My post yesterday was the first after my summer break. The response was surprising. It seems my thoughts about Destiny Hope (scroll down to see this if you haven’t already) hit a chord in many hearts.
Why? Because many of you, like me, are aware of the spiritual pride (as one reader defined the sinful attitude we often deal with in relation to “those sinners out there”) that tempts us to view ourselves as better than others because our actions are more outwardly righteous than theirs.
- “You wouldn’t catch me wearing something like that on national TV…or even at the beach, for goodness sake!”
- “How in the world could that young woman do those things in front of millions of people???”
- “Where did she learn to act like that? Who in the world had a filthy enough mind to choreograph those moves?”
- “What happened to the little girl who went to Sunday School and wore a promise ring?”
I’ll admit it. My first reaction to the teaser clips I saw of Miley’s moves on Fox News wasn’t compassion. They were revolting. Shameful. Disgusting. Shocking. Until I took some moments to look into my own heart.
I was six years old when my friend Linda, the pastor’s daughter, and I were walking around the “dime store” (many of you are too young to know what that means) on a Saturday afternoon. We typically headed straight for the cheap little dolls and their even cheaper little accessories. I don’t remember the details of what I was thinking that day over fifty years ago, but I do remember something important. One of the “magic” baby bottles — where the milk seemed to disappear when turned up to feed the baby — ended up in my pocket when we left. And I didn’t have the 25 cents to pay for it.
It couldn’t have been that bad because it was the pastor’s daughter’s idea! The bottle in her pocket had disappearing orange juice, so between us we could feed our babies juice and milk.
At age six these two young churched girls had already become thieves and liars. And one of them justified her actions because the desire to “go along” with her pastor’s kid gave her just the permission she needed to do what was in her heart to do anyway.
The next time I remember stealing and lying was in fifth grade. I was in the “advanced” reading group and desperately wanted to retain my role as the group leader. This meant I had to read numerous books in a given time period and answer a list of comprehension questions to prove I had actually completed them. I also had the job of checking the other group members’ quizzes and then keep track of their progress in the teacher’s grade book.
Maybe you’re ahead of me. This meant I had authorized access to the answer keys.
I don’t remember if this happened just once, but I remember cheating one afternoon when no one else was in the room. I stole the answers to one (or more?) of the quizzes because my leadership tasks had left me behind in my own reading. My proud heart craved the recognition and respect of being the leader and I wasn’t about to give that up.
There you have it: by age 10 I was already demonstrating my willingness to steal, lie (covering up sin is the same as lying, right?) and rebel against God and my parents/teacher to get what I wanted. This pattern continued into my teen years when I was willing to compromise morally and ethically to keep a boyfriend or be accepted by the “cool” people or get ahead academically.
And I wish all that had stopped when I graduated high school!
You see, a couple of months back I reacted angrily at Benny (my husband) and threw my cell phone at the wall near him. That same attitude of entitlement I had decades ago (didn’t I “deserve” that baby bottle and expedited quiz grades and cute boyfriend?) remains to some degree to this day. When Benny did something that tempted me to react angrily, to his shock I picked up my phone and heaved it toward the wall. Sigh. At least I didn’t throw it right at him. Because I don’t typically express my anger outwardly (even though it’s alive and well in my heart) he and I both realized this was a sign that something was deeply affecting me. The little girl who “deserved” a toy she couldn’t pay for became a wife who “deserves” her husband’s sensitivity, attention or encouragement. I’ve spent some good time with the Lord asking Him to search out the things in my heart that allowed me to act so wrongly toward Benny.
So what does this have to do with Miley? What if her actions, like mine as a kid and even recently as an adult, are symptoms of heart issues of which she isn’t even aware? Are her actions really the biggest problem? Or is there something deeper and even more serious going on?
The only reason you and I become aware of what is motivating us is because God shows us. I don’t see my sinful anger, greed, self-pity or painful sadness over being sinned against with my own eyes. And neither do you. Perhaps like me, you want to blame things like outbursts of anger on disrespectful kids or incompetent store clerks or gossipy friends or unkind relatives. We see — or are even willing to see — the roots of sin or brokenness or grief in our hearts when the Spirit of God kindly shows them to us. Left to ourselves, like Miley, we would go our own way without thought to how our actions begin in and flow out of our hearts.
Jesus talked about this when He said: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Hmm…sinful actions begin in the heart. Pornography and gossip, adulterous affairs and teens making out in the backseat of cars, lies and murder all begin in the heart before they ever come out — to just one person over lunch or to millions on TV.
Seeing how similar Miley and I alike are helps me to cultivate Christlike compassion rather than pharisaical judgement toward her. We both have a heart problem. I have been declared not guilty of my many sins while she seemingly remains in need of a Savior who is just as able to forgive her as He has me.
P.S. By the way, my conscience got the best of me and I told Mom about the magic baby bottle. She and the pastor’s wife had a good talkin’ to with LInda and me (well, not just a talkin’ to!) and we both had to return the toys to the store. The manager tried to give them back to us to say thanks for having the courage to return them (what courage??? our Moms made us!) but our moms wisely declined. They paid the 25 cents each for them, but then we all left the store with the man holding them in his hand. Thanks, Mom!