15. Ultimate Selfie Purpose 4: What We’ve Accomplished

There are four purposes for posting selfies on social media—to show the world: 1) how we look, 2) who we’re with, 3) where we’ve been, or 4) what we’ve accomplished. This post begins the fourth item on that list: What We’ve Accomplished.

Failure-to-success and rags-to-riches stories abound.

Basketball great Michael Jordan tells audiences that he has missed over 9,000 shots and lost over 3,000 games in his career. No one would call him a failure.

Inventor Thomas Edison said “I have not failed 10,000 times (inventing the light bulb)—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” We never remember his failures each time we turn on a light or use one of his many other inventions.

These two are among many who did not quit when they failed. Those who accomplish great things often persevere and build off of each small victory (or defeat) to complete a task. But that’s not what this chapter is about. It is to unpack why we should not let achievements (or failures) identify us.

The definitions for “accomplishment” and “success” are similar, but there is a small, but important difference. To accomplish something is to complete or attain a goal. Success suggests it is to attain fame, wealth, or social status from one’s efforts. Implications of accomplishment is that an objective, even if it seems insignificant, has been reached and it gives impetus to go on to the next goal.  Success is often the ending place, to mean that one has arrived and can, therefore, rest on his or her laurels.

I have known young athletes who have gotten injured, knocking them off the field of play forever, and then lamenting, “But _ (name the sport) ____ was my life!” That is one of the saddest statements I’ve ever heard. Life is fragile enough without hinging one’s entire life on a sport or another activity.

So take the selfie of you holding the trophy or receiving a medal if you want, but see that event as only part of the whole—the accomplishment that leads to the next thing.

Retired Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven wrote a book on the idea of accomplishments. The book is titled Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.[i]

So according to this author, to accomplish something is more of an ongoing process rather than a place to land. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “life is a journey, not a destination.”  That statement should be at least considered when trying to figure out where you’re going in life. The late ex-Beatle John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” These are two inspiring perspectives on our time on earth. They imply that our existence on earth is fluid—always moving and that we should keep moving. The Bible has a lot to say about that, too.

The Apostle Paul used athletic terms as metaphors for life’s challenges. In Ephesians 4, he writes to the church at Ephesus “I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands.”

Also, he writes to the Philippians (chapter 3, verse 14),… “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Paul was never idle even when he was in prison. He was forever pressing on to the goal of pleasing God and making Him known to the world.

            Children of God do not have to prove their worth to Him. Love and perfect performance do not exist together with Him. We do not need to prove ourselves worthy of His favor.

The author of the Generation Me book, Jean Twenge, is pretty hard on the current younger generation, pointing out a trend that she thinks is one of the reasons this generation lacks motivation. She says that the blame should go to athletic teams, “…everyone gets a trophy just for playing—you sit on the bench, you get the trophy; you don’t try, you get the trophy…”

I don’t share her aversion to participation prizes. I don’t attribute laziness and apathy solely to this practice either. These undesirable qualities have deeper roots, often, that have nothing to do with a participation trophy.

There are some people who are not satisfied to just run the race, they must win the race to feel valued. Again they associate worth with achievement. And then, according to an article on WebMD there are those who transfer their need to win to their favorite sports team or to their own children. Bragging rights, if you will. “There’s a term for getting behind a winning team: ‘basking in reflected glory.’ It means you vicariously enjoy a victory even though you may not have done anything but cheer: ‘We won, we won!’ On the flip side, if your team doesn’t win, you don’t want any part of it: ‘Those bums lost again!’”[ii] Transference of achievement can be found in children to parents. The kids achieve, therefore the parent is somehow more valuable.

We all have heard about youth sports parents becoming violent when an umpire or coach makes a call that the parent questions. An article in the Washington Post reports, “Sports are a metaphor for life: Sometimes things don’t go your way. Learning how to deal with disappointment, whether it’s a bad call or striking out when the bases are loaded, is a valuable lesson. But that message has been stifled by parents who want to protect their child from anything negative ever happening.”[iii]

            Rarely do we want to document our failures. We don’t often take selfies of ourselves coming into last place—or even second place for that matter. We sometimes believe that our worth is about winning. And when we don’t win, we’re deflated, angry, or feel cheated. Life isn’t fair, of course, so one—or many losses—cannot define who we are or how valuable we are.

My friend, Debbie, had a wayward son and I asked her how this made her feel about herself. She wrote,

Embarrassed and isolated…I could never have imagined that I’d be that mother…looking through bullet-proof Plexiglas to see her 19-year-old son, dressed in an orange, prison-issued jumpsuit.  Twice a week for about 3 months, that was the extent of our interaction.  [My son] had certainly earned that consequence over the six previous years…involved with drugs, alcohol, stealing and breaking-and-entering.  Starting when he was 13, he began by running away, skipping school, smoking, stealing from us…and lying about all of it.  We were devastated, and I have to say, embarrassed.

Guilty…Satan, the Accuser, loved to remind me of all I’d done wrong, the places I’d failed, the words I should never have said. (personal interview)

            Another friend of mine who had a child who was drifting away told me, “I abandoned my career to be a stay-at-home mom. My job was to raise my kids to be responsible, healthy adults. Now I’ve failed at that job. I am worthless.”

            In both of these homes, the children did grow up to be wonderful, productive adults, and the women could rip off the label of being an unfit mother, but the process was grueling especially when they had to watch their children fail and transfer that failure to themselves.

           

STOP: Are you trying desperately to please someone, a parent or friend, by winning every contest?

Is your sense of value tied to your performance? If you win, you’re worth something. If you lose you are worthless? Are you basking in reflective glory?

LIE: *People will love me if I’m recognized for my accomplishments.

*I have to win at everything; otherwise, I don’t deserve respect or love.

TRUTH: “…[God] saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy…” (Titus 3:5, CSB)

 “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Romans 5:8)

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.” (1 John 3:1)


[i] McRaven, Admiral William H.. Make Your Bed (p. 2). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-competition-win

[iii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/03/02/overzealous-parents-are-ruining-youth-sports-heres-how-do-better/

14. Ultimate Selfie Purpose 3: Where We’ve Been

A great story in the New Testament is such a good example of Jesus’ power to forgive even the most heinous sins.

When a woman, who was caught in the act of adultery, was brought to Jesus this is what He did:

Jesus  stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger.  When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground.  When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center.  When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 8: 6-11, CSB)

There’s no way of knowing what happened to that woman after this scene. I’ve always imagined that she changed her lifestyle from that point on and became a passionate follower of Jesus. It could be that she did change, but lived out her life with a sense of shame because of her past. This would not be unusual for someone who has sinned so greatly. Christine Caine describes her painful past of being molested as a child. She says that her shame plagued her for many years, not because of what she did, but what was done to her. She writes, “…shame would be one of the enemy’s most damaging weapons against us, and therefore God wanted us to know that, from the very beginning, shame was not his plan for us—that the perfect state for humankind is a shame-free life.[i]

Caine explains that there is a huge difference between guilt (knowing you’ve done wrong) and shame (inability to live with yourself.) She points out also:

“Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines guilt as ‘responsibility for a crime or for doing something bad or wrong.’ But it defines shame as ‘a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety and “a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.’”

I’ve known many people through the years who have measured themselves by lies that they’ve believed all of their lives. In fact, these lies go back so far that a person believes that he or she was born this way. That is a platform upon which LBGTQ advocates stand. They were created this way and therefore it would be wrong to deny this as who they are.

In a pamphlet distributed by Focus on the Family, this is explained.

Regardless of who we are or where we’ve come from, God has placed a longing for Himself within each of us. This desire can be particularly strong in those who have experienced pain, rejection and abandonment, especially from their fathers, mothers, siblings or peer group. For many, unmet needs, peer-group rejection or familial wounds are significant factors in their homosexuality. This hunger has driven LGB-identified men and women who are hungry for God—and who may have also experienced rejection from Christians—to start their own churches, construct their own theologies or join religious groups that affirm their sexual identity (What the Bible Says about Homosexuality 3).

In the Church’s attempt to help those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and to be Christ-like in our outreach to this community, we have also taken the bandwagon approach and joined the ranks of those who declare that homosexuality is a true gift from God that should not only be accepted but celebrated.    

Societal labels may be placed on a person in early childhood. A boy who doesn’t seem to fit into the traditional male roles (sports-minded and rough-housing) are called effeminate, which then somehow turns into the declaration of “gay.” Girls who seem to be athletic or “tomboys,” who aren’t the traditional girly girls, are often marked with cross-gendered labels. Many of each gender have worn these labels for so long that they believe that they were born that way, and if they were created that way, it is wrong to deny “who they really are.”

The same source from Focus on the Family points out that childhood sexual abuse or exposure to pornography at a young age can lead to gender and sexual confusion. “Childhood sexual abuse is higher in men who have sex with men than in the general male population, and such incidents seem to be a factor in who struggle with homosexuality, creating confusion about sex and sexuality. In addition, sexual behavior is highly addictive, and for many, homosexual behavior has this addictive component.[ii]

In 2015, pastor and author Tim Keller reviewed some articles that support gay relationships among Christians. The argument that the proponents made for the biblical grounds for same-sex relationships used persuasive language to “prove” their theories that certain concepts in the Bible such as slavery and segregation have been deemed illegal and downright immoral. Their argument goes on to include homosexuality in that same category. Keller rebuts this argument by writing,

“The reason that homosexual relationships make so much more sense to people today than in previous times is because they have absorbed late modern western culture’s narratives about the human life. Our society pressed its members to believe “you have to be yourself,” that sexual desires are crucial to personal identity, that not curbing of strong sexual desires leads to psychological damage, and that individuals should be free to live as they alone see fit.”[iii]

Although Keller is solid in his review against the author’s claims, he ends by writing,

“We live in a time in which civility and love in these discussions is fast going away…”[iv] and he acknowledges that Christians should love each person the same, while maintaining a biblical worldview in all things.

I’ve always loved Psalm 51. David wrote this after being faced with his acts of adultery and his being an accomplice to murder. The way I learned this was from the King James Version, verse 10:  “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”

But I also love the way The Message says it:

“Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.”

Later on in that same chapter, verse 10, David switches his focus from his sins to God’s ability to re-create him. King James translation says: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” The Message interprets it this way: “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.” Memorize either of these or another translation and recall them after you’ve failed God. Then don’t dwell on those past sins.

STOP: Has someone hurt you in the past and you hold a grudge?

Have you ever struggled with romantic and/or sexual feelings for the opposite sex?

Have you ever felt as though you were created the wrong gender? [NA1] Can you trace these feelings back as to an event that triggered these leanings?

LIE:      

  • My past defines who I am and who I will be.
  • I do not see any reason to change, regardless of my past.[NA2] 
  • God can’t change me.

TRUTH: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.” (Hebrews 12:2)

“God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female.” Genesis 1:27-28


[i] Ibid

https://drjamesdobson.org/

[iii] Keller, Tim “The Bible and same sex relationships: A review article” 2015 https://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/the_bible_and_same_sex_relationships_a_review_articleibid

[iv] ibid


13. Ultimate Selfie Purpose 3: Where We’ve Been

There are four purposes for posting selfies on social media—to show the world: 1) how we look, 2) who we’re with, 3) where we’ve been, or 4) what we’ve accomplished. This post begins the third item on that list: Where We’ve Been

Tropical sunsets. The Eiffel Tower. The Grand Canyon. A fancy restaurant. These are places we visit sometimes and want to record our being there with a photograph. Occasionally we want to see our own images in the foreground (a selfie) so that when we put these on social media, it is proof that we were actually there. And that’s a good thing. It’s nice to chronicle our adventures that will produce memories later or get a response from our followers. It’s good to look back—sometimes.

We study history in school to connect with those who have gone before us—and to learn from their mistakes—hopefully so that we won’t repeat them. That is essential to our carving a better path for the future. However, looking back in our own lives (where we’ve been) is not always healthy, especially when we find that through remembrance we are bound by shame—or fame. That’s right—fame. Painful memories of our sins can shame us. This is something that we already know. But past fame or accolades are just as harmful if we let those praises make us believe that we are immuned to failure. Just because you were once a beauty queen or captain of the soccer team doesn’t mean that this is who you are. (We’ll discuss accomplishments further in subsequent posts.)

In most cases, however, our failures haunt us more than our successes. I know I don’t often want to even see a person that I knew at certain times in my life because I wasn’t being obedient to God then. God forgave me for those sins, but it has taken awhile to forgive myself. Still I don’t want to be reminded of those transgressions of my youth.

I occasionally hear the concept of past “sin” being referred to as “mistakes.” There’s a fundamental difference in those two words. Let’s call these acts what they are. First, sin is a deliberate act of disobedience—or a conscious decision to not act upon what God has told us to do. We’ve called these sins either “acts of commission or acts of omission.”  In God’s eyes, these are both intentional. We knew it was wrong and we did it anyway.

Second, a mistake could be the result of a bad or hurried decision. In math, for example, the sum of numbers can produce the wrong answer, but it isn’t deliberate. It’s a mistake. We just calculated wrong. Sometimes we act upon a decision without having all of the facts. Directions to a destination, even with GPS, can sometimes be inaccurate and, therefore, lead us astray. Or often it’s carelessness. Have you ever set your alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, but you set it for p.m. instead of a.m.? That’s a mistake and not one you want to repeat. But it’s hardly a sin.

When there is sin, the only option is to repent before God and, perhaps, before the person you have wronged, if that applies. Then, with God’s help,  change the behavior. With a mistake, true repentance isn’t called for. Just make a “note to self” about it.

The prophet Isaiah writes this: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” (Is. 43:18)

The author of Hebrews (who is unknown to us) writes, “By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.” (Hebrews 8:12) The coming of Jesus, the scripture says, changed everything, and you and I are part of that new plan.

Consider a good reason to look back: to review mistakes and even sins so we can make course corrections and repent.

Also consider what I call the poison of the past. Bitterness because of personal failure and/or the pain of being betrayed is not only a joy stealer, but has consequences regarding physical health.

There are many studies that reveal that holding a grudge can make us feel physical pain or at least make our pain worse. Here is one take on the subject: “Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia found that people who said they held a grudge for years had an increased risk of multiple health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, back pain, and headaches.”[i]

Making amends to someone you have hurt or who has hurt you can be painful. And sometimes what we perceive as our truth can only be categorized as honesty. Our honest assessment of a situation might contain truth, but it might not. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Be careful when dealing with these two concepts and assessing your past.

Honesty can be a powerful tool when Truth is also applied. But honesty can also be a powerful tool in the hands of…a liar. And we know that Satan is a liar, but he’s quite sincere, and that’s why so many buy into his lies. In John 8:44, Jesus says to the unbelieving Pharisees, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” So, he’s not only a liar, but the father of lies. The truth is not in him although he appears truly authentic in the words he whispers in our brains. In times of shame and regret, especially, Satan likes to tell us that we can never recover from our past sins.

Theologian and hymn writer John Wesley wrote this in 1739. The first verse is a declaration of absolute praise to the God who saved him.  

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

The fourth verse, which I consider the best part,  says,

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.

This is to say that even after realizing that God has forgiven us for our past, it can still have power over us if we let it. And Satan loves to remind us of our past in order to steal our joy and, therefore, our witness. Author Christine Caine in her book Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny puts it this way: “I have learned that in order to get unhooked from the pain of my past, I have to continuously choose to change my perspective. I need to look at things through God’s eyes—through the resurrection power of Jesus.”[ii]

STOP: Are you bound by your past sins or mistakes? Is it hard to move forward because of your past?

LIE: You’ll never get over your past. You’ll never be worth much because of the pain of your history.

TRUTH:  …if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9-10)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! (2 Corinthians 5: 17)


[i] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-009-0054-0

[ii] Caine, Christine, Zondervan. Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny

12: Ultimate Selfie Purpose 2: Who We’re With

“I’m from the other side of the tracks.”

“I’m from a poor family.”

“I don’t even know who my father is.”

“I was an accident.”

These are lies that we are often told that make us feel unwanted, unworthy, or devalued.

A couple of young ladies that I know had been told similar lies. One of them was left as a newborn in a dirty clothes hamper. Someone eventually found her, nurtured her, and adopted her. The struggle to find her worth, however, was quite a journey, but she has made it. She was no accident. In fact, God so wanted her that He put two people together for a brief time—just long enough for her to be conceived. That tells me and her that she was not unplanned, but especially given life though unusual, though heart-breaking, circumstances.

The other young lady was born while her parents were in prison. She was put into foster care. Then the state eventually put her and her sister in a relative’s home where they were abused physically and emotionally. This, in her words, had given her “a tainted view of what love really was.” She grew up thinking that the beatings she got were to make her a better person—to teach her not to do bad things anymore. This young lady, too, now sees that her circumstances were ordained by God from her conception. She was adopted into a loving and caring family and she is a remarkable person.

Perhaps you remember the story that begins in Genesis 37. It’s about a man named Jacob, later renamed Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, and at least one daughter that we know of. Jacob’s next-to-youngest son, Joseph, was his father’s favorite. This fact was obvious, not only to him, but also to his eleven brothers. The older brothers plotted to kill Joseph, but instead sold him into slavery in hopes that they would never see him again. They told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.

Joseph was taken to Egypt as a slave, but somehow managed to find favor with the Pharaoh and brought out of slavery into a place of honor in the pharaoh’s court. This is where the story gets really interesting.

Joseph never forgot what his brothers had done to him. However, “the Lord was with him…” (Genesis 39:21) and years later, his brothers left their homeland during a famine and went to Egypt to beg for food. They did not suspect that they were begging these provisions in front of Joseph whom they did not recognize as their brother. But Joseph recognized them! Finally, after Joseph identified himself to his brothers, he said to them. “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…”(Genesis 45:5; 50:20, CSB).

It took Joseph many years to get the whole picture of how God “allowed” bad things to happen to him, but how God turned those bad experiences into something good—and not only for Joseph, but for many people in the lands of Canaan and Egypt.

It’s so hard to see God at work during times of abandonment, loneliness, and betrayal, but it’s not impossible. It may take a while for the picture to come together, but when it does, the pieces may fit nicely and beautifully.

You may be hurt, rejected, cheated on, and abandoned many times throughout your life. Those times can be horrible. I know, I’ve been there, but I also know that waiting to see God’s plan emerge from such a mess is worth the pain and discouragement. The bad that was intended by the enemy, God can turn into something good.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I have often reminded myself of this quote whenever my environment (and Satan’s lies) seemed to work against my sense of value. Be aware that the decisions and deeds of others are part of the lies that Satan propagates.

My friend, Dr. Natalie Flake Ford, a professor of Psychology and Biblical Counseling, has experienced a different kind of abandonment in her life that has led to her struggles with self-worth. After her husband’s suicide, her sense of value was severely challenged. She writes,

“Can you imagine what it must have been like to live with her?

I can’t imagine how bad things must have been at home to drive him to take his own life.

Poor girl. I can’t imagine the guilt she must carry.”

These are just a few of the reoccurring thoughts I had in the wake of my husband’s suicide. I felt like others blamed me for his death. If I had been a better wife then…well, suffice it to say, I definitely played the “if only” and “what if” game.

For months, I dreaded going out in public. I was constantly trying to interpret various glances from others. Did they know about Michael’s death? Was that pity or was that blame I saw in their faces? I’d look away and pray that they wouldn’t come over and speak to me.

Today I know that I am not to blame for my husband’s suicide, but those early years wreaked of guilt, shame, and blame (both self-blame and perceived blame).

Another person’s deeds cannot not be tied to your own sense of worth.

Dr. Ford has a new book out. Here is a link.

During a rough time in my life I tried to learn how to knit. I thought it would give me a new sense of purpose. My friend, Sarah, worked patiently to teach me knitting techniques. When I didn’t seem to be learning the craft, she took me to the knit shop to get a “pro” to help me. I just couldn’t learn. During that time, I felt like a failure in so many ways and my lack of aptitude for a basic domestic skill sealed my low sense of worth. I was wearing a $0 price tag in my mind and heart. Years later when a huge crisis in my life was beginning to pass, I found the bag with all my knitting supplies. There was almost a whole skein of yarn, knitting needles that held a two-inch section I had “finished” and three or four instruction books that I had pored over but never understood. The sight suddenly brought those worthless feelings back and my value meter started to drop again. A little later, I was in a Bible study where a very familiar Psalm was read. I had heard it and even memorized it, but that day one thing hit me.  Psalm 139: 13-14 says “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.” (NIV) The psalmist could have used another term besides “knit” to describe God’s handiwork in me, but he didn’t. At first, the word knit was hard to take until I realized how difficult that skill was for me. Complicated. Tedious. Creative. At that point, I began to realize the eternal price tag, that was mentioned in the introduction of this book, was starting to change. 

As the hurt began to heal, the scar left behind became a marker of God’s providence in mortal matters. Some seculars would state that “everything happens for a reason” but even that doesn’t console the wounded during the pain. In fact, during the pain, it’s next to impossible to see good during the bad. It’s after the “storm” that God’s hand becomes clear.

Romans 8:28 says it this way: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

STOP: Are you the result of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Have you ever questioned your worth because of your origin? Have you ever felt abandoned? Has someone you loved committed suicide?

LIE: *You are worthless.

*You were a mistake.

*You will never rise above your origin.

*It was your fault that someone left you.

TRUTH: Joshua 1:9 Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

From Psalm 139 – “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!”

“You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.”

11. Ultimate Selfie Purpose 2: Who We’re With–All Alone on a Saturday Night…

…or for me it was a Sunday afternoon, and it was my birthday—my 19th birthday. It was one of the worst days of my life.  I was a sophomore in college, and my dad had died a few months before, at the ripe ol’ age of 51. Everyone in our family was reeling from the shock and grief. I was 200 miles away from any of them, so I wasn’t able to join in the much-needed consolation that my mother and sister were able to share. I was alone in my grief.

Birthdays had always been a big deal in our house. There was always a party, cake, ice cream, and presents. Sometimes, as I got older and didn’t “require” all the trimmings, I would get a surprise celebration anyway. “It is your day,” my mother would say. “Celebrate it!” And so we did. However, on the day I turned 19, there was no cake, no presents, no cards. I had friends. I even had a boyfriend, but we were “on a break.” Everybody I knew was out doing other things that beautiful December Sunday, none of them realizing it was my special day. So, I sat in my dorm room, looked out the window over campus, watched students come and go, laughing and talking, and I sank lower than I’d ever been emotionally. Then I realized that I didn’t have to be alone if I didn’t want to. In fact, in true Scarlett O’Hara (from Gone with the Wind) fashion I said out loud, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be alone again.” And for the next year and a half, I stuck to that creed. Whatever it took, I would never be without friends, boyfriends, party pals, destructive behavior friends…ever again.

The late holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (I find this a little odd since Wiesel and millions of Jews like him were victims of hate which is often thought to be the opposite of love.) I, however, in my prodigal years bought into Wiesel’s definition even though, at that point, I had never heard it. To be ignored was to be unloved and unloved meant unlovable. And as the old song says, “You’re nobody ‘til somebody loves you.” I felt unloved. I was a nobody.

Like the main character in the children’s classic The Velveteen Rabbit, the once beloved toy who had been cast aside by his owner, I felt ignored and therefore not “real.” Invisible. Nothing worse than that. During this time, I did whatever it took to make myself not only visible, but to be the life of the party. I was anything but. I was a desperate girl in a desperate, downward spiral.

Lest you think that I’m still sitting here with my lip poked out like a spoiled child because no one loved me, I must state clearly that this whole 19-year-old epiphany was a lie. Lots of people loved me then and many love me now. But even if they hadn’t, I know that I have value because God has always, will always love me. In Jeremiah 31:3, God speaks to His people (which now includes me) “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.”  If only I had remembered that on that day, I could have avoided a lot of hopeless wandering and regret. I only wish that I had acted upon what I knew to be true—that God is always near. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…” (NASB) But I was determined to do things my way, of course.

Trying to fill an emptiness in your life, could be like trying to fill a cup with a hole in the bottom. It may be a big hole and it’s obvious that the container is spilling its contents. It might be a small, almost imperceptible crack that leaks the contents one drop at a time. Obviously both are metaphors that speak into our lonely lives and that both examples “don’t hold water.” However, the last example is the most dangerous since you can’t see what’s happening right away and the damage cannot be assessed until it’s almost too late to fix the problem.

Paul the Apostle warns believers to avoid being “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) This is another metaphor that goes back to agrarian societies when animals (oxen, in this case) pulled plows and wagons. Ideally, two animals were used to not only pull heavier loads, but also to make the cart or plow roll evenly. The animals were “yoked” together by a harness that kept each one from running away or traveling farther than the other, that would make the carting disastrous. Farmers wanted to avoid tipping over the vehicle that the animals were pulling. So, how does this apply to relationships? For believers, this says that God is not pleased when we date (and especially marry) those who are not Christians. This isn’t to say that we should never associate with non-believers, but that we shouldn’t be linked in a relationship that could have us pulling in opposite directions.

This mandate is not just so you can avoid unnecessary frustration, but it is for your protection as well. It is not to say that relationships with two believers won’t have problems and conflicts, but that those who are unequally yoked can pose more problems than if both are solid believers.

There’s a story in the Bible found in 1 Kings 19 about the prophet Elijah. Elijah had been working hard to do God’s work, but nobody was listening. No one seemed to care. He didn’t have even one friend. He was pouting. He was lonely. He was ready to give up on his calling. Then an angel told Elijah to go up on a mountain and wait for God to tell him what to do. So, a bit reluctantly, the prophet did as he was told. Then when God asked him what he was doing there (like God didn’t already know), Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Armies, but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.” (CSB)

Abandoned. All alone.

Then God showed up in a mighty way, but not in a way the prophet had expected. While Elijah was waiting for God to speak, “A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Sometimes God shouts. Sometimes He whispers. If I had been listening to Him that lonely day on my 19th birthday, I could have heard Him say, “I didn’t forget your birthday. In fact, I remember you well. I placed you inside your mother and was there when you were born. And every day since.”

One thing that the Bible and science agree on is that we are social creatures. God created us for each other. When Adam was created “God said, ‘It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.’” (Genesis 2: 18)

STOP: Have you ever felt as though God has abandoned you? You call out and He doesn’t answer? Have you ever entered into a toxic relationship just so you wouldn’t be alone?

LIE: No one cares for me, not even God.

I must have someone in my life, no matter who it is, to keep me from being alone.

TRUTH: You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. (1 Peter: 1:17)

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. (1 Peter 5: 7-8)

10. ULTIMATE SELFIE – Who We’re With: White-Picket-Fence-Syndrome

The cliché “beauty is only skin deep” was revised in my generation to add “but ugly is to the bone.” I heard a retort to news that a girl at my school had excelled academically to the point that she could skip a grade was, “Yeah, but she’s ugly and she’ll never get married.” What? This message screamed at me. In fact, it was ingrained in me to the point of driving me to two goals: be pretty—get married. Once when I asked why I wasn’t given a middle name. The response? “You won’t need it. When you get married, you’ll drop it anyway and use your maiden name in the middle.” When. Not if. When.

But, I did get married and I did take my husband’s last name and I did take my maiden name as my middle, and let me say I have never regretted that decision. Ever. But I wonder sometimes if the expectations for me to be a wife and mother hadn’t been so ingrained would I have raced the clock to get hitched? I was barely 21 on my wedding day after all. I didn’t want to be an old maid!

When my mother was trying to identify a woman she might have known as a teenager or young adult, she would ask, “Who was she before she married?” I always knew what she meant. She wanted to know a married woman’s maiden name. Once I decided to respond with a snippy comeback to my mother, “She was the same person before she married as she was after.” I now regret that caddy remark. However, the idea that marriage is strongly attached to a woman’s identity was another message that shaped my own sense of value. I needed a husband to protect and provide for me. That was the dream that my parents had for me. I willingly adopted that dream by going to college, not for a good education, but for an MRS degree. It was okay, then, that I went to college because that was where a smart, successful husband could be found. Imagine my surprise at how many males I met who were neither smart nor headed for success.

My friend Nikki, just after their fourth child was born, was abandoned by her husband for another woman. Here’s what Nikki writes:

When my husband left me for another woman, I was completely devastated.  For so many years, my identity was completely wrapped up in the fact that I was someone’s wife.  Being someone’s wife meant that at some point someone had chosen me.  It comprised a huge part of who I was.  The fact that the person with whom I had chosen to do life had decided to “unchoose” me, sent me spiraling down a deep abyss.  I felt like trash that had been thrown away.  I felt completely unloved and unworthy.  I now had the overwhelming task of trying to figure out who I was since my husband didn’t want me to be his wife.  I spent many days comparing myself to this other woman…(personal interview)

According to statistics compiled by pewresearch.org, in 1960 72% of U.S. adults were married. In 2014, less than half of Americans were married. In 1960, the median age at first marriage for both men and women was in the early 20s. In 2011, the median age at first marriage is an estimated 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. The reasons behind these changes in these 50+ years are varied, but I imagine that, for women, the change is due to more women receiving higher levels of education and more women in the workplace. Women are now more independent and don’t have to rely on a man to support them.

Today it seems that women’s desires to marry and start a family are still strong, but because of the changing landscape in the workplace, women have choices whether to marry for protection or security. She has a choice. But what about those who truly want to be married and have not found that “special guy”? According to a blog christian-single-woman.com[i] the idea of a woman having to be complete in marriage is taking a hit. The challenge is the concept that “… if you’re not whole as a single woman, marriage won’t make you whole…”

A blog entitled The Briefing written by Australian native Emma Thornett includes an entry called “Satan’s Lies About Singleness.” The untruths that she recognizes, as a never-married woman, include: you’re single because you’re undesirable, God is not powerful enough to find you a husband, you’re single because God doesn’t love you, and that getting married will fix all of your problems. One of the lies, however, speaks especially to the idea of personal worth. The lie is that since no one has married you, you have no value. Emma writes,

“Someone marrying you will not make you valuable. Doing things for other people will not make you valuable. You cannot be made valuable, because you already are valuable.  You are valuable because God Almighty himself tenderly created you—in his own image, no less! You were valuable the minute God wrote your days in His book and nothing that happens to you in this life can change that.[ii]

In Christianity Today, an article by Ed Stetzer addresses the subject of how the married world looks (and sometimes speaks) to a single person, “Perhaps, with tongue-in-cheek, we can at least agree that the endless questioning and advice giving of the coupled is oppressive. ‘Met anyone special since I saw you last week?’ ‘Maybe you should lower your standards a little bit.’ ‘Don’t you want to get married?’”[iii]
            I’ve not personally struggled with adult singleness. I got married at 21, remember? My firsthand knowledge of this subject is limited. But I have friends who did not get married at the “usual” time.

I asked my friend, Karen, who got married in her 40s, years after the “normal” time, how she felt during those adult single years:

Well, I thought “the right one” showed up several times, and each time it ended, and I was devastated… and angry… at God, and myself… 

Then…

“Why aren’t you giving me the desires of my heart? All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. I’ve tried to be patient but that’s not working.”

But it was always in hindsight that I could say, “Thank you, God, for saving me from, what could have been, a real disaster.”

I didn’t necessarily feel stigmatized, but I felt that it was difficult at times to fit in, especially as I grew older.  I’m not sure the staff of the church I attended knew what to do with singles, especially in the early days… everything seemed husband/wife/kid-driven. Being young and single is one thing. But watching so many of your friends and family members fall in love, get married and start families—over 2 decades— was excruciatingly painful at times. I was ecstatic for them, but sad for myself. However, my best friends, even to this day, were formed from the singles group at church. And being heavily involved in the music ministry was a great outlet that wasn’t dependent on husband/wife/kids. 

One of the biggest challenges in my mind was learning how to fit into a couple’s world. 

 I had several serious relationships and each time, except one, the guy broke it off. Here are some of the questions I asked God and myself after each breakup:

Why doesn’t he want me? 

Why am I not good enough? 

What’s wrong with me?

When will it be my turn?

Why did You give me the desire to be a wife and mother if You aren’t going to let it happen?

Some women want to get married, but for the wrong reasons and occasionally it’s about the wedding itself. Say “yes” to the dress parties are precursors to the big event these days. More and more couples are choosing destination weddings, which, of course make for good photographs. Theme weddings are gaining in popularity, too. Whatever the reasons for getting or staying married, the expectations and realities of marriage should make couples think and pray hard about this decision.

I married a minister. Well, at the time he was a wannabe minister. After our honeymoon, he began seminary while I worked as a secretary on campus, and he had a weekend church. After graduating from seminary, he was ordained, and was hired fulltime by a church to lead their music program. It was a good job, a good church, and an answer to his call. But what about me? I wasn’t seminary-trained, ordained, or even “called” to the ministry like he was. Fortunately, I was a musician, too, and loved being a part of the program. But in many cases, especially with ministry wives, a husband’s career is what he does and maybe even who he is. What about her? How does she fit? Is her purpose fulfilled in his? There are certain expectations by which a congregation measures its minister. The more traditional churches expect the “two-for-one package” where the wife (or husband) does as much work in the ministry as the one getting paid to do it. But what if the wife (or husband) has another purpose or interest that is outside of the day-to-day workings of the ministry? Is she of less value because she doesn’t fit the traditional roles that some congregants expect?

What about those of you, however, who do not feel this need to get married? Maybe you don’t want to be married. What then? Well, there is nothing necessarily wrong with you period, just because you have the desire to remain single. There’s no law (civil or biblical)  that says a woman or man must marry, and yet the stigma may still exist in our society. This should be a matter of self-evaluation and prayer if you want to stay single.

STOP: Are you single but want to be married? If so, ask yourself why you want to get married? Is it because of the stigma attached to singleness? Is it because you want a family? Are you married and find your worth in your marital status?

LIE: •Since no one has proposed, there must be something wrong with me.

•I cannot be “whole” unless I am married.

•I’ll just have to settle for anyone who is willing to say “I do.”

•Does becoming one in marriage mean that, as a single, I’m only half a person?

TRUTH: •God’s Word is timeless. Even though it was written hundreds of years ago, the Truths are just as pertinent today as they were then. God will restore you and heal your hurts. Isaiah spoke for God to the Israelites, but the prophet’s words spoke for God to us. These are good words and promises for those who are wounded.

Hebrews 13:6 says, “Since God assured us, ‘I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,’ we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?”


[i] christian-single-woman.com (date, access date)

[ii] http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/authors/emma-thornett/

[iii] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/june/singled-out.html#_ftn1

9. Ultimate Selfie-Purpose 2: Who We’re With

Remember earlier in this series I proposed four purposes we find for posting selfies on social media—to show the world: 1) how we look, 2) who we’re with, 3) where we’ve been, or 4) what we’ve accomplished. This post begins the second item on that list: Who we’re with.

Not long ago, at a conference, a woman who was standing near me had her camera already focused on the front door and ready to shoot. I didn’t know what she was waiting for, but I stood there long enough to figure it out. She was waiting, she finally said to someone else, for the singer/songwriter who was to be the mainliner at this conference. I, too, wanted to see this artist because of what he has meant to the Christian music industry, so taking a photo of him wasn’t out of the question for me, especially as it would archive the events at this conference. This woman, however, not only wanted to see the artist, hear him sing and testify, she wanted to take a selfie of her with the artist. I heard her say, “My kids will finally think I’m cool if I am in the same picture with him.” It seems that she thought that she was more valuable if she could be photographed with someone significant. Lest you think that I’m putting this woman down, I’m just using her as an example of what everybody has done at one time or another. Everybody including me.

Seeing someone of importance can be a happy moment and will give us a great story to tell our friends. It’s almost as though the closer we stand to this person, the more we feel important ourselves. It’s as if we don’t see ourselves as special, so we borrow the sparkle of an idol and transfer it to our own sense of worth. I often call it standing in someone else’s aura.

There are even websites now that teach how to make a fake picture with a famous person to impress your friends and family. No kidding.

There’s a difference between hero worship and borrowing significance from someone else. The latter is about boosting our sense of worth by touching someone else of worth.

Hero worship is about admiration of a person because of his or her abilities or attributes that we’d like to emulate. (The worship part is not a healthy mindset.) But there’s power in this concept. Nike used a slogan to market their Air Jordan shoes. “I want to be like Mike.” It worked. Millions paid big bucks for those shoes so that they could perhaps be as great as Michael Jordan.  And speaking of shoes, here’s a story that is endearing and somewhat troubling at the same time.

More than 20 years ago, a woman named Joni Jacques did the same thing many others did back in the mid-1990s: She attended a charity sale that offered up Oprah Winfrey’s clothing, shoes and accessories.  Since Joni was struggling financially at the time, she searched for one of the least expensive items she could find. That item was a pair of Oprah’s shoes — but they ended up being so much more than celebrity footwear.

A while after Joni purchased the shoes (a size 10, even though Joni wore a size 7), she wrote to Oprah and told the talk show host what the shoes had meant to her since they came into her possession. Joni was able to relay that message personally when she attended an Oprah Show taping as an audience member in 1997.

“I really loved them and I kept them in my bedroom,” she told Oprah back then. “When I got really, really depressed and I couldn’t find anybody to talk to, I took the shoes out and I…”

Her voice trails and Joni becomes overwhelmed with emotion. Oprah finishes the thought for her. “…Stood in my shoes,” Oprah says. “To make herself feel better, she would stand in my shoes, and now she says she doesn’t have to stand in the shoes as much because she’s standing on her own.”[i] The audience applauded wildly.

There’s an even better story about association with greatness in the Bible found in Matthew 9: 20-22 .

“… a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched [Jesus’] robe. She was thinking to herself, ‘If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.’ Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: ‘Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.’”

What is the difference in the story of the woman in Oprah’s shoes and the story of the woman who touched Jesus’ robe? Both of these women had great needs—physical and financial needs. There was something missing in each woman’s life. Both of them craved some touch of value that they might have to borrow from someone else.

The difference in these two women is that the shoes of a human being, even one as wonderful as Oprah, are not powerful enough to truly change a life. The Jesus who gave the woman her health back saw her as greatly valuable in spite of her desperate condition.  He even called her “daughter.” Oprah was impressed with the woman’s story, but the power of the shoes had no true healing power. Only the Great Physician can acknowledge a child of God and transform him or her into a whole person. 

Our worth is not dependent on connections with someone we believe is more significant. The world may not regard our value, but God definitely does. Remember that God chose as His servants ordinary people. When we see this statement, we think, first, about the greats like Abraham, Moses, Noah, and David who were unremarkable until God chose them to do great things, so great that we now revere them and use their names as examples of godly greatness.

However, there are two women in the New Testament whose names we know, but may not regard as significant. They are Lois and Eunice. Mother and daughter. They are mentioned in scripture only once. Paul writes to his son in the faith, Timothy, a letter of encouragement. He writes,

“I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion. That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you!” (2 Timothy 1: 4-6)

These two women were just good moms. They raised a godly child—one whose name, Timothy, we cannot deny is significant. And the legacy that this family left behind is immeasurable. There’s no telling how many came to faith through these women and this bloodline. (There have been many great mothers and fathers who have raised godly children. Most of them will not be recognized necessarily in their lifetimes, but this does not diminish their effect and value at all.)

If our goal is to please God, rather than other people, then we should ask ourselves why we want to stand in someone else’s aura—to deny our own importance that is given to us when we were created. Notoriety in this world is fleeting and deceptive.

STOP: Do you ever want to be close to a significant person just because you’ll feel more valuable? Will a selfie with that person boost your sense of worth?

LIE: I’ll never be worth anything. I must prove I’m significant by my association with someone my world thinks is special.

TRUTH:  “The very credentials… people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant…” (Philippians 3:7-8)


[i] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-oprahs-shoes-changed-one-womans-life_n_5601bacae4b00310edf8f66d

8. Body of Lies, part 2

The human body was built to change. We all know this. A healthy infant seems to grow almost overnight the first year; and for the rest of the human’s life, changes are inevitable. For all women, it seems, their bodies change with every birthday. Those changes are quite normal and part of the Intelligent Design process. Females are born with more fat cells in their hips, thighs, and buttocks. These fat cells are to help support the child-bearing years that usually occur between her 20s and into her upper 30s or early 40s. As a woman gains (or even maintains) weight during those years, the fat is usually distributed in those lower regions of her body. However, after 40 and beyond, hormone changes make the weight distribution shift to her upper belly—an area that some doctors call the “meno-pot.” In other words, from menopause and beyond, a woman’s shape may change from pear-shaped to apple-shaped without her permission.

Gravity is also a body-changer. We know this, too. Breasts, skin, and bellies start to pull down as the years go by. It’s during these aging years that many women develop negative feelings about their bodies—more than ever in their lives. According to statistics issued by the American Society of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeons, body cosmetic surgery for women ages 51 to 64 has risen 47% in the past five years. The conclusion is that older women are struggling to live up to the standards set by her much younger counterparts. The call here is for women to try to let mind and body be at peace during life transitions. Besides hormonal and age changes, there are other factors that can determine a woman’s feelings about her own body.

Statistics show that one fourth of the women in America have been sexually molested as children. [i]Though nowadays there are laws and groups that are supposed to protect children from such abuse, it is still rampant primarily because most children do not tell anyone about it – ever. Sometimes there is disclosure but many years later – too late to stop the abuser before he (or she) has found other victims.

A girl who has been sexually abused will most likely have some adverse effects from it. A distorted body image will likely be one of them. The girl might hate her body and sometimes abuse it in her self-loathing. She might have low self-esteem because of the shame the abuse caused. Or a girl might start to believe that her self-worth is tied closely to her ability to please a sexual partner. Therefore, she may allow herself to go on “clearance” or “free to any taker.” Conversely, she may feel so devalued that she will take herself “off the market.” Her virtue has been exploited, but so has her self-esteem. We are now aware that girls and women are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world, so the sexual exploitation of females ranges from inappropriate touching to the marketing of girls as property.

In any case, her sense of worth is shaped and disfigured by psychological damage caused by an abuser. In various ways, a girl will try to take back control from her abuser by, perhaps, abusing herself, i.e. eating disorders, cutting, and disfigurement. I borrow from the book Becoming a Woman of Worth, where the author explains a lie she calls a “weed” of doubt and self-loathing that sends this message:

Since I am no good—I might as well be bad.

Since I am trash—I might as well act like it.

Since I will never measure up—I might as well give up now.[ii]

Although we don’t want to hear this, heredity plays a huge role in our own body types. We know this because we can see it everywhere, in ourselves and in others. Tall people usually have a tall ancestor or two in the family photo album. Curly hair, skin tone, prominent noses are obviously part of genetic makeup. High BMI (Body Mass Index) is sometimes handed down from mother to daughter, but only in about one-third of the cases, according a recent survey.[iii] It is clear that most of the hand-me-down weight issues relate to behavioral issues where lifestyle is more to blame.

So, is there anything we can do about the unsightly characteristics that make us loathe our bodies? Sure. Medical advances have made it possible to “fix” some things. However, what is the goal? Is it worth the pain and expense? And is boasting our “worth” part of the process?

STOP: •Have you become obsessed with your body—driving yourself to excessive exercise or depriving it of food for fear of gaining weight? If so, have you been diagnosed with anorexia or other body image disorders?

•Were you ever sexually molested or raped? If so, realize that this has probably skewed your view of your own image.

LIE: •My only worth is in my sex appeal.

•My body is loathsome because of my past sexual activity

•I must use my sex appeal to gain power.

TRUTH: “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB.[NA1] 


[i] Excerpt From: James C. Dobson. “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women.” iBooks.

[ii] Clark, Kristen Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Hope & Faith, 2014

[iii] https://www.scholarsresearchlibrary.com/articles/the-effects-of-heredity-on-the-body-composition-and-cardiorespiratory-fitness-of-parents-and-children.pdf


 [NA1]2288

7. How We Look: Body of Lies

When I was growing up, the Miss America Pageant was a big TV night. While my mother shampooed and pin-curled my hair for church the next day, the whole family watched the pageant. It was our chance to see the faraway (at least from South Alabama) glamorous Atlantic City and 50 of the country’s most beautiful girls. By the time TV coverage started, the preliminaries had already happened and the competition was down to the top ten. We got to see evening gown competition, swimsuit competition (which has since been eliminated in the event), the talent competition and the impromptu question and answer for each of the finalists. Naturally our family pulled for the Southern girls and we all had opinions on who would win. Of course, Bert Parks was the emcee and one year, 1959, our favorite, a Mississippi girl won. It was Mary Ann Mobley, and I thought she was the most wonderful creature on earth. She could sing and dance and had a perfect body and straight teeth and I wanted to be just like her one day. But as I got older and stopped growing in height at 5’1” I was told that I’d never be a Miss America (or a Rockette) because beauty queens (and Rockettes) are tall. I was limited not by ability or even looks, but by something I could do nothing about. The conclusion here was that my body limited me as to what I could accomplish, what path I took in life, and maybe how valuable I was to the world.
My friend, Bonnie is almost six feet tall, which is above average for a woman. I am several inches under the average. We each have dealt occasionally with inferiority because of our heights. Yet there is absolutely nothing that either of us can do about it. Oh, I can wear 3-inch heels and gain some altitude, but you will never see me in 3-inch heels. Bonnie, however, doesn’t have any tricks to reduce her elevation. She could, then, try to appear “normal height” by slouching or slinking about trying to minimize it. Instead she proudly stands straight, wears high heels, performs on stage, and seems to celebrate the gift of vertical real estate. When I asked Bonnie what image struggles she faced, she said,
The summer before I entered 8th grade, I grew three inches from a normal height to almost six feet tall. Classmates would literally walk up and say “What happened to you?” as if I had three eyes. I was taller than every guy in school, their fathers and the faculty at large. My journal from this year is in a safe place, rich with drama and not a little comedy. Those years are life-branding for many of us and unkind remarks could have taken me down. Thankfully, years of studying classical piano required correct posture. It was tough being tall and skinny and feeling geeky and different. I credit immersion in the performance arts and a healthy fascination with Twiggy for a dose of courage. High heels have always been an option. I embraced the advantages of being tall but don’t we all wonder at what we haven’t experienced? I’ll always be fascinated with what it feels like to look up into a man’s eyes, to buy clothes without having to check insanely long inseams, to be the cheerleader, tiny and tossed into the air. (personal interview)
I’ve learned a lot about my own body image by watching Bonnie (and secretly praying that when I get to heaven, I’ll be tall and can look Bonnie in the eye.)
A woman can ask herself, “What about my body can I change?” If the answers are lose weight, tone-up, change my hair or makeup, then the solutions are obvious and positive. However, if the answers call for severe measures like risky and expensive surgery, then further prayer and soul-searching needs to be applied before a drastic decision is made—especially if the goal is to create the “perfect body.”
On a website called Mirror, Mirror.org experts who address eating disorders publish great insights about body types. Here is one about the perfect body:
“If we consider society’s idea of the perfect body image for women based on the average fashion model, we would think that the perfect woman was about 5’10” and weighed only 120 pounds. However, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average American woman is only about 5’4” and weighs about 169 pounds. There is a big discrepancy there.”
Mirror, Mirror, also emphasizes, “Among our many societal misconceptions about weight is the belief that being thin equals being healthy, and being overweight equals being unhealthy. The movement known as Health at Every Size, or HAES, challenges this premise by arguing that health and wellbeing are infinitely more important than a number on a scale.”
This organization launched a subgroup that includes health care personnel who proclaim a theory called “set point,” which is essentially a range occurring naturally in every body that makes it fight to maintain itself. The organization stresses that this does not mean that there aren’t unhealthy weights, but that the number on the scale should not be the only determiner for healthy weight. Coming to terms with what we cannot change is a step forward toward feeling worthy.
Dr. James Dobson stresses in one of his podcasts on Family Talk that the most destructive activity in which to engage is comparing ourselves to others. Dobson says, “When you look at another person’s strengths and compare them to your own weaknesses, there’s just no way to come out feeling good about yourself. Even at a young age, our self-images are shaped by how we stack up against our peers.” His advice to the listener is “to make the most of the strengths and talents you’ve been given. When that is achieved, then comparison with others is no longer a relevant issue.” But how do we achieve that balance in a world filled with communication that bombards us with the messages of imperfections in our bodies?

STOP: Do you obsess about your weight or body tone? Would you go to any lengths to create the prefect body? Exercise? Diet medications? Surgery?

LIE: No one can love me because of my body type. I can never be attractive.

TRUTH: 1 Peter 3:3-6 “What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.”

6. How We Look: part 3

The first time I saw Katherine, I was captivated. She was twenty-something, blonde, ever-perfect smile and a gregarious spirit. It was impossible not to like her. She and her husband, Jay, were friends of our 20-something son and daughter-in-law, and we learned more about her through our visits to the Los Angeles church where they all attended. Katherine was a model, an actress, and a passionate spokesperson for mission causes through their church.

Six months after her first child was born and three weeks before her husband’s graduation from law school, Katherine had a massive stroke. Her chances of survival were slim; however, if she did make it through surgery, her doctors stressed, she would likely spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state. Katherine miraculously made it through a 16-hour procedure and had retained a small portion of her original function. There was substantial paralysis on her right side. Her face was contorted, her limbs were twisted; she could not speak or swallow. In spite of all of her impairments, she was still cognizant and was able to communicate in the most basic level. Her survival and recovery have been miraculous, even as reported by her doctors and therapists—and she is careful to give God the credit for her recovery. However, one of the tragedies is that when I, and perhaps others, heard the news of her stroke and saw before-and-after pictures, the first response was “How sad. She was so beautiful.” In Katherine and Jay’s book Hope Heals, Katherine writes about the first time she looked in the mirror after the stroke. “I was horrified by the ghastly look of frailty and death. I was beyond sad. I never thought I was overly focused on my appearance, not any more than your typical Southern gal. But this was shocking. Not only did I not feel beautiful; I didn’t even recognize myself.” Read more about Katherine’s journey in the book and on her website www.hopeheals.com.

Lauren Scruggs Kennedy was a fashion model and journalist. She was blonde, young, and beautiful. Then in December 2011, she went up in a family friend’s small plane. After the ride over her home city of Dallas to view Christmas lights, she somehow walked into the spinning propeller of the plane. The propeller sliced her skull, her left eye and cheek, her left shoulder and arm. Her eye had to be removed and her arm could not be restored. Though Lauren and her family were happy that she was alive, the scars the accident left behind, physical and emotional, were devastating. In one of her books Your Beautiful Heart: 31 Reflections on Love, Faith, Friendship, and Becoming a Girl Who Shines, Lauren responds to her sense of worth before the accident. “When I got home from the hospital I would cry a lot and it was hard to look in the mirror. Before the accident, I would get a lot of attention for the way I looked, so I held a lot of my identity there.”

Her journey to recovery is amazing. Surgery, therapy, and prosthetics have made Lauren look “normal,” but through her ordeal she has new insights into a woman’s sense of worth.

Every day, you and I are bombarded from multiple directions by a giant beauty lie. This false message often comes at us from Hollywood’s movie reels and New York’s editorial pages, sure—but it wouldn’t be fair to blame the entertainment industry alone. We hear the lie being spoken from the mouths of our friends, our peers, and sometimes even our parents. And we hear it whispered from the quiet and secret places in our own individual hearts, too. Here is the lie: A certain kind of physical appearance equals beauty.
I would add to this lie that beauty equals worth.

STOP: Try to recall some of the labels placed upon you as a child or teenager that stuck with you through the years. The labels may be seemingly positive: pretty, cute, or pleasant. Others may have been negative: ugly, plain, or offensive. These labels may have been spoken directly to you or you may have overheard or discerned the implications about your appearance.

LIE •I was “born with it” therefore I must maintain and use my looks for gain since I have no other element of worth.
•I am not as pretty as other girls so my looks limit my prospects and significance to my world.

TRUTH: 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage battle according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (NASB)7i