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January 13, 2004

Male Validation

Genesis 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:6-9
34 When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.

46 Rebekah said to Isaac, "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?"

6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan," 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. 8 Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. 9 So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

Many men deal with the "Esau syndrome." Without rehearsing all of Esau's story, early on he was willing to sacrifice the long term ("birthright") for immediate indulgences. Then once he realized what he lost, he spent the next season of his life trying to overcome his "failure" and prove his worth to those he felt he had disappointed - his father (giving away his birthright), his mother (bad marriage choices). He then complicates the issue by taking on more responsibility (a new wife). He never is at ease until he encounters Jacob. Something happens during these years that finally Esau is at ease with himself.

I don't know why we (men, or me) try to make up for past mistakes by going overboard trying to prove ourselves to others and gain their approval. Is is out of regret for past mistakes? Have we let our failures defines us so that we need others to validate us? At some point, each man has to grow up and find that he has God's approval, birthright or not, a wife from the right family or not, and learn to be comfortable in his own skin if we will ever be able to walk in the "blessing" (Genesis 33:4, 8-11)

Lord, help me to live with nothing to prove, comfortable with who you've made me to be and with what you are doing in me.

June 1, 2007

Parenting for Intimacy

Song of Songs 8:2-4 (CEV)
2 I could take you to the home of my mother,
who taught me all I know.
I would give you delicious wine
and fruit juice as well.
3 Put your left hand under my head
and embrace me with your right arm.
4 Young women of Jerusalem, promise me...
never to awaken love before it is ready.

I don't know if I've ever made an entry from this book in the Bible. In fact, I feel a little awkward even addressing the subject today. This passage jumped out of today's reading because of something I saw on TV last night.

I'm flipping around the TV channels as usual, and stopped for a moment at "Hogan Knows Best." The Hulkster is concerned with the way his 17 year old daughter Brooke (who's a new teen pop singer), how her "image" is being developed by her managers and record company. He feels that it's too adult, too sensual, and in his words, "As a parent, and as her dad, I'm offended. It's not right." Who knew that Hulkamania would take a stand for common sense.

This got me thinking about how female sexuality is being warped by our culture. We live in a day when being a stripper is an acceptable profession and being an internet porn star can make you rich. The culture "sells" women that to be comfortable with your sexuality you must be assertive to even aggressive, use your sensuality, and be willing to cross boundaries (why else is MTV filled with images of young girls kissing each other or the success of Girls Gone Wild). What has broken down? I think it has to do with the fact that the culture has taken on the responsibility for sex education because parents have forfeited it.

In this book, the most intimate of all ancient writings, we find a woman who has a healthy sexual identity. She is unashamed in expressing her affection for her lover and completely uninhibited. How did she come to be this way? Did her friends show her? Has her identity been shaped by the images of her culture. No. V2 gives us some insight - her Mom "taught" her. Does this mean that her Mom put her through some kind of class or watch some video? Of course not! My assumption is that this woman had an open, trusting and even frank relationship with the primary female in her life. Her mother helped to shape her as a person, gave her a healthy sense of identity and self-esteem. Because of this confidence in who she was, the "beloved" carried this sense of value, trust, and openness into the most intimate area of her life.

There was also something passed down to her from her mother (and father too, I hope). It's a healthy perspective on life. That's seen in v4 - "don't awaken love before it's ready." In a world that confuses lust with love and substitutes cheap romance for commitment, this is a hard choice to make. Young people feel pressured not only by their own hormones, but by a culture that equates peer acceptance with infatuations with the opposite sex. Most adolescent dating relationships become mini-marriages (with physical intimacy included) that end as mini-divorces. Pre-teens and young adults need to be taught how to develop healthy relationships with the opposite sex instead of getting involved exclusively in "dating" relationships. This too is a parent's job.

As my wife and I have the privilege of working with students for 10 years, and now helping to heal marriages for the last 10, we have found this area of sexuality to be a huge area of pain and confusion in people's lives. I don't want that to be the case for my son or daughter. We want them to enter into their future marriages with a healthy sense of who they are and a complete freedom to be that person in every area of their lives, including their sexuality. That it would not be warped by culture or "experience," but to be vibrant, unafraid and un-scarred, able to experience the joy of authentic intimacy.

October 14, 2010

What, Me Worry?

Luke 12:11-12; 22-23 (NKJV)
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.

OBSERVATION
As a historian, Luke seeks to accurately account for the events he is reporting. Since it is not a real-time diary, there is a license that allows him to reflect the events, but also to possibly group them in a context that is subject oriented as well as chronological. I'm not sure how or why these two exhortations from Jesus found themselves in the same chapter. I can only say that in reading these passages my whole life, I never connected the dots that Luke placed them almost right next to each other (only separated by a parable about how life is not guaranteed).

APPLICATION
These two comments by Jesus - "Do not worry..." have to do with the two biggest concerns of our lives: how we're thought of by others and how we think about our lives. We all want to be liked, accepted, respected. In order to give myself the greatest chance for success in this area is to conform to what is expected of me. But when I'm unclear of what the expectation, then I worry. Even harder is when I know what the expectation is and its a conflict with my personal values. As I'm thinking about this I sense these thoughts: First, God uniquely designed me to be me. The greatest witness that I can be for Him is to completely be me. It's not about pretending to be or defending anything. Second, the Holy Spirit will teach me. If I'm more conscious to Him (which requires me to be less self-conscious), He'll teach me how to respond, when to initiate, when to lay back, when to assert myself and when to yield. In this way it becomes less about me and more about others.

Only when I develop the discipline to be less "self-conscious" am I free to learn contentment. We live in a world that screams "more, More, MORE!" This only creates the question, when is enough enough? When I learn contentment, I'm free from the burden of comparison; What does it matter what someone else has? What does it matter what someone else is doing? Why am I worried about any of this...is it really that important? Then in v 31 Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you." He's not talking about "things" (ie material goods). He talking about the gaps in my life being filled. When the right things get my attention, then my life is filled.

PRAYER
Lord, I know life is more that "stuff." I know my worth is not determined by the opinion of people. Help me not to be so concerned, even consumed by these things. Teach me Holy Spirit what to do, what to say, how to be. Help me to value what is truly significant.

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