Why Choosing New Glasses is Hard When You’re a People-Pleaser (Like Me)

She tells me, “Those look cute on you.”

I wrinkle up my nose and squint my eyes at the mirror.

She’s the sweetest, kindest lady ever, handing me pairs of glasses at the eye doctor’s office.

But I’m a pushover.  One slight hint of someone else’s opinion and I tend to fold up like a pup-tent in a windstorm.

I explain to her that I really like my glasses, the ones I’ve worn for 4-1/2 years that are now cracked, scratched, bent, and about to disintegrate in the palm of my hand.  Can’t I just have something pretty much the same?

She says, ‘They are kind of small’ and points to a few pairs she likes on the shelf.

The pair she hands me aren’t really ‘me.’  They are cool and trendy, big dark frames in that funky retro style that looks great on everyone, but just don’t suit me or who I am.

In that moment, though, I question myself.

She says they look cute.  She says she likes them.

So maybe she’s right?  Maybe all those things I think and feel about myself are wrong?  Maybe I just need to try something different….get wild and crazy for a second.  Maybe I should be more stylish?  Maybe I could grow to like them?

I feel slightly trapped.

Thankfully, I’m rescued from my decision-making paralysis by a friend who works at the office.  She shakes her head, ‘no’ and I feel truly, truly saved as I slip those frames right back onto the display shelf.

I needed someone to back me up.  Given just one more nudge by the sweet and gentle lady trying to help me pick out glasses, I’d have walked right out of there having purchased frames I hated.

And I would have worn them for years.

And I would have hated them every time I put them on my face.

And I would have hated myself for buying them in the first place, for just taking someone else’s opinion as truth without weighing it against the truth I know about myself.

That’s me.  People-pleasing me.  Indecisive me.  Swayed by the slightest push from others and then growing all resentful at the pressure.

The trouble is that this is an opinion-sharing world.  Random people in Wal-Mart like to comment on the groceries you buy and the amount of kids you have crowded around your shopping cart.

God does use people to speak truth to us at times.  They can be a confirmation sent by the Holy Spirit or a loving word of encouragement or challenge just when we need it.

Sometimes, though, they are just people—friends, loved ones, random shoppers with opinions.galatians1

In Scripture, Job endured and ignored the counsel of his friends and his overwhelmed wife’s advice to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9 NIV).

For all their professed spirituality and theological ‘expertise,’ Job’s friends were wrong.

His wife was wrong.

But me, if I had sat there in the sackloth and ashes, would I have discerned the truth?  Would I have held on stubbornly to that challenged faith like Job did or would I have begrudgingly given in?

I’m learning that I must:

  1. Consider the source:  Is this someone whose input has value?
  2. Consider the message: Does what they are saying match up with Scripture?  Does it match up with what the Holy Spirit has been telling me or is this noticeably out of place?
  3. Consider the intent: Are they sharing something prayerfully and in love?  Or are they condemning and hurtful?
  4. Consider the authority: Is this simply an opinion or a way that God is speaking to me?  (Remember that sometimes people even say things are ‘words from the Lord,’ yet they don’t mesh with Scripture or what God has been doing in your life).

In the end, I can’t be both—an obedient servant of Christ or a people-pleaser.  Paul lays it down as an either/or choice:

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 NIV).

“People-pleaser,” after all, is just a polite way of excusing the truth about me:  I’m an idolater,  worshiping the approval of others just as much as any man-carved image of stone or wood.

It takes discernment and courage to decide that “God’s judgment is the only one that counts” (Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living, Todd Wilson) .

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Catching Fireflies on a Summer’s Night

For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:7

It’s what summer looks like to me.

Stepping out into the slightest hint of coolness in the final minutes of a hot summer’s day, we carry an empty Mason jar with a foil lid folded down over the edges of the glass.  The sun drifts down and the light dims so that we can see the fireflies at play.

Last night, I called them “lightning bugs” like we did as kids, and my daughter scrunched up her nose in confusion.

Lightning bugs.  Fireflies.  It’s the freedom of summer.  We stay up past bedtime and run around the yard swinging our arms and cupping our hands trying to catch one.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve scared off the fireflies in our particular area.  They hear us coming and taunt us by flying just a little too high and just a little too far into the woods.

Still, we manage to catch a few.  For those daughters who don’t succeed in the hunt, we gently ease a bug into their hand and they giggle because it tickles, of course.  Then we drop the firefly softly into the Mason jar and deftly replace the foil lid so none escape.

On TV, whenever you see a jar of fireflies, it’s lit up, a natural lantern for the evening jaunt.

But I haven’t seen this.  Last night as I watched the few captives in our jar, they remained dark.  They didn’t expend any energy for light.  Instead, their every effort remained focused on escape.  Most of them immediately scaled the jar and sat at the top, right up against the foil, just waiting for me to open the lid again so they could fly to freedom.

Usually, we manage to defeat their various tactics and keep them in the jar until the end of the night when one daughter whines because she didn’t catch one and another daughter begs to catch just one more.  Then they all ask if we can just keep them overnight or for an hour or just a few minutes.

Pleeeeease?   Pretty please?

But I’m sympathetic to the plight of our captives.  So, before we trudge inside we lift up the foil lid and let loose the fireflies.  They jump into the air and without hesitation light up—probably sending out a warning that predators are on the move.

Whatever their message, freedom helps them shine.

Their freedom comes at little cost to them really.  They’ve made attempts at escape, but most have failed.  Ultimately, their freedom flight simply requires me to lift the foil beneath my fingers.

Our freedom, however, is costly.  Physically, most of us receive the gift of freedom because of the sacrifice of others.  I read this week that Thornton Wilder, the famed American playwright and novelist, fought in both WWI and WWII.  People like him paid the price for people like us.

In the same way, our spiritual freedom carries a high price tag, one we could never pay.  Instead, we are the recipient of freedom because of another’s sacrifice.

Paul tells us:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Freedom is God’s design for us.  It has always been His intention and plan and Christ willingly paid the costly price on our behalf.

A girl in my online Bible study group reminded me of this verse:  “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38 ESV).

Jesus is a freedom-giver, a defeater of oppression and freer of captives.

But Paul charges us with a task, as well. Christ offered us freedom and now it is our job to “stand firm” and refuse to submit to slavery again.

It seems silly, but we often choose prison over the freedom Christ offers.  We sit in the bottom of our Mason jar, unwilling to fly and light up the night.  Perhaps we want to do it on our own, scale the glass, escape the lid.  Perhaps the night air is too frightening and the jar too comfortable because it’s what we know.

Do you do this?

If anxiety is your jail, do you rebuild the prison walls by wallowing in fear, allowing your mind to travel where it shouldn’t, looking up information that you know will disturb you, inciting emotions and then letting them run wild?

When the rigors of legalism and the chains of people-pleasing threaten to oppress you, do you submit–check the boxes, follow the crowd, follow expectations, try not to rock the boat, don’t do anything crazy or radical?

If shame holds you captive, do you allow Satan to throw your past in your face, to call you names, to cover your eyes so you can’t see the totally loved, totally forgiven person Christ has made you?

God never meant for you to live oppressed. 
So, now that He’s offered you freedom . . . live free by living in truth (John 8:32).

Combat lies with the Word.
Feed on a diet of Scripture so that doubts and Satan’s schemes starve.
Be alert to the first sign of shackles and chains as Satan, the world, and even your old habits try to sneak them onto your wrists and feet.

Freedom is Christ’s gift to you, so refuse to accept captivity any longer.  He’s called you to shine and to fly and to share the message of sweet, sweet freedom with other prisoners.

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.

Keeping It Simple and Sweet

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord and He answered me by setting me free”
(Psalm 118:5).

I grew up in a family of five kids.  Life at our house was rowdy, busy, loud and fun.  We were always joking.  We were forever playing games.

Like canasta

Now, canasta was “the family game.”  Sure, we plowed through rounds of Monopoly or Yahtzee, Scrabble, Othello or Clue pretty frequently, too.  Playing canasta, though, was like an initiation rite for us.  Friends and boyfriends or girlfriends all gathered around the table at some point and we began the canasta lessons

Okay, so first we are going to tell you about points.  You see the goal is to reach 5000 points before anyone else.  So, Jokers are worth 50.  Got that?  And Aces and 2’s are 20 points.  Now, Jokers and 2’s are wild cards, but everything else is a natural card.  Cards 8 and higher are worth 10 points and anything less than that is worth 5 points.  Except for 3’s, you see, because red 3’s are special.  If you get one of those, you have to put it down right away on your board and you get 100 points for that at the end of the hand and you get another card to replace it.  Unless you don’t put anything else on the board the whole round in which case the red 3 counts against you.  Got it?  Okay, so now let’s talk about how to freeze the deck . . .

It was dizzying really, trying to explain this game to a newcomer.

Sometimes, it may feel like it’s just as complicated to explain the gospel of grace.

It’s not because grace is so convoluted or hard to understand.  It’s us.  We tangle the web until it’s a jumble of mis-explanations and unnecessary additions.

But Jesus said we should have faith like a child and that means that God’s Good News, the Gospel, is simple enough for a child to understand.

Last night, I listened to my oldest daughter recite her memory verse for church.  Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We broke the verse down and chatted about it.  And as complicated as it may have sounded at first, the message was simple.

We sin and so we’ve earned death.  But because of Jesus, God gave us eternal life.

That’s the whole salvation message right there.  Simple.  Straightforward.  And easy enough for my child to understand during a simple evening chat on our living room sofa.

She learned the verse that summed up Jesus’ entire purpose for coming to this earth: “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).  And she can tell you in one quick verse how we accept the gift of eternal life: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

So, why do we make it so difficult?  Why do we add in requirements and make judgements?  Why do we create hierarchies of sin and levels of righteousness?  Why do we create rituals and blessings that hinge on extra expectations?

That’s what the Pharisees did.  They tried to trip Jesus up with complicated questions about the after-life and regulations about the Sabbath and whose sin was to blame for a man’s blindness.  They delighted in the complexity of the law and rejected the simplicity of grace.

In the same way, we ourselves stumble into being spiritual lawmakers at times.  But we are always doomed to failure in that system of rules and regulations and hoops to jump through.  We become chained, trapped and imprisoned by the law.

Paul called it slavery.  He said it was a “yoke of bondage” that we accept even though “Christ has made us free” (Galatians 5:4).

Free.  Free from condemnation.  Free from perpetually feeling less than.  Free from always having to perform to earn approval, salvation, and nearness to God.  Free from the oppressiveness of perfection.

That’s not to say that God lacks depth or that it’s enough to skirt the surface of the Bible, dwelling in a shallow and superficial understanding of our faith.  Just because the gospel that God has crafted is simple, doesn’t mean God is.

Even Paul, the accomplished Jewish scholar and rhetorical expert, admitted sometimes God was just too much for him to fathom.  He exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33).

And so we plunge the depths of God’s Word, rolling up our sleeves and becoming students of the Bible, not to earn religious accolades, but to know Him.  We want to worship Him in “spirit and an in truth.”  We want to love Him not just with our heart and soul, but with our mind also.

But at the end of the day, we need to be able to explain grace to a child, partly so we can maintain our own focus.

When I was an English teacher, I occasionally marked students’ papers with K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple and Sweet.  That’s what our God did for us.  He knew our propensity to miss the point because we’re ensnared in confusion, so He kept grace simple.  He placed the freedom of the gospel within easy grasp.

If we’re making it difficult, if we’re expecting perfection, if we’re demanding impossible standards and if we’re imposing obstacles to salvation, we’re missing just how simple and sweet God’s grace really is.

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.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King