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Archive for the ‘what I really want…significance’ Category

Call it social awareness. Call it sucking up. Call it savvy. Call it lack of self-confidence. Whatever you choose to call it, people-pleasing is one route we can take in our quest for significance.

From my own personal experience as a Pleaser, allow me to share a few facts about people pleasers in general.  We are typically a tired group of people, as we hustle around making others happy. There are inevitable awkward and chaotic moments when we find ourselves stuck in the middle trying to please more than one person. We try not to show it, but deep down we fear the criticism of the crowd just as much as we fear the disapproval of those closest to us.  And it is easy to lose a firm sense of self as our focus stays on what everyone else want from us. In the end, we enjoy a brief feeling of significance if we have successfully gained the temporary approval of others. But was that fleeting emotion really worth all the trouble? Won’t the process just start all over again as more demands are placed on us?

That is why the woman in the Bible passage for today is such a valuable example.

“When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. ‘That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.’

 When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. ‘Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.'”

Matthew 26:6-10, the Message

This lady chose to do something publicly extravagant for Jesus. She worshiped Jesus, straight from her heart. She honored Jesus regardless of what those around her would say. And she paid the price…anger and harshness from others, even those closest to Jesus.

But who comes to her defense but Jesus Himself! Not only did He affirm this woman’s heart-felt action as significant and wonderful, He also guaranteed that through the ages her story would be passed along and admired wherever the Gospel went.

Who was this woman trying to please? Not the crowd. Not the close friends. This woman aimed to please Jesus. And through that desire to please Him she found what she really wanted…significance.

Take a moment to sit quietly before the Lord.  Lay before Him your insecurities.  Talk to Him about how hard it is for you to resist the  temptation of people pleasing.  Ask Him to help you focus today on pleasing the one person, the only person, who really matters…Jesus Christ.

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“Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!  The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers. Our belongings, our wealth…never enough and always limited in pleasure.” Ecc. 5:10,11

I walk through the mall window shopping, and before I know it I am in the store deciding which color purse I really “need” for a new outfit.  Or I am on the beach at the lake, a jet ski flies by with screaming kids having a ball and I start talking about what we “need” for next year’s vacation.  Or I am at my friend’s house, newly decorated, and I begin to think what colors and fabrics I “need” to change in my own home. 

“Our belongings, our wealth…never enough and always limited in pleasure.”

The culture we live in tells us in no uncertain terms that if we are going to be significant, our life needs to look the part.  To look the part requires lots of stuff.  To get the stuff requires wealth, or at least a credit card with a reasonably high limit.  And it will be worth it…you will be perceived as significant and then you will be happy.

Our culture lies to us!  King Solomon had everything a person’s heart could long for and more.  He had wealth that was unbelievable.  He lived the most lavish lifestyle surrounded by all that could be considered elegant and luxurious. King Solomon was also the wisest man who had ever lived and this is what he wrote…

“Our belongings, our wealth…never enough and always limited in pleasure.”

So if I am somehow trying to find significance in what I have, what I wear, where I live, what I drive…it is a wasted effort.  Never enough!  Always limited! 

King Solomon had something else to say in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:11. 

“…He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

With God there is no limit.  We simply cannot begin to understand the depth and the width of who God is. 

We have a choice to make.  We can choose to play around with the kids- meal toys our culture says matter, or we can choose to enjoy the treasures found in daily relationship with an eternal God.  We  can choose to play a role that appears significant to the world, or we can choose to actually live a significant life in relationship with God.

What choice are you going to make today?

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August 28, 1963, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King JR stated boldly:  “I Have a Dream.”

What about you, do you have a dream? I did. As a young adult coming out of a painful set of circumstances, I dreamt of climbing straight to the top of the ladder of success. My aim was for acquiring an impressive position and prominent title. The kind you see displayed on engraved nameplates and tailored suits.

While in pursuit of this dream, I received many awards and recognition which led me to believe that my source of significance and worth were based on what I could do or achieve.  I’m certain I would still be reaching for the next rung, regardless of the negative consequences on my health or family, had God’s word not penetrated my heart.

As I began to study my bible for the first time in many years I saw that I was created for a purpose.  That my life had meaning because of what God says not because of what a title or position implies.  The dream I was chasing after was more of an attempt to rise above past hurts than it was to accomplish great things. The more time I spent searching the scriptures the less time I  needed to be seen in my white lab coat adorned with my “faculty” name tag.  His unconditional love caused me to recognize that I am significant because I am created in His image.  This new way of thinking led me to release my grip on the ladder, walk away from my position, and surrender my dream for His will.

I’ll admit that there are still times when I struggle with “what could’ve been.” When that happens I turn to Revelation 3:5 where Jesus reminds me that while my name may not be engraved with an impressive title, it will forever remain in the book of life and there is no other place I’d rather be recognized.

How about you? Where do you find your sense of worth? Where do you dream of seeing your name?

Rev 3: 5-  Those who overcome will also be dressed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life. I will speak of them by name to my Father and his angels.

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Through my teen years I focused on my appearance, searching to find significance.  I worked not just on my physical appearance, but also the whole presentation of who I was (or who I wanted to appear I was).  Those years of attention to hair, nails, and makeup, the right clothing look, and the right personality presentation were shaped mostly by what the world admired.

Seventeen magazine was my guidebook.  As trends changed, I would try to change.  Perms came in…I would perm my hair.  Big hair…I bought the Aqua Net.  Preppy…my collar was flipped up.  Life of the party…I became outgoing and laughed alot.  It was all about appearance. It was exhausting!

Twenty years later and so much has changed.  I have matured.  I have transitioned.  Now my skin care routine has more steps then my hair and makeup combined.  My nails…they don’t really exist anymore.  I have exchanged perms for coloring my gray and rely on the tv show What Not To Wear to tell me, well, what to wear.

Ok, so honestly maybe not that much has changed…appearance still means alot to me.  Is that so terrible?

Maybe…it all depends on whether I assign my personal feelings of significance according to my appearance.

Little Ella  is a 2nd grader with Down Syndrome.  In the morning when she dresses for school, she might be as likely to choose a down vest in the warm weather as to choose shorts in the dead of winter.  In fact, she wore a pair of shorts on her head as a hat for several days, just because she liked they way they looked.

What is most endearing about Ella is how she sees others and herself  from very different standards then the world would.  She neither worries about how others feel about her appearance, or judges others on theirs, whether for the positive or the negative.  She walks into the room with complete confidence that she has significance, and she accepts everyone else on those same terms.  She is an absolute joy!

Check out what Psalm 139:14-17 says about why we have significance:

I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
What you have done is wonderful.
I know this very well.
15 You saw my bones being formed
as I took shape in my mother’s body.
When I was put together there,
16 you saw my body as it was formed.
All the days planned for me
were written in your book
before I was one day old.
17 God, your thoughts are precious to me.
They are so many!

The eternal God made you in an amazing and wonderful way. Today I hope you enjoy the warming truth that you have significance because God intentionally created you in a specific and unique way.

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In our attempt to conjure up feelings of personal significance, most of us live a life dotted with efforts of  “doing good.”  Perhaps this is because performing these acts of goodness gets very close to the real thing we desire…True Significance.  The problem lies not in the fact that we are generous or show kindness or attend a place of worship from time to time, but in the reason for doing those things.  Read through Paul’s comments below in this paraphrase from the Message:

” You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.

 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.”

Philippians 3:4-9, from the Message

Paul was active and ambitious for being important and doing good.  But there came a time when he literally saw the Light and was confronted with the difference between conjured up self-importance and True Significance.  All the good things he had done before were empty  because they were accomplished apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Paul’s good works and religion were meaningless because his heart had mixed motives.

Mixed motives are tricky.  Of course we should have pure ones, but that is easier said than done.  Not too long ago, I signed up to help out with a project in the community.  The only problem is that I didn’t  have the time or emotional energy to follow through with everything it would have required of me.  Fortunately, God provided someone else to take my place and I could step back my involvement to the right level.  Painful as it is to acknowledge, my desire to be part of the project was motivated not by God’s guidance but by my desire to feel needed and important.

It is a constant balancing act.  But I am finding that as I keep my focus on Christ,  I am freed from selfish motives and prideful thoughts.  I can simply rest in His embrace.  I can allow His heart to lead my heart in what good deeds I should be involved in without the burden of  “is this really enough.”

~Think about a good deed you have done recently.

~Did it make you feel significant and important at the time?

~Now ask yourself what your heart motivation was for taking that action.  Did it only go skin deep, feeding your desire to feel important? Or did it flow from relationsip with God and serve to draw you closer to the His heart?

 

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