-David, Psalm 18 verse 1
I have been going through Beth Moore's book So Long, Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us with a girlfriend from church. More than any other book on my long list of "books that have impacted my life," this one has made me angry. Not angry at Beth, but at what I see as I read. I guess it's good I'm reading it with someone else.
The whole reason I bought the book was instigated by getting married six and half months ago. Marriage is amazing. God uses it to encourage us, to love us, to give us strength. It's also a mirror. What you put into your relationships, generally speaking, is what you get back. So when you put your whole self into your relationship with your spouse as God designed, you see a much clearer picture of yourself than perhaps you ever have.
That's when I first got angry. What I saw in the mirror was a woman who is confident in God and unafraid--yet still has unaddressed fears and insecurities. I guess a part of me was proud to see that I am not characterized by insecurity, although at one point in my life I was. But I was sad and angry to see that insecurities nevertheless remained.
And it's stupid, really. Insecurity is always stupid when you bring it into the light. One of my biggest problems is that when people close to me are angry, I think it's my fault. This is a big problem living in California where practically everyone I know gets road rage at some point or other. Specifically in marriage, I found myself wanting to appease my husband time and again even though his frustration or irritation were not directed at me and certainly not my fault. In fact, my appeasement usually made it worse, since far from being a sympathetic ear where he could vent his feelings and be over it, I put up walls and fears.
I don't want to be that way.
I also don't want to be so hilarious when it comes to the piano. Somewhere along the road, I got it into my head that when I play, I'm not good enough to make anything pretty come out, and I'm just annoying. I have spent at least the last four years hiding my playing from everyone, up to and including waiting til all three roommates were in class (a rare occurrence) to practice. Even when I felt comfortable enough to play anyway, I turned the volume down and had to fight out the voices in my head doubting my justification of playing.
Am I the only one who feels this way? No--fortunately or unfortunately.
Over the last five years, God has taught me a number of lessons about my position as a writer in his kingdom. My passion and gift is his, and consequently he will make me succeed when and how he desires and I don't have to stress about it. On the flip side, since my writing belongs to him, sometimes that gift and joy might go away, and I just have to trust that it will come back in the right timing. Thirdly, I am a writer because he made me one, not because of what I do. And that third one is a big triumph over an insecurity.
I haven't always been secure in myself as a writer. I always was secure in the knowledge that I love writing, couldn't avoid it if I wanted to, and would have a career somehow involved with writing. But I cared a lot how others perceived my talent. I didn't want people to think I was some kid off the street who decided to write. I didn't want people to think I was a wannabe and that my writing sucked. And I didn't want people to think I was just like 51% of the United States, all of whom want to write a bestseller some day. (Unfortunately, judging by the quality of some bestsellers, that's not too outrageous to conceive.)
Shortly after our engagement, while visiting my husband's family, he and I got coffee with an old friend of his who was also home for the holidays. Halfway through the conversation, my then-fiance, who was eagerly desiring us to bond, said, "Oh, and you have this in common: you're both writers."
Hair raised on necks. Two cats circled each other in confined quarters. Friend or foe? What kind of a writer are you? Are you one of the millions who want to call themselves that, or are you serious about this? Is this truly your passion, or are you demeaning mine? Somehow we navigated those deep waters to a neutral zone of mutual respect, but I am oh so glad that that was the only encounter with another serious writer I had while feeling those insecurities. What makes a person a real writer anyway? It's all bogus labels and words; but it's about something deeper that says, you are not good enough.
Well, that voice is dead wrong. I can point to far more embarrassing situations where I believed the voice enough to make a fool of myself. And I know others who have done worse than I. We are regretting it and we are hurting from it, too. Why do we keep listening?
At some point, we have to lay all our weapons down, our tools and accouterments, our self-decor and frippery. Even our ideals and convictions can become just a cover to hide what we are behind what we wish we were.
The truth is, though we value humility, Christianity is not about self-abasement. Christ died and was glorified. We need to stop being falsely humble, for our sake and the sake of everyone else we encounter. You're a sinner, but you're not scum. The original creation of man was the crowning act in an explosive cosmic masterpiece.
This means we have to get a good look in the mirror. Not the mirror of a spouse, useful as that mirror is for God to help us grow. I mean the mirror of Christ. When reading the gospels, I often find that the interpersonal stories about Jesus make the most sense when you realize that the person he touched was looking into his eyes and seeing their life. They were looking and seeing all the terrible things there: the fear of criticism, the lie that got your friend in trouble but saved your face, the desire to have wild sex with the neighbor girl, you name it.
But they also saw those things being burned up by fire. In the place of those things, you stand as you were meant to be: the passions and joys and sorrows and desires and urges and sensitivities unique to you renewed and redeemed.
We forget often that when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, he said it HAS come. We don't see in Christ a merely picture of our future selves--although this process is certainly not yet complete (definition of a process) and the burning up & renewing is occurring right now. It is not as if we need earn the new self, or try to be the new self with much effort and prayer dejection, or wait sorrowfully for the new self to arrive. It's here! We live in a broken world still, still affected by evil's touch, but constantly being renewed.
Because I'm a nerd, my best picture is from sci-fi. In Doctor Who (new season 1, episodes 9 & 10), the Doctor and Rose encounter alien nanotechnology called "nanogenes": microscopic cloud machines (literally a cloud) who swarm around injured people and make them well. Of course, in the episode the nanogenes have gotten the wrong blueprint of what a healthy human should look like, turning healthy humans into gas-masked freaks. But once the Doctor is able to give the nanogenes an accurate blueprint--the mother of the first child that the nanogenes "healed"--they fix everyone back up to normal.
Imagine that: you are an injured human being, in the midst of the battle between light and dark, truth and deception. You keep getting hurt and heartbroken--lies, disease, loss, your own bad choices. But around you is God's cloud of nanogenes, and they have Jesus as their blueprint. That cloud of nanogenes is constantly healing you back in to tip-top shape.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of nanogenes... er. Either way, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. I am a writer because God made me so. I play lovely tunes on the piano--God think they're lovely. I can stop being worried that I am angering people: I do not anger my God despite my constant mistakes, and he is always by my side loving me, chiding me, encouraging me, challenging me, guiding me. He never rejects me or says he's done and over me. With him, always really does mean forever.
What if we all lived like that?
If you are interested in addressing this issue more in your own life, or if you're a woman (because 99.99999% of us struggle with this, it's true), I suggest looking into Beth Moore's book. You'll see yourself, and you'll get angry. But you'll also find the start of the path toward healing. You'll see that you've been believing lies and there's a better voice to listen to. I hope we all can come out of this cave of darkness we've been led into. The evil one wants us to doubt ourselves so that we will no longer use our gifts and fight the battle. But that is not true. Fight! Win! You are beautiful and people need your warmth and love and smile. People need your gifts.
If you think I'm fostering pride by my over-encouragement, I have to disagree with you. Insecurity often gets tangled up with arrogance in our lives, yes. I was arrogant about being a writer--but it was because arrogance was all I had to tell me that I was one. We cling to our pride because we have not learned to listen to Someone Else tell us we're beautiful, useful, needed, wonderful, beloved, unique, and--most of all--authentic.
If you're like me, I hope you take the journey with God to the roots of your problems too. We need to dig up that which chokes the roses. Maybe we even need some thorns. After all, Jesus wore them.
But this has another application. If you know someone who doubts themselves, encourage them. Lift them up to the voice that is not a human voice; humans always fail at some point. But God doesn't. He will always tell them that they're worthy. And if you know people who are arrogant, don't disparage them. Most pride comes because we disparage ourselves. It's hard to strike the balance of encouraging someone as a wonderful person while not encouraging their delusions, but it can be done. Love them. Maybe they'll realize they are worthy after all, and put down the shield and the weapons.
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
-David, Psalm 18 verse 2