Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Secret, Not-So-Secret Beast

This is a PSA to warn all of you of a beast who, though dormant in many ways for a long time, has become more and more prevalent as social media has become more widespread in our culture. This is a beast that has all kinds of camouflage; reproduces as quickly and is as annoying as lice; as destructive as a wildfire; as cunning as a serpent; as unassuming as an insect, but deadly. Sometimes it attacks quickly and suddenly, and sometimes it slowly wears down its prey over time.

This beast is called insecurity. While each person may have a different beast that wreaks havoc in their lives, I have seen firsthand the devastation wrought by insecurity, and it is one that seems to have attacked all of us at least once (but usually daily). I have been affected by others' battles with insecurity, but I have mostly wrestled with my own. Sometimes it oozes out of my phone or laptop screen. Sometimes I hear its whispers in the fitting room or in front of my bathroom mirror. Sometimes I feel it stalking me at church, or pretty much anywhere in public. I have even felt its presence make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when my husband safely holds me. Insecurity often functions as a parasite, using a human host to give it strength, making it even more difficult to completely eradicate. The moment you think you have thwarted it in your own heart and home, it enters into your brain through your ears, riding on the ill-chosen words of another. You may even be surprised that insecurity is often known by another name that seems to be the complete opposite, but is actually another disguise, another head of the same beast  pride. Pride and insecurity are often two ends of the same spectrum. Even Adam and Eve came to ruin because pride made them want to be like God, and insecurity made them wonder if God really had their best interests at heart.

Dearest reader, this beast throws us into a cycle that feels impossible to escape. Maybe even now you feel it creeping in as you read this, and you are now feeling insecure of your own insecurity. How do we escape the thought trap? How do we sever ourselves from this devastating demon?

First, I think we have to be realistic about what our insecurities are. I think we pray, and we talk to someone we trust who doesn't make us feel threatened, and show enough humility to lay those insecurities out on the table and deal with them. We evaluate them and ask ourselves if and why these things matter to us. We go to God and ask him to teach us to trust him, because our insecurities often thrive on our attempt to deal with them ourselves. And when God shows you what those insecurities are, we don't just try to put a band-aid over them, but completely remove the infected area. If there are buzzer topics that immediately send you into an insecurity downward spiral, change the subject. Be realistic about others' intentions, and remind yourself that whatever is going on in their lives isn't necessarily a reflection of what's missing in your own life. Or, remove the person's Facebook feed/Instagram or Twitter account from your timeline that you know makes you think destructively. Or, if you find yourself wanting to broadcast your day on social media in a way that makes you look more awesome than you are, that's insecurity, too (or, just get rid of Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, if you must). Pride and insecurity are as common but as varying as each individual, and it requires a constant and intimate dialogue with the Holy Spirit to truly deal with it.

When the words of others, whether purposeful or not, stick into my thought pattern, I have to replace it with God's Word. If I feel convicted, and it's about something from Scripture, then there is obviously something there that I need to confront. But when insecurity follows you like a shadow, that's not from Christ. Here are some words I have tried to tuck away, a light to keep away the darkness and expose what lingers in its corners:

"He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:10-16

Insecurity divides and isolates. When the love of Christ permeates everything in us and around us, there's no room for it. Christ has given us all special gifts and talents that were given to us to be united in him, and for Christ to use this unity as a tool to further unite all people in him. God is in the business of redemption, and there is nothing redemptive about pride or insecurity.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2

How can we be prideful knowing that our peace is only through Christ? How can we be insecure knowing that our hope is in the glory of God, knowing that is by his grace alone--unchanging and unwavering--we are saved? Shouldn't that take some pressure off of us?

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." James 1:19-21

Sometimes anger is a mask that insecurity wears. Sure, there is righteous anger, but too many times anger is driving with insecurity in the passenger seat.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Insecurity usually operates as a lingering malady. Conviction operates differently. It is swift and to the point. Insecurity makes us wonder if there is something wrong with us. Conviction makes us sure of what is wrong with us, and how to deal with it and move past it.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10

Insecurity serves no purpose other than to destroy. Conviction is there to discipline, to help us live a life of joy and abundance. Christ didn't come to make you feel good about yourself, but he also didn't come to remind you every day of how short you fall. He took care of it when he took the punishment for our sins. The awareness and conviction is step one. Following Christ and letting him change us--redemption and hope--is the next. The redemption of all things will reach its finality when Christ comes back. Insecurity is aimless, Christ is not.

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." 2 Timothy 2:1-7

There are lots of great things here, but what stood out to me was "no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." How often are our insecurities wrapped up in something that ultimately has nothing to do with the calling Christ has given us? What does my pant size have to do with sharing the gospel? How does comparing myself to the SuperChristianGlutenFreeMom next to me help me share the gospel? If a person I know has mentioned to a common friend that they aren't fond of me, does that person not liking me keep me from sharing the gospel? For the sake of unity I will absolutely do what I can to restore a relationship with that person that builds us both up, but if they just don't like hanging out with me, it doesn't have to define my day. Being imperfect often means making a lot of apologies and recognizing the areas that we fall short, but it doesn't mean we live there, or force others to live there with us.

The insecurity beast is one that has taken over my day far too many times. It is a beast that I constantly pray for the Spirit to expose and remove in me. I see it in myself and so many other women around me making us afraid to reach out to each other, and making us far too quick to condemn each other. Please know that if you are in Christ, insecurity should not be hovering over everything you do. If Christ isn't there, you shouldn't be either. If you struggle with insecurity and you are not a Christian, please know that there is freedom in Christ. There is nothing more stable than Him. 

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