Friday, July 22, 2011

Reigning in the "ten-year-old"

Sat down with a couple of dear ladies for dinner last night. IF I said they were my "friends" that would be accurate, but not sufficient to describe them.

Truth be told, my time with them has been limited, and I truly don't know a lot about them, though I learned a little more last night, but there is a bond and a connection that knits our hearts together. The Lord has put me on their hearts, and they are reaching out to invest in me, because they see something worth laying hold of. They believe in me, and have confidence in me. They are too dear sweet women who I feel like my name is safe on their lips. That's what I told them last night as we left the restaurant.

For me to feel that way about someone is somewhat rare, and sadly it seems to become more rare all the time. They aren't the only people I feel that way about, by any means, but the list is still short. And because the Lord seems to have gifted me with these two women, these "mothers of the faith," it is particularly dear to me that God has placed them in my life. When I am with them, I feel unconditional love and acceptance. What a rare gift that is.

Truth be told, I didn't want to go last night. I was very close to cancelling just because I am so worn out. My body is not my friend. I have been in chronic pain long enough now, that I have finally lost count of just how long. Even as I sit here and type now, the pain in my neck and shoulders is throbbing. My emotions likewise have taken a beating. I am hurt and raw. The pain of it seems ongoing, and rising up in new places all the time. Even as I sat with the ladies and we talked, new arrows pierced my heart, not from them, but through our conversation.

These women because they love me, and although they support me, and even truly like me, I think, are far from simple cheerleaders. They are willing to, dare I say, determined to speak truth into my life, even hard truth. They do it lovingly, but they don't hold back. And I have to say, it is far easier to receive from someone who you feel your name is safe with than it is with anyone where there is even a hint of distrust.

These mothers of the faith, fast becoming like spiritual moms to me, know and see that there are hard things I am called to do. Things that bring about the emotional pain and personal hurts. Hard things that are hard when you feel good, but feel almost burdensome when your body is not your friend. But because they love me, they wouldn't accept my excuses.

They held my hand and spoke words of life as I sat there crying in the corner booth, but they didn't relent from speaking the truth. They didn't let the compassion they felt for me overwhelm the truth they believe for me. And every time I said "It's too hard," they countered with "But in Christ you can." I've spoken those words to others myself, and I have to say, they are hard to hear but necessary just the same.

"Take your thoughts captive," they instructed. "Speak words of life," they said. It's true, every time I say it's hard, it really gets a little harder.

Finally the Lord gave me the word picture that I understood. When my kids were littler, and I was chasing after the three, ages, 2, 3 and 10, it was easy for life to get consumed by the 2 and 3 year old who were needy and insistent and demanded their wants NOW! It made it harder to keep track of the ten-year-old who took advantage of my distraction and would wander off on his own way. He'd wander off and get himself into trouble, the more distracted I was, the further he went.

My emotions and my body are like the 2 and 3 year old, screaming out, throwing their tantrums, demanding all my attention NOW! And while it is easy to become consumed with how I am feeling both emotionally and physically, my mind, the 10 year old is off and wandering in the wrong direction. The one who KNOWS better is willingly going astray. And the further it wanders, the harder it is to bring it back, and the more havoc wreaked in the mean time.

When the kids were little and that happened, it meant putting the young ones somewhere safe, but a place that required less focus, down for a nap, in a time out, in a playpen to pay- their needs no less important, their demands no less intent, but the priority they were given was lessened, and the focus was brought back to the 10 year old, to bring him back under his proper training. To remind him of what he already knew and raise both the expectation and the focus to it being accomplished.

My body and emotions are what they are. I can't mature or heal them instantly out of the place they'r ein, but I can put them aside safely and get my mind back to focusing on the place that the battle is truly to be won, over my mind and thoughts.

These two women gently yet firmly reminded me, I know the Truth. I am to live by the Truth, and my focus needs to be on the Truth. It's time to reign in the big "kid" and get him back on track.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
II Corinthians 10:3-6

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
John 8:31-32

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Mess of Forgiveness

It's been a week since I last posted. It's been a week of highs and lows, a little like an emotional roller coaster.

This week someone I love very much finally arrived at the happiest day of her life, and it was a joy to be there to witness it and be a part. It was the high point of the week, and the thread of it was something to look forward to all week long.

But my body is constantly working against me it seems. My ankle is still sore and weak. I'm sure I haven't helped matters by wearing flip flops and walking bare foot without it being wrapped, but it's summer and well, I'm a tad bit stubborn at times. In addition the pinched nerve in my back that I have been managing (or failing to manage) for the last two months has been relentless, and now I am struggling with pain in the right side of my neck as well and my left knee is sore from walking awkwardly on my bad ankle. Last night I felt a shooting pain through my lower back that felt like something was going to slip or go out, but so far, it's just a twinge here and there. But I am getting really worn down from all the aches and pains.

Pain does that to you, it wears you down. Not just physically, but emotionally too. And for almost as long as I have been nursing the physical pains, I have been nursing some emotional ones as well.

I was told recently, in essence, that I am (1) not teachable, and (2) not reachable. If not "not reachable," then I have certainly been told I am not worth the effort. The people who have spoken that to me, one in actual words, the other in specific actions- or rather inaction, have wounded my heart, and have felt justified in doing so. It's actually a bit of a pattern in that specific area of my life, and it has been a source of great frustration to me. Frustration is like my sore knee, it's not the actual source of the injury, but it is a byproduct that has resulted from it.

This week in the Becoming a Woman of Freedom bible study, we have been learning about forgiveness. The title of the chapter has been "Running with Forgiveness: Laying Aside Bitterness." The running metaphor has not been lost on me since my physical injuries have prevented me from a lot of physical activities these past few weeks, likewise, spiritual injuries can hinder us from "running" our spiritual race.

The theme verse from our Bible study, and week one's memory verse was Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...

The metaphor of the physical process is simple, whatever slows you down, you throw aside. If a rope wraps itself around you, you unwind or you cut and you move on. If a rock is placed in your arms, you toss it aside, you drop off a backpack, you tie the untied shoelace. Simple.

Spiritually speaking, the reality of laying things aside is not so simple. Those things that entangle us are not seen by the naked eye. Sometimes we think we have snipped off the snare only to find it was longer and more deeply wound than we even realized.

The Lord has been speaking a lot to me about forgiveness this week. It isn't a simple recipe to be followed the same for every offense. So many factors play into it: the offense, the offender, your own emotions, your history; all play a part. Some offenses are easy to overlook, others are not so. Sometimes it's a single offense, sometimes it's a long list of offenses. Sometimes the offender acknowledges the offense, other times they justify it, and sometimes they don't even acknowledge the offense at all.

The problem with an offense is that it becomes such because of the way it makes the offended person feel. Intentions mean nothing when a person walks away wounded. "I didn't mean it that way," or "You took it wrong," means nothing to the person who is nursing the hurt. Usually that exact response adds to the pain.

But God doesn't put conditions on His command to forgive. The truth is, forgiveness, in our case, is for our own good as much as it is for the good of the the one who has offended us. We are called to forgive because we are forgiven. The command is simple, the process is not. But it's difficulty isn't an excuse not to pursue the obedience to it.

I'll be honest, I'm not there, but I'm also struggling with the difference between bitter vs. angry. Sometimes when people hurt us, whether with their action or their inaction, with their words or their lack of words our anger is justified at the offense. And the Bible says, "BE angry... yet do not sin," so the reaction to the offense CAN actually be justified, but we have to guard our hearts from the crossing over from anger to bitterness. And I think the only sure way to do that is to get on to the business, messy as it is, to forgiving as quickly as possible. However, complicated that process may be.