Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Think Different; Be Different

American media and advertisers want us to feel needy. They want us to feel needy so that we will buy their products, use their services and run to them, instead of God, whenever we have a problem.

If we are not feeling beautiful enough, there is some makeup or hair dye that can solve our problem. If we are not feeling powerful enough, there is some car or mutual fund that can solve our problem. If we are not feeling healthy enough, there is some pill or program that can solve our problem.

Whenever “the world,” in the negative sense of the word, tries to make us feel not something enough, not good enough, not successful enough, not skinny enough, not smart enough, not athletic enough, not happy enough, a red flag should go off in our minds because what “the world” is trying to do is make us feel needy, insecure, lacking and dissatisfied. The word “enough” means “sufficient to meet a need or satisfy a desire; adequate,” but used in conjunction with the word “not,” it starts referring to things not being adequate or unable to satisfy us. This is pretty much the opposite of how God wants us to feel and think.

Tanya is a pretty, educated, and successful woman, but she still doesn’t think she is “good enough.” She wants her apartment to be cleaner and her clothes to be nicer and her waist to be thinner. When she talks like this, she is focusing on the negative, on what’s not “good enough” in her life. This is no way to live, especially because God has blessed her in hundreds of ways, and she should be focusing on what is good and right in her life, and not on what “the world” is telling her she still needs.

Errors in the way we think are stumbling blocks to the spiritual life. How can we praise and give thanks to God if we are continually dissatisfied with what we have? How can we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God if we are continually dissatisfied with who we are?

Today’s scripture from Romans says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Or the New Living Translation says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If we simply stop using the words “not enough” in reference to ourselves and what we have, we will be making a big step in renewing our minds and transforming our lives.

Two very simple ways we can do this are by being grateful for what we have and by being happy with ourselves.

First, gratitude. Gratitude is an attitude. “Have an attitude of gratitude,” my father always says. We have so many things to be thankful for in life. Our bodies for example. The fact that we have eyes to see, ears to hear and legs to walk. Forget that we are not perfect. We don’t need to be perfect because we have been blessed with health in so many ways.

Our relationships are another thing to be grateful for. We have friends, family, church family, good co-workers, all sorts of people who make our lives more interesting and offer us support. Instead of dwelling on the one relationship that we don’t have or isn’t going well, we can be thankful for the many people in our lives who bring us joy and comfort.

We have many possessions as well that we can be grateful for. We have homes to live in, beds to sleep in, clothes to wear, and food to eat.

It’s easy to take these things for granted, to want more, to say we don’t have enough, but that’s worldly thinking. We do have enough. And to know this is to have the mind of Christ in us.

William Ward once said, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"

A second way we can refuse to conform to “the world,” renew our minds and transform our lives is by being happy with ourselves. God created each one of us carefully and with a plan in mind. And when we constantly berate ourselves because we aren’t this and we aren’t that, we are insulting God. No one is perfect, but each of us is blessed, and until we own that, until we know that, we will squander our gifts because we may not realize that we have something very special to offer this hurting world.

I like this quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” In God’s eyes, you are a gift and an opportunity. You can create beauty and heal the world by being alive as yourself.

There’s a story called Jonathan Livingston Seagull that exemplifies this quote, and in this story, Jonathon, who is in fact a seagull, is frustrated with the meaningless materialism and conformity and limitation of seagull life. All the other gulls do is eat and balk, which is really boring to Jonathan.

Jonathan realizes that he was meant to fly. And so he spreads his wings and spends hours learning to fly higher and faster, to do rolls and turns in the sky. It is through his pursuit of being fully himself and following his heart that Jonathon is taken to a new level of being. Eventually, he is befriended by other gulls, gulls he didn’t even know were out there when he began his journey, and they guide him into an existence that brings him as close to God as one can get.

Today, I want to invite everyone to be true to yourselves, even if that means leaving the old flock behind and venturing out on your own. We can start by not conforming to this world who tells us that we do not have enough, and we are not enough. Instead, we can be grateful for what we have and who we are, and then continue to move forward by opening up our hearts and living life to the fullest. Remember, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

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