It’s not always about you

Els pulled up one of my old posts (one of the few that got a long conversation going) and after reading the comment box, I was hit with something … well, it’s something that God’s been working on me about, so I thought I’d talk this over with y’all.

It’s not always about you.

I’m a serious “make other people happy” junkie.  I do NOT like it when the people near and dear to me are unhappy, when they’re stuck in a rut in their lives, when sunshine isn’t positively radiating from their pores at all times, day and night.  As my husband would say,  I “have issues.”

How do you think I feel when *he’s* not happy?

But, it’s not always about me.

Our society runs on the theory that the mating relationship is the most important relationship there is.  That romantic love can conquer all – that a good spouse can make your day shiny even if it’s pouring rain, and that it is, in the end, their responsibility to make you happy, no matter what.  Not true.

We* raise our romantic relationships to the level of idols as a culture.  We whine and moan when “we aren’t happpppy”, and we self-flagellate when *they* aren’t happy and we can’t fix it.   Of course it’s more pleasant to live with a happy person, and to be a happy person.  Some of this urge is simply selfish.  Some isn’t, but it’s a pointless exercise in naval-gazing to figure out which is which.   How, then, shall we go forward?

The answer circles back ’round to the same place that all my answers do, of late.  Put your relationship with God first.

I have found that God is faithful – if I ask, “am I doing right by this person (or in this situation)?  Please help me live as You want me to live”, He’s right there to correct me and keep me in line.  Sincerely seeking righteousness is a search that *will* be helped along.   How that operates might be different from person to person – but it will operate.  God doesn’t leave His children stranded.

That prayer requires me to set aside my ego.  I have to not be ‘being good’ because I’m me, but because I’m responding to the urges of the Spirit.  It’s not me, it’s God.   That’s not as much fun as when it’s me.  I enjoy being the driver.   Sort of.  I enjoy being the driver when the road’s clear and the weather’s perfect.  When the storm comes up in rush hour traffic, it’s much nicer not to be the one behind the wheel.

And that brings us around to the original  point.  Sometimes the storm is because of something I’ve done or not done.  Then that’s on me – the storm is about *my* behavior, so it’s my behavior that has to change.  But sometimes the storm hasn’t anything to do with me.  Sometimes the person to whom we are yoked is going through stuff that has nothing to do with us!  A lifetime is a long time – stuff happens!

There lies the rub.  If the situation isn’t related to me, then it’s likely out of my control.  All my jumping up and down and rolling around trying to be “better” isn’t helpful.  But I do need to keep myself at my best – the last thing that my beloved needs when he’s going through storms is me to add difficulty.   How do you even do that?

God.  That’s it.  Just God.  I *don’t* know when to speak and when to be silent, when to stand on my head to get a grin and when silliness is going to be irritating.  But God does.  And so, if I relinquish the control over “I must make him happy” and just chill out – God will take care of things.  He’s always happy to drive, it’s me that keeps insisting that I am just fine now, I can handle this.

Moreover, if I plug into God, I can get my needs met and not flip out.  In my own strength, I can chill for a bit, nails biting into my palms.  If I put my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on the water – I can let go, and let God, and my time limit is based on how long I concentrate on Him.  I can relinquish the dual need to please my husband and to be found pleasing – if the One I’m trying to please is Christ.

Everything in everyone’s life isn’t about me.

Weird, in’t?

 

*If you haven’t figured out that “we” very much includes “me”, and that this is written at least half to the woman in the mirror, let me clarify – I might be broadcasting this message, but it’s a message I need to sit with and take to heart.

Moving on to the next lesson

I’ve been struggling lately to let go and get on with the lessons that God wants to teach me right now, and I’m struggling because I am clinging on to the lessons that I learned in seasons past.

My lessons-to-learn center on faith – I’m supposed to be chilling out with my eyes open, waiting to see what God will do.   I’m supposed to actually tell him what I want, and be honest about emotions as they come up (or as they emerge from the soil in my psyche where I’d buried them).

That’s not an easy thing for me. I don’t do waiting very well, and I actively enjoy working for my goals.

But I get “wait” – even though I find being goal-less (for the moment) very discomfiting, I get it.

The hard bit is being asked to be honest about wanting the things I still want.  I learned, veryveryvery thoroughly, the lesson about giving all your desires to God, and if something was becoming an idol, dragging it up to the altar and leaving it there.   I learned the lesson about submitting my will and my desires to God’s plan, no matter how I felt about it.

That was a good lesson.  That was an important lesson.  But I can’t get on with learning new lessons until I stop obsessing about this one.  It wasn’t the LAST lesson.

I was reminded of the lesson I am working on last night, at a baptism I wasn’t expecting to attend (prayer answered, -coughcough-), because the lady who was baptized asked for our testimonies, and I remembered the verse that brought me back to church:

Matthew 7:“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Seriously.  I’m sitting here typing this and getting schooled.

The reason I had to drag all my deepest desires up to the altar was because I couldn’t let them be.  I had to fidget with them, daydream over them, and “work” on them constantly.  Yes, I did get my fingers smacked for being grabby.  But that doesn’t mean that forever and ever, I can’t put my hand in the Father’s hand and look at the pretty on the the display and say, “Ohhhh… that’s beautiful, Daddy.  May I have that?”  I got smacked for being GRABBY, not for wanting.  And I’d gotten those things confused.

I don’t think I have them sorted yet, I really really don’t.  But that’s what I’m working on – not working, just waiting to see what God will give me.  And speaking up.

So – for you readers out there, I’m saying this – don’t let last year’s lesson get in the way of learning this year’s lesson.  Don’t let the weirdness of saying, “I’m working on not working” (oh, pride doesn’t like that) get in the way of telling the truth.   I love to learn, but this isn’t learning – this is breaking a paradigm of my life, breaking the way I see reality… and remaking the way I see faith and hope, from the ground up.

I hope for the same for all of you – it’s amazing.

To be forgiving is not to be unfeeling

Christians are to turn the other cheek when we are wronged.

We are to forgive, for we have been forgiven.

That’s not the same thing as excusing the slap.  It’s not the same thing as smiling through the pain.  It’s not an incantation that means you’re not wiping a bit of blood from your lip as you turn your head.

If you wound me, I will hurt.

Because I have the Holy Spirit, I always have solace.  Because I have Jesus, I am never alone.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely.  It doesn’t mean I don’t cry.

I’m not inhuman.

And neither. are. you.

When you forgive a sin against you – you’re forgiving SOMETHING.  It is the fashion of the day to excuse-away sin rather than forgiving it.  But to forgive, there must be a trespass.  There must be harm.

Christians *can* forgive, even the most horrific things, because we are given the power to do so by the Holy Spirit.

Why do we pretend that we aren’t injured when someone deliberately wounds us?

Do we *intend* to reduce the power of the words, “I forgive you”?  No, but our culture which teaches us to do so, that culture doesn’t like the concept of sin.  Of harm.

Yes, you can hurt me.  And yes, you can be hurt.  Christianity doesn’t protect you against tears – it gives you a reason to be joyful in the midst of sorrow.

 

Community requires need

The ethos of “find your tribe” “find your truth” actually kills tribalism.

Why?  Because a tribe (a community) is meant to hold together when times are tough as well as when times are good.

Our tribes are held together by convenience.   When one’s “truth” changes, one can change tribes with no regret – because the larger value in our society is that of being true to oneself above all else.

In the conservative online community, we talk often about the useful effects of community standards, and how soft methods of social control help maintain the community.  And then someone looks at me, a respectable matron, and expects me to trot out the social controls.

But there’s a problem.  No one cares.   In order for social control to work, the person being controlled has to care more about the community than they do about the discipline.  And we’ve all been taught to *not* care, to push back against any authority, anyone that might make us consider changing our behavior.

No one agrees on truth.  This is less of a problem in religious conservative circles, because we can always go back to Bible.  But even so, we argue.  We argue because we don’t have a common tradition, a common, “this is just how things are done”.  (If we did, being Western, we’d decide to throw it away because it was old and outmoded).

We’ve become so individualistic as a society that community is something we put on just for now, just while it feels good, just while it works for us.  Why?  Because we don’t need it to survive.  Give the community the authority it had when our grandparents were young, the authority to regulate “respectable” behavior, and see how fast people leave.  We’re humans, and humans don’t like to be controlled.

 

And that fact is why individuality will trump community until the community is a need, not a want.

Everyone can go somewhere else.

Grace is for always

Went to a afterglow a month or so back… one of the Words given was to do with accepting that God’s grace is for your whole life, not just salvation.   Hit me, though diagonally… because I know that God’s grace is sufficient, but I’d gotten myself properly guilted up about ‘working harder’ with the gifts He’s given me… and I was a mess.  Too many obligations undertaken, too many stressors.   And then I had one heck of a first half of the year.

I’ve learned a few things, though these make me uncomfortable.  But like new shoes, I’ll break them in and get used to them…

  • Just because there’s work that needs doing, doesn’t mean I’m the one that has to do it.  Not every broken heart is mine to cherish.   God will tell me when I need to move, and that’s where I can do good.  Otherwise, I’m wasting my time.
  • I can’t fix everyone.
  • Sometimes the best response is to step back and pray.  People have to be ready for help – you can’t force them.  When the moment is right, God will make time for it.
  • Don’t schedule every moment of your life, because then you have no creative time and no wiggle room.
  • Remember that I’m on that priority list too (see below) and I don’t need to drop what I’m doing for any and every interruption.
  • Boundaries are good things.
  • I am a creature of seasons – I do a lot of one thing at one time, then put it on the backburner and do a lot of something else.  That’s okay.  I get a lot done, and it’s not possible to do all the things, all the time.

I just finished a time of fasting and reflection… well.  Not reflection.  I honestly just fasted and asked God to unwind my head.  I *thought* I’d be doing my usual reflection thing, but that door was firmly closed.   What happened was that I fasted, and God answered prayer, tidied up loose ends, gave me some hand-wisdom/crafting-wisdom and let me be in deep peace.   I didn’t even get called for intercessory prayer until the last moments… it was a “weird” fast.   It was good though.  I think I’ll be doing more fasting, more regularly, going forward… I hadn’t much, recently.

Priority List – I know I’ve mentioned this a time or two, but this one of the big things I gleaned from the pastor I sat under when I was a teenager.  (Pastor Koole, thanks where-ever you are).  He gave us the first few items on the list, I’ve filled in the rest.  As someone who is very easily pulled off my path by the needs of others, this is *extremely* important for me.  It keeps me on task, on keel.

  1. God (This doesn’t mean Christian Work, this is my relationship to God, my obedience to His commandments, my commitment to Him).
  2. Husband
  3. Children
  4. Me (self-care)
  5. Close family -> Close friends
  6. Occupation (including Christian Work)
  7. Other People

Yes, I’m going to drop my writing work if my mom needs me – but if she just wants to chat?  I’ll call her back.  And *that’s okay*.  I’m not an evil, selfish, horror because I don’t give everyone unlimited access to my time and energy.   And I’m not an evil, selfish horror because I spend time at the gym – even a lot of time at the gym.  My top three are taken care of – just because it would be convenient for someone lower on the pole if I didn’t play with so much steel, that’s not really something I need to change.

It’s going to take some work to break in these “shoes” – but I’m getting the idea.  🙂

 

Beauty as a radical act

Nature is beautiful, because Nature reflects her Creator.  What is ugliness in Nature is the result of entropy – the result of the Curse.   Even so, there is often beauty to be found.

The works of human hands, however, are not so often beautiful.  As we are given the choice to serve God or ourselves, likewise we are given the choice to create beauty or its opposite.   And the further we drift from God, the more often we choose to ignore beauty in our creativity.

Our cities, our freeways, our cubicles – they’re not beautiful.

But our eyes, as children of God, were created to receive beauty.

So, this is a problem.   What do humans do with this problem?  They insulate themselves, and concentrate on that which they feel they can control.  They overemphasize entertainment, seeking to fill the hole that beauty has left.  They follow celebrities, confusing plasticine prettiness with true beauty.  They run from the presence of God and hide their eyes in blue-glowing screens.   They ignore themselves, they ignore the cement, they ignore the incessant noise… because they have no trees, they have no birdsong.

Beauty then, can be a radical act.   Showing up in someone’s daily life and being beautiful, drawing attention to the Creator, that simple act can crack a paradigm.  If she can be beautiful, does that mean that I should be beautiful too?  A smile can make a day.

I’m not talking about beauty that mimics the plasticine prettiness of those celebs, by the way – I’m talking about the real deal.  I’m talking about embracing the individual nature of your face, your form, the way you were created, and going with that.  I’m talking about beauty that’s more than skin deep – the way you interact with every human you see, the way you smile, the way you pray.

I’m talking about coming out of the closet and BEING beautiful where people can see you.  Being vulnerably yourself, so that you’re not another person hiding behind layers of insulation, layers of anonymity.  Becoming radical, pursuing change – those are not safe acts, they take courage.   Being beautiful takes courage.   It takes thought.  It takes creativity.  It takes joy.

And having taken those things, it gives them to the viewer… and who knows what happens from there?

Maybe we can start breaking walls.

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(Pic courtesy google – artist unknown)

Verse for the day

Ecclesiastes 3:11 

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  

(NKJV)

Be still, and know that I am God.  See what I will do.

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