I compared myself with friends who were married already, then friends who had babies already, then friends who had big houses already, then how much leadership responsibility so-and-so was given at church, and on and on it went. Now, I don’t even think I realized I was doing this…this comparison game, this wondering what others thought of me or how much I was liked or not liked…I just did it.
In fact, it wasn’t until I did a talk on going through a really difficult time for our women’s ministry at my church just a few years back that it even occurred to me that people might be doing some comparing with me. A gal came up to me and said, “Up til tonight, I thought you had the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect job, the perfect clothes, the perfect kids…I don’t think that anymore.” Not sure how she meant that, but I took it as the ultimate compliment. I’d let them in – to see my darkness and all, and it wasn’t pretty but it was real.
Then somewhere around two or three years ago – when I quit my job at church I suppose – I decided that I didn’t care what people thought of me. I had based so much of my identity on my work at church, on succeeding or at least on people thinking I was a hard worker who covered her bases while loving Jesus, and then I just quit. Because I had wanted to. Because I was tired. Because I felt God tell me I could and that He’d still love me if I stopped. And for a thousand other reasons. But I stopped caring what people thought of me and it was freeing.
Until recently. I care again. You see, I’m the goody two shoes. I’m the teacher’s pet. I follow the rules. I do what I’m told. I hate disappointing people. I hate failing people. I hate letting people down. And I hate, hate, hate being talked about, being discussed, being pondered over, being judged, being told that I’m wrong…in sin even.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for the truth, and for it being told to me in love. And I’ve got people in spades around me who are willing to do that and who actually do that, and though it’s hard, I’ll take it.
But it turns out, I don’t like being told I’m in sin when I honestly down to my core don’t think I am. That’s when I super-care what people think about me.
I received an email last week that sliced me open, and had I allowed myself to read it more than once, I would still be in the fetal position lying on the floor somewhere. Someone spoke hard words to me and I felt completely unseen. Completely judged and jury’d. And it broke something in me. It kills me that this person thinks these things about me. But I chose not to send a response. I chose not to defend myself, again, despite everything in me wanting to attempt to explain each accusation away.
And here’s why. Though, of course, I don’t want everyone to hate me or think ill of me, I really do need to care about only one opinion of me, and that’s God’s. God knows my heart better than I do, and certainly better than those who are looking on from a distance.
And so I sat down with my Bible and cried and said outloud, very simply, “Jesus, how do you see me? Because you’re the only One I really care about anyway.” And Psalm 32 came to my mind instantly (I love when He does that, by the way) and I opened the pages of my Bible and read this:
“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be – you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky – God holds nothing against you, and you’re holding nothing back from him.”
I gasped. Then tears ran down my cheeks. And all I could think to say, over and over, was, “Thank you, Jesus…thank you, Jesus…I love you…” Only One opinion counts, really. And his Truth washed over me, healing me a bit more and clearing out space for more of the same.
May I listen for only One voice…the only One that really matters.