Holiday Self-Esteem and Insecure Kings (Sunday Thoughts Link Up #51)


 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

MATTHEW 2:13-16

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Intelligence, looks, talent, motherhood, wifedom, cooking, relaxation, achievement—pick a category and I can get worked up about it. Here’s what I notice about myself when I am feeling insecure about any manner of things: I start to look around. On Facebook, at the kids’ play gym, at the carpool line, during the singing at church. I’m eyeing up the competition. The world is a giant grocery store and I’m craning my neck to get a look in other people’s carts. This serves a purpose it has taken me years to pin down. It keeps me outward-thinking after the inward eye has seen something it doesn’t like.

It’s coping.

And it’s not.

It doesn’t work. It just shows me the rest of the world’s shopping list and makes me ignore mine. You can’t ever get a secure hold on the wheel when your eyes veer off the road.

It took years for Jesus to get out of Egypt and back to his birthplace. Years. Because Herod was so busy looking in everybody’s cradles and bending an ear to every rumor about the “King of the Jews” that he slaughtered generations of little ones to satiate his ego. His insecurity made him a liar, a weak leader, a sham adult, and a killer.

Insecurity will eat you alive. But more than that, it will corrode the others around you, like a mold creeping along the tiles in your shower.

And the holidays are prime time for neuroses. They pit you against all the versions of you that your family and friends hold and they say: “Now go get ‘em. Show them who you really are!”

No, I’m not that whiny teenager anymore. Yes, I do know how to manage my finances. No, I haven’t worn my hair like that or fit in to those pants for years. No, I don’t want to talk politics. Yes, this is how we discipline in our household. No, that’s not the same recipe you gave me last year. It’s exhausting.

The easy and obvious answer to all this is to find your security in Jesus. He loves you. He always will.

But…it’s hard to feel this in the miasma of other feelings. You can’t crawl into Jesus’ lap for a bear hug. He’s not actually able to tell you your hair looks fine.

To keep myself from turning into a Herod, someone who makes the world suffer for my own self-doubt, I need something more concrete than a fuzzy thought bubble of Jesus. I need something to do. So, I read my Bible like it’s due back to the library in three days. I fill my head with its subtitles. I also talk to my husband, a lot, about all the things the holidays bring up in me and let him reassure me I’m a-okay. I focus outward in a good way—on helping my kids make the good memories, on asking those relatives about themselves and really listening, on being nice to the lady in the kid’s section at Kohl’s who is about to burst into because she can’t find her child’s size in the red jeggings.

Herod bowled down his kingdom, the land he was meant to protect, because he was too worried about himself. I know there are some sharp edges to everyone’s holiday—memories and situations that do turn you into the whiny teenager or the overreactive parent or the stressed out spouse. But ultimately, you can choose not to play Herod. Be the Magi instead—join the party.

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