Temptation and Identity

Until recently, I never saw temptation and identity so entwined as I do now. When most of us think of temptation, we think of temptation to do something super bad like cheating on your spouse or killing someone.  But temptation is far much subtle and yet incredibly so powerful.

It starts with a thought, not an action. 

It starts with our pride and insecurities. 

And as fears, lack and pain flourish, so does our negative behavior. We are powerless to stop the cascading tsunami of thoughts that cause us to question ourselves, others and God.

We cheat. We lie. We cut people down. We steal what’s not ours. We compare. We hurt people. It’s ugly.

Jesus gets it. Seriously. Jesus, the perfect Son of God gets what it is to be bombarded with insecurity and pain. I have read the story of the temptation of Jesus many times. I have heard people preach and teach on this passage. But it wasn’t until I was having a conversation with a dear and trusted friend recently, did the light suddenly illuminate in me.

In Luke 4 it is recorded, “Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (V3). Then a few verses later, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please.  I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” (V6-7). And then finally the devil says “If you are the Son of God, jump off!  For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” (V9-11).

The enemy wasn’t just tempting Jesus to do something, he was tempting Jesus to BELIEVE something.

Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus knew it and the enemy knew it. And then he did what he’s being doing since the Garden of Eden… He whispered a question. “If you are the Son of God” (V3 and V9) and then tempted Jesus with something He didn’t have - the praise of man.

Identity and lack. 

Who are you Jesus? Are you who you say you are? Prove it. And wouldn’t you want this life rather than the one you are called to live? 

Doesn’t this sound familiar? As we journey through life, our circumstances cause us to question ourselves. Am I enough? Am I loved? Does God listen to me? Why was I rejected?  

The difference between us and Jesus is that He was perfect and we are flawed human beings. He might have been tempted to believe the whispered lies, but He knew His true identity and was able to overcome.

But we too can overcome! We can let go of the tempting pride, fears and insecurities and embrace the truth of who we are. Before we are anything else in life, we are sons and daughters of the living God. We are loved, heard, seen and known by the God of all creation. In 2 Corinthians 6:18 the bible says, “‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.’ Says the Lord Almighty.” We are loved. We are accepted. We are seen and heard by the Father. He knows us. He delights in us. We belong with Him. Like an empty chair around the dining room table, there’s a void when we don’t turn up, and we are missed.

I find it interesting that in all three accounts of the temptation of Jesus, what follows is His rejection by the religious leaders, He forms His community of disciples, He begins to heal the sick and He begins to preach. Interesting….

 

Yoga Pants

I have been thinking about yoga pants recently. I love my yoga pants!  They are so forgiving of my body, comfortable and cozy!  They don’t hold me in, squeeze my squishy parts or make me feel exposed in any way.  I have no muffin top whilst wearing my yoga pants and I feel great!

I think most of us are fans of ‘comfort’. We like what is familiar and what is known. In our comfort zones we feel safe and we are at ease. There’s no stress, no anxiety. We do not feel vulnerable. Life is good in our comfort zones.

But on the flip side, when I am at home, snuggled up in my yoga pants, life can get dull. Yes, rest is vital for a healthy lifestyle. But life in yoga pants robs me of many experiences. My life doesn’t move forward and I don’t grow as a person.

When Josh was serving in combat, he rarely saw a pair of yoga pants. Life in the Army, especially whilst at war, was about advancing. As a solider he was charged to bring peace to a war-torn country. There was an enemy and so he dressed appropriately. He wore layers of clothing, boots and headgear that would protect him, give him insight to defeat the enemy and bring him home safely. Josh didn’t know if he would make it out of the country alive so he did all he could to prepare. He wore such heavy clothing and equipment, that he thought his knees might blow. No… There was no comfort at war.

 
Josh in Army
 

And then I think of me on my wedding day. I loved my wedding dress. I felt like a million dollars walking down the aisle to my groom. But that dress HURT. The boned corset dug into my ribs and the heavy satin skirt prevented me from sitting down. I was so happy to take that thing off at the end of the day, and I am not talking for sexy sexy reasons!!! It was a relief to get that thing off as I could finally breathe and sit down!! But on June 23rd 2012, my life certainly advanced. I became a wife and my life moved from singleness to marriage.   

 
Wedding Day
 

Now war and weddings seem to be polar opposites but both involve advancement and preparation.  There was a cost to Josh serving in Iraq. There was even a cost to me wearing my dream wedding dress! If we had worn yoga pants, the outcomes for both of us could have been very different!

Right now I am facing my metaphorical wardrobe and I am deciding whether to wear my comfortable yoga pants or not. Sometimes I get confused on what God wants for me. Sometimes I think He simply wants me to be happy and I assume this means that life should feel easy.  But this is not the truth. God is a good father who sees the bigger picture for my life. God wants me to know and experience Truth in the deepest parts of my life (Psalm 51:6), He wants me to love people (John 13:34) and He wants me to grow in faith (Hebrews 11:6). These things are hard to achieve while living within my comfort zones.

Our comfort zones are unique to all of us. Sometimes we are content with our relationships and we don’t step out to talk to anyone new. Sometimes it’s our careers and the level of our financial income. Sometimes we find identity in our role within the Church.  Whatever it is for you, it’s scary to step out and put ourselves in a place of vulnerability.  Yoga pants feel nice while regular pants, not so much.

I look at the map of the Apostle Paul's travels and it's clear that he never stopped moving forward with his life goals. He didn't grow stagnant but keep moving on to new cities to meet to people to teach them about Jesus. Paul is also the one who wrote that he presses on to “reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14, NLT).

 

Apostle Paul's journeys

I am challenged, but I see hope in the unfamiliar.  I don't think I will be galavanting around the Mediterranean, but I see my unchartered waters holding new experiences, people and places that will thrill me, stretch me and (more than likely!) cause me to ask God for help.

So today, let’s press on. Let’s advance. Let’s move forward, get out of our yoga pants and embrace the unknown! It really is so exciting!!!

My Sams

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog, but I’m afraid Josh and I have been having the time of our lives back in the UK. We relaxed, caught up with the best of friends and saw my wonderful family. We were served tasty dinners and drank delicious wine. It’s been a time of feasting and celebration.

Hobbits like to celebrate. They eat, drink and are merry (not that I know any personally, but I am a fan of the movies!!) I’ve been thinking about Frodo and Sam. They were two unlikely heroes, who, with perseverance and determination, defied judgment and overcame every obstacle thrown at them. They were the best of friends; true brothers who took a brave journey together. And if one had given up, the other would have surely failed.

I am no Frodo by any means (my feet are smaller, less hairy, and I do not plan to take any ring into Mordor) but I know my ‘Sams’. People often say that I have lots of friends, and perhaps I do, but I only have a few Sams, and most live across an ocean. These are the friends that see the real me. They will go through hell and high water for me. If I’m low, they speak truth. If I’m tired, they revive me. If I pee them off, they forgive me. I don’t have to perform, make them laugh or share a deep and meaningful secret. They just love me and want to walk through life with me.

And I hope to be a good Sam too. I don’t want to give up if they are making wrong choices. I don’t want to leave them to fight battles alone. Even when they tell me to go, I want to stay. I want to love courageously and with fierce loyalty. I want them to know that no matter how ugly or messed up they feel, I am in this for the long-haul.

Heavens knows, we all fight our own Dark Riders in this world. We constantly have our swords raised as we fight insecurity, fear and doubt. But we make it because our friends and family stand with us. We are able to lift our weary heads because a Sam reminds us how far we have come on this journey of life. They drown out the shrill of fear and give us strength to wield the sword of truth once more. We make it because we are supported, and sometimes carried, by a Sam.

My heart is indeed full after spending time with my Sams. Some are blood relatives. Some, like Frodo and Sam, are the very best of friends. I have feasted, laughed and cried. I have heard and been heard. I have seen and been seen. It’s their courage that makes me brave. It’s their faith that gives me hope. It’s their ‘elven bread’ that nourishes my soul.

Today, remember your Sams. Even if they are thousands of miles away, remember those friends who stick like glue. Love them. Encourage them. And if they have hairy hobbit feet, perhaps suggest waxing….