“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
I’ve been struggling with something my whole life. For some reason, I’ve spent so many years and so much effort unconsciously tearing people down. While my heart isn’t like that at all, it was the result of many of my efforts. Being critical is a disease; and I’ve suffered from it for a long time. But something recently grabbed my attention and reminded me who I am created to be.
As a youth, my sisters and I used to call each other names. It was really all in fun, but that old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. Even playful name calling can cut deep – especially children. Growing up with 2 older sisters was tough! I always had to live up to expectations. If performance wasn’t to their satisfaction, they’d let me know – usually with a knuckle punch to the arm we knew as a “froggy.” Later after they had moved out, I replaced their criticisms with those of my own. I was so hard on myself, constantly beating myself up if I messed up at all!
Then I got married and began being overly critical of my wife. It almost drove her away, and in many ways destroyed her spark. I hate that now that I look back and realize what I did. Our marriage almost didn’t survive, but I thank God every day that it did.
And then God did it. He trusted me with two beautiful children. It was my job to mold them and shape them – to help them develop into the incredible people God intended them to be! Instead, much of my criticism did exactly the opposite. It made my son feel like a complete failure and my daughter become a perfectionist who, like me, is as critical on herself as I was.
Just who were we created to be anyway?
Well, when I look at that verse, I see something amazing. The answer is all right there! “So God created mankind in His own image.” What had God done in the chapters before He created us? He created. I can only come to the conclusion that we were born to create. But create what? When I looked up the definition of create, its synonym was build. So we were created to build – or to build up.
Then why are we so quick to tear down the ones we love most? Why do we not choose to create grace?
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan wrote the song You’re gonna have to serve somebody in 1979 when I was just 10 years old. I sang that song as my last performance at my church in Oklahoma City before moving my family to Tulsa. The song says it doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor, old or young – you’ll either serve the devil, or you will serve the Lord.
If that is the truth, what choices do I have? In John 10:10 (NASB) it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So the choice I have is to build up or to tear down. For so long my actions were to unknowingly tear down the character of others, from my family to my friends to myself. I believe this is generally rooted in fear, and the opposite of fear is love. We were created to love.
Choose this day whom you will serve
Being who you were born to be is as simple as choosing to create life and not destroy it. To build up those in your life and those who cross your path instead of tearing down those people – especially yourself.
I’m not perfect by any means, but I know I’m better than I used to be. And it all started with an awareness of what I was creating around me. When I looked around my life and noticed that most of the people around me were being destroyed, it was a good day. Not because of the situation, but because you cannot heal or change what you don’t acknowledge. And you definitely cannot acknowledge what you don’t know. With that awareness, I could exercise my right to choose.
In The Journey Training, we see each class come in the door not knowing what to expect. Before the weekend is over, we see the creation in action! People loving each other without judgement. People building each other up! And it all begins with discovering what it feels like to be accepted unconditionally.
I’ve learned one thing thus far in life: if you want to see someone truly change, accept them unconditionally. When they feel that safety and acceptance, change is inevitable.
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