Tag Archives: #realness

Is a woman’s place in the home?

No. Unless you want it to be and it works for your family.

If you want to work, work.

If you want to remain in the home, remain in the home.

Neither makes you inferior.

Love God. Love your family. Outside of that, do what works best for your family context.

That is all.

PS I realise this is a broad topic. If you have worries or struggles or questions on our biblical “mandate” or what culture bombards us with, comment or message me and we’ll talk about it some more. Today’s McBlog is to remind you to have confidence in your situation and to be kind to yourself.

Reader question: When do we sabbath?

Every so often, I get a reader who sends me a message with a subject they’d like me to talk about. One recent question was when do women sabbath? You’ll see a bit later why I’ve broadened it to include women and men. But I appreciate why she asked the question of women particularly. On the face of it, it’s an easy answer. We roll our eyes and look at each other and acknowledge that women never sabbath. There’s always something to do – groceries, cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry, kids, kids activities and sports, birthday parties, homework….the “sabbath” seems to have become the day that’s left over to do all the jobs we don’t have time to do in the rest of the week.

BUT it’s actually a really good question and it’s not an obvious answer.

There are several bits of the question we need to unpack. One is what exactly is the sabbath and what do we mean when we say that? The second is why women particularly?

Modern Christians talk about the sabbath as Sunday, and as a day of rest. But this is not biblically or historically correct. Let’s dig into the past a little…..

The sabbath is a peculiarly Israelite rite observed on the seventh day – Saturday – linked to God’s rest after he had completed his work of creation. For the Jews it’s the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, not your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11).

It is a day to honour God and the work of his hands in creation. It is to be holy – that is, consecrated, set apart for God’s use – so it’s not a day of rest for rest’s sake.

By Jewish reckoning (who calculated days from sundown to sundown), the sabbath lasted from Friday night to Saturday night. When Jesus was crucified, the earliest Christians focussed their attention, not on this seventh day of the week (Friday to Saturday), but on the first day of the week (for the Jews that was Saturday night to Sunday night) in remembrance of the day of Christ’s resurrection.

Some early Christians, coming from the Jewish tradition, still observed the sabbath, but focussed on Sunday as of key importance. Other early Christians, converted Greeks, disliked the keeping of the sabbath as too “Jewish” for the new Christian tradition.

At no point though, was the Jewish sabbath of the seventh day, the day or rest, equated by the Christians with the first day of the week, Sunday, a day of celebration of the resurrection.

So when did “sabbath” come to mean what we modern Christians commonly think it means? Well, the Roman Emperor Constantine (who made Christianity an official religion of the Empire), in the year 321AD, ruled that the first day of the week was to be a day of rest. This is the first conflation of the sabbath rest concept with the first day of the week. And, now that Sunday was an official day of rest, Christians had the luxury of time and their meetings and liturgies became longer and more elaborate.

Gradually, over hundreds of years, the sabbath concept became attached to Sunday rather than Saturday. In addition, as the mystery of the Eucharist became centralised in the Catholic tradition, Sunday rites and practices became more somber and focussed on the body and blood of Christ, rather than rejoicing in the resurrection.

The world was also moving on. The Reformation gave people God’s word in their own language again. This assisted the rise of personal piety outside of convents and monasteries as people connected with Jesus in a way they had not been able to before. This gave Sundays a particular significance for devotion and reflection for some groups. It’s possibly this is what we’re thinking of when we say “when do we sabbath”.

In our modern world, our barrier to “sabbathing” is not language and tradition, but busy-ness and a lack of a cultural tradition. As I said above, Sunday is commonly seen as a day to catch up on chores. We go to church, we might even seek hospitality and fellowship for lunch. But by and large, we get the laundry done, clean the house, put the bins out and get the uniforms and lunches ready for the coming week. Do we rest? Possibly, by snatching some Netflix time or playing with the kids in the garden.

But when do we sabbath? The answer is, I think, never. Not in the Jewish way, but that’s ok because we’re not Jewish. Do our Sundays reflect those of the early church? Possibly in part. Those early Christians met before dawn because most had employers and owners that required their work. Their time was not their own. So they met and broke bread and worshipped and rejoiced in the risen Lord. And then they went to work. In one way, our Sunday is similar – we meet and then we go about our business. In another way our Sunday is not similar – we sit through our church services, but do we rejoice and celebrate the resurrection? Possibly not. Or possibly a bit.

This presents a conundrum. What are we supposed to do on our sabbath? Do we try and follow a Jewish tradition (but on a Sunday rather than Saturday), mixed with some early church rejoicing and fellowship? Or should we be like the Puritans of the 17th century? Being holy and spending time in reflection and consecrating our time to God?

The simple answer is that we’re not supposed to do anything. Jesus was the Lord of the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8) and he changed the Jewish understanding of the day. But Jesus made no comment on keeping “the Lord’s day” (ie Sunday) because he hadn’t died yet.

A full answer would take a whole book, but I think there are some important take-aways. First, Jesus was a Jew and while he came to fulfil the prophets, he still set aside time for prayer and worship. This is a key element in consecrating time to God. There must be set time(s) that we keep holy at church and at home.

Second, rest is important. The prophets and Jesus himself had a lot to say about it. So it seems to me that this remains an important element of the time we set aside.

Third, personal piety and devotions are also really important. It shows obedience, but it also feeds our faith and grows our relationship with our God. It’s part of time that we keep holy and set aside and offer up to God. Giving time is a worthy sacrifice to God.

Fourth, when we talk about sabbathing, I suspect we often think of it as an individual thing. From the beginning, the sabbath and then Sunday observance was a communal thing. And, from the Reformation, piety enveloped the family. I can highly recommend reading about the Puritans. They were pretty amazing and have been given some bad press. But they were the Reformed Evangelicals of their day and their focus on family devotion and godly growth together is amazing.

Given all this, the one to set the pattern for your sabbath is you. If you are a family unit, I would recommend having a full conversation and pray about it. But be clear about what it is you want to achieve. Is it time for personal piety? Is it a family observance? If you are single, the same decisions apply. What time are you going to consecrate and how are you going to use it to honour God?

This observance will take some discipline. As a family you’ll need to work together to make sure it happens. As a single, we’ll also need some self-control to stick to our decisions. This is a man and woman thing.

But for women, this is of particular emphasis. If we are seeking a sabbath because we crave rest, there is a conversation to be had. Maybe Sundays need to look a little different. Remember, rest is super important and wanting it is OK!

If we are seeking communion with God, we must look to creating time and space for devotional time – and sometimes we need help to do that. At the very least, we should carve out time for retreats and conferences. This gives us a solid chunk of time to commune with God and shut out the noise of the world for a little while.

We also need to give ourselves a bit of a talking to. Because a sabbath is not about the blessed relief and quietness of a cloister. And it’s not about walking slow motion on a beach while we listen to the Bible on audible. We are not in a fantasy. We are in the real world and we can be our own worst enemy. There is always something to do and something that needs to be cleaned or cooked or folded. We need to be tougher with ourselves. We need to choose to be ok with some chaos if it means taking some sabbath time.

Above all, grace. We don’t have to do anything. Jesus has already done it all. Be kind to yourself. Build your sabbath on God’s grace.

Dissecting emotional abuse and why it’s so easy to let it happen

Some things sound like a cop-out or an excuse. Emotional abuse is one of those. Physical abuse we can see. Psychological abuse we can understand. But emotional abuse seems a bit wish-washy. Doesn’t everyone say mean things from time to time? Does that make everyone an abuser? It feels like a blanket “men are mean” accusation, a large net that scoops up everyone and devalues real abuse,

This is why I feel moved to dissect this. Because it is real abuse. And there are people around us suffering from this right now, or suffering with post-trauma. If we can understand it, we can help them. So let’s get into it.

It’s hard for people to understand emotional abuse. First, much of the abuse is unseen so when abuse is declared, people can only judge by the behaviours they have seen and what they are hearing doesn’t seem to match what they’ve witnessed.

Second, people judge the behaviour by how they would feel, and if they wouldn’t feel abused by it, the behaviour is not judged to be inappropriate. The feelings of the victim are judged in comparison to the feelings of someone who is not in that situation.

Third, it’s hard to explain. A popular perception is that emotional abuse is just saying mean things or calling names. It can be those things, but it is so much more. It is the gradual compression of the spirit (more on this below).

Fourth, the victim is subject to the behaviour for years and so it is their “normal”. I’ve written before about the surprising number of women who don’t realise they are in an abusive situation (you can read it here). Think the mythical frog in a pot of boiling water. If you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump straight out. If you put the frog in cold water, it will keep swimming while it gradually heats up. It grows accustomed to the increasing temperature – until it’s too late.

It is a subtle but tectonic shift over many years. But there is a process. Which means there are red flags you can look out for – flags by which you can protect yourself, or, flags to help you can recognise if someone you know is in a situation like this. I’ve summarised it in the diagram below and then talked through what those steps mean.

“Abuse” is a strong word. Not many people think they are “an abuser”. That’s because people tend to judge themselves by their intentions and other people by their actual behaviour. The majority of abusers intentions are not to abuse. But their behaviour is abusive. Let’s look at the process.

At the beginning of an abusive relationship, there may be some bullish behaviour and subtle control and manipulation. But two things blind the victim to their presence:

  1. The victim’s own confidence, self-esteem, coping mechanisms and support network are sufficient to override any disquiet or cope confidently with any shortcomings in the spirit of compromise within a new relationship; and
  2. Lovebombing” is a real technical team that describes an abusers modus operandi. Here are the main red flags – they will hook up quickly after the last relationship; they will isolate their new partner, shut out friends and so on and place all attention and affection on the partner (and themselves) so they are deeply and exclusively connected. Even if the victim has a large social network, there is an emotional interdependence created, an exclusive bubble; they will likely engage in repeated romantic gestures, extravagant attention and usually will co-habit and/or propose quickly. The reason this is so effective is that the victim is the subject of a Hollywood style level of affection. This behaviour covers over a multitude of subtle manipulation, coercion and power playing.

The next step occurs after some time of diminishing. The victim’s confidence gradually diminishes, their support networks might diminish as they are isolated, or their feeling of being able to talk to those networks diminishes. At the same time, the grand romance diminishes.

Over time, the victim has become more and more vulnerable to bullying, manipulation, control and coercion. But, in the style of the frog in the water, the victim might not know they are in boiling water. They might not know that their partner’s behaviour is not acceptable. It has become their normal.

The victim at this point may be soldiering on in their public life but inside feeling gradually crushed. At some point, as the capacity to cope dips below the level of adverse behaviour experienced, the wheels will fall off. If you’re interested, I’ve written before about the relationship between coping and trauma here.

This can be where the point of recognition occurs – the recognition of being in boiling water.

When the point of recognition occurs, the victim’s responses to the abuser will change as they realise what is happening to them. This is a critical juncture. Because as the victim’s behaviour changes, so does the abuser’s. The bullying and control and manipulation will begin to escalate. Volatility will become greater and more frequent, as will mood swings and the unpredictability as the abuser senses loss of control. Usually this is where gaslighting also escalates – an abusers process of making the victim believe it is their fault, or not happening, or even that they themselves are the abuser (read more here).

Then comes another downward spiral. Self-doubt in the victim leads to hopelessness and despair. This is on top of the emotionally abusive tactics (which are varied, diverse and insidious) which can generate real and deep fear and high levels of anxiety. The volatility of the abuser means that anger explosions don’t even need to happen for the abuse to occur – the fear is enough. Think of it this way: I have a new dog. At first when I was training her, I’d use words and tone of voice and even actions. Now, a mere 3 months later, my dog only has to see the look on my face to feel sure she is about to be shut outside and she’ll dart under the couch to hide from me. Victims have been trained and conditioned to know when to feel fear.

At this point, several possible outcomes are possible. The victim may reach breaking point and leave. Or, the abuse may escalate to physical violence as well.

This is not an outcome that can be tolerated by our community. But it need not reach this point for it to become not tolerable. Emotional abuse ought not to be tolerated by our community either. It is emotional violence. It is damaging and scarring.

When we understand emotional abuse (and this short blog by no means explains all the nuances!) we can become more aware to behaviour that is not ok. It may not be behaviour that is abusive yet – but yet is the key word. If we can see where behaviour is heading in that direction, if we can see some red flags, we can help and support the people around us who may be experiencing this emotional violence and damage.

Some lessons for Mother’s Day from my great great grandmother

Mother’s Day can suck for a lot of people. For some it’s a beautiful and wonderful day with your own mum, and you as a mum. For others it’s a reminder of everything we don’t have.

As a single mum I find it a mixed blessing. It’s a day like any other because who else is going to take care of the kids? There’s no special breakfast in bed, or gifts, or lunches. It’s just the same old same old. Except with a gnawing feeling that other mums are getting something that I don’t.

Except this year. I’m determined not to feel that way this year. Here’s why.

My great-great-grandmother was born Sarah Ann Lee in Hampshire in about 1857. She married my great-great-grandfather (Henry) and they had about 6 children together. He was away at sea a lot – he was an engineer in the Royal Navy just as steam ships were starting to be introduced. Sarah Ann died of tuberculosis after the birth of their last child and Henry married the housekeeper by proxy to ensure there was someone to take care of the children (because I suppose that’s the kind of thing one did back in those days).

By all accounts the housekeeper was not very nice to the children. He was a very loving father though. He wrote a letter to each of the children individually, of which I have inherited one.

“Her children arise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Prov. 31:28.

A token from the father to the children.

In affectionate remembrance of a loving wife and devoted mother. She was the inspirer of all that is best in my character and I do pray her ennobling qualities may be reflected in the children. Patience and contentment with an exalted sense of truth and right pervaded her whole life which from childhood was one of complete trust in God. She always had a cheery word for those in trouble and the old folks of her acquaintance will ever remember her love for them and they with us all sadly miss her bright and happy disposition.”

It’s beautiful. As I reflect on these words, I note how many of the fruits of the spirit were in her. I don’t suppose that she was a perfect angel at all. This is Henry’s loving eulogy to their children, not an editorial comment about her every day behaviour. But there is much to admire here.

She was an inspirer of good in people around her, she was kind, patient, joyful, content, and above all had a complete trust in God. These qualities she, and Henry, prayed would be reflected in the children.

So this Mother’s Day, I’m not going to look at Facebook to see what gifts everyone is getting or what was delivered to their bedside for breakfast. I’m going to look at my children to see the many admirable qualities they already possess. I’m going to take a moment to self-reflect on the good qualities that have been passed on to me from my mum. I’m just going to take time to appreciate the beauty around me in the things that are not obvious, but are so tangible.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). I see these already in my kids. I mean they also have the gifts of being forgetful, messy and really annoying, but that’s pretty normal! And one thing I know is how proud of them I am for their kind and innocent hearts, their love of God and their wide eyed joy.

Mother’s Day might suck – but we can choose to treat it differently. Switch off Facebook. Take some time. Self-reflect. Look at those around you and see what qualities you have inspired in them, and they in you.

Look to Christ Jesus because great-great-grandma Walker’s beauty was underpinned by a complete trust in God. He is the inspirer of all that is good in us, and what he grows in me, I pray I can pass on to my children, and always see it there, and praise them for it.

A teeny-tiny bit of the Bible which is completely beautiful

The Bible’s big. Like, it’s really big. Lots of words. No pictures (not in my one anyway). The great thing about the Bible is that you can read it a thousand times and see new things every time. That’s probably because reading the whole thing is really difficult – I mean, it’s not, but it is, you know? You can read it, that’s easy. But having it go in? That’s harder. Especially in the Old Testament where there’s lots of “knowing” and lots of “begetting” (nudge nudge wink wink), and lists of names and….lets face it…the book of Numbers. So while on one hand we say “I see new things all the time”, it might equally be “I think I might have vagued out at that bit last time around”.

That’s why, when you see, or someone shows you, a real gem, it’s like uncovering a treasure map. It takes your breath away.

Obviously the Bible is chock-full of such gems, but here’s just one…… In Genesis 28, Jacob (son of Isaac and father of Joseph and the other 11 brothers) heads off to Harran to find himself a wife. On the way, he has a dream:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12).

This becomes popularly described as “Jacobs ladder”. Jacob names the place Bethel, which means “house of God”.

Cut to a thousand odd years late and Jesus calls Nathaniel to follow him and during the exchange:

He [Jesus] then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

Jesus literally describes himself as Jacob’s ladder – the stairway between heaven and earth. Except in Jacob’s dream, the ladder rests on earth. In John, the ladder rests on Jesus, the Son of Man.

When Jacob awoke, he thinks “surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Genesis 28:16). Surely this must have been Nathaniel and the disciples reaction as the penny drops. The Lord is right in front of them, and they were not aware.

Then Jacob “was afraid and said ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.'” (Genesis 28:17) Elsewhere in John, Jesus is described in “house” terms. In John 1:14, John had said that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The word “dwelling” in the Greek is the same as “to tent” or “to tabernacle” (even though those aren’t verbs as we know them). It’s a clear way of saying that just as God had dwelt in his fullness in the tabernacle, so now God rests in his fullness in Jesus.

Jesus is the house of God. He is the gate of heaven.

Now we know this. Of course we know this. We hear it often. Jesus is God on earth. He’s the image of the invisible God. But do we really get how deeply profound this declaration is? If you are anything like me, you know it, but you need to be reminded. I have a really short memory. I need to be told things a lot. That’s why this link of Jacobs ladder feels so momentous for me. Its so incredibly beautiful.

He is the very gate to heaven. We walk through him to enter into God’s presence.

This truth re-acquaints me with the magnitude of God. It reminds of the sheer beauty of who Jesus is. It shows me the power and the mercy and the faithfulness. It is a truth so embedded, from Genesis to John and beyond, that we can still see it. We can see it today. We can see it right now. We can know it, deep in our hearts.

I pray that what you knew before, you know again today.

Is “living your best life” attainable and what does it look like?

I don’t really know what “living your best life” means. First of all, how do we know what our “best life” is? We can’t possibly know, surely. We haven’t lived it all yet. Does it mean “living to what I feel is my fulfilled potential”? Or does it mean “living joyfully and freely and with nothing to worry about”. Possibly. So surely what we really mean is, “living the life I dream of”.

What sits behind this is the feeling of satisfaction. Feeling satisfied means feeling complete, peaceful and contented. To feel completely satisfied means to feel happiness. Now, we often think that these feelings are states of being – that happiness or satisfaction is a constant state of experience. This is just not the case, nor can it be.

This struck me the other day when I returned home from dinner with A Mate. I’d had a great day. I did some writing I was really proud of, I didn’t have to be in the office for my day job for another couple of days, and I really like my job so that wasn’t even a big deal. I felt really close to God and had some great devotional time. Then I saw My Mate and we’d had a super lovely evening. We’d laughed and connected. It was still early so we got to have our own time before bed (top consideration when you get to my age). It was a really perfect night.

Then I got home and my new dog had poo’d in her crate and then done that doggy digging motion and sprayed the plops through the bars and all over the living room. As I wiped and mopped I cogitated on the dignity of my life and the fact that “your best life” will always probably have some dog poo on it.

This may sound flippant but it’s worth thinking about because contentment and satisfaction underpin how we approach life – or rather, how we let life approach us.

You see, if we think there is a “best life” we will constantly feel dis-satisfied. Or at least only satisfied in the fleeting moments in which we feel replete – during a relaxing holiday when the cares of the world seem far away, in a new relationship that is thrilling and romantic, when we self-medicate with our favourite pleasure to take our attention away from the fact that we feel horribly mediocre.

If we aren’t careful then, we will live for transitory moments that we wish would last forever, and bemoan our woefully inadequate lives which never match up to what we think our “best life” should be (or what it looks like in the movies).

Now it’s an easy thing to say we should feel satisfied in Christ, as though it’s the answer to all our problems. It would certainly be true, but not necessarily too helpful at this point.

So what to do?

Well, first of all, it’s OK to want a “best life”, to feel satisfied and replete. It’s even OK to want holidays and nice times and money and a better job.

What’s less OK is to let it take over. If always wanting the next best thing is all you think about, if you live for your next holiday, if you are constantly dissatisfied, that’s something to consider carefully. There may be some things in there to repent of. There may be some pride or covetousness.

Here’s something else to consider. Our dissatisfaction itself can be sinful because what we’re saying is that we are not content with where God has placed us and what he has given us. That’s a harsh truth.

The antidote to this is gratitude. What has he given us? We must practice our powers of observation and thankfulness.

If we are in a situation that is making us unhappy, one of two things needs to occur – we need to change our situation, or change our attitude. In either case, the object of the change needs to not be us, but Christ. Is this holiday so I can focus on a fleeting “best life” moment? Or so I can take time with my family, who are my first ministry? Am I looking for a new job because I want power and prestige? Or because a higher salary would allow me to give more to my church, or allow my family members to volunteer more, or have a greater platform to witness to others? Remember, Proverbs 16:2 says “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs motives.” Our motivations, our choices, are the proof of where our heart is.

Some of us are in a situation that is extremely difficult to feel content in. Some of us suffer in sickness. Some are burdened. Some are heavy of spirit. Some are strangled in poverty. Some are put upon by others, pressured and oppressed. For some, a “best life” seems like an impossible dream.

For those people, know that nobody is living their best life. Even on their best days there is dog poo to clean up.

Take a look also, for encouragement, at my blog on finding peace (you can read it here). This gives us hope and certainty that there will be a best day. There will be an unending best life, with him.

Until then, we must strive to be satisfied – but satisfied in the right thing and for the right reasons. We must rise above our circumstances knowing there is something greater, just as Paul did when in prison:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)

Paul achieved this the way we can achieve it. By taking his strength from Christ. But just because Paul said it, doesn’t mean it was easy for him. He was human just like us. He had a shady past and he was kind of a jerk sometimes. But he learned what he needed to learn through his faith in Christ alone. Paul was living his best life, even in poverty and persecution and personal attack and imprisonments. Because he persevered in his faith and growth and obedience.

We too must constantly seek to grow and to guard our hearts, even among the difficulties and the dog poo.

This moment. This. Moment. The realness is astonishing

There are some things you know so well that you go onto auto-pilot. The crucifixion is one of those things. Yup. Heard it. Know it. Saw the musical. What’s for morning tea?

Except there is a moment when it hits you full in the face like a bucket of cold water. The reality is so chilling that you see the cross as though it was the first time. And we need this moment.

Jesus famously cries out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Why did he say this? I mean, he had been tortured, imprisoned, beaten, and now he was nailed to a cross, the Roman instrument of brutal execution. But Jesus is fully God So it’s hard for us to understand the cross in human terms. We intellectually get that crucifixion was horrific, but he’s God so it was always gonna be alright…right?

So why did he say those particular words?

He is quoting the first line of Psalm 22……

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?

………which suggests that there is something there we need to see.

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” (Psalm 22:8, written about 600 years before Jesus’ death).

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mark 15:29-32 written about 30 years after Jesus’s death).

This was foretold. It had long been foretold. This humiliation. This death. It was no accident.

But also in this psalm, the psalmist gives voice to the loneliness of suffering that we can all relate to. Where are you God? I’m so alone. This suffering is unbearable. Jesus apparently speaks into these feelings by quoting just one line. The depth of his emotional suffering is palpable.

But Jesus’ physical pain is described in Psalm 22 too.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.” (Psalm 22:14-15)

Poetry is so expressive. I read these lines and see Jesus on the cross, his limbs twisted and mangled, his flesh ripped, in all the physical anguish that is possible for a human to bear.

Sit with that for a moment. Because when we say “Jesus died on the cross” it can be a distant concept – an idea that’s too far, too alien for us to see clearly. But this is where we see it. The agony. The loneliness. The heart-breaking torturous physical pain.

You would think this would be the point that Jesus is trying to communicate in as few words as possible. And it is an important one – because it connects us to the realness of his suffering.

But Psalm 22 doesn’t end there.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him – may your hearts live forever!” (Ps 22:5)

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22: 30-31)

If these were Jesus’ last implied words, these are profound. The praise. The promise. The hope. The certainty. He has done it.

This Easter Friday, remember. Reconnect with the memory of the cross. Sit for a moment in the startling realness of what Jesus went through. It makes what has been done all the more astonishing and wonderful.

What if you could see yourself the way others do?

Is confidence seeing yourself as others do? Or is it seeing yourself as you would like to be seen? Is it being fierce and fabulous or quiet and sure? Or is it just being content with the way you are?

The point may be moot since I’ve never met a woman who was completely confident in herself. We may be confident in some areas of our lives and looks but not with our whole body and life, and not all the time. There’s always something we’d like to change. There’s always something we’d like to do better, or more of, or less of.

Some of these insecurities run deep. Some of us take prescription meds to function. Some of us self-medicate in other ways. Some of us try and hide what we don’t want people to see. Some of us just can’t bring ourselves to believe what others tell us. Why? Because it’s arrogant to believe we’re great? Because its vulgar to brazenly accept compliments? Because we can’t, in the deepest darkest places of our hearts, believe that kind of thing is true?

Not me, we think. Not me. And we laugh a little too hard, or shrug it away, or blush and change the subject. All the while we live our lives in clothes that are a bit too big, so we can cover the lumps and bumps, and not saying things because we might show ourselves up, or saying things we don’t mean so people don’t find out what we really think.

It’s all about hiding. As though if people saw or knew the real us, they wouldn’t like it.

As Christians, there is an extra anxiety. In the book of Romans, it says “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Not me, we think. It’s a knee-jerk reaction in our brains. Not me. God couldn’t love me. Christ didn’t die for me.

We know in our brains that God loves us. But believing it is something else.

Why? When God has shown his love by sacrificing his own son to bring us to him, why would we doubt for a second his love for us?

You know, I think its because our faith is in ourselves rather than in him. That sounds wrong because surely with low self-esteem, we have no faith in ourselves! But actually, if we believe our self-talk rather than God’s, what does that say? Our faith is in what we think about ourselves, rather than what God has explicitly said about us.

I have been learning a lot lately about life and faith and courage. I feel stronger in spirit and closer to God than ever before. And yet, in my head, I am a lumpy old potato. That is not how God sees me.

A friend recently bought me a make-over and photo session. I would never normally do something like that I have to admit I was terrified and cried a bit too – I knew I wanted to look fabulous, but there is the whole potato-truth thing. There is no photo that can cover that up.

Well, I did it. And it was hard. But it was so worth it. It really made me question where self-image comes from, and why I find it so hard to believe God over myself.

So how do we believe it? Here’s my thinking:

Give it time. You can’t believe something overnight. Especially something as intensely personal as this. Allow it to percolate through your thinking over time. Which leads to my second marker;

Think about it. Don’t avoid thinking about it. Actually make a point of ruminating on it. Thinking about it repeatedly makes it normal, and it needs to be normal.

Take the focus off yourself and put it on God. Let’s stop thinking in terms of what I think about myself and instead think about what God thinks. Write it down. Writing it down makes it concrete. You can go back and look at it in black and white. It’s real.

What would you write? Try thinking about all the amazing things that you do and are. Here’s some starters – God sees me as:

  1. His child
  2. His chosen one
  3. A mum
  4. A woman who can make my kids feel better just by hugging them
  5. A woman who strives to learn about God
  6. A woman of enormous curiosity

Try it. Keep adding to it. If you’re so inclined, scrapbook it. Add pictures. Draw on it. Do it with friends if you find it too hard to start. Do what you like. But on those days when you need it, go and review it and know that the list is written in your hand, and be inspired by how God sees you and your ability to see it too.

Finally, know that having confidence is a quiet thing and its not a forever thing. It is quiet because it is a calm knowledge of how God sees you, which will always be better than we see ourselves. And its not a forever thing because it’s not like we can “get confidence” and then keep it forevs. It rises and falls, it ebbs and flows. There will be good days and bad days. But not for God. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

In the meantime, here’s what a lumpy old potato looks like when you put make-up on it.