I’m a steps girl. Give me the rules, procedures, lists and I got you. When things are falling into place, just as I planned (which is rare to never) I have a sense of peace, pride, of look at me!!! Look at what I just created!!! And that’s the problem. Me. I.
Why is it that in my weakest moments I turn to God? Well, simple…I need help. I need a plan. So when my worries, thoughts or fears become my reality, I immediate plot my escape route, scripture! But, what if instead of scripture being my escape route, it became my blueprint, my original plan? Ok, now we are going somewhere.
The reason “I” was the problem at the end of that first passage is because the focus was on me. What I had done. My good works. This theory works great until, well… it doesn’t. What happens when my plans don’t go as expected, or hoped? I feel defeated, worthless, like a failure. For the record, none of those descriptions are true, but how often do we feel them? (Sadly, one of these thoughts can enter my mind daily… hourly even). This is why we must remember the words of Paul to the Galatians, “My old self has been crucified (laid to rest) with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (through the Holy Spirit). So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God (Jesus), who loved me and gave himself for me (on the cross).” Galatians 2:20 NLT (parenthesis added by me)
Why would Paul tell us to die to ourselves? Isn’t this why God created us uniquely & individually? To live authentically, just as He made us? Yes, the answer is yes. BUT, He also created us to have a relationship with Him & to display His love to the world. I don’t know about you but while I’m pretty good (very good) at living for me, I am not so great at the latter, displaying His love to the world. Sure, I get it right at times…I mean I am a loving human. But what about as I’m trying to write this and my kids keep interrupting me? Or when I make dinner & 3 out of the 5 refuse to eat it? Or when I work my tail off, just to get criticized or told I need to do better?! Yeah, love goes on the back burner & angry Melanie rescues the day, or destroys it, tomato…tamoto. So back to dieing to self, I don’t believe Paul is instructing us to be inauthentic but to be intentional to who God created us to be, not to where this world demands us to be. When we live for ourselves, our own earthly desires, we define our worth by our accomplishments & our failures. But when we live our lives for Christ, tapping into the Holy Spirit, then our accomplishments become blessings and “failures” become growth.
Now back to the lists, the rules, the step-by-step instructions I mentioned at the beginning.
I need some clear steps to help me fight the very battle taking me down, my own thoughts, perceptions, which mask themselves as anxiety, worry & fear.
Step 1: We begin by recognizing them, or as Paul says, taking them captive. While easier said than done, the most effective way for me to do this is to physically write them down.
My anxious thought: I’m failing at this job I’ve been given (as a mother, foster mother, wife, friend, coworker, volunteer… fill in your own blank)
Step 2: Ok now that I have this crappy thought captive, I must dissect it.
Why do I feel this way? Was I raised in a home of over achievers? Was I praised when I did something good, so now I need that approval to feel worthy? Valuable? Am I comparing myself to a social media feed that displays perfection in an unattainable filter?
Step 3: Next, take it to scripture. What does God say. Well, He says many things but the words that come to mind are that His grace is sufficient for me, His strength is made perfect in my weakness & this world will bring trouble, but He has overcome the world.
Step 4: And the last step, the one that physically gets me out of my head is this:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 NLT
And physically walk through this. Say it out loud or write it down. Just thinking them can sometimes fail because negative thoughts or “crap, I forgot to schedule that appointment” can hijack the process and we are back at square one. (If this happens, rinse & repeat)
What is true: I am trying my best with the abilities given to me.
What is right: scripture & the wisdom it carries to walk me through this life.
What is pure: Gods love. If every human on this earth turned their back on me, I still have God & His unending love. And that’s enough.
What is lovely: my life. Truly. I know this isn’t the case for every soul reading this, but find what is. A song, a book, a painting, the ocean, the birds, the sunset, you get the drift.
If you do each of these steps, I promise you, the thought that tried to take you down, ruin your day, WILL be stopped. Then you can move on and feel joy, if even for a few minutes, until the next thought hits… and you do it again.
Yes, it’s a process. Yes, it takes a lot of work but when practiced regularly, it becomes a habit & that habit becomes our reality. And that’s the reality I want to live in. That God is good, He loves me & He has overcome this world, so I don’t have to!!! Friends, whether you believe it or not, this world is not our home. It is a temporary battle field preparing us, stretching us, growing us into who we were created to be, to live out His good and perfect will. Which for the record is love. Love for ourselves. Love for others. Love for God. Because God is love. Without love we are merely clanging cymbals with no rhythm.
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 NLT
I pray this message makes it to who it is intended for. Feel free to share to ensure that it does. 🙏🏻
Resource: a book that has truly helped me discover these steps and walk this out daily is, Get Out Of Your Head, by Jennie Allen. Her transparency & love for Jesus are awe inspiring & I highly recommend her book. (I’m not paid to say that! Lol)