Were you a mistake?

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“You are a mistake”, “You weren’t
planned,” “I didn’t want you”. The words sting, but they are words many people hear or have heard in their lifetime. The words may not have been as direct, maybe it was never said, but it was implied.  Or maybe it was always just the feeling that you were unwanted, or unimportant.  For some, one or both their parents abandoned them. Still for others they were reminded that they weren’t wanted. It is a past or present that creates a lot of hurt,  resentment, and a sense that you are not of value.

Let me first explain that the pain, hurt, and suffering you experienced was NOT from God. Nor was it a tool he used to make you who you are. God does not send hurt into the lives of the people he loves to teach lessons. We live in a broken world, a world where we, as free thinking people, have choice. God is not a puppet master in the sky, choosing what to send your way. It is not a simple concept, and if you have any questions by all means reach out to me to talk. The important part of this, is that your past was a result of the choices your parents made, or other adults around you. People that were human, and flawed. People that believed the same lies they spoke to you. The key here being LIES.

The truth is the complete opposite. You were planned from the very beginning.  Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew/chose you, before you were born I set you apart…” These were the words the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, who was only a child, yet appointed by God to be a prophet to the nations. The words are no less true to you and to me. The word for ‘to know’ is the Hebrew word yada, which means to percieve, understand, aquire knowledge, to discern, to be (intimately) acquainted with. It can refer to our knowledge of God on a personal level, or God’s knowledge of man, as well as other forms of knowing. The Bible says, God chose you, he called you, and before you were born he knew you intimately. He knew you inside and out. He wanted you.

Let’s continue, Psalms 139:13-14, “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.” You are fearfully and wonderfully made, these are not words that describe an accident or a mistake.

Isaiah 43:1 “But now this is what the Lord says- He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God then goes on to explain the protection he offers because he loves his people. In verse four he calls them “precious and honored in my sight”.  God was speaking to Isreal, his chosen people who were famous for not being able to decide if they were or were not going to follow God, my point being His love wasn’t dependant on them.

Isaiah 46:3-4″… I have upheld you since you were conceived and have carried you since birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 49:15-16 ” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Ephesians 2:10 “Yet we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I could go on, and I encourage you to look into the topic for yourself. Search the Bible for words like plan and purpose, chosen and called. You will find verse after verse that shows that you are not here by accident. If you struggle with a sense of self-worth, put aside your past, and look to the one who created you. Place your identity in Him. Get to know who He is and who He says you are. Open up a Bible and look up words you are unsure of. Dig in to what God has to say. I promise it will change the way you see your life.

Now the choice is yours. You can believe your past experiences and you can choose to listen to the voices from your past. Or you can choose to start to see yourself as God sees you. You are His chosen, an intimate acquaintance, set apart, fearfully and wonderfully made, created,  redeemed, called by name, He calls you His own, precious, honored,  loved, protected, from conception to old age and beyond, He will sustain, carry and rescue you, you are his workmanship, ever before Him, and engraved in the palms of His hand. These scriptures barely scratch the surface, but they leave no doubt in my mind as to our being here on earth.
God does not make mistakes, He only makes masterpieces!  So live your life accordingly and things will never be the same again.

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The Lie in the Looking Glass

I want to start off this post with a simple exercise. Don’t overthink it, just write down what first pops into your head. I want you to start by grabbing a pen and a piece of paper.  Yes, really go get one. If you don’t have one then grab a napkin, and borrow a pen from a friend or stranger. Write it on anything, but I would prefer you physically hand write it. Now, draw a line down the center of the paper. On the left side, I want you to make a list of what you don’t like, or what you would change about yourself if given the chance. It can be anything, you don’t have to share it, just write what comes to mind (WITHOUT OVER-THINKING IT).  If it pops into your head, write it. We are being 100% honest with ourselves. Now, on the right I want you to list what you love about yourself. What is it that makes you special? Take all the time you need to. I won’t know if you played along, but I promise we are going somewhere good with this one. Now set that paper aside and we will come back to it.

Now let’s start with some scripture. “For God so loved the world that he waited around until they got their act together, then he decided they were worthy of his love.”  Now chances are you read that last line and thought it sounded absolutely ridiculous. Even people that have never been in church have usually heard John 3:16 quoted, and know that this is not how it goes.  Yet at the heart of humanity, most people have bought into the lie that is hiding within my version of the scripture. The lie takes many forms, and voices. Here are a few examples, “I will go to church as soon as I stop _______”, “God would love me if only I ________more”,  “God would be pleased with me if only I didn’t_______”.

The list and phrases could go on, but let’s look at what the scripture really says, “John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Let’s look back at the order of verse 16, the most popular verse. First, “God loved”, then “He gave”, so “whoever believes in him” will “have eternal life.”

Those who believed got the gift of eternal life, but the love came first, and it was non-exclusive. He loved the entire world. No exclusions, no conditions.

When exploring this concept, I started by looking into what Jesus himself had to say about love.  If you look into it for yourself, which I always recommend, you will find verses like Matthew 5:44 about loving your enemies, and Mark 12:30-31 about the greatest commandments (to love God and to love your neighbors).  What struck me most was that Jesus didn’t really spend a lot of his time talking, or directly teaching about love. What he told his disciples in Mark 13:34 summed it up perfectly, he said, “a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another.” And there it was, Jesus didn’t talk a lot about love because he was so busy living it. Jesus was love, it was his nature to love. His life was the perfect picture of love.  And when I say non-exclusive, I mean it. Jesus wasn’t what the people were expecting. Even today he would make a lot of people uncomfortable in church. He sat down, and he ate and talked with the unlovables of society. He spent time with the prostitutes, the poor, those who had contagious diseases, the tax collectors, and the half-breeds of the day. He wasn’t there just for those who believed.  Anyone who society shunned, or did not accept, Jesus loved. He didn’t go to them and first require they take a bath, or clean themselves up. He didn’t require anything. He went full of love, he met them where they were at, and he healed them.  It was his love that changed them. When all the world shut them out, when all the world told them they didn’t measure up. They were too sick, they had been with too many men/women, they had been too greedy, they didn’t have enough money, they didn’t, they couldn’t, they weren’t….

This is where the verse 17 comes in. All they had ever known was condemnation. Most people know it isn’t exactly a feel good word, but what does it really mean?  “Condemn: 1.to express strong disapproval of; 2. to pronounce to be guilty; sentence to punishment; 3. to give grounds or reason for convicting; 4. to declare incurable or unfit for use; 5. to compel or force into a specific state or activity; 6. to demonstrate the guilt. “

They were too sick, they had been with too many men/women, they had been too greedy, they didn’t have enough money, they didn’t, they couldn’t, they weren’t…. it all ceased to matter when Jesus showed up. For the first time in their lives, they experienced true, unconditional love, the love that changes you. (Notice it wasn’t them changing their selves.) No longer where they condemned, they were forgiven, they were loved. You can imagine the weight that comes of your shoulders when you realize that where you have been, the mistakes that you have made, and all of your short comings, don’t matter. God didn’t see any of it, and Jesus is the proof of that.  Interestingly enough, the ones who “had it all together” and “followed all the rules” (the religious leaders) were the ones that Jesus was the hardest on. They had it all together, and didn’t see the need for Jesus.  Appearances were everything to them, but the heart was what was important to Jesus.

Now I know things are different today, these days we are much more progressive in our thinking….*insert sarcastic eye roll here*

Well, I’m here to tell you, we have bought into a lie.

The lie is that God’s love is dependent on our behavior, and that we are not enough.  Often even our own self-worth, self-value, and self-esteem is dependent on our behavior.  The good news is that unconditional means exactly that, without conditions, selfless, sacrificial love. It is not love as we define it today, but love as God defines it.

So here is where the rubber meets the road. Take out your list, if you didn’t make one, it isn’t too late. Stop and do one now. This list represents how you see yourself.  Look at the items on the left. How many of them  fall under the category of condemning? Now look at the list on the right, do they align closer with God’s love? For most people it is much easier to list items that fit into the left hand column. Chances are that this column had twice as many items as the right side.  You aren’t alone, but on some level you have bought into the lie. So here is what I propose, when you get a chance I want you to cut your list down the center line. Take the left side, and when you can safely do so, destroy it, cut it into tiny pieces, and burn it. Say goodbye to the lies that you have believed about yourself.  Jesus loves you as you are. You can keep the other side of the list, and add to it as we go.  For now I will leave you with a quote from the movie Moms’ Night Out.

“He loves you (insert your name here). No matter who you are, no matter what you do, or how far you run, Jesus will always be loving you with his arms open wide, just for being you.”

A Case of Mistaken Identity

After my first post and creating a group on Facebook, I was struck by the number of people who reached out to me, both publicly and privately. Many thanked me for starting this blog, many encouraged me to continue, but even more reached out to me with a story from their own pasts. People shared with me their personal struggles, they shared that at one point in time they were in a dark place in their own life.  Honestly, most of us can say we have been there. But what surprised me most of all, was that for most of these people, even though I personally know them, I was unaware of these experiences in their lives. Now I could sit here and tell you that I would have done things differently, or that I would have reached out to those around me, had I been in their shoes, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I have been there. I have been in a place where you just want to be alone, and no matter how hard people try, you just want to keep them out.  Starting this blog, and hearing people’s stories really had me reflecting on why this was. It wasn’t that I didn’t love those who reached out to me. For me, it was that I didn’t really want to let people in. I didn’t want them to see what I was really like, my flaws, my weaknesses, my imperfections. How could they love me, when I was struggling to love myself? And how would they feel about me if they knew I wasn’t as strong as I seemed?

I have done a lot of soul searching around who I was and how I defined myself. Your search for self can lead you to many different people and places. You can look to your spouse, your children, your friends, coworkers, society,  or the church to define you. Most people care more about what others think than anything else. I know this is hard but I say this because this was me. How things appear becomes more important than how things actually are. We get really good at playing a part, and showing people what we think they want to see. Social media adds to this, allowing us to present ourselves in an even more scripted manner. We present the “best” version of ourselves to the world, to get the approval, attention, and the “likes” of others. Our interactions are shallow, fleeting, and leave us wanting more. I realized I had become so concerned with showing my “best self”, that showing any sign of emotion, fear, or weakness terrified me. It was totally illogical, because these things are universal to all of humanity. Yet, I wasn’t, and I am not alone in my reaction.

If you know me, you know that I grew going church. We were there as a family every Sunday. I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I really started to understand how God saw me. You see growing up in church I learned what to do, and what not to do. As a child I didn’t really understand why. I knew that we were created by God, and he wanted to have a relationship with us. I knew this meant praying, and reading my bible, going to church, and worshiping him. These were all things I learned how to do. Yet, they became a part of a routine to me.  I did the right thing, but if I am being honest, some of it was playing a part, doing what I knew I was supposed to do.  The majority of my self-worth was built around what other people thought of me.

Then there was a breaking point for me, where I was forced to be honest with myself, and I won’t lie, it hurt.  The masks came off, the show came to a screeching halt, and something inside me broke. I think that something was my pride. Yet, it was in that brokenness that God began to show me that I needed to place my identity in him. As I did, little by little he began to show me how he saw me. Now this didn’t happen overnight, and it was a huge shift in my thinking. Once I let go of what I should be and what I needed to be, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. You see all this time, the focus hadn’t really been on God, although I did love him. The focus had really been on me. Once I started to focus on him, and how much I loved him, the pressure wasn’t there. As I truly felt his love for me, I learned that he wasn’t in heaven making a list and checking it twice. He just wanted to be with me in my day to day life. He wanted to hear from me, and talk to me. He didn’t want a religious show that stemmed from a sense of duty. He wanted my heart, he wanted me to be real, and to be honest.  He wanted my love.  It was never about me getting it right, or measuring up. It was never about me at all. The truth is, it had already been done. He had sent his son Jesus, to settle the score.  It was as if all of my debt, every last bill, had been paid off. I knew that, and yet for years I had been trying to make payments on that debt, as if I could make a difference.

I am here to tell you today, that true freedom comes when you just let go. Freedom comes when you learn to accept what Jesus did for you, and realize it is a gift that you CANNOT and DO NOT need to earn. Freedom comes when you shift the focus from yourself, to him, and everything else just falls into place.

Who could love me? I don’t deserve it. I am not worthy. Do you know what I am truly like? Do you know where I have been? The answer is yes, he does know, but it doesn’t matter. Today is the day for new beginnings. When Jesus says you are born again, it isn’t some holy, super religious lingo. He means that when you meet Jesus, and accept what he did for you, that your past is wiped away. It is as if you are a baby being born into the world for the first time. What you did, who you were, the mistakes you made, how other people see you, how you saw yourself…those all cease to exist. They are gone. The bible uses the expression “as far as the east is from the west”, which means the two never meet. Gone.

So if you are with me I pray that this message really sinks in. One of the devils favorite ways to bring us down is to remind us of our past, and to make us feel bad about ourselves. One of my favorite Joyce Meyer quotes is: “you can be pitiful, or you can be powerful, but you can’t be both.” I don’t know about you but I am done being pitiful, I am done being sad, and I am done worrying how people see me. We are children of God, whether a brand new beautiful baby, or a toddler, or whatever stage you find yourself in, you are his, and you are loved.  So maybe it is time for you to let some things go today. It is time to stop believing the lies about who you are. You are a child of God. He loves you, I love you, and you aren’t alone. Let’s be powerful in him.

The Search Begins……

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we hear from a young age. As if, somehow, who we are right now isn’t good enough. We grow up thinking about the future, planning for what we will be, and thinking about what we need to do to get there. All around us we hear messages that tell us what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, what we are, and what we are not. As a child, we learn to compare ourselves to others. We notice the differences, and we long to fit in. The teenage years can be especially challenging, as we try to separate from our families and find an identity of our own.  Then, the time comes to leave high school, to think about your future and choose a job or career. Relationships, a family, a career, these are all different phases and stages of life, each with their own sets of terms to define our role. Sister, brother, mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, daughter, son, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, teacher, doctor, lawyer, nurse, straight, gay, extraverted, introverted, quiet, loud, friendly, shy ….the list can and does go on. All these terms play a part in how we see ourselves, and how we define who we are.

If we are being honest, most of us struggle with finding a sense of identity. So much of our self-worth and sense of self is wrapped up in what we do, that as soon as a big change happens we lose ourselves. Look at what happens to a parent when their child moves out of the house for the first time, or when you experience a tragic loss of a loved one. These events are life changing, and cause us to question, what now? Who am I without ­­________?  Despair and hopelessness can easily set in as we lose all sense of who we are. Yet, there is something that you are not taught in school, an identity, and sense of self-worth that few truly find.  This identity is unchanging, it is always positive. It will follow you through all stages and paths of life. It started way before the twinkle in your mother’s eye, and will follow you beyond the end of this lifetime. It stands regardless of your career choices, and your status in life. It pays no attention to how much you weigh, the color of your skin, or your outward appearance. Your emotions cannot sway it, your actions cannot persuade it, it stands independent of anything we can do, say, be, or believe. It contains the acceptance, love, peace, hope, and joy that most people spend a life time searching for. It is one of the most misunderstood, misquoted, and misrepresented things in the world today. It is the way that God views us.

It is a huge concept to be sure, one that I do not plan to tackle in one post. Yet, it is a topic that is near and dear to my own heart.  So if I have peaked your curiosity, I ask that you take this journey with me, a journey of self-discovery into who I am, and who you are, through the eyes of a savior.