We are told we have to write our own story. Be our own champion. Build ourselves up and show how good we are. Our natural tendencies are to only share the good things, the best parts, the sweetest morsels of our lives. Let’s face it, we love attention. It’s easy when we are feeling shame, when we are feeling less than or inadequate or just forget our true identity to look outward for glory. We want glory for ourselves. To be sure, the glory of who we are is real. We are God’s Handiwork, his Symphony, his Poem. We are His Masterpiece. We are the pinnacle of creation, the most complex expression of His creativity. He wove us together piece by piece, atom by miraculous atom. He breathed His own breath into us. He named us and brought us forth. He called us very good. Marianne Williamson understood this when she wrote
…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Can I get an amen?
The problem is, we either steal glory that doesn’t belong to us by taking praise and affirmation and clothing ourselves in it like bad prom dress, or we refuse to wear the real garment of praise that He bestows on us and instead opt for shabby rags. Arrogance and False humility come from the same root: Self-conciousness and self-sufficiency.
Continuing the conversation from the past couple days, I think part of the reason its so hard for us to be authentic with one another is that when we see the glory of God in someone else, we don’t always respond correctly. How often do you encounter someone talented or beautiful or smart or really good at something and instead of reacting with delight at the way God made them you curdle with jealousy or shame? When I began on this photography journey several years ago, I would often stumble across others’ work and feel horribly inadequate, jealous of their talent or the opportunities they seemed to have that I was sure I would never get. If it was a photographer I knew in real life, it might actually make me not like them as much, or maybe just want to avoid them for a long time (at least until I was “as good” as them). I missed out on so much community.
Now, to be fair, I’ve discovered the photography industry to be somewhat clicqueish and overwhelming to someone newly navigating the waters of the business. But thankfully, I’ve grown to be comfortable with where I am, to realize that it IS a journey and there is always more to learn. More than that, I know what my focus is, I know what my vision is and what makes me different in how I see the world. I know what I’m good at, and I understand that it blesses those who see it. I know what success looks like for me and it may be very different than your version. And I just have to keep doing what I’m doing because I can’t help it. It’s the way I’m made and it gives me joy to find the beauty in everyday moments. I’m pretty good at it. And I can rejoice in the way He made me and delight in the glory that HE reveals through me. It’s not pride. It’s not arrogance. The more I become my true, authentic self, the more at home I am in my own skin and in the world. The more glory shines out of me. And the more vulnerable I can be because I know it’s not about me. I don’t have to guard my glory and reputation so everyone thinks I have it all together. Any glory you see in me is a mere reflection of the one who made me.
Something else happens as a result of being comfortable with our own glory: we are free to recognize it in others without fearing that it will take something away from us. Seeing someone who is great at something I’m not doesn’t have to make me feel jealous or intimidated. Instead, now I see the way God made them and I delight in seeing their unique fingerprint of His creativity. I love seeing my friend Lisa create a meal that tantalizes all the senses. I have so much to learn from how she approaches food and opens her home in hospitality. I’m inspired by Tori’s unique clothing creations and how her eye for design influences everything she does. I could feel like a loser for not having finished sewing the baby book I started when I was pregnant (ahem!) but instead I can shrug and know that sewing is just not my strong suit. But lots of other things are. I love watching my friend Beth plan a party for her kids with elaborate themes and decorations. Her creativity comes out in everything from the invitations to the playlist. Some years I’m really awesome at planning parties and we have backyard carnivals complete with fair games and clowns. Other years you’re lucky to get a text message and a store bought cake. My friend Jamie manages her super busy household with seeming ease and grace and a true servants heart. Her calendar and email are under control (mostly). I don’t beat myself when I look at my inbox, I just think, “I need to ask Jamie for some tips.” I am most free with those who see the best parts of me and aren’t threatened. I know I can show them my worst and it won’t bear the fruit of comparison.
What would happen if the next time you walked into a room and saw a gorgeous woman instead of comparing yourself to her and regretting that croissant and double mocha you had for breakfast you said “Damn, girl! You look great!” What if instead of grading ourselves on some ever changing curve we could see that the only grade that matters is the one He gives us? What would happen if instead of stealing glory from each other and from God we began to see ourselves rightly and we could rejoice in the gifts he has given us and each other? What would happen if we called out those gifts and strengths that we see in each other? Perhaps it would open up a whole new level of vulnerability. Authenticity begins with recognizing who we really are, right now at this point in time- not one more degree, ten pounds or a bigger paycheck away. Being honest about our strengths as well as our brokeness are both opportunities to give Him glory that belongs to him anyway.
What do you think? Feel free to jump into the conversation below, or check out the previous parts of this 31-day adventure through the random workings of my brain.