One time the great Olympic diver Greg Louganis was asked how he coped with the stress of international diving competitions. He replied that he climbs to the board, takes a deep breath, and thinks, “Even if I blow this dive, my mother will still love me.”Then he goes for excellence. People can do incredible things when they know they are loved and that love is not based on what they can or can’t do.
I think this is what Mother Teresa had in mind when she said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.”
Love is the greatest type of encouragement.
Love gives people confidence.
When a person knows they are loved it enables them to love themselves.
Without love a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem plummets, and the world becomes a. dark place. Psychologists tell us self-esteem starts in infancy as a child learns to trust and love those closest to him or her. Children need all the love and encouragement they can get from home because once they start school negativity sets in. They are not as smart as their classmates. They can’t color between the lines and get overlooked on the playground. Life, for that child, becomes more challenging because they don’t “measure up.” But if they know someone loves them, regardless, it helps fight off discouragement, depression, and a low self-esteem.
Prolific writer and Catholic Theologian, Henri Nouwen, wrote extensively about three lies will tell ourselves that negatively affect our sense of self-identity and self-esteem. To his three lies, I have added a fourth lie. All these lies come from Satan himself, “the father of lies”(John 8:44). Do not, under any circumstance, believe these lies!
The first lie, according to Nouwen, we tell ourselves is, I am what I have.I call this the lie of CONSUMERISM.People all around us try to find their meaning and purpose in life through obtaining more stuff. So, we buy bigger houses, nicer cars, and more clothes. All in an attempt to feel better about who we are. But it’s a lie! Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”(Luke 12:15).
The second lie is, I am what I do.I call this the lie of COMPENTENCY.This is a difficult lie not to believe in our culture of meritocracy—you have to work for it, you have to earn it, the harder you work the more successful you will be. As a result, we base our self-esteem on our achievements and accomplishments. The deceptiveness of this lie is that everything you worked so hard for can vanish in an instance. Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”(Mark 8:36).
The third lie, according to Nouwen is, I am what other people say or think about me.I call this the lie of CULTURE.Sociologist refer to this as the “looking glass self.” The way we see ourselves is the way we think other people see us. This lie can be detrimental! You are far more than what others think or say about you. Your life is not defined by your biggest mistake or your greatest accomplishment. The Bible says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”(Romans 12:2).
To Henri Nouwen’s three lies, I add the following lie: I am how I look.This is the lie of COMPARISON.We spend a lot of time and energy trying to look a certain way, or act a certain way, in an effort to be accepted and loved. The Apostle Paul warned, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise”(2 Corinthians 10:12).
I am what I have.
I am what I do.
I am what other people say or think about me.
I am how I look.
All are lies, that if believed, can lead to a life of emptiness and meaninglessness.
Sociologist, George Herbert Mead, described the key to having a healthy sense of self is based on a significant other—a role model, someone who speaks life into you, someone whose opinion of you outweighs everyone else’s opinion. For Olympic diver, Greg Louganis, it was his mom. Who is, or was, the significant other in your life? It could have been a parent or a teacher or a coach or a good friend or a spouse. Who was it? Who is it? My challenge to you is to make God that significant other. Instead of listening to the lies we tell ourselves, we need to listen to the truth of God’s Word. What He says about us is what really matters. Our self-identity and self-esteem should be based in our relationship with God, not anyone else.
What does God say about us? What is the truth? First,you were CREATED.In other words, you were not an accident. There is meaning and purpose in your existence. The Bible says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”(Genesis 1:27). Every person you ever meet is a reflection of God’s image. Inside of you is the Imago Dei,the image of God. The psalmist wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”(Psalm 139:13-16).
Did you know God created thousands of varieties of flowers? One variety of flowers we call orchids. Did you know God created 25,000 different varieties of orchids? Did you know God has created billions and billions of people? All of them different? Each of them unique?
God made you, and He doesn’t make junk. God made you, and He made you unique. There is only one you. You are not an accident. Before you were born God knew everything about you. While you were in your mother’s womb, He watched over you, cared for you, and protected you. You are irreplaceable because you were created in the image of God.
Not only were you created, you were CHOSEN.Do you remember what it was like on the playground growing up when teams were chosen? You stood there hoping to be picked, and hoping you were not the last one picked. Do you remember trying out for a sports team or for a school play and not being chosen? Do you remember being overlooked for a promotion at work? Have you ever felt as if no one knows you exist? Do you remember the satisfying feeling of hearing your name called? You’ve been noticed? You have not been forgotten?
Well, guess what? God has chosen you! The Bible says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”(1 Peter 2:9). This is why the Bible uses the powerful metaphor of adoptionto describe our relationship with God. In adoption, the parents have chosen the child. Through adoption, God has chosen us. He didn’t have to. He did it because He loves us and He seems something of value in each of us. Other people may look over you and forget about you. But God has chosen you, and to Him, you are a special possession.Nothing else really matters.
Third,you have been CALLED.God has a job for you. God has something He wants you to do, and only you can do it. You have purpose. Your life has meaning. In the same way Jesus called His disciples to drop everything and follow Him, He is calling you to follow Him in all things and in all ways. Since He has called you, He has also equipped you. You already have everything you need to be the person God wants you to be. You just have to take that step of faith and follow Him.
In Philippians 2:8-10, Paul writes how God has saved us by His grace and called us to do great things for Him. He writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”The Greek word translated “handiwork”is poiema,from where we get our English word, “poem.” It is a word the Greek’s used to describe a masterful work of creativity. It’s a painting that inspires. It is a song that moves you. It is a poem that touches your soul. It is a piece of art to beautiful for words to describe. This is precisely what God has called you, and equipped you, to do! You are His artwork. God has called you to be His masterpiece of creativity.
You were created. You were chosen. You have been called. Finally, you are more than CONQUERERS.You don’t have to keep living life the way you are living it. You can overcome any obstacle placed in your path. Your addiction doesn’t have to control you. You can get out of financial bondage and emotional turmoil. You can overcome lust and greed and pride. You have been forgiven. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 8:1, 37-39).
A certain family had a hobby of putting together jigsaw puzzles. The father regularly brought home puzzles of greater and greater difficulty. One night he presented his family with a puzzle of over one thousand pieces. Immediately they tackled it. After an hour, however, the family was frustrated. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get the puzzle started. Not even the corner pieces seemed to go together! The father then discovered he had accidentally switched the box top with the top from another puzzle. The picture they were looking at wasn’t the puzzle they were working on!
Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle. Our lives have been scattered into a thousand pieces. We have tried hard to put the puzzle together, but it seems we can’t even get started. Could it be because we have been listening to the lies that come from ourselves and from other people? Lies that say, “I am what I have.” “I am what I do.” “I am what other people say or think I am.” “I am how I look.”
The correct box top to put our lives back together is the Word of God. Salvation means to be made whole again. Salvation means to be put back together, and that starts by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.
Don’t believe the lies. The truth is, you were created in God’s image; you have been chosen by God’s grace; you have been called to do great things; and you can conquer anything you face.