“She’s got the grit about her,” I heard my grandmother say to my dad when I was fourteen after my knee surgery. At that time, I didn’t really know what she was talking about – I had just undergone knee surgery and was probably a still a little doped up on pain meds and I thought, why is she talking about grits? I mean, I like grits but what does that have to do with anything right now? Later, with a little less pain medication, I realized what she meant – she thought I was strong. Now this was a compliment coming from a woman that I had witnessed roofing a house, chasing chickens, and heard countless stories about her farming abilities. I was lying in a hospital bed, weak as a kitten, but she thought I was strong.
“I think you’re brave.” I heard my mother say the day I moved out and went to nursing school. I remember, we were sitting in the parking lot of an IGA. She ran into pick up a few things and came back to the car – I was crying and she knew what was wrong. I had to leave my family, my friends, and the little small town that raised me right and loved me well. I was terrified, but she thought I was brave.
I have recalled these words multiple times throughout my life – most often during dark hours – I could hear an echo, “I think you’re brave”. Unfortunately, however, as we grow up, at least for me, the critical words sometimes speak louder than encouraging words. Even if something was meant as constructive criticism, I took it personally. If someone disagreed with me, I only heard the bad things about me. A compliment would be forgotten quickly and a criticism obsessed over. WORDS – they change our behavior, our confidence, our outlook, the way we make decisions, the risks we take, and possibly the course of our life. Words are powerful! And, in the end I was left with guilt, anxiety, and worry. My confidence was shaken, I couldn’t make decisions, and I worried incessantly about the decisions I made.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to realize that I was listening to the wrong voices. And, what I was hearing was controlling my life. Where was that strong, brave girl I used to know? A few years ago, I heard a message about what God thinks about his children. I realized that I had no idea what God thought about me, and, in fact, what I thought about me was pretty bad. Then, I came across something I never noticed in Genesis 3. I’m not a bible scholar but here’s the story….
God just created…well, everything, and instructed Adam and Eve they could eat from every tree except one. The serpent, Satan, then talks Eve into picking some fruit from the forbidden tree and taking a bite – she then gives a bite to Adam. (Side note – if you’re not a Christian just follow along. Even if you don’t believe in God and creation, there’s some good stuff in here and I’ve kinda always thought this story was a little like Snow White without the dwarfs and a prince.) ANYWAY: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked”. – so they covered up. Seems logical. But, here’s the problem – God was walking around the Garden too and they hid from him. Their excuse – they were naked. Gods response, “Who told you that you were naked?”.
Now, lets just be honest, everyone knew that they were naked before they ate the fruit – they knew, the animals knew, and God knew. What changed? They listened to the wrong voice and it lead them to darkness. They stopped listening to the things that God was saying. They had always been naked but it had never been their focus. Their eyes, in a sense, were suddenly opened to their weaknesses and that became their focus. I may be overstepping a little here because again, I’m no scholar, but when I read this a light bulb went off in my head. Stop listening to the wrong voice. Now there are a million other lessons from this story – hiding, childbirth pain (thanks Eve), God’s grace and provision(in the end he clothed them), etc. – but this hit home with me – “Who told you that you were naked?”
So, who told you the things you believe about yourself? I’m gonna meddle a little here – but who told you that you weren’t good enough, stupid, weak, broken, less than, unwanted, unlovable? You may have a million examples of why or how you came to believe this, but if this is your focus it will drive your life.
To keep with the bible theme, God actually has a few things to say about who you are:
- Fearfully and wonderfully made
- Set free
- Chosen and dearly loved
- More than a Conqueror
- Alive with Christ
- Not Alone …just to name a few.
Wow, now that’s life changing. What would your life and my life be like if we actually believed the things that God thinks about us? What if these words were louder than the critics? Proverbs 18 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue”. What if you chose life?
Its a daily struggle for me to push down the criticism and choose to believe what God says about me. It’s difficult to choose good over evil, light over darkness, and life over death. But, I must in order to live the life I’m destined for. Write the words down, speak them aloud, and sooner or later you will start to believe. When your days become long and the road becomes hard – I think you’re brave.