Looking Upward Not Inward

Before jumping into today’s blog post, I wanted to share something exciting! Laura and I launched The Enough Life Podcast on Monday. We are so excited for you to join The Enough Life conversation. For more information, please click here.

In my last blog post, I shared how resting my whole identity on the health nut persona led to an identity crisis. I made the distinction between little “i” and Big “I” identity. Little “i” identity is what makes me, Megan. It includes my personality, my gifting, and my passions. Big “I” Identity is finding my Identity in Christ. This is the ultimate Identity that my little identity must rest on. So, in today’s blog post, I will expand on this Identity concept further while tying it into the topic of friendships.

As indicated in my previous blog post, the eating disorder was a very jealous friend. It kept me isolated and away from community. During my college years when I was spending every free moment with bulimia, I dreamed of a life where no one knew me. I dreamed of moving cross-country and being completely alone. For most, that thought would be terrifying. But for me, it was so intriguing. I love the idea of being isolated.

Turns out, I did move cross-country. But I did not end up isolated. I met my husband, Ben, on Christian Mingle (you can read about that story here or listen here). Ben was incredibly involved in church. He had already built up a great community that I stepped into when I moved to North Dakota. At first, I kept friendships at bay, as I had always done. I definitely was the talk of the small church. A girl from California moving to North Dakota was not the norm. Lots of women wanted to grab coffee, but I kept them away. This was my chance to be isolated. But thankfully, God had other plans. He knew community was essential for me to recover from the eating disorder. I slowly inched my way out of isolation during my time in North Dakota. Yet, I still constantly wrestled with my desire to remain isolated.

Even as we moved to Texas, the thought of rebuilding a community sounded exhausting. In fact, it was exhausting. As an introvert by nature, it takes much energy for me to make and maintain friends. I prefer to keep to myself. As introverts know, the more you remain introverted the harder it is to engage in social activities. So, my goal was to do something every day that got me out of my own head. Whether it was meeting someone for coffee, having a Skype date, or working on a blog post. I knew I needed to just think of someone else but me. This is where the whole concept of Identity started to click for me. To put it succinctly, finding my Identity in Christ is not about looking inward. Instead, finding my true Identity is about looking upward.

When we look inward, our pride and selfishness cloud our perspective. We, as women, either look down on ourselves or we think too much of ourselves. This perspective can change from a positive to negative personal outlook in a split second. Quite frankly, our little “i” identity is so fleeting and ever-changing. Because we, as sinful humans, attempt to find purpose in little “i” identity, it is no wonder we see the anxiety, depression, and isolation that is prevalent today. We were not created to find complete satisfaction in ourselves. Instead, we are to find our Identity in the One who is never-fleeting and never-changing.

James, in his letter, bluntly depicts this dichotomy of our sinful selfishness in contrast to the wisdom from above.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18 ESV)

On one hand, we see that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. I cringed when I read the word demonic because it sounds a bit harsh. But James in this passage and in his letter does not hold back the truth. This path of jealousy and selfishness is not of God, it is the opposite, demonic. It only leads toward disorder and immorality. On the other hand, wisdom from above is characterized by purity, gentleness, mercy, fruitfulness, and sincerity. The latter sounds so much more appealing than the former. Looking inward only fuels our own jealousy and selfish ambition thus leading to earthly, unspiritual chaos. So, to carry out good works as Christ-followers requires us to do something different. Instead of relying on our own wisdom or looking to the world for guidance, we are to look upward, gathering our wisdom from above. God’s wisdom is full of promise and peace. Because God is always constant, His wisdom is always constant. He wants to provide us with His promised purity, gentleness, mercy, fruitfulness, and sincerity, if we only look up toward Him.

When we choose to look upward instead of inward, we became pleasant human beings to be around. When we are self-absorbed, we naturally isolate ourselves from friendships. Our jealousy toward other women and selfishness creates a barrier to building genuine relationships. Laura mentioned that she was jealous of her friends’ body type, clothing, and intelligence. I shared how my relationship with bulimia kept me in selfish bubble, isolated from community. When we are jealous and selfish, we look to friends to make us feel good about ourselves. We want them to fuel our positive outlook. But, let us instead find our satisfaction and wisdom from God. When we choose to find our Big “I” Identity in Him, we do not need jealousy and selfish ambition to get in the way of friendships. By finding complete satisfaction in the One who is always constant, we no longer need others to fuel our self-affirmations. Instead, we aim for them to experience His promises too. We want our friends to experience the spiritual instead of the unspiritual. We want them to experience peace instead of disorder. We want them to experience the angelic not the demonic.

The key to being a good friend is wisdom. The key to making and maintaining friendships is looking upward not inward. The key to genuine friendships is praying that they experience God’s promises just like you have.

As my identity morphed from the health nut persona to my true Identity, I became just Megan, a daughter of the infinitely wise God. The health nut persona was a fleeting identity that morphed into an eating disorder and wanted to isolate me. But, as I sought Godly wisdom, my Identity now rests in the everlasting, always constant God. And as a result, my friendships are not about me anymore.

I will leave you with a short prayer.

Lord, I desire this wisdom you promise. Please bestow on me wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. I do not want to be of this world, letting my jealousy and selfish ambition lead me down a dark path. Guide me in your wisdom so I may share it with other women. These women crave genuine, authentic friendships. So, teach me to be a vessel for honorable use that I might share the satisfaction and wisdom you promise. I love you.

— Update —

Laura and I laugh sometimes because God has a funny sense of humor. We have noticed when we write or speak on a topic, we are tested on it. For example, I had just finished typing up this blog post when Laura texted me. They had a major water leak at their house and were going to spend the whole afternoon/evening digging up their front yard. I responded with a quick “Sorry that’s a bummer, I’ll be praying for you.” Then, I walked away. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head. I soon texted Laura saying, “If you need an extra set of hands, Ben and I can help.” A few hours later, we were at their house with shovels. Thankfully the wisdom from above made me a better friend to my ministry partner. Left to my own volition, I would be blinded by my own selfishness. God is good. Ted and Laura even sent us home with a pizza!

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