Imagine you are lost in a great forest.
You’ve been walking for a long time and are growing very weary.
You’re cold, hungry, and scared.
Imagine your best friend has been walking along with you.
He has been keeping you company and helping you to not be so scared.
He has been assuring you all along that he knows the way.
Imagine that you come to the edge of a treacherous cliff.
Your friend calmly climbs over the side and maneuvers his way to the ground beneath.
He is an experienced rock climber and has used hand and foot holds
That you don’t know how to find.
Imagine your friend urges you to swallow your fears and make your way down.
He reaches out his arms and tells you that he’ll catch you if you fall.
He tells you that you’re almost home. All you have to do is follow him.
But you’re very frightened and cannot bring yourself to believe
That your friend can really catch you.
Imagine that your friend assures you that he knows without a doubt that this is the only way home.
But no matter how much your friend pleads with you to believe him,
You can’t help but think there might be a better way.
Up where you are, you can see in the distance a peaceful meadow.
You want to try to go that way.
Sure, there are some peaceful meadows in that direction, your friend agrees.
But he warns you that you will also encounter very dangerous pitfalls and deadly
Creatures if you go that way.
Although your friend again warns you that this is the only way home,
The meadow seems so inviting to you.
You want to rest a while and then see for yourself if you can find another way.
You feel confident that you are clever enough to spot any pitfalls and avoid any deadly creatures.
Your friend will not come with you and pleads with you once more
To just try to follow him and he will help you and will lead you safely home.
But you simply cannot believe that you will safely reach the bottom of the cliff.
You cannot trust your friend in this.
Imagine that you turn and choose the meadow and the unknown way.
You do this even though it means turning your back on your best friend
And being separated from him from that time on.
You do this even though it means hurting your best friend by not believing in him.
Imagine that you do find some rest in the meadow and then continue on your journey.
While you’re walking, you meet a few other people who keep you company for a while.
But these other people also appear to be lost so they aren’t able to help you or make you feel safe.
Imagine that after a long time of continued wandering, you begin to realize that you now feel even further from home.
You now feel very lonely, very tired, and very scared.
You long for the companionship and confidence of your best friend.
Now, imagine that no matter how long you have been wandering around,
Your best friend has still been standing at the bottom of that cliff waiting for you.
After all, he knew that you were going the wrong way.
Imagine that all you have to do is turn around and go back.
Because, Dear Wandering Brother or Sister in Christ, that is all you have to do.
THE PERSONALITY STORE
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all hop in our cars and drive down to the local PERSONALITY store? We could walk down the isles filling our squeaky carts with boxes of “Easy Going,” cans of “Integrity,” bottles of “Strength,” and gallon jugs of “Pride.” The fifty pound bags of “Self Esteem” would be so huge, we’d have to heft ours onto the cart’s bottom shelf. Imagine being able to stand at the salad bar mixing together into a carry out carton just the right blend of talent, intelligence, intrigue, and beauty; and then ladling on a nice thick coating of happiness. Then, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without sprinkles of fun and giggles on the top.
Unlike a lot of women, most of the time I hate shopping. I don’t like filling my cart with food knowing that it’s just going to make my body fatter and my wallet thinner. I don’t like walking around for hours looking for some new dress, perfume, book, or handbag that is going to be given the hopeless task of making me like myself better. It’s ultimately “hopeless” because, after only a few days, the “new” will be gone; and I’ll be left alone with “me” again. Now if I could find a PERSONALITY store, I think I could spend days in there comparing prices and flipping through the racks. I’d make several trips to my car balancing boxes and dragging bags behind me.
Don’t get me wrong. Except for the weight thing, I like myself pretty well…now; but I didn’t get to this point by doing something as easy as preparing a budget, making a list, and stopping by the store on the way home. I, certainly, wasn’t born with my self-esteem any more than I came into this world dragging behind me a JC Penney bag. I got to this point the same way most everyone else does—the hard way.
It doesn’t seem to be hard for everybody, though. As I grew, I saw children, adolescents, teenagers, and now adults who embrace themselves much more than I always felt that I could myself; so what was the difference with those people? Were they born wealthy? Were their parents important people of some sort? Did their family, friends, and teachers shower them with constant praise? What?
The fact is, for whatever reason, happiness and self-esteem DOES come easier for some people; but that doesn’t mean that it is not available to everyone else. I could run down through my life story listing all the scrapes and bruises to my ego as well as the encouragements and advice I received throughout the years; but that would take better than 200 typed pages. I know this because I’m currently working on my autobiography, and that’s how many typed pages I have about myself so far. I’ll NOT bore you here with specifics. What’s important here is that, in going over the years of my life remembering things that make me laugh and things that make me cry, I realize that almost all of it was, specifically, important to bring me to the person that I am now.
There were people who hurt me; just as there were people who I hurt—whether I intended to or not. There were misunderstandings; there were fears that kept me from trying things; there were horrifying embarrassments that still sting a bit; and most of all, there were heartaches. But there were also lessons learned; there was self analysis; there were apologies and forgiveness; and there was emotional and spiritual growth.
Believe me, I understand liking THINGS about yourself but also feeling—by and large—like you MUST be inferior because people don’t seem to “get you.” The world doesn’t seem to be opening up and embracing you. Things are just not going, for you, the way they should for someone who is "special" or "valuable." It causes you to question yourself constantly.
Here’s something that it took me forty three years of life and typing one autobiography to learn. I was always missing the point of “self-esteem.” It’s “SELF” esteem. I placed my esteem on whether I got impressive feedback from other people. Did the cute popular boys pay attention to me? Did my girlfriends call ME and ask ME to do things, or was it always me trying to tag along with THEM? Did my school teachers and Sunday school leaders praise me enough? Did my friends laugh at my jokes? Even in recent years…do the young people seem to care about MY opinion, or do they roll their eyes when I start talking? Do people think my artwork is good enough that they will actually pay money for it? Will people care when they read my autobiography or will they judge me for wanting to talk about myself…as usual?
The point of self esteem is how I feel about MYSELF. And not only that. It has to involve GOD—the one who gave me myself. I don’t believe that GOD involves himself so heavily in everyone’s lives that every scrape, bruise, achievement, or passing score can be attributed to him. I believe that he gave us OURSELVES and he gives us the freedom to make choices. It is those choices that affect our lives. It’s not even just OUR own choices that affect our lives. It’s the nature of living in a world that doesn’t have God’s constant hand making everything work out perfectly for everyone. So if someone gets hit by a car, it’s not because that person told a lie once or used to be a bully in school. It’s because that person lives in an imperfect world.
I do believe, however—and have always believed—that God sees everything that goes on. I believe that he allows some things to happen to his children—even though they are hurtful things—because those very things are what will help that person grow and have a deeper appreciation for themselves, others, and God. I believe that God withholds blessings from his children who selfishly ignore his will in favor of their own. I believe that God DOES involve himself, sometimes, in the lives of people who truly call on him with broken hearts. I believe all of these things—not only because I’ve read about them in the Bible—but because I have experienced them, personally. I came through the low self-esteem, the embarrassments, the unfulfilled dreams, and the heartaches just as I, also, came through my own temper, judgment of others, and stubborn pride.
For true self-esteem, we have to let go of ALL of it and get back to just God and SELF. We have to be able to lay our heads on our pillows each night knowing that we should only be disappointed in ourselves if we’ve done something to disappoint God. We need to ask for God’s forgiveness and be willing to accept his daily guiding hand. Then, we have to relax. Daily things that we believe are such huge deals, really aren’t—in the scheme of things. I know from experience that in twenty years, if we’ve allowed ourselves to grow and learn from our mistakes, we will be able to look back on them—not with sadness and regret—but with understanding and even an appreciation for how they made us the person that we are.
Life experiences ARE our PERSONALITY Store. We CAN pick up big bottles of “Self encouragement,” small boxes of “Acceptance,” and jars of “Try and Try Again.” We can fill our carts with “Kindness,” Compassion,” and “Selflessness;” and if we slow down enough, we can even find a bag or two of “Fulfillment” scattered throughout. Above all, we should neither resent this PERSONALITY store nor take it for granted. We shouldn’t run, clumsily, through, leaning on rusting, squeaking carts with dragging wheels. We shouldn’t stick our arms in and rake “Fun,” “Personal enjoyment” and “Selfish desires” into our carts while we let perfectly good boxes of “Self-respect” and “Dignity” go crashing to the floor. We should take our time, consider our options, and compare prices; because none of us leaves the store without stopping at the checkout counter and receiving our final bill.
“No, not one.”