January 21, 2016

Letting Go and Getting Ready

It is a good day here in Phoenix. For a Thursday, I mean. I am blessed to be home, and praise be to God, there are only two more days left in the work week. It isn't that I am "living for the weekend" per se, it is rather that this week has flown by (what with the MLK holiday). It seems like the week just started, and here it is, almost over! I am home today, and I am resting from my long day yesterday. I had a good day, but it was long and so very tiring. I had a good conference call with my colleagues, and I did some studying last night. Today, I am feeling a bit weary, sort of road weary, like I am so ready to get off this road and get to my final destination. You know, it is how you feel when you've been in the car for 10-12 hours, and you get that feeling like "If I don't get out of this car now, I am going to explode!" Well, maybe I am not to the "explode" stage yet, but I am getting there, so getting there soon!

The good news, if there is any, is that I am getting closer to my due date and that means that soon this whole process of studying for and passing exams will be over. I find myself second-guessing my approach again, and whenever I do that, I sink down into a semi-depressed state. I know the Lord has me well covered, and I know this whole process will work for my good, but still I am feeling at times so overwhelmed by it all, wondering if I have studied enough, the right things, in order to pass. I hope so, I sure do hope so!

This morning's Psalm reminds me of His power and presence in my life. When I read it, I remember what the Lord has done for me, how He has given me the desires of my heart, and how He has blessed me with all blessing from heaven. Psalm 21:1-3 NASB says,

O Lord, in Your strength the king will be glad,
And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!
You have given him his heart’s desire,
And You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.
For You meet him with the blessings of good things;
You set a crown of fine gold on his head.

How can I tremble and be afraid? How can I believe that He will leave me now?

The Lord is my strength, my portion and my cup. He gives me everything I need, and He makes sure that my foot never falters. He keeps me steady, and provides for me, through thick and thin. In this way, He is always with me, always helping me, always holding my hand and seeing me through to the very end of every task, every job, every opportunity. I must be bold now, and I must stand firm. The Lord goes before me. He is my shelter and my strong tower, my refuge and my salvation! Selah!

Keeping Things Right

As I struggle a bit this morning with all the balls that are in the air, I am finding the process of juggling tasks to be consuming. I want to do well for Him. I want to pass my exams and do well because I believe this is His will for my life. I have said, and I say it again, there is no way I would ever accomplish such a high feat as this one, and there is no way that I could be where I am today without His help and guidance. He is good to me, and He has made this way possible. Thus, as the time draws near, I remember that I must look to Him alone. I know my limits, and I have reached them. I am at the point where I have reached the end, and the rest is up to Him. I give it all over to Him. Thus, I let this process go, and I pick up myself, and I walk on. I am moving toward His eternal purpose for my life, and I am learning how to live in this way. I know that the plans He has for my life are good, so very good, but yet, I struggle to understand how I will do this thing He has asked me to do. How will I do it? I am not sure. But, my confidence and my boast is not in and of myself. No, I boast in no one save the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Selah!

Putting Things In Perspective

Today, then is a day for me to remember all that the Lord has helped me to withstand, all the trials, the joys and the sorrows, and how in and through it all, He made a way for me. He gave me hope, a new future, and dreams that I never could have imagined were possible. He has changed my life, turned it inside out, and through the difficult byways, I have come to see that my life had purpose. In truth, for many, many years, I didn't believe that my life had any value, any purpose. I lived in such a way that I believed I was not good enough to meet up with anyone's standard. Whether it was my parents, my teachers, or later, family members and colleagues, it seemed that I was always being judged as "less than" something or another. Not pretty enough, not perfect enough, not presentable enough. Yes, my life was filled with doubts and insecurities. I didn't believe anyone would love me, care for me, or even want me. I learned to bottle up my feelings, and to keep everything buried deep down inside of me. I let certain people manipulate me, and I hid my pain and suffering so that others wouldn't see the fake life I was living. In the end, I succumbed to a life that was predicated on what other people "thought of me." I hated my life, I hated feeling as if I always had to prove myself to others, prove my worth and value. 

Even though I was a Christian, I still felt this way. It seemed like nothing I did was ever proof enough to pass the litmus test for being an "acceptable Christian." Yes, my ministry efforts were questioned, my heart intentions were assailed, and I thought nothing I did would ever be considered worthy to Him. I believed a pack of lies, and I hate to say this, but most of these lies came through the lips of what were "God-fearing, good people." Yes, most of the accusations I received about my life came from people within the Church. I was marked out, beaten down, and treated poorly by other Christians who thought they had it all figured out. My faith was never strong enough, good enough or the "right kind" to please these people. They maligned me, called me out, and made me feel as though my meager offering just didn't meet their standard of excellence.

The really sad part in all of this is that I believed these lies for a long, long time. I came to accept them as truth, and in doing so, I came to feel that my life had no purpose whatsoever. It took time to reverse all that damage, to undo all the nasty behavior that pricked at my heart, but through His blessing and great mercy, He enabled me to see through the lies, to find the truth in His Word and in Him alone, and as such, I was able to grow as a result. In many ways, the reason I am here today and not a bitter, angry woman is because the Lord helped me see the misery in these people's lives. He also helped me see the false doctrine they believed and how these false doctrines warped and shaped their beliefs to such an extent that they had to tear down anyone who showed them the right way to think, to believe, and to live. Yes, in many ways, the Lord helped me see that for all those years, those miserable years, I chose to not hide my candle under a bushel. I let my light shine, and in my small and oh so limited way, my light did illuminate the darkness. I wasn't strong back then, not like I am now, but my little light did shine brightly. 

Overtime, I came to learn that I needed to step away from the toxicity in my life, from the people who were poisoning my well, so to speak. Once I had closed the door on some relationships in my life, I began to experience freedom from their oppressive behavior and negative attitude toward me. Furthermore, the more I walked away, distanced myself, the more I was able to see their sadness and sorrow filled life. I was able to have compassion on those who mistreated me, who were brutal towards me. I forgave them, and while I still struggle at times to forget the words, the sting of their words, I am able to let them go, to let go of them.

My heart began to be healed the day I walked away from certain close relationships in my life. I had not realized just how bad things had become until I made the decision to trust the Lord and walk away. Once I did, I experienced great freedom, though it came at a cost. The pressure, the pain, and the presence they once held in my life was not something they wanted to lose, so they pursued me, and tried very hard to ring me back in. I stood firm in the Lord, and in the end, those voices fell silent. I had won my freedom from their control, and the price of victory meant that I was free to live and to do as I wanted, as I thought best. Of course, I laid all my desires at the Lord's feet, and in time, He began to show me how these people had strongly influenced my choices, how they had slowly gained control over me, and in doing so, how I came to feel suffocated by them. Instead of walking away, I chose to yield, and as a result, I gave up my power to these people.

I made this mistake very early in my life, and while the process of recovery has taken many years, where I am today is part-and-parcel to that journey. I am in a very good place mentally. I am strong, and I am resilient. I have learned the hard way what dysfunctional family relationships and other relationships can do to your marriage, to your self-esteem, to your life. I learned that it is the people who are closest to you that inflict the most damage. Thus, as part of the family of God, we must always seek and serve one another. We must treat one another with kindness and goodness, and we must value each person as a uniquely created individual who bears the "imago dei."

My life has been upended in a wonderful way. Out of the misery and sorrow has come new life, and that new life is beautiful. I am free now to "move about the country," as Southwest Airlines says. Yes, I am free to come and go as I please, as it pleases the Lord, and as I move forward in this life, my authority and my head, my King and my Savior, well, He is the One to lead me on. He is my strong tower, my refuge, and in His Name I give all my praise, honor, and glory. He alone is worthy to be praised! He alone is worthy to be praised! Selah!

Walking On and Walking Away

I think for many Christians, the idea of walking away from toxic people is anathema to them. They simply do not believe that it is "Christian" as in a Christ-like behavior to walk away from people. No, we believe erroneously, that we must always work to redeem the relationship, even though the Bible clearly tells us that there are limits to that pursuit. I do believe in restoration and in redemptive communication, but I also believe that true restoration comes only when we submit "mutually" to one another, when we commit to work together and to learn how to redeem our conversations. This type of relationship is blessed by God, and this type of relationship can bring Him glory and praise. However, when a Christian remains in an abusive relationship, hoping that the other person will somehow change, this is faulty thinking. In many ways, this is false doctrine, and yes there are verses (a few) that speak to remaining silent, winning a person without a word, etc. However, in my view, the damage that is done to a person's self-esteem and valuation is simply not worth the high price of remaining in this type of non-functional relationship. I believe that walking away in love is a much better option. It is protective and it can be redemptive as well. Not only is the person who is being abused (and I am thinking of verbal abuse, manipulation and control rather than physical or sexual abuse) able to place a barrier between themselves and this other person, but they short-circuit the behavior, they interrupt the pattern of interaction.

The message that is sent is rather simple and very child-like. It says to this other person, "If you are not going to play nice, then I am going to go home." It simply says "I am not comfortable in this type of relationship, so I am going to look elsewhere." If the relationship is worth redeeming, the other person must prove they are interested in working toward restoration and redemption. They must show they are willing to discuss, to engage, and to change (if required) to alter these patterns of interaction. I think if more Christian's would step away from the negative behavior, negative roles, and the negative patterns of interaction, and choose instead to place a barrier between themselves and these other people (or person, if just one), they could save themselves a lot of hurt, pain, and suffering. 

I know it is not always easy to walk away. There are costs associated with this action, but the long-term benefits often outweigh the short-term investment. For example, in a family relationship, moving a farther distance from difficult family members can immediately stop the negative patterns. It causes that interruption that can bring relief. Yes, phone calls, internet emails, etc. may need to be adjusted to suit, but as I tell my Mom (who is 83 now), it is not required that she answer every phone call. It is okay to let some of the trash collect on the answering machine!

One of the things I have learned through my journey is that not everyone is a true believer. They may wear the label "Christian," but for many of them, their truth is in their own understanding and not in what the Bible actually says. They think that their judgment of others is warranted, that they can do and say what they like because they are forgiven. And, while I am not going to say anything about God's marvelous grace, I simply will say that even Paul said we are not to sin so that grace would abound. No, may it never be! Our words, our thoughts, and our actions must be consistent with the teachings of Christ, and for many, many people who say they believe, these inward and outward manifestations of a changed-life, a transformed life, simply are not present. They may be clean on the outside, but they are still very dirty on the inside. Just saying so...

My Heart and My Life

I have come to see the value in internal consistency. This is something that scholars and social scientists test for whenever we conduct research. Internal consistency is key to assuring that your data is not skewed so that your interpretation of the findings is accurately reflected by the data. Individuals who have internal consistency are similar. These are people who are good on the inside and the outside. Their words match their actions. Their meanings are clear and consistent with their behavior. Internal consistency is a "technical" way of saying that these folks bear Godly fruit. They are good indicators of a life transformed by the power and the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. They "walk the talk" and it shows. 

My desire is to be this way as well. I don't want to hide my faults anymore. I don't want to be afraid to be myself, to be real and authentic. This is one of the reasons I manage this blog, and I am so open about my experiences. I still hide those deeply personal things, and I don't always "name names," but I do try to describe my experiences so that others who may read my words might find comfort in them. I know that some folks don't like this way because it is too brash, too open, but I believe that my life has been transformed by the power of the Lord and as such, I want to share my life as an open book. This is what the Lord has done for me, and I want others to see that He can do the same for their life. Selah!

Today, then, as I blog, I am reminded of what the Lord has done, how He has helped me, carried me, and consoled me throughout my storied life. I am now ready to move on, to let go, and to let Him live in His way freely so that I can move with Him. I am ready to be fully used as His vessel, to become the instrument of His choosing, and to show the world what He has in store for my life. I am ready, Lord. I am ready!

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