Dealing with Particularly Annoying People

c'monContinued from here.

The more selfish someone else is, the more difficult it is to spend time with him or her … not just for you but for everyone else! That means the more selfish someone is, the more miserable and lonely that person is likely to be because other people are going to avoid having to interact with that person. As you grow in humility by deferring your preferences, you will find it easier to be in relationships with people that others find particularly annoying. This means you will be in a unique position to shine God’s love into the lives of people who might not otherwise be recipients of that love.

I have found that some of the most selfish people are those who have been deeply wounded. Boy, can I relate to that! When we are wounded, nothing seems more natural than to lick our wounds, which places our focus on ourselves. We don’t even realize the repellant effect our selfishness has on our relationships because we are too self-absorbed by our pain. The deeper the wounds, the more difficult it is to take our focus off them.

The key to healing our deepest wounds is not focusing on them – it’s shifting our focus to God and inviting Him to heal our wounds and deferring our preferences to others while we wait on that healing. God’s method of healing is not appealing to the selfish because it involves giving grace – extending forgiveness – to those who hurt us, and that’s really tough to do. I know firsthand because I lived in selfish hatred and unforgiveness for decades!

When I encounter a particularly annoying person, I remind myself that this person has likely experienced deep pain. I remember that I was once that person – deeply focused on my own pain and oblivious to the ways my self-absorption repelled other people. I ask God to fill me to overflowing with His love and to enable me to love this selfish person out of the overflow of His love for me. I am not responsible for generating the love – I would be in deep trouble if I was! My job is to love God, receive His love for me, and share the overflow of that love with the people around me. As I do this, God enables me to see past the selfishness and into their souls through His eyes of love.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips and saying, “C’mon.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

What Does Deferring Your Preferences Look Like?

u_rightContinued from here.

For me, the word “humility” was difficult to wrap my mind around. I had trouble understanding how to take this concept and put it into practice. C.S. Lewis got me pointed in the right direction with this quote:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

I used to believe I was a humble person because I had very low self-esteem, but I learned in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender that having a low opinion of yourself is just as prideful as having too high of an opinion of yourself. Pride is simply having yourself on your mind (or being selfish, self-absorbed, or self-focused). I was constantly on my mind as I meditated upon all of the things that were “wrong” with me.

So, I understood that I needed to get myself off my mind, but I did not know how to actually DO that. This is when the Holy Spirit “whispered” that I needed to start deferring my preferences, which is replacing thoughts of myself with thoughts of others. For example, I’ll defer the nicer chair to someone else or defer my preference for where to eat dinner to the other person. While this is something I used to do to manipulate the other person’s approval as a people pleaser, my motivation is now completely different. I love God enough to want to obey Him, and he told me to defer my preferences, so I choose to let the other person have his or her way because I love God. A huge difference is that the other person’s response is irrelevant whereas it was all that mattered in my people-pleasing days. Whether or not the other person notices or cares that I deferred my preferences, God notices.

Interestingly, even though I no longer get my own way most of the time, I am much happier. More specifically, I experience joy and peace that eluded me when I was selfish. I used to believe that getting what I wanted would make me happy, but I have actually found more happiness by choosing not getting what I want as I defer my preferences to the people around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking and saying, “U Right, U Right.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Engaging in Fasting

ill_do_itContinued from here.

If you have never engaged in any form of fasting, I strongly encourage you to try it. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, options for fasting are not limited to refraining from eating. What matters is that you are telling your body/sinful nature that it is no longer in charge by denying it something it wants and replacing that with a deeper connection with God. You will find that after a period of denying your sinful nature, your body will become less resistant to submitting to your spirit as you submit your spirit to God.

We live in a self-indulgent society, but we cannot allow the culture around us to drive our actions. Fasting is biblical and should be practiced, at least from time to time, by those who claim to be disciples of Christ. Jesus said that to be a disciple of Christ, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. So, what are you denying yourself? If your answer is nothing, you need to take an honest assessment of your life to determine whether you are truly a disciple of Jesus. Denying oneself is a requirement of discipleship.

While I will probably never look forward to seasons of fasting, I have grown to appreciate the value of this spiritual discipline and feel blessed to have this tool in my toolbox to help me get back on track when I find that I have loss spiritual ground. I accomplished (really God accomplished) more in one day of fasting than in the prior weeks of willpower and good intentions. God honors our actions of fasting and will work with us to help us get in alignment with Him.

Some forms of fasting, such as from words, are easier to do in solitude, so consider withdrawing from your life for a day as you engage in fasting. Adding the discipline of solitude to fasting can help supercharge the transition from your body/sinful nature being in charge to your spirit being in charge as you align with God. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips saying, “I’ll do it!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Fasting that Does Not Involve Food

shhContinued from here.

I was surprised to learn from Dallas Willard that fasting is not limited to food. An example he gave is fasting from words. Let’s say you struggle with “potty mouth” and that no matter how much willpower you use, you simply cannot help cussing people out when you become angry. Or let’s say you struggle with gossip. You have the best of intentions of controlling your tongue, but you simply cannot help yourself when the opportunity arises to pass along information that you know should be kept private. Willard’s advice is to fast from words!

The same principle of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus applies to this form of fasting. Set aside a full day to spend in solitude, and do not permit yourself to speak. For one full day, tell your tongue that it is not in charge: tongue submits to spirit, and spirit submits to God. A day of fasting from words invites God to realign your tongue so that it learns it is the tail, not the head. After engaging in this spiritual discipline, you will find it easier to control your tongue because your spirit is directing the tongue, not the other way around.

Fasting can apply to other areas of your life as well, such as fasting from secular television programming or music. The idea is to temporarily deny yourself something that indulges your body/sinful nature so you can, instead, honor God. You can apply different forms of fasting to any area of your life in which you wrestle with self-control. Perhaps this is what Paul was talking about regarding married couples depriving one another of their bodies for a time by mutual consent. Note that this denying of oneself is not done in a vacuum – the behavior is replaced by prayer.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “Shhhhh.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

My Personal Experience with Fasting

garbage_canContinued from here.

God has led me to fast a handful of times over the years, always when I was struggling with the misalignment of my body/flesh/sinful nature trying to be in charge. Most recently, this became an issue for me after being sick for 26 days in December 2017, when my cold transitioned over to an antibacterial-resistant sinus infection that took two rounds of antibiotics and a round of Prednisone to clear up. I engaged in as many spiritual disciplines as I could, but between the physical illness and the holidays, I attended church less, I served less, and I engaged less in meaningful praise and worship time.

I’m not beating myself up over any of this – it was simply my reality. When I am physically ill, some of the spiritual disciplines will be much more difficult for me to engage in, and some simply have to be put on hold, such as not attending church services when I am contagious. Regardless of how or why I got there, the end result was that I was much more “full of myself” after recovering from the illness. I found it much more difficult to be humble, and this was affecting my interpersonal relationships. I have found over the years that the more humble I am, the easier it is to be in personal relationships with prideful people. Conversely, when I am filled with pride myself, those same relationships can feel intolerable because both parties are filled with pride, leaving little room for God. I knew what the problem was, but lots of prayer and the best of intentions was not beating back my sinful nature. I was disappointed in myself for the lost ground, and feeling sorry for myself only fed my sinful nature. Thus, God called me to fast and accomplished in one day what I had been unable to do after weeks of prayer and good intentions.

For me, fasting is going on a liquid diet. I’ll buy a six-pack of Ensure, and I’ll drink an Ensure shake for each meal. Whenever my stomach growls, I’ll pray to God and remind myself that body submits to spirit, and spirit submits to God. By the next morning, I felt like I had awakened from a deep sleep. It was simply easier for me to stay focused on God instead of myself after a day of fasting.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking out of a garbage can. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Value of Fasting

Continued from here.

When I would read about fasting in the Bible, I saw it as people trying to communicate to God that they really, really, really wanted Him to intervene. They would pray, fast, and put on sackcloth and ashes. To me, this seemed like the child who says she will hold her breath until her face turns blue until the parent gives in. That’s not at all what fasting is about!

Dallas Willard is the one who taught me the value of fasting, such as in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. Fasting is a tool we can use to get our spirit, soul, and body correctly aligned. God designed us so that the body obeys the soul/spirit, which obeys God. That’s not how humans naturally live since the Fall, though. Instead, we let our bodies drive the train. Our bodies desire to consume something, and we allow our bodies to drive our emotions. We believe our emotions over God and indulge our bodies, which leads to sin or separation from God.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that reverses this process and teaches the body that it is not in charge. When we fast, we tell our bodies that they are the tail, not the head. In other words, we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. The body learns that it is not in control – that it must submit to the soul/spirit, which is submitting to God. As we choose to deny our bodies and follow Christ, our emotions change allegiance, reflecting our soul/spirit’s alignment with God rather than our body’s whims.

Paul struggled mightily with the battle between his body/flesh and his spirit. His sinful nature would lead him to do things that his spirit did not want to do. That’s the same battle that rages inside of all of us, and it’s a battle over which part of ourselves is in charge: our bodies or our spirits? Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps teach the body that it is no longer in charge.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

feed_my_face_notFasting is a spiritual discipline that I don’t often hear talked about from the pulpit, which is surprising considering how frequently fasting is mentioned in the Bible. A quick search of the term “fasting” on Biblegateway.com yielded 25 results. Fasting was done both collectively and individually. Jesus himself fasted. Considering the importance of fasting in the Bible, I’m surprised I don’t hear many lessons on it, and when I do, it’s generally in a book about spiritual disciplines where fasting is included in a list of other spiritual disciplines. Why is that?

I speculate that our self-indulgent culture has a lot to do with it. The last thing we want to hear about is depriving ourselves of anything, including food, and yet to be Jesus’ disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. What is fasting if not “denying ourselves?” Considering God’s plan for Christians is to become disciples of Christ and that denying oneself is an integral part of that process, why do we ignore what the Bible has to say about fasting?

I confess that fasting has never been one of my favorite spiritual disciplines, and it’s one I refused to engage in for most of my life. I have previously shared that I was enslaved to a binge eating disorder for most of my life, which is similar to bulimia but without the purging. Fasting was the absolute last thing I wanted to do because bingeing on food was how I managed my emotional pain. As I binged, I would temporarily “stuff down” the emotional pain. No way was I going to fast, which would provide me with no way to “stuff down” all I was feeling. I did not realize that fasting actually could have helped me heal from my eating disorder. I chose the idol of food over the Living God.

I have since learned how powerful of a tool fasting can be in helping us develop as disciples of Christ. I’ll share the value of fasting and my own personal experience with it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “Feed my face” with a symbol across it not to do it. Courtesy Bitmoji.]