Yep. Even you. I’ve never met you. We locked eyes for a second as I lingered towards the flannel shirts and you headed for the jeans. I probably won’t see you ever again yet your perception of me locked my mind in a trap of self-consciousness. Did I look put together? Did I give you enough eye contact? Maybe too much? Can you tell I’m sweating cause it’s REALLY dang hot in here? Yeah, it sounds crazy. But in that moment, what you think of me matters more than the one who made me. Sad, huh?
This may just be the idiosyncrasies of my personality playing out but the truth is that people’s opinions brutally hold me prisoner. And I don’t think that I am the only one. Everyone deals with other’s expectations of themselves. They vary from how you should dress, where you should be and when, what you should be doing with your life, what you shouldn’t be doing with your life, how you spend your time etc. The degree to which we are ensnared by these expectations has to do with how much value we put in the people who have them.
Now it’s not bad to see people as valuable. It’s good to be on time to Christmas when your mom desperately wants you to be there. It’s good to ask for a second opinion. It’s good to see complete strangers as worthy of love. Jesus is a prime example of this. But he didn’t let others expectations of Him rule His life. He stayed at the synagogue. He played with the children. He partied with the sinners. He did all of this without the nagging thought in the back of his mind that maybe Peter and John were mocking Him over in the corner. It makes me laugh just thinking about it! But that’s the beauty of placing ones self-worth in a constant, in the Constant.
Jesus knew who he was and he knew who loved him. The Father’s love was so deeply rooted in his being that sarcastic laughs and condescending eyes were like trying to push over a Redwood with your bare hands. It’s just not going to happen. Ever.
I need to change where I find my worth. I have to stop placing my value in passing glances and bogus opinions of myself. I have to stop shoving my value as a person onto the foundationless sand of anyone who will give me attention. What I need is for my Father to anchor me down with his deep and ancient roots. I need his love to be my foundation.
Now this won’t change people’s perceptions of me. If the only perfect person to ever live was nailed to a tree by popular opinion, how can I expect to please everyone? Besides, why would I even want that?
But I know I don’t need to please people. I mean, in my head I cognitively understand that I need Jesus’ love and not “the approval of man”. So why do I still find myself trapped? Almost a year after writing about self-consciousness why do I still battle it every day? Well…I guess roots grow slowly. The Redwoods didn’t pop up overnight. No, it was years of rain and wildfire and lightning that sunk their roots deep into the earth. Perseverance. Slow and gritty perseverance brought them to where they are. If you look at the core you can see their scars. Their rings show years of growth and years of draught. They illustrate where they were hurt and how they grew from the pain.
And I think that’s what it looks like to follow Jesus up the mountain. It’s demanding and painful but every blistered step makes you hold his hand tighter. Every grimace of anguish digs those ancient roots deeper. And there’s growth. There’s greater stability. The more adversity you endure with Jesus the more you realize that He is all you need and He is all you have.Gradually the voices fade out and all you hear is the crunching of rock beneath His boots as you follow him up.
So buck up, tighten the laces, dig deep, and keep on trekking. There is a world of hurt and failure out there but that’s ok. Jesus looked at this same world and sunk his roots deeper into the earth with every conversation, every locking of eyes, every scoff and mocking word hurled his way. Slowly, painfully, and intimately he took the whole world prisoner with his love. So don’t freak out. Take a deep breath. With each step let His oxygen permeate your lungs and flow along the intimate fibers of your life, deep down into your roots. Let it remind you who is anchoring your soul, who will steady you through the wind and the fire and the rain. With the foundation of the Great Mountain under your boot, take that next step and journey on.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” – Jesus
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” – Hebrews 6:19