Photo Credit David Turner
Hey y’all, Shari here!
I don’t know about you, but when people doubt or misjudge me, I want to prove them wrong.
I want to show them that what they thought about me was false. As a result, my behavior would often stem from proof, rather than purpose. You’re probably thinking, Well, that isn’t so bad. Until it is.
I will never forget when my father put me out of the house. Someone told me that he said, “She probably won’t even finish high school.” I set out to prove him wrong. I would be a success no matter what!
Well, that led to some unethical choices, and I believe it elongated the path to purpose for me. See working from proving motives rather than purpose motives will take you off course. Look at Jesus for instance. His earthly ministry is about to begin, but first, the Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness to be tempted.
More than one gospel writer chronicles this event, but I am particularly reading the account that Luke gave. In chapter 4, we find Jesus having fasted for 40 days when the devil arrives to tempt Him. The enemy doesn’t bring women, gambling, drugs, or booze. He asks Jesus to prove Himself.
If you are who you say you are do this, or that, or the other thing. Three times the enemy asked Jesus to show and prove. Three times Jesus said, “Nah, I’m good.” He reminded the enemy three times what God had said about humans.
People shouldn’t only live for their belly. People should worship only the Lord. People should not test God in daring, presumptuous ways. Jesus was the Son of God. His ministry was just getting started. Working from proof would have dictated that He call the enemy’s bluff and raise the ante.
Working from purpose dictated that He share scriptural reasons for why He wasn’t going to do anything the enemy suggested. Think about it. He was alone with the enemy. He could have done it to silence him. But then the account of Jesus’ temptation would have read differently. And we, who read it now, wouldn’t know the way to beat the tempter’s snare, and we probably wouldn’t be saved today!
Jesus knew the glory was His. He didn’t need to prove something that was a natural fact. Not only had He spent 40 days talking to His Father to get through a long fast, but He knew what God’s word said about Him through reading scripture.
So Jesus was free to work from purpose, not proof. He could set the example we would need and complete the mission of salvation.
How many times have you gone off course because you were trying to prove something to someone? How many times have you made the wrong decision trying to prove you are who you say you are? Well if you are, then act like it is a natural fact and refuse to prove it to anyone.
The other piece about becoming free of proving yourself is your faith. Jesus was free to not prove Himself to the enemy because He believed that His identity would be solidified by God.
When He was on the cross and they again tempted Him to jump off purpose to prove who He was, Jesus did not even answer in so much as a word. “Others he saved, but He cannot save Himself,” they said.
Jesus believed that what He was doing would save others, but He also believed that God would save Him, raising Him from the dead. Jesus had to believe the plan for His life would work, even though His situation looked dark.
Isn’t it often in the roughest times of our lives that we feel the need to prove ourselves most? Well, it make perfect sense. If I am struggling in some way, then I had better pipe up and prove I am a boss so no one mistakes me for a slouch.
What’s moving you, proof or purpose? What is the why behind your desire for success? Are you staying with that guy to prove to others that you are lovable, that you can get married? Have you chosen a career that doesn’t fulfill you because having lots of money is one way you can prove you made good? Are you pursuing that degree to prove you are smart to people who have doubted your intelligence?
Is your motivation to bring glory to God or to ensure that everyone knows you made good? I guess the million-dollar question really is, will you let God order your steps, refuse to act from proof, and decide instead that every move you make will originate from your purpose?
Shari here! I am still in the book of Mark, and y’all! This thing is GOOD!!
We see in Mark 11 that even though Peter has seen Jesus do a bunch of things, command a bunch of spirits, and feed and heal a bunch of people, he still doesn’t expect that the fig tree will obey. Jesus could have been perturbed by Peter’s lack of faith, but instead he simply says, “Have faith in God”… and whatever you say will happen too!
It is no wonder that in the last part of the chapter we see Pharisees asking Jesus to prove the authority upon which He heals and preaches and teaches. So, in perfect Jesus fashion, he gave them a riddling question and declared that if they could answer His question, He would answer theirs.
Of course they couldn’t, so Jesus walked away. He had no intention of answering their belittling question about who He was. I can just hear Jesus now. “By what authority?! By what authority?! By John 1:1 authority! Fool, don’t you know who I am? It is written! You better show some respect!” Uh,sorry. That’s if He was me. Jesus didn’t become defensive or even try to prove Himself to them. He simply walked away.
Even if His disciples, the people he healed and taught, and the leaders of Israel didn’t understand who He was, Jesus knew. He was certain about His identity so He didn’t need to try to prove it when challenged.
I think that most often when we try to prove something to another, it is because we are really trying to convince ourselves. I personally struggle with impostor syndrome, so I often internalize someone’s comment or behavior as though they are questioning who I am. More times than not, they aren’t, but even when they are, I have nothin’ to prove!
Jesus was clear about His identity because He went to His Father every day for confirmation and direction. There’s no need to prove it when you are sure. We too, can have confidence in who we are if we go to God before each day begins and the world starts crafting stories that cause us to doubt ourselves. Will you go to the Author and Finisher of your faith first?
Look out for my new 30-day devotional, Come to Me First, this summer for that daily nudge into the Father’s presence!
The Great Disappointment
I am supposed to be in Tahiti for the next eight days celebrating my 40th birthday, but I am not. Instead, after 4 flights and two consecutive days either in the air or in an airport, I am ‘penning’ this blog on a flight home to Baltimore.
I lost some money. I lost two days. Most importantly, the hope of a decadent celebration of 40 amazingly blessed years was lost.
Or was it?
Wait a minute. What does this have to do with lemons? Well, lemons happen to make a drink that should be considered an American institution; lemonade. Too often, we look at lemonade as a consolation prize, but in fact, lemonade is the prize.
Why? Because it is refreshing. After you spend a night and two days in American airports, only to have to return home without the promise of your dream vacation, trust me, you’ll need a refreshing.
If life is going to give me lemons, then I might as well make some lemonade.
What To Do with Lemons
It isn’t the vacation I wanted: lemon
I get to spend time with my best friend and lover: lemonade
I don’t get the ocean view I paid dearly for: lemon
I can still rest, relax, and write: lemonade
I can’t go on a bucket list trip: lemon
I will not experience jet lag and need another vacation from my vacation: lemonade
Squeezing my lemons helped me see that I could still have what I really wanted. See, the core of why I wanted to go away for my 40th, why I didn’t choose a party or an expensive piece of jewelry, is that I needed to be refreshed. I wanted to eat, love, pray, sleep, write, and repeat by the ocean for 10 days. I can still do all that… minus the amazing view and the lapping waves.
A New View
God has an epic sense of humor. “Oh, you need to be refreshed, do you. Okay, here are some lemons.” I could sulk about what I have lost, or I could figure out ways in which I gain. You see, to die is gain when I am in Christ. Even when I lose, I win because eternity with Him is my ultimate goal. The suffering I experience in not going to Tahiti for my birthday (lemon) pales in comparison to eternity with Jesus (lemonade).
I could sit around and cry about all the stuff I won’t see in Tahiti, but that would make the view I do have quite blurry. I hope y’all don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to say tears are not appropriate when we are disappointed. I have cried several times throughout this ordeal. It is important to let your emotions out. I would even venture to say that tears may be a step in the refreshing process, but if all you’re drinking is tears, the saltiness will only make you more thirsty.
As I journey home from what most would call a nightmare of a vacation, spent entirely in the airport, I could bemoan all the Tahiti sunrises I will miss, but then I would have missed the most beautiful sunrise view from my plane ride in the clouds.
And that’s the truth about lemons. You may not get to choose the events in your life, but you do get to choose how you view them and if you ‘juice’ them.
In what ways do you need to be refreshed? What areas of your life have become stale? How have the lemons you’ve received positioned you to make your own refreshing? Will you make lemonade that refreshes you or will you wallow in your disappointments, leaving yourself with nothing to drink but salty tears?
Recently, God showed me that my current relationships are often affected by past hurts. When last I blogged, I acknowledged that when people in my life touch spots I thought had healed, it reveals wounds that have scabbed over but still carry much hurt beneath the surface. I shared that the acknowledgement of these triggers gave me power to manage my emotions and relationships better.
Identifying those triggers was very important. That process has set me free in so many ways. It takes much of the sting away when someone intentionally or unintentionally pushes my buttons because some of those buttons no longer work.
But some of them still do.
Over the last few weeks, I experienced victory followed by defeat. One week, I acknowledged my triggers and managed my relationships well. The very next week, I missed a friend’s intent and spoke words formed from old wounds. I wondered why I had done well in one situation but failed in another.
Sometimes acknowledgment is not enough. Sometimes you need to do some necessary work on your scabs. I asked God to dig up my roots once again.
When faced with disapproval as a child, I decided to alter myself. I changed things about me (the things that make me unique and awesome) that people I love criticized.
He showed me that I have been making changes in order to blend in, stay under the radar, find approval.
Today God told me that I was not meant to blend in, stay under the radar, or find approval in man.
I was made to stand out, to bust the radar, and fly. And to only find approval in my God, who incidentally approved of me long before He knit me together in my mother’s womb.
This is when I got a little angry.
You mean to tell me, I have been trying to find approval that I’ve had all along!?
I have been driving myself crazy trying to please people and God, a task that, according to God, isn’t possible (Gal. 1:10).
I have been at odds with myself.
No wonder I end up in sticky situations concerning my relationships. I try to please people, contorting myself in uncomfortable ways. When these same people express disapproval, I experience anger and hurt because I tried so hard to please them and it feels like they basically spit on my efforts. It also brings up the original hurt of disapproval from the people who mattered the most.
The answer is simple. Stop trying to please man. Stop trying to “fit in.” Stop trying to stay under the radar. I wasn’t made that way.
I was made to fly, to break every mold, to confound masses, to do things that eyes have not seen, to say things that ears have not heard, to conceive of things that have not even occurred to anyone else (1 Cor. 2:9).
If I fit in, all I’ll ever produce is the same, old stuff. The very essence of doing what God made me for is laced with man’s disapproval or lack of understanding. I have to be brave enough to live my unapologetic truth.
And so do you.
But first I have to face the fact that not being approved of as a child, hurt me. Then I have to go beyond just acknowledgement and pay attention to how the hurt affected me.
I realized that making alterations began when I was a child, that I am all grown up now, but I have still been functioning from a plan I made when I was a kid.
So, maybe you don’t have the problem I have. Disapproval may not be your trigger. Once you acknowledge what your trigger is, go deeper.
Find out what happens in your relationships today that brings up old fears? Find out out why. Ask yourself what old plan you may be functioning from that is ruining your future?
What buttons do you need to deactivate?
Take some time to acknowledge the hurts acted upon you that now you may be acting upon. Old stuff may have hurt you then, but you don’t have to let them continue to hurt you today.
Take some time to let God dig up the roots that have grounded you in festering hurt and pain… because you were made to fly!
On May 18, 2018 I decided to go on a forgiveness consecration and fast. I prayed and read devotional thoughts for 30 days. I fasted for ten days, asking God to search my heart and show me why it was so hard to manage the emotions in some of my relationships.
See, I didn’t feel I had anything against anyone. I had forgiven everyone in my life, but getting along was proving to be extremely difficult. There were certain relationships that I just couldn’t get a handle on. I wondered why I couldn’t get enjoy relationships with the people I love.
I was wise enough to know that it couldn’t be them alone at fault. I begged God to show me my role in all the “drama.” During my 30 days, this is what He told me.
God: It isn’t forgiveness you lack. It is reconciliation.
Me: But God, I can’t reconcile with folks who don’t want to reconcile with me.
God: You must first reconcile things within yourself before you could ever hope to reconcile with others.
God showed me that I wasn’t able to get along with certain people because they constantly pushed my buttons. I lacked the self-control to let comments slide or perceived insults roll off my back once my buttons had been pushed.
God showed me that if I reconcile the hurts I have sustained, the buttons will no longer work. Folk will still push them, but my response will be different because there is no longer an open wound in the spot they are poking.
Family, this has changed EVERYTHING!!!!
When someone pushes the fight button, I opt out. When someone pushes the flight button, I stand my ground prayerfully. When someone pushes the panic button, I look to Jesus for His famous words, “PEACE, be still!”
God is slowly helping me reconcile the hurt, deactivating my buttons. I feel so free!! I am no longer a slave to over reacting, to arguments, or hurtful comments or actions.
I am reconciling my need to be approved of or accepted. The acknowledgment of the hurt I have experienced when I was not accepted has helped me to process what it really means.
I have decided that in this stage of my life, not being approved of or accepted by another human being means absolutely NOTHING. It is God’s approval that I seek. It is His acceptance that does it for me.
This new understanding has freed me to be more and more authentically me. And when others don’t approve of me, it has allowed me to experience disapproval with a completely different response. My relationships have been forever changed.
What relationships in your life would benefit from you reconciling some things within you?
Perhaps you have a fear of abandonment because a parent walked away from you, so you flip out whenever you perceive someone is opting out of relationship with you. Suppose you’ve been abused, so you go on the defensive when you perceive someone is coming for you. Perhaps you fear rejection because your first love chose to be with someone other than you, so you diminish yourself just to please the people in your life.
All the hurts we have sustained come from somewhere. That is why we feel we should be alright after we have forgiven the parent, the first love, or whoever it was who hurt us, but reconciliation with the person isn’t the thing that necessarily frees us from troublesome behaviors and tricky triggers.
Forgiving the person who hurt us is definitely freeing, but until we reconcile the hurt that situation caused us to feel, it will continue to dictate our behavior every time we feel that way.
The good news is that all our hurts can be reconciled, so that they do not control us. And why does this matter for us? Why should we reconcile things within ourselves?
Because God has given us the ministry of reconciliation that we might reconcile others to Him, just as Christ reconciled us to God while we were yet sinners. Because when we react from our hurts and lash out at others, we mar the image of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). Because healthy relationships are a sign of a healthy person.
“Every fear we have is based in not being enough or not having enough.”
This one line changed my life! God had already shown me that I have a fear of not having enough that stems from childhood worries. He had been working on me and teaching me how to give to others as He commands without fear about what I will have left.
But this statement helped me realize that I have another type of fear that keeps me from walking into all that God is calling me to be; fear of not being enough. Fear that I will fall flat on my face.
In the moments when I have thrown caution to the wind and tried something that I wasn’t really sure I could do, I have soared on heights that I never imagined.
However, there have been moments when I failed. Those moments taught me that I am not enough. And I believe that. I am not enough to do what God is calling me to do.
I can’t build his kingdom. I can’t end the poverty cycle for single mothers and their children. I can’t raise children who love God while dealing with my own dysfunctional upbringing. I can’t have a healthy marriage because I didn’t see one growing up. I can’t write this blog consistently with everything else I have going on. I can’t live a life that is pleasing in God’s sight. I am not enough…
but He is!
“Christ is in me. I am enough.”
Context is Everything
Have you ever based your worth on the approval of others?
I have been basing my worth on my approval ratings for many years. I don’t know when I began doing it. Once, I needed boys to love me to feel I was worth something.
When I fell in love with Jesus, I gave boys up for a time. I realized they were wells that couldn’t satisfy. I decided to go to the well that never runs dry. I pursued a love in Jesus that would fill the void in my life.
When that happened, I felt whole, happy, and filled. Then somewhere along the lines, I found a way to erect a new idol. I found a new “well”; achievement. I became dissatisfied with my life unless I was achieving some new goal.
I would achieve one goal and without even celebrating it, I’d experience a hunger for the next. As if I knew dissatisfaction would come on the heels of every achievement, I began planning the next one while still working on the current goal.
At the root of all my desire to achieve was the thought that I needed to be “somebody”. Somebody that others thought was gifted, talented, smart, spiritual. I desperately wanted people to see that I was anointed.
Perhaps having parents who seemed impossible to please has something to do with all of this. I remember being an overachiever up until about third grade. I was in honors programs and worked really hard. When my siblings and I would bring home report cards with all A’s, one of our parents would inevitably say, “How come you didn’t get an A+?”
By the time I reached the 4th grade my siblings convinced me that it was easier to coast and get B’s rather than work hard for A’s. My parent’s lack of celebration of my hard work further reinforced my resolve to be mediocre. If I couldn’t please them no matter what I did, why bother?
A New Chapter
When I began teaching after college, the accolades began pouring in. I loved my work dearly and poured all of me into it. “You’re such a gifted teacher,” many would say. My superintendent made a personal visit to school to meet with me when I contemplated quitting. My father heard of my excellence from colleagues, and for the first time in my life, I felt he was proud of me. I liked it.
From that time on, I strove to be better and better, but God interrupted my certain rise to education superintendent by asking me to homeschool my daughter. For nine years I would languish at home (from my perspective), being just a mom. I was dissatisfied because from this position, no one could know how gifted, talented, and anointed I was.
There was nothing to achieve here but being a great mom, something I respected because I knew what went into it, but something no one but other mothers seemed to respect.
I couldn’t be somebody from here. I couldn’t gain my father’s approval from here. He had never respected my mother, who had been a much better mother than me while working a full-time nursing job.
She managed to put a delicious, healthy, fresh meal on the table every day, wash everyone’s clothing, press my father’s shirts with starch after hand washing them (as per his preference), and still get to work for her night shift. She was superwoman, but it never seemed to matter. She never received accolades or respect from anyone… even me (then).
In fact, the only time she ever got accolades was when we met co-workers or former patients. They would sing her praises for being a phenomenal nurse. So guess what I thought I’d be when I grew up.
I processed all these experiences to mean that your professional prowess is what makes you somebody. Your achievements bring the accolades, and with them comes the acknowledgment of who you are.
Finally Gettin’ It
Never mind the impact my mother has had on my life and spirituality. Never mind the way she laid a path for being a virtuous woman. No, I saw none of that as valuable then.
For years, I desperately sought to be somebody. Who I was never seemed to be enough. When I recently heard God say, “You’ve always been somebody to Me. I SEE YOU,” it changed everything and filled me to capacity.
I no longer need a particular job I thought I needed. I no longer need to be seen or congratulated by anyone. I no longer need my achievements. I once again am satisfied with my Lord. This, in turn, helps me be satisfied with whatever place or circumstance I find myself in. (Phil. 4:12)
Now I get what Paul meant. Little or plenty, good or bad, my circumstance does not determine my contentment because I know that… I am somebody to Him who flung the stars and kissed the sun.
For most of this day I have been close to tears. I feel compelled to weep for a nation that devalues difference. I feel encumbered by racism, sexism, fascism, legalism and truthfully, most other isms. My heart breaks for a native people that are being forced off their land yet again.
I hear the cries of injustice and add my voice, my pen, my key strokes because I don’t know what else to do. What is most disheartening is that it seems I am surrounded by all the isms at all times because I am a black, female, minister, and an immigrant. I am overwhelmed and inundated by all the injustice that needs my attention.
Truth be told, I don’t know where to start. Just as I thought to throw all my weight and might behind the preservation of black lives and law enforcement reform, Standing Rock and the blood of their Indian ancestors cry out for very present justice. While brainstorming about how I can help with that, a Muslim ban (that bans me too) explodes onto my radar. As I begin to focus there, racism rears its ugly head on the heels of sexism within my own religious denomination.
When we sit and think about all the injustice, all the unfairness, all the broken systems we are apart of, it is easy to become jaded, to think you can’t fix a system designed to break people groups, to think what’s the point?
And what is the point?
What is the point for believers in Jesus Christ? How does social justice fit in with the call, the commission?
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
If you read Micah chapter 6, God states that He has a case against His people. He is asking them why don’t they trust Him? Why are they so cynical? Why are they tired of Him? The great God of Heaven and earth then lists His resume for a people that seemed to have forgotten how powerful He is.
God says, “You’re doing the most trying to act like you want to please me, but all I ask for is this…”
“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.”
The same things that are happening today, disenfranchisement, marginalization, racial profiling, cheating/stealing, haves and have nots, genocide, all of it existed during this time in Israel as well. God is asking of me and you what He asked of Israel.
“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.” I can almost hear Him saying, “Just do that and I’ll take care of the impossible task of dealing with the murderers, liars, and cheats.”
He wants a people that will listen to Him and do what is right no matter how bleak it looks. He wants people that will tune their ears to His voice and help in any way they can, then let Him do the rest. He wants a people that will not crush others with their beliefs and desired outcomes, but be gracious enough to offer mercy where it is needed. He wants a people that do not live in fear because they know who their God is and what He is capable of. He wants fair, humble, mercy-giving, followers that trust Him enough to do anything because of His track record in their lives.
This is Christ’s example to us. Wasn’t He fair? Didn’t He show mercy to those who needed it? Wasn’t He humble though He was God in human flesh? Isn’t this the winning combination that drew men and women to repentance and salvation?
I don’t know what He wants me to do about all the injustices I see, but I am listening and praying that when I hear it, I’ll be faithful enough to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
Every so often, Little Man screams out, “Thank you, God!” He got it from me, I suppose. When I get to church, I shout y’all! I shout in my house when God shows up. I shout in my car when the gospel song hits the right spot. I’m a shouter. Little Man usually places his praise in the right context, but every so often he will shout at the “wrong” time.
We were listening to a country singer during the Dallas Cowboy Thanksgiving game halftime show when he yelled it out again. He threw his four year old little hand in the air and shouted, “Thank you, God!”
Baby Girl looked at him and dryly said, “Really J? It’s a country song.” We all burst out laughing because there he sat with his hand in the air, praising as though he was unaware he wasn’t supposed to be.
I wish we could all be more like little man. I wish I could praise out loud, for all the world to see even when I seemingly have nothing to be shoutin’ for. I wish I could thank God no matter the time, trial, or place. I wish I could forget to keep it together in public. I wish I could fall to pieces and make a fool of myself in the midst of my trials, and not care a bit what people may think.
Little Man’s praise was contagious. After he said it, I felt a “Thank you, God!” welling up in my spirit. I just kept saying it.
Baby Girl looked at me at one point and said, “Ok, mommy. Calm down.” But it was too late. His infectious, ill-timed praise had sunk deep into me and I fought for my right to praise God whenever I feel like it. I said at least three more “Thank you, Gods!” that evening.
While I said it, I remembered that even though things aren’t the way I want them to be, that even though I can’t buy myself a pair of winter booties or celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary with a trip to some place tropical, I can still find a million reasons to say “Thank you, God!”
While I said it, I reminded myself that ill-timed praise especially confuses the enemy, and that a “Thank you, God,” may be the thing that breaks the trial barrier.
I was reminded that we should live in the light of gratitude for all God does for and is to us.
Little Man reminded me that there is no designated day or reason, no good or bad time, no specific season to say, “Thank you, God!”
When I looked, I found that He had simply reminded me of something Bible writers had written thousands of years ago. (Psalm 107:8-9, 1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Timothy 4:4-5, Psalm 95:2-3, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 106:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
When the world around you is daunting, when your heart shudders at the thought of facing another day, when your energy wains as you contemplate where you must expend it, let the tears fall freely, but be careful where they land.
Once I had no place for my tears. If I cried them at work I was looked upon as weak. If I cried them at home I was looked upon as hormonal. If I cried them alone I spiraled into self-loathing. This emotional super power I was given seems too to be my kryptonite.
Once I had no place for my tears because no one received them as waters brimming out of my soul’s longing for more. No one saw them as rivers of waters drawn from the deep of my dreams, but cut off by damns seeking to cap my potential. No one saw them as they were.
I have found a place for my tears, my dreams, my hope, my selfish utterings of “I want my life back.” I have found a place for tears where they are honored. A place where they are saved to become the dreams that seemed deferred, marred, or slurred by the ugliness of a sin-sick world.
I have found a place for my tears. A place where they are what they are, no more and no less. I must confess when I found this place I didn’t believe such grace existed. My human mind had been twisted with judgmental spaces, absent stares, and cold, unfeeling faces.
I had lost the belief that I could cry openly and still be a woman, strong, born from slave stock. I had forgotten that she too cried once, but still survived. I had forgotten that He too cried once, but still gave His life.
I have found a place for my tears. They are in His bottle, every one. He doesn’t miss one that falls. He doesn’t judge me wrongly. He holds my head as I weep, rubs my back when my sobs cause me to convulse, and watches me ‘til I sleep.
There, in His bottle my tears find a place where their Captor looks into each one like the heart of me and finds a way to bestow dignity on what others see as disgrace.
He’s always loved me, when I was barren, when I was lost, when I was devalued, when I was homesick, when I was broken, when I was humiliated, when I was poor, when I was afraid, when I was not enough. He has them all… in His bottle… my safe place for tears to fall.