Thursday, November 14, 2013

I Am Not A Barbie Doll

Comparisons have been a struggle for me since the day my sister was born.  But, it didn't stop there--with each new sibling (there are four of us) another competitor entered the ring.  Just as my youngest sister arrived, I entered Kindergarten and found out there were a lot of kids all trying to get the attention of one teacher!  They all needed hugs and encouragement, and so I learned more about sharing both toys and affection.  I think that's how the trap of comparison begins.  The lesson that it's "not all about me" is an important one, but somehow it is so easily distorted into a message that we will never be as good as the others around us.  At least that's how it is for many of the women I know. 

We compare our appearance, our education, our children, and our spouses.  We compare our recipes at church potluck dinners and the decor in our homes.  In nearly every woman's mind is a small voice asking

"Why can't I cook like she does?"

"Why are my children the only ones acting up?"

"How does she get her hair to do that?"

"When will I get my act together and get my house decorated like hers?"

"Why did she get credit for her project, but I didn't get any for mine?"

 The devil has used this issue to harass and discourage me for as long as I can remember and I have followed him down that rabbit hole more times than I would care to admit. At what point did I stop listening to God's message of love and encouragement and begin hearing nothing but the voice of the enemy whispering messages of discouragement?  How did I let myself become so deceived about what God really asks of me?

I blame adolescence.  Hormones, high school, and home problems.  That's the point where I stopped listening to the loving encouragement of my family about my true identity and started taking a serious look at the other females around me and how much better they were than me at just about everything.  It makes me laugh to look back at it now, because I realize that most of them were looking around thinking the same things.  We were all awash in the sea of adolescent anxiety, with its 50 foot waves of hormones, and rational thought was swamped!  Surrounded by that intense experience of not measuring up, many of us began using the same defense mechanism--putting the others down through criticism and gossip in order to make ourselves feel better. 

If those kinds of choices ended with high school, it probably wouldn't be so bad, but often that way of coping with comparison goes on for decades, ruining friendships and leading to superficial relationships in every area of life.  Comparison becomes a way of life; a slow spiral downward of negativity and discouragement.

This is not the life God chooses for me, as His daughter.  He speaks to me in the same voice he used with the Woman at the Well (John, Chapter Four), the Woman caught in Adultery (John, Chapter Eight), and Martha (Luke, Chapter 10).  He offers encouragement based on truth.  He doesn't condemn my mistakes; He encourages me to acknowledge them and then move past them.  I can stop falling into the comparison trap when looking at the women around me.  I can see each of us as who we really are.  I am not a Barbie doll--perfect in a superficial, manufactured kind of way.  I am His--and that is enough. That is the truth about who I am--I am chosen and I am loved; I am forgiven and I am redeemed. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Getting my Good Enough From God

I recently participated in a group discussion on Facebook among women who are studying together the book "A Confident Heart" by Renee Swope.  Many of the topics we discussed were light-hearted and and revolved around our preparations for the upcoming Holiday Season.  There was one question, however, that unified the group in an way I did not expect.

The question:  "What doubt do you want to turn away from?"

The answers:  Almost every answer revolved around the statement "That I am not good enough".

I'm not a good enough mother.  I'm not a good enough wife.  I'm not a good enough daughter.  The list moved on from there. . .I'm not good enough at my job or in my church position.  My words aren't good enough; I'm a terrible cook or housekeeper.  I'm not a good enough neighbor. 

That's a lot of doubt my friends!  Every single comment contained some aspect of the "good enough" issue!  As I read them, my heart ached for all of us.  This was a group of godly women brought together in fellowship and caring and our number one doubt concerned being "good enough" for everyone around us. 

Frankly, I was surprised that so many were willing to share this burden.  I knew I felt that way, and I knew a few others struggled with this issue, but I thought we were in the minority.  I look around at work and at church and in the mall and I see a lot of women who seem to have things pretty well in hand.  They appear confident and happy.  They couldn't possibly feel as overwhelmed and unworthy as I do, at times.

I guess the key is that word appear.  It's all on the outside--the confidence; the calm exterior.  It's like piece of wrapping paper that we put around ourselves as a protective armor, thinking that if the package is wrapped up nicely no one will see the doubt and discouragement lurking beneath.  But, wrapping paper makes terrible armor!  It gets worn and it tears and soon some of what is hiding becomes visible.  We can get so busy re-wrapping ourselves, trying to hide what we don't want others to see, that we never address the real problem.

We aren't good enough.  There isn't enough wrapping paper in the world to keep our unworthiness hidden. 

We need to get our good enough from God.  We need the sacrifice of Christ to cover our crimson sins and make us as white as snow.  We need His love to infuse our thoughts and our words and our actions.  We need to put on God's armor--His belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:13-17).  God's armor will never wear and tear and lay us bare to condemnation.

And we need to remember one more thing--"We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  (Hebrews 4:15-17) 

I'm pretty sure that means that God has my back. He knows about every doubt, every time I make a mistake or hurt someone I love, every hidden sin, and every word of discouragement that Satan is speaking into my heart.  The writer of Hebrews assures me that God does know my pain; He sees my tears and hears the unspoken doubts in my heart.  Jesus can sympathize with every bit of the ugly I experience because He came and lived in this ugly world and He hurt, too.  He endured all of that for me, so that I could come to Him and lay all of my burdens at His feet and surrender my pain and doubt to Him.  I can tell Him that I hurt and that nothing I do seems to be good enough, and He will hold me close and look me in the eyes and tell me the truth. . . .

God is my good enough.