• Posted on November 28, 2010

about church normality & the calm knowing

Last week I sat down to write a certain blog but God had other plans and sent me careening wildly off topic and onto something more along the lines of “Rebecca finally confronts her inferiority issues.” Judging by the responses I got via Facebook, messages, texts, and iChats, it was something a lot of people probably needed to hear. Turns out maybe God knew what he was doing. Again.

My initial point at the start of writing last week was, even though over the years I’ve tried training myself to be a hardened person who never cries and blah, blah, blah, here’s the truth: I’m a really, really emotional person. I’m pretty sensitive. Scratch that–I’m really sensitive.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that as I’ve grown, I’ve matured. Maturity has brought wisdom and insight into others’ behavior that might have previously affected me emotionally. So if, for example, someone were to make a comment that ten years ago would result in my hiding in my bedroom in tears, now I have the insight to realize why the person said what he said, where he was coming from, what his intentions were, etc. (The downside is when I figure out the person’s intentions were as vicious as first thought, I tend to react with rage, but God and I are still working through that one.) I would also like to mention I firmly believe watching a ridiculous amount of cop shows over the years has made me incredibly wise at understanding and predicting human behavior. The Internet once told me I was smart enough to be a detective, so, well, I’ll let you weigh the facts and decide.

But I digress. I do that sometimes.

I’ve written before about emotional response to the moving of the Spirit. Sometimes I feel like my faith is emotionally driven and sometimes it’s not. When it’s emotional, it’s great, it’s powerful: prayer stirs something inside of me; every fast worship song makes me jump for joy; every slow worship song moves me to tears; and every conviction of sin is so overwhelming, I fall to my knees and cry out for forgiveness. It feels real. And it is real, and it’s Scriptural, and it’s completely normal.

Where I am right now, it’s pretty much the complete opposite of that.

For the past month or so (after I finally got over the hump of ugliness, so to speak), everything has evoked the same reaction: a calm knowing. On my knees to a slow worship song I’ve sung a million times–with tears–before, I calmly speak praises out loud. Pushes by the Spirit to do one thing or another come out as calm, second nature actions. I see God work through me and I love it, but I don’t outwardly react. Conviction of sin is just a knowing nod, an agreement with God, recognition and repentance. And all of that is just as real and Scriptural. I think most people don’t see it that way, though. Here’s what I mean:

Over the years I’ve either attended or been a regular pew-warmer at churches of easily ten different denominations. I’ve worn the big, floral print dresses to one church and the shorts and flip-flops to the other. I’ve used a hymnal where the numbers of the hymn are on a board at the front of the church and I’ve stood in a crowd and read lyrics off the screen of an overhead projector. And here’s my point, if I have one–they’re complete opposites. Churches usually fall into one main category or another–we’ll call them “traditional” or “contemporary,” but I think the greatest difference is whether they encourage the congregation to respond in some overly-emotional way or with a complete lack of emotion. It’s either the churches that say, “You HAVE to speak in tongues or you’re not born again” or the churches that expect you to simply follow their every command in a robotic, mindless, “trusting” way. Worth noting? Neither of those are Scriptural.

The issue, then, is learning how to define church and religion and, most of all, Christianity. Take a look around you. I bet you’ll start to notice that society’s definition of Christianity is not exactly the same as Scripture’s definition. The worst part about it is the “Christians” who are content to go to church on Sunday and play into that definition, never stopping to question whether or not it’s correctly defined. So then we’re back to the basics–what is Christianity? Many of you already know this by now: it’s a relationship, just like every other relationship you have, only better.

I am completely, 100%, head over heels in love with my husband. Sometimes when he comes home I jump up, run to meet him, and hug him as tightly as I can without hurting him (because I am very strong). Other times when he comes home, I may wait for him to come in the room, hug and kiss him, ask him how his day was and offer to make him lunch. I don’t love him any less one of those days and any more the other.

Sometimes when I offend someone, it’s so awful and I weep and humble myself and beg for forgiveness. Sometimes the offense may be just as bad (or worse in my eyes), and yet I can apologize calmly, albeit sincerely, and admit my wrongs. (Although not without a large amount of anxiety.)

Is that bad? Is that any less sincere?

Because I’ve been “trained” over the years to accept a certain definition of what church is and religion is and a Christian is, sometimes it takes a little self-inspection and getting-used-to. It’s a temptation to think God is distant when I’m calm because I don’t feel him. I have to stop in my quiet time and think, “Okay, I haven’t had a purely emotional reaction in a while. But I know I’ve heard from God clearly, and maybe even louder in these past few weeks than the past year combined.” It takes self-evaluation to figure out where my heart is with God, and that’s a good thing. And regardless of how I feel, I keep seeking him. I keep listening to him and developing our relationship. I keep obeying him (or not, but that’s another conversation for another time).

Um.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got today.

  • Posted on November 18, 2010

about the epidemic of insecurities

I’ve never really been the girly girl, although that’s probably less due to a lack of desire and more a lack of feeling as if I couldn’t be. Regardless of the why, it’s affected a lot of who I am. Over the years I’ve gradually gotten more hardened about emotional things, or at least I pretend to be. I wanted to be that girl who was called a tomboy and never cried and hated romantic comedies because otherwise I always felt like an awkward, nerdy little girl who was trying too hard to be like all the pretty stereotypical celebrities I saw on TV.

So even though my heart may have skipped a beat when the man and woman on the movie kissed for the first time after an hour and a half of tension between them, I stifled a smile. And when the man’s wife on the animated cartoon died, I blinked really fast to hide the tears and tried not to breathe lest the pain in my throat come out as a sob. Even now sometimes, it’s still hard for me to admit I have real, womanly emotions. Ronnie recently took me to a romantic comedy for the first time. It wasn’t the first time because he’d refused; rather, I had never asked. I just didn’t like romantic comedies. They were for girls who spend a lot of time making their hair look messy and buy their clothes at the mall instead of Target or Ross. They’re the pretty girls. Meaning: I didn’t want to go to the movies because I didn’t want to see that particular show. I just didn’t think I’d feel welcome. Every other girl in the theater would look at me and think, “She doesn’t belong here. Isn’t there some Bruce Willis action movie she should be watching in the next theater?”

Somehow I got completely off topic from my original point. Perhaps God is leading this blog post in another direction. Buckle up.

Here’s what I know for sure: leading up to about the past few weeks or so, I was an absolute, emotional wreck for a couple months or more. Maybe it was longer, maybe not, but it felt like years. I spent hours–yes, hours–each week in tears for one reason and one reason only: I was ugly. As a result, or maybe vice-versa, I was fat. I was incompetent. I was ineffective, a failure in every way. I hated my hair. I hated my body type. I hated my face, especially when it broke out. I hated that I wear a retainer at night and I have bad eyesight. I really, really hated everything in my closet. And I felt stuck: we didn’t have money to buy a new wardrobe or permanent retainers or eye surgery or an all-new hairstyle. I was stuck with mono still, barely able to get out of bed in the morning and definitely without energy to work out. We weren’t able to buy a treadmill and when we did get one, it broke within days.

I became completely obsessed with my ugliness. I constantly put on more makeup. I changed clothes ten times every morning to find something I’d feel comfortable in, and I’d often change clothes when I came home from work because I still felt ugly or awkward. I put on lipstick constantly because it made me feel prettier. One day Ronnie and I were taking a day trip and I thought I had left my lipstick back in Lubbock. I cried. And cried. Because that lipstick was the only thing that would make me feel pretty.

I cried in the bathroom at work. I came home from work, sat on the bed, and cried. I wore Ronnie out with my crying, and still he was patient with me. He told me, “You can’t keep looking at yourself and seeing only negative.” He told me constantly how beautiful I was, what a wonderful wife and stepmom and employee I was. But my feelings were stronger, that I was an awful wife and stepmom and daughter and sister and employee simply because I was too ugly.

I compared myself to everyone around me. They were all prettier and better dressed. Comparisons came from the strangest, most unexpected places–some of which I’m too embarrassed to even mention.

So day after day, I sat and cried because of who I wasn’t. Ronnie asked me constantly where these feelings were coming from, but I couldn’t tell him because I honestly didn’t know. I have been trying different forms of birth control lately for health reasons and chalked it up to that. My hormones could easily be adjusting to new medication and causing my mood swings. It could have been a spiritual attack, lies the devil was telling me to tear me down, to think only in terms of my outward appearance and completely neglect God’s perspective. It could have just been 28 years of insecurities coming out because I finally felt safe with someone who had vowed to love me ’til death do us part. Regardless of the reason, I hated the way I was feeling and reacting almost as much as I hated myself. I felt completely crazy.

Here’s the weird thing: it wasn’t just me.

One of my close friends was going through a similar situation. She spent every night crying over everything and nothing. She couldn’t support her husband. She couldn’t take care of her kids. She couldn’t do anything but sit and cry. She was convinced she was crazy.

Another best friend was falling apart. She spent all day crying. She was crippled by sudden, irrational fears and anxieties. Her boyfriend patiently supported her while day after day, she sat beside him crying. She texted me, a sobbing mess. I went to talk to her and comfort her and reason with her, but how could I encourage a person when I’m crippled by my own irrationalities? She too was convinced she was going crazy.

More and more I began to hear about friends of mine who were struggling with various but similar issues and responding in much the same way. It was an epidemic of insecurities and we all started wondering what was going on. I finally confessed to two of our pastors about my struggles and asked them to pray. Tim wrote back:

“will be praying, read this today and thought it might help.
James 1:18
He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true Word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.
i made some of it bold cause i know how stubborn you are.”

I have to confess, in all my girliness, I teared up a little when I read it. Then, out of the blue, the very next day, yet another close friend of mine sent out an email to me and a few other girls. God had put a word on her heart and encouraged her to share it. With her permission, I’ve copied it here:

“I feel like God has spoken to me the last couple of days about beauty, self esteem, rejection and what how we as women need to be looking at ourselves. It all started at Monday night prayer, Berry had asked anyone to stand who had felt rejection lately. I quickly had a conversation with myself and decided that I had not felt rejection lately, that yes I didnt get the job I wanted and I may not have the man in my life that I want, but that I hadn’t really experienced true rejection lately. I left prayer and as I was driving down 82nd street and God spoke to me. He told me that I should have stood that in fact I had experienced rejection recently and that I had been rejecting myself. Earlier that day I had a conversation with a friend telling them that I was no longer going to have an interest in a certain person because I had seen a picture of his ex-girlfriend and I thought she was gorgeous and there was no way he would have an interest in me if he had dated a girl that beautiful. In that moment I rejected myself, put myself down and had decided I wasn’t good enough. I was completely unfair to myself and basically slapped Jesus in the face. Psalm 45:11 says that the king is enthralled with our beauty and we are to honor him for he is our lord. WOW! To me that is powerful. It tells me that the only opinion of me that I should be concerned with is Gods opinion of me, not the worlds opinion, not another persons and certainly not my own opinion. I know for myself as a woman I’m constantly seeking the approval of myself through men. On several occasions I have based my happiness and self esteem on what a guy thought. This has left me heart broken and empty time and time again. It has lead me to have sexual relations with men over and over and that has only lead to guilt and shame. I say all of this with the hopes of encouraging you, and letting you know that when you seek approval elsewhere God is jealous and it only puts you further from Him. A friend also once told me that when we put ourselves down we are also putting Christ down because He lives in us and we are only hurting Him. I have never sent anything out like this before, I hope that it encourages you to love yourself and only think good about yourself because your heavenly father does. I know that I am tired of comparing myself and judging myself according to the world and God has really convicted me to change.”

It was the perfect word of God coming through her in a mighty way. God was saying, “Rebecca, I hear you, I hear all of you, and this is what you need to know.”

When I started this blog, I intended to write about other major events God has revealed to me in the past month, not the sobbing, bumbling mess I was the two months prior. It seems as if God had other plans. Is it a coincidence that once I got through the overwhelming rejection of myself God suddenly overwhelmed me with peace instead and revealed his vision for my life? It’s almost as if the enemy was trying to prevent that from happening, but I’ve covered that blog before.

I can only believe that someone reading this needs to hear these words. She (or even he) needs to hear James 1:18 and Psalm 45:11 and Psalm 139. So I’ll end with them, again, in case you missed them the first time. And I’ll make some of it bold because I know how stubborn you are too.

He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true Word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.
James 1:18

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
Psalm 45:11

You have searched me, LORD, 
and you know me. 
You know when I sit and when I rise; 
you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue 
you, LORD, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, 
and you lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? 
Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me 
and the light become night around me,” 
even the darkness will not be dark to you; 
the night will shine like the day, 
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! 
How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them, 
they would outnumber the grains of sand— 
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! 
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 
They speak of you with evil intent; 
your adversaries misuse your name. 
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, 
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? 
I have nothing but hatred for them; 
I count them my enemies. 
Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139