Twice in the last few months it hit me that most of my prayers for myself could be summed up something like this:
God, please make me better.
Even the prayers for closeness to the Father and the efforts to read Scripture are consistently invested toward this goal: More holy, less flawed.
Both times it hit me like a gut punch. I have the perfect idol, because that’s what my idol is: Perfect.
The list of specific ways I want Him to do that is unending. Please change me to be nicer, gentler, more considerate, compassionate, selfless, patient (only when I am brave enough)…
I had and have good motives. I want to be a better parent, a better spouse, a better friend, a better family member, a better employee, a better boss, a better leader and influencer…
Focusing on all of the ways I don’t meet the bar is not even a conscious activity. I could win the Olympic sport of identifying flaws about myself. I’ve been mastering that craft since childhood. If you’re into the Enneagram at all, I’m a 1: The Reformer (sometimes called “The Perfectionist”). So my inner critic is like Joan Rivers, the ladies on the View, a couple of Pharisees, and a political pundit all rolled into one, with unlimited posting to the Twitter feed of my mind. You can imagine the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice quickly gets lost in that mess.
My flaws are what the Enemy uses to distract me from the eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). He’s dang good at it and has been up to it for decades. It works in two ways:
- It takes my mind and heart off things I could be saying “yes” to with the gifts and talents the Holy Spirit uses in me.
- It is an egregious short selling of the worth of knowing Christ.
I fall prey to the belief that “being good” is better than “being with Him.” If I spent as much energy pursuing Him and sitting still in His Presence, I know I wouldn’t have time to worry about my report card and what others thought of me.
I keep coming back to the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. It has shaped my theology since I read it. (It’s a MUST READ if you haven’t.) The Enemy’s agents work to distract us from Truth – however, whenever, with whatever. That’s why he’s called the Father of Lies. All he needs to do is keep us from loving God and loving people, and it’s counted as success. THERE IS SO MUCH MATERIAL AT THEIR DISPOSAL FOR DOING THIS. Insert time spent on cell phone, time spent watching tv, time spent on anything that doesn’t elevate God and others. It doesn’t have to be inherently bad – it’s just not eternal.
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Sounds super “spiritual.” Does it apply to us? What does that look like in my life? Is there grace to cover me here and now?
I’m an extrovert with low inhibition, so my flaws are way obvious, way fast. And some folks hold that against me just as quickly. Honestly, I often still hold these against myself and can relate to those that do. Because isn’t that the perfect distraction from what I could be saying “yes” to from God – what others perceive about me? Enemy – 1, Lauren – 0.
What about my identity in Him? What about what He’s said about me and my innate worth as His Image-bearer? What deposit does THAT make into my “self worth” account? Why does the debit of others’ opinions still have the ability cause overdraft charges?
Fortunately and unfortunately, I’m actively learning how fickle others’ perception of my worth can be. And when it doesn’t line up with what I know I have to offer, I find myself still standing, mostly unscathed. I see small glimpses of grace that where I am in the journey is more than okay. I feel hope that whatever is left in people’s minds when my name is mentioned will fall drastically short in comparison to every “yes” I gave to Jesus. Every prompting I responded to, every word of encouragement I spoke from His Spirit in me, every time I chose faith over fear and love over comfort or entitlement, THAT will matter.
The worst case scenario may come true. My flaws may totally tank my “witness” and perhaps have (do) on multiple occasions. But if I muster even one “yes” today, He can use it for His glory. And if I do, I get to see Him work and know Him more intimately in the process.
Knowing God and making Him known IS life lived perfectly.
Father, free us from the navelgazing nature of “influence” and entitlement to entertainment. May we stay simple-minded, less distracted, focused on loving You, loving others, and saying “yes” to Your promptings when You give us specific ways how to do either. Help us want to know You more than we want to be known, understood, and validated. Help us want to know you more than wanting to be better.