One of my favorite quotes is the following:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s a quote I revisit time and time again because I always have this habit of feeling inferior to others. It’s an awful habit—one I’m trying to kick.
When I was in my 20s, I promised myself that when I turned 30, I’d suddenly care less what other people thought of me. That hasn’t happened yet. I’m learning that not caring about what other people think of me is a process. I succeed sometimes; other times I fail miserably. I can’t continue to see myself as the pimply little teenager who was self-conscious about everything people said about her (although I am the same person). If someone called me a lesbian today, now I’d laugh and sort of embrace it. I’m secure in my marriage (to my husband who is, yes, a guy and always has been) and in my sexuality. People can think what they want to think but at the end of the day, I have to focus on the opinions of those closest to me. And these are the people who really matter.
See? Like I said, I have my moments when I can simply “let go” of what others think of me.
I think my feelings of inferiority are also tired to my sleeping pattern. Depending on how much (or little) sleep I get, people can really get to me. I suspect this is what the saying of “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” means.
I often give my uninformed consent to feel inferior. But perhaps Mrs. Roosevelt said what she said because she struggled so much with it herself. I don’t know at what age she said it but I’m pretty sure she was older than 30. However, I recognize getting over an inferiority complex is a process. One that I will not be perfect at, but by the grace of God, will get better at.
I am none of those things tonight. I have none of those things tonight. I am empty. I will press forward with life as I struggle to understand how God fits into the every day of life and namely, where He specifically is in mine.
Walking the path of orthodox Christianity is not easy. Yet somehow, every day this is what I inadvertently choose.
I am either a damned fool or bloody brilliant.
All my plans fell through my hands,
They fell through my hands.
All my dreams,
It suddenly seems,
It suddenly seems…
From Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz:
Penny has painful memories of her mother slipping into delusion, first believing John Kennedy was her lover, then claiming she was being hunted by the FBI. Her mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic when Penny was a child. Today Penny’s mother lives on the streets of Seattle where she adamantly refuses help from anyone, including Penny.
Penny once told me that no matter how gingerly she put the puzzle of her past together, she was always cut by the sharp edges: the fact that her mother was stoned while giving birth, the enticing but deceptive delusions presented to her as a child, and the breakup, not only of her mother from her father, but her mother from all reality. When I talk to Penny about driving up to Seattle to meet her mother, she tells me that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience, that her mother will hate me.
“She hates everybody, Don. She thinks people are out to get her. If I call her on the phone in the shelter, she will come to the phone and hang it up. She doesn’t answer my letters. She probably doesn’t even open them.”
“But she was normal at one time, right?” I once asked.
“Yes, she was beautiful and fun. I loved my mom, Don, and I still do. But I hate that her mind has been taken. I hate that I can’t have normal interaction with her.”
Penny is not alone in her sentiments; I felt the same way about my father before he died.
From Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz:
A long time ago I went to a concert with my friend Rebecca. … I heard this folksinger was coming to town, and I thought she might like to see him because she was a singer too. … Between songs, though, he told a story that helped me resolve some things about God. The story was about his friend who is a Navy SEAL. He told it like it was true, so I guess it was true, although it could have been a lie.
The folksinger said his friend was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building in some dark part of the world. His friend’s team flew in by helicopter, made their way to the compound and stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room, the folksinger said, was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans. The SEALs asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. They were not of healthy mind and didn’t believe their rescuers were really Americans.
The SEALs stood there, not knowing what to do. They couldn’t possibly carry everybody out. One of the SEALs, the folksinger’s friend, got an idea. He put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages, getting so close his body was touching some of theirs. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them. He was trying to show them he was one of them. None of the prison guards would have done this. He stayed there for a little while until some of the hostages started to look at him, finally meeting his eyes. The Navy SEAL whispered that they were American and were there to rescue them. Will you follow us? he said. The hero stood to his feet and one of the hostages did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go. The story ends with all the hostages safe on an American aircraft carrier.
I never liked it when the preachers said we had to follow Jesus. Sometimes they would make Him sound angry. But I liked the story the folksinger told. I liked the idea of Jesus becoming man, so that we would be able to trust Him, and I like that He healed people and loved them and cared deeply about how people were feeling.
When I understood that the decision to follow Jesus was very much like the decision the hostages had to make to follow their rescuer, I knew then that I needed to decide whether or not I would follow Him. The decision was simple once I asked myself,
- Is Jesus the Son of God,
- are we being held captive in a world run by Satan, a world filled with brokenness, and
- do I believe Jesus can rescue me from this condition?
I like that story about the Navy SEAL, true or not. I like to think of Jesus as my rescuer becoming like me, crouching beside me in my brokenness, putting his arm around my shoulder, and asking me to follow Him.
I like that very much. Thank you for that illustration, Mr. Miller.
A quote I found interesting:
When you talk to the people who walk down the aisle at a Billy Graham crusade to make a “first-time Christian commitment,” who say something called the “sinner’s prayer” in response to an evangelistic invitation, or who join a new church, you discover that over 90 percent of them are already lifelong churchgoers. That means that over 90 percent of the so-called new converts come from the 40 percent of the population who are already “in the choir,” and less than 10 percent come from the “unchurched majority.” So we have a lot of Baptists becoming Pentecostals, and Catholics becoming Episcopalians, and so on, but surprisingly few “unchurched people” getting connected with the church. (p. 4)
McLaren’s point is interesting in light of this piece from the Huffington Post, “Listen Up, Evangelicals: What Non-Christians Want You To Hear”: http://is.gd/aaCCI. An observation from this piece that struck me:
“I have no problem whatsoever with God or Jesus – only Christians.”
Sad. I have heard this from other Christians as well.
Sometimes one of our friends or loved ones becomes a spiritual paralytic. The affliction or trial he or she has undergone has virtually immobilized the person spiritually. He is unable to help himself. Not only that, but the spiritual “mat” he is lying on — that is, faith in God and trust in His promises — is no more than the equivalent of a thin, straw-filled mattress. If you try to encourage him through Scripture, he will look at you blankly and tell you Scripture just doesn’t mean anything to him anymore. he has tried to claim God’s promises, but nothing “works.” God just isn’t there.
This person has become an awkward, heavy spiritual burden. You cannot pray with him, you can only pray for him. But just as the paralytic’s friends persisted until they brought him to Jesus, so we too must persist in bringing this person to the throne of grace until God heals him spiritually. — Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace (p. 234)
Bridges is describing me right now. If you’re reading this and you think of it, pray for me. Thanks.
“Father, I know I have looked to things like status and success for a sense of well-being. I’ve grown depressed when I couldn’t achieve them. I have minimized your immense love for me in Christ. For that, I deserve your condemnation. But because of what Christ has done for me, I am accepted by you — not just tolerated, but wonderfully embraced by you. As I take each step today, help me to know that you are for me and with me. While I may struggle with depression, I am first and foremost your beloved child. Let these truths and your personal presence give me courage to move into my life and my relationship with [my spouse.]”
— Prayer adapted from p. 160 of Relationships
by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp