The Pride of Insecurity

I just finished reading a seriously incredible book. It’s probably in my personal top 5 now: Allison Vesterfelt’s “Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.”

It’s the story of how Allison (Ally) and her friend Sharaya decided to quit their jobs and go on a 6 month road trip, visiting each of the 50 states. Ally writes that the trip was part of a dream for each of them (writing for her, singing/performing for Sharaya), how they got by, people they met, people they reconnected with, people and things they lost and lessons learned.

As if that wasn’t enough to intrigue me, (hello, blog post of a few weeks ago where I swoon about the idea of prancing on the west coast for 6 months) once I started reading this book, it was almost like I was reading words I could have written. It was as though I’d gone on the wild adventure I always convince myself wouldn’t be possible for someone like me, and I was reading the lessons I’d learn if I ever found the courage to do it.

So many things jumped off these pages and into my soul that I could probably blog for days on end about this book. But one of the most glaring was a particularly relatable diatribe of how Ally dreads the question: “What do you do?” She’s a twenty-something who has a dream of being a writer; who quit her job to travel the country with a plan to blog about it and write a book. Not sure any of this will pan out, she finds herself bogged down in insecurity about how to answer the question.

I get it. I quit my job, I’ve started a blog and I’m working on writing a book, too. No one is paying me. I have to set my own deadlines and goals. I worry about how others perceive what I’m doing. Do they think I’m just goofing off, wasting my life? Do they think I have nothing important to do because I’m not getting paid when I work at my craft? What do I even say when people ask me what I do? My answer to that question is usually plagued with insecurity, as I mumble something about reading, working out, cooking, cleaning and I’m actually, er, kind of, um, working on writing a book. (I’m silently lamenting how awkward I am in these conversations.)

Ally writes this about insecurity: “I wish I could pass off insecurity as a burden to bear and everyone would feel really sorry for me, but the more I think about it the more I see that my insecurity is really pride. My insecurity makes everything all about me.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, I’ve never really thought pride is something I struggle with.  And on the surface, many of us would think insecurity relates more closely to humility than pride. In fact, one of the easiest ways insecure people disguise their insecurity is in a fog of “humility.” For an insecure person, it’s easy not to take credit for something; not to call attention to yourself. It’s easy to brush off accomplishments by attributing them to someone other than yourself. Because we’re never quite sure we can hack it.

Perhaps the temptation to be an insecure person masquerading as a humble person is extra-easy to fall into for Christians. Because that “someone” we attribute everything to is God.

By no means am I saying that God isn’t involved in our accomplishments, nor am I saying He shouldn’t get any credit for them. Of course He should! I’m merely pointing out that TRUE HUMILITY is what God wants from us, and true humility is not insecurity. It’s not through self-hatred or self-deprecation that we ought to hoist our God onto His throne.

True humility says, “I don’t deserve anything God has blessed me with, but I’m so thankful for the life He’s given me that I want the decisions I make to reflect intense gratitude. I want to live life confidently in His love; sharing my blessings freely with others, in His name, to the best of my ability.”

So when I thought about insecurity as it relates to pride, I began to see it in a new light. I’m insecure at least twice a day – at least once about my physical appearance, and at least one more time about the question: “What do you do?”  When I am insecure, I am making everything about me. I’m comparing myself to others and either finding reasons why I’m not what I wish I was, or trying to make myself feel better. When I’m insecure, I’m elevating myself to a place of importance that I don’t even have! Do most people even care what I weigh or what I’m wearing or what I do with my life? Not nearly as much as I act like they do. Pride screams that it’s all about ME.

Ally writes, “There comes a point where we don’t need anyone to tell us who we are anymore, we just need to take the information we have and run with it.”

I think what she’s saying is…let the insecurity fall away. Trust that God made you who you

passion
Photo Taken: Cannon Beach, OR

are and put your passions in your heart. Recognize what makes you feel alive; look for the place where your passion and the world’s needs meet and go towards it. “Take the information you have and run with it.” Trust God for the rest.

It’s a freeing way to live, and one I know I need to reach for daily. And somehow, identifying the pride inherent in insecurity helps me put insecurity aside. It reminds me, “Hey, lighten up! Things aren’t all about you and you don’t need anyone to tell you who you are. God made you, loves you, and is in your corner. Run with it.”

 

Casting Stones

Friends, I just have to say that I am consistently, completely and utterly disgusted by the lack of kindness in our world and the overabundance of judgment.

And we are all guilty of failing to be kind and judging; each and every one of us. That includes me. And you.

I have had a lot on my mind in the wake of the awful tragedy in Orlando and the ensuing, endless arguing, name-calling and unproductive dialogue on social media. What I see exploding all over the internet today makes me feel sick, sad, angry, and even a little defensive all at the same time.

Hopelessness for our world begins to creep in when so many precious lives are lost all at once for no reason. Hopelessness tugs at me as I watch those of us who are still here start pointing fingers and declaring where the blame “clearly” belongs.

A few weeks ago, I sat in church listening to an incredible part of a journey through the book of Romans. We talked about judgment and how we as humans aren’t fit (or called upon) to judge others. The majority of the talk was directed at Christians.

In Jesus’ time, the “religious folks” of the day sat on their high and mighty thrones, judging everyone for not being as good as they were. They condemned others for breaking God’s laws (which the others did). But they were routinely reprimanded by Jesus for their haughty ways.

Let me be clear that as a Christian with many Christian friends and acquaintances, the picture of Christianity that’s so often presented today saddens me deeply and does not reflect the kind of life that many of us lead. We’re called hateful, we’re called archaic, and we’re called out of touch with reality.

A good bit of that rhetoric will always be there; Jesus said as much.

But we are not without blame, church. We, too, like the religious folk of old, so easily sit behind our fences and point out the sins of others.

Yet Romans 2:1 says, “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.”

While this passage is directed at the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, I believe it holds

kindness
Photo taken: Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA

priceless wisdom for ALL of us today; Christian or not. The Bible says to “let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” (Hint: ain’t nobody justified to throw stones.)

I would also like to be clear that I believe in right and wrong. I have opinions and beliefs just like everyone else. But I also know that I am not the judge. That’s God’s job-not mine, not yours.

Hug a gay friend today, you guys. Send kind words to a horrified and scared community of fellow human beings on this planet, whom God loves. Let them, or any other individual or group that has suffered a tragedy (recent or not) know that you haven’t forgotten.

After all, your kindness will go a lot farther than your preaching.

To quote the wonderful Oswald Chambers, “Jesus Christ was always consistent in His relationship to God, and a Christian must be consistent in his relationship to the life of the Son of God in him, not consistent to strict, unyielding doctrines. People pour themselves into their own doctrines, and God has to blast them out of their preconceived ideas before they can become devoted to Jesus Christ.”

 

The Art of Abandon

As I’ve continued to read about and pursue minimalism in my life, I’ve found that it beautifully complements and encourages what I’ve been learning in my faith walk as well. In fact, I’d say these days, the two are deeply intertwined.

Letting go of material possessions and learning to hold loosely to the things that remain has me viewing my own faith in new light. It has me holding myself to a higher standard than I used to and questioning my motives. It has me fired up about how many of us might be missing out on the joy of a simple life; a life of real, full, joyful abandon to our God. A life that isn’t searching for security or happiness in the things of this world, but finds joy in the beauty of the present moment. True contentment.

Since I began my own version of this journey, I’ve become increasingly wary of and skeptical of the pursuit of material possessions. I’ve also realized the many, many ways that I (and tons of other Christians) justify these sorts of pursuits. In fact, the message that we all need something bigger, better, or more is so ingrained in most of us that we barely have the ability to recognize it. We work hard to afford all the things we think we need.

Far beyond material possessions, we all get so bogged down in OUR lives and OUR wants and OUR finances and OUR dreams and bettering OURselves and OUR everything that we forget there’s a greater purpose to life than US. My biggest beef with a lot of the literature on minimalism (and even a lot of what I’ve heard in church culture) is that it subtly encourages selfishness. Today’s world encourages far too much focus on ME. This too is such an integral part of our culture that we hardly notice this preoccupation, either.

Without intentional vigilance, we become shackled and consumed by our stuff and by our own concerns. We forget that life is about our Creator, and not what He can do to help us achieve our wants. We want to control our lives. We forget to let Him control, to hold loosely, to be “cautiously carefree.”

My favorite morning devotional is “My Utmost for His Highest,” written by Oswald Chambers. I love it because it’s not all fluff. It’s real, challenging, and causes the best kind of uncomfortable soul-searching for Christians.

Monday’s devotional said, “Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the Devil? No – ‘the cares of this world’ (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, ‘I will not trust when I cannot see’ – and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the spirit. The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is ‘abandon.'”

This is so timely and practical for us, Christians. Ultimately, our attempts to control our lives shut God out. Ultimately, control is unbelief – a huge sin. I think many Christians have decided to serve a very small God. We aren’t abandoned. We’re holding on tightly to things, beliefs, ideas about how we think our lives ought to turn out, our problems, our frustrations, our looks…the cares of this world.

We forget there is a world after this one; that our hope comes from Him alone.

In a fantastic message this Sunday, our pastor gave a list of 4 specific things we do that incite this conflict with God and spark His wrath:

  • We suppress the truth
  • We stop seeing God in creation
  • We don’t give thanks
  • We buy into the religion of “me”

How much of this do we see in ourselves, in our actions? Are we letting the Truth of God’s Love flow through us? Are we actively looking for His love all around us? Are we thanking Him for everything we have (and don’t have)? Is our religion more about ourselves and what we want than it is about Him and His purposes?

As pastor Alan said, we have over-desires. It’s the culture we live in, it’s the insidiousness of being too focused on ourselves. And in Romans 1:18-25, we see God giving people over to their desires, in hopes that they, that we, will return to Him when that thing we want or think we need doesn’t satisfy (because it can’t).

The mere idea that God would “give me over” to some earthly thing I desire because He wants me to find it void, and return to Him is terrifying to me. I hope I never hold onto any care of this world that tightly.

The cares of the world scream at us, pull us this way and that, promising to eventually

cautiously carefree
Photo taken: Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA

make us feel peaceful, feel at home. But nothing on this earth can do that. Nothing here can fulfill that longing we have. That is the hope of Heaven!

Let’s stop pursuing it in our material possessions. Let’s stop pursuing it in our relationships. Let’s stop pursuing it in our worldly accomplishments, in a quest for perfection or in the way we look.

Again, I go back to Oswald Chambers as he writes, “Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life, and to be cautiously carefree about everything in comparison to that.”

So Christians, let’s keep asking ourselves: what is the dominating focus of my life? What do I spend most of my time thinking about, doing, talking about, writing about, reading about? Is it my relationship with Him? Or is it the cares of the world?

Let’s be vigilant; aware of the culture around us – both inside and outside the church. We will never be perfect, but we must strive to be holy in our relationship to Him. Let us hold loosely to all else; cautiously carefree and abandoned to His will alone.

 

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

One of the things I think a lot about as I reduce the amount of things in our home is eternity.

I remember years ago, a series Louie Giglio did called something like “Living as if Heaven is Your Great Reward.”  While I cannot recall specifics from the nights he spoke about this topic, it always stuck with me. And these days, I think I’m finally scratching the surface of what it means to live life in light of the reality of Heaven.

Anna R. Brown Lindsay said, “We may let go all things which we cannot carry into the

let go of things
Photo taken in Isle of Palms, SC

eternal life.”  What a timely sentiment as I seek to let go of worldly possessions.  The reality is, no matter how much wealth or how many things we amass on this earth, they will not accompany us to our coffins and/or to the hereafter.

People rightly strive to have the basics needed to live, and it’s OK to have things that you want too, but there IS a point where buying more or getting more will no longer satisfy whatever it is you’re longing for. That point may look different for different people, but I believe it is something worth really, honestly exploring in your own life.

Even if you don’t believe in Heaven or anything after death, why not think about how much “stuff” the people you leave behind on this earth will have to deal with?  This is not a pleasant thought, but it honestly is one that I think about as I tidy and de-clutter and vow to remain vigilant about how much stuff we let enter our home.  I don’t want to pass away some day and leave a mansion and a storage unit filled with STUFF for my loved ones to deal with.  I’d much rather pass on things that I truly cherished, found joy in, or that meant something to me or to our family.  This kind of thinking gets us outside of ourselves, thus I think it’s important to consider as we decide how much space and how many things we really require to live.

Keeping an eternal perspective keeps you grounded; keeps you focused on what really matters in life.  In the end, it will not matter what car I drove, or what my house looked

obey god help people
Photo taken in Highlands, NC

like, or what I wore today.  Those things will pass away.  What will matter is whether or not I made other people feel loved in the time I had here.  In one of her many books, Joyce Meyer wrote that while Jesus was here on earth,  “He focused on obeying God and helping people.”  We would do well to follow that example as best we can.

And let us remember that God takes us all on our own paths; we each have the opportunity to have our own special and rich relationship with Him.  The things He asks of me probably will not be the things He asks of you.  You have unique talents that I do not possess and vice versa.  And I believe that nothing will make us more content on this earth than putting our relationship with God first, obeying what He leads us to do, and loving people.  I hope at the end of the day, He will tell me I did well with these things.

Until next time,

S