Flaws wouldn’t be so bad if they were invisible

 

Inspections.

My life the last few weeks has been all about inspections as we prep for our move.

This is nerve-wracking and stressful.  We frantically scrub every speck and spot and we pick up every last toy/sock/book/cup/out-of-place thing.  Then we turn on the lights, lock the doors and leave.

Then, while we’re away, inspectors come and look for things wrong with our house.

They don’t look for what’s right.

No one comments on an inspection report about how well we took care of this or how well we cleaned that or how nicely the light shows off the new floor or how they love my furniture layout.

They are looking to pick and complain and find the negative.  Then, as if writing it all down wasn’t enough, they take pictures and draw gigantic arrows to show off the imperfections (just in case you missed them).

When all that’s done, they send the inspection report to others so everyone now sees everything that is wrong.

I have spent most of my life trying to fix or at least cover over personal flaws so they are as unnoticeable to others as possible.

That’s because I have this intense sensitivity to criticism.  When the phone rings or when the email comes through, my first reaction is to make sure no one is mad at me or disappointed in me.

So, maybe this brokenness within makes me more sensitive to this whole inspection process.

The flaw finding.

The flaw magnifying.

The flaw broadcasting.

Maybe you’ve felt the hefty weight of criticism thrown your way recently?  Maybe it feels like another has set herself against you.

So often, these relational breakdowns are caused by a colliding of misunderstandings.  Motives are misinterpreted.  Words taken the wrong way.

Or maybe we really messed up.  Sure, we made a mistake.  We do that sometimes.  Honestly, maybe we even do that often.  And we’re sorry, so very sorry, but we’re imperfect.

And we desperately need the breathing room of grace when we feel suffocated by the demands of perfection.

Long before David became King of Israel, this teenage shepherd boy visited his older brothers at their military encampment.

That’s when he first saw Goliath and the giant Philistine mocked God and taunted God’s people.

The Israelite soldiers stood around shaking in their boots instead of standing up to the enemy.

None of this made sense to David, so he asked a simple question:  “Who is this guy?  How dare he talk about God that way?  What are we going to do to him?” (1 Samuel 17).

David’s older brother, Eliab, responded this way:

 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” (1 Samuel 17:28-29 ESV).

It was unjust and unkind.  Eliab claimed he knew exactly what was in David’s heart and it was evil.

But of course, Eliab was wrong.

And apparently, this wasn’t the first time David’s brother pounced on him unfairly.  After all  David says, “What have I done now?”

David spent a lifetime responding to harshness and unfair criticism.  From his brothers.  From Saul.  From his son, Absalom.

That’s enough to make a guy withdraw inward, to hide away in fear, to cower.

Instead, David leaned into the assurance that God was for him.

He wrote:

in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:11 ESV). 

and

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6 ESV). 

We have an assurance we can lean into also when we feel battered and bruised by condemnation and when people seem eager to pounce on our imperfections.

God loves us enough to cover us with the cross.

There’s nothing negative within us, no sin we’ve committed, no mistake we’ve made that isn’t fully and completely covered by Christ’s death in our place.

He is not out to get us.  He is not inspecting us for all that’s wrong and then condemning us for every flaw He finds.

He is gently making us more like Jesus and loving us the whole time.

So let’s give it to Jesus and move on.  

Let’s rest in grace instead of battling the self-condemnation.  

Let’s trust Him with our reputations when others accuse us unjustly.  

Let’s keep moving forward instead of being cemented to a place of shame or bitterness.

We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.

All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.

A Matter of Opinion

I looked ridiculous.

Standing on my deck in sopping wet, raggedy clothes, barefoot with no makeup and my hair still not fully dry from my shower, I sprayed down a bunch of blankets and clothes with my garden hose.

There I stood, essentially watering my laundry.

Of course, I had a reason for this apparent foolishness.  It was laundry and cleaning day (so who dresses nicely and fixes their hair and makeup for that?)  Part way through the morning, it occurred to me that my laundry was taking an unusually long time in the washing machine.

As in, it was just cycling round and round without ever draining the water and spinning the clothes.

So, I pulled every last piece of laundry out and hauled it to the deck.  Water pooled all over my floor, soaking my socks and shoes, so I stripped them off and plopped them by the back door.  After I had yanked out every last blanket and sock, I bailed out the washing machine by hand, first in buckets and eventually with a tiny plastic cup.

Feeling like I had at least rescued my clothes, it then occurred to me that everything I had placed out in the sun to dry had been immersed in soapy detergent water all morning.  So, before it all dried, I needed to rinse it clean.

With the hose.

Of course.

What else to do . . . drag it all back in the house, flooding every room in the process, so that I could rinse everything out in the shower only to haul it all back outside?

So, I improvised.

After a minute or two of standing there with the hose spraying water on my laundry, I glanced down at myself.  I felt like a sponge that could have been wrung out and probably didn’t look much better.

Then it occurred to me how embarrassing it would be if someone saw me out there, looking ragged and wet and watering my laundry instead of my veggies and flowers.

But then I shrugged it off because it didn’t really matter what anyone thought of me.  The fact was that I had done what needed to be done.

And isn’t that the important thing?  .

Unfortunately, not to me, not all the time.  It’s not so simple for me to shrug off the opinions of others.  I so easily become a marionette in their hands, moving, acting, doing . . . every time they yank a string and make a request. When they criticize, I change.

Yes, I could be a charter member of People Pleasers Anonymous.

The opinion of others becomes god to me, more important than God’s own thoughts about who I am and what He wants me to do.

In the end, though, God’s opinion about us is all that matters.

Throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, God tells exactly what He thought about each particular ruler, ultimately determining whether a king was good (like David) or evil (like Ahab).

About Hezekiah, we read: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV). 

“In the eyes of the Lord . . . “

The Message says it this way, “In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David (2 Kings 18:3 MSG).

“In God’s opinion . . . “

When we feel the heavy weight of criticism and disapproval from others, when they try to slip into seats of control and force us to move this way or that, then we can stop and ask:

What is God’s opinion about me and what I should do?

Hezekiah was a “good king.”  Abraham was the friend of God (James 2:23). David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Mary was “beautiful with God’s beauty,
   Beautiful inside and out!” (Luke 1:28 MSG).

The bride in Song of Solomon declares that her brothers ridiculed her and sent her out to the fields to labor.  She begs the king, “Do not gaze at me because I am dark” (Song of Solomon 1:6).  That was the opinion of others.

But the king looks at his love and declares, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Solomon 4:7).

And his opinion is what mattered.

It’s God’s thoughts about us that should guide our decisions and help us put one foot solidly down on the ground after another, moving in the confident assurance that we are pleasing to Him.

Surely that’s what I desire.  Don’t you?  I don’t want to make it to heaven and say, “Look at all the people who thought I did a good job and whose requests I followed and whose criticism made me change. I pleased them”

No, I want to please God.

I want to be beautiful inside and out, beautiful with God’s beauty, altogether beautiful for Him.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Women Warriors, Part I

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”
Galatians 1:10

“Tinkerbell or Princesses,” I asked my daughters as we stared at the 20 different tubes of children’s toothpaste on the shelves.

“Tinkerbell,” shouts my middle girl.

“Princesses,” shouts my oldest dressed all in pink with bows in her hair.

My baby makes a grab for the Little Einsteins tube on the shelf.

I toss the plain old children’s Crest toothpaste into the cart, noting that it is $1, Tinkerbell is more than $2 and princesses tops out at a whopping almost-$4.  It’s a conspiracy really.  Princess stuff always costs more.  What in the world are we teaching these little girls of ours about materialism and money and . . . .but I digress.

Slowly I’m learning a lesson over and over every day as three little faces flash disappointed glances back at me when I buy toothpaste and when I choose a show on television.

You can’t please everyone all the time.

I want to make everybody happy so desperately.  If I could tiptoe through life with everyone always agreeing with me, that’s what I’d do.

But it’s impossible.  If you go to Wal-Mart with more than 1.5 children, you’ll likely hear the opinions of strangers on your family planning skills.

If you stay at home with your kids, you’ll probably read how you wasted all of the money spent on your education. If you dress up and head out the door every day for work, you’ll probably feel condemned by the moms wearing jeans and flip-flops and toting their kids to the library for story time on a weekday morning.

If you pull out the school books at your kitchen table for your kids each day, moms will hint at the damage you’re doing by not socializing your children enough. If you watch your child step onto a school bus each morning with her back pack and packed lunch, you’ll be reminded that you aren’t protecting your children from worldly indoctrination.

Women Warriors.  That’s what many of us become.  Mama Bears defending our choices against the criticism of others.  We get backed into corners and our claws extend.  So, we spend much of our time engaged in battles, aligning with others on our “side” and slinging weighted insults at the “enemy.”

Let’s face it.  Too much of the time, we women are cruel to other women.

And it’s worse on the Internet.  We sit anonymously behind our computers and hurl our opinions at others.  Throwing around scientific evidence, philosophical arguments, medical findings, and —-yes, even Scripture—we offer proof of why we are right and others are wrong.

So, what’s a girl to do?  How do you make the right choices for you and your family and not feel the need to defend yourself every time you sense the critical stares of random shoppers or read an article railing against the choices you have made?

For starters, we walk in the assurance of our calling.

Do What You Are Called to Do

When the teenage shepherd boy, David, stood in front of King Saul, he boldly announced that he would fight the bellowing giant even though the battle-trained fighting men were cowering in their tents. At first, Saul declared it was impossible.  A wimpy little kid was no match for the expert warrior with size on his side.

But, David prevailed and Saul agreed to let him fight Goliath, with one condition.  David had to wear Saul’s armor.

Saul thought he was helping David out.

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. (1 Samuel 17:38-39).

How often do we try to sling our own personal tunics over the shoulders of other women, assuming that all they need is our advice, our method, our choices, our plans?  We tell them (or imply) that if they want to be good wives, good moms, good Christian women, then they must do it our way and with the tools we ourselves have found useful.

But, the call God has given you is a poor fit for another woman.

In the same way, Saul’s armor confined David’s movements and made him easy prey for Goliath’s attack.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.   Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:39-40).

David had the assurance of his calling.  He knew what God told him to do and how he was supposed to do it.  So, he declined to wear the armor of another and stood against Goliath bare-shouldered instead, hurling a stone in a slingshot over his head, and killing the giant as a result.  He vanquished the enemy that day because he listened to God and not anyone else, even a well-meaning, older, wiser and more experienced king.

When you feel yourself in an Incredible Hulk-like transformation, from reasonable woman to claws-extended She-Mama in defense of your life and family and personal choices, breathe deeply and ask:

  • Am I doing what I know God has called me to do?
  • Is it possible that she, although doing something differently than me, could also be doing what God has called her to do?
  • Can I let her obey God without feeling personally criticized by her every decision and action?
  • Do I really need to defend myself against implied (or stated) criticism?  Or can I instead let it go, choosing to walk confidently in my own calling and not worry about anyone else’s opinion?
  • If I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and she’s doing what she’s supposed to do, then is this war between us necessary?

What has God called you to do?  Whatever it is, do it.  People will disagree with you.  People will criticize you.  People won’t understand.

Sometimes you may need to defend yourself, but there are so many times when we can choose to ignore the snide remarks and disapproving glares, because we know that we are doing what God wants us to do.  And that really should be all that matters.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.