Dear twenty-two-year-old me,
I see you. It’s September and still muggy in Virginia. Football is in the air, the only sign yet of fall. You’re full of energy for the new year ahead — September always delivered that to you, and you’re glistening with the sweat produced when hundreds of high school bodies cram into one room. They didn’t really know they were going to hear about Jesus this night and you were the voice. You love your job.
Except this night, like so many others before and after it, you wonder if they picked the wrong girl. Sweat still fresh and the twenty-minute presentation of the gospel having barely left your lips, you’re thinking seemingly “harmless” thoughts. Evaluation is your strength. Consider the gaps, adjust and do it better the next time. Rinse. Repeat. This particular talk is no different. You drive away from those hungry-on-the-inside teenagers, already with new ideas of how to improve.
Right out of the parking lot and down Route 29, your list of ways to improve accelerates as your gears shift. Oh man, shouldn’t have said it that way, you think, wondering what adolescent heart was distracted from the truth of what you said by that turn of phrase. Eleven minutes and three stop-lights later you’re delivering the equipment back to your office, having moved from harmless evaluation to wondering: why am I even doing this? I just keep failing. Earlier that night you’d told a friend you were doing what you were made to do. Hours later and the job is on the chopping block.
Only harmless to the one who doesn’t know what’s at stake, these thoughts slink their way into the human heart.
The “evaluative” lens you had on your own life was only given more power when you married that boy. Something about bringing him under the same analysis to which you’d put yourself highlighted the pain.
You had an eye for his flaws. Why wouldn’t you? You’d honed that skill on yourself. Another life to live beside was another life for you to evaluate. And somewhere between when he slipped that engagement ring on your finger and when you came to share bank accounts, the boy began to bristle underneath your scrutiny. He was everything you needed, but your spiritual eyes had developed an astigmatism. (It’s what happens when we have an unfettered trust of our own judgment.)
Here — now — I want to scoot up to you and give you a secret to living alive on the inside and loving that boy, really well, and growing in God.
You have an accuser. Don’t let him in.
Yep, it’s that simple. Biblical*.
You have an enemy whose main goal is to steal your intended-to-be-beautifully-intimate connection to God, to kill your heart on the inside and to destroy the plans and purposes God has for you and for your marriage.
There’s a whole lot at stake here. All of your heart and life and maybe even that boy’s, too.
You know those thoughts you so quickly dismissed as harmless and the hours you gave, per day, to that low-grade frustration that every-time surfaced in that list of “things that are just flat out wrong about me” … what if those thoughts didn’t start with you?
You lock your doors at night and only share your private thoughts with a few close friends, yet you welcome this stranger into your head and accept his thoughts, without filter. You haven’t just shaken hands with the enemy, you’ve partnered with his ideas about you, his ideas about God, and his thoughts about your husband. Your friends. No wonder you feel uncomfortable for more than an hour alone with God. Which thoughts are the enemy’s and which ones are God’s? which ones are mine? you might wonder, if you stopped to examine them.
God has so much of Himself to unfold to you (we’re talking beauty that would catch your breath), and worship — unique from your voice (you’re the only one who can give your worship) — to call forth from you and a line of people behind you whom He’s intended to be moved by your life-song in Him. But on the ground, for a moment, it can look like that ol’ enemy is winning.
So, you, desperate to be out of this fog and to walk, wildly alive, in what He has for you:
Speak His Word, don’t just read it. Fill the space with His truth and leave little room for anything else. For you, I say — the one who has been inebriated on years of thinking thoughts that aren’t God’s thoughts — give yourself one long pause from self-evaluation. Yup, it’ll feel like you’re sleeping without the covers, but the way you’ve been thinking has to change if you’re going to grow into what God has for your life. When the thoughts come about all the things you’re not and the ways you’re always failing — as they will, in about three minutes after you’re done reading this — say “no”, with the power of Jesus and His name behind you and in your mouth, and run like you’ve never run before to His Word.
Ask God what He says about you, in His Word.
Tell the accuser who is really in charge of your mind.
This little thing we do called adoration, it’s not just rainbows and sunshine for those who want to fill themselves with all things pretty and nice — it’s war.
Adoration is the way to win your mind back to God.
And you? The one who’s maybe not twenty-two but thirty or fifty-six, this is for you, too. Just because you’re a pastor or in full-time ministry or a grandmother doesn’t mean the enemy hasn’t been given license to speak into your mind.
Been caught in a fog and feeling that low-grade dissatisfaction with your life or your spouse’s? Could it be the accuser?
God has a life for you on the other side of today’s accusations that is full of vim and vigor and beauty that will spill over into eternity. You’re made to bring Him glory and draw those in the world around you into that same arms-stretched-wide-towards-Him life. You’re meant to move the heart of God with your life. Today. Now.
So … partner. With God, this time.
God, we give you our minds. We say “no” to the enemy’s lies in the power of the beautiful name of Jesus. We ask: fill our minds with Yourself.
(And don’t do it empty handed. Write these, speak these, sing these until you fall asleep with them on your tongue and wake up with them as the first words in your mouth: Romans 8:33-34, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:10-16, James 4:7, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, 1 John 4:4-6, James 4:7, Psalm 89:1, Isaiah 26:3. Your life was made for so much more than what the enemy has told you.)
*Just a few more verses so you can search this accuser-bit out yourself: Revelation 12:10 | Zechariah 3:1 NIV | 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 | 1 Peter 5:8-11 | John 10:10
First, second and fourth photos are gifts from Mandie Joy. Thank you Cherish Andrea Photography for the third photo.