My house group in Oklahoma started storying through the Bible towards the beginning of the year. When we went through the story of Adam and Eve, I was struck by the lie the serpent used to draw them in: God is holding out on you. I’ve read this story a thousand times before. I’ve heard every doctrinal stance on the fall of man, and I’ve seen all of the cheesy Christian t-shirts (“My Bad.” – Eve). But until that first Sunday night in March, I can’t recall ever looking at the deception from this angle. The serpent didn’t just tell Eve that it was the most delicious fruit in the land, hoping she was enough of a foodie to chow down — he took perfect aim and hit her where she was most vulnerable . . . he created an insecurity.
What if God is holding out on us? What if He just doesn’t want us to eat of the fruit because He knows it will make us like Him, and He wants us to be less than? A little piece of fruit can’t really be harmful, can it?
They bought the lie. They ate the fruit. And then the insecurity of all insecurities hit . . . Oh crap, we’re naked!
I’ve been feeling incredibly naked lately.
I love it here in Virginia. So much. And I needed to leave Oklahoma, but there’s something to be said for the comfort of familiarity — of knowing and being known. I had the same insecurities there that I have now, but I had most of my life in Oklahoma to blend in with said insecurities. Starting over in a new place means being exposed as I seek to familiarize myself with the place and the people. It means that I’m hyper-aware that I’m meeting new people wherever I go, and I only have one shot to make a good first impression. And it means that I’ve had a lot of time alone to think, and I’ve realized just how insecure I am.
Give me a mirror, and I can rattle off at least ten things that I don’t like about myself within ten seconds. Thanks partly to genetics and partly to spending my childhood in the pool without sunscreen, I have way too many freckles and moles. I love to smile and do so often . . . but, when I’m not smiling, I have my mother’s naturally downturned mouth, and I’ve been told it looks like I have a built-in frown. I need to lose weight; I can barely remember a year of my life when I didn’t need to lose weight. A friend once told me that my nose moves up and down like a rabbit sometimes when I talk, and then she proceeded to make fun of me for the rest of high school. I’ve had gray hairs since my early 20s, my hair gets big and frizzy when it’s rainy or humid, and I have a ton of flyaways that refuse to be tamed.
And I could go on. Why do we women do this to ourselves??? Because we have been conditioned to reach for an ideal that doesn’t exist, to compare ourselves to a photoshopped picture of “beauty” that isn’t even close to beautiful. And then, rather than build each other up and speak affirmation into the heart of our fellow woman, we’ve been taught to compete and tear down and judge one another, adding insult to an already gaping wound. But I am my own worst critic, rarely in need of someone else to point out my flaws. And I’ve only listed a few trivial outward hang-ups so far . . . how do I even touch the inward issues, the things that keep me up at night with a brain that won’t stop churning?
Am I doing this thing called life the way God intended? Am I a good steward of the resources I am given? Am I doing anything right? Is anything I say worth listening to? Am I loving others as I should? Am I being a person who is worth loving? Can I trust anyone? Are you listening, God? Are You holding out on me???
And on and on and on . . . Oh, let’s go ahead and add writing about my insecurities to my list of insecurities.
But I’m tired of feeling naked, so this coming clean is one step towards replacing those insecurities with truth once and for all.
I “know” all of the textbook answers. I know that I am a wonderful creation of the Creator, beloved child of God. I did my time in counseling, I know the abuse in my past was not my fault, and I know how to break unhealthy cycles. I know that I don’t look like a supermodel, and that I don’t want to look like a supermodel — and I know that I want to give all of the supermodels a heaping bowl of ice cream and describe true beauty to them. I know that I am worthy of love, because God makes me worthy.
But why is it so hard to know all of the answers? My friend and I were discussing the issues of self-image and self-confidence recently when her self-confident (not cocky — big difference) husband walked into the room. She asked him where he got his self-confidence. The short of his answer was that he was affirmed in his family growing up, and he also figured out what he was good at and then did those things. I’ve pondered his answer many times since then.
I was not secure growing up, and I can’t change that, so on to the next half of his answer. What am I good at . . . What am I good at . . . Hmmm . . . Nothing! Oh, wait, that’s insecurity speaking. Ahem.
Okay, moving on, I thought about the things I like to do. I’m an average writer, a very mediocre musician who can hold a few tunes in a bucket if I carry it just right, and a decent enough photographer that moms will ooo and aww over photographs I take of their babies. But I’m not really good at any of those things.
So here’s what I’ve got so far: I’m a really good friend.
I will do anything for those in my inner circle. I will cheer you on, lift you up, affirm you, encourage you, hold your hand through grief and joy, unleash as many hugs and kisses as you need, talk with you, pray with you, laugh with you, work with you, play with you, and love you with a fierce and loyal love.
Because He first loved me . . . because I don’t ever want you to feel the insecurity that I feel in myself . . . because I want love to be the defining attribute of my life.
So why does it seem impossible to accept that love for myself, to allow those insecurities to melt away in the truth and beauty of the Gospel of Christ? I think it’s because, somewhere deep down, I must still wonder if God is holding out on me; I’m still believing the serpent’s lie.
But once you’ve tasted of the truth, that lie just grows more and more bitter each time you take a bite. I’m tired of eating from the wrong tree. The God who met me under my covers by flashlight years ago is not holding out on me — I’ve been holding out on myself.
My freckles aren’t going anywhere — it’s time to embrace them.
I will only get more gray hair with every passing year — I just hope I’m learning something as each new one appears.
I won’t ever do everything right, but I am doing a lot of things right — I have to keep moving forward.
It’s okay to guard my heart, but God has put people in my life who are worthy of trust — I need to be open to them.
And so on and so forth.
I’m staging a revolution, folks. If any of you have any insecurities (read: all of you), I invite you to join me in taking back the Garden. I know myself, so I know it might (will) be a long and tedious process (what wars were ever won overnight anyway?), but I’m going to do it. Because a little piece of fruit really can be harmful, but that’s not the end of my story. The serpent doesn’t win — love does.