On Monday, I saw a very encouraging sight, little green shoots peeking out of the soil I’d dug in November. True, the shoots are a month early and may be killed off by frost. Don’t worry, once I finish this post I will be on the RHS website for advice on how to prevent that happening. But still, it is so exciting to see something I’d planted actually growing. This reminded me that I really must get on and finish that series I started way back in November.
I started writing this series almost by accident, I was trying to think about some of the ways we women berate ourselves, why we do that and what the solution might be. Now some people can just sit and think and think and then they open their mouths and out comes wisdom. I’m not one of those people, I talk myself clear or when I can’t do that I write myself clear, so I started writing Dig Here. I explored some of the ways that the things, which on the surface look like things that will help us, in reality turn out to enslave us and trap us in a cycle of self-hate.
But that didn’t really feel like I’d got to the bottom of it, so I wrote Keep Digging. There I wrote about how we can’t simply stop at what culture says to us and what makes us feel bad (or good) about ourselves. We need to hear God’s word. What does He say about us? The Bible says we have turned away from God and turned in on ourselves. Or to borrow an image from C. S. Lewis, its like we have found a mirror and are gazing unceasingly at ourselves instead of our gaze been directed outward, towards our Creator and Sustainer. Like our first parents Adam and Eve, who on rejecting God began sewing fig leaves to cover their shame and guilt, we too are overly pre-occupied with ourselves. We constantly ask: How am I doing? What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? Why am I like this? How can I make myself better/ happier/ sorted?
But there comes a time to stop digging and start planting, or rather to switch metaphors, we must stop looking in and start looking up. The Spirit’s purpose in revealing our sin to us is never, never, never so that we can wallow in despair as we sit and ponder what we must do next to make ourselves better. Never. Yes, He brings us low, we despair of our strength and ability, but the main thing He does is showing us who we are in relation to God. We are rebellious, guilty, sinners, without a hope before a Holy Judge if we try to appear before Him apart from Jesus. But that is not all the Spirit does, He melts our stony hearts with the love of Christ as He shows us the Lord Jesus Christ. He shows us His mercy, grace, sufficiency, His readiness to help the weak. So that, although we have no confidence in ourselves, we have full confidence and assurance in Christ Jesus. The Spirit testifies to our spirit that the Lord Jesus Christ is the one to whom our Father has entrusted the weak and oppressed. He urges us to go to Jesus, because “A bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” Matthew 12:20
Richard Sibbes notes how those who come to Jesus come as bruised reeds not towering oaks; and their faith is weak like a smouldering wick, so small you’d think it would go out any minute. Everything a Christian brings to Jesus is mixed smoke and flame, and sometimes quite a lot of smoke and not much of a flame or heat, a gust of wind might put us out. A Christian woman might begin to wonder if there is any flame left in her faith, she might say, I am almost out, one more challenge, one more trial and I am done for. But Sibbes says, the important thing is the Saviour and His tender heart toward His beloved, He will protect her, He will not snuff out what is there, rather He will gently fan the flame so it burns brightly. Sibbes tells the despairing Christian to stop thinking about herself and to look at Jesus and to remember how eagerly, gently and graciously she will be received by her Saviour!
So what does this mean for us? As Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” I found the quote with (slightly more) context on this post on Desiring God and it really is worth savouring:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms.
I hope this encourages your hearts.