Prophecy… a prediction of something to come or not come, in some cases. Future expectations or grave possibilities. It’s not a word that had come up a whole lot in my life until a few years back when I made a startling revelation. Unknowingly, I was in the business of prophesying. See, I spent much of my adult life being a self-fulfilling prophecy which in reality means I spent a good portion of my adult life self-sabotaging. You’d think you’d realize something like that but instead I had to have lovely friends point out that I spent much of my day functioning in a realm of knowledge that was neither true or guaranteed. This came with the stark reality that I was not functioning in a way that was very honoring to the Lord. Maybe you’ve never experienced this prophecy conundrum or perhaps you don’t recognize your own situation so let me explain through one example…
I was told growing up by classmates, friends, magazines and strangers that I was not the attractive one. Always a good friend but never the one guys wanted to date. Sometimes friends would say that exact sentence which isn’t very encouraging in your teens and twenties. Sometimes they would try to be nice by saying I had an okay personality. I tried to take that as a compliment but it stung.
It didn’t take long to realize that all the style tips in the teen magazines were the exact opposite of what I had to work with and the invitations to the school dances were conspicuous by their absence… minus those cruel jokes from middle school. I knew where I belonged in the pecking order and while my bullies were rude they clearly “spoke the truth” because my friends said similar things in nicer ways. I lived my life by rules and labels so, while it hurt, I was glad to know not to stick my neck out very far and that, my friend, is how I entered adulthood.
Much of my twenties was spent living in the reality of all of these labels… unattractive, weird, nerdy, supporting cast, unworthy. Just to name a few. Limited dates, no shy glances, continual awkwardness and more. Essentially, my adolescence scaled up with health insurance and a retirement plan. My life was proof that everything I had learned through those early years was all true, right? I was actually having this conversation with myself one night, thinking over the difference between those who get to be leading ladies and those of us who play the supporting cast when I had a vivid recollection from college.
My roommate and I were walking across campus and we were approached by a very handsome soccer player from the opposing team. He walked right up to her and said, “You are so beautiful. I cannot keep it within my soul.” in the most glorious accent imaginable. I kid you not! It was like a movie moment. She blushed, said thank you and moved on. She was used to this type of thing because it happened to her more than you would think possible in real life. I witnessed a lot of it. And what did I do? I stood in the background providing about as much to the scene as the gum on the sidewalk. I knew I was a background character. Sometimes lucky enough to be the leading lady’s friend but wise enough to know that hoping for a more prominent role was out of the question.
Here’s what I realized as that memory flitted through my mind… actually here is what the Lord said to me…
Me: “I wish I could be seen but I’m just not noteworthy.”
The Lord: “You’re seen all the time but normally you’re too busy looking at the ground to notice and when you do notice you deny it.”
Me: “Ummm, right. Why would they be looking at me unless I have something in my teeth?”
The Lord: “You know you’re not very approachable, right?”
Me: “That’s not true. Besides, no one is trying to approach me.”
The Lord: “Bless them, they want to and some have tried but you cut them down with your harsh words before they even get a chance.”
Me: “Right! You know what happened in the past. You know how mean people are and they love having a spectacle so if you beat them to it they can’t make you feel worse…”
The Lord: “What if they were being sincere? What if they saw something in you that you refuse to see in yourself? You are still living life like you’re in the midst of a battle that ended years ago.”
Me: “Well, that can’t be true because I know who I am and my role in this world. Life has proven it to me. I’m not wrong…” (*with less enthusiasm than before*)
The Lord: “What if I’ve been trying to give you a life to prove how wrong your “truth” is and how much I’ve made you for but you won’t listen? You refuse to look up and see. What if this lesser version of yourself is an assumption you have based on incorrect information? Can you risk finding out? Would you be okay with a different life?”
Me: “Truthfully, I don’t know but I feel like I’m suffocating in this version so please show me what you had in mind…”
The Lord: “Good! I created you to be the daughter of a king… a princess, not an ice queen. Let’s get started…”
These types of conversations with the Lord, where I’m trying to justify myself to the Creator of the universe, always help me understand Job a little better and much like Job’s declaration in chapter 40 verses 4-5, I too realize quite often that I need to shut up and listen.
Maybe your issue isn’t feeling confident or attractive. Maybe you’ve struggled with other labels that aren’t based in truth. Dumb, incapable, unsuccessful, 2nd place, unlovable, unworthy, too much, not enough, the list could go on forever. Most of us have had lies fed to us at some point because Satan doesn’t want you to live at your fullest potential in the Lord’s truth. We repeat those lies so often that they sound like reality and quite logical. We start living in that reality without ever recognizing that we are creating the very situations that justify those lies. I didn’t see men looking at me because I was too afraid to look up.
So, what happened after my lighthearted little chat with God? A lot but over a looooooonnng time because it took me a long time to get in this mess. Over twenty years of lies and webs will take more than a few days to untie but I promise it can be done. I had a wonderful mentor tell me that I needed to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself which may feel funny at first but you’ve already been doing it with lies so why not do it with the truth? In a weird way, the lie had become a safety blanket. I understood that and I knew what to do to be “safe” in that reality so stepping out into the Father’s version of truth was scary and required risk. It also required a daily choice… sometimes a moment by moment choice. Sometimes I literally had to say, “Self, you need to shut up because what you are saying isn’t true. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made even if I don’t feel it right now looking in this mirror.” As I spoke more truth over myself and sought out the truth of who I am in the Word it became easier to accept it from others. It turns out that God had been trying to speak lovingly over me for ages. I just refused to listen.
Something else I realized is that the lies often make sense because they are based somewhere in reality. It would be a lot harder for Satan to convince me of something that is outlandish so he likes to stick closer to our fears and closer to what we’ve experienced. I have no misconceptions about going through an unattractive, awkward stage as a teen but that doesn’t have to be who I am forever. Maybe you struggled with addiction in the past. That doesn’t have to be your future or the sign you drag around for the rest of your life. Maybe your parents never thought you were enough growing up. I’m sorry for that and the very real impact that had on you but it doesn’t make it true, especially for the entirety of your life. One season doesn’t get to label you forever, no matter how true it was at the time. The only label that will last is child of the King.
Finally, I realized how much I didn’t recognize as toxic or lies. I’m not a genius but I’ve got a decent head on my shoulders so you’d think you could easily sort through the garbage but I realized as I grew in the truth of who God says I am, that new lies were coming to the surface. Things that seemed harmless but as I learned to hear the Father’s voice loudest, these statements started to seem a bit off. Like having someone tell you that your best friend said something mean about you. Maybe it sounds believable at first but your relationship with that friend makes it easier to recognize the falsehood. Our relationship with God is the same. The more time you spend listening to His truth through study and prayer, the easier it is to see what doesn’t line up and of course you can always ask for discernment in what you believe. God will give it.
So as we head into this new year, I pray that you let go of some of the lies and labels you’ve been carrying around for far too long. Ask the Father to show you where you’re trapped and to send loving friends alongside that will help you recognize lies and fight with truth. The only voice that matters is the One who had the ultimate say and He thinks you’re to die for…