Sunday, January 13, 2008

More thoughts on perceptions

We are living in a culture of choice. We can also either become obsessive or apathetic in the abundant choices that we do have. At times I tend to be more obsessive than apathetic in my choices. And vice versa! That's when I need to explore my motive: Who is this really for? Who am I trying to please? The answer to those questions, of course, should be, for the Lord.

Often times I feel like I have to justify my choices to others. Why? Because I want to appear a certain way. I want to control and manage others with my words. It could be something simple as mentioning that I got a new dress (on sale or secondhand), or that I made macaroni and cheese last night ( all organic and homemade). Why throw in the details (unless needed)? Who are we doing this for anyway?

Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline speaks of the power of silence:

"One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let our justification rest entirely with God. We don't need to straighten others out."

The truth is, my choices do not make me justified or righteous, however much I believe they do by my actions.

Amy says this is a recent post entitled: "Working women":
"When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath, this was an outrage. In this way, however, we see that God is more interested in our keeping the spirit of His Words and not the letter only. This is how it is possible for a woman to stay at home 24/7 and still sin (in her smugness) while it is possible for a woman to work outside the home, doing so unto the Lord and thereby glorifying God."

In this context, she is speaking of the working woman vs. the stay at home mom, and examining your heart in our choices. We are not justified because we are choosing to be keepers at home or working women. No, the only thing that justifies is the Cross. From there we start, from there we make our choices.

Sometimes I think it's best to keep quiet. (While I write these thoughts on my blog!!) By that I mean, let God be the justifier in our decisions:

"The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation. A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us, so we talk in order to straighten out their understanding. If I have done some wrong thing and discover that you know about it I will be very tempted to help you understand my action! Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on that." ~Richard Foster "Celebration of Discipline"

I am finding that feeling like you have to justify yourself stems deeply in worrying how others will perceive you. Lindsey commented on my last post this:
"I had to ask the girls dance teacher to give us a week extra to make our monthly payment. She was very kind and gracious about it. (my husband ws off work for almost 3 weeks at Christmas with no pay). But then, I walked into class with a grande latte from Starbucks. What the teacher didn't know was I had used one of my Christmas presents--a g.c. to Starbucks--to buy the latte.
I felt like I needed to explain to her: "oh yea, see this latte? I got it with my gift card. MY GIFT CARD. You know, it was a FREE latte. I really can't make my dance payment until next week...sorry." I didn't say it, but I wanted to.
A week later, I'm still worried about that latte and how it made me look?"

Personally, I can relate. But again, we should not feel like we should justify ourselves. The justification has been done already!!

I am reminded of this passage in Psalms 19:1-4:
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.

God is a God of few words! Just looking at the heaven and the earth tells us that there is a God...without having to use words.

So, I'm thinking:

Are my thoughts and deeds what the Lord wants, or what I want, or think they should be?
How can I use fewer words to let people see who I truly am? To let God be my justifier?


Courtney said...

Thanks for the heartfelt post. Wonderful spiritual food for thought.

Sara said...

You definitely read my mind on this one...I've been thinking of this so much lately. I laughed out loud about the organic homemade macaroni. :) I can relate.

I think a lot of my need to justify myself is my lack of understanding of who I truly am in Jesus Christ. If I could get a grasp on that truth, would I really need to concern myself with other people's perception of me?

Mindy said...

I have thought a lot recently about in Genesis where God says that He will bless those who bless us and He will curse those who curse us. It's just a good reminder to me that I don't have to defend myself. I do have to mindful of my words (or actions), so that I do not cause anyone to stumble, however when it comes to silly things, it is helpful for me to remember the above. God sees all. He is the only one who knows all, all of our hearts and motives. And really that is all that matters. In blogland it is more difficult because we do not live amongst eachother, but hopefully in my "real" life, people who see me live out my life can learn not to take every word for exactly how they interpret it, but rather see my heart and realize that I don't always communicate perfectly! I am trying to learn how to cut others that slack!

Mindy said...

and just so you perception of you is that you are a woman who is passionately, actively, striving to know, serve, and honor Her creator more!!

On My Mind said...

Oh, how you preached to me this morning.

I'm speechless. Thank you.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

John Ortberg's book, The Life You Always Wanted (which is a great modern take on the spiritual disciplines) touched on this as well. It was eye opening to me. For example, how many times do we say, "I just happened to be watching Oprah--I don't normally watch, and I saw. . . . " Even if it's true, it doesn't matter.

I do tend to justify, but more like Lindsey--hoping to diffuse what I think people might think about me when I say or do something.

And I think that I would have wanted to explain the latte too, because I think if I were granting an extension, in my sinful human judging state I would have thought, "Oh, you can't afford dance, but you can buy a $4 drink??"

That just teaches me that not only should I stop justifying myself but judging others as well.

Terry said...

Using fewer words...always good advice in any circumstance. Maybe if I learn to live before an audience of One, I won't have to justify, because there will no one to justify myself to except that One, who has already justified me! Thanks for pointing this out to me, Andrea.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

You know, good stuff! I have always looked to God as my advocate, but never thought about it in terms of Him being my Justifier! Wow. That is so...freeing? I guess that is the right word. Because God is my Justifier, it gives me freedom to be WHO He created me to be.

Thanks for going deeper on this issue.

Jerusha said...

Wonderful post Andrea. I've wondered if people who are prone to want to justify more are the people who are also more prone to judge others. They are justifying so they don't get judged but also judging other that they even need to justify. I'm a big judger and justifier! Praise the Lord for his grace and mercy!

Christine said...

Whew, you are speaking my language! I've been pondering how I am perceived lately too. I am formulating a post on it in my head. I love your last couple of posts on these thoughts.

anya* said...

yeah, that was a really great post. i was just talking to a friend about this subject today- the need to justify one's self. this really brought it home. thank you.

AIMEE said...

wow...I have been missing some good stuff over here since being gone!!! This was wonderful and I want to meditate on it more.
Looking forward to reading the other entries I have missed.

The Simple Family said...

I've been thinking about justifying and why we need to do it.

While my brain is not letting me think of exact examples, it has been on my mind and I have made an extra effort to stop myself from justifying what I do to others.

Mrs. B. said...

I am so glad you posted this! I am NOT a girl of few words and I think I probably need to be. Thank you so much for putting it a way I've never thought of before.

Mary Brooke said...

I'm going to continue to think on this one for a while. This hits home for me! As a mom of little ones and just starting out in the formal homeschool years, it's been an eye-opening experience. "Oh, we rarely watch videos, go to McDonald's once a year, watched Oprah just when I nursed a newborn with the boys being played with outside"...yada yada. It strikes me as being insecure as opposed to being content in the Lord. And also shows that I am, in fact, judgmental of others! On the other hand, I do believe it is important to not only be "above reproach", but to avoid even the appearance of....not just evil, but other things as well. It's important to be a good example of the life we're called to and to not cause anyone to stumble.

My thoughts are indeed viler than a critic could find, so I love this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24

:..Rebekah..: said...

Oh Andrea, what a wonderful post! As a working mom I struggle with the worry of what other christian stay-at-home moms must think of me. I find that I make sure to explain, "I work graveyard so that I never have to use daycare." Of course, I take pride in that fact, and I also think that maybe I won't be thought of as quite so bad by others if I work while they sleep. Wow, your post really spoke to me, convicted me, and encouraged me all at the same time. I love that you said "The truth is, my choices do not make me justified or righteous, however much I believe they do by my actions." Thanks and God bless!

Andrea said...

Sara--you made a good point. "I think a lot of my need to justify myself is my lack of understanding of who I truly am in Jesus Christ." When we know and understand our worth in Him, we really feel no need to justify. I'll be thinking on that one.

Mary Brooke-you also brought up an important thing to remember to balance all of this out. It is important to note that we should be aware that we should set a good example for others and not allow others to stumble. So, in that regard, we may need to justify verbally to others. My thing is, am I justifying myself to make my appearance look better or want people to see me in a certain way, or am I justifying for other reasons, as I mentioned before. Thanks for your input.

I think you *should* take pride in the fact that you arrange your schedule so you can be with your children! I think it's wonderful. In fact, by saying that to others, it could be very encouraging and could open the door to others to see how you *do* things. Know what I mean?

Kelly said...

Thanks for such a thought provoking post that has made me think about choices and motives. I have been on both sides of the work/at home issue, so this really struck a chord.

:..Rebekah..: said...

Andrea, that's a great point, and thanks for the encouragement!

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

I'm in the midst of this very lesson; remaining quiet while I trust the Lord to be my defense. It. is. so. hard.

And...the Starbucks latte?...I think the explanation to the dance teacher in that case would probably be a good idea, actually. lol.

Amy said...

Great post, Andrea! I am sooooo guilty of "justifying" myself to others. It's the people pleaser in me:) Or maybe it's the judgemental attitude I battle! Either way, thanks for a great lesson taught.