I’m getting older. I can’t deny it. I can stop counting years when I celebrate my birthdays, but I can’t stop aging– as much as I’d like to freeze a few years at a time. And, to make things even trickier– my birthdays happen so much faster than they used to!
My birthday was a few months ago, but it’s really just hitting me now– crap! I’m a year older, again! My mind feels 20 and my body is somewhere in the waaaay-older-than-that range.
I’m at a stage where I tend to reflect back over my life, remembering what I was like when I was younger. I don’t wish I were there again, and I’m realizing I’m not even the same person I was.
For starters, I’m a mom now of kids ranging from age 7 to age 19, with my oldest being a much more beautiful and just as stubborn version of someone much like I was– but way better than I ever was.
If I were to wish for any part of who I was to be part of who I am now, it would be the endless energy I had! I’m tired now– all the time! I was designed by God to be a survivor, fighting my way through difficulties and challenges that I do not miss. I had so much energy, so much motivation to be the best version of me I could be.
I’m not the same person that I was in my younger years. Each experience and phase I’ve passed through has been evolving me in metamorphosis that happens so slowly, so deceptively simple yet intricately detailed, I can’t catch it with my eyes. Except in hindsight. Only through the rear-view of my life, rewinding the years and events through my memory.
I went through years of self-hatred, believing the things perfunctory and critical people, who’s opinions I valued as much as I value the air I breathe and the water I drink, said to me and about me. For many years I heard the words my dad said to me, and they guided me into relationships where I believed them so deeply, I allowed others to be abusive because I didn’t believe I deserved better than that. Then I would have a moment of waking up, realizing that things didn’t have to be that way at all. I didn’t have to let myself be bullied, harassed or abused.
I was evolving into an independent woman who was learning her self-worth came from my opinion of myself, and the opinions of others did not shape me or choose my path for me.
Ultimately my God’s opinion of me pulled me out of some very dark places mentally and physically– certainly spiritually. He views me far differently than any human, and not at all like my dad did.
So– as I reflect back over my youth, and covet the energy I used to have, I wouldn’t want to change the path I’ve been on. There are situations and circumstances– and people– I do wish I could have avoided. But they helped propel me in many cases in the direction I followed, which led me onto the path I now walk with Jesus.
Forward is now where I need to set my view, with Jesus being the window I look through. I believe our world is speeding up to the end, that Jesus will be returning, and I need to get myself ready.
Now, instead of looking back over my younger days, I will focus on the child-like faith Jesus told us we need to have. I don’t have to give up youth, it’s just evolved into a different form now.
Mark 10:13-16 (NLT)
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
Have you ever been in situations where people glean off of your success, and get embarrassed by your failures?
Have there been people who change their treatment of you based on your performance or appearance?
Are there those in your life who have attached their ego to their expectation of you, and then communication becomes this one-way street where even if it’s physically impossible you are expected to elevate them? And if you fail– if you try to signal or explain why you are unable to– the transmission of pertinent information is incomplete or ignored?
Most people are allowed– even forgiven– for their mistakes. Most first-world people are afforded the the right to individual successes and respected with reciprocal dialogue.
I bear the scars of being crushed by expectations and egos of others. I’m not sure why that has been the case for me.
I’ve recognized how I’m treated differently when I fall short of getting them some glory versus when I hit that mark head-on.
People exhaust and overwhelm me. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is, and I believe God is opening my eyes to help me break free from unvocalized and unadmitted rejections I’ve experience far too often.
God’s glory is not attached to my perfection when the world’s spotlight singles me out. He’s not embarrassed when I fail, nor is He prideful when I succeed. He is always consistently the same with me, my relationship with Him isn’t affected by me except where I allow it to be. He never moves away or towards me because I perform perfectly or I miss it by any length.
My whole life I’ve born this crushing weight that I have to say things just right, I have to play every note perfectly, I have to openly be supportive, embracing and encouraging of specific people, while being given little– sometimes nothing at all– in return.
While I am hard on myself, I often take cues from the responses and reactions of others to me after I fall short of where they expect me to land. My mistakes and successes somehow get tangled in with the egos, even pride, of others.
I believe God used my very public mistakes yesterday to open my eyes to this so I can begin to walk in freedom from crushing expectations.
I hope He also helps others to start giving me what I need in every situation. I do see a turning point, I just hope I can use that to shed this chain and fetter people have used to attached me to their pride-success balance.
Maybe then people will no longer exhaust and overwhelm me.
How many times do we hear something and jump to a conclusive opinion without actually looking into things for ourselves?
Examples I see everyday are critics of Christianity, political opponents, public school supporters against home educators, race criticizing race, Christian critics of anything secular… I’m sure you can think of many I haven’t listed here, there is an endless supply of judgement that is both uncalled for and unnecessary. But we sure do value our opinions!
I once, many years ago before the internet saturated me with knowledge, said I thought the POW/MIA flag was some sort of American Indian symbol. Of course my husband– then friend– sarcastically corrected me. Yeah– I was that ignorant! He had to tell me that it actually means Prisoner of War/Missing in Action. I was deeply ashamed, but I had never even seen that flag before.
I used to judge table top games, such as Dungeons and Dragons as demonic and evil because Jack Chick made a tract about it that seemed like facts. But, the facts are– it’s nothing more than socially creative story making and acting out the different characters. Sure there are millions of directions it can go– just like any fiction novel. But, I don’t think he wrote a tract about The Lord of the Rings. D&D is so much like that, and Christians miss out because they refuse to investigate what it really is. https://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp If a person is swayed to leave Christianity because of a game, there are far deeper issues involved. More than likely they never actually gave their lives over to Christ.
Being confronted with my having badly judged a book by its cover woke me up to how easily I can fall into that trap of not looking into things before forming an opinion– judging what I actually know nothing more than the appearance I see.
It shocks me every time I hear people who have never enlisted in the military talk about the military being soldiers at war, killing innocent children with no accountability. That’s actually the opposite of what I’ve known for more than 20 years in military life. I’m sure it would surprise many critics to know military life is like everyday life, but super structured and strict. There is far more accountability in the US military than in any organization– especially of size and scope– in the world throughout history. Certainly far more than in our current government! But, don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself. Do some research, interview military members, Veterans, contractors– even enlist for yourself!
Critics of our military sometimes falsely accuse it as blindly going along with whatever is commanded. Obviously they don’t realize each member has the responsibility to not obey a constitutionally unlawful order. The military is beholden to no person, no political party, no cause. There are core values instilled within each member. Core values unique to Americans and our 1st world allies.
While there is purposeful misinformation out there trying to sway people to specific sides of various issues or keep people from knowing what’s actually going on, there is no excuse for not researching the facts. The easy way is to not challenge sound bites and points of agenda for what we want/hope to be the truth. The responsible way is to dig deeper and find the truth.
For the past 10-12 years I’ve noticed how historical facts are being changed to paint a different picture than actual reality. I’ve seen things disappear off of the internet, I’ve caught the main news sources passing on false information, lying, and even staging events to mislead people watching to trick them into a political point of view or support some cause.
In this day and age of purposeful deception, it’s imperative that we take on some form of an investigative role. No one likes to be fooled, and no one likes to find out they are reacting in a foolhardy way.
I have darkness in my past. In my 20/20 hindsight view, there are things I’ve said and done, parts of who I used to be that I deeply, deeply regret. I was young and foolish, brought up in a culture that never mentioned accountability or conscience, my immaturity and lack of common sense mixed with my world-view of life was self-destructive.
When I look back at the heart of who I used to be I cringe with disdain and distaste– and then I look away, ashamed of the hatred and jealousy that polluted my younger self. I don’t want to see it, except now I can use it to measure how far I’ve traveled from what used to be my expectations and experiences.
Living in the moment, desperately trying to “find myself” and figure out how I “fit” into the world’s big picture, I made so many bad decisions.
I used to blame the bad things that happened to me– some, the things of nightmares and semi-horror stories, some, happenstance of being wrong place-wrong time– for my negative situations, many I had zero control over.
The one constant I had that never faltered was God.
I remember standing at my window as a small child, around 8 years old, crying, watching the kids outside who seemed to have no cares in the world. I remember the feeling of hopelessness drowning my thoughts. I didn’t fit in, I sincerely believed that no one liked me, that I was such a horrible person that my own family hated me.
And then I saw a rainbow.
Suddenly my thoughts and emotions were flooded by 3 words I heard and felt at the same time, from deep within my being- “I love you.”
The darkness that engulfed me that day was pushed out by the bright, warm light of hope– things would get better.
I’ve always believed that was God. Now when I see a rainbow, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt God is reminding me that He loves me– and He keeps His promises.
Fast forward to today, looking into the review mirror of hindsight– God has indeed kept His promises to me. He turned my darkness into light, my mourning into joy, my fear of the unknown into hope for my future.
I remember as a kid trying to imagine what my future would be like. The thing is, I couldn’t have guessed because I hadn’t experienced or seen anything like it. I had dreams of happiness, but I had no picture of what that was except it was full of this warm light. I was afraid to bring children into a world I had been shown pain and abuse from. I lacked faith that my choices could create a different type of future for my offspring. If others walked through what I barely managed to survive, they could understand the lack of hope I was surrounded by, that tried to overtake my inner confidence and boldness to push through to find the good that others seemed to have.
Had I not pushed through that invisible force that was so heavy and thick that tried to hold me down, I never would have left the life I was born into physically, and stepped into the life Hope embraced. I never would have stepped out of the grappling hooks the enemy of my life, of my soul, attempted to try to imprison me with.
God designed me carefully, He put in me what I have needed not only to survive, but to want to survive. Many living in my circumstances and experiences might have given up, and I don’t say that lightly or with no understanding. I was tempted to give up, to let go of that brilliant shard of hope my spirit desperately clung to.
I understand darkness in a way I don’t think many who know me realize.
Thankfully, I also now understand the light of hope even more fully than I remember the darkness that embraced me with its death-grip.
I am undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, but I am so very, very thankful He wrapped me up in it, healing my heart and my mind. An inner strength pushed with a force far beyond my own strength, to get out of the stronghold of that darkness.
I’ve often seen myself as a 50 yard-dasher type– a short-distance runner. I start out strong, and if the distance is short, I finish strong. But, with longer distances I find myself being tempted to stop short. In this rearview-mirrored view, I can see that God has carried me those distances I didn’t have the strength on my own to go, and the view lighted by the hope He planted deep inside of me, has made it far more beautiful than anything my childhood imagination could have dreamed.
I’m maybe halfway, maybe more, through God’s planned distance for my life. I’m greatly anticipating the view through the remainder of hope’s light for my future.
My husband and I got into an argument earlier today, about politics. We agree on some points, and are polar opposites on others. It’s not the disagreeing that is the argument for me, though, because we could easily be having a discussion and disagree. It’s his reactions to me, the person behind what he disagrees with. Males in the past often treated me like I was less than them, rarely as an equal– as though I were validated by their approval of me. Usually my husband doesn’t come across that way, but lately when he disagrees with me it feels as though he does. It may just be my perception, not the reality. But, nevertheless, it stings a lot.
Maybe it’s different for men than it is for women, maybe they can separate the personal from the words. Perhaps it’s just the way I am built. I believe strongly in certain things, and I research things a lot, and sometimes I don’t research enough or remember specifics well.
I asked him to tell me he doesn’t think I’m stupid, because that matters to me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but he matters. He told me he doesn’t think that. The problem is he argues to conquer and win, and then I feel attacked and our voices raise with jabs and offense– I hate it. I wish we could discuss without it turning into some battle of words and opinion. I wish we could communicate our different perspectives in a healthy exchange where we both feel valued and heard.
We both need to level up our communication skills. We should be aware of how what we say affects the other, as well as how we say it and how they receive it– not always the same things.
Thinking about Scripture, where the Bible instructs wives to respect their husbands, and husbands to love their wives as Christ Loves the Church, I don’t see us treating Jesus that way. One step further– I don’t see Christ treating us the way we treat one another. I can’t imagine Jesus raising His voice or belittling my opinions or beliefs. I don’t see Jesus yelling at my husband the way I did earlier.
At some point our humanity has to submit itself to God in order to match God’s Word picture through Scripture– or we fail at demonstrating the Lord Jesus in and through our marriage.
Over the past 20 years I have been moved from place to place, sometimes by God, sometimes for personal reasons.
That is why I’m writing this.
I am no one special. I have no title, no grand purpose or calling. I am like many within your flock, under your care– part of your Divine calling and purpose.
I am a member of the Body of Christ, and that means something more to me than merely being a member of a local church.
I have been given talents by God, and I strive to use them to help further His Kingdom purpose. I have been given a heart of flesh that longs to please God. I love people, I love Jesus, and I love serving God as He calls me to.
I have seen where church leadership has some blindspots. I am asking you, humbly, as one who loves God and people– please– drop all defensiveness and listen.
I believe that God has called Pastors and all church leaders to love His people as He loves His people, not to just instruct us about the Word of God. Not one of us is in the same part of the narrow road, nor have we walked with the same steps or strides. In fact, there are some who are crawling, there are some who are stopped– waiting on God to give them clear direction– direction that oftentimes comes through you.
Every Pastor wants the congregants who are running the race perfectly, with all the energy necessary to carry out the plans and purposes of the ministries churches offer. There are people who are called and able to fulfill those Pastoral dreams.
I want to tell you, many simply are not. Many are trying to work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. Some want to please church leadership, but they are burnt out by doing so. Some feel weighted down by life. Some have been crippled by life’s circumstances, and they can’t “perform” as is often necessary. These are the people you are leaving behind. These are the ones you are hurting. Some of these equate how you treat them with how God wants them to be treated– and that is breaking God’s heart.
I want to encourage you to look at every person as the individual that God has created them to be.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and God has entrusted you with the loving care to help nurture and grow even the most unloveable Christian.
I believe God wants to release His healing within His Body. Hurts caused by our own family in Christ. Reconciliations. Letting go of offenses. Repentance for how we all treat one another.
I believe He wants to begin from the top of the leadership down through the entire congregation.
What does this look like? More ministries for congregants, not just opportunities to serve. Listening more carefully. Being approachable, a healthy relationship attainable outside of jumping through specific hoops to prove worthiness of your time, attention and appreciation.
Removal of any “hierarchy” mindset that in any way belittles your congregants in your eyes.
There are millions of Pastors, and every one of you is a unique individual created by God, just like all of your congregants are.
I pray you will read this, that you will seek God concerning this. Not because I am asking, but because God’s Judgment begins in the House of The Lord. We all need to be far more sensitive to God’s Spirit than we are to the opinions of ourselves and others.
God’s love is not tough, it’s full of compassion, patience and deep understanding.
So should we all be towards one another.
Your Sister In Christ