Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Self Perceptions

I have always been good with directions. It used to amaze my husband that no matter where we were, I could almost always find "north" pretty quickly.  (I think his amazement stemmed from the fact that his internal compass is constantly spinning in circles.)  But there is one stretch of road that runs between the town where I live now and a little town about 60 miles south-west of here that has always thrown off my sense of direction.  I traveled that road as a kid with my parents, and as an adult I have spent many hours driving back and forth between the two towns.  And I always, always thought that road ran straight north and south.  It sure felt like I was going straight north!  In actuality, it runs more east/west than it does north/south!  The past few times I have driven that road, I have tried to picture myself on a map, traveling east, but I still can't shake that feeling that I'm headed north.  It is so very hard to adjust my perception!

Our perception of many different aspects of life drives the way we think and act, and those perceptions are very often rooted deep in our childhood.  Our understanding of our value and our self-image are established very early in life, often before our seventh birthday (When Your Best Is Not Good Enough, by Dr. Kevin Leman).  If we were raised in church, our doctrinal views and our opinion of God are very much shaped by those of our parents and by the church that we were a part of.  Our concepts of what marriage should look like and of how to parent are formed by the examples of the people around us when we were children.  And when we have such well-established perceptions, they are extremely difficult to change.

Today, I specifically want to talk about our life-long perceptions of our self worth and identity, because this is one area that I struggle with on a daily basis.  I have sometimes felt myself to be forgotten by God, and I believe that this is a perception that is grounded not in truth, but in a lie that the Enemy planted in my heart and mind years ago.  Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."  If this Scripture is true (as I believe all Scripture to be), then God has had good things planned for me long before I could perceive them.  Knowing that the Enemy seeks to "steal and kill and destroy" God's followers (John 10:10), it is not unreasonable to think that he would start in my childhood trying to prevent the work that God has set out for me to do.  But even while I know that my perception of myself is built on non-truths, it is still so very hard to change the way I think of myself.

So what is a girl (or guy!) to do?  How do we truly realign our thinking so that it is grounded in truth?

I think our first step is to recognize that our way of thinking about our self is wrong, and to ask God to change the way we think in this area.  Romans 12:2 says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

Then we need to arm ourselves with the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (Ephesians 6:17).  This means filling our hearts and minds with the Scriptures that affirm our worth in Christ.   Verses like:

Romans 5:8 -- "But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."  
1 Corinthians 6:19-20a -- "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price." 
Colossians 3:12 -- "Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves..."  
1 Thessalonians 1:4 "We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be His own people."  
Genesis 1:27 --  "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;"
Ephesians 1:5 -- "God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure."

All of these verses and so many more throughout the Bible tell of how important and precious we are to God and of the depth of His love for us.  When we meditate on them, they become part of our pattern of thinking and they re-shape our self-image.  They also become a powerful weapon against our enemy and his lies.

Third, we need to learn to recognize Satan's lies for what they are.  Whether they come through our own thoughts or through the words of other people, we need to realize that the idea that we have no value or purpose is an out-and-out LIE.  We've just explored a wealth of Scriptures that teach us that we ARE of great value, and when we hear things -- or maybe just start to think things -- that contradict these Scriptures, we need to call them out as the lies that they are.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us to "hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil."  Our faith in God and in the Truth of His Word is the very best defense we've got against Satan's lies, and the Word itself is a great weapon to use to chop down those lies before they ever have a chance to hit their mark.

This battle for the truth of who we are in Christ is not one that can be won only once and then left alone.  Unfortunately, for those of us who struggle to see ourselves through the eyes of our Father, this is a battle that we will probably have to fight over and over again.  I believe that the more we allow God's Word to reshape our thinking, the easier this battle should get.  However, the moment we believe the battle is won and sit back to rest will be the moment that Satan uses to drive an arrow deep into its mark, and we will find ourselves struggling to recover from its wound.  Keep your shield up, your Sword sharpened and ready.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I encourage you to invite God to change the way you think of yourself.  Ask Him to show you a true picture of yourself in light of His Word.  Choose to believe Him when He tells you how very precious you are, and hold tightly to the Truth of His Word.  It's not easy, but perceptions can change; God's truth of your immense worth will not change.  Ever.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

For more on this subject, see my posts:
Face Value
A Masterpiece
Filling Our Emptiness

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