Tag: self image

Minivans and Mortification

If you had asked me last month what I thought about minivans, I would have told you I thought they were great. Such a convenient option for growing families! In fact, I would have mentioned that I drove a minivan for a few years when our kids were tiny–before we got our SUV.

Our SUV was a gift from God. Seriously. We were batting around the idea of getting a new car, and it just happened that a friend was able to get us a CRAZY deal on a fully-loaded used SUV at the dealership where she worked. It was such a gratuitous gift at that point in my life that I was a little afraid of it. Why is this happening to me? Am I reaching for things beyond what I should? Is this some sort of temptation or test? (I may be prone to *slightly* overthinking things. Obviously.) Finally, I got to the point where I just received it for what it was: a gratuitous gift. We needed a new car. We wanted the space. We were offered an SUV that fit the bill, and then some.

Last month I thought minivans were awesome… for you. I wouldn’t have said it exactly like that, but it’s what I meant. Or maybe I didn’t really know that I meant that, but it’s the truth. I know that now because this month we’ve been having some troubles with our SUV and decided that our best option financially is to trade it in and look into purchasing… a minivan.

I don’t know when being an SUV-mom wheedled it’s way so deep inside my persona. There’s really no denying it, though. At Mike’s first mention of the possibility of moving to a minivan I was surprised at the bitterness of my reaction. How stupid. Who cares what I drive? What a privileged position I’m in to be considering trading in one working vehicle for another! Most of my life I’ve been a drive-it-until-it-dies person. What changed?

The best I can come up with is that while I initially received the gratuitous gift in gratitude, somewhere along the way I decided I was entitled to it.

Entitlement starts small; a slippery seed dropped onto the soil of our soul. It’s dangerous and deceptive because most of the plant is under the surface. It sprouts something tiny. Puny leaves that are easily ignored. A twinge of pride over our sweet new ride. A flicker of avarice shoots up; this is good and it is mine. All the while thick roots twist downward at breakneck speed and wrap around the base of our gratitude. The large leaves of gratitude are meant to catch the light and remind us that our source exists outside our self. Everything we need to grow and flourish is freely given.

But those stubborn roots of entitlement stunt the growth of gratitude, and we begin to think that what we have is of our own doing. The once wide plumage of gratitude shrivels, crinkling brown and dropping away until all we are left with is the ugly weed of entitlement. We can try to dress it up a bit, maybe tie on some fake blooms–look at my lovely life on social media!–but the reality is that we are left clutching and hoarding and protecting a plant that will never produce good fruit. This not only leaves us lacking, but is unable to nourish anyone else.

The most common use of the word mortification is to indicate embarrassment or shame, but it also means “the action of subduing ones bodily desires” or “the practice of asceticism by penitential discipline to overcome desire for sin and to strengthen the will.” The medical definition is, “the death of one part of the body while the rest is alive; gangrene; necrosis.” It’s practicing discipline to overcome sin. It’s putting something to death. In my case, the thing that needs to die is my feeling of entitlement to be an SUV-mom. The cool-mom. The slightly-better-than-you, side-eyes at Minivan Mom.

What needs to be mortified is the entitlement that sprouted pride.

I can’t ignore how perfectly timed all this is playing out in this Lenten season where we are reminded of sin’s stranglehold, and thus our desperate need for a Savior. Jesus gets this. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)

Even though He was already God and lacked nothing, Jesus emptied himself to become like us, so he could obey the Father and die to redeem us. And not just die to redeem us, but “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). The ultimate mortification: the shame of a criminal’s death (though innocent), the complete submission to the Father’s will, the death of His body to pay for our sin.

Jesus humbled himself with pouring himself out to death.  

I’m humbling myself with a new car.

Let’s just sit in the inequality of that for a moment, shall we . . . ?

(Father, make me more like your son!)

With this image fresh in my mind, I am choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to uproot my entitlement.

I am grateful to let go of SUV-mom to embrace minivan-mom.

I am grateful to be shaken awake to see this is not a step backward in some crazy carpool hierarchy, but a tiny death to the sin that SO easily entangles us; has entangled me.

I am grateful for another opportunity to invest in growing my gratitude.

And I’m grateful for affordable, family-friendly, reliable transportation with ample cargo space–perfect for towing a large dose of humility.

 

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

I happened upon this video while trolling through my Twitter feed and, though I almost never click links for advertisements, I found myself intrigued with the premise.  A sketch artist draws a portrait of a woman through her description of herself, then, without seeing the woman, draws another portrait, of the same woman, from the description given by another person’s impressions.  The two portraits came out strikingly different in some cases.  It is a vivid portrayal of how our perception of ourselves does not always match up to others’ perspectives.

I have a big forehead, protruding nose with a bump on it, and a scattering of acne that I had thought I would have outgrown by now.  I bet the sketch guy would have had a field day with that description.  My portrait would probably end up looking very witch-like, which, according to a brutally honest four year old I babysat in eighth grade, might be valid.  Obviously, I totally dismissed her words and didn’t allow them to eternally traumatize me…  Intellectually, I know that those closest to me would (hopefully!) not pick out those features first, but it’s what I emotionally see in the mirror.  Fortunately, the descriptions were just for a head shot because I would have been in that seat all day listing all the “problem areas” for the rest of my body, and that’s after going from a size 16 to a 6 over the last year or so.  Surprise!  I’ve got some image issues I’m working through, friends.  Anyone else with me on this?

Stepping past my body image baggage, an intriguing idea occurred to me.  What if there was a way for a picture to be drawn of how I view my whole self?  A sort of spiritual-ideological snapshot.  What words would I use to describe myself, my relationships with others, ethics, priorities, passions, etc.?  And, if I take this a step farther, how would that image be transformed if the second sketch was from a description given by God, my Creator?

Now I’m confronted with the loaded question, who am I?  On paper, as I somewhat painfully realized filling out an application recently, I’m not that impressive.  No extra letters after my name, no crazy accolades, no valuable connections.  Describing myself is also difficult because I feel convicted to be transparent , but I’m also totally tempted to add a vintage filter to soften reality for a more presentable, Instagram-worthy snapshot.  I don’t think I can justly explain the love, discouragement, joy, chaos, peace, anxiety, and passion I paradoxically experience in varying degrees daily in the many roles I play.  Some days I’m not even sure I could accurately describe my true self that abides somewhere deep inside, concealed between the titles: wife, mom, cook, teacher, counselor, chauffeur, housekeeper, friend…  I feel I need someone to constantly remind me of Aiblileen’s encouraging words in Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

Fortunately, I find myself overflowing with gratitude for God’s Word; in the midst of my mind’s muddling I know I have somewhere to turn for truth and perspective to pierce the haze.  (I will repeat the message to anyone who will listen: everything we need to know to live purposeful lives marked by love and filled with hope can be found in the Bible.)  So, after producing that dismal and myopic caricature of how I see myself, I’m looking forward to digging in to discover what God has to say.

It turns out He has quite a lot to say on the subject.  Those who believe that Christ has fully ransomed their lives through His death, God calls: His child (Jn 1:12), friend (Jn 15:15), justified and redeemed (Rom 3:24), set free (Rom 8:2), heir (Rom 8:17), saint (1Cor 1:2), temple (1Cor 6:19), new creature (2Cor 5:17), blessed (Eph 1:3), chosen (Eph 1:4), alive (Eph 2:4), citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20), beloved (Col 3:12), and the list goes on!  He absolutely raves about us without placing any conditions on His love, other than just believing Him (see 1Jn 4:10).

In the very beginning He tells us that we are made in His image (Gen 1:26).  I don’t have nearly enough time, or theological prowess, to go fully into who God tells us He is and how He reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.  Based on the sum of my research and personal experience though, my heart cries out that the common denominator among His attributes is that He is love.

 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  1 John 4:14-16

Here in a beautiful and mysterious way we are linked in love.  We bear His image and He dwells in us.  We have dignity and value because we belong to Him.  There is no need for me to try to impress Him with my accomplishments.  He loves me right where I’m at.  He died for me not after I had sought His approval, but before, when I was my weakest and most wretchedly sinful.

You might not realize it from my descriptions of myself, but, as well as struggling with an overly low view of myself, in a great dichotomy of the soul I also have issues with pride.  God has gifted me in ways to serve Him that I sometimes attempt to claim as my own merit.  I’ve started to combat this by speaking out loud how I feel about myself.  It helps me to hear just how ridiculous I sound.  After a particularly great night at Bible study, where I’ve been blessed to see the Lord expanding the ministry, I was having a conversation with myself in the car on the drive home.  (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)  I felt myself begin to slip from acceptable pride in working within the Lord’s power to praise over my own ability, so I shouted out, “I’m awesome!”  I laughed at my hypocrisy,  and then in the dark stillness of my quiet, kid-less car I felt Him reply, “YES YOU ARE.”  It took everything in me to choke back the tears and keep driving.

I think I’m weak, He thinks I’m awesome.  I have body image issues, He thinks I’m awesome.  I wear myself out striving for a gold star for the day, He thinks I’m awesome.  I screw up and give in to temptation, he thinks I’m awesome.  I feel overwhelmingly under qualified, HE THINKS I’M AWESOME.  His feelings for me are not based on my feelings for me.  I’m going to work on internalizing that so that my self-described portrait can begin to reflect more of my true self and less of my insecurities.  I want my perception of me to look like His perspective.  And when He describes my portrait, it looks just like Jesus.  Lord, give me eyes to see what you see in me!

 

How do you struggle with perspective on yourself?  What has helped you to gain a more clear picture of your true identity?  

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