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!
Click here
to share it on FB, and right below this "you might also like" section, there are more tiny share buttons.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

i am the older brother

Recently at church, our teacher taught on the story of the prodigal son. At the end of the lesson, he said that the following Sunday, we'd discuss the prodigal son’s older brother. I immediately knew I was in trouble I'd get a lot out of it.

While the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about the older brother, what it says speaks volumes to me – because I can all too easily see myself in him. The older brother was the responsible one. The dependable one. The goody two shoes. He likely did what he was told, and never caused his father any trouble. What parent wouldn’t be proud, right?

But the Bible tells us that while people size us up by our actions, God looks at our hearts. (Gulp.) And that, my friends, is what turns the whole story (of life!) upside down for me.

Because I don’t know about you, but I tend to view life through lenses of doing, rather than being. Every day, my nature vies to prioritize tasks over people. Check lists over community. Running, rather than resting. Tangible accomplishments over the unseen and the eternal. Doing things for God, rather than fostering a relationship with God.

Responsibility, over relationship . . .

Pursuing good, while missing out on best.

So what’s the matter with being a responsible individual and accomplishing things? Absolutely nothing.

However, when I allow those accomplishments to be what drive me in life, what thrills me most, I miss out on something greater. I miss out on experiencing the eternal, the immeasurable. And all the while my identity and security and perceived acceptance can subtly slip into being dangerously defined by the things that I do, rather than who I am. Or more accurately, who Christ is, in me.

Just this past year, God allowed me to go through a long period when I literally couldn’t do. A sudden health crisis left me bed-ridden and unable to take care of myself at all for more than six months. And now, more than a year later, I’m still limited in what I can and can’t do. And let me tell ya, friends – Have I ever wanted to DO! But do you know what God has wanted for me during this time? He’s simply wanted me to BE. To rest and revel in His presence.

It’s hard to rest, isn’t it? Because at the same time that we struggle to prioritize being over doing, our culture shouts lies like these about value:

Resting is a waste of time . . . Productivity is always priority . . . Sacrifice relational sensitivity for the sake of efficiency . . . And your value is determined by your contribution to society.

In our do-more society, we’re practically obsessed by doing.

Take a moment to consider the following:
Think about the myriad of things that you do in your life. Everything you do each day at work, at home, with family, friends. All of it. If you were to put it all in list form, it would be a lot, wouldn’t it?

Now I want you to imagine not doing any of those things. None.

And what are you left with?

That is one difficult question, friends. But thinking through it helps me remember who I am apart from what I do. Because if I am not able to recognize my personal value without any association of doing something, then I am at risk of elevating responsibility to an unhealthy level – and missing out on the extraordinary in life.

Again, doing is good. And so is responsibility. They're important! But what ultimately matters is why we do what we do. And therein lies what we truly believe about ourselves, and God.

So here’s the truth that God is ever so patiently establishing in my head and heart, friends: Because I am made in His image, I have immense value whether or not I ever accomplish or achieve anything. There isn’t anything that I can do to add to it (or take away from it).

So the question is – Will I have the guts to rest while everyone around me sprints? To prioritize relationship over responsibility? Or will I settle for merely being responsible and accomplishing great things?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dismissing a Miracle -- as a Mistake

A couple of years ago, I sat with some test results in my hands that were downright scary. Off-the-charts results in territory so dangerous that doctors’ offices across the country have been compelled to post visible warnings about this threat to one’s health.

Those disturbing results have haunted me the past two years, not knowing what type of internal damage was occurring, or what long-term ramifications could result. Or even short term! Not really knowing much of anything except that this was a serious threat. All the while wishing that somebody could just tell me what in the world I could do to fix it.

But they couldn’t. Even after enduring two full years of this silent danger, I have yet to hear any clear solutions for how to treat it. Maybe because it’s a rare problem. Or maybe because there aren’t any solutions.
I honestly don’t know.

This summer, the test was repeated to have a current snapshot. I tried to be realistic and not expect any change, but my longing for healing vied for hope, despite the reality. I unsuccessfully tried to shift my focus to the other areas being tested. But of course, when I received the results, my eyes instinctively went straight to the danger zone.

Let me pause right here. Because I don’t think it’s any coincidence that a week or two before, my son started a wonderful habit of reminding my husband and I conveniently, after we say no to something, that all things are possible . . .

Friends, the threat was completely GONE.
Not a lower risk than before. Not even low-risk numbers.

I was dumbfounded. Confused, really.
So did I jump for joy? Cry tears of relief? Or pause to thank God right away? No, I actually didn’t do any of those things. You want to know my ongoing first response?
I questioned it.

{How in the world can this be accurate? I didn’t do anything to cause this change. What if the lab made a mistake? . . . }

God was handing me a gift, and I was having a hard time receiving it.
I was holding a miracle.
But considering it a mistake.

It’s hard to receive, isn’t it? Because when we receive, we make that painful choice to set aside our pride by admitting that we’re human and have needs. (And that’s certainly another post for another time because this post is about 3 words away from crossing the line from blog to book.)

As I was pondering my response, it occurred to me that my choice as to how to respond to this gift mirrors the most important choice that each person has to make in her lifetime. It, too, is a choice of receiving.

Let me explain . . .
The Bible says that we are all “sick” with a nature that is prone to sin, which severs our ability to be in the presence of a holy God. If you read the Bible, you’ll notice that it also says that there is absolutely nothing that we can do about that nature.
All of the striving to do incredible things in and for this world doesn’t even change it. We simply cannot fix the bond that’s been broken between us and God.
But God has.

Compelled by His limitless love for us, and His desire to be in a relationship with us, God reached out and gave us a gift. An unsurpassed gift. He made a way to restore the relational bond that was broken.

When He sent Jesus to earth, He sent Him with the sole mission of reconciliation. Because when Jesus died, He procured our pardon from sin. And because our sin nature was crucified with Christ, the cross is where we find our deliverance from the power and domination of that sin nature.
Life, from death.
And when Jesus rose from the dead, He secured our new life of freedom as forever with Him for all eternity.

And after this miraculous display of God’s power of life over death, itself, the Bible says, “many did not believe” . . .

The choice is always ours, friends:
Attempt to sort out the mysteries of life rationally.
Or embrace the miracles for what they are, and set aside our pride to receive them.

Admittedly, I’m still struggling with the embracing part of this recent miracle, but my heart is set on walking by faith and not by sight.

So how about you, friend? Ever try to rationalize the supernatural? Or written off a miracle as an outright mistake?

Even though this story has a happy ending, it is still tender territory for me. As such, I would be wise to not answer the obvious “what WAS it?” question, because unfortunately, that takes my mind down trains of thought that can easily lead to lies, instead of truth. Thank you for understanding, and letting me be vulnerable with you about that.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...