Transition from Complexity to Simplicity

not_gonna_happenContinued from here.

When I was an immature Christian, I believed I was in control over my life. I had an infinite number of choices to make: my career, my friends, how to spend my time, etc. As my relationship with God has deepened, I have only one choice: to follow God. As God has “gotten into my business” in every aspect of my life, I only make one choice: obedience. He is the Master, and I am the servant. I go when and where He says go and stay when He says stay. I do what He tells me to do in His Word, no matter how unpopular or counter-cultural that action might be.

Letting go of control over my own life was very difficult for me. I was deeply hurt as a child because the people in authority over me harmed me greatly. I spent decades living with the aftereffects of the evil choices of those in authority over me, so I grew into an adult determined to be in control over my own life and make my own choices. Sadly, because I did not have one healthy emotional bone in my body, making my own choices resulted in walking into one emotional pit after another after another. I was miserable when I was making my own choices for my life.

In March 2013, I finally submitted to God’s authority, which greatly simplified my life. It really did not matter what I thought about a situation because I resolved to do what the Master told me to do, regardless of how I felt about it. This freed up so much mental energy because I no longer invested my time in mulling decisions over in my head to view the possibilities from different angles. Instead, I simply did what God told me to do, which was very simple but also very difficult in my flesh. I had “starve” my flesh by focusing my energy onto doing God’s will, no matter the cost.

It was simple to forgive my abusers: I prayed for them each morning and whenever I had a negative thought about them throughout the day. It was simple to humble myself in my marriage: I deferred my preferences for those of my husband. It was simple to submit to authority: I did what I was told to do, as long as this was not in opposition to God’s Word. None of this was easy, but each choice of obedience was surprisingly simple. I knew exactly what I needed to do.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning and saying, “Not gonna happen.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Growing Awareness of Selfishness and Grace

pay_attention_to_meContinued from here.

As my relationship with God has matured, I have become infinitely more aware of my sin and self-centeredness. When my relationship with God was immature, I believed I was an overall “good person,” almost to the point of martyrdom. I was quite the hero in my own head, having survived severe child abuse and broken the cycle for my son. I had done a lot of “good things,” such as serving on the Board of Directors for two nonprofits that provided support for adult survivors of child abuse. I was active in volunteer work and successful in my job. I was leading Bible studies through my church. I thought I was a really “good person” who was making a difference.

As my relationship with God has deepened, I have become painfully aware that my “goodness” and “righteous acts” are just filthy rags motivated by selfishness. Not a drop of goodness exists inside of me apart from God. While from the outside, I might appear to be a good person, my motivation for those “righteous acts” was frequently self-centeredness. For example, I might do something nice for another person, which looked godly from the outside. However, my heart was far from God because I had an agenda. I would make sacrifices for other people as a way to manipulate them into liking me so they wouldn’t leave. I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, but if I did enough “righteous acts” for someone else, perhaps the person would stay in my life despite my brokenness. Ultimately, I would burn myself out, and then the other person would leave as I stopped being useful, which reinforced my belief that I was fundamentally unlovable.

Today, because of my deep relationship with a holy God, I am keenly aware of my tendency toward selfishness, not only in my actions but also in my thoughts. However, I am also much more deeply aware of God’s grace. He loves me despite my natural selfishness. Because of His unfailing love, I choose to let go of my own agenda and, instead, ask what I can do for God and how. This results in God leading me to do righteous acts for others, but the motivation is very different. Instead of doing something kind to manipulate someone into liking me, I am extending kindness out of the overflow of the love that God has poured into me. The reaction of the other person does not matter because the motivation behind the extended kindness is my love for God. I am seeking nothing from the other person. If I receive kindness in return, that’s simply icing on the cake.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing cymbals and yelling,” Pay attention to me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Does a Deepening Relationship with God Become Easier or Harder?

questionSomeone recently asked me this question: “As your relationship with God has deepened, has it become easier or harder?” My response was, “Yes … and it has been completely worth it!”

My relationship with God deepened dramatically since I started tithing the first hour of my day to Him in March 2013. Since then, my walk with God has become both much easier and much harder, and I would not trade the last 4.5 years for anything!

A closer relationship with God is much harder from the perspective of the flesh. Submitting an area of my life to God involves starving the flesh and feeding the spirit, requiring my flesh to “die.” That’s not a fun process. It’s uncomfortable. It requires me to do things differently than how I have always done them. I must make different choices, denying myself things that I have previously allowed. Sometimes this choice affects other people, who don’t understand why I used to be OK with doing something and am now making different choices. I have lost relationships over this. I have experienced much loss as my relationship with God has deepened.

However, a closer relationship with God is much easier from the perspective of the spirit because it awakens me to who God created me to be. As I put to death an area of my life that I used to submit to the flesh, I experience life as God intended, which leads to much joy and peace. I release baggage that I did not even realize I was carrying around. My spirit feels “lighter,” and my walk becomes easier. I marvel that I ever valued what has been lost because what I have gained is of far more value.

My life has also become simpler as my relationship with God has deepened. When I was living my life by my sinful nature, I had an infinite number of choices. With God, there is only one: “Follow Me.” I have no agenda other than doing God’s will, so I no longer invest time into weighing out the pros and cons of my many options. God is the master, and I am the servant. Nothing is more simple than doing the one thing God tells me to do … it’s just not easy.

I’ll share some specific examples of ways that my deeper walk with God is both easier and harder. I have been doing this for 4.5 years, and I would not trade my walk with God for anything this world has to offer:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” ~ Phil. 3:7-9

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of a head shot of Grace with a question mark. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Experiencing Life through God

joyContinued from here.

If God had only transformed me from hating to loving myself, it would have been enough. If He had only released me from my emotional bondage through forgiving others, it would have been enough. If he had only healed the suicidal urges, it would have been enough. But those were just His starting points of an invitation to LIFE!

While I am glad that I’m not going to hell when I die, that fact is low on the list of reasons why I am excited to have a relationship with God. He has transformed me from death to life in many areas of my life, and He continues to do this by placing heavily on my heart that it’s time to make yet another change. Every change, no matter how difficult, is leading me to LIFE, and I’m happy to do it, even when it’s really hard for me, such as humbling myself in my marriage so God would breathe new life into those dry bones and submitting to my husband’s authority so God could bless my family as we align with His design for families. None of this has been easy – ALL of it has been life-changing!

God’s ways are LIFE, and the world’s ways are death. Every natural inclination our sinful nature entices us with leads to death. Our sinful nature lulls us into “falling asleep” to the ways of life through keeping us comfortable. I have accepted that I’ll likely never be comfortable in my life again, and that’s OK – I would rather be ALIVE! Life is growing, changing, and transforming into the image of Christ, and nothing about that is comfortable. It involves doing things God’s way – ways that run counter to the culture and are often not popular with the people around you, whose agendas are the ways of death.

I have given up a lot to follow God wholeheartedly – self-loathing, suicidal urges, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, anger, and bitterness. What I have gained is so much more – a close, deep, personal, and intimate love relationship with the Living God! I had to give up myself and what I want, replacing those desires with what God wants. My daily mantra is this:

Lord, help me not only to do what You call me to do, but to be who You call me to be.”

I have let go of my own plans, dreams, and desires and have made knowing God my desire. As I follow God wholeheartedly, He has changed my heart, giving me new desires that align with His. Of course, I don’t do this perfectly, but I do it authentically. God truly is the #1 desire of my heart – not what He can do for me but being in a close relationship with Him. He is the blessing, and He is who I seek.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and holding out her arms in joy. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Changing in Response to God’s Love

lifeContinued from here.

The spring and summer of 2013 was one of the best seasons of my life. After 44 years of feeling parched for the tiniest drops of love from others, I was completely saturated in God’s love for me. So many of the rough edges of my personality became smooth in response to experiencing endless love. I had believed that I was “too needy” because of my childhood trauma. I learned that God’s love was more than enough to meet not only my own needs but also the needs of everyone around me. I changed radically over this season, and numerous people commented on it. As Beth Moore had said at the Sacred Secrets Living Proof Live Event, secrets manifest. As I had changed what I did “in the secret” with God, the fruit of my life also changed.

If I could have stayed in this honeymoon phase for the rest of my life, being a Christian on fire for God would have been super easy. However, God wants us chasing Him not for what He gives us but, instead, for who He is. While I try not to compare my own experiences to those of other people, I would not be surprised to learn that experiencing such as long honeymoon phase is unusual. I was particularly broken, so God might have known I needed a particularly long honeymoon to heal enough to get to work. If your honeymoon phase does not last as long as mine did, don’t feel cheated. That was drinking milk, and God wants us moving on to eating solid food as soon as we are ready.

Once God had healed me enough through His unending love to begin eating sold food, God called me to do something I really did not want to do – first to forgive a friend who broke my heart and then to forgive my child abusers. As motivation, God asked if I loved Him more than I hated them. I had declared numerous times that I would never forgive my child abusers, but I chose to believe and obey God by praying for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for well over a year until I realized I had, in fact, forgiven them. I knew I had forgiven them because the pain was gone.

I learned through that experience that God’s ways are always best. He didn’t tell me to forgive because “it’s the right thing to do” – He had me to do it because forgiveness is the path to LIFE! When I declared that I would never forgive, I was declaring my own death sentence. God’s ways are LIFE, and forgiving is the vehicle God uses for healing our emotional wounds. Once I learned this about God, obeying Him because much easier because I learned firsthand that EVERYTHING God commands is to give me life.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on the beach next to a seagull beside the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

God is Found when We Seek Him Wholeheartedly

drawing_heartContinued from here.

I don’t remember how much time elapsed between my deciding to seek God with my whole heart and finding Him, but it did not take long. The only tangible marker I have is that by June 2013 (three months later), I realized that God had fully healed the suicidal urges that had plagued me every minute of the day since I was a teenager. That came after I was already giddy with God’s joy and peace for a period of time, so I must not have had to wait very long…perhaps a few days or weeks.

Part of seeking God involved choosing to believe Him over my own experience, and that was challenging for me. I needed something to do during my quiet time hour after giving God my list of things I wanted Him to do for me and completing my Bible study homework. Beth Moore had said that God loves me wholeheartedly while I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, so I figured that would be a good starting point. I looked up scriptures that talked about how much God loves me. I then downloaded several Christian songs that focused on how much God loves me and started singing along to those during my quiet time. I started looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying, “I love you” or “you are lovable,” even though I did not believe it. God used all of these simple acts of obedience to change my heart – to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

Meditating on God’s truth that He loves me radically changed everything. I experienced joy and peace as never before. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I had gone through life holding out a Dixie cup, asking people to please spare the tiniest drops of love. Even a few drops could help. Because so few drops ever fell in my cup, I spent my life feelings empty and dry. God poured gallons of love into my cup, overflowing the entire room! For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved, and this came not from someone in skin but from an invisible God who I met with morning after morning. I was so saturated with His love that I had plenty to give to anyone I came into contact with. I had no need to hoard it.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drawing a large heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Figuring out What to Do “in the Secret”

i_dont_knowContinued from here.

The first morning I tithed the first hour of my day to God, I didn’t know what to do. I was leading a Bible study, so I knew I could complete that work during this time, but that would not take the whole hour. I did not have a robust prayer life – it was mostly a laundry lists of things I wanted God to do for me, which was mostly healing my emotional pain and taking care of people in my life who I love. I wasn’t sure how to hang out with someone “without skin” for an hour.

I was authentic with God on that first day. I told Him that I’m here but don’t know what He wants me to do now that I am. I was used to rushing through my prayers at night before falling asleep, and I would squeeze in doing my Bible study homework between errands. So, having the luxury of a full hour enabled me to slow down with both and really “be there” in the moment instead of focused on whatever was next on my to-do list. I got more out of the Bible study homework because I could slow down and really soak in what I was reading. Since I ran out of things to ask God to do for me, I spent some time simply being quiet to invite God to speak to me.

I reminded God that He promises to be found if I seek Him with my whole heart:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jer. 29:13

I told God I did not know how to do this, but I wanted to learn. I said I was going to show up day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year until I find Him. That first hour was dedicated to Him, and I wanted to find Him.

To help me focus on this goal, I downloaded songs with a theme of “in the secret” – anything that talked about wanting to get to know God better, meeting Him in a hiding place, or anything else that would focus my thoughts on finding Him. I burned a CD of those songs and listened to it repeatedly so even throughout my day, my thoughts constantly returned to wanting to get to know God more. And then God showed up!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace scratching her head and saying, “I don’t know.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]