Stand tall, like the hyacinth you are!

We’ve talked about how sin has kept us colorless and bent, like the hyacinth I found under my deck. Sin needs to be addressed. Jesus is described as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He purposely entered our world, taking on flesh and bones, and carrying our sin with him when he was killed and placed in the dark, dank tomb.

The dark couldn’t kill the hyacinth and death couldn’t hold Jesus. He rose and now shares his death-less life with us.

Jesus tells us of God’s heart toward us in Luke 15 the prodigal son. (Did you know prodigal means extravagant, spending resources freely and recklessly? I think this parable should be known as the prodigal father!)

“All I have is yours.” This is what the perfect Father says to the not perfect son.

We are coheirs with Jesus. All that is true of Jesus is true of us by grace. (Gal 4:7)

You see, we are not just good people who do bad things, nor are we bad people who do good things. Take heart! We are beloved sinners.

Like my hyacinth, your true self has been distorted and hidden by sin.

And like my hyacinth, God seeks you, finds you, and brings you into the light so you can stand tall and beautiful.

This is the Good News!

You are like a pale hyacinth

hyacinthWe had just moved into our new condo in San Francisco. I was sorting through the unwanted items the previous owner had left behind under the deck, it was dark, murky and damp. Some of the boxes, rusty rakes and clay pots might be useful, the rest would need to be thrown out.

I lifted a box and was surprised when the most beautiful fragrance emerged. The lovely fragrance come from a clay pot. I took it out from under the deck and into the light so I could get a a better look at it.

The pot contained a hyacinth. It was pale (colorless, like white asparagus) and since it was not able to grow upward, it had wrapped itself around the perimeter of the pot that contained it.

Although formed by the limits of the pot that held it, the darkness and the confinement could not suppress its truth.

I placed the pot in a sunny spot on my deck and within a day, it was transformed. It stood straight, reaching for the sun and it turned a beautiful lavender color. Freed from its darkness and confinement, it could become the lovely flower it was created to be.

This illustrates the power of the Gospel. God created you in God’s image, planted in you a seed of beauty and truth. This is your true self. But, like my hyacinth, your true self has been distorted and hidden by sin.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection addresses the sin that binds you and deforms you. We’ll talk about sin in my next post.

Realistic thinking

Paul encourages us to think realistically about ourselves, “I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.” Rom 12:3 Thinking about ourselves with sober judgement also suggests we are not to consider ourselves worse than we are! The body of Christ, when practicing their unique expression of the Spirit’s gifts, keeps us honest about who we are.

Without even knowing it, we often relate from a false sense of who we truly are. Our false self lives in one of two camps, with an ego either extremely elevated or totally deflated. The first cannot tolerate any blemish or shadow on its bloated sense of self, the other cannot integrate any sense of value or worth. They appear very different from one another but they are two expressions of the same process, an attempt to prove ourselves good, lovable and significant.

Our inflated ego keeps our false self safe by believing, “I’m good, I’m important, God must be pleased with me”; people must be kept at a distance in order to protect our false sense of security. Their displeasure or disapproval of who I am could puncture the fragile membrane that keeps my false self intact.

On the other hand, believing we are worthless and unlovable, causes us to draw people toward us who will be the voice that tells us “You’re good, you’re important, God must be pleased with you.” All in an attempt to strengthen the false self by convincing ourselves that we are okay.

God’s truth spoken through the living Word and through the words of our brothers and sisters in Christ deals a death blow to the false self. You see, God’s word pronounces us guilty even when we do not feel guilty (inflated ego) and it pronounces us not guilty and righteous, even when we do not feel righteous at all (deflated ego). The truth is we are sinners, but we are beloved sinners. We are worse than and better than our false selves would have us believe.

God dissolves the false self by placing God’s word and truth in the gifts of another, be that other a servant, a teacher, an encourager, a giver, or one who shows mercy. Living in a community, that practices her spiritual gifts allows our true selves to be realized. We need each other. We need God’s school of grace called community; it is our tutor in truth.

Into which camp to you fall, the deflated or inflated ego? How do you see it playing out in your relationships with others? Speak with God about what you discover.

How have you been impacted by the spiritual gifts of another? Invite the Holy Spirit to use you and your gifts to build the body of Christ.

Who you are!

You are made by God and you are called good. You are made in the likeness of God and you reflect God’s image. Although this image has been distorted through sin done by you and to you, God has not forgotten who you are and whom God made you to be. God knew you before you were born, named you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. In love, God has chosen you and the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly to restore the unique God-image you alone can reflect. – The Mentored Life 

At his baptism, Jesus was named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

When you follow Jesus into the anointing waters of baptism, you also are named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

Every person will express his or her God given identity in a way that is unique to them, but these three names form the essential truth about our identity.

Growing into this identity is the “stuff” of our life of discipleship.

“What God’s voice tells us is the true story of God’s incredible love for us. No other storyteller, however gifted, can paint for us the full, living portrait of who we are and have been and who we are becoming. Let us listen attentively, lest we forget and try to remake ourselves according to some other image.” from Magnificat

“God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.” Anonymous

Who are you? You are God’s beloved child, in whom God delights. Enough.

Facing Truth

truth road sign arrowReorientation toward truth 

God made you you on purpose, and God needs you to be you. In order to live from the freedom of your God given identity, you will need to replace the lies that you have come to believe about yourself with God’s truth concerning you. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

So how does this happen?

  1.  Identify the lies that hold us in hiding. See herehere  and here for help in identifying these lies. 
  2. Replace with lies with God’s truth. For more help read this post  A Return to Trust.

In my last entry I shared some of the lies that have held me captive. “I am powerless, there is no hope.” Here is how these lies can be replaced with truth. It’s not an easy process, sometimes it helps to have a trusted spiritual director who can walk through this with you. I’d be honored to walk with you through this exercise. Contact me if you like.

Identify an inciting incident – Prayerfully recall a specific incident from childhood that typifies how you began to believe the lie. My lie was a sense of powerlessness, yours will most likely be something different. On a family camping trip, when I was around seven years old, I was holding my mom’s hand as we walked on a small dam across a tiny creek. It was a hot day and the pond the dam created looked so inviting and cool. My mom kept saying, “Don’t go in the water” as she would push me toward the pond with a smile on her face. It was very confusing for me. I kept trying to not go in the water because that is what she told me to do. Her words said one thing, and her actions said another. I didn’t know which to obey.

Experience the feelings related to that incident – Revisit the scene in your imagination, let it come alive and get in touch with what you felt at the time.  I felt confused. I wanted to do what was asked of me, but I couldn’t determine which demand I should obey: to stay out of the water or to let my mom push me into it.

Messages/tapes that play – As a result of such incidents what messages does your subconscious hear and live by? Any decision I make will be the wrong one. I’ll get in trouble whatever I do. 

Vows I make (beliefs I hold) – What is your response to these messages? How have you determined to act in response to their demands?  I will not make any decision on my own. I will keep still and let others decide for me. 

Impact of vows – How has keeping this vow, holding these beliefs impacted your life? – I’m indecisive, passive, untrusting. I don’t know myself, I blame others for my failures. 

Relive incident with Jesus – Prayerfully re-imagine the inciting incident but this time Jesus is there with you. What does he say/do? How does he act? Notice your feelings as you re-experience the event. How does what you learned of him in your scripture study impact the outcome of this scene? Jesus walks behind us on the dam as I cross it with my mom. I know he’s there. When my mom begins to tease me by issuing conflicting messages, I hear Jesus behind me saying, “You are not crazy for being confused. Your mom is teasing you, she’s trying to be playful. She’s not trying to harm you. Relax, you can trust your instincts.” Jesus then comes between us, puts his arms around our shoulders and we all jump into the pond with surprise and laughter.

Go to the source

courseWe’re winding down the exploration of “Who am I?” in our series The New/Old where we look at old familiar topics God wants to make new. Let’s recap:

You were given biological life by the grace of God, and you were taught how to handle this gift by the influence of your parents and culture. Of course, your own temperament played a part in how these lessons were incorporated and interpreted, but for the most part you were passive in this process, you received and responded.

But now you are becoming your own agent of choice. You are wise enough to go to the source. Ask the creator of life to teach you how to live. You have much to unlearn and much to learn about this life you are seeking. God will be a faithful teacher. Jesus is your model, your instructor and friend. In the past you looked to tutors who were less faithful and true –

  • parents who, although they loved you the best they were able, did not love you perfectly and placed expectations on you that squelched your spirit, you learned to hide your true life.
  • the church, intended to train you in the love and freedom that is yours as a beloved child of God, instead taught you the life of a slave; filled with shame and rules that must be obeyed out of fear, you learned to hate your true life.
  • relationships, meant to provide the experience of intimacy, acceptance and mutual respect, instead convinced you that only perfection in body and personality could be desired and honored. Knowing your own imperfection and discovering flaws in the other eliminated the possibility of connection, you learned to wear a mask to conceal your true life.

You looked to these teachers to give you life, but they delivered death. Each death dealing “lesson” you learned, each disappointment you suffered created a wall that surrounded your true self and separated you from the source of life, God’s love. But God’s love was not content with this divide, so the trinity conspired to break down this wall of separation. The flesh and blood of Jesus eliminated this barrier and you have been brought near to the God of life. God’s grace has returned you to the place of a student, ready and eager to learn. And now Jesus will teach you. Forget what lies behind and attempt to maintain the posture of a little child who is learning things for the first time…

With you on the journey,