Saturday, April 7, 2018

What's in a picture...

Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.
1 Timothy 4:11-14 MSG

These verses right here, in the Message translation...these are not mere words on a page, for this next messenger for God. In her early 20's most probably think she's about 15 years old. I did. I honestly thought she was about 15 years old and at the retreat with her mom. I never in a million years would have even considered that she was one of the women that had been given a word to share at the retreat. Can I just be transparent? I am not one with lots of fancy, sophisticated, elegant words. I am simple and I love that God made me pretty up front. I couldn't imagine what this innocent child could share with me on the 23rd anniversary of me turning 29 (my 52nd birthday.) In my mind she didn't fit the "usual" speakers mold. My failure to remember that my standards are not THE standard. That God uses each of us who choose Him and are willing to step out in faith, regardless of who we are. He doesn't look for what we look for in this world...He looks at the heart and He looks for the willing. She just shared her first question and I knew she was both willing and wise. 

I will call her Tiny m. When Tiny m began she asked us if we were editing our lives to fit our "perfect pic" by deleting and changing what we "deem" not good enough and enhancing what we thing is worthy? I can't remember her exact words, but for me she was asking was, "Do you take the time to Photoshop your pics to your life with the exact look you want, before you upload or share them with the world?" I could hear God asking me, "What and who do you place your standards against? Are you looking at yourself through who I say you are, or who those looking through the clouded eyes of their own standards say?" Tiny m shared her testimony about God teaching her about how comparison is the "thief of joy." She reminded us that it's easy to get caught up with others in this foolishness. Creating just the perfect you and life, with the special effects and erasing tool. Creating what we think is the "perfect us" according to what we are taught are perfect. 

In 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT translation, Paul says, "Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 

Now check out the MSG translation of 2 Corinthians 10:12...We’re not, understand, putting ourselves in a league with those who boast that they’re our superiors. We wouldn’t dare do that. But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.

We don't have to try to be like anyone else. God has created each of us unique, unlike anyone else. This is the most freedom filled sentence I have learned in a long time. It speaks to why others have one thing and I have another. It answers why God says "yes" to one persons prayer and "no" to someone else's. If we are constantly focused on what God is doing with someone else or allowing ourselves to copy their path, we will miss what God has for us. Then we are living to be like them, not living the life of abundance God has for us. Instead of appreciating our differences we do our best to be like anyone who we "deem" good to us. The flaw in this is that what we see as good is only the outside, their photoshopped perfect picture. Which is not attainable even for them, without erasing and changing, or posing and positioning things perfectly. Life isn't like that. Life is real. Life is dirty. Life can be hard. In any and all of these truths we struggle and rather than letting anyone else know that our lives are NOT the perfect pictures we share...we hide behind the editing tools. We pretend that we have the perfect life and that we have no flaws, no hard times. The reality is that we all have hard times, we all have wars going on in the supernatural and we are all created for a specific purpose. Trying to live in some one else's made up perfect life, well that will never work. Though we try with all our might, we will never add up to their photoshopped life.

For me this created the painful "recording" of words I used against myself for years. Every time I looked at pictures others would share I would hold my pictures up to them like they were the standard for beauty, or happiness. With the opposite end of the filters I would see my own pictures and only see the flaws, each imperfection spotted instantly and how much I lacked. I found myself "adjusting" my pictures to fit what I called beautiful and happy. I looked at the natural pictures and didn't think they were good enough. Comparing the me that God created for Him, to others He created for Him is like telling God, "you did not do good enough." 

When Tiny m boldly started speaking to a room mostly filled with women that were probably more her own mom's age, any thought of her age, well that disappeared for me. She held herself elegantly, her voice never cracking, as she shared the important messages so many of us forget with the wisdom of a woman who loves Jesus. 

She's in the generation of social media. While my generation was only exposed to the judgement of those around us, they are exposed to judgement from all across the planet, with social media and the internet. They not only get judged on the internet, they also are told exactly what is beautiful, what is acceptable and what they should look like. So while I had a maybe a couple hundred girls to emulate, they have millions. Most of those millions are not natural, they are edited to fit this world's standard of beauty with some sort of photo editing tool. 

Tiny m in her wise words shared one of the most important things I have heard, "Don't say things to yourself that your wouldn't say to another person...if I wouldn't say it to my own daughter, I should not say it to myself." This wonderful piece of truth is so important in the transformation my Poppa God is making in me, my heart and my life. That recording of lies that I have played in my own mind for so many years, the things that people have said to me and I have chosen to let define me. The words of death that I have spoken over myself, for at least 5 decades. Those are lies. Those lies do not define me. Allowing those lies to play over and over are keeping me at war with one else. 

This mighty woman in a young package had just broken through a barrier I had been holding up for years. She reminded me that no one can make me feel any way, that my feelings are mine. It is my choice to look around instead of at God. If I am comparing myself to others and what they have or what God is asking them to do, it's like telling God, "I don't have it and I want it." Like me saying to Him, "look at what she looks like, why couldn't I look like that." Like I am ungrateful for God's amazing handiwork. Like I am saying God's standards aren't good enough for me. When really I am basing my standards on "transformed" pictures of perfection. Pictures that have been softened, trimmed, cropped and even had things added. They are not real. They are just what the person wants me to see. It honestly is just their lack of confidence in picture form. I think some fail to remember, that eventually if they meet these people, they will not recognize them.

So this young woman, this wise young woman, God used to reach a spot in my heart that has needed to be swept out for a long time. I had stopped editing my pictures a while ago, I am a Nona so I have a phone filled with pictures of my kids and grandkids, no room for apps to make me beautiful. I was however stuck in the vicious cycle of comparison. A cycle that kept me living of the world, instead of just in it. God worked through her and shared His truth, He reminded me that He sets the standards, and each of us has to line up with His "plumb line" nothing else.

 In the MSG translation of Galatians 6:4-5 it says it like this...  Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

"That's pretty clear. Stop looking at others and simply look to God. I will lose every time with comparison." So in this world of instagram, facebook, and twitter...I have to put aside my standards and simply seek God's truth. God created me for Himself, not for any other reason. When others are searching high and low for the next "beauty maker" I will be searching God's word for what makes me His beauty.

Thank you Tiny m for your amazing faith. For a willing heart to stand in front of a crowd of women who were not only strangers, but most of which were old enough to be your mom. You reminded me to speak life to myself, to remember that I don't set the standards for me, God does. You also taught me that age is only a number...wisdom comes when we accept it from God, not in how long we have been on earth. Thank you. 

This wise woman right here shared with the wisdom of a woman who is way beyond her years. God definitely gave me a great word for her in the beginning of  this blog. She is the representation of those verses. 

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