18 January 2016

On the Necessity of Fearing God More Than Man

“He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men: Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”  ~Luke 18:9-10 AMP

As I read the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, I noticed an additional reason the Publican went home justified: he wasn't paying attention to what anyone else was doing. It was just him, standing before his God, pleading his own case. He wasn't comparing; but even more importantly, he wasn't worried what anyone else thought about who he was, what he was doing, or what he looked like as he did it. He went before the Lord, repenting and worshipping as his own soul required in that moment.

I don't know if men are taught to worry as much about what others think of their appearance, but I do know that Western culture teaches girls, from a very early age, to self-objectify: to primarily consider themselves in the light of what others think of their appearance, actions, etc. It's all about viewing oneself from the outside looking in, considering oneself "objectively", with the end goal of pleasing (or not incurring the censure or derision) of others. God gave me powerful victory over self-objectification three years ago . . . but it began to creep back in over the last week until it was the primary mental portion of everything I did. And along with that came the old fears from decades of broken modesty teachings and burdens that weren't mine to bear: trying to figure out how to sit properly so my body doesn't look any chubbier than necessary, grappling with the idea that I SHOULD be chubby so strangers will think of me more as a person and less as something to look at (or try to not look at), trying to ignore the thoughts and taunts that, empowered by my fears, the enemy blitzed me with almost constantly, and all the while trying to fight the "good fight" against all of this on my own. When my mind is occupied with all of that baggage, it's impossible to truly focus on Jesus, to be aware of His connection to me, His presence within me, to walk in that relationship. Or be fully present in any interaction or relationship). And yet, that very awareness of Jesus' presence is the key to being free of all of it.

Man, talk about having to crucify my own flesh daily. I just didn't realize that I would have to re-crucify old issues, years later. Looking back to last week, I can see when I gave the enemy a huge leg up: I chickened out one day at the gym when three out of the four treadmills were occupied by men. I took one look at the open treadmill, sandwiched between two guys, and quailed. Completely. I got my stuff from the locker room and went home. I didn't place my trust, my faith, my confidence in my God. I worried more about what someone else would think than what God had told me He needed me to do to further my partnership with Him. And it slowly got worse from there on out. The self-objectification expanded to include conversations, worship, and all kinds of things. I feared people more than God. (And, if I'm going to be fully honest, fearing men more than women.) I'm so beyond-words grateful that during worship yesterday I finally was able to hear that I was back to operating in fear. It was only minutes before we sang No Longer Slaves, and breakthrough began again for me as I sang "I'm no longer a slave to fear . . . "

Now, to walk it out . . . fully in gratitude for this new reminder to turn to Jesus, to tune into a deeper awareness of Him within me, and to walk constantly in fellowship with Him.

Father God, thank You. Thank You for leading me so gently, for teaching me so patiently, and for turning all things to my good as I seek You and worship You. Thank You, Jesus, for Your presence, for the constant wooing of your bride as I learn how to truly abide in You as You abide in me, for Your forgiveness as I stumble into worshipping other things over and over, not realizing what I do. And thank You both for the Holy Spirit, sent to provide the connection that empowers me and sets me free. In Jesus' lovely and loving name, amen.