Emotions


One of the things I have learned through my journey over the last few years is that there are easy days and days that are more difficult ones. The last few days have been some of those more difficult days.

I am still learning that there are conversations which engage and bless my heart and soul, and others that may cause me struggle.

Unfortunately I am still not very good at recognizing ahead of time those that might lead to struggle and then avoiding them.

Recently I engaged in a conversation that has caused me struggle. One of the hardest pieces for me over the past year has been learning to deal with the love I still feel for my last pastor and the people of that church, and having absolutely no outlet to express it since they will not speak with me. In this conversation someone voiced an opinion they hold which left me conflicted. It is their right to hold their opinions, even if I do not agree with them. I do not believe this person had any intention of saying anything that would cause me to struggle, but the truth is it did.

Struggles come in all sorts of forms, and we don’t always know when they are headed our way. We can not always avoid them.

We can however prepare ahead of time to deal with them when they arrive.

In this situation, the root of my struggle is twofold 1) I am left asking what the biblical truth is about a specific subject 2) My heart aches that someone has spoke negatively about someone I care about, even if our relationship is currently broken and unresolved.

For the first issue, the best way to respond is through time in the Bible and in prayer. The Lord knows the truth and he can reveal it to me. He alone defines what truth is. Men may disagree, but the Lord knows how to take multiple scriptures that speak to different sides of an issue and to bring them together to make sense. I could have prepared ahead by spending more time in Scripture before this conversation, and by recognizing this area of uncertainty, however since I did not do that I need to turn to Scripture quickly and not let the questions and uncertainty fester and cause me confusion or distraction.

The second issue is more difficult for me to deal with in my relation to others. On my own, I have spent time mourning the loss of these relationships and allowing the Lord to minister to my heart. Each time this comes up I have to go back to him and allow the Lord to comfort me on a deeper level. I continue to try to reconcile the broken relationships and have to deal with the constant disappointment associated with that. I also have to protect my heart and soul from anger, resentment, and bitterness.

When I speak to others about my story I have faced some very hard conversations and pressure. Over and over again I have been told to have nothing to do with the people from my old church. I have been told to let go of the past and to move forward. I have had to listen to great criticism of others, and have faced a lot of criticism about how I have responded. There are some people I have encountered who hold a great deal of anger and bitterness in their hearts. They get angry about things that are not a part of their story due to resentment and offense they hold in their heart. I have been told to turn my back on others and to not work through the issues. I have been told it is okay to forget them. I have been told I am justified to feel angry, hurt, and to be unkind and unloving toward others.

I just can not agree! No matter what others have done or will do to me I have to choose to follow what the Lord has shown me love, sacrifice, and truth.

The Lord has changed my heart and healed it so deeply that I can not even understand much of what I have been told by others. I do not feel offense or anger. I do still live with the pain of the brokenness and disunity that exists. My heart desires love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Today my heart hurts. I wish the world would be a place where the only conversations I even could engage in would bless my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, life brings struggle, but I know that God can use every single struggle to bless, grow, change, and draw me to be more like him. That is where I want to go!

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I just finished rereading Faithquake by Doug Herman. Doug was a pastor when his wife was diagnosed with HIV. Later his daughter also contracted HIV and he and their son Josh lost wife/mother and daughter/sister within a short time period. The HIV came through a blood transfusion, through blood donated by someone who was participating in homosexual partnerships. The illness, journey, and loss of his family shook his faith and left him questioning things he had never looked at before.

There were times Doug wanted to give up.

There were times Doug was unsure about what he believed.

There were times when Doug was shaken.

“Quitting seems all too common today. Look at the divorce and suicide rates. Obviously many people are not content with their lives.  The actions range from dramatic to insignificant, but they are indicative of people who do not follow through.  And tempting though it was to give it all up during our Faithquake, Evon and I decided to stand.  For us that meant enduring the thoughtless a reactions of people.  It meant to we would continually seek medications and treatments in conjunction with our prayers for healing.  We had decided to stay and in our faith, continuing to seek god and worship him as Lord even though we didn’t understand him.  We could easily have given up, and though we were greatly tempted at times to do so, we stood instead.  Above all, in our efforts to stay, we had to fight another enormous temptation: spiritual anemia.”

“Anemia is a condition of the blood where a deficiency of hemoglobin accompanied by reduced red blood cell counts causes of weakness and breathlessness.  Anemia is expressed physically in decreased power, vigor, and vitality.  Spiritual anemia has parallel symptoms.  They are even more serious than the physical ones because they are soul-deep – of eternal significance.  This spiritually anemic person lacks the power, enthusiasm, and endurance of soul required not only to endure a Faithquake but to rebuild after having one.” (p70-71)

“If, in the face of crisis, you and I are anemic in the spiritual sense, we need a transfusion.  This must come from one who has already encountered the disease of sin and subdued it.  We need the blood of and overcomer-Jesus Christ.” (p73)

“When we experience a shaking in life, we feel it emotionally and struggle with that intellectually.  But spiritually we can survive intact when we live our lives in God’s presence.  This is the deep, inner communion with God where spiritual truths are found and strengthened.  It is here that we abide in the presence of Christ.  It is here that we cannot be shaken.  Sad to say, we often allow our spiritual security to find its foundation in elements other than Christ himself.  We may have all the training and heritage of Christianity, but we have never personally anchored our soul onto this immovable rock.  This is a situation I found myself in when we discovered that Evon was HIV positive.  I had been taught about Christ.  I knew him as savior and lord but not yet as Rock.  Thus, I was shaken.” (p88)

Doug chose to stand, stay, and believe. So should we!

Do you believe in Christ as Lord and Savior? Have you anchored your life to him as the rock that provides you stability in the storms of life?

One of the struggles I have wrestled through during my recovery over the last five years has been the idea of revenge or retaliation. It isn’t something I have come out and shared with others. It isn’t something I feel good about at all! It is that deep dark secret I have tried to hide because it shows me the depth of my heart and how sick it is. I have carried shame and guilt for these feelings. I have felt so despicable for the thoughts, but I have also had to come to terms with the fact that my feelings were real, and if I did not deal with them now they would just show up later in some other form.

What do I mean by revenge in the context of my spiritual abuse and struggle with church leaders?

I have been tempted to want to make them pay for what they did to me. I have wanted to tell others how I have been wronged in a manner that hurt and slandered the leaders.  I have wanted to smash windows, flatten tires, destroy property, slap them in public, or pour a drink over their head. The week I was suicidal I even thought about where I could die so they would find the body and feel the guilt over my death.

First, know that I feel horrible for every thought that went through my heart and mind. The thoughts were wrong! They were sinful! They hurt my relationship with those from my past church and they hurt my relationship with God. I have repented of those thoughts and have worked with God over why I ever even had to experience the thoughts and feelings, because while the world might tell me it is okay to think and feel them, just not to act on them (some would say it is even okay to act on them), I don’t feel that God’s word agrees. Yes I had been traumatized and hurt. Yes there are things others did that I consider wrong, but I did things wrong also. I can’t cast a stone at them knowing the sin and issues in my own life.

I haven’t known what to do with these thoughts and feelings though.

They were strongest at first. I was in so much pain from how I was mistreated that pain was all I could think of. My pain, wanting to give them pain. I knew it was wrong but I still thought it and felt it. I would try to force the feelings to go away. That doesn’t work. I would deny it was there. That doesn’t work. I would try to express it through writing or some other means. That at best was a temporary relief. I would lay awake at night feeling sick because of the thoughts. I would catch myself during the day wishing something bad upon someone.

Ultimately I had to deal with my heart. I had to make a choice to forgive. I had to make a choice to love. Even if they never spoke to me again I had to forgive them for me. My pain was eating me up inside and costing me tremendously. I had to find freedom because I was trapped in pain. I had to let go and surrender my right to get even. I had to surrender every vindictive, vial, cruel, hateful, evil, malicious, angry, painful, unloving thought and feeling.

It was hard! Very, very hard!

Today, I don’t live with the burden of revenge in my heart. I do not feel the hatred, but honestly feel love, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience moments where my heart wants to deceive and betray me again, especially if some new negative aspect arises. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still have to fight for forgiveness and love. It is a choice.

Every day I choose to love, I choose to forgive, I choose to hope for reconciliation.

The reconciliation likely will never come as the elders have cut me off from any further contact with the pastor, and this week they were supposed to finally present the charges against me  (that should have been given eight months ago), but that didn’t happen. However, because I have chosen love and because I have hope in Christ and the Gospel I have hope that some day their hearts will be drawn to the Lord and they will forgive.

Revenge …. retaliation … hatred … pain … … … I have given them up and am trying to live with my eyes on the Lord.

I have a confession to make. The condition of my heart is sick. I have been looking at it lately and have come to realize…

…my heart is hard
…my heart is selfish
…my heart is judgmental
…my heart holds anger, fear, insecurities
…my heart wants to listen to others even when God’s word tells me something else (in other words I make them false gods and idols)
…my heart deceives me and listens to untruth

I want to speak words of redemption to others.
I want to show love and grace.
I want to be content, peaceful, and feel hope and joy.
I want to stop being so sensitive to what others say, and to stand firm on God’s truth.

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34b)

I guess it is time to do some more work on making sure my heart is healthy, or my words will never be what I want.
Heart, it truly is the center of who we are.

Growing up my brother had a gorgeous cast metal chess set with the characters in the shape of great Italian sculptures. For example David was the king. I admired it regularly, but I never played it. The family I grew up in was pretty careful about the “chess game” they played. By that I am referring not to the actual game of chess, but to the way we walked relational conflict out.

I have recently been thinking about how relational conflict is like a game of chess. One person makes a move and the other person makes a counter move. The moves they make are directly in opposition to the other person because the goal is to win, to overtake, to take captive. Often when something goes wrong in a relationship we start playing chess. One person does something and the other person reacts instead of acts. They respond to what just happened as they are feeling confronted, defensive, frustrated, etc. What gets lost is where this all started. Somewhere in the past someone choose to pick up that first piece and start the game. Unfortunately it is a game with no winners!

I want to stop playing chess. I want to learn how to not react out of my emotions even when things are tense or difficult. I want to learn to look at the other person with a tender and loving heart and recognize they are a child of God (whether they are a believer or not they were still created by God and he would embrace them if they came to him). I want to learn to put down my weapons, my defenses, my pain…. to be vulnerable and open even if it means I am putting myself at jeopardy of further hurt. Ultimately what I am saying boils down to the condition of our hearts. If my heart is set on playing a game of chess and making counter moves toward my opponent instead of embracing my family in Christ and living in unity then all that will happen is destruction of myself, them, and Christ’s work. Oh how deeply I pray my heart can change.

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26″In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Eph 4:2-3, 17-18, 22-32)

I have been especially stuck in the above passage by verse 29. It says we are not to speak unwholesome talk. How we define that probably comes from our definition of what is unwholesome, but Paul continued on to describe that it includes speaking only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. In other words, we have to be focused, alert, and aware of what their needs are before we even speak! Wow do I have a lot to learn!

Have any of you learned things that have helped you change your heart and perspectives in this way? It is a paradigm shift but one that is well worth the price!

I was reviewing some material from the book Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan today. In looking at the foundation of our faith they speak to the fact that we need to take a hard look at our view of God. The image and perception of God that we hold shapes our entire spiritual life. Here are some examples they describe in the book as distorted images of God. Can you think of others that you might hold?

  • The Abusive god – tyrant, quick to anger, slow to forgive, wrathful, unapproachable, violent, cruel
  • The Abandoning god – left us or is threatening to, without love and grace
  • The Emotionally Distant god – does not care about our emotional needs, emotionally aloof, unable to give comfort
  • The Passive god – cannot help us, uncaring, impotent, lacking power, unreliable, no practical help
  • The god of Impossible Expectations – never please with us, expects performance, demands perfection

If thinking about these distorted images makes you a little uncomfortable then pay attention to your emotions. They may reveal some truths that are deep and underlying. Taking a deep look at your beliefs can lead to anxiety and discomfort, but usually that is due to the fact that you are recognizing something is wrong, that something needs to change. If you recognize you hold a distorted image of God in some way the next step is to look at how you can replace that image with the correct one. You can’t just throw out your distorted one and be left with nothing, you need to replace it with the truth of who God is and what his character is really like. You may wonder if there is any hope, that if you tear apart your spiritual beliefs that it will lie in ruins and will never be rebuilt. That concern is very understandable but it is only through examining the real foundations and being willing to look hard and be honest that you will start the hard work of recovery.

I am hoping and praying for your courage to take a step toward a recovered and truthful view of God. I have taken this journey myself and it was hard but the fruit that I now see as I have reached a healthier perspective is well worth all the struggle.

One of the areas I still struggle with in my recovery and healing is missing those I love so deeply and am no longer allowed to have relationship with. Others have made decisions about my life in a manner that control my ability to have open and free relationships which is hard. I don’t think that is God’s heart at all. He so desires for us to share in rich relationships, forgive and reconcile, and to love others no matter how hard. He never gives up on us and he doesn’t want us to give up on others.

This weekend has been an incredible time of healing and new steps forward for me. I am learning how to let my past die and be buried with Christ, and to open up myself to brand new opportunities. I am taking big steps forward in faith, surrender, and opening myself up to God in ways I have never been willing to before. It is exciting, hopeful, and yet scary also. I miss having people in my life to share times like this with. Some of my new friends would care, but not truly understand. I wish others who have known where I was could see me today. That wish does not come from a heart that wants to show off, put down others, or cause any pain. I just am so excited about the healing and hope God has given to me and I want to proclaim it and share it. I want God to be glorified! I want others to find the healing and hope that I have because after 4-1/2 years walking the hell I lived in spiritual confusion and pain I want to help others out of the confusion and disillusionment.

I was just listening to a version of The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman and there was a part of the song where it said, “You will not share your glory with another.” I guess that is what God is teaching me this morning. This is about him, all about him and about his glory. My recovery and healing is not in any way due to man, and no part of it is due to me! I am healed. I have new life. I am living testimony of a God who loves, saves, heals, gives hope, and restores. No pastor, church, leader, ministry, or person can have that glory. It ALL goes to the Lord Almighty, my Lord, Savior, King, and High Priest. How thankful I am to be able to give him all of that glory

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