Has our search for self-worth blocked our view of the worthiness of Jesus? Has our desire to be loved and accepted overcome our desire to know God? These questions are addressed in this excerpt from Carole Mayhall’s book, Lord of My Rocking Boat.
I was singing as I worked in the kitchen—enthusiastically and slightly off key. Jack came in, put his arm around me, and observed, “Some women can cook. Some women can lead Bible studies. Some women can grow plants. Some women can sing.”
He paused, and a teasing twinkle flickered in his eyes. Then he said wryly, “Oh well, three out of four isn’t bad!”
I can laugh at my inability to make beautiful music, but other defects in my life are no laughing matter! My husband Jack so wonderfully accepts me with my idiosyncrasies and faults that he has helped me accept myself and also see how God accepts me in an even greater way. But still there are many things about myself I just don’t like. Truthfully, the personality I have the most trouble with is my own!
One of the things I like least about myself is my propensity to have to say something (usually the wrong thing) when there is an uncomfortable silence in a conversation. Because of this inclination, I can totally identify with Peter and his reaction to the astonishing wonder of the transfiguration in Mark 9:1-13. When he saw Moses and Elijah talking to a transfigured Christ, Peter was awed, terrified, thunderstruck, and he “did not know what to say.”
As I read the passage, I thought, Didn’t know what to say? Who had asked him anything? Yet Peter had to blurt out something, so he suggested that three tabernacles be built to honor the three who were conversing. In my nervousness, I, like Peter, think I’ve got to answer when no one has asked.
But the incredible thing to me about this incident is that God the Father didn’t rebuke Peter. Neither did Christ shake his head in anger at Peter’s remark. Instead, God used Peter’s inane suggestion to point out dramatically that Christ was his beloved Son. When Peter looked about after suggesting that three tabernacles be erected, Christ alone stood on that mountain. God thundered from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
The lesson God whispered to me as I studied this incident was that I am to keep my eyes on Jesus rather than on my own disheartening tendencies. I am to remember that God not only understands these propensities, but at times graciously uses them. My task is to focus only on Jesus. When I see him clearly with my spiritual eyes, I can forget myself, and those things I don’t like about myself.
Numerous articles, books, and people tell us we must love ourselves in order to love others or even love Christ. Phrases such as “a healthy self-image,” “self-love,” “self-acceptance,” and “I’m okay” dot the landscapes of our lives like mounds of hay in a farmer’s field. We as individuals and as a society are reaching out for a good self-image, a feeling of worth, a sense of genuine acceptance from those around us. We want to be liked and loved and to know we are. Surely there is nothing wrong with that.
Or is there? Has giving attention to our self-image detracted from giving attention to the image of Christ? Has our search for self-worth blocked our view of the worthiness of Jesus? Has our desire to be loved and accepted overcome our desire to know God?
I have a feeling our focus has been on the wrong object. We have gotten self in our sight and blocked the Savior from view. It is no wonder our search for him gets more and more frantic.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that the answer to a healthy view of myself lies not in reading books and learning formulas by which I grow to love myself, but the answer lies in experiencing fully a God who sees me as worthy to be loved. In knowing his love, I feel loved. In seeing his beauty, I don’t think of myself as beautiful or not beautiful, but I stop thinking of myself at all so I can better fill my heart with him.
Sounds simplistic? Maybe. But most of the books I’ve read on self-image only describe the problem and the fact that I shouldn’t have it. They may give me some steps to take, such as being aware that I’m responding to a situation immaturely and trying to respond differently, but rarely does a book help me do it. It really doesn’t help much to know that the child in me is speaking if I don’t have the capability or power to change that child.
I don’t mean to minimize the help these books can give. Some are helpful in letting me know why I am the way I am. But knowledge alone leaves me impotent. When I try to work on loving myself so I can love you and God, I find myself powerless and helpless. But when I look at Jesus and let him fill my life, then I know how worth-while I really am because I am worthwhile to him. Because of his love, acceptance, and understanding, I am free to like myself—love myself, if you will—and the overflow of that is an acceptance of and love for others.
A friend of mine who was quite overweight came to visit me once. Without thinking I said, “Sit down, friend, and take the load off your feet!” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realized the embarrassing implications of my remark. But what could I say then to make amends?
I could have given myself a pep talk something like this: “Now Carole, it’s okay.” (But it wasn’t.) “You don’t often make such thoughtless remarks.” (Oh yes I do!) “You are really a great person.” (Who says?) “You must love yourself.” (Yes, but how?)
Frankly, I don’t think that would have helped much. And to keep thinking about my blunder wouldn’t help either.
But to talk to my Father about it, to ask him to help my friend not to be hurt by my thoughtlessness, to ask him to deliver my thoughts from dwelling on myself and my inadequacies, and then to set my mind on God who loves me anyway-this helps me experience a feeling of acceptance and even a joy in being me.
So how can I alleviate the trouble I have with myself? Perhaps we could call it the FACTS principle.
F ocus on a God who loves me beyond my comprehension.
A ccept my idiosyncrasies with humor, knowing God can even use them for his glory, or change them as he will.
C oncentrate on his book a great deal more than on self-help books.
T otally desire to know God better than I know anyone else.
S tudy him through life’s experiences.
There are many rough edges on me which God wants chiseled away. I know that. My responsibility is to not hinder him in his work-to try not to resist his tools. Other than that, I can relax and rest in the fact that God made me the way he wanted me.
This may not be how I wish he had made me or what others want me to be. But as a unique member of the body of Christ I have a special task-an obligation to be exactly what I was created to be. I want the fragrance of my life to be sweet, not because of what I am at this moment, but because of what God is making of me.