Sticks & stones.

“What other people think of me is none of my business” // Eleanor Roosevelt.

Day in and day out, I find myself battling the thoughts others fill my mind with. Some indirectly smother me with these thoughts. Others go out of their way and point their gangly finger in my face with words of criticism. Regardless of who I am, what I do, or who I want to become, I have grown to realize that no matter what I do, I cannot escape those voices.

However, as if on cue, God has awakened my eyes and heart to something more. Because of His great mercy and love, I can say that I have grown because of trials, through trials, and in the midst of trials. I am so weak on my own. With Jesus, I can stand firm. Repeat that with me. I am weak on my own. I am weak on my own.

I am weak on my own.

Here’s what I wrote a few nights ago, in tears, laying in bed, bombarded with thoughts others have tried to convince me of, and even thoughts I have convinced myself of.

Often we take the victim standpoint. “You wronged me” or “you hurt me” are very justifiable statements that I, myself, have repeated over and over again in the dark of the night. However, when we take on that persona, we are risking much, much more.

When we allow ourselves to be beaten down by others, through our hurt, we often hurt others. We allow words and actions to define us, and what we allow to define us is often portrayed in our actions to others.

Think of it this way: you’re young and in love, you feel loved, you feel important and special and your heart seems as if it is indeed smiling through your chest. In those times, it is SO very easy to treat people the same way. Your feeling of being loved and important and wanted is contagious. Incurable optimism or the joy of our Savior — it’s practically leaking from you. Oh how I wish that was the only contagious emotion.

However, there are dark times in our lives where we feel as unimportant as anyone could possibly feel. Because of words said by others, actions done purposely or on accident, we identify ourselves by what the world tries to tell us we are. We feel isolated. We feel as if no one understands. We feel unimportant, unwanted, and certainly not loved. What we allow our heart to dwell on is typically what we portray in our actions. Whether we lash out in anger or bitterness, or cower in depression and hurt feelings of insecurity, it still affects those around us. What you feel in your heart is IMPOSSIBLE to hide from the world, and most importantly from those closest to you. Think of the days you lashed out in anger toward people, or were so impatient with the most simple of issues, it was probably because someone wronged YOU or hurt YOU, or YOU weren’t feeling good about YOURSELF. Where you find your worth every single day of your life is how your life will be dictated every single day of your life.

When we choose to find our identity in Jesus, the opinions and words of criticism spoken in anger and bitterness from others, play no role in our eternal lives. When I say identity, I don’t mean simply calling yourself a child of God. I don’t even mean simply forgiven, loved, or accepted by God. I mean entirely, irrevocably immersed in WHO your God is, not in who YOU are. What you look like, what you accomplish, what your job is, or who is in your life at this moment mean nothing. The focal point was always Jesus and will always be Jesus. It is coming to the realization that regardless of what insults the world hurls at you — and they will always hurl at you, no matter who you are and what you do — your identity is never shaken. You are grounded in Jesus and FOUND in Jesus.

That critic will observe you with a magnifying glass, trying their hardest to discover something about you that can break you and tear you down. And guess what? That still says NOTHING about you. It says EVERYTHING about that person. We follow Jesus… we say we are His only. The leader you are choosing to follow wasn’t accepted by the world. He was followed, simply to be mocked and ridiculed and questioned. Regardless of what you do — how you do it — why you do — people will ridicule you.

Take heart. This life isn’t about how many people praise your name. This life is about how you praise your Savior.

Even when the insults come, even when the voices mock.

The very cross your Savior died on was made of sticks and stones.

Beware of the thoughts you allow yourself to believe — many of them are lies. Beware of how you let the words of others channel through your own actions as well. When squeezed and pushed and shaken, what’s in our hearts — what’s deep inside of us — WILL come through. Make sure it’s Jesus that’s being shown. Fill your heart with His goodness.

God has reminded me over and over again, and it seems that I am just now starting to get past the letter A on this outline of notes on what it means to follow Him. I am reminded that words matter and that they can build and burn. Actions and responses matter too. But most importantly, we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the wrong done to us or said about us, but only to the call to love regardless, and to let ourselves be truly identified by JESUS, not sinners… Including ourselves.

It’s funny that God teaches me lessons even when I think I’ve overcome certain issues. Often times He teaches me in serious heartache and loss. But other times He teaches me in simple ways, in my students, in the girls I coach, and on my drive home from work late at night. He never stops teaching me.

What’s your heart filled with today?

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