Sunday, October 9, 2011

Devotion By Me

If you have no idea what this devotional was written for, read this.  Oh, and guys?  This is another girls-only day. Sorry :P

Anna has graciously invited me to write the first devotional for this chain, and despite the fact that I've twice tried to write devotionals and failed miserably, I said I'd do my best. Third time's a charm, right?

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to write about until tonight. I've been going through a lot lately. To make a (very) long story short, we have doubly many people in the house this week; I just might be graduating a year early, which means I should be looking into my future right about now; and I, founder of the P.O. Box Club and role-model-wanna-be of church, have been struggling in my spiritual life yet again.

I'll tell you a secret. I am a people pleaser. I only recently admitted this to myself, but it's been glaringly obvious since... well, forever. I am a perfectionist who always thinks about what someone might say - and not the one who worries about it, necessarily. Sometimes I go against the flow and work hard to look unique, carefree and 'hakuna matata.' I always want the children to pick me. I want to have a gleaming reputation. I want to be a spiritual leader - at church, in youth group, with the kids, online....

But I've never been open, like a blogger I admire. I have honesty issues, like the brother I often think little of. Until this year, I never grew spiritually except a sporadic camp decision. Until this year, I never truly saw my sinful self the way I did once at six years old.... the sinful self I asked God to save. I wanted to be the perfect 'preacher's daughter,' even if my daddy was just the song leader.

I wanted to look good, and I convinced myself I did - because Mom thought more highly of my honesty than my brothers'. Because I never missed a church service for a sports game. Because I had gotten saved young, so I would never, ever drink or smoke. Because I had said two cuss words in my life, both times without knowing they were cuss words. Because I had vowed to save myself for marriage - and had kept that vow.

In short, I was a legalist.

Then I discovered the blogosphere, and all the opinions out there. I became a radical feminine un-feminist. You know the type: I shall be a stay-at-home-daughter and never wear pants and master the arts of cooking and making my own clothes and growing my own potatoes... But this wasn't working. I was just growing more and more confused - what did I believe? What, exactly, made me different from that Calvinist? I knew why I wasn't Catholic - but why not Methodist? If the perfect woman described by the Bible was the person I started to see her as, why would so many women think God's will included college - spinsterhood - no children!? Why would my mother lead me to believe that could be possible?

And then the whole boy thing. My own experiences lead me to start a club in which I decided not to date until I was legally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to marry. Of course, my perfectionist self set up neat little dates for these events - high school graduation/eighteenth birthday, mostly. But I never prayed about these dates and decisions, or the club. And it was a horrid failure (which I'm considering putting an end to.)

So, to use the terms of the blogger I admire, this is my own Declaration of Independence. I won't label myself as a homemaker in training, or a stay at home daughter, or a feminist or nonfeminist, or even a Baptist, at the moment. I'll admit that anything I say or believe could be utterly wrong and totally flawed, because I'm sinful, evil, wretched, selfish, undeserving, and stupid. (There, I admitted it.) From now on, I'll set out into God's Word first and take everything in the blogosphere with a grain of salt, determined to find God's plan for my individual life and not put myself into any more neat little boxes.

Oh, and I'll stop trying to find verses to fit ideas and opinions, and instead form opinions and ideas to fit verses. That will definitely be a challenge for me.

Pray for me, would you?

2 comments:

  1. Reading this post was like reading a journal entry from my fifteen-year-old self. As a fellow people-pleaser (hopefully a reforming-people-pleaser), I can relate to much of what you have written, and
    I have a few things to share with you:

    What people think of you or what you want people to think of you is not important. The self-imposed regulations that we put on ourselves, thinking that they will raise our status in the eyes of others, are useless, especially if we begin relying more on our own good works than on Christ as the source of salvation.

    “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
    Col. 2: 20 – 23

    Asceticism, according to Merriam-Webster’s, means, “practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline; austere in appearance, manner, or attitude”. This is the attitude of “I’ve never done this; I’ve never done that. I’m good” or “I hold myself to a higher standard, so I’m better than them”. It’s about putting restrictions on yourself to make you feel better about yourself…it doesn’t make you any more spiritual than the next guy. It just gets you burnt out.

    Christ is the source of our salvation, not anything that we do. Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6). Our best attempts stink. They’re no good.

    We want to please God with our actions; we want to stand out; we want to be set apart – but our works should not be the measure of our standing with God. People look on the outward appearance – assessing, comparing, judging; but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7). He knows the true motivation for any restrictions that you put on yourself – whether they’re actually to please Him or to meet a standard that you feel others may have set or expect.

    I can honestly tell you that being a works-based Christian or a people-pleasing Christian is dangerous to your spiritual health. It becomes increasingly difficult to grasp the concept of boundless grace and increasingly easy to doubt your salvation. The legalist tendencies that you mentioned (not wearing pants, only being a homemaker, not missing church, not smoking, drinking, cussing, and saving yourself for marriage), as good as they are, merely become points of pride as opposed to a means of drawing you closer to your Savior.

    Some of the most spiritual people I know are not those who grew up in the church, imposing regulations of themselves, pointing fingers at others, comparing themselves and thinking that they are better; but rather, the truly spiritual people that I know are those who have been out in the world, who have made mistakes, who have realized their sinfulness, and who know that on their own they could do nothing to change their true nature. They are the ones who are truly sold-out for Christ because what they’ve been forgiven of is tangible, not simply an idea. The change is obvious.

    Our problem is that we don’t see ourselves as sinners. But we are, and, choosing to be blind, we exalt ourselves and our abilities when we compare ourselves with others.

    As I read God’s word, I see His compassion for us. I find a loving God, who cares about me, who I really am, not who I portray myself to be. Once we start obeying God because we love Him and are secure in His unconditional love, the desire for ridiculous, self-imposed standards falls away, and we do what we do, not because of what we want others to think of us, but simply because we want to please God.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Bethany! Sorry it took me a while to reply; I wanted to have time to really read your points before responding.

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts - I definitely agree with what you wrote. Sometimes we get so caught up in pleasing others we forget our purpose in life is to please God alone - and we just end up frustrated.

    ReplyDelete

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