Be Selfish – Forgive

18 08 2015

Okay, this probably isn’t the sort of ‘selfish’ that comes to mind, but it’s truth.

What do I mean?

Forgiving others is something we do primarily  for ourselves.

Most likely, the offending party moved on with life – hasn’t given us a second’s thought since the event.

Meanwhile, we carry the stinking carcass of ‘what they did/said’ around like it’s a prize buck.

Did you catch the word stinking? It sure does. And folks around us gets a whiff of that mess whenever we’re near.

What’s worse is that we pick up the arrow they shot us with – and continue to stab ourselves with it. This happens every time we rehearse the scene.

They injured us once, we re-injure ourselves over and over and over.

Sometimes for decades.

What’s worse is the corpse draws flies…

…which lay eggs that become maggots…

In no time the thing is a writhing mass!

You get the picture!

Yech! 😛

Do I know that this is easier said than done.

Yes indeed, I do.

But this is something I do for me.

I want to be free.

All those flies and maggots? Those are unrelated events that *feel* like the original injury and so attach themselves.

Ever had an over-reaction to something minor?

Yep.

Out popped another maggot.

We do not want to go through life with unresolved issues that cause others to shrink back from the stench.

Ever been around a bitter, resentful person? Not fun.

This is, without a doubt, a nauseating mental image. You’re welcome.

Now you understand why we’re commanded to forgive!

That disgusting illustration describes much of my life…and perhaps why I haven’t had many friends over the years.

This year I decided to do something selfish. Something that’s just for me.

I began to make lists of my offenders and forgive them.

In some cases, a single event required the 70 x 7 times of forgiveness of which Jesus spoke. Nevertheless, I had to let it go – and then let it go – and then let it go…

Sometimes I didn’t fully mean it – so I didn’t lie. Instead, I asked Father to help me be willing to forgive them…

…or even willing to be willing to forgive.

In these instances, I forgave as an act of obedience. That was as far as I could go at the moment.

Next, I asked Abba to forgive them, and to lead them into a vibrant relationship with Himself. After all, He loves them, too. (That can be a tough one to swallow!)

I may select a passage from Scripture to pray over them – like Colossians 1:9-13.

In addition, I pray for myself:

Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.Give me Your love for them.

(Which doesn’t mean I have to trust them or put myself into their line of fire again. Please note that.)

Those two bases covered, I next ask the Lord to examine my heart and show me where I’ve been tripped up by what happened.

While I may have had no fault in the event, what my heart did with the offense is my responsibility. They didn’t ‘make me’ do or feel anything. That bit was on me.

At the very least, I usually have to confess to hanging onto the hurt. In every instance the reason has been a lack of trust in God to handle the other person.

Sometimes I’m angry that He didn’t blast them off the planet. That’s exactly what I wanted my ‘loving Father’ to do!

I prefer grace for me – judgment for everyone else.

{Yes, that was my ‘outside voice.’}

Which leads me to the next step in forgiveness.

(Don’t freak out on me here)

I need to forgive God.

Did He do anything wrong?

No. His ways are always perfect.

Was I offended by His response to the situation?

You betcha’!

Here’s the thing. I can put on my ‘nice Christian’ face and be incensed that someone would have the audacity to suggest such a thing…

…and let my resentment and distrust toward God continue to grow in the dark recesses of my mind until I walk away from Him altogether.

Or

I can speak what’s in my heart to the Lord; and forgive what I ‘perceived’ to be His disinterest or abandonment, etc.

He already knows how I really feel, and what I believe to be true about Him.

Very often, when I feel distant from God it’s because I’m holding something against Him. The error is entirely with me, but I’m offended nonetheless.

*This is a golden moment. Don’t skip this bit.*

It’s at this point that I ask Him to teach me truth about Himself, or to show me the event from His perspective.

There is something here for me to learn, if I will but have the ears to hear.

Finally, I come to the part that I forget most often:

I must forgive myself.

Not in every instance. There may be nothing here.

{Often, however, at the very least I forgive myself for misunderstanding God and ascribing to Him some horrible characteristics that simply were not true. If this is the case, I circle back around and ask God to forgive me for believing such lies about Him as well. See, this isn’t arrogance. It’s truth. And He desires that we know truth in the inmost parts.}

Right at this point we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of ‘all things work together for good.’ If this event brought to light a lie I believed about God, that is a good thing indeed.

No, He didn’t bring this injury upon us. We live in a fallen world where hurt people hurt people. But, He’s going to bring benefit to us from the thing if we will let Him.

What others meant for evil, God meant for good.

The goal is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means identifying lies and replacing them with truth.

Back to forgiving myself.

It may be that I accepted responsibility for someone else’ s words or actions. I may have believed myself the one to be blamed, that I somehow deserved what they said/did.

Perhaps I’ve come into agreement with lies about myself: ‘I’m so stupid.’ Or ‘How could I have fallen for that?’

To forgive myself is another useful tool for locating faulty beliefs so they can be dismissed. Dig up the root, and everything that attached to it dies.

We’re not so ‘stinky’ to be around; things begin to change – in us – and we walk in greater freedom, light, and love.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

It’s the healthiest ‘selfishness’ in which we’ll ever indulge.





When My Body Said, “Enough!”

12 08 2015

Stuffing emotions is how I’ve coped with life. As a child, any emotion that was a little too happy or too sad was cause for a reprimand:

“Sit down and act your age. Settle down.”

Or

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Sanguine by nature, I learned to behave like a Melancholy. In fact, I picked up many of the characteristics of that personality type: organized, analytical, studious, and focused.

I also suffered from severe Eczema, hives, bronchitis, and wet the bed well into my teens (TMI, I know).

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that this ‘crazy fun’ personality made her appearance. I would get happy and act all crazy…then wonder if I was crazy, then stuff that nutso back in the box.

In 1980, I heard Florence Littauer speak on the four personality types. In a matter of a couple of hours, I saw what was going on and began to operate as the personality God gave me:

“Do it my way and we’ll have fun!” I love it!!

While I was set free to be me, I continued to stuff negative emotions. Expressing those had never gone very well, and this didn’t improve once I became an adult.

After several years of emotional healing, the skin ailments and bronchitis disappeared. I’ve been very healthy – without so much as the yearly bouts of flu and colds.

Until last year, that is.

It was like my body said, “That’s it! There isn’t room in here for one more thing.”

I began to have physical ailments, sometimes separately, at other times, several at once: migraines, joint pain, kidney stones, and gall stones.

One by one, though, as I addressed old wounds with my counselor, these began to go away.

It became apparent that certain types of stressors affected certain organs in my body. This is what I learned about the above maladies:

Migraines: Lies I believed about God, myself, and others.
Joint pain: Unforgiveness
Kidney stones: Rejection
Gallstones: Fear

As we worked through the lies I believed, I would get a raging migraine. By the time we’d worked through the current one, it would disappear.

These have become a warning sign for me that the enemy is attempting to sell me a lie. As soon as my head starts hurting, I consider what I’ve been thinking about. Every time, this has been the case for me.

In the spring of 2013, my entire bone structure came loose. When I moved around, my back sounded like a zipper. The rest of my joints continually popped as I walked around or used my limbs. It was a creepy feeling.

After nine months of forgiving people who hurt me, my skeleton is back to normal. I am so thankful for that! There were times when I thought a hip would dislocate just by moving it out of line with my body. That was scary.

Major emotional upsets that involved rejection resulted every time in a urinary tract disorder of one sort or another. The severity determined whether it would be stones or an infection of the kidneys or bladder.

No fooling. Absolutely every time, within 24 hours of the rejection this was the case.

And gallstones? I now understand that ‘blinding pain’ isn’t just a cute little phrase. Pain can be so intense that everything before your eyes goes completely black.

(Yes, I could go have my guts yanked out, but I like my guts and God wouldn’t have given them to me if they were unnecessary!)

It took a while to figure out what was causing stones, but after a few months it became apparent. Fear had to go.

Whenever a situation arose where I should have spoken up, but chose to be a coward – bam! Gallbladder attack. As soon as I addressed the situation, I would pass a stone (or several) and all would be well…

…until the next time.

This is the year I am learning to stand up for myself. Fear has no place in my life. My gallbladder says so.

I’ve learned that my body is the dashboard of my heart. When I deal with my heart…dis-ease goes away.

No, I am not prepared to claim this for everyone. Each of us is unique, the choices of medical care and medications between us and the Lord.

However, my body has been the way the Lord got my attention so He could heal my heart. Maybe this will help someone else, too. I’ve read reports from many medical professionals which state that up to 85% of all illness is due to emotions. I may not be that far off. It’s proven to be the case in my own life.

For me, this is the year of no more stuffing.

My body said, “Enough!”





To Trust Again

12 12 2014

“Why are you angry with God? He didn’t make these choices.”

Out of nowhere, the words hung in the air as I headed to my counselor’s home. It was a good question, I thought. He hadn’t made any of the choices that caused my pain.

We live in a fallen world, with fallen people who make bad choices – often without ever wondering why they’re doing so.

Their actions land on us, and we live out the consequences. That is all. In His sovereignty, God determined to allow free will to every human being on the planet…and didn’t limit it to those whose will was in line with His (which of us would qualify??).

It’s taken me a long time to sort things out and understand why I had turned on God with such fury. It boils down to one word:

Expectation

As God’s children, it is expected that our good behavior will be rewarded with sugar and spice and everything nice. Nothing bad should ever come our way. We are loved, cherished children of an all-powerful God who can protect us from everything.

To be honest, He hadn’t been ‘performing’ in a manner consistent with my expectations for…well, for all of my life. Many horrible things have happened to me. He ‘could’ have stopped them, but He didn’t.

Thus, when He broke into my current situation last spring and began to heal those who’d hurt me, I was more angry than I thought possible.

Angry with God

Freaking ticked!

I’d asked, begged, and pleaded with Him for years to intervene, to set things right. I can’t say how long ago I gave up asking and assumed that this was my lot in life…for the rest of my life. I’d made it thus far, it was obvious that I could hold out until the end.

Which was why my reaction stunned me.

At the same time, my faith was shaken to its very foundation. I was unsure whether I would still be willing to follow the Lord when all was said and done. He had done nothing according to my plan, or my timetable. I was disillusioned and wondered if I could trust Him after all.

Scary!

One of the things I’ve discovered is that there is a difference between faith and trust.

There was no doubt that I had saving faith going into this season. The fruit of the Spirit has been evident in ever-increasing ways. What I lacked was the cling-to-the-Rock-and-you’ll-be-okay trust that I desperately needed. I had faith that He saved me – just didn’t trust that He was going to (finally) do something about my life!!

It became apparent that there were many things I had yet to learn about God.

The first being that He had not caused any of this. Therefore, to blame Him was a lesson in futility.

I rewrote Proverbs 3:4-5 and tried to live by it this year. It goes like this:

Trust in yourself with all of your heart

Don’t ask God to give understanding

In all your ways try to make your plans work…

…and let me know how that turns out for you!

It’s been a rough year, one from which I wasn’t sure I’d ever emerge intact. At long last, I’m able to step back from my life and gain God’s perspective a little. Things look much better from there – certainly not so intense.

His plans for me are for good and not for evil. Like Joseph, I can say, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” I’m coming back around to the faith – no trust – that “all things work together for those who love God.”

I just had no idea what those “all things” might entail.

The last three months have been well-spent. God provided the most amazing counselor I could have ever received. I’m sure He chose His very best to minister to me. She’s more of a “heart specialist” really. Every week God has used what’s going on around me to stir up deep, deep wounds and heal them. (Hint: Forgiveness looms large in healing!)

I had no idea that there were so many strongholds within my heart. It’s been painful – and yet brings freedom like I’ve never known.

I’m not sure who I’ll be when He’s finished; He’s left no stone unturned. I’ll be different, of that I am certain.

The time is close when I will, finally, make the paradigm shift so needed in my understanding of Who God is and how He works. Very close.

At last, I shall trust Him again.

*****

 I’m embarrassed to admit what this journey has looked like. I wish it wasn’t so. Thanks for “listening!”





A Heart on Lockdown

29 07 2014

I’ve discovered that my home reflects the condition of my heart. When my home is tidy and well organized, so is my heart.

When it’s a disheveled mess, well…you get the idea. I was going to post a picture of my work space, but it’s too embarrassing.

Every adult in the house has taken major hits over the last few months. In one way or another, each has locked down his or her heart.

It’s safer that way.

Waves  continue to buffet our vessel. While the Lord is in the boat with us, in His wisdom He has chosen to let the storm rage on – although He could silence it with a word.

There must be something we need to learn from this experience. We’ll be debriefed later, no doubt.

Over the sound of the rushing wind, and between crashing waves, I hear Jesus call out:

“Let down your nets for a catch.”

He isn’t crazy, you know, but infinitely wise.

However, we’d already ‘let down our nets,’ each one in his or her own way…

…and were let down in the process.

This was hard enough to take when the seas were calm…

But this feels like a Category Five storm.

“Now? You want us to fish now?”

Each one clutches his net a little tighter to his chest. The idea of being let down once again, and in the midst of this tempest is to risk more than we care to lose.

While cleaning my computer’s desktop this morning. I found the following quote. Seeing it today was a divine appointment, and a warning from my loving Father.

The Risk of Love (C. S, Lewis)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket of your selfishness.

And in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will not change, it will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers of love –

-is hell.

Hell. Hmm, now isn’t that interesting?

What I’ve been describing is, for us, a living  hell. 

Whole days pass with little to show for them…a completed jigsaw puzzle, a bit of needlework. New levels attained on stupid iPhone games (Crowd gasps: “Oooh!”) Mostly, I wander aimlessly through the house.

It feels very much like being buried alive.

Are you sure that the Exodus took place on land? It feels like another lap around the lake. I’ve seen this terrain before, in this same boat! Only the faces are different. 😉

I don’t want to do this to myself anymore. The journey back out of this self-imposed grave is painful and laborious. I don’t have to lock away my heart again.

It’s risky; I’ll have to feel the pain instead of being numb. Can I trust the Lord? I did in the past, and He let me down – or so it seems.

(Or perhaps I didn’t see the whole picture?)

But He calls to me. I dare not decline. His plan for me is for good – not evil.

He does not have a dark side.

(I’ve stated this in many of my posts over the last few months – mostly to remind myself that He is pure Light, not a type of “Jekyll and Hyde.”)

A glance down memory lane shows countless times where He has been faithful.

He has  been good; I must trust that He will  be good to me.

Hmm. Looks like it’s time to go fishing.

Ever so slowly, I’m unlocking the door to my heart. It will probably get kicked around like a soccer ball. At least I’ll be feeling something.

I’m saying “NO” to a locked-down heart!





Truly, Truly

20 12 2013

Imagine a church community where honesty and vulnerability are modeled as victories and honored as courage!

Imagine a church community where it really is okay to be honest when you are not okay!

This community is a brave and safe community.

Today we are going to talk about honesty as a discipline in our endeavor to grow closer to God.

The ability to speak the truth – in love – and “let the chips fall where they may” is vital to our spiritual growth. It takes a level of maturity to be honest about yourself, and truthful with others, for to do so is risky.

Truth confronts the sin of hypocrisy in the community of faith.

If you ever want to see people squirm, be honest about what’s going on in your life. Instead of using the Christian “F” word (“Fine”), when asked how you’re doing speak the truth. You will, of course, want to choose the person/people with whom you do this. For instance, I wouldn’t pick the church Gossip!

There have been many times when I’ve been vulnerable with others, and been thanked. On more than one occasion, the other person opened up about some issues they struggled with as a result of our conversation.

Being vulnerable with our hearts gives others courage to do likewise.

This was modeled for us by Jesus in Gethsemane, and by Paul in several of his letters to the church.

Truth is necessary for real healing to take place.

As we share with others what’s going on in our hearts, they can speak truth into the matter and bring the light of Jesus to our struggles. We are thwarted in spiritual wholeness to the degree that we hide our true selves.

In addition to hiding from others, we need to realize that we can lie and hide even from ourselves. Any addiction is a prime example of this truth. As a healed alcoholic, I can attest to the ability of denial to hide the awful truth from oneself:

I didn’t have a drinking problem, a strawberry Daiquiri was my morning fruit serving…perfect with a bowl of cereal. It was healthy…so healthy that I had one every hour or so. Sure, I consumed an entire bottle of rum every day, but look at my healthy diet!

Love requires truth.

A relationship with a dishonest person is miserable, for trust requires truth as its foundation. Since we can’t change others’ ability to be honest, then we must work on our own. This is more important than we might think:

“If the person I present to you is not who I really am, then even if you love me I will not feel loved.

“I will suspect in my heart that it is not me you really love, but only the ‘false self’ which I have presented to you.” 

Whenever love is conditional, the soul will be – or will feel – unloved.

Hollywood gives us many examples of this. One that surprised me was the “tough guy” from Happy Days (are you old enough to remember the show?). Arthur Fonzarelli, known as the “Fonz” was a bit of a bully to the guys, commanding respect and awe from even adults. You didn’t mess with the Fonz!

Several years later, I saw him on a talk show. He was more like the “Panz” than the “Fonz” in real life. Everything I knew and loved about Fonzie flew right out the window!

The point is, celebrities earn their living by play-acting. When we see them in a natural setting, they are often very unlike their screen personas. Consequently, we didn’t love them for who they really are, but for who they pretended to be. It’s no wonder so many turn to drugs, alcohol, and other addictions. They must play the part, or risk rejection on a grand scale!

It can be the same way in real life. If we choose to pretend to be something we’re not, then our “real” self does not receive love…and the love we do receive is false, for it is based on fiction, not fact.

One of the primary ways the Enemy tries to destroy us is with secrecy. Hide your heart, never let anyone see what’s in there…bad or good: “Act the part; make people happy. Keep smiling, and never let ’em see you sweat.” He knows that love is the food of the soul. If he can cut us off from love, then he can starve us to death!

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Psalm 51:6

To develop honesty, here are some practical directives:

* Be honest in prayer. God knows what’s really going on in our hearts. We need not hide from the One who knows us best and loves us most.

* Be honest in journaling (more on this another time). Write down things you’re working through. Later, when the issues have been resolved, these pages can be burned as a “sweet-smelling savor” to God. If you don’t journal, talk it through with God…out loud. The point is to get this stuff out of your head and either onto paper or into God’s ears.

* Be honest in close community. Note the word “close.” Sharing heart issues with a handful of trusted friends can be beneficial.

* Be honest with mentors. How can a person help us develop if we are not truthful with them? We have an “apple” issue, but only talk about “oranges” with them. Then get frustrated with their input because it’s not relevant to our “apple” problems! This is like talking to Fonz about his bully tendencies – his need to be more loving, when in fact the Panz is dying from a lack of love…and contemplating suicide. (Not that he is – or ever was, by the way!)

Here’s our new motto for the year:

Let there be truth on earth…

…and let it begin with me.

*****

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything

Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit

Are loss and grief obstacles to intimacy? Our discussion on the matter begins with Plastic Hearts

The Discipline of Forgiveness begins here.