Feeling Second Best

       If you struggle with feeling second best, pinpointing life-events that Favoritismshaped this perception come easy. Maybe, you felt the least growing up in your family, or the last to be considered in social events. Perhaps you were always second choice in relationships, or passed-over for a job promotion–whatever the situation, coming in second (especially multiple experiences) can leave an impression on the heart that lasts a life time.
       People deal with the effects of being bypassed (or discounted) differently. One person might be inclined to fold on an opportunity too soon because they don’t want to deal with losing to someone else. Another person might be inclined to aggressively pursue an opportunity in efforts to come in first place. Either way the motives are stemming from the same place; that nagging fear of not quite measuring up.

       What can be done for the dilemma of feeling second best? Firstly, it is good to be aware that the “emptiness” felt in this struggle is normal. However, trying to fill that space with the wrong kind of reassurance leads to an even greater void. This is why it is important to recognize that the deep sensation of emptiness is not a reflection on you or your value. It has nothing to do with the real you, only the perceived you in someone elses faulty perception. Which brings us to our second point, more often than not, it is not you, but something off in the heart of the favorer. 

       A favorer is easy to recognize. They tend to favor superficial things or people for superficial reasons. You may have all the necessary qualifications and still be overlooked simply out of shallow preference. It is good to remember that the word superficial has the meaning of lacking depth. Therefore, not only is the recipient being favored for a reason that lacks substance, but the favorer themselves are lacking in depth of an important character, “But if you show favoritism, you sin…” (James 2:9). Remember, someone else being favored over you never takes away your true value, but is generally an indication that the favorer needs a heart adjustment. We have all been here at some point “favoring.” Our “feeling second best” can serve as a reminder to resist the favoring of others for superficial reasons.

       Consider David the shepherd boy in the Bible. Even the prophet Samuel (a man of God) erroneously miscalculated his value, favoring the impressive. When God called Samuel to anoint His choice for a new king from among Jesse’s sons, David was not first, second, or third …but eighth choice in Samuel’s estimation. My goodness! talk about not measuring up!

       Do you remember what God said to Samuel regarding this error of judgement?

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7)

       The Scripture is replete with similar scenarios. Consider for yourself the great men and women used of God. Were they not second choice in the world’s eyes? What about Gideon? How about Joseph? Think about Esther, and don’t forget the impoverished Mary. And the list goes on.

       Based on God’s Word we can confidently assert that not measuring up by the world’s standards is never a deterrent. In God’s economy it is rather a catalyst for great things. Extraordinary adventures await those who are overlooked in this this world!

“…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

(1 Cor 1:26-29)

74153141_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7757254Joy and peace come from learning to walk in the design God has for our thinking. Every day we battle with old thought patterns and emotions that hold us captive. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking leads us step by step; taking us deep into truths that set us free to live into a new narrative, one of confidence and purpose—the story we were meant to live.

Anxiety Defined

Anxiety is define as a painful uneasiness of the mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. It produces an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension, often marked by sweating, tension, and an increased pulse. Frequently, self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with certain situations prompts anxiety.

This type of apprehension can stem from childhood traumas and fears, even if a person does not remember the individual circumstances or instances. It still plagues their present-day life with overwhelming waves of anxiety. _89876529_m2451312-depressed_woman-spl

People who struggle with anxiety feel limited and bound by this emotional state. Many times a person who is in the middle of an anxious episode becomes immobilized. This can cause social, relational, and occupational challenges which may compel a person to live within limitations to avoid pain and uneasiness.

A very restricted life often feels like the only option for the person with this struggle. Although, they desire and dream of it being otherwise, they are quickly brought back to reality by impending concern. It is a continuous and weary cycle. 

The realization that person cannot overcome this trial on their own is correct. Self-help techniques offer no lasting remedy. Whatever the source of the original trouble, the problem can always be traced back to one root issue: the frailty of the human spirit. 

What feeble people we are! Sadly, many do not realize it. But the one who struggles with anxiety knows it with all certainty–and this is a wonderful posture of the heart to start the healing process. The truth is that we are but dust. Our very next breath for survival comes only by God’s constant provision. It is God who upholds the weak–something we are by design. 

Do not long for worldly confidence. Those who are filled with self-assurance are headed for great disillusionment. Anxiety’s presence simply means we realize the feebleness of our human state. This posture of the heart and mind can be the humble beginning of great change that can be discovered only through the strength of the Holy Spirit. God is pleased to show Himself strong on behalf of the weak in this world. 

The Scriptures teach that … “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong …”(1 Corinthians 1:27). 

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, there is help, hope, and divine strengthening to be had. The Bible tells us that young Timothy struggled with timidity, but he was emboldened by the Spirit to do great and brave things that otherwise he would have never been able to do. 

74153141_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_7757254Joy and peace come from learning to walk in the design God has for our thinking. Every day we battle with old thought patterns and emotions that hold us captive. Blue Skies: Beyond The Dark Clouds Of Broken Thinking leads us step by step; taking us deep into truths that set us free to live into a new narrative, one of confidence and purpose—the story we were meant to live. 

When We Think We Have Nothing To Offer

When the bible talks about the parable of the talents we might initially think it’s referring to “performance”. Although the mind naturally gravitates towards manifestations of achievement, the bible is not speaking in these terms when giving instructions on how to live or give. Being good steward of our talents is not an increase of works, but increase of our conscious connection to God, and the choices that flow from that connection in everyday life. A perfect God working through imperfect people through grace–if not for grace we could not even have this mental and spiritual acumen at all.

For example in the story of Rahab…her actions by our standards of Christian morality would seem tainted at the very least. In her lauded works of faith we find great Rahabmoral discrepancy. She was first off a prostitute, not a typical vessel one might see carrying out divine plans of faith. Secondly, while performing this holy endeavor she blatantly lies and deceives when confronted. Where is the moral fiber in this story? Wouldn’t we say of Rahab that she came up short in deposit of talents in the spiritual bank?

Indeed not. Rahab pictures perfectly for us the stewardship of conscious connection to God. What we see pouring out of her life is faith-works wrought through grace. The grace God had given her opening her mind to His reality. It was a work done inside her heart. Knowing very little about theology of the Hebrew God–she simply believed. That belief in turn spurred in her actions moved by her conscious connection to the Living God. Faith! A sure conviction that He was, indeed, true.

Interesting that God would use such an rough, uncouth, and imperfect person in bringing about the rescue of his people–redeeming her own soul at the very same time.

This is not a random story that happened to make it into the bible–but the way God is pleased to work. He chooses the broken and least of the world, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” (1 Cor 1:27-29). True acts of faith showcase God, not us. A talent that puts us on stage can’t multiply. Sure, Rahab may have turned over a new moral leaf in life after these historical events took place. But those are not the things listed of her in the hall of faith recorded Hebrews 11. God did not give Rahab the idea that she had to get her act together in order to be used mightily of Him. It was all a part of His grace reaching down and opening up her heart to Him. Seeds of grace God planted in Rehab’s that sprung forth and multiplied… Dare I even say that we are even a direct product of this faith-work.

Absolutely! This is our spiritual lineage–she is one of the matriarchs listed in the geology of Christ. So the next time you feel like you aren’t good enough, a failure, or any other critical judgment that comes from the world…Think of Rahab. Or, if we should think of ourselves more highly than we ought, polished with all the right Christian trimmings…let us again think of our dear mother Rehab. It’s only when God through the work of Jesus begins to reveal to our heart His complete love and acceptance of us that our faith becomes activated–and instantly we become a good steward of a sure and certain truth that we can take to the spiritual bank.

Two Sides To Every Story

It was during a bible study in the book of Daniel I became struck with the stark reality—there are always two sides to every story. This realization flooded my mind as I read about two dreams; King Nebuchadnezzar’s and Daniel’s both of the same event. The dreams were prophesy about kingdoms that would rise and fall. However, the kingdom’s leader looked different in each dream. One dream described the leader as a head of gold (King Two Sides To Every StoryNebuchadnezzar’s dream) and in the other (Daniel’s dream) a vicious lion. They were dreaming the the same dream, but with very different descriptions of a main character. But why? Keep in mind both dreams were initiated by God.

The American Commentary offers a plausible explanation, “The image with its glittering metals portrays the world’s kingdoms from humanity’s viewpoint—impressive and great, whereas the beasts depict these earthly kingdoms from God’s perspective—vicious and destructive.” What a great reminder that God is keenly aware of both views—our earthly perspectives, what we see with our physical senses, as well as, the higher truer view which we discern with our spiritual sense by God’s revelation.

He uses both to unfold the marvels of life’s mysteries. In other words, there are always two perspectives occurring at the same time of the same event. An example of this might be a trial that is happening in your life. Let’s say a person you love has betrayed you. This makes you hurt/angry at the person from a temporal perspective. From a higher perspective Gods sees that Satan’s influence is behind it. You see and feel the wounds from a flesh and blood loved-one, but God sees the satanic influence that has generated it in the first place. You have valued your loved one like gold so it’s painful. That’s a valid perspective. But, the truth is a vicious lion has made his way into the story. You aren’t battling your loved one but an opposing force bent on causing a division.

So, let’s consider this question… in the two dreams in the book of Daniel was the character a head of gold or a vicious lion? It was both. But the second was a truer reality of the first from a higher perspective. In our humanness we will often get stuck on only the human side of a view because that’s what we see. But remember—there is always a simultaneous event occurring, an unseen reality that warrants our consideration. And when we contemplate both views it changes our perspective. Drawing from a higher eternal perspective helps us in our ability to deal with the personal pain of a trial. God’s view is always a more trustworthy perspective.

Yes, we still hurt because someone we valued as gold has let us down, but we realize we are not really fighting the person to the degree we thought, but the influence driving them. Ephesians describes it this way “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

 

When Our Loved Ones Step Away From The Church

      What feels like our loved ones turning their backs on faith may actually be a part of a phenomenon called deconstruction. Although the word “deconstruction” is fairly new (from the 1960’s) the essence behind it has been around since the beginning of time. In other words, this current popular term has old roots. Understanding this may help put intoIMG_6758 perspective the deconstruction process our friends or family may be experiencing. Simply put, deconstruction is a season of critical examination and reorientation.
      As threatening is this may feel to the religious community there’s really a very healthy aspect to it. For instance, if a grown child comes home from college and announces they have different ideas about their faith, listening to their new thoughts instead of being defensive, could prove beneficial. Even if it feels like an affront, seeking to understand underlying reasons could bring deeper insight into our own faith and need for deconstruction.
      In a recent bible study a concern was raised about adult-children falling away from the faith. I explained that some might not be turning their in back on faith at all, but rather faith “practices” and faith “expressions”. They might be discovering their own wings in spiritual matters. After class a woman pulled me aside and said this thought gave her great hope. So many parents are desperate to understand what’s going on with the children they’ve raised in the church. They feel distraught. But these emotions are based on the very tightly wound bubble of Christianity that our sons and daughters may be trying to deconstruct. As unsettling as it feels, we can be reassured that true and living faith isn’t lost or threatened by investigating and questioning religious traditions and theologies. In fact, politics and philosophies that surround our faith may be in need of a good sifting.
      There are many different bubbles within the larger bubble of the Christian Culture. A recent study suggest there are over 40,000 denominations. Each denomination carries its own unique system of theology and tradition. I remember my own bubble. I was young and a single mom at the time. The church I attended became my world. As a result my Spiritual experience became an imposed training ground for my children. But those learned Christian experiences, at some point, would naturally need to be deconstructed in order for my children to discover faith for themselves—and often that is direct result of seeing life outside their fixed church culture.
      One of my own deconstruction processes came about when God placed three son-in-laws in my life within a three year time period. Each of these young men came from different denominational backgrounds, and each highly educated in their beliefs and doctrines, holding Doctorates and Masters of Divinity. Two were actually pastors and the other a pastor’s son. The discussions in my home between these newly formed families (my son-in-laws and my daughters) were intense at times. Add to this my ultra savvy single daughters, one who was a Moody Bible College graduate. The strong differences were in the individual theologies, and each was as solid as the next. But stronger than their differences was the one unifying bond–Jesus and the work of the cross. The conflict in cultures however caused great soul searching for me. It was a revelation that serious Christians can feel and behave very differently due to their upbringing, traditions, and convictions. Through many of their conversations I could see cracks in my own bubble that only surfaced because of the challenge it presented. My little Christian world was obviously not the only world. Thus, deconstruction naturally ensued as God used my three son-in-laws to help me cultivate a deeper faith in Him, rather than in systems of theologies.
      Because the church is made up of fallible humans-beings deconstruction is inevitable. And as history unfolds and cultures change the need for examination and reorientation continues. But sometimes we fear so much for someone in the deconstruction process that we forget to let God be God in theirs lives instead of us. Loosening our hold and trusting God through the ups and downs of deconstruction will ultimately provide a safe place.
       Even methods of communication in the religious world transform over time. I remember asking one of Billy Graham’s grandsons why he didn’t hold crusades like his grandfather. His answer impressed upon me the reality of change. He told me tent meetings were obsolete since the internet has made everyone a potential evangelist. Although the gospel itself never changes—theologies, preferences, ceremonies, and deliveries around it constantly evolve.
      Never-the-less, some segments of Christianity continue to impose harsh and legalistic applications. They assert ideologies from these bubbled-places rather than listening and respecting when disagreed with. These expectations become like iron bars. Here is where we find some of the greatest necessity for deconstruction. Keep in mind people who are in this process may be labeled deserters. But often they are not abandoning the faith, they are simply abandoning the bubble.
      A Scripture verse that needed deconstruction for me was Romans 12:2 which says “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be renewed in the transformation of your mind.” I had been interpreting it in away that kept me bound to the expectations of my particular Christian culture in the past. For instance examining and reevaluating was seen as disloyal and conforming to the world. But taking a closer look at this verse helped me discover something radically freeing!
      The context is actually “grace”. It’s staying away from patterns, models, and modes of trying to be good and holy without being transformed in the heart. In the preceding chapter we see God’s plan for a church that looks much different—grace-based. The Apostle Paul reveals God purpose—this way no one can say, “I’m this or that” or “my behaviors are superior”. All became level by means of unilateral disobedience. God has bound everyone to disobedience—so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32)
      In other words, when Scripture says do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, it’s talking about our constant default as humans to make our theologies about us, about our goodness, or our preferences, our interpretations. He did not want our Christianity to become a badge of superiority which causes us to thinking too highly of ourselves and treat others with contempt (me vs. you). The scripture could be understood this way, “Do not be conformed to worldly patterns of proud spirituality”. The context makes this clear in the preceding verse which says, “I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) And the looking at the verse after which says, “For by the grace given me I say to everyone among you not to think to of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:3-5) It is clear that we are to be poured out as living spiritual offerings unto the Lord for the sake of one another (me for you). This flies in the face of the patterns of the world–not by thinking ourselves superior. Grace is opposite of the world way of doing religion, “If by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
      If my old perspectives on this one verse can become deconstructed through the lens of grace then all of Scripture invites deconstruction of this nature. It is healthy and good for the soul and not something to be feared. In fact, God is all about deconstruction. Jesus three year ministry on earth displayed a continual pattern of deconstruction as he spoke against the legalism of the Pharisees (the spiritual leaders of the day). And Galatians 3:3 doesn’t doesn’t pull any punches when addressing Christians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish be means of the flesh?”
      Even ministries that start off altruistic begin to morph into business and profit centers. Programs are honed to please people and bring in revenue. Tithes from struggling congragants are used for staff retreats and office remodels. Critical examination and reorientation will always be needed because of human tendency to conform churches and ministry agendas to the patterns of this world.
      The Apostle Paul also speaks in deconstruction terms in 1 Corinthians 3:12 when he paints a mental illustration of Jesus as the foundation. That is, Jesus’ work on the cross being our righteousness (not our own). He goes onto to say that anything built on this foundation will be examined (deconstructed) and if found without certain qualities—destroyed. The highest quality materials like grace (which is golden), and mercy (like precious stones) will remain. But works that look and feel impressive on the outside, yet, empty on the inside will be like hay which is burned-up.
      If we have put our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ we are all in this together no matter where we are on the bubble and deconstruction spectrum. Both loving and wrestling with a church that hasn’t been perfected yet, and won’t be this side of heaven. Your loved-one or friend who has stepped away temporarily is somewhere in this process. The best thing we can do for each other as we go through deconstruction is to pray, listen, and show kindness, respect, and grace. These materials are tried and true and go the distance. In the end God will perform the ultimate deconstruction, “I will shake not only the earth but also the the heavens…the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things [including our religious bubbles]–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27) “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)