Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Don't Think We've Met Yet

You know that person at work, or maybe someone in your family, that has an opinion about everything?  That person who always has to tell a story just a little bit better than yours; who ends up dominating every conversation with interesting (NOT) tidbits about themselves, their children, or their job?  That person who weighs in on conversations they are not a part of because what they know about the situation must be shared with you?

I'm embarrassed to say that, often, that person is me.  I wish that wasn't true, but it is.  I have caught myself doing all of the above so many times; embarrassed, again and again, by my overstepping behaviors.  I crave the attention and approval of others, and often say and do stupid things in order to obtain it. 

It is one thing to recognize a problem exists; it is quite another thing to understand the genesis of the problem.  I suppose there are many contributing factors--I am female, an oldest child, and am naturally out-going.  However, I believe that a major component of my childhood and adolescence really helped to feed the beast of dominance and control in my personality.

When I was younger, we moved a lot.  My father worked as an owner-operator truck driver, primarily on long-distance routes, and we moved to wherever the work was best.  To put this in perspective, before I was 20, I had moved at least 10 times (that doesn't include a few moves to different houses within the same area), and from Fourth grade through Tenth grade, I changed schools every year.  I lived in Washington, California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; I've truly covered a lot of ground!

Looking back, I'm so glad I had the opportunity to live in so many different places, experience the culture of various parts of our country, and make friends everywhere we went.  But, it is a challenge to be the new kid in school every single year!  I had a choice each year between diving in and finding my way through the existing social strata, or watching from the outside--never fitting in.  I learned quickly that you have to be fearless, friendly, and fast to come up with something to talk about. So, I did.  I became the Trivia Queen--change the subject and I can follow you and even have something to add to the conversation.

That's a great skill for an awkward 14-year old trying to fit in at a new school.  It gets really old in a 49-year old chatting in the office lunchroom.  I get that--I really do.  I just want you to like me and include me in what you are doing.  I go too far sometimes, and end up with my foot in my mouth, because I just couldn't mind my own business, or because I just couldn't let someone else have the spotlight for a little while.  I have made an idol of my own opinion and let that get in the way of seeing that you are right and I am wrong. 

Through my study of Karen Ehman's book "Let. It. Go.", I have come to realize how I allowed my conversational skills to morph into controlling behaviors that have been directed at my husband, children, extended family, church family, and co-workers.  As I have read through this book, I have felt the Holy Spirit administer quite a few "Gibbs-slaps" to the back of my head (but gently, because that's how the Spirit rolls).  This week, my soul has been directed to a powerful reminder of God's agenda found in Galatians 5:22-26

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things, there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."  (emphasis supplied)

As I read this, I realized that Satan has used my natural desire as a young girl to have friends and to be liked, as a tool to shape my personality and my character.  His influence has been so subtle and gradual that I didn't realize who the serpent was, as he whispered in my ear how important it was to be noticed and to be liked and, eventually, to be right.  Conceit and envy are the fruit of that spirit; she who is always noticed and always right, will seldom be liked--and so the lie that Satan tells bears its fruit in controlling behaviors and envy of others, eventually ruining the relationships that were its goal all along.  

How depressing it would be if that were the end of the story!  I can praise God that it is not, and that Satan's lies are exposed by the presence of the glory of God.  As I am reminded of, and prayerfully consider, His promise to cover my foul sins with His robe of righteousness, I am set free!  I don't have to try to find something to talk to God about to get Him to notice me or make Him like me--He already loves me more than I can even comprehend.  

Realizing that God's love can never be earned; understanding that He will always be there to listen and accept me where I am at--that is a transforming experience.  Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the end result. 

I don't have to worry about where I fit it in among the many people I interact with each day.  I can talk to God about anything and He will always listen. 

And, sometimes, He even gets me to just sit still, shut up, and listen.