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.

Though bucket 6/23/16

  • Without repentance, we are not fit to grow in our capacity to hold God’s love. As sacred vessels, if there is no intentional acknowledgement of the way we still fall short, our usefulness to God’s plan is limited. We cannot bear the good things he has for us if we allow ourselves to just coast.
  • Believe in who God is and his promises regardless of whether you feel happy with what he’s chosen to give you. There will be times when trusting God can’t be dependent on feeling happy with him or your present circumstance. Being confident in the Lord can’t just be about our feelings.
  • Do most people have good social skills? These days, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced that it’s bad to have some room to grow in how we relate to other people. It’s like beauty, or perfect physical appearance. We all want to be well liked, to be good looking, to be able to make other people like us, to fit in. It’s probably more important to be respectful and thoughtful than free of social mishaps. So long as you are trying to model Christ’s love for the people around you and do the little you can well, I think it’s okay to leave perfection up to God. God already loves us all more than we can imagine, even if only some of us decide to allow him to care for us. It’s okay to be imperfect and trust God to help compensate for your weakness.
  • Judgmental people are afraid to lose God’s love because they’re living their faith like it depends on their performance. Trust God. Pray for those people. Show them that the grace of God doesn’t depend on their performance, and set somebody free of bondage. Deep down, nobody really wants to wound others. We make decisions trying to compensate for what we are convinced that we need. Pray that people who make others feel condemned for minor flaws would realize that God’s love extends past their own character and past other human’s collective weaknesses. Pray that they encounter the abundance of God. People only judge like that when they are spiritually hungry and don’t know where to eat. Repay judgment with grace and kindness.
  • It’s good to have blessings large enough that they feel like burdens sometimes. Depending on whether you are grateful and trust God’s Holy Spirit, a gift will be good, neutral, or bad. It’s okay to have to take time to grow into the gifts God has for you, and to learn to steward the ones he’s already given. If you are actively trying to pursue Christ, becoming a better steward of what you already have is natural.
  •  A society where Teachers don’t parent and Parents don’t teach is doomed. A good Father teaches his children, and a good teacher cares for her students with a mother’s love.
  • I’m going to do the best I can with the little I have for as long as I can until it pleases the Lord to increase it. He who is faithful with little is faithful in much. Like the parable of the widow’s giving, we should aim to be faithful with what we have instead of feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t have. It’s more useful while you are waiting for certain life seasons to embrace God through the things you already have, than to be disappointed that it’s not here yet. Faith is based on what is unseen, not what is easy.

Resisting “I told you so” and focusing on love

Anyone saved by grace with a temper might find some hope in what I’m about to say. I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes when my family provokes me, I get really mad.

Part of what angers me is when people don’t listen. I can tell my family members something legitimately designed to help them, they’ll blow me off, and I find it hard not to feel a little justified and self-righteous when things happen just like I warned them.

I don’t know whether it’s just women that do this, but the “I told you so”s are a constant temptation for me. It’s not as though it’s not true that you warned somebody, they didn’t listen, and the present consequences of their actions are their own fault. Sometimes, it’s really cut and dry. Like last week, when my dog peed on the floor and I told my sister to put a paper towel down so she didn’t step in it and then she stepped right into the puddle some 10 minutes later.

Needless to say, I’ve already ruined the introduction of what I’m trying to say. It’s just that when you know better, it’s so hard to watch people make mistakes. I know that love bears all things, but I sometimes find myself praying for bad things to happen just so that people will have a need to re-evaluate. It’s not a great place to be, but I’m just trying to be honest here. I don’t want my perspective to remain this way, but this is definitely where I’m at today.

But you want to know what I have at least learned (and still struggle putting into practice)? If you shut your mouth and let the spirit speak for itself, it often works out well. Better even.

In “I told you so” situations, I can pray that the Spirit convicts. I don’t need to always fight for myself. For example, when you’ve already carefully picked out words to ask a family member to work with you to solve a problem and they don’t listen, just stay silent (after you have made a reasonable effort). Sometimes the Holy spirit speaks through other witnesses to the situation. You can pray that God will help the person you love get their crap together in times where you know they wont listen to you. Which is absolutely infuriating. But it is what it is for now.

I really hate that my family finds creative ways not to listen to me, but it gives me hope that there could still be help available to them through the Holy spirit. I know that it’s not really up to me to work this hard, but this is the way it’s always been, and it’s taking time to adjust. It’s hard to learn all these things about God that could really help them and nobody cares what you have to say. It’s hard to be the only person that takes God seriously in your family, especially when some family members may only believe in God through a situation involving absolute destruction, because they presently hate him. But I still love them. And I still want them to be saved.

I’m trying to learn to bear with it and trust God to provide when they wont listen to me. I experience a lot of cursing aimed in my direction. My family has such shallow things to talk about (everything under the sun from politics to money to ideology) that if we’re being honest, they really don’t know me very well. My friends know me to a certain extent, but in God, I am known fully. And I have peace and hope for a future where I can do better for my kids. I get angry, but I try to buy into forgiveness. It’s still hard. I am going to be one of those adults who doesn’t try to ignore helpless situations. When I work with kids or if I have kids of my own, I won’t just ignore them.

As of today, that is the solution to my problem. It’s not in solving my own situation, but in being a listener for people struggling in similar situations of their own. My children (biological or students or just the ones I care about) will have an advocate in me. Without people like that, I would have never had hope for long enough to buy into God. And now I know that he helps me.

To be honest, my situation may never change. Hell, that’s even likely. I get mad at God and ask him to save my family, because I love them. There are a lot of decisions I’ve made that nobody appreciates or understands that I made out of love for them specifically. But I believe that Jesus cares for them, and that God would still love them if they always rejected him. So I’m trying to focus on leaving it up to God. It takes some bravery.

Trying to do my best

Even if nobody appreciates it, is it worth it to be kind?

I feel like there are so many middle aged women who are self-made martyrs. On the playground, it’s always, “I wont give him a turn because he didn’t say please!” We refuse to pick up our toys until the playmate who helped make the mess starts helping. Kinda reminds me of Martha getting mad at Mary.

I have this friend. Well, ex-friend. One of those people in your heart, you can’t help but hold onto. Swallowing my foolish pride, I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I want the best for her. I’m going to do what I can to just be nice.

Sometimes, my sister tries to provoke me to wrath. I swear, she’ll bring up memories from high school that I cant even remember. The depression stole those memories from me, and for whatever reason, she tries to make me feel bad by citing instances where I made a fool of myself. The jokes on her, because I legitimately can’t remember. But for the most part, I put up with it, because I know that she makes fun of me to feel better about herself. Taking the bait would be to lash out at someone who’s already wounded. Not classy.

There was this one time in the last week of kindergarten where this little girl I work with strongly reprimanded me. We were all headed to the magic carpet to do the next activity (aka where they sit) and I can’t remember what it was even about. She had been sassy for a while, but because she’s a lot like me, I think she was just testing limits. Our main teacher made her apologize, and told her that it really wasn’t nice to speak that way to a teacher. She apologized. I said it was okay, and that I wasn’t mad. The next time I was there, when we were cleaning up between centers, her little arms tightly wrapped around my waist in a hug that lingered. I understand where she was coming from. And that’s a hug I will definitely remember.

I recently asked another friend from a good while ago if she would forgive me. I’m kind of a hard-ass, so being willing not just to apologize but to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS was a whole nother…well. But I did it, and you wanna know why? If I didn’t have the balls to do it then, I wasn’t gonna do it at all. So I did. And I’m glad. This friend really doesn’t have a good impression of Christians. I was just trying to show her better than she’s used to.

We all have choices to make. One of the most common lies that bothers me to no end is that people only deserve the kindness they show you. Like a Frankenstein’s monster of the Golden rule. Some how generally social niceties become excuses not to be kind to one another. If she said then I said then she said, then she’s the one who wasn’t nice to me!

But friends, is that really the best we can do? Is that your best?

We all make choices.

I don’t want perfect justice. I want grace. I want forgiveness. I want it to not be about me. Shouldn’t good things be free? Don’t we have the power to control that?

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing. You don’t have to be perfect, but it’s good to try. Better doesn’t have to come today, but maybe it’s possible? Isn’t it just good to want better, even if you can’t yet achieve it? Isn’t it better to work at humbling ourselves than to be okay with complacency?

I think we can do better. There is a people alienated from the Church that want to believe in God, but we give them no evidence. Jesus is naturally appealing. The way he cared for people. The way he loved. If we woke up and allowed the Lord to change us, maybe a few more skeptics would buy into God. I for one thought believing with your whole heart was batshit crazy at one point, but I guess somethings have changed. I think that there are people out there that need us to be flexible. If church was a lot more about getting out of God’s way and a lot less about us, then we’d all be better off.

We each get a different path

Have you ever seen those bold Christian people who without shame, share their faith? The ones who can go up to a random stranger and speak as the Spirit leads them, or challenge unhealthy ideas they understand are destructive? Have you ever met those Christians that bring up their faith repeatedly in public, not for attention, but because they believe? Have you ever felt like surely, their boldness must be more fruitful than a faith kept in quiet?

I recognize that we all have different twists and turns in this Christian journey. It’s not easy, and whether or not it’s easy to recognize it, following God can look relatively different between one person to the next. Though there are pillars of faith like prayer and reading one’s bible, the specific path the Holy Spirit uses to teach one person might be too lenient for another person. For some people who look particularly bold on the outside, following God when you just have to be content with what you have and buy into forgiveness can be altogether difficult.

Comparing one person’s walk of faith to another’s is functionally useless, except to learn from others. God can teach us a lot by observing the twists and turns he has other people ramble through. Whether it’s just to gain respect for how diverse God’s methods are, or to gain insight into similar situations in your own life, having other people’s perspectives is a beautiful part of living in community. Differences aren’t meant to make us feel inadequate, but to help us understand the omnipotent nature of God.

It’s much easier for some people to talk about God all the live long day than have to deal with being afraid of not controlling the future. It’s much easier to bring up God to others than stay steadfast in investing in specific people who are capable of teaching others. It’s easier try to control your life than to lead from example, submit to God’s authority, and trust that he already has it worked out. It’s easier to “hope for the best” than take active steps to be consistent (which may actually mean confronting your doubt). It’s easier to make plans than follow God’s plan. It’s easier to say something you mean in passing than demonstrate that you care through being deliberate.

If you really want to fight the big fights, trust God when you can’t feel his presence, but you still know what’s right. Not in every season is the presence of God easy to understand. Sometimes you don’t get perfect peace until you fight for it. So often, that fight looks like submission than making a fuss. The big fights are so often fought in secret. The obvious fights sometimes aren’t all that big.

We all get a portion, and we are all taught by a masterful teacher. The Lord knows what he is doing. Things are going to be alright. With even those struggles that seem insurmountable, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Use respect to your advantage: Against academic pandering

For some time now, I’ve struggled with how to be productive in my classes. I find that I either participate too much and make others think I’m trying to earn the teacher’s approval, or I freeze out my classmates because I’m doing the bare minimum that I need for the grade. I think I’ve found a better way.

School is easier for some people than others, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to develop an ego. I know a lot of people who have natural talent at school, but take it easy because they can. To be honest, that bothers me. If you’ve been given a gift, it is important to use it.

But more often than not, people resent the people who have an easy time at school. I know a lot of academics who have made their entire identities about school and how smart they are, and I think it’s because they want to learn and not be rejected. People sometimes develop an ego as a crappy way to deal with how other’s don’t respect them. Instead of security in your own identity, people resenting your giftings can make you withdraw from others. It’s a circular cycle that can be hard for people to break out of.

I believe that if you are smart, you should set goals apart from just school. You should have a variety of different goals that also benefit others. If only to help you steward the gifts you’ve been given in a way that keeps you from just thinking about yourself, find a way to pay it forward. It is more important to be kind than it is to be intelligent. If you respect others and their opinions, and you treat people with a sense of shared dignity, people want to help you out.

There are people who are not fully convinced that what they have to offer is worth something. They constantly try to flatter professors in the hope of getting ahead, and many professors out there live to endorse their egos. I think these people also need Jesus, but it’s a lot easier to have compassion on them leaving college. If people only knew how much God loved them, they would have no need to resort to flattery, pandering to people’s egos, and petty favors, and they’d have no reason to expect that of others.

The easiest way to get people to help you is pretty simple: be the type of person that people want to help. Be steadfast. Follow through with your commitments. Help when it’s not required of you. Don’t always expect a favor in return. It’s better to be simply kind and steadfast on the day that you actually need something than to be trying to cut corners for an advantage. It means more when someone offers to help you freely than when you ask to be reimbursed.

Being respectful to your teachers isn’t the same as pandering to them. In fact, if you treat them fairly without pandering, they often think of you better than if you were trying to get in with them (even if they themselves promote that). I think people with big egos feel trapped by the ways they expect others to treat them. They crave for people to accept them without the whole shtick, but don’t feel like they’d be accepted if they stopped it. Either way, I can’t accept endorsing people’s egos in exchange for social favors. I work with children, and if I’m ever in a position for them to replicate that kind of manipulative behavior, it will be like having them consume poison. It is better for them that I model respect and allow others to help me when it’s necessary. I don’t want them growing up to always feel like they are trying to prove themselves.

Agnostic of opinions, hopeful in faith

For those of us out there that have a hard time accepting compliments, can you tell me what you think of this thought in the comments?

I know that at times, I find it difficult to accept praise. For whatever reason, when people identify good in me, or see a trait they want to classify as good, I only partially appreciate it. It’s not that I’m trying to be ungrateful, but I try to be agnostic of other’s opinions. When the tide changes and when what you once called good is suddenly what’s bad in me, my identity will not be shaken.

As individuals, we all have a mismatched assortment of traits. People’s greatest flaws are often their greatest kindness, in and out of balance. When a person is angry at you and in order to bother you, interprets a trait that can really go either way as a bad thing, how exactly do you deal with that? When they take a trait that can be a bad thing as good, should it move mountains in your heart when their perspective is really all that’s changed?

I appreciate it when others are willing to see good in me. I do. I appreciate that they took time to tell me something nice, and had the desire to make me feel special. To be honest, the specific assortment of personality traits in me doesn’t change. What does change is how people desire to view it, and what attitude we invite into our hearts.

If you desire to see good in people, you will see it. If you desire to see the negative aspects of their traits, you will focus more on those. May the Lord judge correctly, and may we be free to be agnostic of all other opinions. I believe that Christ is the only true judge of this world, and it’s better to not create a sense of identity explicitly tied to the world, when nearly everything is passing away to begin with. It’s enough that someone wants to be kind to me and see good things in me. It’s like when you are a kid, and you have to articulate for the first time what sets you apart from other people. “I know that I’m good at math/writing/the monkey bars, but I don’t know what makes me _____ kind of person.” We all teach our children to declare a sense of identity when even though as children, it means more that people want to play with us and be kind to us than what exactly we or they are. We concoct all these different terms for identity when all everybody wants is to be loved. To a certain extent, our differences are obvious. In skin color, in income, in personality, in decisions, the differences between people are lived out very clearly. How we feel about those differences is really what matters, and whether or not we’re willing to see the good in people. Each person is able, but few are willing.

I believe that God loves all people. The people who are able to accept Jesus his son and actually experience that love and live in it are few. The people who are willing to make peace and be seen as peacemakers are few. The people who are willing to sacrifice for the things they care about are few. Unless we all decide to do better starting with the places we each influence, the world wont change. And if it does change, it will mostly stay the same, but we as individuals will see it completely differently.

Perspective and faith are more important that differences and identity. It means so much more to have the desire to be kind than to have to tie your kindness to anything.