I am my own worst enemy. It’s a well-worn cliché that is well-worn for a reason. When I don’t accept the love and value that Jesus has given me I live my life as a condemned person. But I didn’t know I was living my life as a condemned person and I never thought that I would be the one condemning myself. It wasn’t until I started to examine my ways that I began to see the truth.
Lamentations 3:40 Like I’ve said many times in the past, what I found through self-examination was that I was operating my whole life around one simple lie, “you’re not enough.” It’s amazing how my belief in this three word sentence affected how I heard, saw, and reacted to things inside and outside of myself. I spent my whole life in fear of being condemned of what I already believed: you’re not enough. I don’t know about you, but when I live in fear of something, it’s always on my mind, and everything I see, hear, etc. becomes about that fear. For example, spiders.
I hate spiders. They scare the crap out of me. Most days I don’t think about them. Most days I forget they exist, which means I am not operating out of my fear of spiders. But then there comes the day when I see one. It’s on the wall, up near the ceiling. And the only thing worse than spiders, is spiders falling on your head. So naturally, I scream, jump around with the squirmy creepy crawly tingles under my skin, and then run to get the vacuum. But like the story always goes, when I return with the vacuum the spider has disappeared. And that is the moment I begin to operate out of fear.
Of course, I spend 10 minutes searching, in vain, for the spider. Suddenly every black spot on my walls, counters, ceilings, etc (and there are a lot of them) come to life. Every spot is a potential spider. I find myself constantly looking up from what I’m doing to check around me. Every time my hair settles or moves on my head I am convinced it is the spider: it fell on my head! It doesn’t take long for me to become paranoid and expect the spider to be anywhere and everywhere. It’s at that moment that I realize I didn’t make my bed yet, and the spider is probably burrowing its way into the warm folds of our sheets…that little jerk!
The only thing to do at this point is to wash the sheets and hope the scalding hot water and the hot dry air kill that little devil. Do you see the insanity of my fear? Who really knows where that spider went to; in all reality, it probably just snuck into a crack or crevice nearby. But I continue to spend my day resenting the spider that has not actually harmed me in anyway. He didn’t fall on my head, and yet I accuse him of it over and over again. He didn’t crawl into my sheets and yet I wash them anyway. He isn’t that spot above my sink, and yet I have examined that spot 20+ times just to make sure. And every time I do one of these things I think, “uggg, this stupid spider!” because if the spider wasn’t here I would not be experiencing this discomfort. It’s all the spider’s fault!
But is it? I don’t know the spider’s intentions, but I am almost positive his goal in life doesn’t involve torturing a 28 year-old housewife.
But I felt him in my hair!
That wasn’t even him! That was just your hair falling out of that side part you insist on putting it into.
But his existence made me think it was him!
Oh, so the spider is responsible for your thoughts…that makes sense. (I hope you can sense that this line is dripping with sarcasm. If you can’t, let me tell you, “this line is dripping with sarcasm. How could a spider be held responsible for what goes through my brain?”)
Do you see how I was condemned? The spider wasn’t lurking around every corner, but my fear of the spider lurking around every corner was enough to condemn me to a way of living as if the spider was going to pounce on me at any moment. Instead of living life fully and dealing with the discomfort of a surprise attack from a spider if and when it came, I was living a half life trying to prevent any discomfort. By trying to dodge the discomfort, I forced myself to think of all the uncomfortable scenarios and then avoid them. The amount of energy it takes to do that is not worth it, especially since the chances are high that I will never see that spider again.
Do you see the flaw in my behavior? It doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal when it has to do with spiders, but how does this type of behavior affect my relationships and life outside of arachnids? Let me show you.
Several years ago I heard God call me to Africa. All he said was, “Africa”. I didn’t know anything else. At the time I didn’t realize it was ok to not know, I thought not knowing meant I wasn’t smart enough or wise enough. Suddenly, my doubts and fears about not being enough to even hear God correctly crept into every room, lingered on every wall, and sat dauntingly on the ceilings of my heart.
“Why would God call upon me? There are so many better qualified people out there.”
“Did I really hear God? What if I am wrong and I end up looking like a fool?”
Every time I thought about my call to Africa I feared others would find out I wasn’t enough. I feared I would be exposed as a fool, as worthless, as useless. And because I believed these things to be true, I spent much of my energy trying to keep others from seeing the “true” me for fear that they would leave me when they found out.
So when my husband, Dean, started asking me questions about Africa, I acquired a defensive posture. I secretly felt like he was trying to expose my “true” self. His simple questions to discover more about my faith journey were skewed by my fear. I wasn’t hearing what he was really saying, I was imposing my own opinions about myself into his questions and then reacting to those questions as if he actually asked them with the motivations I had imposed on him.
Real question: “Are you sure this call was of God?”
What I heard: “Are you sure this call was of God? Because I doubt your ability to be able to decipher his voice from your own and from the voice of the devil.”
My Response: “Why would I say ‘Africa’ to myself? Of course it was God, do you think I can’t hear from God? Why can’t you just support me?!” This conversation quickly escalated into a heated argument about the “lack of support” I receive from my husband. See how I managed to distract him from discovering my worthlessness by accusing him of not being enough for me? I can now see how blind I was to the amazing support my husband has shown me over the years and how his question of “are you sure this call was of God?” only needed my honest response, “yes”.
Real question: “Did God say where in Africa?”
What I heard: “Did God say where in Africa? Because Africa is a big continent and if He didn’t tell you where then you probably weren’t listening to Him well enough.”
My response: “Probably an orphanage or something. I have to find a group to go with (my church didn’t have a Kenya mission team yet).” Here is where I would insert my human plans because even though I had no idea what God’s plans were, I had to pretend I knew, because I believed not knowing meant maybe I didn’t actually hear from God. This tactic did not become a problem until later when God started revealing the real plan and I was then asked questions like “but I thought God said an orphanage, are you sure he wants you to go with our church to serve with One Life Africa?” I would then have to use my energy to figure out how God changed His mind when He is unchanging, you know, instead of admitting that I lied.
Real question: “What does God want you to do there?”
What I heard: “Are you sure God wants you there? What could you possibly do for God?”
My response: “Why can’t you support me instead of tearing me down?” There I go accusing my husband of not supporting me again instead of answering the question. In case you’re wondering the answer at the time would have been, “I have no idea. I guess He will let me know when I need to know.”
Instead of avoiding uncomfortable feelings about my value and worth, I was hyper sensitive to anything that could have a possible connection with it. I wasn’t condemned by Dean like I feared, I was condemned by myself because I didn’t believe I had worth. I was so fearful of being condemned that I saw condemnation in everything, when in reality it wasn’t there at all. I wasn’t condemned by Christ for not trusting Him, I was already living a condemned life when I wouldn’t accept His unconditional love for me as I was.
I always believed in Jesus, and at this point in my life I did have a relationship with him. But I still couldn’t accept his sacrifice for me. There were areas of my life I had kept hidden from everyone, so when Jesus died on the cross to save me, I thought he made a mistake. I thought if I accepted his love then he would be constantly disappointed in me because I could never live up to His impossible standard. I didn’t want to have to live up to that standard. I didn’t want to try and deceive yet another person by pretending I had worth and value. I thought that by accepting Jesus I would be accepting a life of constant condemnation and reprimand from Him. But that’s not how Jesus works.
During my first year of Celebrate Recovery I completed my first moral inventory. I then confessed the nature of all my wrongs to God and to someone I trusted. It was during this time of confession I began to feel freedom. Instead of feeling condemned by God and by my sponsor I felt love. It didn’t make sense to me, if I did these things I should be condemned. I should be deemed “worthless”, “useless”, “used up”, “unworthy of love”, etc. I thought that if I admitted to these wrongs then I was agreeing to my condemnation. I thought that it would be like walking up to a guillotine, shouting all the things I had done wrong and then willingly placing my neck under the blade. Nothing good can come from that right?!
In a sense, I did do that. But before I could even settle into that neck spot, Jesus removed me and placed himself there. Even if I didn’t come forward and confess my wrongs He would have been there dying in my place. But because I confessed I was able to witness first hand that He did indeed pay the debt for each and everyone one of my sins, yes even that one. I was able to feel the freedom that came with knowing my debt is paid. If I didn’t confess I would have continued to walk around with my sins weighing me down and wondering if I would be sent to the guillotine if anyone else found out, not knowing that my transgressions were already settled. But the metaphor doesn’t end there. I have another choice. Jesus is in the guillotine, he took my punishment, he suffered, he died, my sins are paid for. But now what? I have two choices, I can either accept that Jesus’ death did settle my debt, or not accept it.
I find myself making this choice over and over again in so many different areas of my life. Jesus is slowly making his way into every layer of my heart, not hesitating to remind me of His love for me even while I hold onto that sin. He is constantly encouraging me to let go of it so I can hold onto Him instead. And it is the peace and freedom I find in His love (even when others try to condemn me) that keeps me confessing.