Gripped in a death roll, my mind has been unable to shake the intrusive grasp of darkness. Grief and desire have descended my mind like an unending, unrelenting discourse. Continue reading “When My Ego Is Weak”
True to self, present to soul; possibly validating the ardent sensory of the empath along the way.
Warning: this could very well be a dissenting contemplation of mind, body, and soul.
Today was a day my mind refused to be disciplined. My soul has suffered a blow Continue reading “True to Self, Present to Soul”
There are things in this life that I want.
Some are circumstances that I want desperately. Others are desires that I want longingly. Still some are just wants that I crave stubbornly.
I have wanted to be noticed. I have wanted to be saved. I have wanted to be wanted.
I have wanted for more, wanted for less.
At times it seems that I might never be satisfied with what is.
I have wanted and asked. I have been denied. I have wanted hidden things and refused to acknowledge the want. I have been angry at yearnings unfulfilled.
There have been gifts of inexplicable contentment.
There have been times of having wanted only to be seen and I have come unhinged at my seeming invisibility.
There have been surprises that have come unbidden.
There has been great confusion when I ask for good things that never come to fruition. I have despised verses like James 4:2-3 “You do not have because you do not ask. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Having found myself in this position more often than I care to recount, I am in the midst of a life changing experience of wanting and asking. This want is a kingdom want, a heart want, a serving want. A type that I have not known before of such purity.
I have wanted to be a great many things over the course of my life, and as I have come into knowing myself more completely I have returned to the want of my childhood: vocational ministry. For those that know my story (Something I think I will be making known here within the coming year), this is a hard want for me to express; such is the shame that has tried to grip my mind.
I have been slowly and quietly making this want known, albeit without actually asking for it lest I be rejected. Recently, I heard a quiet whisper that came and asked me to ask aloud for the desires of my heart. I asked fully in His name and something changed, at once I have come to experience Psalm 37:4 to be true for me.
In this asking of a desire that matches the heart of my Father, I have found equally great contentment, surprising encouragement, and humble tenacity. I guess what the Bible says is true: Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
If you have visited this space before, you have borne witness to this tempestuous mind. So much of what has been contemplated aloud is reflective of a strange and pervasive dichotomy: a desperate need to hold contrasting ideas equally, one in each hand, so that what remains might be whole. On one side is the darkness and despondency of death; and in the other the fragile expectancy of life, of hope renewed. To deny either would create a false sense of contentment, it would tear apart the richness of redemption.
In this series, Shame Undone, I have offered an invitation to journey with me in this discovery of wholeness. I have asked that there is room to hold both life and death to be true, to allow them to coexist; I have expressed a need for allowing repentance and temptation to be separate. To be okay with being human, imperfect. What I have yet to address are factors of my own discomfort, which I believe belong here in this series on shame; a byproduct of my own wrestling with Will. And so, I dare ask the question, “Does God discipline?”
Perhaps this is little more than a feeble attempt to make right things in my life that don’t make sense, or maybe it is more…either way the truth is that I experience stress, circumstantial depression, anxiety, chaos…brokenness. Deep and varying emotions that I think God ultimately uses to bring to light the parts of me that need correction.
This is also true: not every hard thing, not every bout of isolation, desolation, or desperation is a discipline. Sometimes, life just sucks. People choose (And are thrown into) antagonistic behaviors in their own insecurity and pain that ultimately hurt others. The ripple effect from their choices unfairly displaces those around them.
How do we possibly know the difference between a holy discipline, and the pain of another’s sin? How long must we suffer in either?
I’ll start by saying something that is unpopular, I have a great need for the Holy Spirit to translate and mediate my brokenness. I can make excuses, look for an alleviation of guilt and pain, and place blame anywhere I want (Becoming that antagonist), but so long as I am choosing my own way, stress and chaos will reign.
Maybe that is a way to isolate one from the other: asking if it is stress or trauma that is felt. Learning and training in discernment is key, spend time with Jesus.
The tragic circumstances that come from external, uncontrollable actions of others are not discipline. You are not suffering at the hands of another because you are bad, or needing more Jesus. My God is not spiteful, although he can use these impossible situations to lead to a deeper connection with him (Genesis 50:20), it requires a turning to face Jesus, pain, discomfort, joy, and all.
There is no health and wealth gospel here, (Sorry prosperity followers!), my God makes no such promises on Earth. The promise of a better life, of healing from pain, of safety and of security? This is a higher calling, a kingdom perspective. ‘In this world you will have pain and suffering,’ and eventually you will find peace in heaven, in soul.
I have not arrived at wholeness, I bear deep scars. The discipline that I have experienced, the strain, anxiety, and worry that I have felt…it has created an anchoring of my soul; a humming in my mind that exists even in the midst of the days that I lay prostrate and crying in utter misery for relief. Of wanting death to come (I am human), I see my Jesus kneeling beside me.
If nothing else, who am I to assume that my pain and suffering is dependent on my actions? I can no sooner make the grass blue. I choose not to bear the weight of the world, it’s not my job. No, I suffer stress and chaos, anxiety and worry when I am leading with selfish-ness and that is something I can address.
Read more in my Shame Series: Shame Undone
Sitting through his sermon I heard something that made me just cringe (Let’s be real…this happens all the time). On this day, though, he was talking about sin and repentance, grace and discipline, (Actually he said, “God punishes,” but I’m offering him grace and allowing for him to really have meant discipline); themes that at once seem altogether too prevalent in our ‘Christianese’ language and yet of which are not spoken enough to our hearts.
Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure of his intent. I still struggle with words and phrases that trigger a response in my mind. A response that causes all other surroundings to move to the blurry outer reaches of my awareness. It is a lasting symptom of being human. #Context
Anyway, the piece that I got caught up in is this whole idea around God [punishes] until repentance happens.
Let me just tell you. I have truly repented of one sin in particular. I mean, on my knees, tears to exhaustion, pleaded and begged, laid bare before my Creator, R-E-P-E-N-T-E-D. And guess what?! I still struggle with the same sin. I have not been released of its grasp.
I am repentant and the battle for my heart remains in a full deathmatch. Wait…what?
Yep. Both. That day God whispered a truth to my heart that undoes my shame: it is possible that I may truly repent and yet still struggle with temptation. There it is. Temptation does not equate to sin, and there is serious warfare for my heart. It’s not my fault. It’s not your fault. I have responsibility, for sure, as to my action and response to that temptation; and there are critical days that I fail. Days that I turn toward temptation because my brain likes that rush of dopamine that spreads with a heart sin that has been well cultivated. Days when I lose sight of the campaign that threatens my soul, and I believe the lies that say my deepest desires are not that harmful.
There is this space that remains between temptation and repentance, though…it is where grace resides. It bridges the gap. In life, what exactly does that look like? I’m certain it is different for each of us. For me, though, it means that I don’t have to feel that my character is ugly, or that I am among the ‘lower-ranking’ Christians. It means that I am not dirty and lost because I have a heart sin that just won’t leave me alone.
It looks like I am loved, that despair doesn’t need to hold my mind ransom, that I am good (Gasp! Oh yes she did!). It means that I don’t have to succumb to a deterministic view of my life. I can be truly repentant and still grapple with the same sin I repented of, because repentance doesn’t make me godly, sinless, or self-righteous. It simply, reverently, says that I acknowledge my offense and want desperately to turn away from its deceit; that my heart’s truest desire is to live facing full the Jesus of my redemption. Metanoia.
Grace also doesn’t mean that I’m free from discipline, though. So let’s just talk about that bombshell: does God discipline? I think so and here’s why…
I am the girl who musters all her strength just to walk into the doors of church on Sunday morning. It takes me tremendous effort to get into the building; I fight the want to turn back every time. The faces that I see in there seem to have it all together; they smile at me and ask me how I am. What do they expect from me? I wonder.
Some truly do just want vague responses and general niceties. It makes it easier on them and doesn’t ask that they face their own story. Others ask and seem shocked or disappointed when I tell them I’m not well (No, God didn’t answer your request for a miracle today, sorry). Few seem to be okay with my not-okay-ness. On “Good” days I have learned to tell [something reflective of] truth with a smile…a self-deprecation meant to assuage the guilt-inducing responses that they feel and that seem to come so easily from my lips.
And yet in this place are people that I love. Deeply.
I have days of strength too. Days when I am able to face my inner insecurities with honesty and gentleness; when I allow the anxiety to come unbidden and look at it with curiosity. These are the days that I am mindful of who I am, and in whose arms I am held. Grief doesn’t threaten to strangle the life of this body, and I am so bold as to believe my theology of a God who redeems. It is my balance of the simultaneous knowledge of death and life.
There is such a strong contrast in what I believe to be true about God and what I experience in the environment that tells me that this is where He is. It creates this disconnect that is hard to reveal. Like understanding the idea of the stars in the dark night sky. You might believe that they are as science describes, gas on fire; beautiful. Riveting. But do you really know? In the daylight they don’t exist. Are they still present when the fire burns so brightly that they are lost? So it is with me. I believe that God delights in me. I know of waves of mercy, I have tasted contentment. I believe that my God loves me deeply, is my warrior.
I also know anxiety is seriously incapacitating. That the hard things that I have known have changed my ability to utilize my brain to its fullest potential. I know chaos in my mind. I have ways of coping that are temporary at best. Ways that lead me to sin, to get lost in my own daydreams; that cause me to miss today. To lose perspective. To turn away from God because the pain of my reality supersedes my ability to remember that circumstances are temporary (Psst. They are relatively temporary, you know).
Will can’t make me obedient. It doesn’t heal my hurts or save me from temptation. Cobwebs remain, and Will is stuck dangling like a fly…incapable to save himself from impending death.
I am not among the lost souls. I know who God is. It’s just that I also know that there are days that are unbearably hard. This is where my shame comes undone: when these two truths collide, when my theology allows for hard days, weeks, years…even lifetimes, and the promise of redemption remains. To allow space for my story, a story that holds both sides of me to be true. The side that loves Jesus, loves people, believes that I am good; and also the side that is mired in hidden heart sin. When both exist at the same time, I am free.
We were sitting in my living room when she said it. I had only known her for a few years, and mostly by proxy at that. Marriage does that though, it throws together people that likely would not choose to be in relationships otherwise. Even still, I wanted to know her. We had been learning about each other with the normative niceties and polite observations that are customary to Christian culture. Perhaps that is why I’ll never forget the way she said it, seemingly out of place and with a hint of disdain… “You are so sensitive.”
My first inclination was to refute such a degrading label; the word held a very negative connotation to me. Sensitive? Excuse me? I’m anything but sensitive. I’m strong, bold, and sometimes even defiant. The word fragile got mingled in with that in my mind too. How dare she! She clearly doesn’t know me at all.
In the midst of engaging in my own trauma therapy during the time of this conversation, I reacted to the language of being sensitive with a guarded perspective. I had yet to learn what it meant, but I knew that I didn’t like the way I felt when she said it to me. I was just getting to know that I was broken, but sensitive? No, that was dramatic, weak, vulnerable; it suggested to me that she believed I held an unrealistic perspective and that purported that the people around me should walk on eggshells so as not to damage me…because…who knows how I would respond (insert eye-roll).
Hypervigilance at its best, but sensitive? Not exactly.
My story knows great harm, I have known trauma. It has changed me. I am not sensitive, I am aware; I have had to be. My senses are finely attuned. I hold no space for intentional damage from one person to another.
I am among the walking wounded.
You know who I am. You have passed by me, and have sat in a room with me. You have watched me and wondered. You are drawn to me…or intimidated by me. You have assumed many things about who I am. Yet, you don’t really know me. Few do.
The walking wounded are those who have been emotionally wounded. They walk with the rest of us, hardly seen and yet never missed. Theirs are the faces that hide that something that you can’t quite name. The ones who are most unsure of themselves, but who hold the wisdom of experience.
They have known a wounded-ness so pervasive that it permeates their souls. It has changed the very structure of their brains, they are not the same. When they have followed their stories and sought healing, they hold a greater capacity for intuition, compassion, empathy. To know them intimately is to be invited into a sacred space, so listen closely.
They are fragile, not because they will break but because they feel deeply. Their brokenness in spirit is the very quality that is redeemed to tell the story of incredible growth adorned in grace.
You can’t know who the walking wounded are by looking at them, their wounds are not visible on the surface…unless you, too, are among them. They don’t want your pity, and often not even your well-meaning concern. They just want your whole presence. To be in the room with them, to give credit to what they have learned, what they have grown through, and the unique perspective that they hold.
It isn’t very often that I come across an article on biblical marriage from a wife who is not a pastor’s wife, or who isn’t from the genteel south, or who isn’t trying to appear to have this whole thing figured out (granted, there might be a few stereotyped overgeneralizations in that observation). Since submission is the hot topic of Christian marriages, just for fun, try Google-ing, “How to be a submissive wife.” The first (there are over a million) article literally made me nauseous. I won’t go so far as to list the title or author(s), but I hope beyond hope that the article was satirical (although they fail to give any indication that it is). Nonetheless, it was a degrading and gross misrepresentation of a wife’s role and would do serious damage to an already fragile woman desperately trying to figure out how to ‘wife-well’. Maybe it’s just where I’m at, but I kind of want to hear from a person who is struggling intensely.
So, although I am the furthest qualified from giving relational advice, it seems that I will need to speak up. At least, I have two things going for me: I seriously struggle with life and I can speak to what not to say/do. Really, I have no idea how to make a marriage work well, and will not pretend that I do. That said…
There is one thing that I have learned in fifteen years of marriage: being a biblically submissive wife has very little to do with the man you married.
Within the world of Christ followers, it would do a woman well to come to know that submission is an aspect of spiritual obedience to God. Yes, we practice that in part in our marital relationships, but ultimately it is a reflection of our willingness to be led by our Creator. Trust doesn’t come easily, though, and isn’t always warranted by our spouses. Our experiences make it incredibly hard to say, “I trust you to have my best intentions.” For those of us that have been harmed, the control of self is something that is staunchly guarded; a seemingly necessary by-product of pain. The thing is, it isn’t about humans, but about our relationship with God.
Come to know that to be submissive is not a sign of weakness, but of acute strength. Our skewed vision of submission says otherwise, but biblical submission never requires that you are a doormat to another person’s dominance. It is borne of mutuality and requires that vital piece of sacrificial love (discussed here). An immense amount of strength is exhibited when a wife is submissive. She is giving up her defiant, stubborn nature in sacrifice and deferment to her partner. She is putting others first.*
Yes, these truths require a massive overhaul of our narratives. I get that. I LIVE that.
The role of, “Wife” is to be gentle and respectful…and loved well, and listened to, and taken into account. An imbalance of reciprocity and sacrifice doesn’t change that. What needs to be adjusted is the self-serving pity, negative thought, and discontentment felt within. Not to say that those feelings, or tendencies to guard yourself, or the pull to be hyper-vigilant isn’t a valid response, just that it doesn’t actually help us out in the end.
The idea of sacrificial love, service, and submission is like a braided strand, woven intricately in mutuality with grace, patience, and mercy.
And when you cannot…remember Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
*This isn’t to be confused with the idea that a man should always have his way, that he should require her to bow down to him, or that he should rule with an iron fist. It is not justification for a husband to be abusive, or to demand anything of his wife. Submission has to be a conscious decision on the part of the giver. Read more on this topic in this post: He-Man Woman Hater.
If you are here and wondering about what a good man is and isn’t, please click on this link for more resources: www.armsonline.org