Labels (Killing Insecurity Series Part 9)

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What labels are defining you? My last post dealt with status. This post digs a little bit deeper. Our society is set up to place labels on us from birth. Think about it. The first label placed on you was about your gender and ethnicity. It’s a Caucasian baby girl or African American boy. On goes an identifying label.

Yes, knowing the gender and ethnicity of a baby is important…the point is we start out with the intent to categorize people.

We are taught the game in school, “Which one of these things doesn’t belong?” We learn that people who are different from us are not as valuable.

Humans use labels to set up a value system. Examples from history; boys are better than girls, popular is better than unpopular, one race or ethnic group is better than another, well educated or wealthy people are better than uneducated or poor people. Our labels divide and produce inequality. They are based on externals and promote pride or insecurity or division.

They are short or tall.

He or she is smart or unintelligent.

He or she is rich or poor.

They are black, or white, or brown, or…

He or she is good or bad!

They are beautiful or ugly.

They are an addict, pervert, monster, freak, or jerk.

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Some labels are good, some are harmful, and some are neutral. The problem with labels is that if we define ourselves or others by things that are not in line with God’s word it can lead to insecurity or pride. Let’s look at God’s Word.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them, Genesis 1:27.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:28.

But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine, Isaiah 43:1.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light, 1 Peter 2:9.

When you read God’s word in it’s entirety, the message is: God loves all people and Jesus came to redeem mankind. Jesus died to free us and give us a new name and nature. The labels He places on us lead to God centered esteem. He calls us sons and daughters, made in His image (male and female), chosen, royal, His special possession, one in Christ, a holy nation, redeemed, forgiven, treasured, valuable, the apple of His eye, and loved with an everlasting love.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather bask in the labels God places on me. They cannot be taken away. I am the King’s Daughter, chosen, loved, and I bear His name.

So my encouragement is to strip off all the labels that are negative, harmful, and not in line with your God given identity. And do your best to not define others by things that cause division or are hurtful. May we have the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Jesus died for all!

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What’s Your Status? (Killing Insecurity Part 8)

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Today I wanted to touch on a topic that causes many people to be insecure. It’s the area of status. Two questions we normally ask adults are, “What do you do?” and “Are you married or seeing someone?” It’s easy even in a Christian environment to place a certain value on people or lack of value based on status (marital or financial).

I recall being in a ministry long ago with mostly married couples. The women when they found out I wasn’t married and did not have children, did not want to engage much with me. I’ve heard married women say, “I feel so sorry for all the single women out there. I’m so glad I’m not single.”

I don’t base my worth on being a wife or mom. However, I know women who do. If it’s not marriage or kids, it’s being successful. Some don’t enjoy life because they have not “arrived” at this place of ultimate status. The desire for marriage is not wrong, placing self worth in the ability to find someone is unhealthy.

Any source of identity or worth outside of Christ is an idol. Marriage, money, titles, or being a parent do not make a person more valuable. I truly believe the divorce rate being so high can partially be attributed to idolatry. God is our source. Anything He gives us in addition to Him is a means to thank Him more. He never intends to take second place to anyone.

You must not have any other god but me, Exodus 20:3.

If you are not the CEO at your company, if you’re not married or you are divorced, if you don’t have children, or the praise of your peers…you are valuable to God. Your worth is determined by who you are in Him. It is not determined by your status.

I’ve heard people teach you are half a person without a spouse, therefore you must get married. Jesus never taught this, nor did Paul. Marriage was God’s idea and when it’s done His way, with Him at the center, it’s a beautiful picture of creation.

Some will never marry, some will be widowed, some will choose service to God over marriage, some have the gift of singleness (read 1 Corinthians 7). Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament as a single person. Jesus never married. I often think if Jesus or Paul walked into our midst today, they would be rejected. Our culture celebrates the rich, beautiful, married, and successful.

Throughout history there are many singles who have done great things for God. Being single didn’t make them special, finding their identity and worth in Christ propelled them into a great destiny.

Whether married, single, tons of kids, no kids, rich, poor, successful or struggling, your worth is only determined by who you are in Christ. Everyone is loved in God’s Kingdom. There are no inferior people. You are so valuable and deeply loved.

May we as the Body of Christ treat every person with respect, honor, and dignity.

Perfectionism is Self Abuse (Killing Insecurity Part 7)

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There are many things that cause us to be insecure. I am not sure there is one quite as powerful as perfectionism. I’ve struggled in the past with perfectionism and have traded it in for seeking excellence. It still rears it’s ugly head at times, but I recognize it’s not healthy.

Perfectionism is this driving force that causes people to strive for what may not be possible. It is a way to boost self esteem. It says, “If I do everything perfectly then I am good. If I make no mistakes or have no flaws, then I am valuable.”

Perfectionism fuels the ego and pride. It is a way to be in control, bypass outside criticism, or gain praise (even if it’s self praise).

Perfectionism says, “Your worth and identity is wrapped up in appearance, performance, or the ability to be in control.”

Magazines tell us what the perfect body is supposed to look like, and advertisers tell us what we need to buy or do to have a perfect life. We are praised and rewarded in school for getting the highest marks. Our society applauds this “man made” version of perfection.

The church isn’t always immune from perfectionism. There are standards of what a “perfect” Christian does. There are things God tells us to do, and we should obey Him. There are other things that are traditions of men. God doesn’t love us more if we spend all day serving Him. Our doing for Him does not win us more love. We do what God says out of our love for Him. We cannot do enough good works to earn our own righteousness. If we could, there would have been no reason for Jesus to come. We are fully dependent on His perfection and righteousness, not striving to obtain our own apart from Him.

Perfectionism is self abuse because our value and worth is tied up in something that is unstable, ourselves. When we make a mistake or fail at something, along comes condemnation, guilt, shame, fear, and for some self loathing.

You and I are not perfect. God alone is perfect. Without Him we can do nothing. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:5. We can’t breathe without God. Even people who don’t believe in God are alive because He allows them to be. God is perfect and because He exists, we exist.

So what’s the cure?

Finding value and acceptance in Jesus. He was perfect for us. We invite Him into our lives and rest in what He’s done.

We accept, though it is not easy, that we have flaws. We will make mistakes in life, and we rely on God’s grace. We don’t make mistakes on purpose nor are we passive or lazy. We seek to be excellent for God’s glory, not perfect for our own glory or self esteem.

When our identity is in what Jesus has done, we are free to be who we are and we follow His lead. We allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and to empower us to refrain from sinning.

The key is to not have our worth or value rooted in our appearance, ability, talent, knowledge, skill, or meeting some standard of perfection. It’s not easy in our world to bypass this trap of striving for some standard of perfection. However, it is much easier to abide in the True Vine. His yoke is easy and His burden light!

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Overcoming Rejection

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I told you I would post some personal experiences with rejection to hopefully inspire you to press on.

Family:

Before I was even born, I was rejected by my biological father and his family. My parents were married, yet my father didn’t want kids at the time. He had his own dreams he wanted to pursue. Being tied down to a family wasn’t in his plan. So when my mom was eight months pregnant with me she came home one day to an empty house.

I didn’t see him again until I was 16. I went looking for him. He hadn’t told his new family about me.

I will say that was the hardest to get over. It took God’s help, loads of forgiveness, and I grieved his actions for a long time. God gave me a new set of parents as an infant; they gave me more love than I could imagine. God did me a huge favor in setting up my adoption.

Peers:

As a kid the only friends I truly had were my adopted parents and cousins. I never fit in with other children. My mum used to say, “Erin you have the heart of a child, the soul of an old lady.” I’m an introvert, who did not enjoy socializing with other kids. And it’s true, as an adult I get along really well with children and the elderly. I’ve never truly fit in with my peers. I’ve encountered rejection due to my ethnicity (experienced racism living in the south), my personality (I’m too direct or too happy), or for reasons that made no sense to me.

I learned through the rejection of my peers to be friends with God and to have compassion for people who are different from me. I learned to appreciate people who treat me well and the good friends I do have. Lessons I’m glad I learned.

Church:

In church I’ve experienced rejection from people who have said I make them feel bad about who they are because I’m quite serious about all things pertaining to Jesus. Ironic, but true.

I won’t change or alter my passion for the One who died for me. I love Him. Jesus died for me so I could live for Him. I am more careful in what I share and how I share. If people don’t want to hear the Gospel, you love them and let it be. Learning to share only what God leads me to share.

Being a Scientist:

In engineering, I’ve been rejected by some colleagues based on my age (too young to supervise older people) or based on my gender. A young woman leading men isn’t always well received either. Luckily my current employer has zero tolerance for discrimination, and I’m able to do my job in a pretty pleasant atmosphere.

I’ve learned and am learning to not base my worth, or value on the opinions of people. If you live by the praises or approval of people, you’ll be destroyed by their criticism.

When the insults come, I can boldly say, “Your opinions don’t define who I am. God does.”

Closing Thoughts:

All of my experiences, too many to post here, have taught me seek God for worth, identity, and friendship. He grows even bigger when the world treats you poorly. He is home. He is the one place I fit, and I never feel different, or alone. He is my safe place. He heals any wounds in our hearts. We can trust if something or someone is good for us, God will make it happen. If not, thank God for closed doors.

You, my friend, will encounter people who dislike you without cause, Jesus did. You may be judged, mistreated, talked about, or verbally abused. Stand in your God given identity as a child of God. He will change what needs changed in your life if you’re linked to Him. Stick close to Jesus. Live loved.

How people treat you is a reflection of what’s going on in their heart. Pray for others, and don’t let them steal your JOY! Shine on! You’re here for a divine purpose. ūüôā You are deeply loved!

You were born an original, don’t die a copy.

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