Let it Burn

By: Anne Imboden

Last summer seven women gathered around the fire pit in my backyard. They were staring into the flames, eyes wet with tears. They were watching as the fire burned up their handwritten lists of negative thoughts, harmful self-talk, and worldly lies until all that was left were embers.

Then each woman picked up a pen and paper and began to write a new list; a list to replace the one they’d relinquished to the flames. Their new list was full of truth; truth to remind them of whom God says they are when the lies of the world begin to whisper in their ear again.

It was beautiful to witness.

I’ve stood where those women stood. I’ve struggled nearly all my adult life to feel worthy, to feel enough. Not long ago I fought back tears while writing my list.

My list of harmful self-talk was long. The pages filled quickly with lies: You’re a failure. You’re not living up to your full potential. You lack self-control. You’re a disappointment. You’ve hurt so many people that they’ll never trust you again. You’ll never be disciplined enough. Why can’t you finish anything you start? If you could just lose the weight, you’d be happy. If could just stick to the right regimens you’d be more attractive. You’ll never be that thin again.

The lies went on and on.

As I approached the fire, I found it hard to let go of my list of awful and familiar words. They had been a steady beating drum in the back of my mind since I was a teenager. I had lived my life to the rhythm of their beat for far too long. I knew it was time to put an end to the control they had on my heart and mind. It was time for me to be free. As I watched my list disintegrate into the flames, I was reminded of Isaiah, the prophet God sent to, “bind up the brokenhearted…release from darkness…to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair,” (Isaiah 61:1-3). It was time to stop grieving all the things I wasn’t and embrace joy in who I was in Christ. It was time to trade my ashes for a crown of beauty. It was a defining moment for me; one I’ll never forget.

I took a few days flipping through my Bible and adding to my new list a little bit at a time. I made copies. One copy went on my mirror, one went in my car, and one went in my purse. No matter where I went, I had a reminder of whom God said I was. Over time, the new list was committed to my memory, and now I know just how to thwart the enemy when he comes lurking.

Do you have a list? What does it look like? What does the ugly harsh voice of the enemy whisper to you each day? Does that voice cause you to doubt yourself? To overindulge? To obsess? To backslide? To give up? That voice is not your friend. That voice cannot be trusted, but God can. God shows us we don’t need to do or be anything more than exactly who we are. And we are loved by Him. He shows us in Jesus.

Oh, that I could take each of you by the shoulders the way God did for me, look in your eyes and say, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). Our significance is not measured in Facebook likes. We don’t need to lose that weight to be loved. We don’t need to complain about our wrinkles or our bank accounts. We don’t need our spouse, our kids, our friends, or our colleagues to find belonging. We’ve already been chosen.

Here are three things to add to your new positive truth list:

  • We Are Beloved: As Ashley Hales so elegantly states in Finding Holy in the Suburbs, “Before Jesus did anything to earn the Father’s love, he was called beloved. Before he followed all the rules, loved others, or healed people, he was beloved. Before he took on the sin of the world or even taught and lived righteously in front of the public, he was beloved […] ‘Jesus is eternally beloved by the Father. His every activity unfurls from his identity as the Beloved. He loved others, healed others, preached, taught, rebuked, and redeemed not to gain the Father’s approval, but out of his rooted certainty in the Father’s love.’”

The world tells us being beloved comes from working harder to be more acceptable or more beautiful. But the truth is God offers his love freely without condition. Freely think and act in the deep-rooted certainty of the Father’s love.

  • We are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: In Psalm 139 we are assured that we are known, seen, fearfully, and wonderfully made. My favorite is verse 16 which says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God was thinking of us, planning out every detail of who we would be. He was intentional in His design of us. No part of us was made by mistake. He calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1). As His precious possessions, we hold value (Luke 12:7)
  • No Longer Slaves: Jesus’ death on the cross was compensation for all our faults, our failures, and our sin. Jesus paid it all. We are free. We are no longer a slave to our negative thoughts. We are children of God (Galatians 4:7) and heirs to His throne, sons, and daughters of the Most High King, the Creator of the universe!

The enemy’s lies hold no power over us. We can live confident and free in the truth of      God’s word. We can proudly wear that crown of beauty we traded for ashes.