Years ago, I devoured every single issue of Us Weekly within hours of its arrival in the mail. I couldn’t get enough of the celebrity scoop (that’s a cute little euphemism for gossip, you see). I also liked seeing how all the celebs dressed, what their hairstyles looked like, and I even enjoyed those pictures captured when the men and women of movies and television looked atrocious: bags under their eyes, puffy no-make-up’d faces, baggy, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair. This segment of the magazine always made me feel better because it made these superstars seem more relatable. That was it did, until I realized those unflattering photos were posted in a section Us Weekly called, “Stars–They’re Just Like Us.” Not cool, Us. Not cool.
Needless to say, after looking at this trash week after week, I noticed that there was so much appearance emphasis, so much body talk that I didn’t feel very good about myself. Despite my love of all things celebrity, I decided that I needed to break up with Us Weekly, and (surprise!) without all that comparison, I started feeling less focused on myself. I can’t say that I felt altogether better, but it just took the focus off the external…if that makes sense.
I have (mostly) maintained that mindset over the years until just recently. You see, back in January I turned 38, and while that’s certainly not old (y’all know what they say: 38 is the new 25, amiright?!), turning 38 brought something along with it that I’d not really been anticipating: the 20th anniversary of my having graduated from high school. I’m sorry, what?! It’s been HOW LONG since I graduated from high school? Clearly a mathematical error has occurred.
Well, with this tragic realization, I found myself returning to my focus on external appearance. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have a weird friend situation: they all look WAY younger than they are. They’re all vampires who do Lord knows what to maintain wrinkle-free skin and thick, luxurious hair. Frankly, it’s disgusting. I, however, haven’t met a face-crease I didn’t let move in permanently. So, needless to say, I’ve spent much more thought-time and mirror-time inspecting my aging self for signs of those 20 years that have passed since high school.
This is going to seem way off the point, but just keep it to yourself and stick with me for a second….
On the wall in our bedroom I have a horizontally-hung antique door, on which my super crafty and dear friend Jennifer Marie painted–at my request–the following scripture: Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). (I’d post a picture so you could see for yourselves, but I obviously don’t pay a large enough per month fee for this website because that’s not an option for me. Dust off those imaginations! You’re welcome!)
From the sink in my bathroom, I can see this door and scripture, and one day, after more close examination of all age spots, sagging skin, and various other sordid facial changes, this scripture spoke in a different way to me. You see, I felt like God was telling me, Lindsey, if you keep looking for wrinkles, that’s exactly what you’re going to find, because that’s what you’re determined to find. If you looked for good, though, you’d find good. It’s your call.
HOLD THE PHONE! Boy, does this apply to our everyday lives, too, not just superficial skin inspection. In order to better understand the lesson I felt God had placed within my heart, I spent some time with that verse in Matthew, and I had a few thoughts. What’s that? You’d like me to share them? Why, how kind of you to ask. Here you go.
Basically, here’s what I believe is 100% the truth…and clearly, I’ve not exhausted what could be an incredibly lengthy list:
Look for wrinkles, find wrinkles.
Look for negatives, find negatives.
Look for love, find love.
Look for Jesus, find Jesus.
Let me explain. While I know I just mentioned this verse earlier, let me draw your attention back to what the Bible states very specifically in Matthew 7; this time let’s look at verses seven and eight: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Although these verses definitely work to explain that anyone who seeks God repeatedly and steadfastly will INDEED find Him, couldn’t they also work in the reverse to help us understand the critical importance of a godly mindset?
Friend, if in your marriage (or significant-other relationships) you constantly look for reasons to be upset with your spouse or you are always posed and ready to jump down their throats to prove just how much you do and how little they do, guess what you will always find? Yep, a reason to do exactly that. And if at work you’re always seeking to catch your coworkers or your boss in a mistake or to prove that he/she doesn’t work as hard as you do, guess what you will always find? Right again. Y’all, whether it’s with your friendships, work relationships, marriages, or relationships with pastors, neighbors, or in-laws, if you seek the negative, YOU WILL FIND THE NEGATIVE. If you knock long enough at the door of discontentment, upset, bitterness, anger, or resentment, that door will be opened to you. The Bible guarantees it.
After feeling like I understood this concept in a way I had not before, it begged the question, how do I change what I seek? And like a good Type-A nutball, I organized my thoughts and the insights God provided me into a few main suggestions. I hinged these ideas on a favorite saying of mine from Joyce “We’re Gonna Be Best Friends One Day In Heaven” Meyers: Think about what you’re thinking about. In other words, our though-life MUST be intentional, and since our thoughts spring from our heart, it’s best that we start there. So, without further ado, in an effort to change what we seek from negative to positive, from resentment and frustration to love, let’s hit our Bibles!
In Matthew 12:34, we are told that, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and this truth is punctuated by Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” In fact, our heartitude is so important to God that it’s what He chooses to focus on. “All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but God weighs the heart“ (Proverbs 21:2). Bottom line: whatever is in our hearts will flow out from there into our minds and our speech. It’s of utmost importance that we check our heart to make sure it’s full of God and His love to ensure that that’s what flows from it.
As we all know, it’s really easy to think about how irritating someone is, how much we do and how little they do, how unhappy we are, how unfair life is. However, it’s literally a sin to spend time in that mindset! Let me repeat: focusing on the negative goes against biblical teaching! Here, let me prove it. Philippians 4:8 instructs us very clearly to think ONLY on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy. Full stop. No excuses, no exceptions.
And, y’all, the trickle-down from what’s in our hearts and our thoughts is shown in our speech. You can seek negativity verbally, just like you can mentally. Do you talk frequently with your coworkers about that other coworker? Or your boss? Do you and your mom or you and your sister spend time verbally building up your spouse or tearing him down? What about with your kids? Do you and your spouse speak life into the challenges of raising them or do you wallow in your circumstances and current trials? Ephesians 4:29 makes no bones about it; it states, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear.” God is really speaking to us here, friends, because He’s letting us know that not only does our speech affect those involved, but it directly affects anyone who even happens to overhear it! Anyone who has ever heard us talk negatively…boom! They’re affected.
But all is not lost. Why? LOVE <–the answer to all of this! Over and over again in the Bible it teaches us that God’s love for us, when accepted into our hearts, will flow forth from us into and onto others. It teaches us that without God’s love in our hearts, our thoughts and our speech become dangerous, both to us and others. Check out this repetition.
Romans 12:10–“Outdo one another in showing honor.” (AKA love!)
Ephesians 4:31-32–“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Luke 10:27–“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
And one last verse before we close and pray, one that reminds us we must purposefully and diligently seek good to find good, and we must purposefully and diligently seek Jesus to find Jesus (especially in others): “Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire love [make it your aim, your great quest]…” 1 Corinthians 14:1. Did ya notice that word “seek” in there? Yet again we’re given the promise that whatever it is we seek, we will find. Let’s seek love, life, goodness, and most importantly, let’s seek Jesus.
Dear Lord, thank You so much that You clearly direct us into a way of thinking and speaking that helps us show You to those around us. Father, it’s certainly not always easy to find the good, to seek good over bad, but I know that if I’ll bring my struggles to You, You will help me turn around my thinking. Help me to fill my heart, Lord, with You and Your love so that when it overflows, it’s You getting passed on to all I encounter. I choose happiness and contentment, and today, Father, I want to move forward only attempting to find the good in those around me and the circumstances in which I find myself. Be with me, Lord, so that I bring glory to You with my heart, my thoughts, and my speech. It’s in Jesus’s name that I pray. Amen.