Sunday, January 25, 2015

The voice of truth tells me a different story.

(Warning: This one's a long one. Sorry about that. This video got all sorts of emotions and things stirred up in me.)

(I didn't transcribe the whole thing, just basically the second half.)
This is what the voices of the world are trying to tell us. They're telling us that you have to be the best, you have to be the prettiest, you have to be the most popular, and if you have ever made a mistake, then you are damaged goods. This is the voice of the world, and the more we listen to it, then the worse the story we tell about our lives is going to get.

But take heart! Because there is good news, and that good news is that there is another voice that we can listen to. You know how I know that those four things I just mentioned are myths? I know that those four things are myths because I know that God's Word is truth. And in God's Word, I actually see God telling a completely different story about who we are. And this is the other voice we can listen to, the voice of the Lord.

And the Lord does not say that you are defined by what you do, but in Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9, God says, "For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God - not by works, so that no one can boast." You see, God doesn't say that you have to be the best, but God actually says, "No matter what you do, good or bad, win or lose, I LOVE YOU." God says, "You can't earn your way to worthiness by being the best because I have already counted you worthy by my gift of grace."

God also doesn't define you by what you look like, but in Psalm 139, the psalmist says, "I praise You, God, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works (me) are wonderful, I know that full well." God doesn't say that you have to be the prettiest or the most attractive. God says, "You are already stunning beyond compare because I made you specifically, on purpose, as a work of art."

And God also does not define you by who you know, but in Galatians 3:26, He says, "So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith." God says, "You don't have to have the most friends, you don't have to have all these perfect relationships, because with me, I'm offering you a relationship  more intimate and loving and perfect than you could ever imagine."

And last but not least, God does not define you by your past mistakes, but in 2 Corinthians 5:17, God says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, and the new is here." God does not say that you are damaged goods. God says, "I don't care what you've done. In me, with a relationship with me, you can be made brand new."

And so we're left with a decision, and this is a big decision because the story that you tell with your life will ultimately dictate the quality of the life you live, and the story you tell with your life is going to be dictated by the voices you choose to listen to. So our decision today is: whose voice are you going to listen to? Are you going to listen to the voices of the world that are dead set on convincing you that you're not enough, or are you going to listen to the voice of God who continually tells us in His Word, through prayer, through worship, through community, and mostly through His Son Jesus, that in Him and in a relationship with Christ, He makes us enough?
- Jon Jorgenson, The Anima Series

Before I say anything else, let me just say that when you have ten minutes to spare, you need to watch that video. I don't care who you are that is reading this, you need to watch that video. I wish I had some way to send it to every on the whole planet. It is that universally relevant and that powerful.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way...I love The Anima Series. Y'all know I do. I wouldn't have devoted so much of my free time to transcribing their videos this summer (and Anima friends, if you read this, I promise I'm going to get back to that! The past few months have been way harder than I expected, but I have not forgotten or abandoned you! I promise!) but there have been very few of their videos that have made me choke back tears and feel infinitely grateful I'm sitting in a chair when I watch it for sheer fear of falling on the ground in weakness. I can think of only a handful of them that have made me cry. This may be my favorite one of their whole existence simply because it answered a question I've had for a long time and opened my eyes to some hard truths.

At the end of his 7 9 minute sermon, Jon asks the viewers to comment with which identity myth they are most vulnerable to fall victim to. I couldn't pick one. I couldn't pick one because they're all voices that circle around in my head...pretty much constantly, if I'm going to be totally honest. As I left in my Youtube comment, I'm a self-conscious-about-my-weight people-pleaser who can't stand to be mad at anyone or have anyone be mad at me, who still spends way too much time beating myself up for my past mistakes, and who feels like school and my grades are the only thing I'm really good at.

Does my mom pressure me about my grades, and does my extended family expect me to succeed? Yeah, sure, but none of them put a tenth as much pressure on me about succeeding as I do on myself. Making people proud of me is like some bizarre addiction. My brain has become convinced that that's the only way to survive. And if I'm not making the people I love proud of me by what I do, I must be doing something wrong. When I don't get the grades that I normally do, or that I think I should be getting, I immediately become convinced that I've failed, that I've embarrassed myself to the people who have stuck by me. The truth is, nobody loves me because I'm smart, least of all God. My family loves me because I'm me. God loves me because He made me, because I'm His child, and there's nothing I could do to make Him love me any less. Especially not get a check minus instead of a check plus.

My closest friends have heard plenty about the comments I've heard from various people about my weight, but almost no one has heard anything about the things I tell myself. I can be really, really mean to myself. I get so frustrated that every time I feel ready to make a change and dedicate myself to a lifestyle change and exercise regularly, some physical injury or surgery happens and completely sets me back by making me sedentary again that I get to the point where I just want to give up because it feels like I'm just never going to catch a break. And then I get mad at myself for not being strong enough to work past all of the pain and lose weight anyway like those amazing stories you see all over social media and the news and whatever. And once again, I feel like I've failed. But God knew. He knew what my body would go through when He made me. He knew how much weight I would gain. And He loves me still. Even more than that, He says I'm beautiful.

Ask pretty much any one of my friends if they think I'm too nice, and I'm almost certain they'll agree with you. I'm nice to everyone, even when they're not nice to me. Being mad at anyone makes me feel sick (no I'm not kidding) and sad and I will do anything to avoid it or make it go away. And if someone is mad at me, particularly someone I really love and have really invested in, I will go to the ends of the earth to make things right. I am the textbook definition of a people-pleaser. I want people to like me. I want people to be happy. And it takes a heck of a lot for me to turn my back on you. Friday night, when I was out with Holly and the roommate, Landon came up in the conversation, and I actually said, "I really just feel sorry for him." Holly's immediate response: "WHY?!" If I can't even stay mad at the guy who spent almost six years messing with my head and breaking my heart, and I think it's safe to say that anyone else is pretty safe in escaping my slam book. But God says that it's okay if not everyone is okay with me, because His is the only approval I really need. No relationship I could ever have on this earth could even come close to my relationship with the One who loved me first, loves me most, and loves me the best. So why do I put so much weight into them that I act like my whole world has been rocked when they hit a rough patch? It's a waste of energy and heart space.

With the past almost six years of friendships marked down on this blog, through all the stories, all the memories, through all the roller coasters, I can instantly tell you what the most repeated question is: "How did I ever get so lucky to get friends like this?" Matt, Ryann, The Vespers, my Reformation brothers, my soccer brothers, with all of them, no matter how hard I tried, I could never wrap my head around how they could deem me worthy of their time, their energy, their love. Well, thanks to Jon and this video from The Anima Series, I finally have the answer. I never understood why my friends thought I was worthy of love because I've spent my whole life convinced that I'm damaged goods, that I'm too broken, that I'm a lost cause for anything good. The events of my past, the things that I kept saying were just scars, they still had hold over my mind. I believed those voices I used to hear in person all the time - that I wasn't worthy of love. So even though I have people who love me now, I still had those old voices echoing in my head telling me I don't deserve it. But you know what God says? Those voices are CRAP. (Okay, He probably says it a little more nicely than that. But you get the point.) Those voices are just the enemy trying to distract me from the vivid reminder that my sweet friends are of what Christ-like love is. They are the enemy trying to separate me from the good things God wants to give me, His daughter, His princess. God has called me WORTHY, worthy of love, worthy of affection, worthy not because I am anything in particular, but worthy because HE is GOOD.

God's grace has made me worthy. God's grace has made me righteous. And most of all, God has made me NEW. Not my GPA, or the number of As I get, or the number of friends I have, or the number on my jeans. God. And only God. Because of God, the memories of my past, and the voices that go along with them to haunt me, well, they lose. I've let them have power over my mind and spirit for far too long. That ends now.

Lord, please forgive me for all the time I've wasted not focusing on You. Please forgive me. You are the only thing that is worth my time and attention. Help me to learn to focus on Your love and grace and block out the darkness that hides in the corners. You win. You always win. Help me to trust that You are bigger than my scars and my demons. I'm tired of not seeing myself as the righteous child of my King, my Father, that You've known I was all along.

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