Sunday, May 8, 2011

Death wishes and crooked mirrors

I hate myself and I want to die.

Which of us hasn’t felt that way once or twice? Monthly? Daily?

The truth is that 7 of every 10 girls feel they don’t measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school, and relationships. It’s amazing the amount of time we ladies spend on trying to improve our outer appearance—trying to conform to the world’s view of beauty. We are so busy focusing on our failure to measure up, that we forget to focus on God.

I’m definitely not exempting myself from this “we” I speak of. I’ve glared into multiple mirrors, hating the face and body I saw, wishing I could change … everything. But while studying for a girls-group discussion this weekend, I have discovered that my self-loathing is just another form of egotism. In my hang-ups with my appearance, I am just as self-centered as the most egotistical, conceited people. My appearance rules my activities and my life has became “all about me and my shortcomings.” For instance, I hate taking my boys swimming because I’m not comfortable with the way I look in a bathing suit. I’ve neglected displaying several family photos because I hate the way I look in them.

But my discomfort with myself doesn’t just affect my family. My self-image has an enormously destructive impact on my ministry. Even though I know God has called me to, I’m hesitant to speak in front of groups; afraid they might judge or dislike me. I sometimes hold back when I know a teen needs prayer, because I’m afraid that teen will reject me or think I’m weird.

Woah. Self-absorbed much, Manda?

The problem is that when I’m focusing on myself—be it egotistical or deprecatory—I’m not focused on God. How can I look up if I’m looking in the mirror? How can I be used by God if I’m busy wondering if these jeans make my butt look big?

Well, who cares? After all, it’s not about me.

That’s actually a very liberating realization. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!

Our hunger for self-worth is a God-given hunger that only He can satisfy. We can disillusion ourselves for a while—believing we can satisfy that hunger with approval from friends or family, self-righteous achievements, or introspective evaluations. In reality, everyone—even ourselves—will let us down.

I’ve also learned that with every self-depreciating thought or comment, I’m insulting God’s handiwork. Psalm 139:13-14 tells us: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I haven’t been very nice to God’s creation—me. And every minute I’ve spent degrading myself is a stolen moment from God’s will for my life. I’ve been complaining when I should have been serving. Ephesians 2:10 tells us: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God has a plan for our lives.

Come to think of it, the happiest, most fulfilled times of my life have been in service; serving my family, friends, strangers, and God. Helping others truly brings joy. Volunteering with the Living Hope youth group has been an incredible experience that is constantly blessing me with hope, love and increased faith. But of course it is. After all, when I’m busy looking up, I don’t have time to look in the mirror.

So, from now on, I’m applying the writing mantra I share with my friend Krista Darrach to the rest of my life as well. “It’s not about me.” Nor is it about the miserable feelings of inadequacy that focusing on me brings. Life is about utilizing the forever-dwindling moments I have left to serve God, my family and others. I now understand that only when I focus on God will my desire for self-worth will be fulfilled.

PS. I read this to Mel (my husband) and his response was, “I’ve only been telling you that forever.” 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The beginning of my day

Here's the situation:

My 8-5 gig occasionally requires me to attend board meetings. Such was the case today. As my boss and I pulled up to the venue, my boss began checking his email so I told him to keep at it and I'd go find out which room we were in then come back for him. Since this was our first meeting at a new location, my convention and education directors (Kim and Pam) asked me to evaluate the place and determine if it would be a viable option for some upcoming classes we were scheduling. 

In other words, be nosy ... sure, I can do that. 

So when I saw two signs, one with our company name pointing down toward the basement and the other sign pointing up toward the restaurant, I naturally went to the restaurant. Keep in mind that I was instructed to be nosy, after all, so I needed to size up the restaurant. 

When I entered the restaurant the first thing I saw were bathrooms - a very welcome sign after a venti latte, 32 ounces of water and a two-hour drive through Portland traffic. Besides, Kim and Pam would probably want me to check out the bathrooms as well. 

The bathrooms checked out fine, so I investigated the rest of the restaurant. It was clean enough but strangely vacant. I roamed around long enough to deem it acceptably clean and quaint, then went for the door. 

The door wouldn't open. I shook it, beat on it, and may have kicked it, but the stupid thing wouldn't budge. After another quick sweep of the restaurant, I confirmed that I was alone and dialed the office for help. The conversation went something like this:

Kim - "Hello?"
Me - "So ... funny story. We're here and well, I had to go to the bathroom. But only now I can't ... uh ... get out.
Me - "Like I'm locked in. I can't ... get out."
Kim - What? *hysterical laughter*
Me - *clears throat*
Kim - *more hysterical laughter*
Me - *crickets*
Kim - "You're serious?"
Me - "You guys told me to check it out! So I went upstairs instead of downstairs so I could check out restaurant and the door wasn't locked when I came in. But now it's locked." 
Kim - *chuckling under her breath* 
Me - "Kim! There is no one in here and I can't get out. I have to get downstairs for the board meeting."
Kim - "I'll call my contact and call you back." 

It took another ten minutes for Kim to convince her contact that despite the fact that the restaurant was closed, I was, indeed, locked inside. But the highlight of the adventure came when I strolled up to my boss' car (approximately 20 minutes after I left him to go "find the meeting room"). He rolled down the window and asked, "What happened, you get lost?" 

Me - "No. Actually I was locked in."

And that was the beginning of my day.