20 March 2013

God my healer

I have been going through this transformation, which I knew would take a while. Now the word 'while' can be a varying length of time, like a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. And really, it is not up to me anyways - it is in God's hands, His timing, not mine.

Now let's be honest, we are humans, and as humans we get impatient. We want something and we want it now. And isn't society teaching us that when we want something, we should go out and get it, no matter the cost? It teaches us to get what we want, which means to set ourselves to the action, instead of being still and wait. (Psalm 37:7)

But God wants us to stop "conforming to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 12:2)   HIS will, not ours. We need to learn to slow down and wait and listen!

God wants us/me to do a number of things:
1) put my burdens onto Him, He will carry my loads
2) trust Him
3) wait for His timing
4) accept His plan and
5) do what he asks of me.

It sounds 'easy' enough to follow. But what gets in the way of His plan are our/my expectations. Of ourselves. And unfortunately, of others. Even if we don't want to have those, we do, and we get disappointed. I told myself to only go forward from this point on. But I stumbled. Someone has promised me support, and they failed me. I expected to be at a better place already because I want that change so much. But forgiveness takes time, and so does the healing process. And I need to learn that the only one I can truly rely on a hundred percent is God!

And because I have been here so many times, I know that there is no escape but to run towards God, into His open arms! The biggest lesson I learned is NOT to step away from the Lord. NOT to stop praying, even on my darkest day - because He hears me best on that day. He holds me over the water that day, so I won't drown (in my own self pity probably). So I pray! And I read His word. I probably won't be able to tell you what I read that day, but whatever the passage was, it comforted me. I hold onto His promises.

God understands our hurts, our feelings. He is touched when we come to Him for comfort, He is our father and a loving father comforts His children. He wants to help and heal, more than we can imagine!
Jesus understands, too, because He has been there, rejected, ridiculed, bullied, forsaken. "There is not a single feeling that we cannot bring to Him." says Mr. Seamands in his book. Jesus understands, and He wants to comfort as well.
The Holy Spirit takes us by the hand and leads us. Not only is His presence comforting as well, but He also wants to show us what we need to do to change. He wants us to see that our suffering will make sense. It has a purpose.

11 March 2013

Next Step in the healing process: Forgiveness

After a hard week, I am ready to work on our next step in my little mini series about My New Habit - the process of healing. My eyes were opened to many deep hurts, that were then followed by many bad habits. I have ups and downs, but I think I am on the way of healing. But before that can happen, we need to talk about the next step: forgiveness.

"Forgiving everyone who is involved in my problem".
Forgiveness is huge. And it works on so many levels. There is to forgive and being forgiven, to forgive others as well as ourselves, and being forgiven by God, others, and ourselves.

That forgiveness comes with a price tag. The tag reads responsibility. Because when I take responsibility of my actions and reactions, I can't play the blame-game anymore. No more excuses. No more hiding behind the past. If there is something my parents did not teach me, well guess what, it is time to learn it now. If they did something wrong, that does not give me the right to do the same mistake again.

It was an action to take control of that responsibility. And it is and will be an action to forgive. For some people, it is easy to forgive, sincerely. I could even exercise this already (read here) long time before I ever read this book. Then for others, it is rather hard. Actually the thought to have to forgive is stressing me out, and for now, I have pushed it to the side.

A question came to mind. How does forgiveness work? I mean for the real deep hurts. The hurts that sit so deep that for the longest time, I did not realize they were still there. I had not even realized that they had shaped a big part of me, a part that is not so flattering at all. How do you forgive that?

My best friend Beth helped me, in talking it through. We spoke about every step. It is a process. Of the mind. And over time. It is an action that needs to be taken; a responsibility to be chosen over and over again, until it will be done. And once that forgiveness is deep enough, I will feel free again, I will be healed. (#goosebumps)

Whew, that is a big step still to be faced. I am not looking forward to facing it over and over again, but I am eager to reach the end of it. I want to forgive, because that will set ME free. That will heal ME. And that will change MY life for the better. I can not wait.

But.... that is not all. 
What? you ask. Yep, there is more to forgiveness, more to the process of healing:
forgiving yourself

When I read it at first, I was like: what? Why do I need to do that? For what? I didn't do anything to myself, did I? And then it came to me, very clearly......  that I did need to forgive myself!!!
For the sins I have done, resulting from my bad habits - habits that I taught myself because I was so hurt. Habits created by fear. Habits to rather push everyone out of my life before they could hurt me again, making the assumption that's what they were going to do. I needed to forgive myself for the many hurts I have done to others.

I knew what it meant for me. It meant to forgive myself because God had forgiven me already. He also had thrown it into "the sea of His forgiveness and His forgetfulness" as Mr. Seamands calls it, and then had "put a sign on it that read 'No fishing allowed.'" And that is exactly what I had done in the past! I might have thought that I forgave myself, and maybe I forgot it for a while, too, but for sure, I went back after a time and went fishing for those sins. Once I had them in my hands again, I could beat myself up again and again, thinking I would never be enough for anybody, not for God, not for my husband, my parents, my children, or my friends. And part of me felt 'good' in that victim-role, too. It felt like a shield of protection around me. Kind of like 'Life is tough, and so am I'-attitude.

But No More of that! I have asked for forgiveness and received it and accepted it and it is done now!

Yet, there is one more thing to forgiveness.
Now that you know that you can be forgiven and that you are able to forgive, you really need to accept and receive it. God's grace is infinite and we do not understand it. I think, God never intended for us to understand it. His love is never-ending, unchangeable and unconditional. And because He loves us, He can show us mercy and grace. I believe, it is actually easy for Him to do so. The problem is not God's, it's ours! We are either unable to believe Him and His forgiveness, or we can't accept it, because we think our sins were too big. God is doing what He promised, but we are not doing OUR part!

Believe me, I am preaching here to myself!  So now we turn that around: if we are not receiving that unconditional love and forgiveness, we fail to show others that same unconditional love and forgiveness. And that is a sin in itself. Because we are suppose to become more Christ-like: because He showed us mercy (which we need to accept), we can show mercy to others now. (We love because He loved us FIRST. (1 John 4:19))

At first, I did not understand. I was still blinded by my own sin, and the role of the victim still laying on me with the unwillingness to see that this might be true. Blinded by my own pity, I did not want to think of handing out love. My self-centeredness literally screamed for more love for ME - it was not interested in giving love to others. Because that old Self thought that everybody else had enough love already but that I needed more, or any. Really, I was my own worst enemy! But even those enemies, we need to forgive them! I needed to forgive myself.

How wrong I was! How could I have expected to receive love when I did not want to show it. No wonder that most of my relationships in the past drifted apart or broke off. It is unhealthy to only think of oneself in a relationship.
Relationships are a two-way street! They mean taking risks, being vulnerable and open, and to give MORE rather than less. It means to spend hours with my God, building the relationship I want with Him and He wants with ME. It means cooking and cleaning, even if the Hubby does not say thank you each time (which he does!). It means to take care of children that are so ungrateful to the things we do as mothers. (And by ungrateful I mean that they don't understand it yet, but hopefully one day, they will understand the sacrifices we made for them. And if not, that is okay, too, because I get my satisfaction from knowing I did what God wanted me to do.) It means to help a friend in need, even when we do not get anything back in return.

I think I really learned my lesson. Taking responsibility meant to put away anger and resentment and take action to forgive and change and give. It meant to leave the vicious cycle that I was riding (like a merry-go-round) - for a better path, a straight path towards a goal!

There are still days where I ask myself how much God wants me to serve and hold the other cheek.... but then I remember that my strength comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2), and that His faithfulness is my reward (not human failure or success, or the uncertainty of which one it will be) (Psalm 36:5-6).
AND: God has a purpose "for those sins, failures, and hurts that happened earlier in my life". (Romans 5:3-5) He will wrap them up in His love for me. When He sets me free, He will set free a cycle far less vicious than the one I just came off. A cycle where I can extend His love for me to others, to be able to give grace and love to the people around me.

09 March 2013

The Easy Button?

Do you remember the Staples commercial about the big red button with white writing that read
Society today tells us that things should be easy, because they are available and we deserve them.
The Bible tells us something else. God tells us that we should expect things to get rough and hard, but that those times teach us faith and to trust in Him; and through the hardships He will make us stronger.

Easy sounds good, doesn't it? Making decisions based on how we feel in that instant would make things so much easier, right? We just follow our heart. And that will make us happy, or will it not? It applies to so many things. When we eat that last piece of chocolate cake because it tastes so good. When we shout at our children because they did something wrong, it feels good to let that anger out. When we keep hurting the people around us because it's easier to act out of habit and the programming we've got. It is easier.

But that is not what God wants for us. He wants us to become that new person He promised us we would become when we became believers.

This week has been a hard week for me. I fell back to old habits, including following my feelings and fears, rather than the truth. That resulted in hopelessness and a feeling of wanting to give up, which further led me to beating myself up over it. All that was a nice set-up for a complete meltdown.....

I am so blessed that I have a best friend walking alongside me. She caught me that day! And probably literally saved me from falling into a deep depression. Beth was there to talk to me about my feelings, my fears, my despair, and my anger. She listened and she gave advise. And I listened as hard as it was, and I learned.

For once, it is healthy to acknowledge my feelings rather than stuffing them down which will only lead to further frustration and maybe an explosion-bound-to-happen, like a volcano. Acknowledging the feeling I have, not only takes the power out of the feeling, it also gives me time to think about how I want to react to that feeling. God wants us to follow Him by faith not by sight or feelings. And sometimes, it requires us to do the opposite of what we feel like doing.

Only following my feelings (rather than doing what is right) will also make me a very unreliable person. In the common language, it's called being moody. Nobody knows what to expect when dealing with me.
Making decisions in a more Christ-like way, doing what is right, would not only give me more stability, it will make my relationships more stable. I want my family and friends be able to trust me and be able to rely on me. I want them to be able to depend on me. I am done being controlled by my emotions just like I don't want anybody else be controlled by them.

I also learned that wanting to make a change is the start to a new beginning. There are so many people that walk on this earth thinking that there is nothing wrong with them. I was convinced that it is so much harder to know that there is something wrong and that it needs to change, but the path there is so hard......

God is funny in making His point convincing. Since that day, every day, He made me hear from different sources that giving up is NOT an option! He has started a great work in me but He is not finished. And giving up would be a slap into His face. So here I am, ready for the next wave of progress, expecting to stumble again, but hopefully not as badly as this week.

My last point is that making any progress is better than none. Going forward any bit is gaining knowledge that no-one can take away from me. Making one good choice and then two bad ones does not erase the one good choice I made. Hopefully in training myself to make better choices, it will become a habit, and with that, yes, it will become easier.

It feels like God the potter has taken the clay jar I was and smashed it to the ground, now I am broken and it hurts! Oh, how it does. But He is also taking all the pieces and makes me into a new person. The pounding hurts, too. I am already so blessed but I know and trust God that He will finish His piece of art (aka Me) and bless me through this suffering. It will never be easy but it will get easier than what it is now.