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Grappling with Truth

I finally have the courage to sit down and write.

For the past six weeks the mere thought of having to sit down and think about what’s going on, how I’m feeling and what I should do has been too overwhelming. If I thought about it I’d have to deal with it. No, no one died, but I’ve felt like life as I knew it was shattering.

I finally know why I’m here and it isn’t pleasant. It doesn’t involve me directly but I’m affected by it. I don’t know what to think. My feelings are all over the map. All in one second I am angry, sad, disappointed and heartbroken. Yet, I can’t help but think, thhat even though all of this junk we are presently wading through is terrible it is finally real. We can’t deny it anymore. We can’t hide it. We can’t move on unti we move through it. For the first time in our lives we are forced to live in it. The pink elephant in the room is finally being called what it is.

I believe that the truth is much easier to heal from than lies. But when your eyes are completely open to the truth it can be startling and extremely painful. It forces you to live in reality. There is no fantasy. There is no pretending. We are made keenly aware of our depravity and need. The good thing is God’s mercies are new everyday. There is grace for everything but we have to be willing to look who we really are in the face, admit it and ask for help. It is a scary, dark place to be, but there is hope if you can do it.

I have been at that place for me personally. I know there is amazing freedom when you can embrace the process. But it takes incredible courage to do it. There is support and love in those who are truly your friends. The key is humility, vulnerability and complete dependence on God. You have to let go of everything you think you know and everything you think you are. I don’t think many people ever get to this place.

Sometimes people choose the fantasy. They choose to be a victim. They choose to ignore it. This perpetuates the lie. It isolates you from others. It makes you manipulative and passive-aggressive to make sure your safe world stays intact. The illusion of control becomes more important than the truth of the situation or other person.

We will be ok. I know we will. I see positive changes I never thought would happen. I feel peace never known. I see soul searching and realizations of things I thought were long forgotten. So it is good but hard for everyone.

As a bystander I am struggling not to relapse into my weapons of mass destruction. I am fighting to stay away from my vices that make me feel better. I am challenged to find a new way to cope. I too have to abandon myself into the process of a rotor router of my heart. There are still places inside me that are dark that needed to find the light of truth.

In the beginning, we all struggle against it choosing instead our own reality. At the end of the day the warmth and comfort of the light will woo us out of our struggle, if we let it. I have to let go of all my preconceived notions, ideals, fears and coping mechanisms. I too have to surrender.

I have to believe we will be changed. We will be stronger, closer and better. But the process is a bitch.

Experience of Grace

”In God’s search to find us, he enters every dark corner of life. Thus, our saving hope is not to be rescued from the dark world but to live in the darkness by the light of Christ. It follows that we can spend a lot less time praying for deliverance from how it is and more time asking to see the face of God in every circumstance.”

– Craig Barnes (Yearning)

I got this quote from a friend this week and it is so true. I would add that our experience of grace in these dark corners really depends on our ability to be vulnerable and open to the depths of the blackness. Do we try to shine the light ourselves cheapening the experience of grace or do we really reflect who he is even in our weakness, defeat, horror, shame and/or sin?

Shadows

We all have a dark side.

I think in light of recent events in the Evangelical world we have to stop and examine our own lives, realizing that we struggle with things common to everyone. Gordon MacDonald, who has suffered his own fall from grace, posted a response on Leadership Journal’s blogOut of Ur that I feel is heart-felt and insightful.

He reminds us that we all have parts of our hearts and mind that threaten to dismantle our entire lives if we give in. I think we should pay attention to the things in life that make our hearts scream in protest, why? What are we reacting to? Why do we react so violently? Is it because it is something we secretly struggle with?

I find in my own life that when I am responding in love my desire to serve is greater than my need to yell, condemn and point the finger. When I do those things it corresponds to an unrepentent place in my own heart.

I believe that if as a church, we spent less time pointing out the plank in the eyes of others and instead stayed humble, preaching heart change, teaching the spiritual disciplines and leading by example before we opened our mouths our credibility might just soar. I don’t think God needs us to defend him. He doesn’t need us point fingers, he needs us to love. We have all been in times of sin and we don’t respond well to people harshly pointing out our faults. What we need is gentle compassion, nurture, love and acceptance.

Recently I went to a lecture at Talbot’s Institute of Spiritual Formation on Drawing Near to God when he Seems Far Away: Practicing the Presence of God Despite Feelings. Dr. John Coe talked about how as a church we focus heavily on being new creations in Christ and neglect to teach people how to shed the old nature, our shadow side. God is in the business of transformation not consolation. Meaning he is primarily concerned about the state of our hearts and making it more and more like his.

Then there are times when we feel like we’re doing everything right. We feel like we’re on track and God still feels far away. We wonder what else we need to do to get his attention. These are the times we need to look inward and see where he is working within us. If there is no unconfessed sin, we’re praying, reading the Bible, etc and it just doesn’t seem to work anymore, we aren’t getting the same feelings then God is going deep. Our honeymoon phase is over and he is teaching us to really love him, know him and worship him inspite of our feelings.

Coe says that he is using these times to show us what is in our heart. God uses discipline to show us who we really are. That is a scary view. This is when the things that shock us are brought to light. We think God has abandoned us but we know this is not true, for he has promised to never leave us or forsake us and with his Spirit he is with us always.

God is showing us part of our hearts that are attached to something else, that loves something else, that serves something else. God doesn’t show us everything at once, it takes time. He shows us when he feels we’re ready. I take comfort in knowing that he will not do this when I can’t handle it but when He knows I can, when I trust him enough to make the journey. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s not pretty, but it is when I sit in my own messiness that I find out who he is, that I can take in more of his love and surrender just a little bit more.

The vices and sins of our heart inhibit the process because we fill those places. God’s spirit wants to be at home with in us but it has to evict the present occupant, ourselves. This is a purging process to expose who we are, as God sees us. This is not condemnation. He isn’t saying we’re not worthy, by the mere fact that he is working on us he’s showing us that we are worth it because he wants to inhabit us completely. I have to learn that apart from him I can do nothing, this is contrary to my flesh. We don’t really believe that His power is perfect in our weakness. (John 15:5)

I pray that God would dig deep in my heart to show me the parts of myself that I have yet to surrender. This is a scary prayer but I know who I am and recognize his grace and mercy at work in me. I am in awe that the I am cares enough about me to work so individually. I also have to stop and make sure that I am not condemning others for their sin because I know what is in my heart.

Relationship Myths and Our True Selves

One of the few things that Joanna and I have ever fought about is Sex and the City.

See she thought Carrie was a dork for getting back together with Mr. Big and I thought she was the dork for thinking that.

Joanna, I have to say that you were right and that I realized that I needed to put that relationship fantasy to death.

See there are life lessons to be learned on televion.

Joanna and I went round and round about Carrie and Big’s relationship. She didn’t think he was the ideal person for Carrie. Her opinion was that he treated her like crap, broke her heart again and again and would never be the man she truly needs.

I thought he was romantic. I was convinced that she was really in love with him and that underneath it all he really loved her to. I was thrilled when, in the end, she chose him. He was definitely a better choice than the Russian.

But after numerous reruns showing the evolution of the relationship I have to say – Joanna was right. Big was a bastard and Carrie should have chosen Aidan. Why would I think that he was the right one for anyone? Why would I think someone so egocentric, emotionally unavailable and destructive was the right person for her. (Yes, I realize this is tv, but bear with me.)

I always wanted a Mr. Big. Someone to sweep into my life with a suave sophistication and apparently treat me like crap. I guess I was hoping that maybe some of his confidence, ambition and direction would rub off on me. At times I even had my very own version of the manipulating, self-centered, narcissistic personality that I interpreted as confidence and harmless cockiness. I didn’t realize that he got stronger from me because I lost myself in him.

I honestly thought I deserved that so I dated accordingly. But why? Why would I think that is what I deserved?

Today the light bulb went off and I figured out why. On Starting Over one of the housemates realizes that her true authentic self is covered with her issues and baggage, BUT that it isn’t altered, damaged, or destroyed. The being she was created to be is still there. It’s not gone. So it had nothing to do with the actual men I chose to date but with how I saw myself. They were who they were, but I wanted more. But before I could attract more I had to be more. I needed to get a new perspective on myself.

I thought I lost the chance to be who I was created to be by all my bad choices or by the things done to me, but its still there, I just have to uncover it.

What amazing freedom that is. The imprint of being made in God’s image with a glorious purpose in this life does not go away regardless of what we do or what happens to us. I thought that was lost forever that I was a broken vase and would forever have a leak no matter how hard I tried. I thought that I was forever changed, but that just isn’t true. I believed the lie that I was Humpty Dumpty and acted accordingly. So many times I settled for less. So many times I let myself be ruled by fear. So many times I beat myself up. So many times I was a doormat because I thought that is what I deserved. It was all a lie.

I think this was one of the major disconnects in my Christian walk. How could I relate to a whole and perfect God when I was so damaged and broken. I knew in my head that he could restore me but I was angry because I thought I’d always have scars. I always wondered who I could have been. But that is wrong thinking. I can still be that person and use my experience to benefit others. I am whole by the grace of God. Wow!