By Anthony Casperson
Earlier this week (read, “the day that I’m writing this”), I was reading 2 Timothy 2 for my time with God. While I was reading, a memory popped, unbidden, into my head. It was of a Sunday a few years ago when I was going to preach at my home church.
I was going to reference 2 Tim. 2:22, which speaks about fleeing youthful lusts. But in my writing of the sermon, I evidently didn’t press the 2 often enough. So, in my practicing of the sermon, I was reading 2 Tim. 2:2. But that evidently wasn’t the only time the people of the church would be looking at the second chapter of 2 Timothy.
Before the gathered worship experience, the church had an adult Sunday school class where the teacher referenced 2 Tim. 2:2. He asked what the importance of the verse was. I responded quietly, but the people near me heard, that it was about fleeing youthful lusts. I was sure because I’d practiced my sermon which said that 2 Tim 2:2 was about that. But much to my surprise, he said that it was about mentoring others to pass on what has been passed on to us.
I felt ridiculous because I was going to seminary. I felt that I should have known better. And the lies in my head that had been rattling around in there for many years began to make me feel worthless. It made me feel like a fraud that no one should listen to. I know it’s quite a jump to go from a small mistake to feeling worthless, but that is the power some lies can have in the minds of people.
But amazingly, it wasn’t just the memory that came to me that morning. The feelings of worthlessness came right along with the memory. It was enough that I actually started feeling depressed because of an event that happened years ago. It was then that I began to think about how pervasive the lies we keep in our heads are. Some lies are those that we tell ourselves until we start believing them. And others are those that others have told us over and over again until we take them on for ourselves.
But all lies that we find in our heads have this ability to just pop up whenever they want to. We could be having the best day in the world, but next thing we know a memory or event triggers us into bouts of depression. Even when we think that we’ve been growing past the lies, they can just spring up.
For me, mistakes that make me look like an idiot or make people question my abilities raise up my issues with rejection. I have this underlying lie that my worth is based on what other people think about me. And if I do something wrong or stupid, then they won’t like me. So, when I read that chapter of the bible, I was reminded of being wrong, which led to thoughts of worthlessness.
But shortly after that lie popped up its hate-filled, ugly head, I had to remind myself of the truth that my worth is based on how God sees me. He loves me so much that Jesus, the second part of the Trinity, came to die for all of my sins. Every sin, every stupid thing I’ve done (and will ever do), every mistake I make has been dealt with on the cross.
God sees everything that actually does lower the dignity that every human is made with as the image of God, but he still shows us that he loves us. He took every one of those things on himself and paid the penalty of them for us. He went through hell for those of us who accept that sacrifice.
In that moment when I began to remind myself of the truth, the power of the lie faded. The truth is the only thing that can reduce the power of the lies in our heads. Lies want to immobilize us. They want to make us stay stuck in the mud of self-loathing. Dirty, soaked, keeping us from the place that God made us to be. And it’s only the truth that can free us from those bonds.
In John 8, Jesus talks to those who were believing in him and tells them that the Truth will set them free. This Truth, ultimately, is the event of the cross freeing us from sin that enslaves all human beings. But smaller truths are just as freeing. The truth about our worth before God can free us from the chains of hopelessness. Seeing the truth frees us from the chains of lies.
If you struggle, as I do, with lies in your head popping up at the most inopportune times, look to the truth. No matter if it’s self-worth, one particular event that causes great pain, or a whole host of other things, the Truth of God, and all truth held within, can free us. Let’s look to the Truth and seek truth in him.
And if you see someone else struggling with lies in their head, there are things you can do as well. Better even than directly telling them truth, show them the truth. What do I mean by this? Well, one more story.
A few months ago I was training to be a bus driver. One part of the test to get the license (and thus a new job) was to perform offset and parallel parking with the bus. And this filled me with dread. You see, when I took driver’s ed to just be able to drive a car, I sucked at parallel parking. It was (and still is) something that I’m not good at. So, I was worried about it.
My trainer tried to show us one time, but it was really quick. And then the second time I was learning how to park the bus in these ways, I was with a different trainer than normal. And I just couldn’t do it. Every time I tried, I just was not getting how to park this bus. And so, my mind started thinking that I would never get this job. I was worthless because I couldn’t do this necessary part of the job that I really needed.
After this other trainer told me to put the bus in it’s parking spot and I could go, I parked it and just started crying. The lies immobilized me. They made me believe that I was going to have to do more hard work of finding another job.
Walking through the building, trying to hide the tears, my regular trainer (who had just gotten back from what kept her from training me that day) saw me and could see that I was having trouble. She asked what the mater was. And immediately asked if I had time to stay. And she took me out to a bus.
It was supposed to be her lunchtime, her little bit of free time during the workday. But she took me out to work on this problem. And even when her boss came out to remind her of one more thing that she needed to do, she went to get another trainer and told them what was going on. And this other trainer showed me another way to look at the problem. And I was able to work through it.
You see, it was the fact that they showed me that I was worth both of these trainers’ time, even their free time, that helped quiet the feelings of worthlessness that kept me from being able to concentrate long enough to actually do this task set before me. The truth that I’m not worthless was lived out in their actions. They didn’t have to tell me anything about the psychology behind what was going on in my head. They merely had to live out showing me worth.
So, if you see someone dealing with the lies in their head, live out the truth before them. Show them what the truth is, rather than just telling them. It’ll be different for different lies, but the truth lived out can free those imprisoned by the lies in their heads.