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From Cinderella to a Princess, Part 1

From the series Precious in His Sight

One of the most devastating things that keeps people from being who God wants them to be is unresolved issues about self-worth. We all face this, but often women struggle with it more deeply. In this message from Chip's wife, Theresa, we get insights from her unique journey toward understanding her self-worth, from God's perspective. If you are struggling, God has provided this message for you.

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Message Transcript

Our physical appearance is beautiful in the eyes of God, because He designed our bodies just the way that He wanted them to be. And we learned that true and lasting beauty is that which comes from a heart filled with God, and that our value, our worth as a person, is not determined by our outward appearance. Because we’re already valuable, as we were made in the image of God, and we were created to express His very life through ours, and that His life dwells within us when we’ve trusted in Him as our Savior. He chose to come and live within our earthly bodies, within these tents. And we have become His holy temple. And He will express Himself through us as we depend upon Him.

And last night we also defined our self-image, and that is the picture that we have of ourselves, in our minds, who we believe we are. And that picture can be positive, or it can be negative. And a healthy self-image, or a healthy view of ourselves, is to be able to see ourselves just as God sees us – no more, and no less.

Well, this morning, we’re going to talk a little bit about, how do we develop that self-image? How did we come to think the way we do about who we are? Well, from the very time that we’re little, little children, we’re beginning to develop a picture of who we are. And fortunately, or unfortunately, sometimes, our parents, or those in authority who cared for us as we grew up, play a major role in the development of how we view ourselves today, and how we view ourselves throughout our adult lives.

How a parent relates to a child, the attitudes expressed in the home, whether affection is given, or whether it is withheld, the quality of time that’s spent with a child – all of these things are registering in that young child's mind, and they’re forming a picture of who they are. And they will believe either that they are loved, or they’re not loved. They’ll believe either that they are wanted, or they’re not wanted. They’ll believe that they’re important, or they’re not important.

For example, my mother, when I was growing up – she had a lot of fears. She tended to worry about everything. And I picked up those messages in my own life, and it told me things about myself: that I needed to be really careful, and that I shouldn't do this, or that, because I might get hurt. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to have a bicycle when I was growing up, because it was too dangerous to have a bicycle. And so, I learned to be fearful of many things, and of doing something new, because the outcome might be bad. I learned to worry a lot.

Now, Chip's parents – my husband's parents – on the other hand, were always encouraging him to try new things, to take risks, to step out, and to do something new. And they had a very adventuresome attitude about life. And so, he learned about himself that he could step out, and take risks with his life, and try new things, without the fear of being hurt. And he became very confident. And so, our parents’ attitudes towards us, and the way that they expressed their attitudes towards us in the home, will determine a lot of how we think, and what we believe, about ourselves.

I’d like to read a quote, here, from a book by Josh McDowell, called, His Image, My Image. And he says, “Parents are God's agents. As has been said, the initial development of our self-image lies in our relationships with our parents. Self-images are, most of all, derived from the authority figures to whom we were in submission in childhood. We learned who we were, and what we were like, from them. A child literally discovers what kind of person he is, and how he feels about himself, by the reactions of his parents to him.”

Our parents’ evaluations of us were transferred to our young minds. We saw ourselves in light of their thoughts and actions towards us. From their attitudes, we sense their feelings about us. Those experiences, even if long ago forgotten, serve to form our self-concepts. Thus, the everyday experiences of our childhood, not solely the traumatic ones, were what shaped our self-images. The general atmosphere in our families contributed more to our view of ourselves than any single event. We adopted the general attitude of our families, internalizing these feelings. Understanding that parental influence is a significant ingredient helps in our attempts to see our self-images transformed."

And it’s very important for us to understand how we came to view ourselves the way that we do. Not to blame anyone, you see? We cannot look at ourselves as victims, and we’re not to blame. But it’s important to understand how we came to think the way we do. Because, then, we can allow God to work in that situation, and help us to think what is really true.

And, although our parents do play a major role in how we learn to define ourselves, we also have learned to define ourselves by the kinds of peers that we’ve spent time with, by other significant people in our lives, by major events that happen in our lives. Maybe our parents were divorced when we were young, or we lost a parent through death.

And, also, we are just bombarded, as we talked about last night, by the media, which tells us who we should be, and that we should look a certain way, or that we should have certain things, or that we should have a certain kind of personality to be successful, to be a "somebody." And we’re filtering all these things in our minds, every day, to figure out who we are. Because we all have a need. We all have a great need to be significant, to know that we’re loved, and that we’re wanted.

And if one of those ingredients is missing in our lives, then we’re going to try to fill that up in some way. And, in our own efforts, usually, we try to conform to what we believe will make us a worthwhile person. And we try to fit into the world's mold, which is telling us that, to be significant we need to dress a certain way, we need to have clothes from a certain store, we need to live in a certain kind of house, in a certain part of the city, or have this much education, or this kind of job, or accomplish this many things.

If we can’t do it for ourselves – you know, some of us, what we try to do is say, “Well, if I can’t be a ‘somebody,’ then I’ll make sure my kids are somebody.” You know, “I’ll make sure things work out for them.”

But you know what God says? He says all these things, all these outward things that we try to do to make ourselves a "somebody," to make ourselves significant, are faulty foundations on which to build our worth. Because when a crisis comes in our lives, or a life change comes, then these foundations crumble, and they won’t hold us up. They won’t sustain us.

Well, all of us, to some extent, learn to view ourselves from imperfect people – for example, our parents – and we live in an imperfect world. And many of the messages we pick up about ourselves are false. And God wants us to know, from His Word, who we truly are. He wants us to know what He says about us.

And He tells us that we are already a “somebody” to Him, and we’re already worthwhile in His eyes. And when he looks at His children, he sees a valuable person. He sees a valuable person. He doesn’t see a mistake, and He doesn’t see a failure, and He doesn’t see a second-class citizen.
He doesn’t see somebody who has to keep trying harder and harder to prove that they’re a worthwhile person. He sees someone who is already significant, and already valuable.

Well, I grew up with a very poor self-image, and I spent the first 25 years of my life trying to prove to myself that I was really a “somebody,” that I was really a worthwhile person. And I tried to do this by using the world's methods to fill up those empty places in my life. You know, I thought, If I could just be pretty enough . . . Or, If I could get an education . . . Or, If I could get married . . . And then, If I could get married . . . If I could have a child . . . Or, If I could have my things . . . Or, If my husband could be successful . . . You know, those things, I thought, would make me significant.

But when I was 25, God began to teach me some very important lessons: that all of those things, all of those ways that I was trying to make myself significant, and I thought would make me a “somebody,” were just empty buckets. They were just empty buckets, because, down deep inside, I still had that emptiness. I still had that lack of self-worth that I constantly had to keep trying to fill up in other ways, and by working harder. And I look back on those early days in my life as my Cinderella story. And I wanted to tell you a little bit about that this morning.

I was born, to parents who were not believers, who were not Christians. I was the second born of three girls. And we grew up in a very small town, in the hills of West Virginia. We were called “hillbillies,” back then. I don’t know if they’re still called that today. We lived a very simple, and a very isolated life.

My mom was a housewife, and she didn’t drive a car. She has never gotten her driver's license. We didn’t have any kind of social life – or she didn’t, and she didn’t spend any time with friends. The whole focus of her life was her home. And she did take good care of her children. She was a very sweet, and kind person, a very quiet person.

I can’t remember her verbally expressing her love to me growing up. But I knew, from her actions, that she loved me, because she worked so hard to take care of us, and to see that our needs were met. She would give us things that she wanted herself, to make sure her three daughters had what we needed. She was a very fearful person, as I told you. She worried a lot about a lot of things that might happen.

One of her greatest priorities was keeping her house spotless. It had to be spotless, all the time. And cleaning her house just seemed to be the major priority of her life.

Well, my dad was a lot different. He was a very, very strong disciplinarian, and he ruled our house with an iron hand. He worked away from home a lot during the week in my growing-up years, and he was home on the weekends – which, as I look back now, was probably one of the saving graces of my life. Even though, when he was away – even when he was at work – I could feel his presence watching over me, and waiting for me to mess up.

He had rules for everything. He had rules for everything we did, and they were strictly enforced by hard spankings if you messed up. And everything had to be done perfectly, whatever you did. He was a very hard worker. He provided for our physical needs, and he expected us to work hard, and, as I said, whatever we did, to do it perfectly.

He never told me that he loved me. He never hugged me, or touched me affectionately. He never played with me growing up. He never praised me for doing a good job. He never encouraged me to accomplish anything with my life, and never got involved in anything that was going on in my life.

He was a man who was never able to resolve conflicts with other people in his own life, so he would just not speak to them anymore. He would just kind of forget that they even were alive. He was very paranoid, and he thought others were always out to get him, and he drank a lot.
Early on, I remember thinking that drinking was a good thing, because he seemed happier when he was drinking with his friends. And so, I thought that was a good thing.

I was terribly afraid of him, because he had such high expectations, and I could never meet them. And I longed for his approval, even though I was terribly afraid of him. I tried so hard to do whatever I needed to, to get his approval, and to get his love. But I never got it. He never expressed to me that I ever did a good job, or that he was ever pleased with anything that I did.

Well, because of where we lived, and because my parents were not social people, and because we were not allowed to participate in hardly any activities outside of our home, it was very hard for me to build friendships when I was growing up. And so, I spent a lot of time by myself. I would sit, and I would daydream about what life was like outside this little town in West Virginia. I dreamed about what I could be, if I could have been born someplace else, if I could have been in another place, in another family.

In fact, the love that I have for reading came out of those years of being alone, where I would go to the library – or, we didn't have libraries, but the bookmobile came through our little town. And I would just wait for that thing to come, because I could get a book.

I would read stories about young woman, about girls who were really doing something exciting with their lives, and who had careers. For a while, it was like I was them. I would dream about what it would be like to really be someone significant, to really be a “somebody.”

And I remember, early on, watching the movie Cinderella on TV. And she sang the song that was sung this morning. It so touched my heart, because I thought, That is who I am. That is what I feel like. I would sit alone in my house, or, sometimes, I would go way up on this hill behind our house with my dog. And I would sit, and I would daydream, and think about what it would be like to be a “somebody,” to live someplace else. In the Cinderella story, she sat in the corner, and she sang this song, and then, her fairy godmother showed up. Well, my fairy godmother didn’t come. But I had something better, which came later.

Well, during those years, I was developing a picture of who I believed I was, and many negative things began to develop in my mind. These are just some of them: I can’t really expect to do anything significant with my life. That’s what I thought. If I make a mistake, it will be devastating. If I make a mistake, or do anything wrong, then I am a bad person and I should be punished. I must work hard to prove that I’m a “somebody.” If something goes wrong, it must be my fault. Those are some of the negative beliefs that began to form in my mind.

Well, during my high school years, I watched as my older sister really bore the brunt of our parenting, even worse than I did. She couldn’t handle all the restrictions that we had in our lives. We were not even allowed to date, and we were not allowed to mention boys in our home. It was almost like that was a bad word. And so, she began to sneak out, and go on dates. I knew all this was going on. She even got dressed up, and went to the prom, without my parents knowing that she went. And I was so scared for her.

But, pretty soon, I started sneaking out, too. She taught me well. We learned all the tricks. But the fear of being caught, and the guilt of doing these things behind my parent's back, for me, was enormous. It really bothered me.

Well, eventually, my sister did get caught. And I’ll never forget the night that my dad punished her – just the yelling, and the screaming between the two of them. She tried to run away from home that night, and my bedroom window was the only one she would be able to get out of to run away. And I would not let her out, because I loved her so much. She was a beautiful girl. She was beautiful, inside and out. She was tender, and sweet, and she was fun to be with, and I loved being around her. I loved being with her.

But she became pregnant near the end of her senior year in high school, and I just watched as this beautiful girl turned into an angry and bitter woman over the years. And to this day, to this day, she has never embraced all that God has for her, all that He wants to give her, and she’s never been able to resolve the bitterness that she has in her heart towards my dad.

Well, I was determined, as I watched her life, that I was not going to be like that, and that I was going to break free from my dad, that I was going to make something out of my life, that I was going to be a “somebody.” And I knew that, if life was going to work out for me, I was going to have to do it myself. The only problem was those same old recordings that kept playing over and over in my mind – you know, You’ll never be significant. You’ll mess up. You know, I still kept hearing those same things.

Well, I went off to college – not with my dad's blessings, but he did agree to let me go. At the same time, though, I got involved with a young man, and this evolved into a very unhealthy relationship. But I was desperate. I was desperate to be loved, and I didn’t want to lose him.

We dated for a couple of years, and then, we got married, and I was finding fulfillment now. I was finding fulfillment in that, now, I was married, that I had a job I liked, and my husband was working on his degree, and we were going “someplace” with my life. I was finally thinking, I am really becoming a “somebody.”
During that time, my husband was involved a lot in drugs, and a very party-type lifestyle. And I just couldn’t face the fact that these things could destroy our lives, because I’d watched my dad drink all these years, and it didn’t seem to hurt him. So, it didn’t concern me all that much as I watched my husband go through these things.

Well, he graduated from college in May, and our twin boys were born in August. When they were six months old, he left us. He just walked out. I had quit my job to take care of our children, and so he left us with no income. And he got involved with another woman. And my life was devastated.

In my efforts to become a “somebody” – all those things that I thought would make me a “somebody” came crumbling to the ground. And this devastating time just validated, in my mind, that what I believed about myself was true: I really do mess everything up, and I am a failure. I’m not important. But, you see, I had a faulty believe system, and I didn’t know it.

It’s like the story about the crooked little man, and he had a crooked wife, and he had a crooked cat, and he lived in a crooked house. He didn’t know that everything was crooked, because that’s all he knew. He had a faulty belief system.

I didn’t know that my belief system was crooked. And I know that, in this room, there are some of you who have been living your lives with crooked beliefs about who you are. You have faulty beliefs about who you are, and it affects every area of your life. It affects your relationships. It affects your marriage. And God wants you to begin to become aware of what those beliefs are, and, this weekend, to start turning the corner in the process of allowing God to transform those faulty beliefs, those crooked thoughts that you have about yourself, and to begin to believe what’s really true about you. That’s what He wants us to know: what God says about us. And He says that His truth gives us freedom. See, it breaks the bondage in our lives. It’s God's truth, He says, that sets us free.

Well, about six months after my husband left, the most wonderful thing happened to me. This Cinderella, who thought that she would never be significant, was about to become a princess. I just happened to get a job in an office where my boss was a born-again Christian, and, for the first time in my life, I began to hear about God. I began to hear about a God who loved me, and who wanted me, who heals the wounds of the brokenhearted, and sets the prisoners free, a God who will never, ever reject us. He wants me – a God who loves me, and who will never, ever turn His back on me.

So, at age 25, at a little Free Methodist church in West Virginia, I invited Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior. I didn’t realize, at that moment when that was happening, what God was doing inside me. I didn’t realize the changes that were happening at that moment, or how I would change, even more, over the next several years of my life.

And some amazing things happen to all of us, the moment we receive Christ. At the moment of our salvation we’re changed. We’re different people. We’re not the same people that we used to be.

And this happens to all of us, no matter what our backgrounds are. We’re transformed, at that moment, from a Cinderella into a princess, into royalty. We become the daughters of the King, and we become His princesses.

And so, in your notes, if you have your notebooks open, turn to the part of this session that says, "Spiritual transformation occurs at the moment of salvation." This is so important for us, as far as our identity is concerned, to understand who we are in Christ, to understand what happened to us at the moment we were saved, that this is who we were before, and this is who I am now. It’s a huge difference. And it makes a huge difference in how I view myself, and in how I live out my life. And so, I just want to briefly take you through that.

If you look at that chart, there, it says, first of all, “Before Christ” – before Christ, before I was saved – “this is who I was: I was spiritually dead, and I was separated from God.” In Romans 5:12, it says, "Therefore, just as through one man” – and that’s Adam – “sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men." Because Adam sinned, because he turned his back on God, sin has been born into every life on this earth, ever since. We are born into sin. And that’s who I was before I knew Christ. I was separated from God.

At the moment of salvation – after Christ – we become spiritually alive. And that means that I become indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The very life of Christ indwells my body. As we talked about last night, we become His temple, and He lives within me. And so, we’re no longer separated from God. Not only do I have life, over here – see, I am not dead anymore – now, I have life, and I’m not separated from God anymore. Now I have an intimate relationship with Him, because He lives right inside me, and we’re as close as we can ever be.

It says in Romans 5:17, "For if, by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ." So, those of us who have been born again, into new life, are over here, and we have life, and we have intimacy with God.

Before Christ, we have the old nature that is a slave to sin. We have the old nature. And everything we do, over here, is outside of the will of God. I’m trying to live my life in my own efforts, in my own flesh, within the limits of my own mind, and my own ability. Over here, without Christ, I’m trying to do everything the natural way that I think it’s to be done, and it’s without Christ.

Now that I have become saved, now that I have the life of Christ, He says that I’m changed, and I receive a new nature. I have the very nature of Christ now. Second Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away; the new things have come." Over here, I had an old nature, and all I could do was sin, just do things that came naturally, in my own mind, and my own abilities.

Now, I have the life of Christ in me. I have His nature, and I have a longing to do what Christ would do. And I have the power to do it. I’m no longer a slave to sin, but I’m a slave to righteousness. In other words, I don’t have to sin anymore. Now, I will, but I don’t have to. I have the ability to live out my life in the power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells me, and I have a power that I didn’t possess before, because I have the power to live for God.

Well, before Christ, my identity was determined by faulty foundations that were sometimes good, and sometimes bad. That may be, I determine my identity by what other people think, or by the world system that we live in, or by my achievements, or what I own. Proverbs 16:25 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." These things are empty buckets. They’re these things that we try to use to tell ourselves who we are, to make ourselves significant, and they’re empty buckets.

After Christ, my identity is determined by my relationship with Christ, that will never change, or crumble, and it’s always good. It’s always good. I become a child of God. I become royalty. I become a princess who is an heir to all the blessings that God has to offer.

In 1 Peter 2:9, it says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." You see, we are a chosen race, it says, a royal priesthood. We belong to Him. We have His identity now.

Romans 8:15-16: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." We become a part of His family. We’re adopted as His children.