Tag Archives: false gods

Just Like The Greatest Showman

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
For me”

If you’ve seen the movie, “The Greatest Showman” these words from the song “Never Enough” will be familiar.  If you haven’t seen the movie, go! I loved learning about the history of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The music was fantastic (been listening ever since on repeat) and the acting great. But it was PT Barnum’s self-discovery after chasing his dreams that stood out to me.

***Spoiler Alert***

Having grown up with very little, Phineas Taylor Barnum aspired to provide his family with the same lavish lifestyle of his wife’s upbringing. He didn’t want his daughters to lack anything in the way he had as a child. However as his dreams turned into reality, and his business began to enchant the masses, it only whetted his appetite.

When his circus performed for the Queen of England, he met famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind and signed her to tour with him. For Barnum the sky was the limit; the world at his fingertips. For his wife and girls, his presence and love all they wanted.

Though I’m uncertain if the movie’s portrayal of what happened next is factual, the scandalous onstage kiss Jenny gave Barnum as retribution for rejecting her advances is what led him to finally see his false gods. Money and fame ruled him. Despite all he was acquiring it was never enough. There was always more to be had. But never without great expense.

And aren’t we often just like him?

We look at others’ online feeds, stories and boards and determine what we have is not enough. We compare ourselves to those around us, and feel less than (or better than) based on what we have or don’t have. Just like Barnum we go chasing after what we think we need. What we think will bring everlasting happiness. What is it for you- Money? Fame? Appearance? Popularity? Comfort?

In our culture today it all seems attainable. With YouTube and Instagram, even fame is no longer limited to actors, singers and politicians. “Regular” people can become instant sensations, acquiring the following of masses, gaining contracts for product endorsement and earning thousands each month. Teenagers and adults alike, clamouring for “streaks” and “likes” and even buying “followers.” As if these numbers make us worthy.

Again like Barnum, we’ve lost focus of what truly matters. We’ve bought into the lie that “life” is found in something other than God. No matter how much success, accomplishments, recognition, extravagant trips, designer goods, bonuses, attention or followers, it’s never enough.

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more…(From Now On)”

None of it will ever be enough because these things weren’t meant to satisfy. They can’t. They aren’t big enough or valuable enough to give us worth, and they lack the power to give us lasting love and happiness.

The only thing that can bring us true joy and peace cannot be acquired. The hole in our soul can only be filled in Christ.

And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the light
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let the promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on…
And we will come back home…”

May we see the temptations and traps for what they are. And find true life in the One who beckons us to come and graces us with treasures that will never rot.

“Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home! (Softly and Tenderly)

Worth in the Wrinkles & Grace for the Grey

One night a couple weeks ago my husband and I were eating dinner. It was just the two of us that night. I don’t know what we were talking about but I do remember when he looked up and out of the blue asked, “Do you think you will grow old gracefully or fight it as long as you can?”

Had I not just seen for myself that very day the grey hairs framing my face I wouldn’t have known what he was referring to.  But as it was I instinctively knew he saw exactly what I had – all those wiry greys! It was as if he read my mind because since seeing how obvious they had become I had been thinking maybe it was time to add a little color.

Fast-forward a few days to when I was looking over the headshots a friend took for me.  My husband’s question floated back into the forefront of mind. This time it wasn’t so much the greys bothering me, but the wrinkles around my eyes. It would be so easy for my friend to smooth those out a bit in the pictures. (And to be honest, in one she did). But apart from a miracle cream I don’t know about it, those lines in real life aren’t ever going to totally disappear.

My insecurities over these visible signs of aging got me thinking about how alike we women are to our daughters. Here we worry about how they see themselves and the pressure to be perfect, but we are no different. Whether we admit it or not, we too look to our appearance as an identity.

By this I mean we base our worth on how we look. Our weight, the wrinkles, the grey, the sag or flab, it can consume us. Only made worse when we look around and compare how we stack up to others. So at any given moment – at a party, the gym or scrolling through Instagram – we have those same thoughts as our daughters. I’m not enough. I need to be better. Everyone else is perfect. And just like our daughters, we also exert alot of energy trying to make ourselves enough, better, perfect.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with taking care of ourselves and wanting to feel and feel good. The problem is when our appearance becomes the measuring stick for determing our worth, and the worth of others too. What we turn to for our identity.  What we think if we attain or maintain will make us happy and give us life. And in its ruling over us, we will in direct and indirect ways communicate to our girls and others that appearance is where their value comes from too.

But if my true identity is found in Christ, then the extra pounds, the wrinkles, the grey hairs, my grey tooth (yes, it’s true I have one!) or whatever else it is that bothers you about yourself is not what defines us!

I’m writing this for myself, because what I saw in the mirror and reflecting back at me in the photos knocked me off this gospel truth. I didn’t want others to see the wrinkles or think I looked old because of them. But it takes a constant reorienting to remember who we are. One minute I know the truth and feel secure, and the next minute I’m looking to false sources to make me okay.

Because this is true of me, what better entry point to help our daughters see we are in the same boat. We understand her self-obsession because we too become self-consumed.  So what we both need is to see our false identities as the sin it is, and point each other back to who Christ is for us.

In Christ, I am perfect and perfectly loved. An his opinion, truly, is the only one that matters. If only I could always fix my eyes on this truth, maybe I could grow old gracefully (with colored hair or not)! By his grace. 

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).”

For more on this topic for teen girls, check out my book Face Time! Also be sure to subscribe for posts in your inbox, and follow me on Instagram!

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The Heart of Middle School Meanness

Last week this article was published by Rooted, but for all my blog subscribers who may have missed seeing it circulate on Facebook, I am reposting. Whether you have middle schoolers or not, getting to the heart behind bad behavior is where we all need to go in order to deal honestly with our own sinfulness, and to help us treat others with compassion and grace.

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It doesn’t matter where you live, what type of school system you are in, or who your kids’ friends are, there is no fool proof way of avoiding middle school meanness. That is not to say the meanness doesn’t start before middle school, nor does it necessarily end before high school (or even stop in adulthood for that matter). But by and large the drama, the cattiness, the dismissiveness, the name-calling, the online bullying, the rejecting, and the outright hateful words and mean behavior start to blow up big-time around middle school.

We are left wondering why these kids who used to be so “good,” kids who should “know better,” are behaving so terribly. And how do we handle it? Whether our kid feels like the victim, whether they’re caught in the middle, simply a by-stander, or they’re the one misbehaving (we are fooling ourselves if we think our kids won’t ever be this one!) – parenting through the drama and meanness is hard.

External factors (like family, environment, friend groups and situations, etc.) may contribute, but they are not the primary problem in middle school meanness. The problem is our kids’ hearts, and our hearts too (it’s a universal human heart problem). Therefore, we must deal with the heart to properly address the problem.

If we only deal with the outer behavior, we will never effectively change what’s really going on.

To get to the heart we must chisel down beneath the behavior, to see what’s driving it. Again, external factors can influence, but we all act according to our will. And whether we or our children are Christians does not preclude us/them from our natural bent toward sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). By the grace of God only do any of us have the contrary influence of the Spirit.

We have sin-sick hearts. All of us.

When we understand our true diagnosis as an across-the-board condition, we can start from a place of compassion with and for our own kids, and for others acting in their sin and brokenness. When our child knows this is our condition, too – that we are in the same sin-ridden boat – they will be much more softened to receive our probing questions, helping them get to the root of their behavior.

The root (or the heart) is the driving force behind what and why any of us do what we do. So whatever is ruling our hearts (whatever we worship or whatever means the most to us) will be the influential tug that determines our words and deeds, our motives and hidden agendas.

If Jesus is at the center of my heart, my words and action will reflect Him. The problem arises, even for the most well-intentioned believer, when something other than Jesus becomes more valuable to us. Whatever it is (and it can be anything) – a person, an object, a desire – that we seek to find “life” in apart from God is the false god, the ruling idol of our heart.

By “life” I mean whatever we try to find an identity in. So for our middle schoolers (and again, us), false gods are found in appearance, acceptance, affirmation, significance, popularity, love. This means whatever it takes to get what they think they must have, they will do. Their ruling idol – in the classroom, the lunchroom, on the stage, the field, and social media – will determine why they do what they do.

Now it makes sense why a thirteen-year-old girl would make a snide comment to another girl if she feels jealous or insecure, if she doesn’t know her worth. In a twisted way, she feels better by making someone else feel worse. Take a kid who is starved for attention and love at home – now it makes sense why he craves attention from other people, even in negative ways. He is looking to know his worth; to know he is accepted and secure.

Ultimately, only God can fill us. Only God can make us whole. Only God is big enough to fill the hole in our soul that drives us to turn to false gods.

So when we talk to our kids about mean behavior and don’t get into idolatry, we neglect to help them learn to discern the true nature of their dissatisfied hearts – to see the depth of their sin, and their great need for a loving Savior.

But when we dig deeper with our kids, and they begin to grasp the extent and frequency of god-replacements popping up in their hearts, we shepherd them to want to obey out of worship for the One who rescued them from the depth of their sin. In having these hard and complicated discussions about the reality of the human heart, we raise kids who have compassion on others who are similarly ruled by false gods, but don’t know the full acceptance, love, and worth they have in Jesus.

 

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