Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hiding My Dirty Dishes

It was a Sunday evening. The dirty dishes were piled high in and around the kitchen sink. I’m a gal who likes to keep a clean house, but I tend to relax things a bit on the day of rest. A girl needs a day off, don’t ya think?!  :)

Wouldn’t you know it, some friends decided to stop in for a visit. Hear me out here, I enjoy having friends stop in - I was just a bit embarrassed about the heaping mound of dishes awaiting them right there in plain sight.

My husband said, “Someone's pulling into the driveway.” As silly as it sounds, I rushed to the sink…and hid half (or more) of the dirty dishes in the nearby laundry area. I guess I wasn’t embarrassed that half of them remained. Things looked a bit more “presentable.”

We visited with our friends. The conversation was good and I was thankful they stopped in. Then, it happened, somehow the conversation shifted. My friend commented on how clean my house was. She even mentioned the lack of dirty dishes, noting that I didn’t have a dishwasher (seriously, she did!). She confessed that she can’t always keep up on things the way she wants to. Instantly, I felt like a fake. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to be honest. I decided to confess.

With a little giggle I opened up the laundry area doors and showed her my dirty dishes piled on top of the washer and dryer. She smiled and extended some gracious words. We then talked about how hard it can be to keep with life and household.

Later, I laughed at myself as I thought about that evening. I like to think that I’m a pretty “real” and transparent person. Yet, I tried to hide my dirty dishes…or at least half of them. Why did I do that? Did I think my friend would have a less favorable opinion of me if she saw my mess? Was it pride? I suppose it was a desire to look good, to appear well kept and orderly.

Yet, the dirty dishes were still there all along. Hidden or not, I still had to deal with them later. How nice to know I’m not alone in my housekeeping woes!

This all reminded me of how often I want to hide the “dirty dishes” of my life - past sins and current struggles. It’s easier to hide these things away. Why do I do that? Maybe I think others will think less of me if they knew my whole story (I’ll just share half of my mess). Maybe my pride wants to overlook my shaky past and current failures. I suppose it is a desire to look good, to appear well kept and in control as all “good Christian girls” should.

Yet, the “dirty dishes” are still there. Hidden or not, I still have to deal with them at some point. How much nicer would it be to know I’m not alone on this journey and to help a sister know she’s not alone either?!

You see, I think we Christian women all too often fall into what I call “poser mode”. Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall calls it, “Happy Plastic People…with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain.”

It occurred to me after our visit that once I was honest with my friend about my dirty dishes, she felt free to share her dirty dishes struggles with me. Not only that, she had been looking for my mess and, as most women tend to do, she was comparing it to hers. I’m glad I was honest because she may have went away feeling bad about her own housekeeping skills, thinking I had it all together and wondering why she couldn’t do that same. That might sound silly, but we women are like that.

Ah, that’s how it is when we share the “dirty dishes” of our lives with others. There’s so much power in a testimony. As we share our story, it frees others to share theirs. As we transparently share our struggles, it often frees others to “come clean” as well - or at least see common threads that bind us together and gives us hope for the future. It’s so good to know we’re not alone in our struggles.

No one wants to meet a “Happy Plastic” Christian - someone unrelatable and perfectly put together. It’s time to get real - and share our history (and present) with others. There’s power in revealing those “dirty dishes” for a purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should walk around airing our “dirty dishes” to everyone in sight. But, I do believe that being honest with God and others is freeing for us and influential on others.

I like this quote, “The only basis of real fellowship with God and man is to live out in the open with both.”
~ Roy Hession

Would you please pray for me as I’ll be sharing some of my “dirty dishes” for God's glory at our next MOPS meeting? I’ll be sharing my story with this group of dear friends on April 12th. Thanks so much!

Therefore, having put away falsehood,
let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor;
for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:25

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Human Epidemic

Me. Me. Me. Mine! I want things my way... 

Selfishness. I call it the “great human epidemic”.

Those who have had or have ever worked with young children know it’s true…we were born selfish. Watch two toddlers play together. It's all about them. What do they say? “Mine!” It’s one of their first words. Their little worlds are centered around themselves, their wants and needs. Learning to share is tough. Unfortunately, it’s not something we outgrow.

My 4 year old posing "selfishness" for me. :)

My own selfish tendencies irk me sometimes. Just think:

I have accused my husband of being selfish - for not being sensitive to my needs. Seriously now, who’s selfish? Now, that’s the teapot calling the kettle black if I’ve ever heard of it.

I have called a loved one to check up on them - then, been irritated when they talked about themselves and didn’t ask how I was doing.

I have felt irritated (and sometimes slighted) because my perceived “needs” weren’t being met. Because I was not acknowledged, served, noticed or appreciated.

I have had a virus and have spent so much time at my “pity party” that I temporarily forgot to pray for my friends who have cancer (or are facing other major life issues).

I have felt depressed and lonely because I was so focused on myself, on my own issues and my lack of ability to deal with them. So focused on self that I forgot the Truth of God’s Word and His unlimited power to help me.

Have you ever been there?!
I sometimes feel insecure because I’m thinking of myself. Have you ever recognized insecurity as a form of selfishness? This truth was revealed to me through Susie Larson’s words in her book “The Uncommon Woman”. (I highly recommend that book!!) Why are we self-conscious and overly concerned with what others think of us? Why do we want to be perceived well? Why do we make choices in an effort to prove our self-worth? Because we’re thinking of ourselves. That’s called pride! Ugh! What a hard truth to swallow. Don’t think it’s true? Think about it some more. What is at the root of insecurity?

“If anyone would like to acquire humility…The first step is to realize that one is proud…If you think you’re not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” C.S. Lewis
 In my younger years I was shy and overly self-aware. I was so self-conscious that I didn’t want to say or do anything in fear of saying or doing the “wrong thing”. Really I was selfish. I wasn’t concerned about how this made others feel or about making them feel comfortable. I was concerned about myself and my own feelings of discomfort.

I still have feelings of insecurity creep up inside, but when I do I try to shift my thinking onto others rather than self. I ask myself what others around me might be feeling? How can I be a blessing to someone else? What words may those in my life (and sphere of influence) need to hear me speak today? Who needs to know I have a listening ear?

I use to experience internal anxiety when going to church or any group setting. I didn’t like this feeing…and it just didn’t seem right to me. I realized it was a form of selfishness (focus on self). I decided to start praying before (and even during) church (and other meetings) for the Lord to help me to be a blessing to someone else there that day. I prayed that He would show me someone I could encourage or “love on” in that place. He did. And it took my focus off of myself and onto God and others. I continue to pray these prayers often. These days when those feelings of insecurity and anxiety start to creep up, I’m a lot quicker to recognize it as selfishness and take it to the cross.

Self*ish: adj. concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
Self*ish*ness: n. exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.

Selfishness is a form of pride. Selfishness and pride lead to many other sins and losses. Think about it: marriages end, families and friends are divided, there is church dissension and separation because of selfishness and pride.

I deserve better!” ~ “I deserve to be happy.” ~ Why should I have to say I’m sorry?” ~ “Why should I forgive them?” ~ “I’m right, they’re wrong.” ~ “They should try to see things my way.”
Jealousy. Arrogance. Criticism. All begin with selfishness and pride.

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

God’s Word tells us over and over that we must humble ourselves. I believe if we were truly humble we wouldn’t think so selfishly…and humility is the opposite of pride.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble. Thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

Wow! It goes on to say in verses 5-8, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to (or grasp or to use to His advantage). Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave…he humbled himself in obedience to God.” 

Oh, to be as humble and selfless as Jesus! Oh, how life would be different if we took the focus off or ourselves and onto His work - loving God and loving others. It sometimes feel like a lofty goal for this all-too-human human, but truly it’s within our reach. Later in Philippians 2 (vs. 13) it says that God is working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him.

We can’t do it on our own. But, by God’s grace we can combat selfishness and live the Christian life - looking to Him, rather than to self, to do what pleases Him.

I do believe that selfishness is the human epidemic. But, there is hope! This epidemic has a cure. It’s called following Jesus. The more closely we follow Him; the more focused we are on Him (and not on self) the less room there will be for selfishness. Oh, and we can teach our children (even toddlers!) by living it in front of them. 
If any of you want to be my follower, you must take up your cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

Freedom and Joy...
Looks a little different, doesn't it?!

How can you take the focus off of yourself today? It starts with looking at HIM, then others. Pray first, then act. Who needs you to reach out to them today? Who could use an encouraging word, a helpful hand, or a listening ear? How can you help to stop the “Great Human Epidemic”?  
How can I pray for you today?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Let's Get Real!

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to look at someone else’s life and think they have it “all together”…that they’re so happy…so “perfect”…doing so much better than us? Looks are often deceiving!

A friend told me a while back that she sees me and my life as “perfect”. I gasped and almost laugh out loud when she said it. “What? Get real!” I said.

My friends comment bothered me because I thought she knew me better than that. She knows my past (because she was there with me through some of the worst of times), but I guess she doesn’t really know my present.

She sees the thankful and cheerful Facebook posts, pictures of me and my smiling family. She sees the yearly Christmas letters and Christian blog posts. She doesn’t see the in and out, everyday life that I live. The dirty diapers, wiped tears and toilet scrubbing. She doesn’t see the messes. She doesn’t see me tired and weary. She doesn’t see my bad attitude and temper flare up like (it pains me to say) my husband and little sons do. These aren’t things that we tend to post on Facebook or put in Christmas letters, now are they? Nope, we tend to only put the best “out there” for the world to see, don't we?!

Although I’m very, very thankful for all God has done in my life, for His salvation and blessings. And although I continue to grow, learn and draw closer to Him as the days pass, I am not “perfect” and life is not constantly bliss. And I certainly hope that I’m not giving that ‘fake” impression to people. I want to be real! I want my friends to know that they are not alone in their struggles! We may not have the exact same struggles, but we all have some.  If I'm always giving off this "better than thou" impression, it makes it difficult for others to be real with me.  I don't want that!

I AM forgiven. I AM loved. I AM free in Christ. But, perfect I am not. The only perfect one is God and anything that is good in me, comes from Him.

The day I surrendered my heart and life to the Lord all of my struggles did not vanish. Life is hard at times. I am all too human. There are times when I don’t feel very “Christian” (mainly when I take the focus off of my Savior and put it on myself). Have you ever been there? There are days when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders even though I know it’s not a weight I have to bear alone. Times when I don’t feel like praying although I’ve learned that’s when I need to pray the MOST! Sometimes past habits, thought processes and feelings rise up within me. There are areas where I feel like I should be stronger, more mature, yet I am not. I want to do better, but I battle my sinful human flesh.  That’s because I haven’t “arrived” and the truth is I never will. And neither will anyone else, on this side of heaven. 

Let’s get real! Life is not easy. God never promised us that life would be easy.

So what’s so great about being a Christian?  God did promise us that if we choose to follow Him, He will be with us and give us the strength we need . Because I know the Savior, I know who IS good! God is good and I know He lives within me! The “old me” didn’t have the reassurance and peace that I now know. The “new me” wants to do better!

Today, despite what I feel or what struggle I’m facing, I know where to turn. When I feel those bad attitudes rising up inside of me, I know WHO can help! No matter where I am or what I have done, I know He is good and will forgive me when I sincerely come to Him. He is faithful!

When I feel unlovable, He loves me anyway. He is my loving Father who will never leave nor forsakes me…so in reality I have no need to be lonely or to give into my fleshly desires. When I am weak and weary, He will give me the strength I need. I have no reason to worry, I can cast all my cares on Him. Although I am not perfect, I am covered by His blood. There is hope for me because He is sooo good! Isn’t it reassuring to know we don’t have to be perfect to be forgiven?!

Let’s get real! My life is not “perfect” (whatever that is)! But, it is so much better with Him because His love IS perfect…and that’s what is real!

Do you know where to turn when you feel so much less than perfect? Do you realize that you’re not alone in your struggles? Do you know you are loved? Let’s get real with one another! Let’s turn to the one who IS perfect…and let Him change our lives forever!

God is love, and all who live in love live in and God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear… I John 4:16-18