It's been a while since I've read or posted on the Yancey book. I read this book the first time over the summer. And I have been reading through it a second time with my small group. We have taken a break from our regular meetings because December is so hectic; therefore, I have not been reading it regularly. But last night I read Chapter 14. In this chapter, Yancey writes about things that hinder us from praying. He mentions feelings of unworthiness, distractions, wanting to do it "right," and personality traits.

It always amazes me how God works in my life. I haven't picked this book up in quite a while. And last night I picked it up and read about unworthiness after spending several hours wrestling with my own personal feelings of unworthiness. Unworthiness is a conscious state of being for me most of the time. I daily feel unworthy of God's love, mercy, forgiveness and His blessings in my life. But yesterday afternoon and evening my mind was troubled by some specific thoughts about my personality, my temperament, my passionately expressive nature, my tendency to be direct and hold strong opinions. Sometimes I say things others would leave unsaid. In other words, I've been particularly focused on (and humbled by) what I view as my defects.

It's weird how the same traits in one setting can be strengths and, in others, weaknesses. Every trait is a two-sided coin.

I didn't know what was in the next chapter. But God did. And I don't believe it was a coincidence that I felt inclined to pick up the book and read. Apart from a lack of discipline, my greatest obstacle in praying is unworthiness. I'm certain God does not want me to ever feel worthy of Him. But I do believe He wants me to know He created my personality and, flawed as I am, He loves me. My unworthiness should draw me to Him. It's His approval only that I should seek.

My thoughts last night came as a result of a conversation I'd had with someone who was trying to explain to me how certain others feel toward me. It was done in love.

It does not come as a surprise to hear that certain people have felt hurt by my words and actions regarding the church I was raised in. I already knew that. But in that conversation, my personality was contrasted with someone else's (who also has strong feelings but has never written about her feelings on the Internet). In order to explain why people do not have such strong negative feelings toward this other person, as they do toward me, she was described as "softer." And I was described as "independent and direct." Those words were probably an attempt to soften the criticism. When I feel strongly about something, and especially when I hold deep convictions about right and wrong, I do come on strong. I always have.

I can't count how many times someone has asked me "Are you angry?" when I don't feel any anger. I'm just expressing myself with a great deal of emotion. I am well aware some people find that part of me to be harsh and abrasive; hard to take. I don't mean to be offensive. In actuality, I grieve over that part of me. And I would change it if I could. I would love to be described only as soft and sweet. But I know that only God can transform me and He eventually will soften my rough edges. The edges He wants softened. We have many examples in the Bible of individuals God used who had rough edges. And Yancey lists some of those examples in this chapter.

Even as I was struggling with the reminder that not everyone likes or approves of me and the knowledge that people I will always love cannot understand my heart or the strong conviction I have felt to speak out in behalf of victims and truth (regardless of my personal affection for some), I knew the sadness I was feeling was about me and my desire to have the understanding and love of people. And I felt like God was reminding me, once again, that cannot be my goal as a Christian. If it is, I will compromise the truth to have people's approval and love. And if I place more value on how someone feels toward me than I do on the truth, I am loving myself and not God OR others.

I value the friends I have who love me enough to be real with me and tell me the truth, even when it hurts me. I value the honesty of the friend who said things to me yesterday that caused me to feel bad about myself the rest of the day. She was trying to help me understand how I am perceived by others. Even though my goal cannot be to have their approval, it is important that we have reminders of how others experience us. How we perceive ourselves can be radically different from the way others perceive us. And I don't want to live in ignorance of my impact on others.

Waking up this morning, my feelings of sadness have returned again to the acceptance God has given me regarding these lost relationships. I can't honestly say that God has prompted my every word in the past. I can't completely know my own heart or motives. But I do believe God, in His sovereignty, has ordained the exposure of wrongs. And I believe He has used some of us who have left to confront those wrongs openly. The night I spoke publicly, three years ago, I knew without a doubt that I had been in God's will and that He had sent me there. It was not something I wanted to do. It was something that caused me tremendous anxiety, until I began to speak. The Holy Spirit covered me and took all of my nervousness away. It was an undeniable experience of being a vessel. I have agonized at times over being described as abrasive. But I have never regretted that night. There are a handful of situations in my life where I absolutely knew God directed my every word. And that night is one of those times. Whatever the personal cost is to me in terms of lost approval, acceptance or love, I accept it and one day I will learn to rejoice over it.

In the meantime, I will sometimes feel sad and defective and desire softer edges.