Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Weakness In Me

I've learned to be quiet.
I've learned to hide.
I've learned to smile, in spite of...

Yet somehow it hasn't helped me. Not really. It may have temporarily distorted how people perceive me.
But eventually I will be found out. My reputation is on the line.

And even if I'm not exposed, doesn't God already know?

Being a person of faith has at times made me afraid to admit when I'm weak.
Because if I admit it, it must mean I permit it.
If I admit it, it must mean I am not strong in faith.
If I admit it, it must mean that something is wrong with me.
And if I can't be the superhero that everyone needs me to be, then I have nothing to offer.


I fail. I struggle. I flounder.
Yet somehow when you say that, people will still want to believe that your distress just sort of fell in your lap. Because it's easier to be somebody's cheerleader when you believe they were just an innocent bystander unwavering in their faith and obedience when suddenly their life went askew without warning. Bad things happen to good people perhaps?

And even though it's not completely effortless, somehow it does seem easier to tell you that I've wrestled with things like rejection and depression. I've battled feelings of inadequacy as a mother or being a weak link or I'm lazy and unmotivated or sicker than I ought to be most days. Because most everyone can admit those seasons are woven into the tapestry of their life.

But who out there is ready to admit they struggle with the big stuff? I remember sitting in church years ago and we had a guest speaker who was speaking on freedom from the chains that hold us captive. As he was speaking, he said something like "Some people are dealing with a pornography addiction." And this man yells out, "That's me!"
Alcoholism--That's me! Lust--That's me! Gambling addiction--That's me! Drug abuse--That's me! You get the idea. He just kept going. Everyone in the room just sort of looked from side to side wondering what do we do? Do we giggle? Do we shut him up? Do we just side-eye each other and pretend he didn't just go there??! ---But while the situation made it slightly awkward for everyone else in the room, I can't help but think he had the right idea. Gaaahhh!!! Don't throw your stones at me just yet.

Because friends. My imperfections don't just stop at depression and allowing myself to be sicker than I care to admit (although some people can't even admit that). I grapple with the big things too. I'm not unlike you. Those words that make everyone uncomfortable and no one wants to admit. Yes, I've been there.
I mean- I. Have. Been. like...... There.
Is that okay? We still good?

However, in my admitted weakness and despite whatever person is giving me the side-eye, my faith remains unaffected.

Because when did it become taboo to admit we need Jesus in our weakness?
When did it become off limits to confess our shortcomings?
When did we start frowning on people whose struggles were found out, meanwhile we contend with our own?

"Therefore I will most gladly boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may reside in me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Our fake smile. Our hidden struggle. Our zipped lip.
That is not true freedom. Not even for a second.
In fact it's the opposite- with a pretty tight lid to keep you there.
Freedom is not found in a put on, pretense or phony front.

It is found in our willingness to admit we need Jesus.
And in our declaration that He alone is our strength.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Uncomfortable Comfort

Life has changed. Over the past few years, fragments of my life have been uprooted and what has replaced it is hardly recognizable. Not necessarily bad, just different to what I once knew. Locations, people, even day to day routines have all readjusted themselves and I'm still trying to find my place in it all.

I'm a suppressor. I tend to avoid difficult conversation. Although I 'talk' in my online spaces a lot about the things on my heart, my confidence lacks when I feel uncomfortable and confused. I'd rather not talk about something that makes me sort of churn and question everything on the inside. I wouldn't say that I completely sidestep discomfort, but I deal in my own way. Because it is what it is when change happens to you. All you can do is deal. Pray. And move on with your life.

I sort of shift back and forth between this place of  dodging everything I might feel if I think about it too hard, but also just wanting to just get it over with and progress with my life.

In general, I think just dealing with it is better, because once I do, there is no longer this giant elephant looming over that space in my mind. But for a long time, I hide out in my own thoughts playing hide and seek with my emotions. I just don't want to go there...until one day, I do. It's time to rip off the band aid.

And there it is. Change. That awkward revision of our lives.

Although things may appear somewhat distorted, I remain assured that everything will be okay. Because isn't it usually? I mean, yes, it affects us, it attempts to break us for a season if it's a hard thing, but it also makes us stronger. It gives us experience that we would have otherwise not had. This commonly unwelcome metamorphosis has the ability to fill an otherwise dull story with significance. Life goes deeper than just the day to day, 9-5 and repeat. It means more when we feel more. And when we allow ourselves to feel that sort of shock that comes along with change, suddenly we can somehow appreciate it and realize it's only a chapter in our story. An intense one perhaps, yes, but our story continues nevertheless. This time with more determination and heart.

Along with all the big and small changes happening in my world over these past few years, changes within me are happening as well. I've more recently stumbled upon fresh motivation to do more of what I love. 

Because if I don't do that, what am I doing here with my time here on this planet? Why shouldn't we do more than dream? Why shouldn't we make better use of what has been placed deep within us- without feeling guilty? Isn't there a single spot or two in our week where we can celebrate who we truly are, beyond our daily routine?

Change feels ugly much of the time. It makes me nervous and feel sort of cringy. (You can thank my kids for my vocabulary.) But hidden deeper I know peace. I know assurance. I know truth. Even after all the crazy, hard, wonderful and unexpected things that have been thrown at me, I am still standing. And because of that, my trust remains in the Prince of Peace.

So instead of hiding out from the uncomfortable feelings, I will face them. I will allow myself to feel them, but not sulk in them and let them derail everything I know. And I won't be afraid. Rather I will hand them over to God. And I am comforted knowing my heart is not defined by the changes surrounding me, but more so by the changes within me. My life is not less because of change, but rather more because I know more. And I've become skillful in handling new things, hard things, better things with the grace that's been supplied to me. 

And as a result of this, I remain comfortable with being uncomfortable occasionally. For when I am weak, He is strong through me.

Friday, April 27, 2018

What Happens After The Story Is Over

I love a good story. Actually, I love stories in general. I'm the kind of person who can watch pretty much any movie and have very few complaints. I entertain easily. I laugh readily. I cry unashamedly. I'm a sentimental schmuck. But the funnier or sappier the story, the better. I'll watch and re-watch the Grey's Anatomy episode where Mark dies over and over and over and cry every time, even though I know it's about to happen. Give me the cheesiest of chick flicks. I'll still love it, probably.

If you know me, you know I also love telling stories--kid stories or husband stories that have a twist of cringe worthy humor, which basically all of mine do, because such is my life. I love to hear people laugh with me and at my stories, because it's always a good thing when people that think your life is as ridiculous as it is, can laugh along with you.

I've made a habit of being a story teller. If they will encourage you or challenge you or simply make you chuckle to yourself, then I've done my job. I believe stories are influential. I believe they can captivate even the coldest of hearts and soften them. They can make the saddest of people, laugh, if even for just a moment.

I wrote a blog post a few years or so ago, called "I Am Not Broken." I wrote it because I was seeing a trend in Christian culture. A trend where we sing about our brokenness. A trend where we write about our messes. A trend where we put our struggle on display to prove to the world that we are authentic and relatable. We need to tell our story...Because we too are broken and bound. Huh? Wha??---It bothered me because the very reason Jesus came to this earth, was to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free. Why does it come so easily for us to put our weakness and brokenness on display? After everything Jesus did to give save us, free us, loose us, and heal us and put us back together from our fallen state- it seems a little unfair.
Is it possible to tell a story of who we were, who maybe we sometimes still feel like and still boldly voice who we KNOW we are now in Christ? I think it is. And it's a compelling one. A story that brings a dead, sad, broken, sick, lost person back to life and makes them whole. Paul said 'For when I am weak, then I am strong.' That's our story.  That's way better than telling people to 'Come to Jesus. You can be just like me. I'm still damaged and a mess, but yes, I am so blessed."

Stories are good. But sometimes we become too dependent on a good story to make Jesus feel real to us. I was talking to a friend a while back and she was really excited about a women's event at her church, in which she loved the girl speaking because she was real and honest and she could relate to her stories. I pondered over that concept for a few weeks, honestly. The idea that the Gospel could only be good news if the person sharing the gospel could entertain us first with a good story we could relate to? Could the promises of God, the hope of the Gospel and the message of Jesus be valuable in and of itself? Is it possible that spending time with Jesus-- just you and Him---could breathe life into His words more than any person's story could ever hope to?

I know so.

I am a story teller by nature. I thrive on vivid descriptions and funny anecdotes. I am inspired and motivated when they are told with enthusiasm. I am hopeful when they are told with conviction. I may even believe them if  the person telling them sounds intellectual and like they've done their research--(no Netflix documentary, I'm not pointing at you.) I love hearing them. I love telling them. Jesus even told them to help people understand.
But I don't want to just be stirred emotionally by someone's story, as exceptional as it may be. Because their good story neither has the authority, nor power to change my life.

What happens after the story is over?

Friends, the Word of God is alive. It needs nothing to back it up. The closer you are to Jesus, the less you will need an illustration or an incentive for the gospel to be real to You. My challenge to you is to spend time Him. Get to know Him. Just you & Him, alone in a room with His Word, prayer and worship. Let His story become real to you, just as it is.
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