Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Standing Strong in Your Identity in Christ

I posted this on Facebook last week and thought I'd post it here as well...

3 December 2010

Since I'm stuck on the sofa because of my knee, someone just asked me to write up some thoughts for her as she talks with a friend who struggles with self-image.  This was for someone who knows her identity in Christ but just needs some encouragement in it.   This is not the best written piece since I just blurted out quickly what was in my brain.  But I figured I'd post it anyway for what it is worth since we all struggle with facets of this as times. 

Deep down within a girl’s heart she has questions... am I beautiful... am I worth being chosen... am I worthy of delight... and I worth being fought for?  Am I likable?  These are great questions and we don’t have to be ashamed of them at all – in Christ we find answers to all of these – and in a perfect world the Church and marriage would confirm these answers... but, alas, we’re under the curse and life ain’t quite like that.

Situations in life as we are growing up give “answers” to these questions.  Even seemingly small things make gigantic impacts into what we understand the answers to be of these questions... for example, a father’s response to her daughter (even little things like noticing or not noticing a new haircut, commenting on her weight, telling her she is lovely or never telling her that, etc.) and also a father’s response to her mother and other women (comparing the mom with others, showing the mom godly love, praising her character qualities, etc). all play into a girl’s image about herself and about women’s worth in general.

Add culture’s devaluation of women – even as culture says that women should have rights, they are missing the point and ultimately devaluing and objectifying women – making them into sex objects – we see that in the magazine articles at the grocery store lines, movies, clothing styles, ads, etc.

The world takes women’s strengths and needs and twists them to pervert them.  For example, women are to be delighted in by men (God made women to be attractive to men), women are nurturers, women are emotional, etc. But the world takes each quality and perverts it.  Instead a man taking true delight in his wife's body (like in a godly marriage) women become the sex objects, etc.  Instead of being able to be secure in their femininity,  women are told they have to be like men and become masculine, etc.  There is a major attack on women in our culture today.  (For more on all this I can e-mail you the "book" I wrote which deals more in depth with all this).

Combine this with Satan’s attacks on women – attacking God’s answers to our questions, and attacking women in general (which is a major target for him because the relationship of man and woman is the example of Christ and the Church and is at the core of the Gospel – that is why I would go as far to say that homosexuality, sexual unfaithfulness, etc. are actually forms of blasphemy against the Gospel itself and are such a major spiritual battleground).  All this to say, it is tough being a women and it is tough being strong and always on the alert in the battle of our self image.  About 2/3 of women really struggle with self-image.

Something that is a key for a woman to know – and not just know intellectually but really in her heart - is that the Lord truly delights in her.  That doesn’t mean God loves me because He has to love me because, afterall, Jesus died for me so He better love me.  But an actually “Really likes me”, really delights in me.  The Lord delights in just the way He made me.  I am not a disappointment to Him.  He likes the way I wrinkle my nose.  He likes my odd quirks.  He shaped my toes just the way He wanted them.  He loves it when I am happy.  He likes my laugh.  He delights in showing me how much He loves me throughout the day.  He REALLY delights over me.  He actually delights over me with singing! (Zeph 3:17) He calls me His treasured crown!  (Isaiah 62:3) The God of the universe actually thinks I’m cool!  And The God of the universe’s opinion is really the only one that matters because it is the only truly true truth anyway.   Sometimes I ask the girls what God would say about her and back that up with Scripture.  For example, what does God say specifically about Kathryn (not just generally what God says about people)?  “When God thinks of Kathryn what does He think?  God says ‘Kathryn, I formed you.  You are precious in my sight.  I love you.  You are chosen.  You are mine.’  (All that in just one chapter - Isaiah 43).” Etc. 

But how do we constantly walk in that truth when culture and the Enemy seek  to destroy our joy? 

1.  Preaching the truth to ourselves – constantly reminding ourselves of God’s deep covenant love for us and our acceptance in Him.  When God looks on us He sees Christ's righteousness in us.  Maybe each day picking a truth of your identity (you can type in something like “Who I am in Christ” on a google search and find  listings of verses about this) and camping on it – how about putting a verse that directly applies to it onto a sticky note on your mirror or a 3x5 card you can carry with you (seriously, even in the bathroom you can pull it out and look at it or think about it while driving somewhere or walking to class– these are tons of otherwise lost minutes in the day that you can think on your verse). 

2. Constantly taking negative thoughts captive (those subtle or not so subtle lies we have bought – every time someone says something negative about us/we allow the Enemy to feed us an untruth/we tell one to ourselves, we are put in the position where we either “buy it” and it takes root in our soul or we reject it... we have all “bought” a lot of lies in all sorts of areas and we have to ruthlessly find them and kill them) and replacing them with towers of truth – words from the Word. 

3. Letting go of past mistakes and looking ahead to the victory we have in Christ – we are already seated in the heavenlies even now – our inheritance is sure (Ephesians 2) and, regardless of our past, God calls us His daughters of purity. 

4.  Purposefully identifying and guarding yourself from things that personally pull you down (and don't feel bad if a certain thing causes a struggle for you that isn't a struggle for someone else - we are all different - like magazines don't really affect me - they actually make me irritated.  But when I don't do well on an exam it is a struggle for me not to feel stupid - and I have to guard against dwelling on it).  Maybe for you it will be not reading magazines that preach trash can thinking, limiting communication with certain people that discourage you, TV shows or movies that fill you with negative thoughts about your identity and worth, etc. 

5.  Being ruthless.  Be ruthless for the truth.  Although self-pity, negative self-image can seem like a comforting friend sometimes, it is straight from the pit of Hell.  Even silly things can be of help – like in times past when a negative thought has come to me as I am in a store walking around, I actually will step backwards and step again as I think: “That’s not of God.  I’m rejecting that and am going to take that step in thinking the truth.”

6.  Another thing that is important is that one differentiates the difference between God as her Heavenly Father’s view of her from her earthly father (or other male figure’s) views (or perceived views – a lot of times a guy doesn’t even realize how he has said something that hurt her – such as he was just trying to help her when he said her hair looked better before she got it cut.  Not that he doesn’t like it now but he liked it better before.  He was just trying to be honest and didn’t even know it hurt her feelings – guys just are sooo different than girls and just don’t get how girls think.  They are also “fixers” and want to “fix” the problem – they think that’s what a girl wants because that is what they would want and how they would feel most loved - when girls often are just asking for emotional comfort.  My favorite example of this is from my own life – when I was almost arrested for stealing my own car (I had just bought a few minutes before) when I lived in DC and, crying, I called my dad as I freaked out.  I wanted some emotional comfort:  “Oh, you must feel so scared” but all he did was try to fix the problem “Next time when you buy a car from someone and it is still registered in the other person’s name, you need to have the title with you.”  It is one of our favorite stories now, but at the time it was frustrating.  Anyway, we must learn to camp on the reality of who God says we are instead of what we feel other men told us about our worth (or anyone for that matter - so that means what the girl who sat next to you in 6th grade said about you having an ugly nose, or the attitudes of the others in your church as they quietly scoff you since they don't think your shoes are cool) (shock! even at church our identity can be attacked) just are not what your identity is based on and need to be taken out with the garbage.   

7.  And a major thing -   immersing yourself in Scripture.  Really know God.  Marinate in God’s Word.  As it comes alive to you it will all start clicking together and powerfully impact your whole reality.  One thing I trump a lot and won’t ever tire of saying, is read the Bible as many times as possible while you are single.  That’s when you have the most time and that’s when you need to really come to solid grips with your identity (it will be monumentally beneficially for the rest of your life and all future relationships).  Reading only a few verses out of one’s devotional each morning just doesn’t cut it.  And, it creates opportunity for taking things out of context (I am sorry to disappoint you, Christian bookstores of America, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” just doesn’t really apply to winning a relay race).  Busyness is not a good enough excuse.  I know the Enemy is going to do all he can to get His daughters and sons out of the Word.  But fight it.  When I was in DC my mom challenged me to never let a day go by without at least reading a Proverb.  That kept me in the Word.  Even if I’d initially forget and had gone to bed already, I would get up and make myself read it.  Seems like a silly thing but it made me stay committed.  The second year I was in DC I decided to read the Bible through twice a year.   I have done that since – one year read it four times – and that was one of my busiest years.  It is crazy because now when I’m reading a passage that I’ve read a bunch of times already it will just leaps off the page and connects with a totally different book of the Bible and just make so much sense.  And yet I know 40 years from now I'll still be finding wonderful new things as I read.  I’ve taken a whole paragraph to talk about this – but I guess it is because I am soooo passionate about this.  The more one knows God’s truth the more one knows their God and their identity in Him and how this identity fits into all of history.