Matthew 5: 5 (the message)
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Over the past year verses like these have lured me into deeper waters with God. Truly, my heart and soul craved contentment…peace. I knew that contentment would not come with a bigger house or newer car. I knew contentment would not come with trendy clothes or the latest technological gadget. I knew contentment would not really come from a job, career or position. And I knew, because I had tried so hard to extract it, that contentment and peace would not come from the approval of people in my life. Although I had tried pretty much all my life to reassure myself of my worth through the praise and approval of various people, it never worked. Maybe for a few minutes I would feel a sense of relief…”oh, I am okay the way I am…” But soon enough my mind and heart would once again be under attack from thoughts like this…”I don’t know much about plants and flowers, bet if I did I would fit in better with my in-laws”….”I should be a better cook, bet that would impress my husband”….”My house is never as clean and orderly as my friend’s homes”….”I have gained too much weight, my days of beauty are over”….”I am failing as a mother”…”I wish I were smarter…”
I have gone to church most all of my life. I was raised in church. Even through my parents divorce as a child we stayed in church. I had that foundation and I am very, very thankful for that. As a teenager and college girl I was in church. At that time I was under the teaching of a Pastor that changed my spiritual life, forever. For the first time, at around 18 I began to discover that the verses I read in the Bible were actually meant to be taken and applied to my life. I discovered that being in God’s presence was unparalleled by any other experience. I discovered God in a very personal way. But you know what? There were still some holes in my heart…some things from my childhood, and from just being a human being on planet earth, that left me with some self-worth issues. I reached a point, eventually, where I began to grasp and cling to others to meet my need for self-worth. Into my 20’s I morphed from quite an out-spoken and bold girl to a people-pleasing shadow of the woman I had thought I would be. I felt like a picture in which the outline had been erased. You could tell I was there but you couldn’t define me…well, I couldn’t define myself. I was letting others define me plenty.
So, what is the answer to that kind of living? I am sure that I’m not the only one who has lived this way. Most people do it. We try to cover our core doubts about ourselves with prestige, money or power and control. By being the most fashionable or the thinnest. How completely exhausting to measure ourselves by others…for a moment we may feel good but there is always someone else smarter, thinner, more successful, with a bigger house or boat, car or clothes. There is always someone who seems more spiritual. So was it my in-laws job to reassure me because I didn’t possess a green thumb? Was it my husband’s job to everyday reassure me I was pretty enough or the queen of domesticity? Was it his job to build up my sense of worth in mothering our girls? Who was responsible for my sense of well-being, contentment and peace? I was pretty much an emotional basket case the first several years I was married. Then I learned to be docile for the benefit of keeping peace with stronger personalities, with an occasional outburst when I’d had enough. What was the core of it? I mean I had been raised in church, after all. Even though I took a couple of years “off” my husband and I went back to church together in search of peace for our home. So, if I was in church every week and I really did love God and wanted to walk with Him, why couldn’t I be content with who I was and find stability for my heart and home?
Church is not a band-aid. Church is not a filling-station. Church is not a weekly check-up so you can get your dose of spiritual medicine for the week. Church is not a club of “good ol boys and girls.” Church is not a religious duty to check off our list. Church is not to be avoided or forgotten. Church is not a requirement for Heaven and it is not an option we can ignore. Wait…isn’t it?????
Church can and should be this place where you meet up with other broken yet set-free people to celebrate, worship and receive from your Creator on a regular basis. It’s a place where God can draw you, speak to you, encourage you and use you. It’s essential to be plugged in to church like this…it’s part of a bigger purpose. However, I would like to share some other places in which God will also draw you, speak to you, encourage and heal you: kitchen tables, front porch rockers, back deck chairs, living room sofas, bedroom floors, drivers seats and park benches. If you long to be content, if you crave stability…I mean are really desperate for it (which I hope you are!), there is only one place to find it…in a laid bare honesty with God. It’s not anyone elses job to give you self-worth or ensure your happiness…not your spouse, not your lover, not your parents, not your children, not your friends or family, not your job, not your employees. No one else can do it well enough or long enough to meet that need in your life. And that is no accident. God created us in such a way to need a true and intimate fellowship (relationship) with Him. All of your worth (and you are worthy) is to be found in God. You can’t imagine the freedom in finding that…in finally becoming “owner of everything that can’t be bought.” It’s freeing because now I don’t have to depend on my family or husband or friends or the mirror for a sense of purpose and value. I am going to God for it, every day. Sure some days slip by but I am consistently making the effort…offering up myself…because I have tasted stability and joy and heart peace. Not because I am super-spiritual or have some extra dose of God in my life. I am just a woman learning, in a very real way, how powerful the love of God can be. I was a very broken person with a severe need for approval and a messy home life. So much so that I knew if something didn’t change my girls would grow up packing their bags to live in between homes. I knew what it was like and I couldn’t take that…so I was desperate. And in my desperation I determined that if I was going to go to church every week and profess Christianity it had to mean more and do more. It has and it does. So, I encourage all of us to let God lead us to a life-giving church and get plugged in. But I challenge you…find your ‘get real’ spot, on your knees in your room or sitting on a park bench, and let God begin to heal your life and set you free..let Him fill you with His love and renew your sense of worth in Him. Be faithful to seek God in church…but don’t wait for church. Bring all that God is doing in your heart and life Mon-Sat with you to church and as my oldest daugher desribes it…have a party in your heart!