Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another Year, Another Chance

"The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!'" (NASB)
Lamentations 3:22-24
As we find ourselves at the start of a brand new year, there are a few ways to perceive it.  Some view it as just another time stamp and desire to continue on with life without any emotional rebirth or recalculation of plans for the future.  Many regard it as a fresh start, with a renewed sense of purpose, fierce anticipation, and an impassioned hope of what lies ahead for them in 2014.  Then there are those who consider it a time to not only reflect, but also realign and reset goals.

After Christmas ends, I always chuckle at how promptly the fitness and gym commercials begin to air.  A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how we, as women, are awfully hard on ourselves.  After having numerous conversations in which I had heard women degrade themselves based solely on appearance (and I am horridly guilty of this, as well), it struck me how overly concerned we girls really are with outward beauty.  You rarely hear another woman say, "Gosh, I wish I could learn to love people more," or, "Man, I really wish I could stop being so jealous," or, "Boy, I really need to work on my critical spirit."  But you often hear, "I've gotta lose 10 pounds," or, "I wish I was taller."  God's Word says we need to be more concerned with our internal beauty than our external (1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart").   So I wondered to myself weeks ago:  If I stood on a downtown street corner and asked women what their Christmas wish for themselves would be, how many would give me an, "inward beauty" wish as their answer?! And how would I answer that question...???

There are many things in the, "outer beauty realm," that I wish I could change about myself by just wishing (praying) or even harder work--thinner thighs, thicker hair, less adult onset acne, no crow's feet, and taller stature, to name just a few.  But what does God have to say about those things?  He couldn't care less.  Of course God wants us to look nice and be a good representative for Him and for our husbands and families.  He wants us to maintain reasonably good physical health to make an effort to care for our bodies--the vessels He terms in His Word as, "the temples of God" (1 Cor. 6:19-20, 1 Cor. 3:17).  However, I personally do not believe physical fitness should be at the top of our personal do list--God's Word tells us it is important, but not above spiritual fitness (1 Timothy 4:8).  I do believe we cannot serve God fully or effectively if we are physically unhealthy or unfit.  But what GOD cares most about is my continued efforts to work on the, "inner beauty realm"--my mental, emotional, and spiritual health.  If I am honest, I have more important issues here.  Personally, I need to work on self-control (namely with eating), patience (especially behind the wheel of my car), and peace--Fruits of the Spirit that do not come easily for me (Gal. 5:22).  I also want to be bolder for Christ this year, praying more fervently for better opportunities to share my faith with others.  I want my life to be more about God and less about me.  Though I have made some significant improvements with fear and worry this past year (the aforementioned and much-needed fruit of, "peace"), I also still need to keep working on letting go of both and fully trusting God with everythingHe wants me to stop fretting about the details in my life that only He can handle.  He wants me to be less-concerned with pleasing people and how others view or treat me.  He wants me to only concern myself with pleasing Him and handling just those things for which He has given me to manage.  He is the only One Whom I should truly fear (Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting:  but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised").

Sometimes, the things on which we think we need to work aren't truly issues with God at all.  In fact, I believe some things that people find unattractive in us are actually things that God put there in His design of us that we should embrace instead of disgrace.  Over a year ago in my quest to find a working band, I sought some advice and counsel from someone well-respected in the music arena.  In fact, this man once worked for Atlantic Records, and I met him through another music friend.  He was very kind and encouraging to me, but he told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously in music, I needed to stop being so, "supplicant."  I had no idea what he meant by this, so I asked him.  He said, "Stop acting like others are doing YOU some favor.  Stop begging them to work with you.  If they don't want to work with you, it's their lossMove on.  When it's right, it's right, and you don't have to suck-up to get valued."  Then both my mother and a close girlfriend told me to stop self-deprecating all the time and apologizing for things for which I don't need to apologize.  So I have tried to work on these, "supplicant" behaviors this past year.   It's funny though--in praying about it further, I have felt the Lord saying over and over, "Just be you.  Stop believing what others say and just be who I made you to be.  Believe what I SAY is true about you."  If you really want to know what God says about you, who you truly are, and who you were created to be, Google, "Scriptures on, 'Who does God say I am?'" and you will find out some amazing things about your own identity.  Though I believe the area of being overly people-pleasing or, "butt-kissy," (let's just call it what it is), is an arena in which I needed some change, I do think being supplicant is sort of who I am.  I also happen to believe it is a trait of which our world of unapologetic entitlements and ego complexes could use MORE not less.  We are all called to live lives of humility and seek to get along with others in unity.  Yes, balance is needed there, as with everything in life.  As Christian author and renowned speaker, Beth Moore, has stated, thinking too much OR too little about oneself is self-absorption on two opposite ends of the spectrum.  Either way you spin it, it's all about you.  But thinking of others more highly than ourselves is what we are called to do in God's Word (Phil. 2:3).

So why did I share that story with you?  Because some of the changes you would wish for yourself may need changing and some do not.  Some may only need a little tweaking--or maybe a fresh perspective.  There are things about you that others despise, that you may despise, or that others try to get you to despise about yourself--but perhaps God does not.  Like Eve in the Garden with the original sin, it is the nature of who we are to be discontent at times (hopefully not all the time).  God gave Eve plenty of other yummy stuff to eat, but she wanted the one thing for which He said, "No." God gives us everything we really need, but we still think we need or deserve more.  Only with God's wisdom can you truly discern what things you should work to improve or change.  God has been whispering to me to just be content in some areas of my life.  Sometimes contentment is actually harder than changing.

We live in such a critical, discontent world.  We are overly critical of others and we are overly critical of ourselves.  If you post too many blessings, joyful, or good things about your life on Facebook, someone will be offended that you are bragging, faking, or overcompensating for something else.  If you post honest, transparent, real, or sad things, you are deemed negative, melodramatic, attention-seeking, and needy.  If you post boring recipes or YouTube links, you are annoyingly filling-up feeds with senseless information, obsessed with the internet, and probably have no real life at all.  In this world, you really can't win where others are concerned.  Someone is going to have a problem with you.  It would behoove us all to remember:  God's Word says that many times the things that bug us about others we often do ourselves (Romans 2:1)--and if we don't do them ourselves, they often bring out other sin issues we DO have (jealousy, gossip, selfishness, pride, ridicule, unmerciful spirit, etc.).  Due to our sin natures, we are never going to be fully at peace with others or ourselves.  But praise God, He is not as hard on us as our fellow man or as we are on ourselves.  As the key verse at the top says, God's great faithfulness to us, in spite of our repeated failures, gives us immense hope.  His unfailing love and His endless mercies give us the gumption to work to get things right in our lives--or at least try.  So today I praise God for giving me another year and another chance to get it right.  Will I succeed?  Sadly, no.  But I will die trying!  None of us is perfect and we never will be.  Thankfully God doesn't require or demand that--He only wants our honest effort at living for Him, and showing others the same faithfulness, mercy, and love that He has shown to us (Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God").  That's really all God expects of us in this life, and I praise Him for it!  I wish you all peace, joy, love, and only God's best.  Happy and blessed New Year, family and friends!