Tag Archives: self

Confidence from God

23 Jul

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We were sitting at a table eating lunch in the Rainforest Café of the Mall of America when my high-school boyfriend suggested we go try rock climbing. Even though it sounded sort of fun, I vehemently refused. What if I was horrible at it? What if I made a fool of myself?

Fast forward 5 years. My college boyfriend (and future husband) asked me what year the Declaration of Independence was signed. I timidly suggested “1774”. Then he asked what temperature water freezes at. I asked “30 degrees?” He scoffed in disbelief that I didn’t know these basic facts, and I felt dumber than dumb (and madder than heck). One fight and apology later, I vowed to never venture a conjecture on facts again.

Fast forward another 5 years. I was riding in the car with some girlfriends from small group at church and laughed LOUD at something that was said. All of a sudden, I was hyper-aware of myself and wondered if the other girls thought I was completely obnoxious. I didn’t talk (or laugh) for the rest of the night.

Then there was the time I was in Salt Lake City to time a triathlon with a co-worker. Unbeknownst to me, I got my directions completely mixed up so that I thought east was west. When I realized that I was discombobulated, my head spun and I felt a slice of my identity as “the girl good with directions” die.

Even though I believe that our relationships with people are what matter most in life, they are also the source of much angst, heartache and self-doubt. I’ve heard many a Christian lament their “fear of man” or struggle with people-pleasing. We know that we shouldn’t put so much stock in what other people think of us, but somehow, we just can’t get ourselves to stop caring.

I think part of our problem is the way that Christian leaders sometimes motivate us. They exhort us to live in such a way that “people can’t help but notice something different about you.” Even if they don’t say that outright, they often tell a story of an unbeliever walking up to a believer and saying, “I notice something different about you. What do you have that I don’t?” Those believers listening who have never had such an experience start wondering why they haven’t. What should they be doing differently?

I have listened numerous times to an excellent sermon called Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller on 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” Tim Keller’s sermon gave me the confidence and biblical footing to stop over-analyzing my life. I live my life on the basis of my relationship with God and by the Spirit’s leading. Whoever notices or doesn’t notice is inconsequential – believers and unbelievers alike. Like Paul, I live for the approval of one person: God Himself.

Obviously, I haven’t always had this confidence. And if I’m being honest, I don’t always have it now. But I have it most days. So what changed?

I realized that God loves who I am. In fact, God created me to be EXACTLY who I am. Something I like to remind myself of to kill Satan’s weapons of self-doubt is “The only wrong with me is sin.” No, I am not perfect. Yes, I have a long way to go to be the Christian, wife, mother and friend I want to be. But my love for endurance sports? My sarcastic sense of humor? My love of reading, writing and romantic comedies? My complete ineptitude at trivia and basic facts of life? Those are the me that God created.

When we embrace the fact that God created us to be who we are, and that who we are is a good thing (aside from sin), we can see our strengths and weaknesses in the light of truth. One of the most freeing realizations I’ve ever had was “I don’t have to be everything. I can just be me.” It’s ok that I have horrible hand-eye coordination. It’s ok that I can’t throw a Frisbee to save my life. I can’t remember dates or names, but I remember faces. I remember where I was when I was thinking about x, or what I was doing when I heard about y. I remember where on the page something I read in a book is located, and can memorize entire passages when they’re something that really resonates with me.

So no one is going to mistake me for a professional baseball player or ask me to join their team at trivia night. And that’s ok. It’s also ok if I play Big Buck Hunter and don’t kill a single deer. Or if I’m asked to retrieve a Frisbee only to launch it at a right angle into the bushes. Or if I laugh too loud at something that wasn’t necessarily funny. Or if it took me 25 years to learn the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and water freezes at 32 degrees (and that I googled both before publishing this just to verify).

This confidence is from something much deeper than just saying, “This is the way I am.” Rather, my confidence comes from a deep soul-belief that this is who God created me to be and that in Christ, I already have God’s approval. Actually… not just His approval, but also His lavish and abundant love!

So whenever I am tempted to worry about what other people think about me, or wonder about the impression they got from something I did, I go back to these truths: The only thing wrong with me is sin. The God of the universe loves who I am. I am who God created me to be. Who I am is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still called to be loving to others. Embracing who I am is not a license to mow down anyone who gets in my way. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13). Rather, just as Tim Keller says in his sermon that I linked to above (seriously, listen to it!), the more confident I am about who I am in Christ, the less time I spend thinking about myself. And the less I think about myself, the more time I have to spend thinking for and about others.

{This idea is what people often refer as “finding your identity in God” but as I almost always find pithy sayings like that quite unhelpful, I felt the need to expound on the idea.}

10 Ways I’ve Changed in the Past 10 Years

15 Jul

Today is my 31st birthday. This past June marked my 10-year anniversary as a born-again Christian. A person changes a lot in 10 years, but even more so when your entire paradigm and reason for living do a 180. So needless to say, most people who know me now would not recognize who I was back then, and vice versa. There are the obvious things that have changed, such as, I got married, moved to Denver and back again, and had a baby. But here are 10 not-so-obvious ones (in no particular order):

  1. I value friends who ‘get me’. My whole life, I’ve always had 1 or 2 really good friends that I did everything with. It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I realized how rare it is to find a friend who really understands you. I still have a couple of really good friends (who I met as an adult) and even though we don’t live in the same place geographically, we can talk on the phone or in person and pick up right where we left off.
  2. I value family more. I have been extremely blessed to have an amazing family and family-in-law. Travis and I moved back to Minnesota primarily to see our family more. Ten years ago, I enjoyed time with my family but I didn’t go out of my way to see them. We didn’t have any of our family in our wedding party. But in the past 10 years, I’ve seen plenty of friends come and go, and realize now that family is for life. I want to continue investing in those relationships, and grow closer to my siblings and their spouses.
  3. I am more confident in who God created me to be. I used to really struggle with feeling like I needed to be good at everything, and being scared of someone finding out that I wasn’t good at something. That mindset prevented me from living life to the fullest: I refused to try rock climbing in high school because I was scared I wouldn’t be good at it; I avoided playing sports at cookouts and parties because I didn’t want to reveal my ineptitude; I wouldn’t play Big Buck Hunter because I SUCK at it. But over the past 4-5 years, God has shown me that I don’t have to be everything; I can just be me. And I am not good at sports, trivia, shooting games, remembering dates and numbers, estimating distances or sizes, or recognizing tree species.
  4. I exercise and eat (mostly) healthy because I enjoy it. Ten years ago, exercise and dieting were solely means to losing weight. I obsessed over my body image constantly and struggled a lot with binge eating, which I compensated for by severely restricting calories and using exercise as ‘punishment’. When I started doing endurance sports in 2009, exercise turned into something I really enjoyed. In 2012, I did a book study at church called Love to Eat, Hate to Eat. God really did a work in my heart during that time, because since then, I hardly ever struggle with binge eating or body image. Praise be to Him! (As a side note, I fit into all of my pre-pregnancy clothes now!)
  5. I don’t spend more money than I make. I used to be horrible about using credit cards to buy things I couldn’t afford. My generous parents bailed me out more times than they should have. When I graduated from college and got a job, I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (thanks to my bro Jeremy!) and got serious about living within my means. A year later, I got married. Travis is a saver, so he has also really helped rein in my ‘spender’ personality. We’re just getting going on using YNAB (You Need a Budget). I love it so far. Mint.com wasn’t cutting it.
  6. I wear yellow gold jewelry and pearls. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in yellow gold or pearls. They just weren’t my bag. A few weeks before we left Colorado, I bought some new earrings at Charming Charlie’s to replace my entire earring collection that got stolen out of our house when we were showing it (!?!?!?), and when I got them home, I realized that they were all yellow gold (color, not real obviously!). Ha.
  7. I buy timeless clothes, not trends. I feel so old saying this, but “at my age” I want my clothes to last for at least 4-5 years, if not longer. I don’t want a ‘time stamp’ put on my clothes by buying something that is majorly trendy. Examples: fluorescent colors, high-low/mullet skirts, ombre dyes, chunky necklaces, etc. I mocked the girls in college that wore UGGs with skirts and sweatpants (and there were a LOT of them). That said, I do buy into trends when they’re something I really like. Examples: tribal patterns, skinny jeans worn under tall boots, non-UGG boots, scarves.
  8. I dress modestly. Ten years ago, I dressed to attract attention from guys. Short skirts, plunging necklines, you name it, I wore it. But after hearing a talk about modesty during a Summer Beach Project, I got rid of all my revealing clothes and now I only buy/wear things that are modest. I’m not Amish about it – I still wear strapless dresses and shorts that fall above my knee. But the motive/idea behind it is to protect my brothers in Christ from stumbling, and save some things for my husband’s eyes only.   
  9. I’m all about practicality. I used to buy whatever I liked or wanted (hence my overspending). Now, it doesn’t matter how cute something is; if it’s not practical, I’m not buying it. Practical, to me, means that: I will use it often enough to justify the price; it goes with my existing wardrobe or house decorations; I don’t already have something similar to it; it is versatile in color/purpose; and I will enjoy using it (no more uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion!). 
  10. My taste buds changed. Ten years ago, I hated even the smell of coffee and thought butternut squash was the grossest vegetable next to pickled beets. But I developed a taste for coffee while studying abroad in Venezuela, and discovered that butternut squash is actually quite delicious. Pickled beets are still gross though.

And just to keep it even: 10 Ways I HAVEN’T Changed in the Past 10 Years

Some of these are review…

  1. I don’t buy into trends. I refused to get an iPod when they first came out, but when my Discman broke, I finally caved. I reluctantly got a touchscreen smart phone in 2010, thinking I’d prefer a real keyboard (touchscreen is definitely the way to go). I didn’t join Facebook until 2010. I still refuse to buy any Apple products.
  2. I suck at history and trivia knowledge. 
  3. I hate scary movies.
  4. I hate rollercoasters.
  5. My first response to being disappointed or hurt is anger. It takes a lot to make me cry. Unless I’ve given birth to a baby in the previous 6 months.
  6. I love writing and reading.
  7. I suck at sports. I have no hand/eye coordination.
  8. I am better at expressing myself in written words, than by talking.
  9. I get extremely nervous when talking in front of a group.
  10. I love watching hockey. Playing it is another thing… see #7.

Call a spade a spade.

31 Jan

All female health bloggers: Stop right now.

I see so many gorgeous female bloggers who have amazing figures, entertaining blogs, and impressive race times constantly demean, lament and berate their so-called flaws. Even if they have ripped abs that most women would have to eat only spinach and do 600 sit-ups a day to get, they joke about their love-handles or flabby stomach. Uh, right. If they run 30 miles one week, they were such a slacker. Their 4:00 marathon time was horrible because they could only manage a 9:00 pace for 26.2 miles.

I’m mentioning this because I think this is something that we as women, and humans, are tempted to do: We’re so afraid of being called proud that we take pride in nothing.

This is something I learned from my Grandma Dee. The last few years of her life, she lived with my grandpa in an assisted living home. Like a nursing home, they had all kinds of activities going on, and lots of other people living in the same building. Every once in a while, my grandma would say something like, “Dorothy came over and sat with me at lunch again today. She just really likes talking to me.” At first, I was taken aback by her frankness. Nobody I knew talked like that – because {hush} it was prideful. But my grandma said it so matter-of-factly and moved off the subject so quickly that I kept thinking about it. She got away with saying it. Why? Because she was just stating the facts.

{source*}

The Urban Dictionary describes False Modesty as:

To tell everyone that what you did is bad, knowing all the way that what you did is good, just so everybody says the opposite.
Usually used by women.

EmoGothgirl666: OMG , My blog is crap.
EmoboyLestatDarkness: Don’t say that, it’s great!

The Wiktionary describes it as:

Behavior that is intended to seem humble but comes across as fake and unflattering.

Usage: “Although having a large ego is considered undesirable, at times it is proper to take credit where it is due rather than display false modesty.”

And I think that last sentence sums up my point perfectly.

Sure, no one wants to be boastful and self-absorbed. But c’mon. Call a spade a spade.

Not only do I not believe that you truly hate your abs of steel or think a 4-hour marathon is an absolutely pitiful time, your false modesty makes it seem like any stomach that can’t bounce a quarter or any turtle coming across the finish at 6 hours, 30 minutes is something to be even more ashamed of. If you’re complaining over what is almost unanimously the goal, standard or aim of others, what becomes of anything that falls short of that?

What about the women who hardly dare take their shirts off in front of their husbands?

What about the runners who have put their hearts and souls into training for athletic event of their life, only for the aid stations to be packing up by the time they get there?

The unfortunate side effect of false modesty is that all of those women who will never have a rock-hard stomach and never run a 4-hour, 5-hour, or even 6-hour marathon even up thinking, “Well, if she’s flabby and if she’s slow, then what am I?”

I’ll tell you what would be refreshing. A female runner who runs a 8:00 pace on an “easy recovery run” and is happy about it. A woman who has worked hard to tone her biceps to get excited over them without adding the caveat, “But I still have a loooooong way to go” or “There’s still toooooons of room for improvement.” A recovering chocoholic who makes it through the day with only one Oreo to rejoice over improvement, instead of gut out an extra 15 minutes on the elliptical because she has absolutely.no.willpower.

If you don’t want to gush and aw over your rockin’ bod or your killer time, I get it. But at the very least, don’t knock it. State the facts and make no judgments. Let the cards fall where they may.

If we as women want to create an environment of acceptance and body-love, then we have to STOP CRITICIZING ourselves instead of poking, pinching and lamenting our imperfections.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson)

Delighting in who we are, what we’re capable of, and our accomplishments gives other people the permission to do the same. Be a source of inspiration to others.

What are your thoughts about pride and false modesty?

……………………..

*The sunrise is not actually ugly; I’m using it to illustrate how ludicrous false modesty is.

Being Me.

18 Nov

Over the past week, I’ve had some frequent thoughts pop into my head:

“I’m not a fast enough runner.”

“My blog isn’t as cool as that person’s.”

“My sense of style is boring.”

“I’m not doing enough with my life.”

“I’m completely awkward in situations like this.”

“Nobody likes me.”

These thoughts aren’t new.

But the way I’m responding to them is.

Instead of agreeing with those thoughts and wishing I was a different way as a result, I’ve countered them.

“God created me specifically to be me.

I am the only person who can be me.

And I am holy and loved by God.”

Instead of worrying about how other people perceive me, or how much they like me, or how the world measures what I’m worth, I’m living in the daily truth that God has validated me. I am already loved. I am already approved. He loves and delights in me. And now in Christ, I am free to be the person God created me to be.

I am free to be a slow runner with an excellent attitude.

I am free to be awkward and bad at small talk in social situations.

I am free to be introspective and analytic, instead of a happy-go-lucky, always cheerful person.

I want to go through this life, not enduring or accepting the person God created me to be, but embracing it. Loving it. Appreciating it. Marveling at it. Delighting in it. Refining it. Purifying it.

I am finally beginning to believe the truth of Psalm 139:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

I may not be everything I would have chosen, had I been given the choice. But I wasn’t given the choice. God decided who I would be, according to His good and perfect will. And His works are wonderful.

“This God – his way is perfect.” Psalm 18:30

In Christ, I am exactly who God wants me to be. I am chosen and beloved. I praise Him that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And I want to live in thankfulness of His gift of life.

How are you thanking God for who you are today?

Discovering me.

10 Feb

A while ago, I was prompted by my friend Brittany to take a personality test. I was diagnosed as a INTJ (Introspective, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). One description that I found of my personality profile said this:

“Other people may have a difficult time understanding an INTJ. They may see them as aloof and reserved. Indeed, the INTJ is not overly demonstrative of their affections, and is likely to not give as much praise or positive support as others may need or desire. That doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t truly have affection or regard for others, they simply do not typically feel the need to express it. Others may falsely perceive the INTJ as being rigid and set in their ways. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the INTJ is committed to always finding the objective best strategy to implement their ideas. The INTJ is usually quite open to hearing an alternative way of doing something.

“INTJs need to remember to express themselves sufficiently, so as to avoid difficulties with people misunderstandings. In the absence of properly developing their communication abilities, they may become abrupt and short with people, and isolationists.”

This description has stuck in my mind. As time goes by, I am seeing the truth of this about myself. I don’t express my emotions very much. I did when Travis and I were dating (or at least I feel like I did). But falling/being in love can’t really be compared to how one acts in normal, everyday life. Now that I’m married going on 4 years, I am back to my normal keep-my-emotions-locked-up ways.

Don’t get me wrong – I am emotional and definitely let Travis know when I’m upset about something. What I keep inside, however, are my positive emotions. I am quick to point out how Travis hurt me but am I just as quick to point how he makes me happy or feel blessed? Sadly, no. And with my friends, I often walk away thinking to myself, “Wow, I really enjoyed that time with her” but I rarely say it to her face. My most common form of encouragement is a comment about someone’s cute jacket or earrings, not their inspiring testimony or uplifting insight.

I have been convicted that not only do I need to move beyond trivial, vain compliments, I also need to encourage my fellow Christians. A few weeks ago, I went to a bridal shower. Even though there were a lot of women there I didn’t know well, one woman told me that she admired my boldness in introducing myself to her and another woman commended me for being open about my marriage struggles (and exhorting the Bride-to-be to cling to Christ). I left the shower on clouds. I felt so loved and blessed by those women sharing those things because they proved that God has been working in me. I feel inspired and compelled to do the same for other women.

The only problem is that for me, saying things like that feels uncomfortably vulnerable. It’s putting my heart out there, in plain sight, and inviting heartache or misunderstanding. It’s the same reason why I keep my spiritual struggles to myself, often not even telling my husband about them. Telling another person requires vulnerability.

But alas, I feel God is calling me to move beyond my comfort zone and to encourage others. For a long time, I wasn’t even capable of recognizing things to commend in others because I was so self-conscious and jealous of other women that I couldn’t see past what they had that I didn’t. As God has led me to trust the life He has given me, however, I have been able to let go of the standards and expectations I had constructed and now I find myself more able to see, appreciate, and value what other women have to offer. Their gifts don’t diminish mine – I can appreciate them while appreciating the gifts God has given to me.

To put this into practice, today I brought cookies to my friend Cathy along with a card sharing my heart about how much our friendship means to me. And I closed my note with the words “I love you.” Which is true but as soon as I wrote those, I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Was that too weird? Will she be freaked out? Do friends even say that to each other? But I felt God urging me to put myself out there. Be radically honest and open. Encourage others even when it’s uncomfortable and scary. So I gave it to her. (But I didn’t ask her to read it in my presence. Baby steps, people.)

Over the past several years, I have racked my brain and over-analyzed my personality, wondering which characteristics were good and which needed to be redeemed? My realization that I can trust God to bring into light the things that need redeeming is being proved true. My avoidance of people out of fear of awkwardness and lack of encouragement to others out of my fear of vulnerability are being exposed in God’s holy and searching light. And instead of feeling condemned and guilty, I feel called to live in a better, more God-glorifying way. I feel freedom. I feel love. It’s amazing how God works like that.

Who am I?

16 Dec

For the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about who I am. The job I’ve had with this race company has revealed to me that things I thought I knew about myself weren’t correct.

For instance, I thought I liked constant change because the jobs I have enjoyed most have been different every day. But this job made me realize that I only like constant change within structure – like different tasks within a 9 to 5 job. I also thought that I liked independence in my work. And I do to a certain extent but I mostly enjoy being assigned specific tasks to complete on a daily basis. I like administrative tasks. I like things that require being detail-oriented. I even enjoy tedious tasks. I did not know this.

These realizations are interesting to me because I thought I knew myself. These discoveries surprised me, which surprises me even more. It’s a weird thing, not knowing yourself. Definitely a result of the fall. While I find reassurance in the knowledge that at least God knows me, I also want to know myself.

As a Christian, I feel like this task is 1,000 times harder than it would be as an unbeliever. I am constantly wondering “Is this thing that I’m doing who I am or is it sinful?” I am at times a morbidly introspective person. I analyze everything. I can’t turn my brain off. So I feel like I have all these ideas and thoughts swirling around in my head and I can’t figure out what is truth and what is a lie, what is me and what is culture or what I think I should be.

I thought that maybe a personality test would help me figure out who I am, since my own mind is of no help. After reading my friend B’s post about personality tests, I took the Basic Personality Test. But during the test, I found myself stumped on several questions – I didn’t know the answer. They say that your first gut reaction is the right one but I didn’t have a gut reaction to either answer. “You tell me,” I wanted to say. I don’t even know myself well enough to take a personality test!

I’ve heard it said that it’s not about who you are, it’s about Whose you are. I’m not sure I entirely agree. Yes, it is a good thing to remind ourselves that God loves us, it’s His opinion that matters, and that we don’t need to be famous or important in the world’s eyes to be precious to God. But if we are supposed to become who we truly are in Christ, if we are supposed to become what we already are, it would help to know what that “what” and “who” are, specifically for us as individuals. I mean, isn’t that the point of personality tests? They’re to help you to discover what your strengths are, for the purpose of cultivating and exercising them.

I’ve always been an analytical person (or I least I think I have…), trying to figure out the meaning and purpose of things. But it feels like my brain has been on overdrive for the past 6 months. I can’t stop thinking. I can’t accept anything without understanding it first, and since there are so many thoughts in my head, I can’t think about one thing long enough to thoroughly understand it, so I can only understand things partially and therefore only accept things partially. I am left with questions and theories half-answered and half-proven, the other half a question mark hanging in the air. Just this week, after volunteering at the church, I drove home joyful from doing something I enjoyed. But I was only 99% joyful. I was fettered by something I couldn’t put my finger on. Even now, I can’t put my finger on it. There’s something unresolved. Something keeping me from being completely enjoying my reality in any certain moment or place. Something hindering the completeness of my joy.

Even my interpretation of this situation conjures up various thoughts in my head. Maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be, since we won’t have full knowledge until heaven. But the way this is makes it hard for me to have joy. Plus, I’m exhausted from thinking, analyzing, trying to figure things out. I just want to accept something and move on, for once! Maybe I’m the perpetrator of this condition – I’m the one reading books, searching for answers. I’m the one entertaining and pursuing all of these different ideas at once. I’m the one continuing the attempt to quell the voice inside of me crying out for answers. I’m the one still listening, still hoping, still yearning for truth.

I have no answers. And if your gut reaction is to say that all the answers are in the Bible, I’ll say to you that it’s not that easy. Believe me, if it were that easy, all my questions would be satisfied. Yes, the answers are in the Bible. But they’re not obvious. And the mystery of the Christian life, added to all of the lies I’ve believed, our culture’s influence, and my own habit of spiraled thinking, makes it near impossible to sort out all of the thoughts in my head.

My only hope in all of this is that God has the answers. He knows what I’m struggling through, will give me insight and clarity when I need it, and is the One who is causing me to wrestle through all of these thoughts, issues, doubts, fears, and ideas – and that for a reason. He is doing something in me. Even when it feels like I’ll never sort it all out, that I’ll never truly understand, I can rest in knowing that God knows me, God is for me, and God will lead me into truth, whenever He wills. What would I do without God?!?!?

Contentment in being a sinner

6 Oct

From my last post, it’s obvious that I’ve been thinking about contentment lately. I’ve also been thinking a lot about my sin and struggles, which seem to be everywhere and never-ending. Yesterday, I felt discouraged and depressed at the thought that I will always struggle with sin and selfishness in this life. My whole life will be like this?!?!?!? I’m not sure I can handle that, I was thinking.

But in the midst of that, I had some other thoughts. One, I’ve heard it said that the more mature Christians are the ones who recognize their sin more. So seeing my sin everywhere is actually a sign of God working in me, not me backsliding (after all, those sins have always been present, I’m just now seeing them). This is evident in the apostle Paul’s life, who describes himself in ever-increasing degrees of sinfulness. He is the “chief of sinners” in one of his very last letters.

Two, despite Paul’s awareness of his depravity, he doesn’t focus on it much. His letters are overwhelmingly about the victory we have in Christ and the new life we can now live. So perhaps I focus too much on my own sin and not enough on Christ. It’s the reverse form of pride – it’s still all about me but now, I’m just dwelling on how much I suck.

Then I read in 2 Corinthians that Paul had learned to be content with his weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on him. Roy and Revel Hession in We Would See Jesus echo that when they write:

“Grace permits us to come (nay, demands that we come) as empty sinners to be blessed, empty of right feelings, good character, and satisfactory record, with nothing to commend ourselves but our deep need, fully and frankly acknowledged. Then grace, being what it is, is drawn by that need to satisfy it, just as water is drawn to depth that it might fill it. This means that when at last we are content to find no merit in ourselves, and are willing to admit the full extent of our sinfulness, then there is no limit to what God will do for the poor who look to Him in their nothingness” (emphasis mine).

This idea of being content in being a sinner was at first confusing to me. Doesn’t being content with being a sinner mean that I resign myself to the fact that I continuously try to be my own god and that as a result of that acceptance, I will stop trying to change? But I had been thinking of contentment as a passive acceptance of reality. Instead, as I read here, “Contentment, from the biblical viewpoint, is not merely a passive willingness to bear whatever comes, but a vital, living, active power to overcome and conquer through the strength and grace of God.” So contentment and the battle for holiness can simultaneously exist in the Christian’s life.

Admitting that I have nothing good in me and never will in this lifetime is very difficult. My flesh wants to object and say, “Well what about that time that I didn’t yell at Travis, even though I wanted to? Or that time I gave $5 to a homeless man? Or what about my desire to be holy – surely that means something?” Even though I’ve said and believed that I’m utterly sinful, I haven’t understood the depth of  what that means. It means that there is nothing good in me. That I am not worth anything apart from Christ.

I have been subconsciously waiting for the day when I will feel victorious over sin. I will feel that I have conquered my old nature and am now, finally, living in the power of the Spirit. I have been expecting to, someday, no longer feel like a sinner. But that day on earth will never come. I will always be a sinner here. I will always struggle with my human nature. Instead of getting frustrated that I sinned yet again, I should say to myself in those moments, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me” and focus ever more on God’s grace to me through the cross of Christ.

This realization has been groundbreaking. Thinking about all the sins and struggles I’ve had recently, I can see that they’re all rooted in me trying to justify myself, to prove my worth, to find something in and of myself that I can hold on to and say “This. This is what makes me valuable.” My struggles with body image and jealousy of other women are just me wanting to be valuable based on beauty. My anger at Travis when he points out my sin or makes me feel stupid is just me wanting to justify myself. In short, my flesh is not content to be an empty sinner, void of anything to commend myself. It wants something more than Christ to show I’m valuable.

But my heart wants to moment by moment cast off all the things that I am trying to find my worth in, and instead turn to God and say (in the words of Mercy Me), “You are to blame for anything that is good in my heart.” Already, I feel peaceful from not expecting to feel good about myself but in looking to Christ for everything. I’ve realized it before but am realizing it again – the Christian life isn’t about becoming a better version of myself. It’s about letting Christ live through me. It’s about recognizing my need – my failures, sins and weaknesses – and instead of trying to make up for them through my own strength and efforts, acknowledging them and looking to Christ for His sufficient grace and asking Him to make His power perfect in my weakness.

That is how I can be content in being a sinner: seeing the reality of my situation, acknowledging that I am nothing and can do nothing myself, and looking to Christ in my nothingness. In doing so, I end up being conformed to the image of Christ without my even trying. Christ is the one who acts. Contentment really is a win-win.