Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sugar-coated pride and shocking humility

Pride: the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one's importance

Humility: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance

Those definitions sound pretty self-explanatory.  We all can point fingers at people we're sure are proud, and can think of others we consider humble.  But pride and humility in God's dictionary is not always what it appears to be in our human understanding.

The cornerstone of civilized society and good manners, is to behave graciously and considerately towards everyone.  Be polite, don't be arrogant, selfish or egotistical.  Be thoughtful of others.  Mind your manners.  But if our idea of not being proud is based on this, we ignore a huge load of prideful behavior that slips by unchecked.

Moses, according to the Bible, was the most humble man on the face of the earth.  But what made Moses the most useful to God?  His faith caused him to be bold, aggressive, even confrontational towards Pharaoh and even towards the people of God when they had turned their backs on God.  He was tough and unmoving, and took control of what God had placed into his hands.  Not the typical description that comes to mind of a humble person.

Prideful people can be very civilized and polite and extremely selfish at the same time.

Humble people can be selfless and giving, while being outspoken, unbending and even angry as well.

The superficial qualities we attribute to these attitudes can be very misleading.  What we need to do is learn what God thinks of both pride and humility.

An example of pride could be:  Someone has seen a big answer to their prayers.  They see that not only has God given them the new job that they've been praying for, they've also learned a lesson about using their faith and trusting in God's promises, even when they hadn't seen any changes yet.  God changed their employment problem, but also changed their view of Him and taught them the power of persistent faith.  Great testimony, but when they have the opportunity to share it, an overwhelming feeling stops them.  "Don't be such a show-off, you haven't even started working yet.  If you tell everyone in church about how you've been struggling with doubts, they'll think of you as a weakling.  Don't tell them, keep it to yourself. Be HUMBLE."

And so those in the church who are also struggling with the same problems of doubts and unanswered prayer, who could have been helped and greatly encouraged by that testimony, never hear it, because of ugly, selfish PRIDE.  Pride disguised as humility.

Another example:  Someone feels a heavy weight of depression overcoming them, and they are doing their best to fight it off through prayer and trying to focus on all that God has been teaching them.  But day after day it seems to be getting worse.  The thought comes to go for some prayer and counseling at church, but a stronger feeling takes over.  "You've been in the church this long and you still can't get over depression?  What's wrong with you?  All you want to do is run to your pastor for counseling... you should know better, after all that Bible study you've been doing.  Fix yourself for goodness sake!"  And though that person has tried and tried to "fix themselves" to no avail, they still refuse to reach out for counsel, prayer and for a fresh perspective from their pastor to help them fight.  They think they're "bothering" the pastor, and perhaps in some churches, pastors really don't want to listen to their church members' struggles... but not in mine!

So once again pride disguised as humility keeps someone captive to their demons for an interminably long time.

Then there's that misunderstood fruit of the spirit, humility:  Someone has just given their life to God, and determined to live only for Him.  But at work, the gossips and foul-mouthed jokers wants him to join in all their “fun.” He still loves and cares for them, but the ribbing and the joking become ugly as it’s turned against him.  He could cave in.  Or he could feel intimidated and hide from them.  Or he could boldly and kindly let them know that he just isn’t into that stuff anymore.  Immediately he’s branded as a snob, as “the church lady,” and much worse.  He has to boldly go to work everyday, determined to be happy and blessed, no matter what anyone says.  He has to smile, serve, give, and even defend his faith if the situation calls for it.  He has to be fearless, courageous, thick-skinned.  Humble.

One example of Jesus’ humility?  When He kicked out the mourners from Jairus’ house so he could heal the little girl.  Another one?  When He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and tombs full of dead man’s bones.  Not once ounce of pride ever entered Jesus’ heart, yet He sure did make a lot of people angry with Him!  Humility can be pretty hard-core, because it’s doing exactly what God requires, despite the opinions of anyone else around us.

Pride is refusing to do God’s will, and assuming that our own ideas are better than His.  If He calls us to battle against evil and we shrink back , call it fear or cowardice, but at the root it’s pride.  “I know what’s best God – I don’t trust You to tell me what to do.”

He calls us to let go of a problem and put an end to worry, and we refuse, the root of that is pride.  “Of course I have to worry about this!  I’m the only one who can fix it.”

He calls us to boldly take control of a situation and trust that He’ll guide us, but we make excuses why we can’t, we are acting in pride.  “God, you have no idea what I’m going through, leave this to me…”

Sugar-coated pride and shockingly strong humility.  Which one do you live in?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Moms - it's time to laugh and know you're loved!!

Happy Mother's Day and thanks for all the love and effort and diapers you've changed throughout the years.  There would be no us - without you!!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

So what's the opposite of depression?

The website for the world-famous Mayo Clinic has a good deal to say about depression, and even more about depression among women.  These are just some of the facts they state:
  • About 1 in 5 women develop depression at some point in life.
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression. 
  • Depression can occur at any age, but it's most common in women between the ages of 40 and 59.
  • Vastly fluctuating hormone changes, from puberty, PMS, pregnancy and postpartum, on until perimenopause and menopause, cause a woman to become vulnerable to depression.
  • Outside influences such as abuse, neglect or rejection compound the likelihood of depression 
So it seems as if we are all doomed to fall into this ugly pit whether we want to or not.  Our physical bodies and all the changes we go through, plus accumulated junk from unfair and unkind treatment appear to make depression inevitable to all women.  How in the world are we expected to fight it?

I am no psychiatrist, but I have observed how our perceptions of the world around us make all the difference.  Our vision of who God is, of who we are and of what is possible for our future.  I have also observed that negative thoughts are often fueled by a spirit.  They are more than just thoughts, but spiritual beings give life to them, and cause them to "infect" us emotionally and spiritually.  They seem like logical thoughts, but they are usually driven by a very evil source.  Yes, I'm talking about demons.  

That's why it's so hard for us to wrestle ourselves out of depression.  Someone can present a perfectly logical argument as to why our feelings are wrong, and why we should move on and believe in something better.  But because negativity has a life of its own, a spirit driving itself deep into our inner core, we just can't seem to shake it.

Which also why those who suffer in depression can become very obstinate and easily insulted when someone tries to comfort or encourage them.  Those thoughts become intertwined with their own identity.  They hate the depression, but at the same time, attacking the depression feels like they are attacking themselves.  And so they nurse those feelings and struggle to find a way to get rid of them while holding onto the root of them at the same time.  

Negativity wants our eyes to point inward.  When we notice anything outwardly - our family, friends, co-workers etc., we react against them when they confirm those negative feelings that we already have.  A look, a harsh word, a joke, a slight, an inconsiderate action.  The negativity already enmeshed in our emotions screams loudly against each incident, and we are convinced that God and the world have abandoned us to a life of suffering and injustice.  We may never say that openly because it sounds so dramatic, but the overwhelming feelings say exactly that.  

As painful as depression is, the antidote for depression is also painful.  But in a very different way - in a healing way.  It's the pain of tearing our eyes off of ourselves and off of our wounded heart, and setting them firmly on God.  It's a change of vision.  To stop looking at the minuscule and to see the infinite.  Already I know that those with depression are angry that I would dare insult them by implying that they are, 1. Self-centered and 2. Faithless.  

That's where the beginning of the pain starts - the good pain.  The pain of ignoring your ego and admitting that there is so much within your own power that needs to be done, so that God can be free to bring about a total healing.  It can be done.  You don't need to interpret the behavior of others as being an attack against you anymore.  Their own negative tendencies or flaws never have to hurt you again.  Ever.  It can be done.  You can be healed of all the horrible memories of the past, and never let them hurt you again.  Ever.  You can learn to believe in the impossible, in what you've never seen, in what you've always dreamed could be possible, but were afraid to hope for.  It can be done, and not only that - those dreams can quickly become reality.  That happens through sacrifice.  Through the sacrifice of your ego.  

It seems insensitive to tell a wounded person who is deep in depression, that one of the keys to freedom is humility.  "But I've been humiliated all my life - how dare you say that?"  Not humiliation, but humility.  Admitting that you need to change your mindset, to kill the ideas of what you think is too hard to do, to have a vision of what you can do, even if it seems scary.

Another key to freedom is learning a healthy dose of boldness to believe in yourself.  "So you think I'm insecure because I want to be?  You think it's as easy as just changing my mind? Don't you know what I've gone through?"  Yes, but making excuses why you won't try is also being proud.  Sorry, but it takes humility to be bold, to start acting against your own emotions and to go places and do things that you had always avoided out of fear of rejection.  Believing in yourself is all a part of believing that God  created you perfectly and will back you up.  He will be faithful to you.  Your boldness is an act of faith, that weakens the demonic forces that have a hold on you.  You need to visualize that in your mind's eye.

The best and most amazing key of all is to have a GREAT BIG vision of God, His power, His love for you, His protection, His healing, His plans, His future - His everything.  I imagine that someday when we stand before Him and see Him face to face, all our worries will seem so ridiculous and petty.  We'll wonder why we hadn't believed more when we had the chance, why we didn't expect more, surrender more, why we wasted so much time gazing at our own inner conflicts that could have been erased in a moment.

I've known women who have left depression behind and have made massive leaps ahead in their lives.  They are the ones who had the courage to use these keys, and to believe in a great vision for themselves.  They visualized what was possible, and then determined that it would become reality.  Never was any of them perfect at it, but their desire and their sincere attempts to sacrifice their egos, pride, fear and all the rest, brought about their personal miracles.  I know others who have learned all of this, but continue to look inward, and have never found freedom.    

The opposite of depression?  VISION!!