License to Reign

We must leave the prison behind to come into the palace. People of royalty focus on who they are called to be. They have forgiven those who have hurt them; they have rejected the lies of the enemy; and they have embraced the truth. They don’t live in the bondage of prison but in the wholeness of the palace. The Supernatural Ways of Royalty

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Why this crown rests uneasily on my head …

“Crown Up.” That’s what the license plate on the car in front of me read as I was driving down the 101.

At that moment, “coincidentally,” I was listening to a radio Bible teaching on royalty. Now by “royalty,” the teacher wasn’t referring to the House of Windsor or other royal lineages, whose crown-bearers, by the luck of the DNA draw, live out a pretty privileged existence.

He was referring to our identity as sons and daughters of the King—how we see ourselves versus how God sees us. There is often a disparity between the two, which should come as no surprise (assuming you believe in the Almighty and therefore give credence to this concept).

The teacher went on to say that it was time for us to take our dust-covered crown off the shelf and plant it firmly where it belongs—on our royal heads. He had captured my interest then. After all, the license plate with the words “Crown Up!” was staring at me straight ahead.

If the whole crown thing sounds well, weird—even in the metaphorical sense—maybe that’s because the concept of wearing a crown doesn’t feel particularly egalitarian. Or, if you’re a sophisticated urbanite, the whole princess thing might feel too “girly” … or sexist. Perhaps even presumptuous … or prideful.

I shared some of those feelings and because of that, I honestly felt a little weird taking this selfie.

A Role That “Suits” Her

Then I thought of Meghan Markle. Not even a self-described liberated girl from LA who played “princess” as a little girl could have dreamt up that kind of royal existence. But it doesn’t demean her, nor does she shy away from donning a tiara.

While I realize that playing princess is a common pastime of little girls everywhere, I can’t personally recall ever wanting to be rescued by a prince as I dangled from the claws of a dragon. Somehow, the whole “damsel in distress” Cinderella story got lost on me. I was more interested in pretending to be King Arthur. I’m not sure what that says about me.

Meghan crown

In any case, Prince Harry’s American-born wife, aka the Duchess of Sussex, seems to have fully embraced becoming a real-life Cinderella. Markle sparkles in the role. And if she ever does feel a twinge of doubt as to whether she belongs at Buckingham Palace with all those musty monarchs, I’m sure the paintings of all the noble people hanging on the castle walls will embolden her. No matter what your origin, each portrait sets a standard to attain, a goal to reach and an inheritance to receive.

Possibilities are always egalitarian.

I’m not sure I would relish the role of princess. For one, I can’t playact when I’m having a bad day. That makes grinning 24/7 problematic for someone who is literally unable to smile and talk at the same time. Second, I don’t like ornate and drafty castles. Find me a castle that is warm and cozy, with a minimalist decor (and not filled with people), and I might just consider the prospect. That and those classic outfits with all those cool hats … yeah, I might do it just for those.

Then there’s the issue of wearing the crown, tiara, coronet, what have you. Wearing this royal head ornament makes me feel awkward … and I can’t help but think it’s a sign of something deeper going on in my psyche. I mean, what little girl (or grown woman, for that matter) doesn’t want to be princess—even if it’s a secret she wouldn’t dare utter aloud to her feminist friends?

African Queens

While further examining my reluctance to don a crown, I also thought of the common cultural practice of calling African women “queens.” Even the women call themselves that. And a few of my Instagram followers have similarly addressed me with that moniker. I find that strange as well. Maybe not so much for these beautiful women, who truly dress and comport themselves like queens. But for me, it was an uncomfortable concept.

african queen1

The closest I ever came to royalty was almost being “crowned” as a debutante—a role I was loath to play. I just couldn’t jive with the concept of being treated special because I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Perhaps if I had said “yes to the dress,” that crown would have fit a bit easier on my head.

Which leads me back to the probing question of why do I feel so uncomfortable wearing this crown?

Mistaken Identity

 I’ll return to where I started this post … with the concept of how God sees us versus how we see ourselves. For some, that thought is a scary prospect. Even those who purport to have a close relationship with the Almighty can possess a distorted self-image, depending on what happened in their formative years (among other factors). Were they valued or devalued, loved or unloved?

I know this because I was one of those people. I believed in God and knew He loved me unconditionally. I could even quote all the divine affirmations such as, ”He* redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with loving devotion and compassion,” “Nothing shall ever separate me from the love of God,” and one verse that goes hand-in-crown with feeling queenly: “You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem [crown] in the hand of your God.”

All good and all true … except that I had a hard time believing it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from “mistaken identity.”

For too long, I had a peasant mentality—accustomed to living in the province of “not good enough” and the “land of lack”—in every sense of the word. This was my self-imposed lot in life because I was either trapped by my past, fearful of my future, or paralyzed by my present. At times, it was all of the above.

I was a serf living in the shadow of a castle, all the while holding the title deed to the whole kingdom—right down to the turrets and moats—without even knowing it. Even after discovering that my father was the king who, missing his estranged daughter, had sent his only son (my elder brother) to rescue me from my impoverished circumstances, I still had a hard time accepting myself as a princess. (Even saying the word “princess” made me cringe.)

Once I had been reconciled with my father-king, a crown may have been placed on my head, but I still felt like an imposter, a pretender to the throne. I sat by my father’s side on a golden throne, scepter in hand and clothed in purple, yet my mind and soul were still trapped “back at the shack,” as it were.

peasantgirl

Though I was the daughter of a king, one too many disappointments and repeated failures had left me afraid to really live … or dream. I wore grief and loss like a cloak, and anger became the fortress that protected me from anything that tried to hurt me. By the time I reached adulthood, I had fully owned the words of 17th-century Anglo-Irish essayist, Jonathan Swift: “Never expect anything, and you’ll never be disappointed.”

Not exactly royal thinking.

Stay Stuck. Live Low.

The sad reality is that peasants and slaves—those who have spent generations working the land for a mere pittance—or nothing at all—become resigned to their lot. They toil, but except for a courageous few, they rarely dare to dream. When and if they do, they’re emboldened to escape … to find a better life, no matter what the cost.

We ought to applaud those people, because they’re the bravest of the brave. They aren’t just kingdom minded—they reek of royalty, in the best possible sense. They should also serve as our inspiration to “go and do likewise.”

To stay stuck in a slave mentality, to be resigned to your circumstances, is a lamentable state of affairs, considering human beings are divinely wired to dream of a life filled with peace, prosperity and purpose. This includes a longing for rich and rewarding relationships … particularly a relationship with the King.

Love in the Land of Influencers

When I dream of having of such relationships, I don’t dream about being an “influencer” in order to sell products and make money. (As the title of one of my favorite sermons reads, “Jesus never promoted Himself.”) Nor do I dream about gaining more social media followers—engaged or otherwise. Those things might be nice accouterments, but I don’t dream of having them.

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Yes, I want to influence people’s minds and hearts in order to help connect them with what is good and true, but I don’t want there to be a “catch”—as in I’m writing this clever and “meaningful” Insta post because it’s going to bring in beaucoup bucks. That reminds me too much of a multi-level marketing scheme. We all know someone like that—be it a “friend” or co-worker—who feigns genuine interest in some aspect of your life (usually your financial health), but all he or she really wants is an extra push to the next rung of success … by way of you.

Opportunistic thinking, aka “what’s in it for me,” is not royal thinking in my book. My deepest desire is for flesh-and-blood, iron-sharpens-iron, I’m-there-when-you-need-a-helping-hand kind of relationships. As the proverb says, “A man of many companions [followers] may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).

Yet while that may be my desire, I often feel hampered in achieving this. I have a hard time cultivating close relationships, even ones I’ve had for a long time. That’s another unpleasant “peasant” reality. Even in a castle, you can pull up the drawbridge, fill-up the moat and hide behind the turrets. Because it’s safer there. Cold and empty, but safe.

Besides having close friends, I also long for that one close companion who will walk alongside me on this journey through unchartered territory, with its mountain highs, its valley lows, and—what is often more challenging—its dreary plateaus where nothing at all seems to be happening.

When a man or woman has those things, even if they have nothing else, they are royally blessed. The recent memorial for former president George H.W. Bush made me realize how true that is. And yet, like the Dickensian street urchin peering into a store window on a snowy Christmas Eve and staring at the beautiful, porcelain, velvet-clad doll she dreams of possessing, it can be hard to believe that such a royally rich life is truly attainable.

The Green Stuff

Of course, we do need that “nothing else”—aka, the bucks, dough, bread, moolah, cheddar, paper, stash, loot, smackers, what have you—to survive … and hopefully thrive. As the saying goes, “Money may not buy happiness, but neither does poverty.” I don’t know about you, but lacking the funds to pay my bills, fix my car, ride out a layoff, help out a family member in need, or even give to causes that I feel passionate about is what used to keep me up at night … not what I wistfully dreamt of as I slumbered.

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I’m okay now, but I want to be better than okay. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about myself and my comfort. These days, I’m of this mindset—an ethos that I’m working hard to cultivate: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children and his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). I’m not just talking about material wealth, but spiritual riches as well. Which is why I’m committed to doing the hard work of self-examination, aka “being honest in the estimate of myself,” so that, with the empowering grace of God, I can make those changes that need to be made.

I do this by renewing my mind through God’s Word (meditating on His promises and what He says about me), praying (which builds intimacy with God), and being more intentional about cultivating community (the lifeblood of spiritual and mental health).

That’s royal thinking—ensuring that your lineage of love and good works will continue with your children, their children, and so on and so forth. And blessing others with what God has blessed us with. That’s our divinely ordained responsibility.

But it takes faith to take hold of these truths—to believe that God “blesses us to be a blessing,” and therefore we can pursue our dreams with unswerving confidence because with His help, we will succeed.

True vs. False Humility

Possessing the above perspective causes us to be humble—because as royal sons and daughters of the King, we can be confident that we truly do walk in His favor, empowered to do the works He called us to do, whether it’s in ministry, business, art, or any other field or endeavor. With God, there is no such thing as “sacred vs. secular.” All work is anointed.

This kind of humility is not to be confused with false humility that says, “I’m just a worm crawling in the dirt, not worthy of any good thing, and therefore I won’t expect anything good to come my way.” (People who think this way generally don’t have a lot to be generous with.) It’s a subtle, but important difference.

That kind of thinking is also a form of self-righteousness, even spiritual pride, because we’re placing our thoughts about ourselves above God’s thoughts about us. True humility reveals identity and facilitates purpose. Or as one pastor phrased it, ”False humility will keep us from our destiny. True humility will take us to it.”

That’s also royal thinking.

The older I get, the more I realize how critical it is to stop allowing distorted thinking about who God is and what He thinks about me to rule my thoughts and influence my decisions. While I have made mistakes and poor decisions, the fact that I’m still drawing breath is proof that I still have a destiny to fulfill. I also take great comfort in the knowledge that “failure is never final.”

Frankly, I don’t have any more time to waste on unsatisfying, mismatched jobs and “downer” relationships that have me settling for less than I was created for … and living as a pauper instead of a princess. Kings and queens don’t settle because they don’t have to! They know who they are and so does everybody else. Their wish is everyone’s command. Nothing is impossible and all doors are open to them.

That’s called royal favor.

Queen2

Human Beings before Human Doings

For monarchs, being “a royal” is their identity … not their job—that’s secondary. As coauthors Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton wrote in their book, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty, “You have to be a human being before you are a human doing. When we try to ‘do’ something without first ‘being’ someone, we usually find ourselves making a living at a job we hate. Another ramification of this failure to discover true identity is that many people learn to derive their self-esteem from what they do. This may seem fine for a while if they can perform well. When they can’t perform anymore, for whatever reason, their self-esteem goes into the pit.”

So true. How many of us have lost a job only to go into a deep funk for a period of time (some longer than others)? I have one friend, close to my age, who lost her high position with a prestigious university. It’s been four years and she’s still stuck in the mire of mediocrity and low self-esteem. Because of that, she’s settled for far less than she’s capable of doing. She barely gets by driving for Uber, working as a caretaker—doing whatever she can to make ends meet.

While I applaud her work ethic and willingness to do anything (there are seasons when we need to do that, but we shouldn’t stay stuck there forever), I know that it’s not God’s highest and best for her. She’s a smart, capable and accomplished woman. The fact that she’s in her 50s may make her obsolete in our culture’s way of thinking, but that does not limit God. He can, and does, opens doors that no man can close! No, what’s limiting her is her own beliefs about herself. Afraid of rejection, she’s afraid to try. Live in that state for too long and it will become your identity—or worse, you’ll pitch your tent there and never leave.

I’m not judging her … I’ve been there. And could be still, if I allowed myself to. But I don’t—because I can’t. For one, I’d be a lousy Uber driver (I’d get lost and promptly freak out) and an incompetent caregiver (missed getting that nurturing gene). But I know now that I don’t have to settle. What I’m learning, albeit late in life, is that God is delighted when I’m brave enough to lay down my distorted perceptions about myself—and my small plans for my future.

That’s true for you, too. Because trust me, compared to God’s plans for our lives, our own plans apart from Him are pathetically meager. This should be motivation enough to trust Him wholly and completely to lead you and guide you into a wonderful and glorious future—a future where He promises “to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 33:11).

What would happen, I wonder, if we all woke up tomorrow morning and decided to be on “thrival” vs. “survival” mode? Personally, I think that’s a good declaration to make … right after your head leaves the pillow and before your feet touch the floor. Try it and see what happens. I have—and have had some amazing things happen as a result.

Of course, I’m not talking about achieving a life that’s free from suffering, for the Bible tells us that “it rains on the just and on the unjust.” In other words, trouble comes to us all. And yet, for those who are in relationship with the Living God, He promises us a “crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

If that’s not being royally blessed, I don’t know what is.

Little Gir Crown

Royal Persuasion

Still unconvinced about your royal standing? Feeling undeserving—or awkward—with the concept of wearing a crown upon your head?

Meghan Markle may be our best modern-day example of how anyone can become a royal. By marrying Prince Harry, she broke centuries of tradition and protocol—and more power to her! Yet while all that believing did help her get her prince, he’s still only an earthly prince—and one who doesn’t have any power at that, other than the power of celebrity. And we all know that fame is fleeting … even for royalty.

And yet … imagine if tomorrow, you received an invitation to marry into a Kingdom without end—making you an instantaneous, direct heir of the King of Kings. You would bring nothing to the table except your expectant heart and, in return, everything He has would be yours. Even better, in this eternal kingdom, every tear would be wiped from your eyes, death would be no more, and mourning and pain would be a thing of the past.

Imagine what it would be like to inhabit such a kingdom—one that begins now, in this lifetime, with a guaranteed promise that during your time on earth, with all its trials and tribulations, you would spiritually be seated with Him in Heavenly places. Your very life would be “a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord.”

With your dual citizenship would come exceedingly great and precious promises. By the decree of the King, goodness and mercy would follow you all the days of your life and you would be “blessed abundantly above all that you ask or think.” In addition, whatever you put your hand to would prosper (“Man plans, but the Lord directs his steps”), because you are intimately acquainted with the One who rules heaven and earth. For your troubles, the King would promise you “beauty for ashes” and that “all things would work together for your good.”

I’d say … sweet! Followed by, where do I sign?

So what do you say? Don’t you think it’s time to discard those false images of yourself—those outright lies that say you don’t have what it takes, aren’t beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, young enough, you’re the “wrong” race, born into the “wrong” family, etc.? Are you ready to trade that false self for your true self … one upon whose head has been placed a royal crown of favor, loving kindness and beauty?

I for one have chosen to embrace that higher truth—believing what, and who, God says I am: redeemed, blameless, complete, dearly loved, anointed, fully accepted, a child of God, beautiful in His sight, light of the world, salt of the earth, more than a conqueror, having the mind of Christ, called, a chosen one, victorious, capable, a sweet fragrance, a new creation, righteous, an heir of God, forgiven, healed, made alive … and that’s only a partial list!

All those other voices are a lie, bent on my defeat and destruction. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If you believe nothing else but these words, you’ll be doing better than most of the population—including other believers!

Memorize it. Meditate on it. Make it your daily mantra.

That’s why I took this selfie—even though I was uncomfortable doing so—with the crown and all it symbolizes resting precariously on my head. What God graciously revealed to me that day on the freeway has emboldened me to “own” who I really am—to finally begin walking as a royal daughter of the Most High God. Now, whenever I’m tempted to give into those “vain imaginations,” those lies that try to keep me a prisoner of the past or fearful of the future, I don’t try to remember a slew of scriptures or quote just the right Bible verse. Sometimes, you just don’t have the time, recall, or wherewithal to do that.

Instead, I shout out two simple words: Crown Up!

I can just see the Lord winking at me when I do that. ”Keep it up, my daughter,” He’s saying. “You’ll own that crown yet.”

How about you? Are you ready to let go of a defeated mindset and poor self-image and crown up? Then let your journey as royalty begin!

*Note: Using the male gender in referencing God does not mean God is “male” in the sense we understand it, for God is “neither male or female.”

queenelizabethsolo

 

 

 

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