My Vanity Fast Part 3: THE CHALLENGE

In Part 1 and Part 2 we talked about what beauty is not, so let’s talk about what beauty is.

Beauty is an older woman at church who is struggling with a family that is falling apart. Even through the tears, she is praising her God because His is good.

Beauty is a woman who stays in a lifeless and loveless marriage to honor the promise she made before God.

Beauty is a woman who stays home with her kids to raise them. She is lonely. She feels like sacrificing her career has caused her to fall behind in the world. But, she loves her God and trusts the good work He is doing in her and in her kids.

There is such beauty in a woman who is willing to suffer for her God.

Beauty is  a woman who struggles with poverty working multiple jobs to support herself and her kids. She works tirelessly and has very little for herself. Yet, she loves and praises her God, and strives to live a righteous life. Her hope is found in Christ.

Beauty is a friend who was a missionary for seven years. Despite loneliness and isolation when she comes off the field, she is still trusting the Lord, and she is ready to be ‘sent out’ once again.

Beauty is a woman who is so in love with the poor people of Africa that she considers that home instead of her home in this country, and those children like her own kids.

Beauty is a woman who is willing to let God break her heart for what breaks His.

Beauty is any woman who loves God who is messy, sinful, wretched, and occasionally veers off the narrow path. But she gets back on the path and praises her Heavenly Father who saved her.

What does God say about beauty?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   1 Peter 3:3-4

God’s standard for beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit. One who is desperately pursuing righteousness in Jesus Christ.

I know that I can never live up to being a Proverbs 31 woman. To be honest, it is among my least favorite scriptures in the Bible. I am messy. I am wretched. And I am strong willed.

I often feel as though I am striving, but never reaching that high bar.

But I know I’m OK. As long as my eyes are on Him. As long as Jesus is my Lord. And, as long as I couple action with my faith, God will be glorified through me.


So, how can you learn to love yourself regardless of what you see in the mirror? I can’t answer that question for you. The best I can tell you is this,

The most beautiful thing that you, or I, could see in the mirror is JESUS.

True beauty is found in Jesus Christ. Such immense love cannot help but being stunningly beautiful. And, if we mirror the image of Christ, we will be stunningly beautiful too.

The Vanity Fast Challenge

If you are like me and have blurred the lines of beauty and identity, it’s time to bring things back into focus. And with focus comes freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.   Galatians 5:1

I challenge you to try a vanity fast, and I pray that God uses it to show you truth. Whether it is one week, one month, or one year is up to you. What could it hurt? Why not step out of your comfort zone and see what is on the other side? It just might be freedom.

Will a vanity fast be an instant cure? Probably not. Anything worth having takes work and happens in God’s timing. And, if you are anything like me, you are a slow learner!

I would like to say after five weeks of my vanity fast that the ties of beauty and identity have been completely severed. I’m fixed . . . . HALLELUUUUIAH! But, I’m not. Let’s just say I am one of God’s tougher cases!

But that is OK with me. Because I am tirelessly working toward truth, the freedom God has for me, and becoming more like Him. And, I am beginning to see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel.


Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

 

The messy entanglements of pain in relationships

I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people. I am convinced that I would be a better servant of Christ if it were just Him and me. Sounds ridiculous, right? Being a Christian is all about other people!

The second commandment is . . . “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:39-40

My ideal world would give everyone their own island. There, they could do their own thing with God, uninterrupted by relationships. But since this is God’s universe, I guess I’ll have to do things His way.

This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. Now you may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.  ~ J. Vernon McGee

My quiet times alone with God are focused and worshipful. I love getting cozy on the couch and diving into His Word. We have a good thing going. However, the complicated mess that is my past, my feelings, and my wounds tend to muddle up the picture when other people enter in.

I was recently talking to my husband about how good I felt about my relationship with God and how strong I had become. I feel as though His Word is finally becoming a part of me and my nature is changing. I am pulling away from my sin nature and participating more in the divine nature.

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:4

I have often wondered, ‘Will I ever learn? Will I ever change?’ However, I know now that I am growing and changing. I feel Him doing a good work in me! Hallelujah!

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

But, the moment I step out of my front door, that all changes. When people are introduced into the equation of my faith, it becomes infinitely more complicated. And if I cannot love, then everything else is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13:1).

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I am not talking about the people that we are to serve. I expect those situations to be challenging. I am talking about relationships with friends, family, and other brothers and sisters in Christ. I am talking about people at church, ministers and musicians, coworkers, neighbors and people at family gatherings.

Relationships have a way of rubbing old wounds and ripping off scabs.

Not to long ago I found myself being envious of somebody. I didn’t feel like I was making a conscious decision to be envious. And I didn’t know how to stop it in that moment. The pain came from a place of woundedness from my past. 

Our faith can easily get entangled in our pain. It can cripple us. Having faith, doing the will of God, and participating in His kingdom require us to first deal with our pain and difficult relationships. Ugh!

If we don’t deal with these messy things, than sin will have a hold over us.

The truth is, without the blood of Christ we fall short . . . . by a lot! We can’t be a good enough person; we can’t keep from sinning;  and we can’t untangle the mess of emotions and pain that lead us to darkness. We need a Savior who brings the light. We need a Savior to wash away our past and give us hope for the future.

The beautiful words from the song, His Eye is on the Sparrow come to mind. Praise God! Your eye is on the sparrow!

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When JESUS IS MY PORTION, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I SING BECAUSE I’M HAPPY;
I SING BECAUSE I’M FREE;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

So, the only thing I can do is lay my mess down at the foot of the cross. And sing, because I’m happy. And sing, because I’m FREE!  I have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

It is amazing that our wounds are healed by the wounds of our Savior. And, through our wounds we can bring healing to others as well.

Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.  ~Rick Warren

I am always a work in progress. God is so lovingly patient with me.

The longer we walk with Him, the more He will grow a love for others in us. If we seek Him, the ultimate love, He will fill us. Our cup will overflow and the love will spill out on others.


 

Freedom for People Pleasers

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
~Ed Sheeran

Recently, I challenged a friend of mine to brake the chains of the ‘shoulds’ in her life. She, like most of us, was overcommitted, overwhelmed, and stressed out. Most of her time was spent on others; taking care of her kids, being a good wife, taking care of the house, and volunteering for things at church and school. She rarely, if ever, did anything for herself. Guilt and obligation enslaved her. She was missing the joy of freedom that living in Christ has to offer.

I gave her homework one day after bible study. The homework was that she had to say breaking_free_by_obscurelilium-d7u0xvyno’ to something that she didn’t want to do, simply because she didn’t want to do it . . . . OR, say ‘yes’ to something that she wanted to do, simply because she wanted to do it. And, she had to do this 3 times before the next bible study.

There was only one rule; there couldn’t be a logical reason to say ‘no’ like a schedule conflict, or she was sick, or because she was just too busy. She had to not do something simply because she didn’t want to do it. Sound selfish? For the Christ follower, its called living in God’s freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

Blessings abound when we walk with Christ. It is the blessing of freedom. Christ died to set us free; free from the yoke of pleasing other people; free from the yoke of doing everything that people ask us to do; free from the yoke of being responsible for other people. There is nothing greater than freedom in Christ.

I was a people pleaser most of my life.  Never having been shown my true value in Christ, I grew up thinking that it was my job to take care of everyone else. We all had a lot in life, and this was mine.

problem pensive girl at window profile sad black and whiteI had to make people feel comfortable and at ease at all times. I was to keep the peace even when peace was not possible; even when peace was not appropriate. And, it was often at my expense. But, I truly believed that I was expendable. Just take one for the team, I would tell myself . . . . again!

Satan had me right where he wanted me; feeling worthless and being useless. He had me thinking that my only purpose was to empower others. He had been feeding me lies and I was ever so eager to believe them.

I am so grateful that God has set me free by setting me straight! He made you and me for a specific purpose in the Kingdom; something more than catering to the comfort of others; something more than just being a loving and supportive spouse; something more than raising children.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

My walk with God in the last 20 years has taught me how high and wide and long and deep is His unfailing love. He has been replacing the lies that I believed for so many years with His Word.

Can we say no to our mother? . . . . when the bible says this . . . “Honor your mother and father.” Exodus 20:12

Can we say no to a ministry? . . . . when the bible says this . . . “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2

Can we say no to our church?  ” . . . . when the bible says this . . . “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God ” Ephesians 4:12-13

Can we say no to our husbands? . . . When the bible says this . . . “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.” Ephesians 5:22

Yes, we can!

So, who do we need to please? . . . . God.  Who is the only one that we always need to say yes to? . . . . God.  God is the only one that we need to please, and He is already greatly pleased without us doing one single thing!

He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

That doesn’t mean that we can say ‘no’ to those things all of the time. If we are to be obedient to God and His Word, than we must do these things some of the time. But, we are certainly not obligated to do them every time.

People pleasers just want to do the right thing. They are usually caring, selfless people. However, the right thing might be to say ‘no’. We need to be regularly in His Word to be able to discern.

 

Relationships, if they are true relationships, demand judgement and confrontation . . . . to faithfully live our life as a human being–to live as we were created to live–is to live in an open-and-closed relational connection to another.
~Andrew Root

God delights in us. And, He loves us with unfailing love. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us, or what we do. It’s who we are in Christ, or rather, it’s who He is.

My Bible study friend whom I gave the challenge to came back the following week and was eager to tell me what she did. She was like a kid in a candy store, with a grin from ear to ear. She beamed with the glow of freedom!

Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?   Isaiah 2:22