Every day I learn something new. It may have been about events, life, a friend or human behavior. This morning was about me! Sitting quietly I became aware of something that triggers me and causes me to feel shamed. It’s not from past trauma or anything like that. People, family, coworkers etc, sometimes without realizing it say things that sting. That stuff will happen. But here’s what I learned about myself…. I try very hard to set up my world to avoid pain at every turn. I want to inoculate myself from pain. How unrealistic to think I can avoid it. I can’t avoid it! Yet I want to at all costs. The real question is why? I wonder if it’s as simple as pain avoidance or if an old coping mechanism. No matter why I think the better thing to do is learn to become aware of the trigger and work through it constructively. The first step for me is awareness, then prayer then reaching out to a friend. I’m a verbal processor. So once I talk through I’m usually ok again. And after all isn’t that how we all want to feel?
When I was really young I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It’s just a feeling I wrestled with daily. It didn’t matter where I was. I still had this nagging sense of being different or not good enough. I felt this way at home, among cousins, in my neighborhood and at school.
Then one day I attended a charismatic church and went forward for prayer. Oddly enough I didn’t realize the guy that was praying for me was a pastor (even though I just listened to him preach). And I didn’t know He heard from God and shared those words with others. So there I am thinking I’m getting prayer for bad sinuses and this guy says “I can tell everywhere you’ve ever gone and everywhere you’ve ever been you’ve always felt a little different and little out-of-place. From this day forward you will never walk alone.” This guy nailed it!
That began my journey for truth in the inner parts. I have no problem leaning into the discomfort of getting to the root of my stuff. I’m not afraid to sit with those uncomfortable feelings , take them before the Father and allow Him to bring light into my darkness. Though I was an adult , what I found was a little girl still very much alive on the inside of me raging from the shame and rejection.
But the dilemma for me, the words shame,fear and unworthiness, were considered carnal in nature in the circles I ran in. Consequently some of my “stuff” remained hidden in dark places for years. I just couldn’t risk making myself that vulnerable to another Christian by telling them what I was secretly feeling. I couldn’t take the chance of being told “you’re just too carnal for me” I.e. “you’re too immature and unspiritual for me to hang out with”. That would’ve devastated me. It was that fear of disconnection that kept me trapped and unable to let God into a really deep dark scary part of my heart.
As time went on, God separated me to himself for a second round of sifting and separating. The first time I went through one of those “seasons” it lasted 1 1/2 years and was awful. In the second round it lasted closer to 5 years. And it just plain old sucked. (Sorry God but it did) God wanted access to my heart. All of it! He knew I could handle more than I ever thought I could, with His loving arms to hold me up. It didn’t feel like love at the time. It felt more like I was a plant that had been pulled up by the roots but not yet potted in a bigger pot. This “season” produced much fruit. But for this post I’ll focus on more freedom to be me. Warts and all!
Jesus loves me and you just as we are. That’s part of belonging to the family. But people and yes even Christians because of fear settle fitting in over belonging. I can say this with certainty because I know I’m not the only one guilty of sacrificing the real me at the altar of peer acceptance. Is anyone saying ouch yet??
In the words of my new favorite author Brene Brown “Fitting in and have a sense of belonging are two totaling different things”.
Fitting in is something we do to be accepted. But the problem is that when we settle for ‘fitting in’ we’re always looking over our shoulder to make sure no one else comes along to expose us for something and kick us out of the group. Leaving us all alone. again!
So here’s what I’ve discovered…
First, no one wants to talks about fear or shame,and the less you talk about it the more you are stuck with it like a thorn in the paw of a lion. It’ll roar at you until you hear it and pay attention.
Second, the more I say out loud the things I’m secretly thinking the more I find other that say “I know! and me too!” And That’s when I find a sense of connection and belonging that I crave. That’s when I’m truly being strong and courageous. That’s when ministering to each other happens! That’s when we start to open eyes that are blind, and free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Is 42:7
So today I say to you…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
A while back God gave me a scripture. It was from Isaiah 37:31″Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
For some reason this scripture caught my attention. Then I walked into a Starbucks Coffee shop and saw a similar saying on their wallpaper that said “Deep Roots Bare Fruit”. Now God had my attention. He gave me that scripture to hold onto to during some really hard times. The only problem was things went from bad to worse and I forgot about the promise. The anxiety got worse and then depression set in. I was numb. I lost my hope. My vision grew dim and everything got dark I couldn’t believe that things were not always going to be like they were at the moment.
But none of this surprised God one little bit. My lack of faith took me by surprise but not God. How do I know this? Because God wasn’t suprised when Peter’s faith failed him. I know were supposed to have faith but sometimes we don’t. Thats just the truth. If we dont confess then how can we be made whole? If there’s a weed growing in our heart won’t it spoil the vineyard?
But God kept going with His plan to extend my roots deeper. Let me tell you it was tough searching for water when it was dry and I felt barren. Have you ever been there? If not don’t worry your turn is coming. It comes in every child of God life that asks for more of Him. He was performing His Word in my life. I didn’t like it very much but there wasn’t much I could do to hasten the process. And there wasn’t much I could do to stop it either. Both options would have been fine by me. I just wanted it to stop. But it didn’t. And today I can say I’m glad He finished the work He started in me. I’m by no means saying I’m a finished product but I am a testimony.
Now when I talk to someone and they say they’re struggling with anxiety and depression I can say “I understand” “I get it”. If you never battled depression you wouldn’t understand the head games that comes along with it. The sense of failure and the sense of not knowing why it’s happening are like overwhelming layers darkness that seal you in. Into what i don’t know cz it was too dark to describe.
Sometimes you can only learn something through experience. But after the affliction you are better able to lead out others struggling too. In way you become Jesus with skin on to the hurting. And that makes the suffering all worth while. Do I want to go through that agin. No way. But am I glad that some fruit has from it all ABSOLUTELY!
I had really been struggling with anxiety and mind racing thoughts that I couldn’t seem to get a grip on. I was desperate. Sometimes God has to take us away to begin to have His way with us. Really He just wants to answer our deepest prayers.
Such was the case for me.
As I was sitting there reading. BTW reading is quite hard if you can’t focus because your mind is racing. But anyway the scripture Psalm 19:14 (KJV) “ Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord” jumped off the page at me like none other ever before in my life.
All of the sudden I realized that I what I was thinking about myself wasn’t pleasing God!!! In the past when I read this scripture I would equate this to my thoughts and words about other people. Never once did I ponder how my negative thoughts about myself weren’t pleasing my Heavenly Father.
Fireworks might as well been going off in my head. The more I struggled with anxiety the more I felt like I was failing as a Christian. I would beat myself up for it and therefore have even more anxiety! It was a vicious cycle.
At that just the right moment, God stepped onto the scene to set me free from myself. I was used to hearing messages about God setting us free from sin. I usually would think it in relationship to actions NOT MY THOUGHTS!
My whole life has changed becasue of this one revelation! I always knew thoughts preceed actions. But all of the sudden it took on a whole new dimension. One that has become a very useful tool in maintaining my inner life.
Some things are just better caught than taught!