Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

Thinking about what I have to give

After a certain point of being a Christian, I’ve come to this point where I realize that I have compassion and extra room to forgive that I don’t think many others have.

It’s not like they don’t have access to it, through Christ. Maybe they don’t want to claim it. More like, they don’t want to allow forgiveness to cost them anything. Snap your fingers and a miracle solution.

Or better yet, they aren’t sure they’ll actually gain anything by allowing others mercy. Shouldn’t we all have to reckon with what we’ve done? Shouldn’t they have to be shamed in public, and be scalped, flogged, and broken for my vindication?

Doesn’t everyone see how holy and I righteous I am? Shouldn’t we all acknowledge that I was right?

Help us Lord to realize your love has nothing to do with us. With forgiveness, what does it actually cost to free us of our debts? Do I really believe what I espouse as theology? Could Christ’s sacrifice be enough for me to forgive my family, not just in part, but for everything?

I don’t believe God’s solution ignored the problem. I believe that God’s discipline and just decrees always came from a sense of love. Could he forsake what he commanded us to do, and the stipulations of the covenant he himself drafted? The Lord does not deny himself.

So yes, God cares. Yes, God loves. Will God make himself unrighteous? Hell no. He made himself the compensation for what we could not be, and as a Savior, bridged the gap between God’s mercy and his perfect justice.

Is it just that the Son of God had to die? Is that fairness?

I think that probably, God loved us all enough to sacrifice part of himself, because he knew we wouldn’t make it. I think that he was willing to give himself up, and continually chose that through the life of Christ. I believe that he never lied, never misrepresented the truth, that he’s always known all things, always had all power, always understood perfect provision, and in the Trinity with Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, always received and poured out love perfectly.

Stepping into the earth and the specific time and space where we are, to save a people who desperately needed their Creator’s intervention, who on their own could not make up the cost.

So when I have the choice between lukewarm love or forgiveness? What do I chose?

I choose wanting better, and striving towards better, even when in my own strength, I cannot achieve it.

I choose a God who was perfectly confident in his own strength and his perfect deity, and intentionally chose to die. And who thought we were worth it.

I choose not having all the answers. I choose the possibility of losing friends.

I choose following the call when it’s inconvenient. I choose giving what “I have” and what “I own”, for his purpose, realizing that the love of the Father chooses me instead. I choose knowing his perfection. I choose allowing him to love me and accepting what that’s worth. For the things I can’t have or I will sacrifice, I count those things as loss. For the righteousness I crave but I know doesn’t belong to me, I directly seek the face of God.

I will not seek his back, or his hand, or a shallow understanding of his name. In an age where God is a tool of politics, I will not take the Lord’s name in vain.

I believe in an Almighty God, I believe he put his purpose through me, and I believe that my life has a reason. It is a privilege to live loved by God. Even when his people scatter like sheep and I am one of few willing to put on boldness, I know what I believe.

I believe that the love and discipline of the Lord are not antithetical, that they go hand in hand, and they BOTH demonstrate his love for me. I am not content with doing whatever it is I want. I know the Lord knows what’s best for me.

I believe that the Lord has given me the strength from his provision to forgive my family. Not to ignore debts, but to make a complete and miraculously full work of declaring any debts useless. Unnecessary. Forgiven.

If the love of God can do all that for me, and allows me to put on his strength, and helps me re-understand family, he alone is perfect. He teaches me things I have never known, and helps me understand things I have never seen, and strengthens me into boldness. This is why I was created. I’m not going to be ashamed of his purpose for my life.

I don’t think that it’s about whether or not God gives me a time or place to use these gifts. I believe he calls us to be ready all of the time, in all places. He isn’t training me up for some miraculous path. He continuously calls me to testify and to glorify his name, and he adds details and nuance as he part of his provision. My job to serve the will of the Lord. He chooses how he makes a way for that. My job never changes.

It isn’t for me to define how I want to serve. The Lord gives us opportunities, and we choose or deny obedience. This portion isn’t special. It’s freely given, and unlike God’s love for each of us, the work he has for us to do can be given away. Who carries out the plan is inconsequential. Therefore, it is our desire and responsibility to be willing to serve. Far be it from me to define how the Lord wants to use my weakness. This is not about me.

And so when the Lord says, “forgive”, I will try to respond with forgiveness. And I will pray and seek his insight about how to do it. I do not have the strength on my own. But I know that the Lord makes a way for all of us to love him. He doesn’t ask me to do it on my own. He is willing to be that source of provision.

Ultimately, this love story begins and ends with the Lord. My biggest hope is to allow myself to be wrapped up in it. When anybody asks, I’m calling it good.

Shame is irrelevant

Have you ever had those moments where you pass by a place that holds a lot of shame, or you remember something so strongly painful that you have to say or do something to shake that pain out of your mind? Like being zapped by an electric fence on a detour, I ran like hell away from that sensation.

So be it. These days, I let it be what it is. There are things in this life that I probably deserve to be ashamed of. I’ve screwed up in magnificent and offensive ways, not always, but enough. I’ve made a fool of myself over boys who weren’t worth the brain space. I’ve hurt friends who I still think about all the time, I still pray for, and I never wanted to wound. I’ve said a lot of off color stuff that just ended up doing more harm than good. Worst of all, I blamed my family for a lot of brokenness that on their own, they simply cant break free of. So be it.

I’m not proud of those things, but on my worst day, God still remembers. Grace is when you have reason to be put to shame, but you are forgiven. I’m not running from my problems or denying when this one or that one hurt me. Nonsense. I serve a God who is bigger than the shame and he takes joy in me.

The things I’ve done may be screwed up, but God’s love for me and all other people is so great that he rejected himself to love me. Does that make sense? It totally doesn’t. Christ came and received the rejection that belonged to me, and I can bear up in those moments of shame because God is greater. God didn’t deny my brokenness in order to save me, he compensated for it. He went out of his way to make up from it. He is both honest and faithful. He went so far out of his way for my sake and the sake of those who love him. He doesn’t expect me to feel like I have to lie about the pain; he is the bridge that helps me through it.

Only in knowing that my God is greater has the sense of shame started to leave. Those memories have less and less bite. Those chains are coming of. After a while, the shame is going to feel irrelevant. I serve a mighty God. And he still loved me as is.

Thoughts on Peacemaking, 12/19

  • What do Adam, Cain, Judas, and Babylon all have in common? The inability to be satisfied. If you cant be satisfied, it is hard to remain under the protection of God’s Holy Spirit, and be saved by “The Prince of Peace.”
  • Isn’t it weird how “peace that transcends all understanding” has a common tendency of making easily upset people anxious?
  • Condemning others when you witness or detect their sin is wrong for a variety of reasons, but one reason that is rarely discussed is because if you condemn someone, you cannot learn from their mistakes. If you see yourself as similar enough to someone who has stumbled to learn from them and discern what God might be trying to teach you in those moments of recognition, you are a lot better off. Condemning a brother or sister, even in your heart, will lead you to address your own hard heartedness instead of unraveling some kind of lesson that their sin might teach you, or blessing them by being kind to them anyways. It’s like a Red herring strategy that Satan does in order for us to not love our neighbors and forget that they are fellow children of God. If we judge them instead of learn from them and receive divine instruction, we will catch ourselves in the same kinds of traps, and not understand what God is trying to teach us there. It’s a lot easier to judge than recognize your own sin, and listen. If listening is the only way you can be saved from a similar sin yourself, what good is it to judge others? What good does it do to someone who is still being bound by their sin? It shows no forgiveness. It is worse than useless.
  • Worship is any act that is done in sincere reverence to God. You can worship doing just about anything, so long as it is for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
  • The more you love God, the less you will feel as though you are missing out when something doesn’t go your way. Even when you have problems that by most diagnoses are pretty serious, if you realize what a precious gift you have in the Lord, you will feel weird by how little such things bother you. This is the blessing you get when you serve the Lord with your full heart: that even though struggles persist, you feel rich in spite of them.
  • To be honest, I believe whole heartedly that the solution to basically any problem is to do your best to love God more, and see what happens. That might mean loving him through grief, or doubt, or misery, or anger, or betrayal, or all sorts of other painful places. Yet when we invest in loving God to the best of our abilities in hard situations, he remembers us. It reminds me of Mark 12:42, and the story of the Poor Widow with 2 minas as her offering. Comparatively to the rest of her temple, hers was the smallest offering, but it was the biggest portion of what she had: she gave all that she had to live off of to the Lord. While God doesn’t expect our faith to always be easy, I believe he honors those people who stick it out when any amount of worship or thanksgiving is all they have to give. Having come out of years of clinical depression and feeling like the walking dead myself, I believe that God progressively took any joy I was able to offer and multiplied it for his own glory. Though I am no longer living in hell, I know that he is constantly present and mindful of people who are currently suffering. He forgets no one, and he is always willing to help, even if it takes longer than you want it to. Even if it hurts to praise, Satan can’t touch joy, and being grateful is the best antidote to fear that I know of, along with laughter. It seems contrived and taxing, but you end up with a lot more than where you started.
  • Even if you have to swallow your pride and be called “wrong” falsely, it is better to be a peacemaker who is unfairly accused than a person who wins fair and square but is belligerent. Righteousness belongs to God. All we can do is steward our responses, and try to introduce as much reconciliation as possible into turmoil. As per Mathew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (NIV).
  • The world says that the ideal solution to a disagreement is being smarter, stronger, bolder, more articulate, and better liked than your opponent. God ends up using our interpersonal conflicts in a way that humbles us, giving us the opportunity to serve a person who we consider our enemy in order to help shoulder their load, and act as stewards of the good news in their life. If you allow God to use you, you can change someone’s perception of a problem, rather than punishing them for not getting your own way. Perfectly satisfied, perfectly healed people do not seek conflict, but none of us is like that without the intercession of God. If we fight with someone, deliberately show mercy, take time to deliberately pray for them, and serve them once we are given the opportunity to help even if it isn’t about us being right, then we have the opportunity to lighten some poor soul’s burden. If we are resentful and cling to our own self-righteousness, we are advancing ourselves instead of God’s kingdom.

Conflicted about doing well in school (nonsensical guilt strikes again)

This post is brought to you by academic guilt. Please indulge my rumination for a moment.

For as much as not having to study very hard may be attractive, flying by the seat of my pants brings a sense of guilt into my life like none other. I have always hated those people who don’t have to try very hard, and as I get closer to graduation without giving up the pace of my learning, I find that I can deduce a lot of my teachers’ expectations and goals without putting much effort in. Part of that is busting my butt learning a while ago, and part of it is that as a whole, reading people is not hard for me.

It’s so disturbing, because it’s not like I’m just laying around and waiting for good things to come to me. I have very working class values, which is why the idea of just skating by really annoys me. I work two part time jobs currently, and it’s not like my quantity of work is any less (it’s probably more than a lot of my peers), I just develop strategies. What bothers me most is that it is false advertising to assume that every person has the same amount of difficulty studying, or learning concepts. Yes, I have struggled with classes before, but not recently. What I’ve found in all this time is that it’s really not the subject matter that a person is learning, but whether the presentation of that subject matter (as in, the methods they have to use to learn it) suit their learning styles in the first place. The way we present certain subjects generally attracts a specific kind of person, unless we use alternative methods to help others reach the same understanding.

I am really only in psychology and the humanities because analyzing people and having opinions costs me nothing. I would trade every opinion that I have as a lump sum to have a little more kindness, but it’s a work in progress. Seeing the structure in disciplines helps me design ways of relaying information, and I really don’t try very hard to learn what I need to learn. Still, I can’t shake the guilt that comes with the false assumption that pain has to be part of the learning process. I know it’s not true, but being a better strategist with time isn’t fair to people who will always have to keep trying.

At this point in college, it makes you wonder, though. Like, if people spent less time at bars, would they be able to do better over the things that they continue complaining about? Bad decisions make you blame others for your problems and ignore what you could be doing to solve them. If people actually wanted to learn, would it be so hard? Please, peers. Take your lives seriously and assuage my guilt.

The Glow (and the things that I have seen it cast out)

Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (NIV).

About sometime last fall at a women’s event at my church, I heard Psalm 34:5 read aloud for the first time. Having newly arrived at my church, I was looking for a way to connect with other women in our growing body of Christ there and this verse has continued to catch my attention ever sense. Before ever hearing it, this scripture was spoken over my life in a way that slowly transformed my walk with Christ and brought me to the point where I am at today. Like portions of Isaiah that speak to the redemption of Zion, in casting off the chains of depression, in coming to Christ, in taking bold risks with unexpected forms of pay off, I have stumbled across the glow.

The glow is something you can see on a person when they have been especially blessed. Think of it like annointing oil or broken chains. The Bride of Christ, the Church as she stands, is meant to be glorious, like a city on a hill or a light unto the world. For whatever reason, when I examine the lives of women I know who have been blessed and redeemed, the glow has come with it.

The glow is healthy. The glow is giving. It is compassionate, wholesome, good to be around, honest, pure, and simple. It laughs easily, like Proverbs 31:25, laughing at the days to come (which was also woven into the scripture at that women’s event). You see, the glow is something that comes into your life when you have enough to share (think Luke 6:38). Like any spiritual phenomena, the glow isn’t something that we as humans always see, but it exists on the same level with other routine spiritual events that we don’t pick up on unless we’ve seen them in passing. When you get the feeling that a woman gives life to be around, I’m pretty sure you can find it there.

I was petting my dogs just now, and the words that have been echoing in my head steadily as I’ve contemplated what it means to be beloved came back in full force: “I am the one you love.” Those words speak to Christ, but they can be taken up by all of us. Speaking those words in my heart, it was a weird moment. The sense of warmth I get when others have off-handedly noticed the glow in me came out at the expression of those words, and it was a haze of love for a second.

One of best lies people cling to when they disown spiritual truths is that God’s love is impractical, irrational, and fruit loops at best. While a Savior who would die by us for us is certainly fruit loops, spiritual happenings are not inherently unscientific, they aren’t inherently illogical, and they aren’t made up. As a different way of intuiting truths that no one has the cajones to admit we all look for and quietly disown, you can see the fruit of the spirit all around you if you try. No, you cannot prove it. You cannot prove Christ either, which is good, because proof is beside the point. I’m not trying to start any false doctrine here, but if you open your heart to the work of the spirit, you will run into more and more stuff like this. The weird way concepts interweave and conversations echo in a way that answer your questions sometimes immediately. The weird way you were able to strengthen a person in passing without realizing that for them, it was much needed. The weird way that God throws us into “mistakes” or situations we didn’t sign up for just to prove a point. Y’all can think that’s mostly fruit loops, but as for me, embracing the fruit loops was one of the best unwilling, dragged into it by the nudges of the Holy Spirit decision’s I’ve ever made. Some “crazy” is meant to be heard until you accept that it’s not going anywhere, and maybe crazy is a definition we should reconsider. Although I haven’t heard any voices in my head as of today, I think the nudges of the Holy Spirit definitely qualify as a pre-requisite to cast most commonplace conversations into a realm of immediate awkwardness for nearly all people you’re talking to. Which is ironic, since I’ve learned more about health and recovery from depression through learning to trust in all the crazy I can’t explain.

In my psychology classes, I often wonder if we design guidelines for what is and is not clinical to exclude the experiences of people who have been helped spiritually by accepting what others might see as crazy. It’s like casting crooked lines for voting districts sometimes, in what people accept, don’t accept, and only accept if you are paying thousand of dollars for therapy where professionals may or may not address your “problems”. I believe God in Christ is the cure. I don’t accept how conveniently we designate psychologists and psychiatrists to be the definitive and squabbling audience for deciding what counts as crazy. If the vine is the solution, what need is there for so many trained professionals?

For me, depression was an intensely spiritual thing. The amount of willful resistance I had to any kind of treatment, (especially anything that would cast out sin) was fierce. I was not down for other people telling me how to fix my problems. Without being able to remember, without being able to sleep well, with constant chronic body pain, an erratic appetite, chemical dependence that I wasn’t happy about, constant low self-worth and feelings that no one would ever accept me as I am in love, I didn’t really know what there was to live for. Being gradually dragged into faith cast so much of that out. The first major thing to go was sexual sin and thoughts that I would have to compromise unconditionally if I ever wanted anyone to love me. The last thing thus far has been ignorance of what it means to be redeemed (and what a man of character even looks like, through the lens of faith). It took me years to believe that I didn’t need anything to buy me my happiness, whether medication, close friends, male approval, being “smart”, etc. Having peace over the past and how awful living was back then has only come from the blood and the life of Jesus Christ working in my life. Without him, I’d be just as screwed as I was before.

The root of so much sin that capitalized my life was the false belief that no one would ever love me. Given the love I have encountered in Christ, no love could ever replace or come close to that. I know that anything is possible in Christ because I remember. I know that he is capable because years later, he is still just as faithful.

So tell me which is more fruit loops: Striving to seek out healing in academic accomplishment, beauty, the company of others, “success”, money, men, etc., or the all-saving power of grace that I could do literally nothing to earn? Part of the way you know that Christ has the power to heal is that what he gives is free. This is no magical snake oil, because the Son of God has nothing to prove. It has already been proven because it has already been given. What exactly is there to lose but a bunch of sin that was making you sick to begin with? Godspeed.

I don’t need to prove myself because my story and the life I am living now is all the proof I need that my Father heals. It’s a radical faith that is intensely practical, based on having experienced how the spirit moves and knowing for a fact that he is willing to meet us. Above all things, I plan on continuing to invest in the spirit of love and the fruit of peace that God intentionally places in my life in order to minister to others. He is more than capable.