All it takes is just one look from someone to make me doubt myself. The times when it hurts the most or catches me off guard are the times when I am just being myself. I was at a women’s ministry meeting a couple of weeks ago where the elders of our church were invited to come see what we were doing and pray for us. Our director went around and introduced everyone, and then she said, “Let me know if I am missing anyone.” Well, I had been missed. Because I value the ministry I’m doing this year, and I have no fear of being the center of attention, I threw up my hand and hollered, “You know I’m not going to let you forget me!” My friends in the room who knew me laughed.
But out of the corner of my eye, I saw a look on an elder’s face that said, “Well, she’s certainly not a gentle, quiet, humble woman. Watch out for her.” I doubt this man even knew what I read on his face, or even if that was the intended message. But that was the message I heard.
The toxic shame I felt with just one look can send me into doubting everything I do. Maybe I shouldn’t be leading in women’s ministry. Maybe I should just keep quiet and never say anything in those meetings. Maybe I should just stay at home where I will never be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this church stuff at all. The voice of the accuser says, “If you can’t figure out how to give God the glory, then you should just sit down and shut up. You need to stop making everything about you.”
My deepest desire is for God to be glorified in everything I do and say. However the enemy is at work trying to get us to be ashamed of who God made us and gifted us to be. If the enemy can get us to a place of shame and keep us there, then our effectiveness is the kingdom is severely diminished.
When I feel this shame, I start to hide myself. But I’m learning that the coverings I make for myself are severely lacking.
For me some of the ways that I hide my strengths are that I put myself down in order to be funny. I like details and organization, so I call myself a nerd. I did this recently with a friend because I was afraid she would be intimidated, so I tried to diminish my strength or hide it. False humility is another one of my favorites. I say things that sound humble and make you think well of me, but don’t reflect what’s in my heart. Sometimes I withdraw from others or isolate, especially if my strength has hurt someone or made them feel bad. I want to stay away so that I don’t hurt anyone else. Sometimes I make excuses to not use my gifts, excuses that keep me in the background so I don’t look like an attention hog. These are all ways I try to hide myself. This is how I live as an Orphan and not a Princess.
Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves too when they were ashamed. The leaf coverings they made were not nearly sufficient to cover their sin. So God gave them a better covering. One that cost something and that would last a lot longer than leaves. He killed animals and used the skins to cover Adam and Eve.
When I try to make my own coverings, I forget that God has already covered me with the blood of Christ. I don’t have to make my own clothes and sew leaves together. Rather I can trust Him to take care of me and to cover me.
So what does it look like to let God cover me? How can I hide myself in the Lord? Am I trusting God when I stay at home and don’t use my gifts? Am I letting Him cover me if I stay silent when I know I am free to speak? Am I hiding myself in him when I let fear and shame make my decisions?
God has given me a closet full of beautiful clothes. He has given me a personality and gifts for Him to use in his kingdom. Some of my gifts are speaking, teaching, leading and writing. I have a personality that is outgoing and loves to be on stage. These are the clothes he has given to me. But how does God feel when I look at my closet and declare that I can’t wear any of it because it is too nice. If I wore those clothes, people would think that I’m full of pride and that I’m loud and obnoxious. And God, why can’t I have the clothes in her closet? No one thinks that about her. “But her clothes would look ridiculous on you,” he whispers in my ear. “Wear the clothes I gave you. Use the gifts I gave to you. Let me worry about covering you.”
Clothes are usually the first thing people notice. Based on that, they make all sorts of assumptions about who you are. My deepest desire is that Christ is the first thing someone notices about me. When I live out in my strengths, submitted to the Holy Spirit, abiding and resting in Him, I’m finding that sometimes other people are uncomfortable when they see me living in my strengths and not being ashamed of who God made me to be. They don’t know what to do with me because our culture seeks to make everyone the same and devalues the individual. We have been lied to and are afraid of acting in our giftedness because of what it would cost us or how it might look. We also take the looks and comments and let them feed our fear and our shame.
Other people don’t get to pick what the Princess wears. God does. I have plenty of weaknesses to go along with my strengths and there is a subtle shift into the flesh. But I am learning that if God can send clouds and an atmosphere to hide the sun and keep it from scorching our planet, then He is big enough to hide me and keep me in balance as long as my strengths are submitted to him. Jesus says, “Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. The people I love, I call to account – prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best.” (Revelation 3:18-19 The Message)