Thursday, October 27, 2011

Out With the Old...

Lately, I've gone through an extended bout of being frustrated and discouraged with certain characteristics I see in others. I've allowed it to get the best of me. And lately, He reminds me over and over,
"Look at me, not at them."
I do okay for a time but then the smallest thing sets me off again and there goes my focus from Him to them. I start to become angry and cynical and distrusting towards others for things that they probably didn't know they did. I simmer inside and I frankly feel out of control more lately than I have in a while--all because I'm focusing on the wrong thing. And then He reminds me again to stop looking at other people's issues to the extent that it causes some to rise up in me.

I struggle with major trust issues, and I have some pretty high expectations when it comes to loyalty. I expect a lot of the people close to me. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with setting expectations. We all have to set some in everything we do, but setting mine so high has often left me disappointed and feeling sorry for myself. To be honest, I don't know how to change mine and I'm not fully convinced that I want to.

We all have "unwritten contracts" in our relationships. They determine the expectations and the very level of the relationship. Usually, the higher the level of the relationship, the higher the level of expectations tend to be. Sometimes, due to the dysfunction of people, our ideals and expectations tend to fall outside of the "normal" range. They can be set too low or too high but dysfunctional expectations always bleed over into our relationships.

My own high expectations have always been a complaint of those close to me, and nevertheless I've always clung to them because in some sense they've offered me protection through predictability. Those standards allow me to feel that there will be no surprises, and knowing what to expect makes me more likely to open up. Unpredictability leaves me paralyzed and confused, and I don't handle confusion well at all.

But having a relationship with the Lord means we have to let go of anything He tells us to. We don't get to hold on to our old ways and still grow in intimacy and wisdom of the Lord. He's the boss. He calls the shots. Lately, not only am I struggling with letting go of old ways, but also with knowing which new ways I'm supposed to adopt.

In studying what kind of man my Lord was, I realize that He also had expectations, but He also knew that humans fail. He expected it. He allowed and still allows room for us to fail and in turn, He offers us forgiveness. He also calls us to forgive one another, not only for them but also to free ourselves of the baggage that comes with unforgiveness. Knowing that I fail others makes it easier to forgive.

Knowing that my own expectations aren't where the rubber meets the road really hits home for me. It's not about what I want, or what I need all the time. Life goes on and people have their own issues to deal with. If someone fails me, I need to learn to say, "It doesn't matter that they fail me so much as it does when they fail my Lord." His expectations never change, by person or the day.

It's hard to do what we're told when our "feelings" tell us otherwise. It's outright painful to go against that flow, even though it's obvious which one is right and which one is wrong. But as Christians, we have a choice between following our fleshly (sinful) natures or His commands. As believers, we have virtually signed an unwritten disclaimer stating that we are fully aware of what choices we make and are willing to pay a price when we choose the flesh.

The Christian walk isn't an accidental walk, or a stumble. Every single minute of it is meant to be intentional and purposeful, and that's exactly why we have the right to choose. In His Word He tells us that it will not be an easy walk. He also tells us that He will not leave us to walk alone. But we have to be willing to let go of our old ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not a Daddy's Girl

While watching television a few nights ago, I saw a commercial that provoked some emotions in me. It's the one where Kenny Chesney's "There Goes My Life" song is playing in the background as a dad replays some memories of his little girl through the years. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I struggled to hold them back so that my husband wouldn't see them. My first thought: Why wasn't I good enough to have that?

I am 35 years old, and I still long for and cry over the loss of something I've never really had--a great relationship with my Dad. I don't let many people know it. I hate for my hurts to be exposed but this one keeps coming to the forefront so it's time for me to be honest about this part of my life. It's time that I stop holding it in in fear of who I "might" offend -although I pray I don't offend a soul.

Please tell me that there are other women who struggle like I do with issues caused by certain relationships, or lack thereof. Please tell me that other women want badly to feel loved and adored beginning with their earliest memories. Don't we all want to feel like the first man who loves us will do anything to protect our honor so that the man we marry is only left to pick up that torch without having to start from scratch. Don't we all want to feel worthy of a bond that seems only natural to most?

Most of my "issues" go back to one of these questions. I find myself asking myself and the Lord, "Why wasn't I worthy of more?" Is it wrong of me to want more than I have, even if that "more" is merely a basic to most of the females I know. I find myself jealous that some can crawl up in their daddy's lap, no matter how old they get, and have the most comfortable relationships with the first man they ever loved. I've never known that. I have no idea what that must feel like but even at my age, I long for it.

You would think I would be accustomed to this and well adjusted. Some think that I am, but inside it hurts no less today than it did when I was a child. At what point do I get to work past this? What has to happen for me to heal? Because no matter how much I forgive and try to move on, it comes up over and over again like fizz that appears when a soda gets shaken. It affects all of my relationships in some way, shape or form. Granted I've come quite a way over the years, I keep seeing these insecurities in me that stem back from this very topic. I want to be healed already.

Let me just clarify some things. I want to be a Daddy's girl but it's a little late for that. I don't know how, and I know he doesn't know how to change the past anymore than I do. I'm not really angry or bitter towards him. I've forgiven him and tried to rationalize in my own mind why things happened as they did. He does love me, and I won't deny that. He's not a bad man neither. But neither of us know how to make our relationship "normal" and I wish I knew how to accept that. But I don't.

The good news for me is that I have another father. I have the Father in Heaven who formed me in my mother's wound. He celebrated me before anyone even knew about me, as my unwed mother carried me. He is there for me when humans fail me and He grieves with me when I hurt. Even better, I am developing a relationship with Him where I could crawl up in His lap (emotionally), and tell him everything that's going on.

Sometimes doing without things that we consider quite basic increases our need for Jesus Christ. Only He can fill in the gaps. Therefore, even though I hurt, I am thankful that He turned my hurt toward Him and that He gives me far more than any human relationship could. It doesn't mean that I am healed, but that He is working on doing just that. After all He came for people like me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When You Don't Feel Like It

I think we often over think our faith. Lately, I'm hearing more and more people say things like, "God has given up on me", "I can't feel Him" or "I don't think He's listening to me". I think we've all had times where we encountered feelings similar to that. I think it's simply human nature to want to feel something, or sense something. But I wonder how many of us truly understand the very concept of faith.

Wikipedia says this about faith.
Faith is trust, hope and belief in the goodness, trustworthiness or reliability of a person, concept or entity. It can also refer to beliefs that are not based on proof. Religious faith appeals to transcendent reality, or that reality which is beyond the range of normal physical experience.

Some critics of faith have argued that faith is opposed to reason. In contrast, some advocates of faith argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence. defines faith like this.
"Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability. Belief that is not based on proof"
Faith and human reasoning don't always mesh. Human nature  comes with the tendency that desires explanations, understanding and/or feelings. Faith is NOT a feeling. If you have faith, He allows us to dwell in His presence by dwelling in us. Sometimes you just have to believe even when you don't feel like it. And sometimes you have to focus intently on Him, tuning everything else out that doesn't align with His word in order to simply move forward.

There have been many times in my life (and there still are) times when I just don't feel like praying. There are also times when I don't feel like following His Word, or obeying what He's saying in my heart. There are many, many times when my emotions want to rule, or my mind wants to over think certain things to make me doubt my faith. But the times thatHhe's blessed me most are times when I do it anyway, putting my fleshly desires aside. The mere act of putting the flesh aside proves just how serious we really are about our faith.

The Christian life isn't one that just happens. Walking with God takes intent and focus, or at least it does for me. It's like I'm walking and talking with Christ in a wooded area. We're on this winding path, of which I would never be able to find my way through on my own. So if I start to look too hard at the beautiful scenery, I start tuning Him out. And it doesn't take long before I can't hear Him anymore, nor can I see Him because I got distracted.  I'm not saying that we have to tune others out. I'm saying that our primary focus in life should be to please Him. And in order to do that, we must pray, seek and listen...even when the the world tells us otherwise.

We were created in His image, although our own ways distort the greatness of His ways. Just like we each want to seek and be sought in our relationships--so does He. When I lose Him in the woods, it's my job to yell out to Him--if I'm serious about my relationship with Him. I need Him, and I must start calling for Him immediately to ask for forgiveness and His help to stay the course. I have to make the effort to connect with Him in order to move forward. Of course, He didn't abandon me, He's been nearby all along. He expects me to learn from the times where I feel lost without Him and to be driven by those times I've failed to stay focused on Him to do just that.

We humans aren't ones to accept things very well, or even remember them, if we don't have to work for it. If we don't have to put any effort into it, we quickly become stale and bored. If we don't have to seek it, we don't really want it. He wants us to love Him, although we can never love Him to the extent that he loves us. And He wants us to seek Him in order to show it, fulfilling our part of this relationship.

When you can't feel Him, seek Him. That's when you should seek Him most because you're right where Satan wants you if you don't. I encourage you to pray even when you don't feel like it. When you don't know what to say, simply thank Him for things he's done. He's only asking for our efforts, because it's been proven over and over that we won't be perfect in this life. But don't stop believing. Don't let your emotions rule you. If you do, you won't be happy with the results later.

Monday, October 3, 2011

All this JuNk of Mine

We were on our way to church and I asked my husband, "Do you like my new shirt?" He hesitated as usual and said, "Yes, I do. You look very nice, and I love your hair. It's like the thing they did with their hair in the 90s."

Of course, most women will agree that they would've been offended too if their man said something so much as insinuating that part of her is outdated. I suppose on one hand, I had every right to get upset. But my Lord would have been most glorified if I had offered my husband some mercy, grace and love. Doing so in this instance meant focusing on not tearing him down instead of focusing on the wrong I felt was done to me.

Of course, I didn't say anything for a while. I tried to brush it off and focus on the compliments he had given me. But I wasn't very successfully because all I thought about was the comment about my hairstyle being from the 90s. I knew it was best to let it go, and I kept telling myself that once we got to church I could more easily move on. Part of me was just unwilling to let it go. But he asked me if something was wrong as we were pulling up at church and I said no, in a frustrated tone. Then I turned to him and said, "You want to know what's wrong with me?" and I told him how he had hurt my feelings using an angry tone of voice while holding back the tears.

I discouraged him and I could tell immediately. For the past few days, I'd been complaining off and on that he didn't notice me and now here I go shooting down his compliments, and picking them apart. Guys don't think like we girls do. They don't talk like us either, and that's okay. And it seems to me that they're generally better at accepting us than we are them most of the time.

As worship service began and I began singing along, I immediately went to tears. All the walls I had going up were immediately torn down and I felt God surround me. I felt exposed, which drew tears and then I felt covered in grace almost immediately. I couldn't hide my junk and it was like He was saying, "You can't hide the stuff in your heart from me." There are times when I go to church, put on a happy face and pretend that everything is okay to those around me. But I can't hide my heart from the Lord.

He surrounded me with His presence for several minutes, something I've never felt to this extent before. I even thought about slipping out to the bathroom so that I could hide my tears from those around me, but it was clear that he wasn't finished yet. I felt His touch on my heart in those moments, as He left me softened, with no walls to hide behind. And once I stopped fighting the removal of my walls, I was left with a peace I can't explain. I honestly can't tell you when His presence left me, Although the feeling I had isn't the same anymore, I still feel Him with me.

I couldn't be upset anymore. I couldn't even be hurt. Chris and I had been sitting side by side without touching for several minutes. It's unusual for us to sit next to each other, and not hold hands and the longer it went on, the more I wanted it to end. I heard my Lord say, "Grab His hand", so I did. And he clenched mine in return.

I thought about this today, as I've been quite sensitive to things lately. The hair comment is just a sample of the issues I face. I have been easily offended and hurt. I have been wrestling with feeling acceptable for several weeks. My insecurities have peaked to an all time high. Lately, I've wondered why I'm seeing so much junk in me. Just when I feel I've learned something, another gap is exposed in me. I have been secretly questioning whether there is a purpose, and wondering whether it's my God or Satan at work showing me these things (although I should have more faith than to question it).

I started reading Joyce Meyer's "Living Beyond Your Feelings". Joyce said something very early in her book that I needed to hear. She quoted 1 Timothy 3:3-4.
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
She explained that this verse isn't saying that we shouldn't wear makeup and jewelry. It means that we must also pay a lot of attention to our souls, otherwise we'll live miserable lives. It's important that we get to know who we are on the inside so that our changeable flaws will be exposed. In exposing these flaws, we are offered a choice---to change or to go on like we are. It's one of His ways of saving us over and over, everyday. We're not made perfect when we're saved. Our minds need retraining, our souls need  aligning with the Holy Spirit, and unless we're willing to make some hard choices, we'll stay the same miserable, presumably helpless person we've always been.

We're responsible for our own junk, the stuff we think and the stuff we allow ourselves to dwell on. Many of us are guilty of blaming others for our junk, for the issues we face and the ugly things we feel or think. I realize I do this quite a bit.

We can't expect other people to invest in us if we aren't willing to invest in changing the things set before us. And it's not as if we're helpless. The Lord offers us help. He waits for us to ask. Once believers, we no longer live in the dark shadows of knowing only the way of the world. We, my dear brothers and sisters, have His way in our hearts. It's a question of whether we'll follow him, or the lies of our flesh telling us we're entitled, alone, unworthy or unloved.