My wife and I recently started watching an old BBC series on Netflix, set in the Scottish Highlands. It begins as a fish-out-of-water story, with the young son (Archie) having left the highlands for city life, starting his own restaurant with his girlfriend. His mother asks him to come home after his father takes a spill in the local loch. He arrives to find his father fine, but that they have bequeathed the castle and 35000 acres to him without his knowledge. Since it’s a TV show, he of course ends up staying for good.
These types of shows are also required to have a romance in them, and after a few fits and starts, the son ends up with the housekeeper, Lexie, who’s lived at the house since she and he were both teenagers. But as the laird’s fiancé/wife, she has a hard time letting go of her old life.
She still wants to do the work she did before, even though she’s now lady of the manor. She still wants to keep house. She still wants to cook. (Why the housekeeper is also the cook is a subject for another time.) In fact, her desire to continue being cook is so intense that when Archie hires another cook to free Lexie up to, you know, be the laird’s wife, she throws a fit and challenges the new (professional) cook to a duel. (A cooking duel, but still.)
She still wants to do all these things because they are what she’s done all her life, and they are what she believes defines her worth to those around her. Her fight with the new cook is both funny (Lexie’s cooking is infamously bad) and poignant for its ferocity, because she is holding on to who she was. Archie finally tells her, “You have to choose — do you want to be the housekeeper, or the laird’s wife? You can’t be both.”
And so it is with all of us. Before we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are all trying to find our place, trying to discover what it is that will make us worth something, and preferably more than the person next to us. We search for it in beauty, in jobs, in knowledge, in sex, in power, in children, and so on. The search is always fruitless, although it usually takes a while before we figure that out, because those things look, and feel, good for a season.
But at the point we discover who we really are, that we have in us the imago Dei, the image of the Living God (Gen 1:27), that we really can be Jesus’ bride (John 3:29, Rev 21:2), and surrender our lives to Him, then of course all of that goes away, right? We walk (run!) away from what was and lean into what is and embrace Jesus and all that He wants us to be.
If only. The problem not only doesn’t go away, it often gets worse. Although we are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17), we fight like banshees to hold on to the old creature. Being a laird’s wife might be awesome, but being a housekeeper/cook is a lot more comfortable.1
Usually, we don’t realize how much we’re living in the past. We defend our choices (“My cooking is what they’re used to!”), we rationalize our behavior, we lash out at, or ignore, those who try to point out to us that living as the Lord’s bride is a lot better deal than however we’re living right now.
Here are some things we do that keep us from living as the bride we are.
1. Believe The Wrong Voice
Although most of us don’t talk about it, we all have voices in our head. One of them tells us we’re ugly, or clumsy, or unimaginative, or unworthy, or that our past is too bad to be overcome, or sometimes all of the above. It’s the wrong voice. We need to listen to the other one, the one who tells us we’re not only the opposite of all of those things, we’re worth dying for. (John 15:13)
2. Defend Our “Territory”
We can feel the need to be the best at everything, or feel like we should be charge of whatever’s happening, or get a little depressed when a friend gets a better job than we perceive we have. We defend all of that territory because it’s there we believe we have worth. The reality is we have no territory, because we died to all of that. All we have is Jesus, and He is enough.
3. Live (And Die) On People’s Praise
Everyone likes to be told they did something well, but instead of concentrating on the doing well part, we often begin to focus on the praise instead. We point out things to others, first subtly (but never as subtly as we think), then not so much, so someone will say something good about us. But people’s praise is junk food — it tastes good, but slowly kills our soul. The real food comes from Jesus, the only one we need to hear from — “well done, good and faithful servant.”
What else can we do to stay grounded in who we are? A steady diet of the Word is always a good choice. (Eph 1–3 is a great place to start if you’re having a particularly difficult struggle with this issue.) We can keep people around us who treat us well, i.e. aren’t one of the wrong voices, and who will get in our face when necessary (those two things aren’t at odds, cf Prov 27:5–6). And we can consistently pray that the Father will help us to rest in Him. (Matt 11:28-30, Psa 46:10)
When faced with Archie’s point-blank question, Lesie finally saw her struggle for what it was, and made the right choice. Whatever she was before, she was now the laird’s wife, and it was time to live like it.
How about you?
- This is an analogy, so no offense to housekeep/cooks is intended or implied. The point is the battle between who we were before Jesus vs who we are in Jesus.↩