Here it is:
I am FAR worse a person than you think I am.
I am not saying this to be self-denigrating. I am not eliciting sympathy, flattery or anything of the sort. I am merely putting this out there so we'll all be on the same page. Even if you are one of my critics, this statement is still true. If you think I'm self-absorbed, you're right, but probably I'm more than that - narcissistic even. If you think I waste time, you're right, but more than you know. What I'm saying is, no matter what light you view me in (and I know, for most of you, it's positive), you are probably far too generous is your estimations. Granted, I'm more than a little nutty - extremely bizarre and unique might qualify. But I'm not referring here to my idiosyncrasies, of which I have more than a few. I am referring to all my own worst qualities, and even the good ones which are only displayed by the grace of God.
I can't get very far without referring to grace. I was itching to get it out and had to endure that whole first paragraph with out it. You see, lately, and for much of my life, I have had some very direct people tell me exactly what they think of me (in my more negative modes) and it has been a most unpleasant experience. I am sure most of my readers rarely experience these painful episodes, but in case you too experience the harsh criticisms of others, let me walk you through my journey as I continue to process the lambastings I occasionally receive.
First I take it all in. Oh, my - does he/she really think this of me?! That's horrible! To describe me - ME of all people, in such a way! It takes my breath away. Slowly, very slowly, I begin to realize that these initial thoughts are steeped in self-love, self-respect and pride. Then I say, "Lord, You know I am all those things and worse...in fact, you know me inside and out, and you know I am far more wicked than this person has just described." Does this make me shrink to a pea on the floor? No. Because this is not the end of the road. If I stopped there I would live the rest of my days in abject shame and humiliation.
In thinking this through with my heart open before God (in the spirit of the Psalmist who said, '...all my thoughts lie open before you') I imagine God looking at me and knowing the wretchedness of my heart and I realize He must keep me from even seeing beyond the surface of my own failings, because if He allowed me to see more or even close to a smidgen of the amount of failings in my life I would spend the rest of my life is severe depression (with a 'woe is me' expression plastered perpetually on my face). Speaking of 'woe is me' it was wonderful to hear in a sermon last week that though Isaiah said this of himself when in the presence of God, we who are redeemed by the blood of His Son do not need to have such an horrific, self-debasing expression in His presence because we stand before Him as righteous - as righteous as His Son! What a privilege!
If I just stopped at thinking of my failings I would be of all people most miserable. Any issue in my life that fails to be confronted with the gospel of God's grace is an UNredeemed issue. The issue of my imperfections must come to terms with the reality of how God sees me. Does He rub my nose in my sins and failings? Does He wag His finger in my nose and say, 'see, see here Sarah, you filthy rotten sinner...'? No, a thousand times NO!
You see, I am His child, and all those icky things in my life that I have failed to do or that I have wrongly done are paid for by His shed blood on the cross. So, the secret can be out: I AM worse than you think. But no matter - because it shouldn't be something you pay much attention to anyways. In fact, thinking on others' faults and failings is a gruesome pastime and best left to...well, the accuser of the redeemed for one.
The gospel truth of redemption is a healing balm for my sin-sick soul. It should be for yours too! The natural reaction to criticism is often self-justification. But that is not a gospel-based reaction. The reaction needs to be, 'Oh yes, I am as bad as you say and worse. But Jesus died to pay for my sins and for yours too (like the sin of unfairly criticizing others, for one), and so we need not dwell on the topic.' That would be the first step. The second, in my heart anyways, is to work on keeping bitterness and anger at bay before I fall into another pit of unholiness.
You see, in all I have said, my goal is to encourage us all to not miss the grace of God - in all our dealings.
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15