Sunday, October 23, 2011

a brutal four-letter word

Every once in a while, there's a particular word that comes out of my mouth that I have a real problem with. I genuinely try to avoid it with a passion, but there are simply times when it's called for. During those times, I take a deep breath, and reluctantly let it out. At which point I can count on fear and trepidation to settle in quite well.

And the word, my friends?


A seemingly innocent four-letter word, don’t you think?
But frankly, I don't like it. One. Bit.

I’ve had to contend with that word a lot, especially over the past year as I’ve walked through a health crisis that literally swept me off my feet. And my aversion to admitting my needs was, once again, in my face when my husband recently cancelled an important business trip because I wasn’t feeling well. {Mind you, I’m still working on getting totally back on my feet, so when I say that I wasn’t feeling well, I’m unfortunately not referring to a cold.}

While I was definitely relieved with his decision, I was more disheartened that he had to miss out on something important – on my account. It was clearly a sacrificial gift of love that made such a statement about my importance to him, but admittedly, it was very hard to receive.  (There’s that
receive word again . . . )

I know I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to receive, so why IS that? And why is doing the unthinkable asking for help one of the most humbling experiences in life? I
shared recently that coming to terms with my needs is painful because it requires me to set aside my pride and admit that I’m not actually, wait for it, super-human! . . . (Gasp!)
My needs are a humbling reminder of my humanity.

Whether physical, emotional, or spiritual needs.

Then add to my pride the messages that surround us every day . . .

We’re told that we always have to be strong.

But God tells us that it is in our weakness, not our strength, that His power is made perfect.

(Not superb. Perfect! )

We're taught that needy is a bad word with strong connotations, so we learn to be independent and self-sufficient.

But God says that without Him, we can do – nothing.

We think
what matters is what we do.
God says that what matters is who He is.

So after hearing messages our entire lives about needing to be strong and self-sufficient, how is anybody supposed to know that it’s okay to be anything less than super-human, let alone have the courage to ask for help? Or to know that it’s okay to be fallible?

And this, my friends, is precisely where I’d like to turn the social norms upside down.

Truth: Needs are a powerful opportunity
to experience God first-hand.

So guess what! That means they’re not actually BAD! (Double Gasp!!)

Because what makes all the difference is where we primarily direct our needs. When we first and foremost entrust God with our needs, He begins to build on the beautiful story that He’s been writing in our lives all along. But this time, He adds this exciting twist:
When we lose, we actually gain.

You see, when we are willing to lose our pride, we gain immense freedom:

Freedom from the pressure to have it all together
Freedom to accept that we have needs
Freedom to make mistakes
Freedom to trust Him
And freedom to receive grace. Lots of it.

We gain the thrill of experiencing the fullness of God’s glory and love as we allow Him to meet our needs. And THAT, my friends, is why the Bible says that we can actually embrace and celebrate our needs and weaknesses.

So call me crazy, but with that being the case, might we even dare to consider that our needs, our short-comings, our longings, even our unmet dreams – are actually good? . . .

I know first-hand how difficult it is to have needs. But I want you to hear this:

In Christ, you are fully loved and accepted just as you are – including all of your needs.

And hurts.
And disappointments.
And struggles.

We can trust God with all those things, and know that He is for us.
Don’t ever let your heart or mind tell you otherwise.

So when I focus on God instead of what I have or don’t have, He will meet my needs. No, He will exceed them.

So here’s my radical proposal:
Rather than being afraid of our needs, why not embrace them as precious opportunities to experience the supernatural?
Why not take the risk to share a struggle with a friend?
Why not take off the pretty “I have it all together” masks that we hide behind, and instead be an inspiration for others as to how to cling to God in the middle of life’s hurts, disappointments, and sheer mess?

When we’re unguarded, we give also give others a precious gift. The gift of our trust. And the same “permission” to be human. Because the best of friendships are based on truth, not pretense, and offer a safe place to be real and vulnerable.

However, as you boldly take steps toward authenticity, do not forget this, friends:
Whether others handle our vulnerability with the care it deserves or not, we are not defined by how others respond to us in life. Our identity must be anchored in Christ alone or else this whole transparency thing becomes one big threat.

Mother Teresa once said,
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.
Be honest and transparent anyway.

So what do you say, friends? Will you take the risk with me to be open about our needs, our hurts, our struggles in this journey called life? And unlock the doors to greater freedom and healing?

Who’s in??

And how about sharing this freedom-filled post with others? 
Share it on Facebook, Tweet it, Pin it -- whatever will remind others that being human and making mistakes doesn't mean that they aren't deeply loved!
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  1. Thanks for being so open and honest with all of us out here. Know that there are prayers being said all over for you!

  2. You are correct.. we NEED Christ every day. I have had to learn that I am not "super human", either. I am thankful for the Lord showing me how much I need him. It reminds me of John 15. Love that passage... especially the first 5 verses.

  3. I'm in...not just dipping a toe or up to my knees..all in!!!! I am free to be molded by His loving hands.

  4. "Because the best of friendships are based on truth, not pretense, and offer a safe place to be real and vulnerable."
    It's sad that these friendships are so difficult to find because we all pretend to have it all together, or if we are bold enough to be "real" we often get knocked down or ignored because of it. Thanks for once again hitting the nail on the head & encouraging us in our walk with God.

  5. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine in the darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us...We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

    I once believed the lie that if I didn't "have it all together" I was being a bad witness for Christ. God used the pain of scoliosis to show me that I am a cracked pot, and that is okay, because God's light shines through the cracks. If I was perfect, God's light would not be able to shine through me.

    So, like you, I strive to rejoice in my weaknesses instead of being ashamed of them. Our weaknesses are truly a blessing and the means by which the world sees God's power at work. What a challenge to go against the "perfectionist" ideals of our society, but by God's grace it can be done!

  6. I tend to struggle with trying to do everything right and being a young mom, wife, and college student I find it hard to balance everything. I prioritize my life around school and getting everything done because my family life and ministry life causes me to miss a lot of class meaning I have to work EXTRA hard to keep up with my grades . God has provided me with a lot of talent in different areas including my academics, art, vocals, leadership, and my deep desire to serve but it seems as if these things benefit everywhere else except in my household. I try so hard on the things that I know I am good at but it. Hard for me to know how to fix where I fall short. How do u shift your priorities to meet the emotional needs of your family when u know that providing for them is so crucial that u don't want to jeopardize that? My husband does not feel loved enough by me because I can't spend as much quality time with him, and because my head is always focused on providing and taking care of responsibilities that he is more of an afterthought. Through my perfectionism I have trouble being emotionally there when I have so much on my plate to register already. I keep praying for god to help me prioritize better, to be a better wife and mom, and to get out of this funk that I'm in, but it feels like I'm never getting the tools I need to make it work. I wish i cld just give up on school and be able to live up to my potential as a wife and mom, but with 3 years behind me already and two more to go along with student loans, I can't . I'm stuck sacrificing the desperate time my family needs from me to get into a job that can take care of us. This is a really long speal about my issues but i felt like I needed to get it out.

    1. oh sweet soul . . . thank you from the depths of my heart for sharing your story with me. your struggles, your questions, your longings. you extended to me the gift of your trust, & it leaves me humbled, so humbled.

      friend, i'll start by telling you what you already know -- that i don't have all the answers. but i will gladly share some thoughts that come to mind after reading your story. thoughts that you can take before the Lord to ask Him what HE thinks about all this.

      first, i want to remind you of your value, dear one. i want to remind you that if you never have a day where you feel like you're a good wife, a good mom, a good friend, a good child of God, your Father will continue to rejoice over you with boisterous singing. He will. not. stop.

      you are infinitely valued because you have been created in God's radiant image. nothing you do or don't do will ever take that away. nothing! He created you with your strengths -- AND your weaknesses. and He doesn't look down on your weaknesses, your shortcomings. in fact, He lovingly knit them into your being as a constant invitation to cling to the cross.

      you shared that it's hard to know how to fix the areas where you fall short. and oh, how i understand, friend. i really get that. but the reality is -- you can't. nor can i. and if you have any bit of perfectionist tendencies like i do, that is a very painful reality to grapple with.

      but in that grappling, in my own pain of coming face to face with my utter inability to pull this thing {called the christian life} off, i began to realize that i had a choice. a choice to either mentally beat myself up for all of my failures (historically my perfectionist choice by default) or seriously take God at His word re: His grace.

      and i chose grace. but not just once. i have to choose it every. single. day. i began receiving His grace during a season that was so difficult for me that i had to ask if i was abusing it. and He tenderly reminded me that infinite means infinite. but let me tell you, friend, during the early part of that journey of choosing {grace}, i felt the heavy anguish of my pride screaming as it was dying. every. single. time.

      and oftentimes, still do. but what i ALSO began to experience was freedom. oh, the freedom . . . and the more i exercised that stiff muscle of receiving {His grace}, the more it loosened up. the more it became a healthy state of my being, rather than a sore pain from a stiff muscle that begged to question its goodness.

      you know, i wish i could pull up a cozy chair with you at starbucks right about now to listen, share, encourage. but instead, i will leave you with this. i want to encourage you to rest, friend. and to fix your gaze less on what you are or aren't doing, less on trying, & to quiet your gaze deeply in His heart for you.

      i included the following quote in something i wrote on 1/25, so my apologies if you've already read it. but it is one that has spoken so very deeply to me in this area that i don't want you to miss it.

      it's a quote from norman douty included in miles stanford’s book, the complete green letters. and douty says this . . .

      “throw down every endeavor and say, i cannot do it,
      the more i try the farther i get from His likeness.
      what shall i do?

      ah, the Holy Spirit says, you cannot do it;
      just withdraw; come out of it.
      you have been in the arena, you have been endeavoring . . .
      come out and sit down,
      and as you sit there behold Him,
      look at Him.

      don’t try to be like Him, just look at Him.
      just be occupied with Him.
      forget about trying to be like Him.
      instead of letting that fill your mind and heart, let Him fill it."

      that is my heart's cry for you right now, friend. don't try to be like Him. just look at Him. consider what His Word says about how He looks at you! and rest quietly in His tender embrace.

      your fellow sojourner in grace,

  7. I often feel guilty when I am out of commission and "impose" on my family. Thanks for this encouraging post and the reminder that He is our focus, and that our needs give us the oppportunity to watch Him work in our lives. So glad we met each other last week, and I happened to be your neighbor at Faith Jam. Hope you feel better soon!

    1. i think we all have that tendency to feel guilty in those circumstances, but that guilt isn't from the Lord. so i try to remind myself that nothing comes to me {OR my family} that hasn't first passed through His hands. i've also been seeing {more & more lately} that all of life's challenges are simply opportunities for us to {once again} run to the cross, aren't they?

      and yes, i am feeling MUCH better than when i wrote this. {thank you, God!!} i actually wrote it a few months ago, before i discovered faith jam. but i felt led to share it today because i consider it my personal call to authenticity, & also because of some things the Lord laid on my heart when i responded to the comment prior to yours here just last night.

      i'm so grateful the Lord has allowed our blog paths to cross, too, shelly! blessings to you, my friend!

  8. I so often hide myself and my pain. Yet true healing has only come from being open and honest with God and others. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. i really respect your honesty, katie. and i think we ALL hide our pain. maybe in different ways, & to differing degrees. but sharing our pain feels like such a risk. a big risk. and most of us like to minimize risk. {or in my case, avoid it with a passion!} when in reality, all risk is removed when i anchor my identity, my security, my hope -- in Christ. and there alone we find the freedom to be open, knowing our souls are safe & protected {in the tender arms of Jesus}.

      i'm so glad you joined me here today -- hope you stop by again sometime!

  9. I'm right there with you! Having needs is not my favorite thing in the world. It seems like needs only make us a burden to others. I'm starting to learn, like you said here, there is something special about embracing the fact that we all have needs, and that our God is glorified in our weaknesses. Not to mention, sharing our needs with friends strengthens our relationships.

    Great post!

    1. thanks for your open, encouraging words, jennifer. it's always a blessing to connect with somebody who can relate to the struggle.

      i think part of the reason that we tend to feel like our needs make us a burden to others is because in our culture, we tend to live so independently, instead of living life as a member of a community, don't you think?

      a friend of mine had the opp. to live in a different culture for a while, & i remember her telling me that these folks would never THINK of going to the grocery store alone -- because they lived life TOGETHER. such a stark contrast to how most americans live life. so i think so much of it has to do with the messages that we receive {our entire lives} from our culture -- many of which are severe, damaging distortions of truth.

      thanks again for sharing! i enjoyed having you visit.

  10. Tanya,
    Oh a kindred spirit! I must say that out of all the trials that I have lived through, the one that has brought me to my knees was my health trial of 10, long and debilitating years. I too understand that four letter word and I loathed it! But I am a better vessel for Christ as a result of what He took me through.

    Glad to have met you Tanya and was so blessed that you linked up at The Alabaster Jar. I have yet to write a whole lot on my ill-health journey. When I began my blog, the Lord had me share our financial story of losing our home not just once but twice and the many years of that tumultuous storm as well. Right now he has me writing on marriage. Maybe in the future He'll have me share more of my broken body story.
    No worries about not having too many marriage posts. Feel free to link up what you'd like because I know it will be about our Lord!
    So happy to have met you,

    1. oh jolene, what an honor to have you step into my journey here, particularly with this post. and what glorious evidence of the Lord IN you for you to recognize that your painful 10 years were so that His glory may shine even more brightly through you. such words of life . . .

      reminds me of something i read from beth moore one time:
      "You have a capacity to see the Glory of God that those who have suffered less will never see."
      don't you LOVE that??
      it's so, so true. i know you know it FULL well!

      well i'm delighted to have connected with you, jolene. and thank you for your encouragement re: linking up with you all at The Alabaster Jar. i look forward to it!!

      sweet, sweet blessings to you, dear soul,

  11. So very true! It is so easy to hide behind the masks we've created for ourselves. We don't want to let anyone in to see that we are not perfect, that we have needs. That would be admitting "failure". Thank you for sharing, it was a blessings! Thank you for linking up with me @

    1. thank YOU for stopping by, misty! this whole notion of transparency has become a passion of mine -- it's such a powerful tool that the Lord can use in our relationships with others, our spouse, & our understanding of our relationship with Him.

      i'm so happy to connect with you -- today was the first i'd discovered your blog (through joy's link up), & i'm now joining you on FB! AND i see that you live in one of my very favorite places on the planet!! oh, how i adore your state . . . .

      blessings to you & yours, misty,

  12. This post resonated so deeply with me. Like you, I've gone through many health crises (and I do mean "crisis" - not the head cold variety!!) and as a recovering perfectionist, I've had a lot of trouble dealing with that four letter word, "need". However, God has humbled me to such a point that I can no longer deny it. It was quite a red-letter day for me, though, when I lay in my bed ill and let my door be OPEN to watch others clean my home and cook for my family. I felt like burying my head under my pillow in shame. However, learning to accept those "washing of the feet" moments from other saints who dearly love me has really deepened my understanding of my own pride, and how much I want it rooted out of me. To be able to accept gifts from others, to allow them to be more blessed than I (for it is more blessed to give than to receive - and now I know that to be true!!) - this is a lesson from the table of the Last Supper and truly one I need to learn from the very hands of the Savior dipping into the bowl and washing my dirty feet with his Holy hands themselves.

    So thankful I found your blog through Shanda's link-up!

    1. what a sheer delight to have you stop by, genevieve. i had the privilege of majoring with scott & joy (bennett) in college, so i've hopped over to your place numerous times on life:unmasked wednesdays since i started blogging a year ago. in fact, a link to your spring "i am eve" post is forever recorded in my personal journal (& i remain challenged by your sentiments). so suffice it to say that a big smile came over my face when i saw your name here.

      and while i haven't experienced the same excruciating physical journey that you've survived, i certainly had the same heart journey when my health crashed & i lay incapacitated on the couch while everybody around me served me and cleaned my house. it was most intense for me to process when it involved my husband & 72-yr-old parents -- all who were making constant, hard-core sacrifices 24/7. there was almost a grieving in the receiving, and i guess it's what you pointed out -- i was ultimately grieving the loss of my pride.

      there's a quote that i just shared on joy's blog yesterday, but i can't help but share it with you, too, b/c it just nails it. it's from dan allender's book, bold love:

      “the cost for the recipient of God’s grace is NOTHING — and no price could be higher for arrogant people to pay.
      something within me (that feels noble) longs for a religion that requires payment. i may like an occasional free gift, but i cannot bear the loss of pride and swagger that occurs when i give my life and nothing is required.
      grace is free, and that is disturbing.”

      i'm so blessed that you stopped by, genevieve. and i'd be honored to have you back again sometime.

      blessings to you & yours,


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