“Fear of Man:” AKA Christian-ese for caring what people think of you. We all have felt it, the shame of embarrassment, the dissection of past conversations, the avoiding people you know in public because you are having a seriously bad hair day… oh, that’s just me?
OK, well then, superior human, move along…
To the rest of you, who like me, suffer under the tyranny of our inner critic, let’s sit a minute and chat (screen to face obviously, we don’t want to get too uncomfortably closeJ).
I have been seeing a counselor…and she’s great (more on that another day)! She directed me to a book by Edward T. Welch called When People are Big and God is Small. I highly recommend it, you can find it here!
Fear of man is such an epidemic that Welch spends the first half of the book just addressing the issue. Fear causes us to make decisions without wisdom or reason. It causes our emotions to drive us in relationship, and our needs (or unmet needs) make or break our commitments. We see ourselves (according to Welch) as “empty cups” needing to be filled.
Jeremiah 17 says it this way, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength (OUCH!), whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, ESV [notes mine]) I am guilty of this on so many levels. When I think I am strong, able to handle everything on my own, too prideful to accept help…I am a person who trusts in people (myself included). When I crumble under the weight and steep in shame over my mistakes and failures, there I am again, looking to humans for my worth. When I decide to try a DIY haircut I found on YouTube and spent three whole days hiding in my house (want to see a picture of the outcome? Click here) you guessed it, me again, face down before the glory of man.
I am a woman undone…no amount of “having it together” will ever change that. My diaper bag will forever be a glorified Hefty bag, my hair will remind others of Fred Armisen, and my children will probably go to college with PopTarts on their faces and stickers in their unkempt hair. It is a scientific fact that as a mother I will, on at least one occasion, extend for a handshake and quickly withdraw because, well…slobber, boogers, poop… (the list here is tailored to the life-stage, the shame however, is universal.)
So what’s a mess of a woman to do?
Fall face-down of course. Who wouldn’t? In the glorious shiny face of Pinterest-organized closets and Insta-stories of Bible studies over homemade breakfast, one must only take a momentary glance in the mirror (or sniff under the arm) to know they are entirely unworthy.
Here we are, cheeks deep in fear of man.
We are cursed! It says it right there: Jeremiah, screaming it in the streets! We find our identity and strength in people; in their pristine made-up lives, and we are like shrubbery—in the dessert, no less! We are parched and empty, clinging to anything to fill us up and make us comfortable in our own skin.
Woman of God, WHAT IS YOUR TRUTH!?
Turn back to Jesus, the one who took on your skin, wrapped it around holy deity, and showed you that worth is found only when you look up and not in. Our gospel truth as the rescued is Romans 8:28 (he is working all things for GOOD!), not Jeremiah 13:6 (He is like a shrub in the dessert, and shall not see any good.)
Dear friends, our heart is indeed sick! It whispers lies to us, telling us that to be like God we must accomplish like humans. WHAT??!! It tells us God’s favor comes in the form of money, friends, a brag-worthy career, a family that functions and fires on all cylinders, a marriage that is solid, and a body that looks like a 19-year-old with the wisdom of a 70-something. We must simultaneously be witty and demure, gentle and feisty, motherly and yet emotionally reserved. Our nails must be neat, our homes comfortable (but not “lived in”), our tears must be well-timed, and our “mess” modeled after an Anthropologie catalog.
Our hearts are out of their minds.
We are left with one choice: be undone before the glory of man, or be undone before the rightful holiness of God.
I have come to realize that my undone-ness is solely based on the glory of the people around me. I fall apart when I place myself side-by-side with them, but fail to recognize the God who is infinitely superior.
BLESSED is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust (security of future) is the Lord (Jeremiah 17). Isaiah found himself utterly undone in the presence of Holy God. He saw the radiance and purity of God and was immediately turned to mush over his depraved state.
So I write this to say: you are actually a mess!
Thank you, and goodnight.
No, sersiously. It’s ok, me too, we are totally broken by the sin that has taken up residence within us. It locks us in pitch black, isolating dungeons of shame. It separates us from all that is Holy and Good (only God). Our mess does indeed ruin us.
But that is not all there is!
Let yourself be undone, just not before mans’ glory (because we all know that’s a shiny lie). Be undone before the Lord who is holy and worthy, whose heart toward you is mercy. He looks at you in all of your disaster and shame and loves you. He is the only hope for rescue.
The one who trusts in the Lord is a tree with roots growing deep into living waters, her leaves are green even in drought, her fruit is evident and plentiful because it comes not from her own merit and effort but is produced by the Spirit of Life that takes up residence within her. She will not fail, she will not be put to shame, the Lord is for her.
Featured image by Edu Lauton on Unsplash