Is it just me or are there a lot of books out lately that are telling me what a stud I am while simultaneously bossing me around, like “Girl, you’re awesome and you got this, but go wash your face cause you’re a train wreck who could be a model with a successful career in journalism if you didn’t love cheese so much”..? It’s probably just me.
I love me some good common sense cleverly packaged as novel-yet-scripture-based advice as much as the next person, but I’ll pass, since I am pretty much a pro at being my own personal hype-man. (I’m like, really good at believing in myself; sometimes too good, as evidenced by the unintentional over-abundance of children that currently reside in my household.)
I know I am chosen and worthy; I can find bible verse upon bible verse that tells me I am wonderfully made, or reminds me to be strong and courageous. Also–not trying to brag–technically I’m the daughter of a king.
There’s a time and a place to reflect upon these truths, and if you don’t want to pick up a bible, just skim social media for two seconds and find a crap ton of #selflove #selfcare #selfidontevenknowwhat posts. Go to Target and buy fifty different T-shirts that say “Gorgeous Buff Princess Alert, Lick My Feet and Bring Me Coffee”. Turn on any given television show and watch an untold number of females engage in badassery of the tenth degree.
I might be a frumpy 38-year-old mom of 7, but if I get any more empowered, I’m liable to braid my hair and take back the Iron Throne.
You know what I’ve found, though? The times when I feel the most down, on my darkest days, when I’m longing to hear someone tell me that I’m good, or beautiful or smart…
…those are the days when God points me away from myself.
I want so badly to feel excellent about myself, but I realize just how much pride lives behind that desire. If only I were just skinnier and funnier! Or if I baked killer cupcakes and became both the darling of the PTA and a woman valued more than rubies in the eyes of her children and husband. Gimme that approval of man…then…then, I could be happier; then I could serve God with confidence (self confidence, while wearing cute jeans too.)
But I am directed back again and again to Paul, and how he begged to God to remove the thorn in his flesh…whatever that thorn was, it must have felt like such a hindrance to what Paul thought he should be accomplishing, or who Paul wanted to be.
To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
–2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul battled, as we all do, but he got it right.
It wasn’t about his happiness being maintained, or his goals being achieved or his dreams coming true. It was about Jesus, only Jesus.
I’m not designed to stand proud in and of myself and my abilities–when I chase that rabbit, I wind up in a hole that’s almost impossible to climb out of. Life is hard no matter how clean my gut is, or how much money I make. Mustering up enough girl power to slay in every category of womanhood is a dang heavy burden. I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.
I turn the pages of my bible in tears, searching for words that will make me feel stronger, prettier, better. I cry out to God; I just don’t feel like I’m enough.
And God says “No, you have this backwards. I am enough.”
He tells me that Toni didn’t live the perfect sinless life. Toni didn’t sacrifice herself on a cross, defeat Satan and death, and come back to life. Toni is not victorious.
Jesus is victorious.
Toni fails time and time again at daughter-ing, friend-ing, wife-ing, and mothering. Toni struggles with greed and laziness and gluttony and pride and anger more than she would ever admit. Toni overcomes none of it.
Toni makes random, feeble, earthly attempts to love the way Jesus loved.
But Jesus is love.
The world need less of me and more of Him.
If I’m happy it’s because Jesus has comforted me in my sadness, not because I got up and washed my face.
If I am strong at all, it’s because I leaned on Him while I was incredibly weak; not because I wore designer yoga pants and harnessed my inner warrior goddess queen.
If I am ever confident, it’s because He lifted me out of my pit, not because I picked myself up by my bootstraps.
If I am loving and patient and kind, then it is because of Christ living in my heart and my muscles and bones. My body is not my own; my life is for Him.
And if I am blessed, I’m blessed because of what He’s given me, and y’all: He has given me everything.