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.

Why not riding a roller coaster is really being brave (no matter what anyone else says)

Bravery doesn’t run rampant in this house.

Me and my girls freak out about bugs.joshua1

We grab for a dry towel when water splashes into our eyes.

We talk through all possibilities and potential scenarios so we won’t freak about what’s new and different. 

We inch into doorways when there’s a room full of new people.

Me and these three daughters of mine, we’re not adventurers or discoverers, explorers or conquerors.  We’re not risk-takers or rock-the-boaters.  We’re not the movers or the shakers.

No, we’re planners and organizers.  We’re the faithful and the hard-working and the folks dipping their toes in all gentle and nervous on the side of the pool to test the waters before jumping in.

I’ve been spending all these years of motherhood encouraging my daughters to have courage. 

I tell them:

It’s okay to make mistakes, so just give it a try.

I tell them:

God is with you, so don’t fear.  Just relax and trust Him.

I tell it to them and maybe along the way I’m preaching to myself.

So, there we were at the amusement park this week for the last hurrah of summer break. And this daughter of mine, the one who screeches the loudest of all about spiders, announces she wants to ride her first big roller coaster.

Oh, yes, the real roller coaster, not the one with a Sesame Street character on the front in the clearly marked kiddie zone.

I balk at her request.  Is she sure?  Really sure?

Oh yes.  Her friends all ride this roller coaster and she has her heart set on it.  Today is the day.  She’s going to do it.

I poll the family.  Anyone else?

Nope.

No one else feels the need for speed today.

So, we visit all the normal rides and enjoy all the usual adventure and it’s just about time to go. 

She pouts.  She really wanted to give it a try and now she’d have to wait another year.

I decide right there that if this child feels the urge to be brave and say yes to what frightens her, then there was no way were leaving without her riding that ride.

Dad took her one way while I took the other non-roller-coaster riders another way.  This was her big moment.

Forty minutes or so later, we meet up again and I throw up my hands in a big question:  “So, how’d it go?”
She didn’t ride.

Dad says it simple.  She looked up at how high it went, down at how low it dropped, and wrinkled up her nose.  Maybe she really didn’t want to ride that ride after all. 

Maybe doing it just ’cause all her friends can do it wouldn’t be so fun for her.

Maybe she just needed to wait a bit longer.

And that’s okay.

Yes, that’s okay.

I was proud of her for stepping up there and looking over that beast of a ride and then making the tough choice to be wise and true to herself.

That’s brave.

I’ve spent a whole month this summer learning to say, “No.”  I’ve learned that bravery doesn’t look the same for everybody.

You stepping out in faith and saying “yes” when God calls, that’s brave.

Me doing what you’re doing just ’cause you’re doing it, or just ’cause it needs to be done? 

Or me doing it just because you want me to or ask me to…or maybe because society tells me I need to or because I don’t want to upset anyone by saying, ‘no’?

That’s not brave.

That’s being a coward in a brave costume.  It’s choosing to give in instead of stand up and say the hardest thing:  No, thanks. 

That young shepherd-warrior David stood in front of the Mighty King Saul and tried on the king’s very own armor (1 Samuel 17).

The King’s protective gear swallowed the teenage boy up. It was hanging off him, clanging and heavy.

It fit Saul perfectly.

It didn’t fit David at all.

So, he had to say, “No.”

That had to take courage, to tell a king, ‘No’ instead of just follow blindly and obediently.

I guess the truth is it takes bravery to do what you know is right, whether that’s saying, ‘Yes’ or saying ‘No.” Courage is knowing what God wants you to do and doing it no matter what.

In Let’s All Be Brave, Annie Downs says, ‘The road to courage is lit by God’s wisdom.”

During this year-long pursuit of God’s presence, I’ve spent this month learning to say, “No.” That meant seeking His wisdom and His opinion over everyone else’s and shaking off the people-pleasing and the cowardice.

Because I want to be where He is. I can do anything if He’s with me and only if He’s with me.

I found courage in His presence.  Courage for yes and Courage for no.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

In Times of Need

They gave her some string, a box, some tape and a few other odds and ends and told her group of second graders to design a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day.

If they’d thrown in a bar of soap and a paperclip, MacGuyver might have been able to break out of a sealed room packed with explosives on a timed detonator with two seconds to spare.020

As it was, these kids designed a contraption that would entice the leprechaun, and then stick him to the floor when he stood on the tape, and finally capture him inside the box.

My daughter described the process to me and I asked her—Did you use peanut butter to lure him in?  Did you have a stick that would hold the box up and then collapse down when you pulled on the string?

“No, mom,” she tells me, “we didn’t have any of that.  We had to use only the things on the desk.”

I could design a successful leprechaun trap, too, if I had more supplies available.  After all, I have experience from all those years as a kid with hamsters that could escape out of the most escape-proof cage and then skitter around the house…until, of course, we laid out our peanut butter trap.

It’s one of those lessons of life, though, the making do with what you have, the realization that sometimes you face circumstances where you feel oh-so-insufficient to meet the demand.

The days are hectic, the to-do list long, and we just don’t have enough time.

The relationships are stretched to breaking, and we don’t have enough patience.

The bills are too much and those unexpected expenses keep dumping themselves down on us, and we just don’t have the money.

The need is overwhelming, weighing down on our shoulders until we’re pressed to the ground, and we just don’t have the strength, or the wisdom, or the experience, or the training, or the spiritual gifts, or the manpower.

I am, after all, only one person and I only have these two hands. 
There are, undoubtedly, only so many hours a day. 
The dollar, sad but true, only stretches so far.

And even though we’ve said it so often before (God will provide) and sang it out so many times (You are more than enough for me), still we feel the lack and still it’s hard to see past the need.

Yet, when Jonathan stood with his armor bearer overlooking the Philistine camp, they were just two guys out scouting a more powerful enemy.  It was crazy to think they could actually win a fight.

But Jonathan knew that whatever the statistics said or however the odds might have stacked against them, “Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6c).

Nothing can hinder our God from rescuing us and equipping us.  Not our lack of resources.  Not the strength of the enemy.  Not the circumstances or the “facts.”  Not our own weaknesses.

That’s why God’s people could walk away from slavery in Egypt without a battle.

Or why a teenage shepherd boy knocked a Philistine giant to the ground with a stone in a slingshot.

That’s why God built an army for David out of “men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of 400 men.”  This rag-tag army came as they were, refugees, runaways, and rejects, and they managed to evade King Saul’s “3,000 elite troops from all Israel” (1 Samuel 22:2 and 24:2).

And that’s why Jonathan and his armor bearer led their nation to a great victory against the enemy that day.  It started with two men stepping out in faith and trusting that God could save them whether they had 10,000 soldiers or just themselves relying on God to rescue them.

Rescue them, He did: terrifying the enemy until they scattered in fear and sending an earthquake at just the right moment.

We just don’t know what resources God will use to provide and deliver.  We can look at our projected income all we want.  We can stare at our day planner and refine the to-do list as much as we please.

We can consider every possibility and take into account the likelihood of this or that.

But if God has decided to deliver us, then deliver us He will…whether by many or by few…and nothing will stand in His way.

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 upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

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.