Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hiding under layers? ................ Parables 577

December 16, 1997

There is a lake in the Antarctica with water reading 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if anyone wanted to dive in and explore it, they would have to take with them a drill or a saw. Chilled by cold air above it, this lake is covered with ice.

George (not his real name) is like that. If there is a warm person on the inside, he keeps it well hidden under a self-protection layer of reserve. Others cannot get to know him or experience what he is like on the inside.

George might admit that he is afraid if others knew him well, they would not like him very much. He protects himself from rejection by what Christian counselor and psychologist Larry Crabb calls “layers.” Like the ice over the lake, these layers hide what is underneath. Crabb says it is almost always insecurity about acceptance, worth or competence.

Whether or not we use the term “layers,” most of us are aware of what we think are our flaws. We might use cosmetics to hide external marks and blemishes but there are no cover sticks for feelings of inferiority. Instead, we either withdraw or go overboard to prove ourselves.

Some people do it with their possessions. They buy the latest car or computer and show off by boasting about it. Others hide their inadequacy behind shyness, reasoning that if people do not notice them, they will not ask them to do anything and they will never betray their inabilities.

Others hide in alcohol or drugs, or become involved with one boy or girl friend after another. Some become powerful controllers who manipulate people so no one can see their weaknesses. Some retreat and become doormats. For them, being told what to do is easier than having people find out they are unable (or so they think) to make their own plans, never mind carry them out.

People who try to feel loved, valuable and competent through making demands on others or their own performance or possessions, always fall short. The main problem is that material things never last and people, even at their best, are unreliable.

For people made in His image, these three core needs can only be met by the triune God. He can make us feel complete. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, and in loving kindness I have drawn you.” He always cares, and proved it by sending His Son to die for us. When others fail to love us, God’s love is reliable and unconditional. We do not earn it or deserve it but it is something in His nature. He is a God of love. That is what He does.

We can also measure our worth by the price that God was willing to pay for us. To Him, our value is the life of His Son. That is what He paid to redeem us. We are people of worth to God. We do not need to prove ourselves but entrust ourselves to His love and value system.

Competence comes also from God. He gives His Holy Spirit to each one who believes in Him and receives His Son as personal Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit is a willing helper but we are not His robots. If we want to have His power and live using His competence, we must yield to Him. That yielding is immediately forfeited whenever we put up layers.

Instead, God tells us to deal with our inadequacies by dropping all self-protecting layers and acknowledging our insecurities to Him. Through Christ, we can know we are loved and have worth. Through His Spirit, we “can do all things.” We do not have to hide or prove anything.

In God’s care, we may at first feel vulnerable without our layers but as we learn to operate in His three-sided triangle of love, worth and competence, feeling weak gradually becomes something to appreciate. The Apostle Paul even said he could “boast gladly” about his inadequacies. He knew that God Himself promised His power is made perfect in our weaknesses and His grace is sufficient to set us free from all our fears.

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