As promised, here is a bit of my journey over the last few months. A few months ago I sensed I was getting a bit low. I have gone to counselling before and have seen it help me through these times when emotions seem to pull down. Can anyone relate? It’s amazing how a poor mood can color every things that happens around you – the slightest nuance from a friend (or a spouse!) can cut so deeply, the things that need to get done around you feel like they are suffocating you, and words like “everyone”, “always”, “never”, and “no one” seem legitimate descriptions of reality. So I went to talk to someone. I wanted to find out why I was feeling this way and how to better cope with these feelings.
My counsellor met with me and quickly noted that I really care what other people think of me. When she pointed this out I thought, “Well, yeah! Doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that important? Shouldn’t Christians care how people interpret their actions? Shouldn’t I be aware of how people perceive me and act accordingly? Shouldn’t I strive to show them my intentions are pure and shouldn’t I work to present myself to them as I want them to see me? After all, I am representing God here. I need to make sure that people are seeing me as I want them to see me – a good person, holy, godly, kind, and hardworking.” Yes, I had a lot of defensive thoughts. It obviously hit some kind of nerve with me. ;)
I came home wondering at what was so wrong with being concerned with other’s opinions. I didn’t understand so I asked God to help (which honestly must have been his graceful Spirit leading me – I don’t always practise this kind of basic wisdom!). “God, I don’t think I am doing anything wrong in trying to appear godly to others. Please, help me if there is anything I need to work on here, because I just don’t see it.” That was it. There was one thing she mentioned that I noted which went something like “You gain a false sense of self-worth from the approval or perceived good opinion of others”. A false sense of self-worth? Was my sense of self-worth not real? What did that mean?
Soon after this, hubby and I were going to lead worship. Worship was on my mind, along with this self-worth thing – leading worship is a great test for where you get a sense of self – from how you feel God smiling at you or how you feel the crowd smiling. Which one will you try for? And which one makes you a successful worship leader?! Honestly, it’s not always easy to differentiate between the two! Anyways, it wasn’t surprising to me that the night before we led I dreamt about leading worship.
In my dream, I was preparing for the morning service at home. I carefully chose my clothing, hair style, and makeup, all seriously considering what my audience would think. Then I started reminding myself of who I was – but not really who I was; rather what I thought those around me thought of me. “My husband loves me. My co-workers respect me. My friends think I’m smart and fun to be around. There are people at the church who like my voice” etc. all in an act of preparing for the day. I was clothed physically, and with these perceived opinions of others I was finishing the task internally. I was trying to complete myself, fill in all the lack I felt going to worship, trying to make myself whole and prepared for the day ahead and, I even felt, truly preparing myself to do a good job.
In my dream I went to church and we began worship. As I closed my eyes, I was immediately in the throne room before God. I could see myself and realized I wasn’t dressed with the opinions of those around me anymore. I wasn’t dressed with my carefully selected clothing. Instead I was covered in a holy glory. It wasn’t my own, of course, but
simply the holiness of Christ which I had accepted as my own when I became a believer. I realized how little I needed these opinions to be a complete person. After all, you can’t just waltz up to the throne of the almighty God. You need to be a complete and whole and holy person to be there. And I was! Not by my own strength, not by how those around me saw me, not by my dress or actions, but simply by the glory and completeness God had given me.
Since the dream, I’ve been realizing more and more how I use other people’s opinions of me to form a sense of self and to feel “complete”. When people don’t like me, are angry, or even just slightly annoyed with me, I can be devastated because my “self” is being devastated. Now that I am realizing (and am internalizing) that my identity is such that I can approach the throne of God with confidence, I know who I am doesn’t change with people’s opinions of me.
I am clothed in Glory, not of my own doing, but of Christ’s. I have everything I need, if I can approach God! What else could I possibly need or be in addition to this? Christ has made me complete. He has declared me good and perfect. He has justified me. I have no lack in my identity. The more I have begun to realize this, the more I have been free to act according to my true identity and what the Spirit is asking of me – less and less swayed by fear of man or doubting that I am good enough, but confident that God has justified me (declared me guiltless) and is sanctifying me (helping me walk according to my new identity in Him).
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit… and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 18)
I am sufficient and competent, and I am being transformed – all by the power of God in me. And you are too!