We were shopping for new shoes for my son Clay when my nine-year-old son Alex said he might like to look at shoes as well. I paused for a moment. Alex is not always the easiest shoe shopper. He is quite particular about how the shoes fit and feel, especially their width. I looked down at his shoes and realized he would need some new ones soon, so I reluctantly agreed.
I loosened the laces on a shoe, and he tried it on. When he didn’t immediately reject it, I handed him the second shoe of the pair. He walked around a little and then told me that I’d done something to the first shoe that I hadn’t done to the second. He pulled the shoe off and asked me to do my “mumbo jumbo” to the second shoe. I realized that he wasn’t using mumbo jumbo in a negative way, so I loosened the laces of the shoe and handed it back. He put it back on and nodded his satisfaction. “You did your mumbo jumbo,” he said. I started to explain how I’d merely loosened the laces when he put his hand up to stop me. Then he said, “Don’t ruin your magic.”
His comment got to me because I think a lot of us “ruin our magic” on a regular basis. We criticize ourselves and not in a constructive manner. Instead, we tear ourselves down with our cruel self-talk. We deemphasize our unique qualities, assuming if we can do it, anyone can. When someone thanks us for doing something for them, we may say “it was nothing.” We believe we don’t offer anything special or important to the world. Feelings of failure pervade our minds. The pressure we impose on ourselves to reach perfection is immense even if the task is impossible. We compare ourselves with others and almost always come up lacking. Maybe it’s just me, but based on my discussions with others, in particular other women, many of us spend a too much time denigrating instead of building ourselves up. We ruin our own magic.
In the days before Jesus entered Jerusalem before his death, he visited with his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany. After dinner one night, Mary took an expensive perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and then wiped his feet with her hair. (John 12:1-11). In other versions of the story, she pours the perfume on his head, but in every account, the people grumble about her actions saying she should’ve sold the perfume and given the money to the poor instead. (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14:1-9). But Jesus would have none of that. “Leave her alone,” he said “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6). She’d demonstrated her character and heart by caring in such an extravagant way for Jesus, and he wanted her to be celebrated not ridiculed. In fact, Jesus said, “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9).
Jesus cares for us in the same way he cared for Mary. He believes that we are valuable and have much to offer the world. He doesn’t want others to treat us badly, and he doesn’t want us to treat ourselves that way either. I think that many of us are our own worst enemies. Jesus took on Mary’s critics, but if Jesus had expressed his deep appreciation to Mary, and she’d said, “oh, it was nothing,” I think he would’ve corrected her too. He would’ve told her he loved her, and he wanted her to love herself too.
God pours out his love for us and wants us to embrace that love. God doesn’t like our unkind words and thoughts when they’re aimed at others or ourselves. What if we believe in the best versions of ourselves, the versions God sees? Perhaps we could stop our self-defeating behavior. When we start to beat ourselves up, let’s remember God’s deep and abiding love for us and adopt Alex’s words as our own mantra: “Don’t ruin your magic!”