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Lead Me On: When Even J. Lo Doesn’t Like Herself

Moses had the same problem—and so do we
When Even J. Lo Doesn’t Like Herself

In an interview with Maria Shriver this month, Jennifer Lopez confessed that she has struggled with low self-esteem. It’s getting better. She’s working on it. But there it is.

If this person, who is strong, savvy, and successful, and who sports a booty that is all about the bass in all the right places, does not have at her fingertips a world-class feeling of rock-solid about herself—well, come on already.

Lopez once thought she was scrappy and strong, but she found she was actually ignoring warning signs of low self-esteem. She recalled a time when she was younger and someone, overhearing how she handled a phone conversation, told her that she did not have a good sense of herself.

Wherein we are reminded that what we think is true regularly is just a little bit different than what is actually true. Especially about ourselves.

One place this is even more of a problem than in Hollywood? In the Bible.

What do you get when big-name heroes take the call of die-to-self all the way over to abandon-being-yourself?

In short, Moses.

When Moses was a baby, his indescribably faithful momma tucked him in a basket and settled it among river reeds, which led to a series of miraculous save-his-life-plus-now-he-lives-in-a-palace circumstances. A long time later, he felt convicted to help the unjustly enslaved Israelites—so he thumped a soldier who was hurting a slave. Bold move, but then the slaves turned on Moses, plus the king found out what he’d done to the soldier and, in pure biblically heroic form, Moses hightailed it out of town (Exodus 2).

All to say, this guy had lead a life, and God had been a big part of it. So it should not surprise the reader that, after a time, God showed up on Moses’ doorstep with a job offer.

But Moses wanted God to find somebody else.

Moses’ sense of self could not find its footing. He’d gone from cocky kid to meek man. Unfortunately, both ends of that pendulum swing were getting in the way of Moses’ living out his life’s work. And God did not like that Moses was trying to get out of what God was asking him to do. Why? Because God loved him.

How do I know?

There’s the staff-turned-snake-turned-staff, then the leprous hand, then the explanation about other signs. God was trying to ease Moses’ mind. That is love.

Plus there’s the showing up in the burning bush in the first place. Moses didn’t elicit God’s presence. God came looking for him.

There are a lot of ways to express love, and showing up is a big one.

Plus God said this: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12) Isn’t that the nicest possible thing? There is plenty to indicate that Moses’ reluctance was working God’s LAST NERVE. Still: “I will be with you.”

That is a very important reason to be ourselves. God is with us. He wants to be with us. If we are not ourselves, with whom is he spending time? Somebody like Moses, who couldn’t stop talking about his stutter and his I’m-not-good-enoughs, which is all a little bit sounding like code for “Get away from me. You want to be with me, but I am afraid to be what you are asking me to be. Even if the heavy lifting is on you.”

It is interesting to me that the apostle Paul was the one to say that incredible die-to-self line. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

First of all, Paul had an inordinately strong sense of self.

His tenacity in killing Christians was unprecedented before his conversion. His tenacity to further the church was unprecedented after his conversion. He changed, no question, but what was the same on both sides of that conversion coin was this: Paul knew himself and he was willing to be himself, thorns and all.

Imagine if he had tried to bend in order to fit in with the other religious crew at the time, like Peter. Peter, as much as anyone, needed Paul to be Paul. Paul made Peter a better man.

Even with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter struggled. A castigating call-out from Paul right there in front of all Peter’s pals was a pivotal growth moment for Peter. It was a crucial redirection for the formation of the church. Otherwise, the church might have turned into an elitist colony of subtle legalists—what a disaster that would have been.

Iron on iron, aptly handled, is love. Even, and sometimes especially, when we are sharpening ourselves.

If what the world needs now is love sweet love, then it is good to understand what it is about us that God loves anyway. Yes, he formed us in the image of himself and he wants us to be conformed to his image. But not at the expense of taking responsibility for an extremely, sometimes excruciatingly, emotional message from a God to people that goes like this: “Is this personal to you? This is personal to me.”

“You are personal to me.”

Why should you love yourself?

God started it. He loved you first.

It is a repeated talking point throughout a book that easily could have gone with more of a “Mad Dad” motif. We know that people wrote the Bible, but the writers say that God himself chose what got in and what got cut.

Funny what did not get cut.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez has her own book to think about. Her memoir, True Love, hit the stands this month. She is still working out the self-esteem business, and she’s scared, but she said, “I also know that I can’t make decisions based on the fear.”

Sage words. Here are more:

God sees you. He wants you to be the you that being with him can make you.

What you do with that will be your own memoir on True Love.

Janelle Alberts is a freelance PR and media relations specialist and has managed communication needs for clients such as Microsoft, Wells Fargo, and UPS. She started her first religious column in 2010 for the Akron Beacon Journal and has since written for Atlanta Parent Magazine, Christianity Today’s women’s online sections, and Catholic News Service, among others.

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