Tag Archives: idols

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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ABC’s 20/20 “Digital Addiction” Review

Who are we without our cell phones?  I know I’m as guilty of cell phone addiction as my teenagers at times! Like for many, my phone is my calendar, to do list, reminder, notes, contacts, music, photos and a plethora of other apps, including of course social media. And while it is convenient, I admit, my phone often distracts me from fully-focused face time interaction!

In addition to cell phones and social media, an abundance of other electronics – in particular obsessive gaming among adult men – are contributing to our disconnected, disengaged selfie-society. To this end,  ABC’s 20/20 aired a “Digitial Addiction” special highlighting the seriousness of technology’s effect on individuals and families.  Reporter Elizabeth Vargas followed three families’ intervention stories with their family member so addicted to a device it was destroying their daily lives. Through interviews and video diaries, we the viewers were given the behind the scenes look at the individuals’ obsessive behaviors.

Considering my own research on technology use among teens, I’m rarely surprised by statistics on the topic. However, I was quite surprised by the dad so addicted to his video games that he had checked out from his family.  It actually gave me a scary glimpse of possible future realities for a generation of kids whose day-long and into the night playing is something we passively accept. For this dad, it was his unwinding time; his de-stressor. Well, that’s fine in its proper place, but he was leaving his wife to solely tend to their four young children all evening, every evening before she retreated off to bed alone.

In another family the teenage son’s gaming addiction kept him holed up in his room. He got angry and was disrespectful to his parents whenever they asked him to get off.  This in itself signaled another alarming trend with detrimental future consequences, and that is: entitlement. The 20/20 special didn’t hit on entitlement, but in not telling our kids “no” or laying down/enforcing rules we have allowed them to take the reigns of control that leads to a path of being controlled by their idols. (As I’ve fequently written, when anything is elevated to a place in our lives that rules or controls us, it is an idol.)

The third featured family was dealing with a teenage daughter’s phone addiction that included sexting strangers.  While sending inappropriate pictures is happening waaaay more frequently than most of us realize, the constant checking her phone, fear of missing out, staying on her phone well into the night and anxiety without her phone that could describe amost any teenager today. So it struck me  that what was dubbed as “extreme”  behavior has actually been accepted as normal.

None of these individuals realized (or cared) how self-centered and disconnected from their families they had become. So to help them re-engage relationally and sever dependence, a device detox was ordered. Many times this is absolutely necessary. My own daughter at times has deleted her social media. And quite frankly I think it’s needed for more parents to enforce limitations and restrictions on devices for their good and the good of the family.

But at the same time for true heart change, we must address the root behind the ruling idols and addictions. On the surface a cell phone or play station (money or material possessions) may appear to be the problem, but eliminating it from our lives doesn’t change the underneath desires that point to what really rules a heart.

To get there we need to ask probing questions. For instance…

  • Why did the girl have to have her  phone? Because of her fear of missing out and not wanting to feel disconnected.
  • Why was she so afraid of missing out? Perhaps it was a fear of looking bad, experiencing rejection, or not getting the attention she craved.
  • Could it be the reason she wanted attention – to make a name for herself – was in order to feel her worth? What she needed was to hear who Jesus is for her. In him she is perfectly accepted, valued and loved.

For the two consumed with the video games, one sought to escape from life, not wanting to deal with the chaos and responsibility of his household; basically an unwillingness to die to himself. He was looking for “life” in his own pleasure. For the other, he turned to his games as an escape to a virtual world, perhaps out of fear of engaging in real world relationships, or being known.

So we can take away social media or a game console (again, at times necessary), but whatever it is at the core will likely resurface in a new or more extreme way later if we don’t deal with the heart – whatever the ruling desires driving the behavior.  Otherwise, we will only be putting bandaids on the real issues.

Uncovering the sin beneath the sin is not easy, but it is good.  It takes seeing our sin as the idolatry it is in order to see our deep need of the One who rescues us from slavery and sets us free. Only living dependent on him (and nothing else) will we find the true life we seek.

Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World comes out Monday! To receive it next week, click: here. Link to 20/20 Digital Addiction special here.

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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