know fully.
I couldn't put the book down. I read it in a few days. The first few were brutal. The truth hurt.
What I found deep down as I read the author's story wasn't pretty. And it needed to be dealt with. I spent the next few days beating myself up because I've been down this road before. This stuff was not unfamiliar. I've battled it before. More on that later.
Have you experienced this? The Lord turned the mirror around and I saw sin that I am well acquainted with and despise, hoping it was a thing of the past but it crept back in somehow, unnoticed by my always probing eye. But that is part of the problem. That eye.
Do you remember when I wrote about my 2018 Lent experience? All the junk that surfaced from deep inside? Yeah, that. Self-absorption, self-preoccupation, self-consciousness, and the newest offender - self-evaluation. The one that fuels all the rest.
It stems from the stronghold of comparing with others. When I compare, I come up wanting. When I come up wanting, I do one of two things.
1. Self-soothe with shopping or naughty eating. Or 2. I plunge into any self-improvement strategy that comes my way or that I hungrily pursue. Did you notice more 'selfs' just arrived on the scene? The problem with this nasty 's' word is the one that accompanies it - consumed. Consumed with self-evaluation and self-improvement. Can we just stop and collectively say "ew"?
This is not good, friends. Ultimately, all these things point to the sin of pride, which is the thing I pray most against because I know my propensity toward it.
Now that it's all been identified and named, what do I do? Do business with God that's what.
The best way I know to do this is getting alone with my Bible and a journal. I wept as I wrote down all my confessions, hoping my children don't read it one day after I'm gone. It is embarrassing. I am 50 years old and still in this sticky trap. I came clean and told God how sorry I am. I was specific with each infraction because I know one can't repent if she doesn't deliberately turn away from the action.
Then I read some beautiful passages in the Bible that began to set me free. Ephesians 2 and Colossians 3 particularly. I learned that I am seated in and with Christ. A right now and future position. The right now is that I sit at a round table full of other Christ-followers. All equal. All gifted. No need for comparison because we are on the same team. Team Jesus!
My job is to fix my gaze on Jesus and adore Him. When I do that, I will have no time to obsess about my appearance, my financial situation or my achievements - all things I tend to use to measure my worth and identity. All I have to do is accomplish the works He has created in advance for me to do to bring Him glory during my time on Earth.
It's so much simpler than I've been making it. Sacred echoes (when God sends the same message through several different mediums) emerged all week as I worked through these passages.
It is finished - I don't have to keep trying to finish what's already done. I am enough for Jesus - I need to be enough for me and stop trying to improve.
Freedom - what Jesus secured for me on the cross. Free to roam around in the safe boundaries He has set for me, requiring no approval or affection from any person in my life.
I don't know how God does it, but truly He shows up in the middle of our confessions, accepts them and comforts with His presence.
In that area anyway, but there was still battle going on.
In my weakened state, the enemy took advantage. What I mean is that I got all the stuff right with God, but I was still at war within over other things. He convinced me that every compliment I might receive is false flattery. I didn't believe even one (which is likely why I fell into the self-evaluation and self-improvement mess). He pitched out the idea that because we've moved away from our friend groups, up here in the isolated mountains, that I've been forgotten and most of them don't need or want me anymore - that I'd lost my place. When I looked at photos of my children when they were small I would cry, remembering only the ugly - was I too strict?; I didn't talk nice and yelled too much; why was I so impatient?; surely they don't remember their childhood with fondness. The regrets eclipsed any happy memories.
Gross, isn't it? Satan is mean. He wants to discourage us to the point of disbelief and paralysis. I confessed these fears to Scott and a friend. They rejected their validity and told me it was all lies.
Remember, this was happening during my 50th birthday week. Regardless of what I wrote in the previous post, I really was asking God to lower my expectations and shift my focus from self. That His love and approval would be enough.
I prayed, "God, help me see the truth. Don't let me swing into pride, but help me to see what you see."
Fast forward to Saturday night and a room full of women who affirmed lasting friendships that can withstand time and distance, my daughter who handed me the most beautiful letter she wrote about our relationship, and a special package of things I'd love from another darling young woman I've only seen twice in 25 years, which included a page she wrote '50 things about you that matter to me'. And that's just three of the meaningful sentiments given that night.
I was undone. This party was about so much more than my husband making a big deal about my birthday. It goes so infinitely deeper. God sees me. God knows me. God cares about what troubles me and He rescued me when I found myself in deep waters. He is patient when I struggle. He is loving and faithful to all His promises. And He used my attentive husband's planning to speak to me. I went to bed that night soul-filled, worshipful, eager for Sunday.
The next morning we were in church listening to our pastor's sermon and this is what I heard: "We will all struggle with sin. That's not the problem. That's part of the process. The problem comes when we surrender to the temptation to sin."
More freedom! You see, even once I realized what was happening as described above, I was still beating myself up, so mad for struggling with this junk (again). I knew better. I should be past this. But no, our struggle with sin isn't the problem - we're always going to have that. It doesn't make God mad or disappointed with us.
What needs to happen is that we wrestle the thing to the ground, show it who's boss (Jesus conquered sin on our behalf, we have power to say no), and then leave it there. Move on, girl. Don't give the devil time to send our minds into a whirlwind of lies.
Friends, this is why we need to go to church! God speaks when His Word is taught and we come eager to hear. There are few things I love more than when He brings all the sacred echoes together just like that.
I was hoping this would be a benchmark, line drawn in the sand, new direction for a new decade kind of birthday and it is. Nothing quite like a fresh start. I'm ready to go forward and leave all the 's' words back in my 40's.