Category Archives: Identity

God’s Look of Love for Millennials & The Rest of Us

In the early fall I polled people in a short online survey about how they think God sees them, and what growing as a Christian looks like. The survey idea was born out of a Bible study conversation on whether our sin and slow progress in the Christian life disappoints God.

Our Hypothesis and the Contrary Result

We thought age would be a factor in people’s perceptions of God’s view of us. We were right- just not in the way we expected.

It was our assumption that the longer you’ve lived and the more you’ve sinned, the more likely to think God is disappointed in you for not being better already. However, it was predominately younger Christian adults – millennial respondents – who felt like God was disappointed in them.

Why Millennials Feel Like They Are Failing

Considering Millennials have come of age with the Internet, their response actually makes perfect sense. Like Generation Z behind them, social media with the comparison culture and pressure to be perfect it breeds has had a greater influence on them than past generations. Therefore, not measuring up to what is seen on social media has led to greater struggles with worthlessness among younger adults than what those older have collectively experienced. And when shame and disappointment color our self-perception is it any wonder we would think God must be disappointed in us too.

To understand practically how this plays out, let’s just consider Pinterest’s impact. Obviously Pinterest wasn’t around when women my generation and older were newly weds and young moms. The only way I knew what homemade creative snack, crafty teacher gift idea, or cute costume others came up with was seeing it with my own eyes IRL or in a magazine or hearing about it from a friend. It was the same for what was trending in home decor, fashion, party planning and weddings. But today we discover these things by scrolling through Pinterest, blogs, or other social media platforms. Enter millennial mom who sees how an adorable and crafty Insta-famous blogger has beautifully decorated her house, while perfectly schooling her kids in the ways of the Lord and it’s not hard to see why she might feel like she is failing.

How This Translates to God Being Disappointed

While this may seem unrelated to God and my survey, let’s tease out the common millennial mindset to see the connection.

The person described above is living under the weight of shame. And when the internal comparison game gets going, it happens in a million other ways – not a good enough spouse, parent, housekeeper, decorator, stylist, professional. Whatever it may be the feeling of being less than, not measuring up, and needing to perform better begins to define how one sees themself. So if it is true in these contexts, can you see how the same might apply in how one relates to God?

For the Christian millennial (and anyone else) struggling to be a good enough Christian (as if that were a thing), they fear God’s disappointment in all the ways they fall short – not going to church regularly enough, not spending enough time in his word, not reaching out to neighbors, not being a good enough spouse or parent, and the list goes on. They think surely God must be very disappointed, because this is how they feel about themselves.

And the church is not helping. Instead of pointing Christians to the perfect work of Jesus as our sufficient covering that ensures God is well-pleased, teaching often focuses on what we need to do, how we can improve, and steps to take to get better. No wonder we live under such guilt and shame when we think the victorious Christian life is what we must attain.

Why God Is Not Disappointed

The good news for Millennials and the rest of us who are in Christ is his perfect work was enough. God is not disappointed, because he looks at us as he sees his Son.

Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live. So upon the great identity exchange of his death, he became all of our sin, and we got all of his perfection. This is the Good News of the gospel. So whether you are a millennial or not, if you live in the reality of thinking God frowns upon you, I hope this advent season you will gaze upon the One who was sent as the ultimate expression of God’s love for you. In Jesus we are free from looking to our own performance because the Father’s look of love has already been secured.

The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree

Some of you saw my social media pic of our kitten up in the Christmas tree. I laughed when a friend commented that we’ld be lucky if the whole tree didn’t fall because it immediately transported me back to 2009: The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree.

That was our first year in our house we still live in, and I remember trying to decide the best place for the tree. I wasn’t thrilled with where we put it, but even more bothersome was the top of the tree was tilted. Every morning when I came into the living room it was not the pretty lights or the ornaments I saw (many of which had been wedding shower gifts), but only the imperfect tree.

I asked my husband to fix it. But without undecorating and starting completely over that was no easy feat. He did try; only it made it worse. I was not happy, and my whole family knew.

But it got worse…

As you can probably guess, the tree eventually fell. We were all home when it happened. And of course, the front of the tree – with all my most valuable and sentimental ornaments – is what hit the ground.

Apart from sweeping  up the shattered glass, it’s all a blur now. But what I’m left with is more than a funny Christmas story, but the story God has been writing in me that the crooked tree perhaps sparked.

You see, I wanted the perfect tree because I had made it a reflection of me. If it looked bad, I looked bad. Therefore, when anyone came into our home, I made it known that I was fully aware the tree was crooked before they could judge me. Ridiculous, huh? But even more than other’s opinions, it was my own standard with no room for failure that accused me of not measuring up. Is it any  wonder then I couldn’t enjoy the lights and decorations on the tree with imperfection glaring back at me?

This sounds crazy, but I was looking for my identity in a perfectly decorated tree! As if it could give me a secure worth! But we do this with all sorts of things – our home, our physical appearance, our performance, and that of our husband or kids.  They all become measuring sticks for how we are doing.

Of course, in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with wanting our house to look pretty, a cute outfit to wear, obedient kids or even a straight Christmas tree. But when these things become something we obsess over, can’t let go of,  have to have, find pride in, feel better than others for, or we think has to be fixed it is a sure tell sign these things are acting as our functional “gods.”

What’s even crazier is the perfection we strive for is already securely ours in Christ.  No matter how hard we try to build our own identity we can’t ever measure up to God’s standard. But the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us!

When we are in Christ, we have his righteousness and God’s unwavering acceptance.  To look to anything else for merit, or identity, is to live as if what Jesus did was not enough.

There was beauty in my imperfect tree, I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on the wrong thing. Similar to how we do ourselves. We see what’s missing, where we fail to measure up and what we’ve done wrong. But when God’s grace crashes into our crooked lives we begin to see his beauty shines brighter in our brokenness.

That same year of the crooked Christmas tree, my daughter made a paper mache Christmas tree in her sixth grade art class. It too was crooked, not by design. (I should’ve seen the foreshadowing!)

That paper mache tree is what replaced my broken Radko ornament as one of my favorite Christmas treasures. When I look at it, and read back over the stories the kids wrote about “The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree,” I am reminded of my need for Jesus and his perfect love for me.

So as we deck our halls this season, may the lights and decor serve not as a means to adorn ourselves with any glory of perfection, but to draw our eyes to the One who hung on a tree so his perfection could be ours.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Moms & Dads, Is This is Us?

Have you see this week’s episode of NBC’s ‘This is Us?’ If not, consider this your partial *spoiler alert!*

I think everyone in America loves this show because it depicts what real life is like dealing with the messiness of relationships and muck of this broken world. We identify with the characters, and see in them some of the same heart issues we struggle to deal honestly with. For some I imagine the flashbacks to the shaping events on the characters’ lives have struck a chord. But hopefully they have also challenged us to see the shaping influence we are on our own kids.

This does not mean we must be the perfect parent to keep from  negatively affecting our kids.  No, we can positively shape them as much (if not more) by how we deal with our sin and struggles, than in doing all the right things. So, don’t buy into the lie or the pressure that we must be perfect; God can and does use even our failures to shape them for his good.

But with that said, our words and actions do have a huge impact on our kids. From this Season 2, Episode 2 we see this through Kate’s relationship with her mom, Rebecca.

Even as an adult, Kate believes she fails to measure up to her mom’s standards. She sees her mom as everything she is not, so anytime Rebecca is around her insecurities are heightened. From her weight, to the way her house looks, how her boyfriend is perceived, and her singing and performing on stage, Kate feels she is not enough for her mom. And, therefore, not enough.

Through the flashback scenes and present day dialogue we see why. Rebecca sings beautifully, She also has a much smaller physical frame than her daughter. But the reason these are so problematic stem from her damaging words. Rebecca’s compliments of Kate come along with some form of correction or a how-to suggestion for getting better. She means it as encouragement, but these backhanded compliments fuel Kate’s feelings of inadequacy and become the source of shame she can’t get out from under.

Because of the shame, even when her boyfriend compliments or encourages her, it is never louder than the voice in her head that deems her worthless. Her whole identity hinging on her mom’s critique.

As I watched the show, it broke my heart for Kate. But it also broke my heart to know at times I have come across just like Rebecca (the mom, not my daughter Rebecca!) and have unintentionally led my daughter Rebecca (and probably others too) to feel less-than.

The mother/daughter relationship is especially tricky, and the father/son one can be too. We project onto our kids who we want them to be and push them to be better. But that measuring stick of our performance and successes can be a glaring reminder to them of where they fail to meet up to our expectations, accomplishments or appearances.  I think this occurs often when our kids do the same sports or activities we did. However, our different personality types and natural abilities also affect the way our kids see themselves compared to us.

So, Moms & Dads, do you see how this is us?

We heap shame on our kids even with well-meaning intentions. But the good thing in it being revealed is we can do something about it. That’s why seeing your sin is actually a good thing! Because only when you are aware of your sin can you confess and repent of it.

Therefore, instead of burying your failure underneath shame, or denying messing up, let’s deal honestly with our kids about the hurtful things we’ve said and will say, or the looks we’ve given. Let’s even ask them to point those things out to us; the things we aren’t even aware of. Can we do that?

By God’s grace, may we approach them with humility, be willing to listen to their perspective and make needed changes. May we start by asking for their forgiveness, and ask God (and them) to help us see when we still create insecurities in them. This is something I’m learning from my daughter. It hurts to see where my words or performance has led to insecurities in her. But I am thankful to be learning, and know it is growing ‘us’ closer.

Dealing honestly, even when it’s hard, is what will change the course of the shaping influence our sin and failures will have on our children. So let’s take a cue from ‘This is Us’ for the growth and good of our relationships by examining our hearts and living redemptively with one another.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave