I’m on a writing retreat for the month of September (although still at home with dirty dishes and laundry), so I’ve dug out chapters and excerpts from my previous two book attempts to share with you. The first book I started was called:
Escape From Wonderland: How to Stop Chasing Fantasies and Live in the Realities of Your Faith
Here’s Part II of Chapter 4… (See last week’s post for Part I)
I Think I am a Princess
Oh how I have prayed over the years for God to transform me into who I really am in Christ…to change the way I think about myself, and teach me to act like myself so I can be myself. There’s nothing more difficult or distressing than trying to live life not knowing who you really are.
Without my identity secure in Christ I’m just an actress always trying to find the right script.
Years ago I didn’t even know I was not really being me. I found out later that other people knew. A pastor friend told me that I used to drive him crazy because, in his words, “you would never say what you really meant.”
What he’d noticed for years was that I chose my words so carefully I was never free to be real—to say what I meant and to mean what I said. Mine was a tightly scripted act that was supposed to protect me from failure and keep me from thinking too highly of myself. After all, I reasoned, only people who thought too highly of themselves spoke their true minds!
I was stuck in Cinderella thinking.
“Stinkin’ thinkin’” is what my brutally honest husband would call it. And frankly, I have to agree with him. There was nothing sweet-smelling about it.
My thoughts about me were in the dump. God’s thoughts about me were in the kingdom.
I was continually throwing a load of stinky smelly trash on what God had deemed treasure.
It must have smelled pretty bad for me to finally realize that I had to learn how to stop that trash from desecrating the truth. It was time to redecorate my dump and re-wallpaper the rooms of my mind with scripture. I had to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
I went to war. I fought every time I recognized a negative accusation. I got lots of practice fighting, especially alone driving in my car and awake in bed at night. That’s when the fiercest battles raged in my mind.
“I am who God says I am! I am not a total failure, I am not a nothing, I am a beloved child of God, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
I would literally yell at myself to drown out those habitual self-destructive thoughts.
Over time, I began to yell less. Today, most of the time I just need to give myself a good talking to.
“Okay, God, maybe I can learn to accept myself, but can I really love myself?”
This was a tough question for me until I realized that by refusing to learn how to love myself I had no idea how to really love others.
My constant self-critical habits were an irritation to my husband and an obstacle to all my relationships. One night my husband said to me, “Do you realize that every time you criticize yourself you are criticizing God?”
He reminded me of Romans 9:20:
Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this? ” (NLT)
He was right. I did not like myself, much less love myself, and every time I criticized myself I was questioning God. God made me and loved me the way He made me. I was His creation, fearfully and wonderfully knit together in my mother’s womb!
But how could I change how I felt about myself?
I began to get some insight a few years ago. I had started to feel pretty confident in my identity in Christ and developed some close friendships I treasured. I was astonished one day when one of my friends confronted me with, “I never feel like you really mean it when you hug me and you’re always the first to let go.”
Ouch. But I immediately knew she was right. I had “personal space” issues and I only allowed people to get so close.
Soon after this, I was involved in the formation of a women’s ministry group. The inaugural meeting was held at my house and the first thing God put on my heart was to have “a ministry of hugs.” (This would later become known as HUGS—Hearts United in Grace and Spirit—and we opened every meeting sharing the love of Jesus.)
About six months later, I heard a brief teaching on Romans 12:9: “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)
I had heard the words many times before, but this time I was hit between the eyes with the simple, no room for negotiation command, “must be.”
My friend’s words of a few months before echoed in my mind. My love was not sincere and I knew it. But God’s Word clearly said it “must be.”
So I started to pray every time I hugged someone that my love would be sincere. I prayed that I would learn to receive love and not be the first to let go. Over time the most amazing thing happened. My hugs began to become real. And I was able to receive hugs. I could love and be loved.
For me, by learning to sincerely fulfill the commandment to love my neighbor, I began to learn how to love myself. I realize now that every time I extend the love of Jesus to another person, that love must first flow in me.
Can I really love myself? I not only can, I must. This is not a distortion of pride or permission to esteem myself above anyone else or God. But if I say I sincerely love Christ, then I must endeavor to sincerely love myself, for God created me and Christ who lives in me is my true self. To deny acceptance of myself would be to deny acceptance of Him. And He not only loves, He is love!
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
From Fantasy to Faith
Are you like I was, oppressed and “faithfully” scrubbing toilets waiting for Prince Charming (or Jesus) to rescue you? Who do you say you are? Who does the world say you are? Who does God say you are? Are you believing in the minuses or the pluses? Do you find yourself pretending to be two people and never really finding your true identity through “Christ in you?” Can you truly say you love yourself?
Renewing my mind in Christ will be a life-long process, but today I can tell you that I am a princess. I am more who I really am than I have ever been. And with more prayer and practice living in the truth, I will be more of who I really am tomorrow—being ever transformed into His image and likeness.
No matter where you are on your journey from fantasy to faith, God always wants to help you learn more about knowing and loving who you really are.
You are a Princess!
Have you found it hard to love yourself?
Share your story in the comments!
© Linda Crawford, Sunny Side Up (not scrambled), 2011. All rights reserved.