I've always felt uncomfortable with compliments. I used to think it was because I didn't have enough self-esteem or I was believing the lies about my worth. Lately I've realized that I was closer to the truth when I cringed at the kind observations. I knew then what I still know: I don't deserve it. If that sounds like an insecure little girl fishing for compliments, stop right there. I'm more secure now than I've ever been in my life. But my security isn't in my abilities, my talents, or any of the other gifts I've been blessed with. My security is solely in Almighty God.
Failure is one of the things I used to be good at. I would throw my whole heart into something with abandon, believing that I had it all figured out, and end up face-down in the consequences of my decisions. And believe me, I could rationalize anything. One of my gifts was investing into my own personal perspective. At times, I was even devoted to it enough to make everyone else sound like fools when they contradicted me. I'd convinced a lot of people that my plans made sense. After all, I had faith in my talents and my charm, and so did they. Life would just work itself out within all the good intentions of myself and the people who cared for me. Everyone talked a lot, including me. We lived lifetimes within our words until finally our actions stepped forward. Neglect and lack of focus made our words meaningless. The reality would set in and we would be left with fragments of goals and ambitions, and with little hope for success. Then I would surrender to failure, the ever-present shadow behind every one of my self-centered dreams. So it became my home-base, my starting-over point, and my sanctuary: failure.
You can go a couple of places when you're good at something like failure. You can become bitter and enraged with the "unfairness" of it all, or you can be humiliated and feel small and helpless. I suppose I fluctuated between the two, which made for very unpleasant company to say the least. But even crazy people can find others to wrap themselves in. During my bitter times I would find gentle people to manipulate and live vicariously through. With my amazing powers of insight I would dissect them and break open their illusions and feel powerful again. After I saw the damage I had done to those weaker than myself, I retreated into humiliation and shame. During those times of cowering and disintegrating I surrounded myself with powerful people I recognized who would reaffirm my weaknesses and subdue my dangerous impulses to dream. They kept me down for years as self-punishment for my time of reckless abandon.
You see, I don't deserve to be called "kind" or "beautiful" or "a good person". I've looked on as my words tore holes in people that may never heal. I've stood by as cruelty raged and I could have done something to stop it. I've heaped shovel-fulls of sin, my own and others', onto the head and shoulders of the innocent. I deserve destruction, death, and hell. So do you, by the way. Put that in your self-esteem pipe.
Enter: Jesus, stage right. As I was staring at the gaping mouth of flames, I understood His love. When I was flat on the ground trying to hide myself beneath the falling rocks, I understood His mercy. While the desperation of my heart cried out in infantile wailing, I understood His powerful, sovereign grace. The more I see of Him, the less I think of myself. How do I esteem myself now that I've seen Him? Dirt, dust, nothing... and like Job I loathe myself.
You may see something more delightful in me than I see in myself. Good observation and thanks, but please don't give me credit for it. If I'd had my way I would have sold it to the highest bidder. Anything that only appears "good" in me will be burned away by His presence of perfection. Everything truly good in me is only Him and that's all that will remain in the end. The rest is my surrender and my obedience. If I'm truly good in any way now, it's because He made it so. It's not me, OK? Let me show you what I was without Him.
I was an empty shell of a person with no life of her own, gasping in the air He provided in order to act out my sin and rebellion. I was part of this obstinate creation, hell-bent on scraping my own worth out of this fleeting existence. I was gnashing my teeth at God in arrogant self-righteousness, telling Him how things ought to be. I was born into it, I bled it, I oozed it: SIN. Just like everyone else conceived in this realm. You're welcome.
It's only by God's saving act of mercy that I live. He purchased me with the blood of His Son. I have no right to myself, I never did. I was born for Hell until He rescued me for Heaven. All I can do is praise Him, wait on Him, and marvel at His work in me. I'm just along for the ride. But, thanks for the compliment anyway. It's nice to know my Jesus is showing.