I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.
Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.
Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check…
Both of these passages talk about how a person is blessed when they make God their focus instead of man. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
I didn’t know that this was me until Keller talked about something in Psalm 1:1 where it says that a man who is blessed does not “sit in the seat of scoffers.” The idea of “sitting in the seat” is about where we put our trust, where we lean for belonging or identity. In the last year I have been relatively devastated by a couple of situations concerning people I love dearly. As I listened to this message I realized that one of the bigger reasons for my devastation had to do with how I had been leaning more on these people, on my relationship to them and their opinion of me, than I was leaning on God.
You probably don’t live that way, I’m sure, so it’s humbling to admit.
I’ll tell you one of the most difficult lessons in my life has been the balance of allowing myself to be vulnerable with people and open to them without seeking to find my identity within our relationship. Growing up with a single mother, being a big feeler, the youngest daughter and The Fat Kid in school, I have both longed to be seen and loved completely and striven to not need anyone for anything.
At the same time, God continues to counsel me and draw me to himself. When I left Washington in 2011 it was directly out of a failed marriage and into life as a missionary. Many painful land mines have been stepped on and the landscape of my heart has, in a lot of ways been renewed by the last two years of having to lean so heavily on God. Not only have I had to lean on God, but he has been so faithful and trustworthy to meet me here, show me his love and lead me forward.
Even still I recognized myself in this struggle to find my sense of belonging and identity only in God. I’m still learning.
Feeling hurt when people don’t love me as I hope they will is probably pretty normal and that failure to always love completely and well will certainly continue. As I offer up my confession here, I also offer up my faith that God will continue to transform my heart. I believe the outcome of the transformation will be bigger loving and better letting go. The work of that change will be made by God’s hand and his limitless, unfailing love for me.
1 John 3 helps me hang on to this hope:
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”