Disclaimer 1: this is going to be raw. Personal. Just warning you.
Disclaimer 2: If you see a bunch of quotes or pictures from FLYLEAF lyrics, it's because for the last few months, I've been listening to them on my runs. God has used a handful of the lyrics to really spur me on in digging deeper into my own heart. No, they aren't super theologically deep, but I'm thankful for the thought their lyrics have provoked...
Let me give you a few snippets of my background to flesh out the picture a bit.
Most of my life, I have been one of two extremes:
1. Highly praised and favored or
2. Highly assumed, backstabbed or just...the recipient of mean.
For number 1, the main things I have heard over and again: "You're so encouraging, the most humble person I've met, sweet, kind, beautiful, fun..." ...
For number 2, I won't go into details, but let's just say my trusting vulnerable heart got hurt many times by both guys and girls.
Because I have had so much praise, while at the same time so much hurt, a few things happened.
1. I became puffed up with pride, while...
2. I became insecure in my identity, so...
3. I started becoming a huge people pleaser, which...
4. Over time, lessened my fear of God and increased my fear of man, which...
5. Fed my pride and built up walls to keep people from knowing my ugly, which...
6. Has kept me in a life of legalistic bondage in my thinking, in my talking with God and in my ability to receive and give grace.
7. Kept me seeking man's approval and constantly fearing rejection because my identity was... honestly... built on what others say I am.
*** I'm just going to add here a few more pieces of the picture:
-While I have MUCH to be thankful for during my growing up years (including my parents loving me and doing the best they knew how), I grew up the entirety of my life (up until marriage) not fully knowing what it could look or feel like to have my heart pursued. Not the "oh, you are xyz in all these areas and I love you" kind of pursuit, but the "how is your heart, where are you at, how can I help you, I've gotta call out some sin because I love you" sort of pursuit. I grew up lonely. Secretly, devastatingly lonely, yet terrified of being known at the same time.
Then came marriage.
I have to first say, I am married to the most amazing man I could have ever asked for, God's greatest gift to me outside of my salvation. I am so thankful for my husband. :)
That said... marriage hasn't been easy on me (ha, does any really deep, really wonderful marriage come "easily?").
All of a sudden...
I'm not that encouraging.
I'm one of the most prideful people ever.
Sometimes, I'm sweet and fun.
I'm beautiful, but my sin... not so much.
Fun? Well, now that everything I knew about myself has felt "insulted" let's just say my sense of humor went into hiding a bit.
Now, again, I don't want people to see this as my husband has been unfair or discouraging or anything like that...but, marriage is really a great and very clear mirror for oneself.
Let me just tell you, in the beginning of marriage, I really didn't like the mirror. I bucked it so hard. Tried with everything to turn the mirror onto my husband instead... or anything else that could take the view off me. I didn't receive correction as love... even if done in love. I didn't want to really hear how I was anything but "beautiful." I wanted to be "Princess..." Princess because I was entitled, worthy and beautiful, and wanting the praise for it... not because of what I have now come to know as a "true princess" (if you want to read more about me and being a princess, you can do so here ).
ANYWAY....so many details, but I want to stay focused.
Over four plus years of marriage, God has been doing two big things in my life that are monumentally HUGE for me.
1. Showing me how ugly my sin is
2. Getting rid of the sin
Now, both 1 and 2 are prayers that I have prayed and that God has and still is answered/answering. Both are monumental because it hasn't been until last year that I finally got the desire (by asking for it) to beg God to show me my sin. I wanted to see my sin as great because I wanted my need for my Savior to be great... and to see my GOD as great. Because I have been so highly praised by people, I have begun to realize that I was seeing my sin as "not that bad" (see blogpost specifically on God's work in this area here ). I had become prideful, judging (mostly in my heart, but in marriage, the judging definitely came out!), and to be painfully honest...
I valued the approval, praise and identity of and from people more than I did of and from my great, and beautiful, King of kings, creator and father GOD.
((((Of course, since I am still human, still fighting my flesh till the day this body dies, I still battle the desire for man as my everything. Aka...idolatry.))))
I remember times throughout my life that I'd ask God to show me my sin. But really, deep down, I didn't want to see it, much less deal with it. You see, I have spent so much effort trying to "keep" the identity I've created for myself based on the praises of man, I have had to about kill myself in exhaustion to "protect" myself from being found out...
That I am rejectable. Ugly.
Because I have valued man's identity over my true identity in Christ, every time I have been wounded by people (even unjustly!), I have been too deeply impacted. That is, I have allowed the impact of wounds as they affect my identity to be far too great. Instead of finding joy and freedom and acceptance in Christ, I have justified wallowing in the pain that people cause me when they "reject" me. Which makes the sick cycle deeper as I then try to "work my way towards" or "prove" a certain image of the "beauty" I really am. That means more walls, more denial of sin, more bucking of correction and... just... loneliness.
It is a lonely life to live in bondage to the sins that you are called to repent of and find freedom from in CHRIST because you refuse to even acknowledge their presence in your life as "that bad!"
Paraphrased realities of what my "prettier" thoughts and prayers really are at root level: "I've messed up again. Now I'm sure it will take at least 2 weeks to wait out the disapproval my husband must feel towards me because of my failure. Hopefully I can draw him closer to me in other ways so that maybe I'll be more desirable again." "God, I want you to help me and heal me but I know that my heart isn't right so I'm going to try to be what you want so you might bless me."
No. No, no, no. Where is the humility? The seeking of grace by repenting and being forgiven?? Where is the motivation to have a beautiful heart so that I will honor my God? The desire to encourage people to glorify God and not myself!?
(at least enough)
I can go so much deeper and expound greatly on the realities of the journey to seeing my sin as great, but let's just jump to the GRACE that was given me when I finally earnestly asked God to reveal it to me as such.
Some really hard and painful (to my pride) happenings started slowly bringing to light how ugly my sin really was and, wonders of wonders, God gave me the humility to receive the truth of the Spirit's conviction and FIND PEACE. Joy. A taste of freedom. Again, you can read more about this in a past blogpost linked above.
God took the blinders off. It was like in one moment scales just got ripped from my eyes. My journey to seeing God as bigger and most beautiful, though just beginning, really is helping my identity in him be more weighty and wonderful... and true.
In the wake of scales and blinders being slowly removed, I have begun to experience a real life...
This is where my hurts, wounds and coping mechanisms from over many years come into play.
While many of my wounds are legitimate and need healing and a gentle hand, my response to the wounds has not been healthy... and even sinful many times. Again, this is because of the heavy weight I have placed on man's approval.
As I am being sanctified in the area of seeking out the depths of my sin so that I might see my need for a savior as great, I am also, finally, for the first time in my life that I can remember, asking God to KILL my sin, to really root out everything that is not of Christ.
Whatever. It. Takes.
Woah. Did I actually pray that? Those words, "whatever it takes"... I have not been truly willing to repent of sin and ask for complete change whatever the cost, until recently. I have prayed prayers like, "Lord, change me, sanctify me, but do it gently." ... "Take away this sin, but let me keep ____." ... "Be kind to me, easy on me." You know why I have prayed this way? Because I know that when you pray for God to kill sin, he will answer. And killing sin...
It hurts. Badly.But.
Answer to prayer # 2:
Because I am loving God more than ever these days, the Spirit is working in me to want to root out anything that is keeping me from healing, freedom and wholeness. What a grace! I have become so exhausted lately as I am stepping out on "new to me" waters of making decisions not based on my emotions or my "own" wisdom/logic. The flesh in me is crying out to react in my old comfortable "secure" ways, such as:
- using my own reason and logic
- blame and focus shifting
- protect myself at all costs
- save the face of my fleshly identity
Yet... at the same time, the Spirit in me is urging me to fight with Christ, with the WORD, and to lean not on my own understanding. To lay down my life for the sake of the Gospel and to be willing to be hurt and show love in the face of pain. To experience grace and power in my worth and hope in HIM and not in myself and man. Be willing to see my sin as ugly so that I might see Him IN me as beautiful. And worship him. HIM.
So yes, I can't say I am on the "other side" of my battle to find healing by way of rooting out deep buried uglies and wounds. No, I'm in the the middle of it all. I am already experiencing God answering my "whatever it takes" prayer of bringing things (not of him) up to the surface so I can deal with and get rid of them. What does this look like? It looks like I'm manic (or at least I feel like it)! It looks like in the middle of a conflict with my husband I actually am hearing and wanting to lay myself and my hurts down for the sake of unity, for the sake of something much bigger... but at the exact same time, absolutely despising the idea of letting go of anything and pushing and demanding to be heard and served. In the middle of something I feel is "unjust" towards me from my husband, I am feeling both tender towards him, desiring to know him and love him well, and also raging angry. I'm even experiencing rage that is coming out of "nowhere" at random moments after feeling quite joyful maybe even minutes earlier.
SPIRIT IS WORKING AND WARRING AGAINST FLESH. YES!
God is working. He is answering my prayers, and it hurts. He's sanctifying me in places I've never let the Spirit in before.
So yes, I'm ugly... but it's a beautiful thing.
Lord, "Lead me to the cross where your love poured out. Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down. Rid me of myself, I belong to you. Lead me, lead me to the cross." (Hillsong United)
If anyone reading has any questions or wants more of the above filled in, feel free to message me or talk to me privately, I'd be happy to share more.