A Playdough State of Mind

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” Isaiah 64:8 ESV

“You’re overthinking too much!”

“You should think before you speak!”

“You’re too lazy!”

“You work too much!”

“You’re too serious!”

“You’re too immature!”

“You’re too stubborn!”

“You’re too much of a doormat!”

“You’re too uptight!”

“You need to be more serious!”

“You’re too overweight!”

“You’re too skinny!”

“You’re….You’re….You’re…” I hear this contraction every day. The ending varies depending on who is speaking to me but nonetheless, everyday someone feels compelled to define or correct me. It’s rather ironic because for the past year I have become more aware of feeling completely invisible to most people-yet somehow I am noticed, daily, for what others think they need to change in me. What’s even more ironic is the “You’res” that are pointed out to me are the same characteristics or personality traits I can see in the “potters” in my life. In fact, they’re common characteristics in most people. Yet for some reason, people feel compelled to point them out mostly to me. These “You’res” are flaws I am already hyper aware of and don’t need others to remind me of.

People that know me best define my “You’res” as “being human.” Those two words are the best grace someone can speak to me. It’s the kind of grace that brings about a relief that allows me to let go of every baggage of insecurity I carry around, even if for only a brief moment. Imagine holding your breath daily, being told you hold your breath too much and then having someone say it’s ok to exhale. That’s what hearing “you’re just being human” feels like to me. It’s physically feeling lighter, emotionally feeling worry free. But that same baggage gets is overloaded with anxiety whenever I hear someone else speak another “You’re too….” to me. It’s heavy baggage that leaves me physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s another day of simply holding my breath once again.

Three “You’res” that have hurt me the most are: I am “too dramatic”, “too sensitive” and “too argumentative.” To overcome these I have become a stonewaller. When I hear these three (or anything similar), I will shutdown, cry behind closed doors and allow my accuser to “be right” before I will defend myself, show that my feelings were hurt or display any reaction that could feed someone else’s already misguided opinion of me. Why? Because in my 40+ years of life I have learned that defending myself gives ammunition to my offender, showing emotion reveals weakness and arguing is simply an exhaustive waste of energy. Right or wrong, stonewalling has my coping mechanism.

But what does stonewalling have to do with playdough? The Bible tells us that God is our Potter and we are His clay. We are playdough that is ever changing and ever moldable. Our own insecurities mold our thought processes, reactions and confidence (or lack thereof.) Others’ opinions of us mold how we interact with them. For example, yesterday, after walking in a spirit of defeat, feeling like I was striking out all day and fighting the urge to just sit the bench for awhile (and drying lots of tears ensuring no one else could see them), I thought to myself, “I feel like playdough.” I wake up everyday with a heart that is open to being molded by God. I have prayed (not daily as I should) for God to use me as He sees fit that day. Before I leave my house though, my own insecurities have remolded the image God made me to be. I change my outfits at least four times settling on what I feel the least “frumpy” in or what I think hides the extra pounds I can’t seem to get rid of. I apply four layers of make-up to hide the damage of not wearing sunscreen in my twenties and the natural wrinkles that most women my age have also developed. I style my hair to cover up the grays no hair dye will hide. Then I face a day where others opinions reshape me once again. By the time the day ends I feel like a blob of clay that is imprinted with knuckles from sometimes harsh words, negative interactions, somebody’s lack of patience (or my own), and failing to meet my inner drive for perfection. So many days I fall asleep with anxiety over everything I did wrong or heard I did wrong that day. Even when others compliment me, one person’s “constructive criticism” will be the instant replay I allow to mold me. We are all ever changing, ever being molded by God, ourselves and others.

What happens to playdough if it’s not cared for properly? It hardens and can no longer be molded. If we aren’t careful we too can harden. Hardening to others’ opinions of us can sound like a wise choice in setting boundaries and protecting ourselves. My coping mechanism of stonewalling is a form of hardening. But the fact is, it can close us off to hearing others correct us in love. I will admit I have been guilty of this. Thankfully, because I can overthink things, I am able to process when my stonewalling is in fact setting a boundary and when I have alienated someone who was speaking the truth in love. When the latter happens, as hard as it is for me to admit I’m wrong, I will seek forgiveness and work harder to listen with an open heart. That’s a time where I let the Lord mold me again. Anytime we are humbling ourselves to seek another’s forgiveness is a moment when God is refining us in His image.

Another form of hardening that is a dangerous level is when we don’t allow God to mold us. The bible warns us that when that happens, “…he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14b ESV) Another word for calamity is disaster. Hardening our hearts to God=GREAT DISASTER! I could list so many scriptures to back that sentence up but this post would never end. Instead I will say if you don’t know this concept already, read your Bible, google verses about “great disaster” and calamity and see for yourself just how damaging life can be when we the clay stop allowing our Potter to mold us. Just as playdough cannot form itself, we will remain a useless blob if we don’t allow our Potter to form us.

But back to the “You’re” phrases. Are you told you’re “too sensitive”, “too strong-willed”, “too perfect”, “too flawed”, “too lazy”, “too hardworking”, an “overachiever”, “overthinker”, “overweight” or some other “too” “over”, etc.? You know what you really are? You’re extra! What does that mean? It means you’re guacamole. Guacamole comes from a hardened avocado after it’s softened and hand smashed. Seasonings are added to give it just the right amount of flavor. If you’re extra, that means God has taken your hardened heart, softened it and added just the amount of pizzazz to make you fabulous. Some people will love you, some people may hate you. People that love guacamole always want extra and those that love you are gonna love all the extra fabulousness inside of you too! God is our potter, we are His clay. Let God keep molding you and embrace your extra! After all, in the book of Psalms, David reminds us we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We can’t get anymore extra than that!

Christ in Me

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today I surprised my mom at her church. It was a blessing to see the joy on her face when she saw me. It refreshing to be back in a church. It’s been a bit since I’ve attended. It was also refreshing to see a man I’ve covered in years of prayers. In church worshipping and engaging in fellowship with other believers.

After church I was blessed to have a quick conversation with this friend. He paid me a compliment that’s resonated with me all day. He told me I have a light in my eyes. A light that is life. I’ve been compliment about my eyes many times but no one has ever seen that in them.

My first response was to point out the tired and purple bags hanging from my eyes. He didn’t allow me to negate his observation though. He simply stated he wasn’t talking about what was below my eyes but what was in them. He said he could see Jesus and a love for people in my eyes. When he was finished I responded with a confirmation that I do indeed love people.

What he said resonated with me because Ive never been complimented that way before. But his words resonated me for another reason too. I thought about the times I don’t act loving toward people-the times I lose my temper, grumble, complain, hold a grudge, take things too personally, or deliberately choose to be rude or unkind. I actually thought I was presenting a falsehood to my friend and that I should message him the “real” me. I wondered if in those moments do my eyes show the opposite of life? At my worst, do they exude death?

Tonight, before writing any emails or messages, God led me to Psalm 139. Reading this chapter showed me what God sees in me (and you.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He made all the delicate parts of us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We are wonderfully complex, a marvelous display of His workmanship. Every moment of our lives has been laid out before Christ before we even existed. Including every bad moment and sinful act we engage in. Yet His thoughts about us are precious! And Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts-they’re higher than ours.

Today’s conversation was Christ orchestrated for both my friend and for me. God used my eyes to hopefully breath more life into a man who’s felt dead inside for years. But God also used my friend’s words to remind me of who I am in Him.

The next time the enemy tries to define you as anything than who you are in Christ-meditate on Psalm 139 and worship Abba with this chorus from Jeremy Camp:

“So come and empty me

So that it’s you I breathe

I want my life to be

Only Christ in me

So I will fix my eyes

‘Cause you’re my source of life

I need the world to see

That it’s Christ in me

That it’s Christ in me”

This chorus alone reminds us to empty ourselves of all we think we are and fix our eyes on Him-our source of light and life. When we do that, it’s inevitable that others will see His light and His life through our eyes!