Day 24, Chapter 24: The Revelation
Back in the day, I was pretty good at football. Oh well, why be so humble? I was great!
In all seriousness, I was actually decent in football and a step below that in basketball and track. I worked really hard at them, especially football. Unlike some of the more gifted athletes, I had to be very diligent to attain any level of success. I did start at quarterback for three years in high school, but it was my tenacious work ethic that enabled me to do so, not natural ability.
At the time, I found much of my identity in athletics. Growing up as a very insecure kid, I needed the success of sports to feel good about myself. As I excelled, I also became popular and was able to hide my insecurities and the accompanying fears of failure and rejection. Without my realizing it was happening, my self-esteem became performance based. My self-acceptance was not based on internal well-being, but was measured entirely by how well I performed.
My success in sports, along with my popularity and the subconscious coping mechanisms I had built into my personality, kept me from realizing how insecure I really was. Our souls can look very different on the outside than they actually are inwardly. We can even fool ourselves, creating what have come to be called blind spots. We probably all have a few. Call them what you want - I was in trouble and didn't know it.
When I became a student at Christ For the Nations in 1977, through my spending time with Him, the Lord began identifying my inward condition to me. The process began due to intense jealousy I felt toward another student because of his gifts and popularity.
For several days I tried to deny those feelings. Thinking I was pushing them away, I was actually pushing them down into some hidden hole in my soul. I believed I could keep them from gaining a hold on me by denying them. But like a rubber ball in a swimming pool, the jealousy kept popping back up. What I didn't want to admit was that these feelings originated from within me, not as a temptation from without. My deep and camouflaged insecurities were reacting to someone else's success, and I had no Friday night game through which to offset the feelings.
Holy Spirit began speaking to me about this, challenging me to acknowledge that the jealousy actually existed within me, not from without as a temptation. I argued with these "thoughts", refusing to believe they were the voice of the Holy Spirit. He persisted, however, and eventually prevailed. I could no longer deny it, but I didn't know how to evict it.
To most people, the fact that they experience some jealousy may not have been as big a deal as it was to me. A secure individual would probably have acknowledged it, asked God to help them deal with it, and move on. I, however, was an insecure perfectionist; I "performed" for His acceptance, as well as for others'. I felt condemnation for having this problem and anger that I couldn't overcome it. I remember finally blurting out to God, "Okay, I'm jealous! I have issues." He probably smiled.
"I'm not upset or disappointed with you that this weakness exists", I heard Him say clearly. "I know how it got there and that you had no control over the process. I just want to get rid of it."
I knew this was the Holy Spirit speaking to me and was shocked that He wasn't angry or disappointed with me. From that moment my perception of God began to change. Looking back, I see now my whole world began to change. Yahweh started becoming my Father, not just my God.
In the ensuing days, once I began to trust His heart, He started focusing on the cause, not just the effect. Jealousy was a symptom; deep insecurities were the root. Again, initially I resisted somewhat. I'm not insecure, I thought. I'm outgoing, popular, friendly. I'm very secure.
But again, the Holy Spirit lovingly persisted, giving me some evidence. "You manipulate relationships to be in control. You're talkative and outgoing, but that is not really the personality I gave you. It is actually something you developed in order to be thought of as cool and funny. When you are engaged in a conversation, you aren't really listening to the other person; you're thinking about what to say next in order to sound interesting, intelligent, or funny. You're always posturing and performing for acceptance... even with Me.”
I was stunned. Over the next couple of weeks I began to clearly see these things about myself. If I was speaking with someone, the Holy Spirit would point out the behavior. "There, you just did what I described to you." When these manifestations occurred and He pointed them out, I was eventually able to see the patterns and acknowledge my performance issues.
Finally, I said to the Lord, "Okay, I see the fears and insecurities in me. What do I do?" Through my quiet times He guided me to verses of Scripture on which to meditate; He spoke to my heart in ways that brought comfort, healing, reassurance, and strength. His Father-heart was amazing.
As He healed me, my personality actually changed. The real me is quiet and somewhat introverted by nature. I enjoy being alone. God made me this way. It is necessary that I enjoy solitude in order to study, think, pray, write, and spend much of my life alone in hotel rooms. Also, I no longer feel a need to "perform" for acceptance. I have nothing to prove and am secure in being who He created me to be.
When God reveals weaknesses in our lives, it is not to condemn us. His goal is closure, not exposure. His fire is to refine us, and his faceting machine, like that of a master jeweler, is to shape us into the finest diamond possible. He knows how and where we can shine the most. God is our Father, not a taskmaster; a Shepherd, not a hireling. Trust His heart and ways. Our wise Creator makes no mistakes, never miscalculates, and has no bad performance days. His ways are perfect.
The psalmist David had this trust in God. A trust that led him to pray things like, "Search me, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24).
"Hurtful" is from the Hebrew word otseb, meaning "pain, whether mental or bodily, sorrow, or a harmful habit", including idolatry and other forms of wickedness. David was saying, "I don't know myself as well as I think I do, Lord. Perhaps you'd better take a look inside and check things out. See if my heart has any blockages or valve problems; analyze my soul and show me my blind spots. Look into my emotions and reveal any buried pain or unhealed wounds. Perhaps I've lived with them so long I've learned to compensate, mistaking coping mechanisms for true health. I believe that you will lead me out of any problems you find, and into your wonderful ways of healing."
Maybe we should pray a prayer such as this. The Great Physician knows us better than we know ourselves. Trust Him with your heart. You'll never fully know the pleasure of His company until you experience it with a healthy heart. Don't "perform" for your Father's love and acceptance, settling for a superficial relationship. You were made for more, much more. Today begins the new.
Pray with me:
Your love, Father, is amazing! You refuse to let us live with the secret pain of hidden, unhealed wounds.
Healing and wholeness are the outcome of Your work in us; loving-kindness and compassion are Your tools. There's never a lecture condemning our faults, just a much-needed revelation of our need. And if we fully yield, You'll remove not just the symptoms of our weaknesses, You'll be sure to get right to the root.
Today we lift up a prayer like David's. Lord, search our hearts; examine all our thoughts and ways. Show us the patterns that point to our condition - the manifestations of any illness in our hearts.
Great Physician, we place ourselves upon Your table, surrendering our all. Set Your healing hands upon us now. Guide us, Holy Spirit, in applying the medicine of Scripture to every area of our lives. We want to fully experience the healing balm that is the pleasure of Your company. Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 199-205.
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