"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works; my soul know it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
I have the privilege of serving in a ministry along side of some of the most amazing women I have ever met. We lead support groups for women who were victimized by sexual abuse, who have eating disorders, who struggle with unhealthy relationships, or who struggle with emotions. No matter what the group is studying, every year we find that a big part of our work is helping women identify lies that they believe and how those lies are impacting their lives. I have come to feel passionate about this part of our work because I once struggled with such strong negative thinking that I could not have told someone a positive attribute about myself if I had been asked. Ironically, I could quote all the scriptures about who we are in Christ. But somehow the Scriptures weren't sinking into my heart. After working on an exercise about my negative thinking with a therapist, I left her office feeling convicted that my thinking was sinful. I wasn't sure what to do about it, because it was so automatic and I wasn't purposely choosing to think like I thought. It was just there. I also had the feeling that the therapist had no idea just how negative the thoughts were and how much of the day the thoughts filled my mind. But I wanted to change.
I knew that the first step for me was to get radically honest with her about the severity of this struggle. When I got home I flipped open a magazine to a little girl sitting on a great big chair. She looked so alone and emotionally dead. I cut the picture out and put it in the center of a poster board. I typed all the negative messages I heard in my head and I cut them out and pasted them all around the little girl. I sat and looked at it and asked God to help me know what to do next. He brought to mind a bunch of messages I specifically heard growing up or that I formulated from my experiences and from what I see in our culture. There were layers and layers of negative messages surrounding that little girl.
I took it in to my counselor and we looked at it together. It was so freeing, because it was like I took all of the garbage out and laid it on that board. At one point she asked me what I thought happened when someone complimented me or told me that they loved me. It hit me that positive words trying to come in would just bounce off of all of the garbage inside. It hit me in that moment that the core of shame with which I had been struggling was fed by all of those lies and that those lies were like a shroud that kept God's truth from coming in. It was like I had unknowingly at some point in time begun to agree with the Enemy who was slowly and surly destroying me with His lies. I was a believer at the time we had that conversation. I believed in my head what God said about me, but in the core of my being were all of the old lies and messages. We practiced in the therapist's refuting the lies and silencing the enemy's voice with His truth until I truly understood what it meant to take my thoughts captive to His truth.
This week during our leader's prayer time I handed my leaders a piece of paper that had two fill in the blanks. I asked them to fill them in with the thoughts that they had struggled with or still occasionally struggle with. The first statement I gave them was, "I am too___________." The answers I got from them were I am: too busy, too needy, too talkative, too judgmental, too anxious, too isolated, too spiritually weak, too forgetful, too fat, too outspoken, too different, too broken, too far gone, too fearful, too codependent, too stubborn, too critical, too self sabotaging, too Kookie, too loud, too stupid, too inadequate, too hopeless, too wordy, too spacy, too helpless, too emotional, too sensitive, too inadequate, too dirty, too picky, too lazy, too self centered, too jealous, too naïve, too gullible, too chubby, too lazy, too depressed, too lost, too unhappy, too needy, too ugly, too boring, too distant, too damaged, too abused, too dumb, too stressed, too excitable, too moody, too smart, too fragile, too opinionated, too unhealthy, and too much.
The second statement I asked them to fill in is: "I am not_____________ enough." The answers that I got from them are I am: not friendly enough , not intelligent enough, not good enough, not worthy enough, not loved enough, not strong enough, not disciplined enough, not consistent enough, not focused enough, not trusting God enough, not a good enough mom, not a good enough wife, not a good enough friend, not a good enough daughter, not smart enough, not crafty enough, not faithful enough, not loyal enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, not attractive enough, not courageous enough, not willing to sacrifice enough, not educated enough, not brave enough, not trusting enough, not generous enough, not thin enough, not exciting enough, not happy enough, not perfect enough, not articulate enough, not connected enough, not fast enough, not cute enough, not pretty enough, not engaging enough, not innocent enough, not clever enough, not spiritual enough, not calm enough, not helpful enough, not organized enough, not intuitive enough, not compassionate enough, not patient enough, not forgiving enough, not "Christ-like" enough, not healthy enough, not gracious enough, not thin enough, not put together enough, not sexy enough, not girly enough, and not enough.
Over the years these women and I have had conversations about these types of thoughts. I remember at one point one of them saying to me, "Isn't it weird that we can believe that we are too much and not enough at the same time?" I think if you had the chance to spend time with these women you would see them as I do. They are some of the brightest, most beautiful, kindest, and most generous women I have ever met. They give of their time and their energy to volunteer in a hard ministry that requires them to listen patiently to painful stories, to confront lies gently with His truth, to encourage the discouraged, to comfort the distraught, to hope for the hopeless, to love even when someone acts harshly out of their woundedness, to model healthy relating even when they, themselves, feel triggered by what they hear or by how they are treated. They have had to learn to depend on God to speak His truth even when they are afraid of conflict, rejection, and anger. They are strong women who have been not only be tempered by their own painful experiences and their own recovery journeys, they have been tempered by their making a decision to step out in faith in the face of the lies the enemy whispers in their ears and trust that the truest thing about them is what God has said in His Word.
Every week when I look into the faces of these ladies, I am reminded that God never has been is not and never will be in the business of making junk. He is in the business of creating men and women in His image. Oh yes, I know that the enemy did everything he could to destroy that image in them by enticing others to destroy them physically, emotionally, and spiritually by their evil actions, lack of actions, evil words, and silences. He did everything he could to entice them to follow him, promising them relief from their pain and shame. He did everything he could to get them to believe his lies even camouflaging them in half truths. '
But, God intervened and saved them out of the chains with which they were bound. I have been blessed to see God's activity in their lives as they have become acquainted with Him, not just as their Savior, but as their Comforter, their Healer, their Strength, their Truth, and their Safety.
In Him, they never ever have to worry about being good enough, because Jesus imputed His righteousness to them. In Him they never have to worry about being strong enough, because His strength is made manifest in their weaknesses. In Him they don't have to worry about being smart enough, because they have been given His wisdom. In Him they don't have to worry about being too different, because He was the one who knitted them in their mothers' wombs. In Him they don't have to worry about being courageous enough because Jesus has already defeated the enemy at the cross and he no longer has a hold on their lives. In Him they don't have to worry about being too needy, because they were saved by the King of Kings and He has promised them great and mighty things and He is in the business of meeting emotional needs. In Him they don't have to worry about being too spacy because the Holy Spirit indwells them and will bring to mind all that they need to know to do His will in His perfect timing. In Him they don't have to ever worry about being loving enough because God will fill them with His love and it is a love that is kind, patient, gracious, forgiving, merciful, and sacrificial. In Him they don't have to worry about being beautiful enough, because He makes all things beautiful.
In Him they don't ever have to worry about being too dirty, because they have been bathed by the blood of the Lamb and they are as white as snow. They don't have to worry about not being smart enough because He has gifted them for the service He has called them to. They don't have to worry about being perfect enough, because He has died for their imperfection and has granted to them the ability to grow in Him. In Him they don't have to worry about not being enough to fulfill His expectations because what He requires of them is to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. In Him they don't have to worry about being unworthy because Jesus showed them their worth when He died for them. They don't have to worry about being intuitive enough, because the Holy Spirit will lead them to sense what another needs from them. They don't ever have to struggle with being too girly, because they were created in His image to reflect certain part of His Heart to a broken and hurting world.
The leaders in our groups know these truths that I am sharing here just like I do. We learned and are still learning that God and His truth has the power to break the chains of the lies bombarding us every day. At times it was like we could hear the Sword of Truth clanging against the chains that held us captive. Clang after clang after clang until the lies lost their power. It was like you could hear the chains dropping one by one as we shook free of the lies as His truth moved from our heads to our hearts.
By being radically honest in our groups, we have seen joy replacing sorrow, peace replacing anxiety, happiness replacing depression, grace replacing guilt, forgiveness replacing bitterness, love replacing hatred, light replacing darkness, good replacing evil, and VICTORY replacing defeat!