We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love…We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us…”
Have you ever paid for groceries with a fifty dollar bill? You know how the person running the check-out will pause, pull out the marker with the magic-test-my-cash-to-see-if-I’m-counterfeiting ink, hold the bill up to the light and then nod and move on?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I go through life holding myself up to other people’s reactions, the way the grocer squints at a fifty dollar bill against the florescents. He holds it up to see if it’s any good. And I hold myself that way, too.
People have no idea. They’re just out there reacting to life, thinking about how tired they are and how far away is the coffee? Or maybe it’s the oil change the car needs or the late mortgage payment. They are totally unaware that I’m reading into every facial expression, every word, and asking the silent question: Am I any good?
I know this. I KNOW this. And yet I forget that they’re probably distracted with their own stuff and I decide they’re reacting to me. Good or bad, I read their responses as an authenticity check. Am I the real thing? Am I any good? What a minefield for my security.
Even if they do give a sour reaction that’s specific to something I did or said, how often is that an accurate gauge on which I should base my life from that moment forward?
For years I have been trying to figure out how a sensitive person like me, who probably isn’t going to just stop being quite so sensitive, (believe me, I’m a flight medic, I’ve tried), can learn to ignore the constant distraction of what other people think.
Here’s the answer I got in this verse: Don’t serve them. Do serve Him.
Serving God produces in me all sorts of proof. But I must serve Him, not an image that’s impossible to keep up, not someone else’s idea of what it is to be good, or I will always be off-course, reaching, grasping at air, insecure, unsteady, X-ray-ing myself by the flourescents, just to be sure.
But if I set aside how I look to others and focus on Him, on just serving and obeying Him, His spirit in me shows me how to offer purity, understanding, patience, kindness and sincere love.
He doesn’t just shut down my reactions so that I will behave right. He transforms ME so that I am totally sincere and what I say is still loving, what I do is still kind.
Hold that kind of life up to any light, and it’s gorgeous.
So what about the here and now? Where, if I was sincere, I’d tell you that I quickly run out of understanding and patience, that a ten-minute off-kilter interaction can be under my skin for days, and that I find myself living under the rule of other people’s reactions all the time, desperate for their approval, easily hurt, easily angered.
I must learn that where my understanding, patience, kindness and love run dry with so little provocation, HIS DOES NOT RUN OUT. His love keeps pace with the hurt, His strength rises to meet the challenge, His welcome overturns the rejection.
No matter what the day holds, I think the most challenging thing about it is the people, but I do not have to offer myself up for their opinion. I am not a fifty dollar bill. I am the real deal: a channel through which He gives his love freely and sincerely, a small person through whom a big God proves Himself, and IT IS NOT ABOUT ME, it is about Him. So I can set aside the agony, the scrutiny, and the comparison. No one compares to Him.
Help me to serve you, to be sincere, and to offer kindness again and again.
Help me to know I can just break down and ask you for help when I’m struggling. You never said I would get it perfect. You said your grace would be sufficient for my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Live through me so that people see you. Help me to be secure in you, steadied by you. When I measure myself by the reactions of others, I am in constant limbo. When I compare myself to others, I forfeit whatever emotional margin I had to offer them. Comparison poisons compassion. And you never said I had to be like them or liked by them, you said to love them.
Help me choose to be led by you, not controlled by others, so that I can take the hits and still offer sincere love.
Help me see that I am no fifty.
I am your work.
“Take our comparison and give us compassion, for others as well as for ourselves.”
-Emily P Freeman, Simply Tuesday