Saturday, June 2, 2018

Be True to Who You Are

Yesterday morning while Dennis painted plein air (a fancy artist's term that simply means painting outdoors), I went for a long walk. The town where we live has paved walking paths surrounded by glorious views.

I like to walk in the morning when the air is fresh and cool. AM is my favorite time of day, and early morning is best.

As I walked I pondered the advantages of being a woman of a certain age. There's something remarkable about finally reaching a stage in life where you are no longer concerned with what others think of you. I think that's a gift God gives to us -- a kind of reward if you will -- for enduring all those earlier years when we struggled to fit in, for whatever reason. 

I grew up on a farm where money was scarce. Mind you, our family wasn't poverty-stricken, although sometimes it felt that way. We three kids each had one pair of shoes to be worn to both school and church, and they were replaced only when they gave out. The old shoes then became our "work shoes" to be worn for chores and play. 

My mother raised chickens for food, as well as for the eggs she sold to local markets. Her "egg money" was used to buy necessities such as school clothes at Montgomery Ward and Sears, and later Kmart when it arrived on the scene.

It didn't occur to me to be ashamed of the source of my clothing until the day when I mentioned to my mom that someone at school had asked me where I got my new outfit and I told them "Kmart". 

"Oh, don't tell them that!" my mother admonished me. "Tell them you don't remember."

But I did remember. 

And in that moment I felt ashamed of my wardrobe and our meager circumstances. I felt less than. Inferior. Because if telling the truth about buying my clothes at a discount store was disgraceful, then obviously I didn't measure up to the other kids.

Sadly, that belief stayed with me for a very long time. 

Years later when I experienced success in my chosen career and could afford to buy more expensive clothing, I felt guilt in spending the money, even though I always paid mark-down prices. I didn't deserve nicer clothes. They were meant to be worn by someone better than me.

My heart breaks to think my mother was so humiliated by her economic condition that she felt more comfortable teaching her child to lie than to teach her that the label on her jeans or the weight of her wallet doesn't give her worth as a person.

Buying your clothes at Neiman Marcus might give you a good feeling, but it doesn't make you a better person. It certainly doesn't make you superior to anyone else.

When we define our worth as humans by the things we wear or possess, the neighborhood we live in or the make of car we drive, we can become very confused about who we really are. 

There's the danger that if we lose all those things to which we attribute our worth we suddenly feel worthless

Less than.

Many years ago I came to accept that my true worth, my value, rests in one place -- the heart of God. Here's what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-33 about this (quoting from The Message version of the Bible):

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think He’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you? 

"What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."

Do you see it? I have worth because I am loved by God and He values me. So much so that He sent His son to die for me and redeem me (John 3:16). The same goes for you and every other human being on earth. It's up to each of us to grasp hold of this truth and accept it. With that acceptance comes peace and contentment, along with a true sense of worth that we can never lose. A true sense of who we are. Whose we are.

I could go on and on about this. I want to see people live in freedom from inferiority, unshackled by the truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Psalm 139:14-16, Genesis 1:26). When we are firmly established in this truth then we are free to walk away from earthly possessions that so often ensnare us and keep us from living the life God has envisioned for us. We can walk away from a little red cottage and everything inside, if that's what we are called to do, knowing that our worth was never tied to a house in the first place.

We can be true to who we are.

God bless you, my friends. Thank you for all the lovely comments you left on my last post about selling our Oregon cottage and moving to Texas. I appreciate them and you more than you know.