Many of us grew up being told, “You can be whatever you want to be!” But I have found that it isn’t quite true. I dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but instead I worked on a farm. Later, I wanted piano lessons… then to become a doctor. But none of these happened. Did I fail?
Over the years I have learned that God’s opinion of us never changes, whatever we accomplish. And he always loved us, whether we do important things or not, whether we are overweight or not, whether exhausted while caring for a crying baby or having a dream job. No matter what we do in life, or what we look like, he always considers us his beautiful children.
So why do I still cut myself down?
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I keep encountering messages out there, ones that offer us other identities. Knowing ones who try to pigeon-hole. Powerful ones who desire to re-create. Caring ones who say we can re-create ourselves. They speak often.
Over the last months I have been thinking much about who Jesus says we are – “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). He doesn’t demand of us different talents, looks, or position in life. He simply asks us to be who we are – a light. He reminds us to be unwavering and bold. For that is what light is.
And light is wonderful. It doesn’t change – it simply reveals. It enables freedom of choice as it shows up hidden things. It brings God great pleasure and glory.
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Moving to another country isn’t easy. It means leaving the familiar. It means letting go of one identity and carving out another.
I experienced this when moving to England as a young wife. I didn’t understand the culture. Every person I met was new. And I wasn’t understood.
But as I walked the city of London in a daze, on every pub I passed, there was the same huge sign – “Take Courage”. Only later did I realise that Courage is a beer, but God used those two words to get me through.
God told a man called Paul, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”* Whatever our transitions, God will give us strength.
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The question is – who knows me? I have met those who told me I was not enough. They vowed that they could remake me… Sadly, I trusted them.
But there was always another voice calling out, one that took me years to hear. For, “This is what the Lord says – he who created you…, he who formed you…: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'” (Isaiah 43:1) How I cried when I finally grasped that I had been following the wrong creators. But God picked me up and hugged me. He said, “Do not fear.”
And as I have gone on with him, I am relearning who I am. For God made me, not factory-style, but hand-made. He knows me.
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You have heard the saying, “When God closes one door, he opens another.” But to me it has always felt a second best. A consolation prize. Something I didn’t really want.
But the other day I saw it differently… I had to cancel an important meeting because of a Covid incident. I felt disappointed. But now with free time on my hands, I took a long walk with someone. It turned out they were asking the question, “What is the point?” And this conversation was SO IMPORTANT, God had to clear my diary!
Could it be that when God shuts a door, it is because he has an urgent need for us to be his heart and hands, his feet and voice?
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If I am surrounded by demanding voices, telling me who I should be, eventually I believe them. I begin to think differently. I act differently. And I forget who God meant me to be.
A young woman summed it up in one sentence: “My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect.” (Song of Solomon 1:6) This precious woman forgot that she was an equal inheritor. Her father had given her a vineyard as well. And, no matter what anyone said, she too was worthy. She too had capability and talent. But with all that conditioning, she forgot and became a slave.
Oh, to remember that we are God’s children, that what HE gives us is ours.
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In researching the life of a WWII refugee, this is what I conclude. When rulers lose their humility, they act brutally. When authorities lose their humility, they behave harshly. But it also shines the spotlight on me. For, I too can lose my humility. As a person once said, “When we thought we were right, we became monsters.”
But, Jesus steps into my life with his gentle voice, a voice so quiet it is easy to miss. “Learn from me,” he says, “for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) He is the model for my uneducated heart. He teaches me how to become human again.
It always amazes me how new insights can come years after a situation has passed…
I grew up with a lot of fear, and have worked hard over the decades to overcome it. Yet, a stark reality hit home as I read Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.”
The Bible called my past fears exactly what they were – traps. For this is what fear does – it captures us, makes us a prisoner, and we can’t escape.
But as I read the next part of that verse, I saw the key to that trap, one which took me years to find – “but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” For a trap has NO power as we trust in God. Our escape is real.
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For many days I stood by the tomb of an adventure I led for six years. I loved the journey and the people I walked with, but it had been passed onto others. Yet I still wept.
As I remained there, with my Bible open, I read a verse that gave me direction. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6)
As others take on my old adventure, Jesus is calling me to another. But I have no idea where. It is like a spiritual hide-and-seek, an anxious fun as I peer behind trees, into chests, and obscure places.
I know that I will find Jesus in the place he wants me, in the adventure he has for me.
Growing up, I missed out on an important lesson – how to live with success. Instead, I became an expert at coping with failure and disappointment.
Years later, when a major Christian publisher accepted my book, “On Unclipped Wings,” I still hadn’t learned. I didn’t understand the impact it could have on others. For every success exposes someone else’s failed dream. Every joy exposes someone else’s sadness.
Well, the threat of litigation put an end to my success, but God used that small window to teach me something profound. To live well with success is to always remember others, to “Rejoice with those who who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.”* It is about intentionally giving dignity and worth, my time, in a world where disappointment is rife.
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