Reflections – Beauty from Pain

Day Two

In the 1930’s the St. Louis Cardinals had a star pitcher who played with youthful personality and passion. His name was Dizzy Dean.

Dizzy Dean led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934 when his pitching won them thirty games in one season. He was at the peak of his career and seemingly unstoppable until the 1937 All-Star game when a line drive struck him on the foot, fracturing his big toe.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Dizzy found a way to adjust his pitching motion to avoid landing hard on his injured toe. But in the process, he hurt his shoulder, losing his great fastball.

Dizzy Dean’s career ended, not because of his injured toe, but because of the shoulder injury he received while compensating for his injured toe.

Many of us, perhaps you today, have learned to compensate for injuries to our identity. These injuries are lodged so deep in your heart and over the years, they’ve shaped the way you live.

You’ve learned to compensate.

Conceal.

Adjust.

Adapt.

And something deep inside just feels off.

It affects the way you see yourself, your relationship with God, your relationships with others, how you live and how you act.

Whether it’s due to shameful words, shattered dreams or painful experiences, these injuries are so deep we often don’t even know they’re there. We’ve just become really good at compensating for them.

Somehow we have to find a way to move beyond the discomfort and pain to embrace something far greater. God didn’t create us to limp around, masking and covering up our pain. He created us to live differently – with wholeness, vitality and purpose.

The path to experiencing this begins by allowing his loving presence to change and transform our lives. He’s an expert at taking the brokenness of our life and building something beautiful.

In fact, it’s what He does best.

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:17-18,

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

The brokenness, the suffering and the injustice that we see and experience here on earth, pale in comparison to the glory that we will experience when we meet Jesus face to face. As his children, we can live with a confident hope that rises above all of our present pain, fear, struggles and insecurities because someday, we will share with Jesus in experiencing the complete freedom and wholeness of his eternal Kingdom!

The Greek word for glory in the above verse is dóxa, which means a most glorious condition. The glory spoken of in this verse relates to us, his children, and refers to the ideal condition in which God created and intended his children to live.1  

God wants you to become and do everything He originally meant for you to be. He wants you to embrace your True Selfie! In fact, that’s why He created you!

Even better news: his glory can begin to be revealed through your life, right here, right now. Even through challenges, even through suffering, you can live in a way that glorifies God by pointing others to the eternal hope that you have in Christ.

The past failures and the present difficulties don’t determine our future and can’t hinder God’s purpose from being accomplished in our lives. Nothing even compares to the glory that God will someday reveal in us—the fullness and completeness of total wholeness, restoration and freedom.

Amidst great seasons of joy and success, our lives will be checkered with moments of heartache, disappointment, failure and unfulfilled dreams. God wants to use those seasons of suffering to mold, change and transform us. Ironically, it’s often during the most challenging seasons in my life, when I’ve seen God do his greatest work.

If you continue reading the rest of Romans 8, you’ll find Paul build on this truth as he writes about an unshakable hope we can have as Christ followers. One of my favorite verses is found here in verse 28,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

All things . . . that includes the financial things, the bad relationship things, the family things, the school things, the depressing things, the past things, the job-related things . . .

You get the idea?

Your number one hurt, your number one problem, God can use to help mold and shape you so you will more accurately reflect the image of his Son and bring glory to him through your life.

Often, we limit “the good” we’re hoping to see in our life to temporal, material things. Much of the time, God wants so much more for us. He looks beyond our circumstances, his perspective extends into eternity and “his good work” usually involves doing something of far greater eternal worth and glory as He works in our heart.

Whatever you’ve endured or experienced, it’s my prayer you would know God is good, He is faithful and He can be trusted. He desperately loves you and wants the best for your life. You’re beautiful and precious in his sight, and He wants to use your current mess to make something beautiful.

This doesn’t mean He’s a fairy godmother-type who alleviates all of our problems and pain. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. Difficult circumstances are a pathway to growth and maturity. God loves you so much that He desires to work deep in your heart if you’ll let him. Some of the innermost places of character are forged through pain and suffering.

Even the most ugly, horrible experiences can be an opportunity for God to make something beautiful, something good, in your life.

Don’t compensate. Don’t cover-up. Don’t conceal any longer. Allow God to do his even greater work of healing in your soul.

Think about it…

  • What injuries to your identity might you be compensating for?
  • How have you seen the eternal hope offered to us through Jesus sustain you during dark seasons?
  • Why do you think God uses suffering and pain to mold and shape us? Have you seen this true in your life? If so, how?
  • What aspect of your life are you trusting that God would to work to bring something good? What step can you take to grow in your trust of him?

 

1 Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament(Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992) p. 478 & Strong’s Concordance

Advertisements

Reflections – Part Three of Your True Selfie

Reflections

Day One

One of my favorite children’s books is The Ugly Duckling. Do you remember it? Let me briefly refresh your memory by summarizing it for you.

Once upon a time, born into a batch of adorable little ducklings, hatched a large, awkward one. Some might even go so far as to say this little duckling was ugly. Despite his mother’s attempt to protect and defend him, the young duckling endured much heckling and harassment from the other ducks until finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and he ran far, far away.

It was during this time that a beautiful flock of birds captivated his attention. He secretly wished he had been born with even a hint of the beauty these birds gracefully possessed.

The arrival of winter brought with it a cold, miserable, lonely time for the little duckling. Finally spring came and he saw these beautiful birds again and boldly decided to approach them. Anticipating the same rejection he had experienced in the past, much to his amazement, they didn’t run away from him or mock him but instead rushed to welcome him.

At that moment, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the water. No longer was he an ugly duckling, but through the cold, dark, lonely winter, he had been transformed into a beautiful swan!

The swan was now thankful for his past experiences of pain and suffering because it enabled him to further appreciate the beauty he now enjoyed.

Who would have dreamed that such beauty could have been forged from such ugliness.1

In many ways, I can identify with this little duckling.

Perhaps you can too?

Possibly you’ve admired the beauty, poise and “put-togetherness” you’ve seen in others, but doubted you could experience it for yourself.

Maybe it’s easier for you to believe God can transform the lives of other people, but you’re skeptical He would do it for you.

Possibly, you’ve lived with your “ugliness” for so long, you’re used to it and can’t imagine anything different.

Perhaps the pain of your past is so overwhelming you feel stuck and don’t even know where to begin to experience freedom.

Let me assure you, transformation is what He does best!

As I look back and see how much change and transformation God has brought forth in my life, I am in awe. Areas of my life that I felt completely powerless to change—areas where I felt hopeless—He has lovingly transformed. It’s incredible, really.

It’s a process that God continues to work in my life day after day, year after year. It’s not always easy and it’s not always pain free. I’m not the same person that I was a year ago and, thankfully, I won’t be the same person a year from now.

Although I’m not where I eventually want to be, I thank God that I’m not the person that I used to be.

Sadly from an early age, we begin to believe lies that are subtly sown into our minds and hearts. Even in elementary school, children begin to identify people as “ugly or pretty”,”fat or skinny”, “smart or not smart”, “popular or unpopular”, and “valued or unvaluable”.

As we grow older, these labels continue to shape and mold our identity, influencing the way we see ourselves and other people.

Believing thoughts such as, “I don’t fit in”, “I’m unloved”, “No one understands me”, “No one cares about me”, or “I’ll always be a failure”, over time shape how we see ourselves and affect the way we live.

The way we live is a reflection of how we see ourselves.

Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings in the Old Testament, says it this way…

As water reflects the face, so one_s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27_19

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

How do you see yourself? What do you think about yourself? When no one’s around. No one is watching. It’s just you.

How you see yourself is a reflection of what’s going on inside your hearts.

Your heart is your true self – the real you.

How’s your heart? In the heart…that’s where the transformation begins.

 

Think about it…

Can you identify in any way with that little duckling? If so, how?

What present “ugliness” do you see in your life that you would like to change, but struggle to believe that God can transform that part of your life?

What step can you take to invite God to begin his work of transformation in that area of your life?

 

1 Hans Christen Andersen, The Ugly Duckling

Issue of Identity – Part Two of Your True Selfie

Day Five

Recently on a quick trip to the grocery store, the cashier asked me if I would like to take advantage of their senior citizen’s discount.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!

Stunned and shocked, I thought perhaps I hadn’t heard her correctly so I clarified by asking, “Exactly what age is the minimum requirement for the said discount?”

(Thinking…hoping…praying that it was ridiculously young…like 35.)

“Sixty,” she replied confidently.

I mustered a futile attempt to mask the wide range of emotions raging through my mind and body. While I’m no longer a spring chicken, I’m not even close to being 60!

I was hurt.

Appalled.

Offended.

Angry.

Incredulous.

And a part of me wanted to educate her on the finer art of asking appropriate questions.

For example, you should NOT, under ANY circumstances, ever, ever, EVER ask two general kinds of questions:

  1. Any questions related to a woman’s age, and
  2. Anything that has to do with being pregnant, possibly being pregnant or postpartum baby weight.

If this is your first time hearing this, you’re welcome. You have just been spared much embarrassment, ire and shame.

I went home to complain and cry to my husband and kids who immediately responded with,

“Did you get the discount?”

Really?!

The next day, in an attempt to repair my injured self-esteem, Gregg took me to Longs and invited me to purchase whatever beauty/hair/makeup products I desired. What a great husband.

Interestingly, there was one emotion that I didn’t expect to find triggered by this incident.

Insecurity. For the next week or so, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time comparing my looks, my hair, my skin, my body with other women.

I know it’s shallow and shouldn’t have bothered me.

I know I should be mature enough to just laugh it off.

But it did bother me.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this either.

Just a quick glance at the magazine covers in the line at the grocery store and you’ll notice how our culture sends plenty of messages about the value of achieving success and attaining “outer” beauty.

Whether it’s the latest anti-aging cream, weight loss plan or hair product, we’re seduced to invest a lot of energy into improving our “outside”.

But how much attention to we direct towards cultivating and caring for inner beauty?

I love how Peter gently instructs and reminds women where their focus should lie,

“Don_t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT

How quickly we can lose focus. In looking for the affirmation from the people around us, we spend a lot of time fixing and upgrading our outer self.

God looks deeper. He sees our heart. He sees who we’re becoming. He sees how he created us to live and I believe it breaks his heart to see us settle for the superficial second best.

I still color my graying hair. I’m still on the hunt for the best anti-aging cream. And I still haven’t been able to bring myself to go back through that cashier’s line at the grocery store.

But my primary focus is in a different place that looks towards a different end result of developing an inner beauty that is precious to God and brings glory to him.

Think about it…

How have you seen your external appearance affect your identity?

What would a gentle and quiet spirit look like in your life?

What is one step you can take to cultivate your inner beauty?