“Look at all those green leaves!” someone says.
We all stand around, arms crossed, shaking our heads. A beautiful, healthy tree has crashed to the earth with no warning. Or, seemingly healthy, that is. Deep roots, strong trunk, sprawling branches, bright green leaves; it’s all there. “Was there something we could’ve done to prevent this?” “Thank goodness the kids weren’t in the backyard.” “Better cut it up, get it off the lawn.”
The men pull out the chainsaws and axes and soon we have enough firewood to last all winter. We move on with our days, a blaring space in the canopy, too much sunlight where we expect shadows. We mourn another casualty of the drought and tally up over forty trees lost on our humble six-acre homestead. We shake our heads some more. Why that tree? Why then?
The first Psalm describes a righteous person as “a tree, planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry.”
With no disease, no injury, no warning, our trees have collapsed before our eyes. They look strong, but they are too thirsty to live another day. Their streams of water, unseen to those of us above ground, have run dry.
Raking up green leaves and twigs from the yard, I cannot help but relate to this tree, the drought’s latest victim. I can look very strong on the outside when I am very weak on the inside. I go about my day “handling it all,” until a switch is flipped and I’m losing it.
My outward security is ripped away to reveal my inward insecurity.
Does this ever happen to you? In my case, I can handle other people’s problems. If you let me down, it will hurt, but if I let myself down, it nearly destroys me. If you fail, I tell you it will be fine. If I fail, I look for the nearest, deepest crevice in the earth to jump into.
I work hard to stand tall and keep my leaves looking nice and green, but I very well could be on my last upright hour. I may be eyeing a spot on the ground to come crashing onto (and you better just hope you’re not playing in the yard when it happens!).
This is why I put Beth Moore’s book So Long, Insecurity on my Amazon wishlist and also why it stayed there for years. Because how humiliating would it be for someone to see me reading a book about insecurity? I mean, really! Just get a permanent marker and write “weakling” on my forehead, why don’t ya?
But the insecurity threatened from inside me and came to the surface more often than I liked to admit.
My sisters and I spent hours after dark confessing and sharing our preposterous misconceptions about ourselves. We discovered that, though a compliment could be a Band-Aid, no amount of praise could convince us in certain darker moments that we weren’t ugly. And though accolades were nice crutches, they gave way during seasons of self-doubt. Though we were loved and supported since before we were born, no human could really appraise us.
Finally, very early one more morning after a sleepless night, I pulled my wishlist up on my phone and bought So Long, Insecurity. Though I’m a Bible-believing Texan, I’d never read anything by Beth Moore. But, I thought, if she wrote a whole book on insecurity, maybe there’s something she knows that I don’t.
The day it came in the mail, I plopped onto my unmade bed and read two chapters. It was well-written, engaging, scripturally-sound, and oh-so-close to home. The first of many lines I dragged my pink highlighter across was on page 10. Beth writes:
“I want some soul-deep security drawn from a source that never runs dry and never disparages us for requiring it.”
I think it struck me so because I used to think my parents could provide everything I needed. As a small child, it should feel that way, I think. But your need for God comes to the light early on. My parents couldn’t always be there for me, always satisfy me, always fix my problems. If I tried to go to them for everything I went to them for as a child, I would drain them dry; if they ever had to turn me down, I would cringe knowing I had asked too much.
The “source that never runs dry” is not only capable but glad to satisfy my deep thirst.
I don’t have to feel guilty, as if I could drink more than my share. This breakthrough was the first in many steps toward finding my security.
As Moore picked through her own crazy misconceptions about herself, her own irrational reactions and the parts of her ego that break when they should bend, I saw myself on many pages. And I took her encouragement to make changes very seriously. I prayed sincere prayers and that pink highlighter and I went on quite the journey.
I found that pretty green leaves don’t quench your thirst. You have to have a deep, underground source. You have to find your security in your soul, not your hair dye or your great family or Mr. Right or your hard-earned job or book deal or gorgeous smile or God-given talents or even your calling. You have to find a source that will still be there if you lose it all in a fire, if you ruin it all with a monster mistake, or if you find yourself alone at the end of the day.
Beth Moore writes in So Long, Insecurity,
“Some of us never seek healing from God because we don’t fit the profile. We think insecurity only looks one way–mousy, maybe even inept–and that’s not exactly who we see in the mirror. At least not once the mascara’s on. And it certainly is not the woman we present to the public. Insecurity’s best cover is perfectionism. That’s where it becomes an art form.”
Oh, yes. I thought that if I could manage to keep it together, I was secure. I saw other women who fell apart emotionally or constantly seemed to be begging for attention and I thought, Glad I’m not that insecure!
But it wasn’t that I was secure; it was that I had perfected my art form.
I was a beautiful ice sculpture waiting to melt. It was time to stop hoping for cold weather and start asking God for healing. It was time to hand over my perfectionism, my art form I had so long practiced. It was time get vulnerable–not to my blog-readers or sisters or friends–but to myself.
In God’s eyes, I knew I was already a naked baby, grasping for her first breath. We don’t judge babies in their helplessness, so why do we start judging after we’ve been dressed and fed and taught to walk and talk? Why do we judge ourselves when we know it’s wrong to judge each other?
I didn’t fit the stereotype I had in my head, so I thought my feelings about myself were just unavoidable “girl moments.” Turns out, that’s not what it means to be “the weaker vessel.” As a matter of fact, the woman in Proverbs 31 who is often translated as “a virtuous wife” could just as easily be called “a mighty woman” or “a woman of valor.” Same word used to describe Gideon, the warrior. Maybe insecurity is the norm for women, but it’s not unavoidable.
I never hated myself. I didn’t think I was ugly most days, but sometimes I criticized my appearance ruthlessly. I didn’t think I was stupid, but I was afraid to ask questions. I didn’t think I was socially stunted, but I worried about my friendships a lot. Deep down I knew all the good reasons I was “still single,” but late at night, I wondered if I was just plain undesirable. I could handle difficult people, but I had trouble forgiving myself. I liked my hair the way it was, but I was also terrified of changing it.
You know what else is phenomenal about The Woman of Valor? She has a killer wardrobe. When I come before God and say, “I admit it! I’m a naked baby with nothing to offer! I want to drink from the source that never runs dry! I want to be mighty, not mousy! I want to be something real for you, not pretend to be something perfect for others!” God hears these prayers and He fits us with a new outfit. Proverbs 31:25 says, “She is clothed in strength and dignity.” I don’t know about your sewing skills, but those are two things I could never make myself.
Dignity sounds particularly appealing after my insecurity has sent me into a downward spiral once again.
The next line is pure gold. “Clothed in strength and dignity, she has nothing to fear. She smiles when she thinks about the future.” Um, did King Lemuel know the political situation in my country this year? Has this Woman of Valor perhaps had a little too much wine? How can you smile at the future when the future is intrinsically unpredictable? Does she not know that she’s going to get wrinkly, that her children will move away, her friends will disappoint her, the economy will fluctuate, and her husband will get old and die?
The Woman of Valor is planted by streams of water.
But this Woman of Valor, she is a tree planted by streams of water. The Psalmist continues in Psalm 1:3, “Your fruit ripens in its time; your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun. No matter what you do, you prosper.” Those streams do not go to your body or your ego or your reputation. Those streams go to your soul.
Your soul will be fed at the root and everything else flourishes as a result, but not as a priority.
As much as we mourn each tree that falls on our property, we have to remember that trees have lifespans and they are facing a natural demise. We cannot predict what will happen to our bodies, families, bank accounts, or our government. But we can smile at the future. Our souls are clothed in strength and dignity, our leaves will never fade or curl, no matter how hot the summer sun is.
Our souls are clothed in strength and dignity, our leaves will never fade or curl, no matter how hot the summer sun is.
Beth’s book, the practice of valor in small, daily battles–it is all bringing me closer to identifying with that tree that stands tall during a drought. But it’s a soul-deep, personal journey and it doesn’t work to jump ahead. My pink highlighter and this very article I am writing are small steps down a long path. I take these steps for myself, but also for you.
Do you need a hand up? Are you one bumpy step behind me on this arduous quest?
I would love to hear from you. This is a no-man left behind mission. You are worth the work and the destination is worth the trip. Already, I’m finding it easier to breathe.
That’s why, with no association with Beth Moore, Tyndale, etc., I am giving away a copy of So Long, Insecurity to one person who comments on this post. I have two other copies I’ll be lending out to local sisters. If you win the book and it gives you a hand up, lend it to another sister. We need each other, and we need that valor King Lemuel spoke of.
“She wraps herself in strength, carries herself with confidence, and works hard, strengthening her arms for the task at hand.”
(Proverbs 31:17, The Voice)
Would you tell me in the comments about something you’ve learned in your search for security? Share something that will give another a hand up on this quest!
(Giveaway winner was Heather!)
Scenic Photography by: JenniMarie Photography