Do I Trust You, Lord?

shrugContinued from here.

While I can choose not to judge the wounded and broken, that does not prevent others from doing this to me. I have been reeling for weeks as God is healing my post-traumatic stress at a deeper level. God is allowing the iron in my soul to surface so he can heal it, and it’s a painful process. Being judged for falling short of others’ expectations when it’s taking everything within me to stand upright (or even to stand at all) has been extremely painful, and I have been struggling with how to hold onto my faith and keep believing that God is working all of this pain for good.

I am spiritually mature enough to know that there’s no Plan B – either God will come through for me, or I’ll spend the rest of my life flattened. At this stage of my relationship with God, it’s not an option to walk away from Him, nor is it an option to stop following Him. And yet the weight of the emotional pain has been unbearable for weeks, with some Christians in my life heaping judgment on me when it’s taking everything within me simply to keep getting back up. How do I keep pressing on and following God amidst all of this?

God blessed me with KLOVEclassics.com, which has me listening to Christian songs that blessed me all the way back in the 1980’s. One particular gem has become my anthem during this incredibly painful season in my life: Twila Paris’ Do I Trust You?

I will be graduating soon with my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, so I particularly relate to this lyric:

I know the doctrine and theology, but right now they don’t mean much to me. This time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know: Do I trust You, Lord?”

I know the “go to” Bible verses for suffering and pain. I know that God will work this all for good. I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He is good. However, knowing all of this “doctrine and theology” isn’t much comfort to the wounded child inside – the little girl who experienced so much trauma and who, even after many years of therapy and healing work, is awash with deep-seated pain as God surfaces the iron in her soul to heal her. And that “doctrine and theology” isn’t helping as some Christians in my life – the very ones who should be extending me grace and praying me through this pain – are instead judging me in the place in my deepest vulnerability.

So, in the place between knowing what the Bible says and experiencing pain that threatens to break me … when the “doctrine and theology” aren’t making a difference … where is the way out? It’s found in a simple question: Do I trust you, Lord?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders with a thought bubble showing an emoticon shrugging its shoulders. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Extending Grace to the Wounded

blowing_heartsContinued from here.

Jesus told us not to judge lest we be judged and then went on to point out that all of us have blind spots that keep us from seeing someone else’s actions clearly. Here’s the thing that most people fail to realize: we tend to judge other people by their actions while extending ourselves grace because of the brokenness driving our actions. The reality is that we are ALL broken – that’s part of the human condition.

Let me give a specific example. When I hit puberty, I developed binge eating disorder to help me manage the emotional pain of years of severe childhood abuse. I could consume an entire bag of family-sized Dorito’s in one sitting because the act of binge eating “stuffed down” the emotional pain, giving me temporary relief. People who experienced no trauma in childhood and were raised by parents who taught them healthy eating patterns may not be able to relate to binge eating disorder. They may believe it’s just a PC way of justifying lack of self-control over food or ignorance about healthy eating. When I was 30 pounds overweight, they might have snickered as I walked by, making unkind remarks behind my back about how lazy I must be since I clearly don’t care about my body. Rather than seeing the whole picture of how my extra weight revealed very deep emotional pain, they judged my body size against their own experiences that did not include childhood trauma.

Conversely, I have never used illegal drugs. My compulsion was food, and while it made me fat, it provided me with ongoing, temporary relief from very deep emotional pain. Because illegal drugs are not a temptation for me, I could judge someone addicted to crack cocaine or meth, believing that illegal drugs should not be a temptation for them because it is not for me. When they are arrested and imprisoned for drug use, I could believe they deserve it, never realizing that the only reason I am not sharing a cell with them is because it’s not illegal to binge eat. We may share the same underlying brokenness from childhood and the same compulsion to harm our bodies to manage the pain, but because they are in prison while I am not, I could judge the same brokenness that others judge me for.

One lesson I have learned over the last month – after much pain – is that I must never judge the wounded … and we are ALL wounded. Instead, I must extend grace, even when I don’t understand. In fact, I’m frequently NOT going to understand, but I don’t need to understand the specifics to extend grace. I simply need to know that when people behave in unhealthy, unkind, or destructive ways, they are acting out of their brokenness. Brokenness needs grace, not judgment.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace blowing lots of hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

How to Extend Grace

praying_for_youContinued from here.

So, now that I know that I need to stop judging other people, how do I do it? The first step is to repent. I need to recognize that judging other people is sinful and ask God’s forgiveness.

Step two is to ask God to change my heart because I know myself – without God’s intervention, I’m going to keep sinning in this area. In my flesh, I am unable to live righteously. All that has changed within me has come from God. I ask Him to intervene and then take that first step of obedience, trusting that He will equip me to do what I cannot otherwise do myself.

The third step is to replace the sinful behavior with righteous behavior. The best way I have found to do this is to pray for the person every time I am tempted to judge him or her. So, whenever I have a negative thought about another person, I immediately ask forgiveness and then pray for that person. If I have 20 negative thoughts in a day, that turns into 20 prayers for that person instead. I have learned through experience that praying for someone softens my heart toward him or her, even if it is someone I have actively hated for decades.

When I find myself struggling with having to repent of judging someone repeatedly, I remind myself that I am equally as guilty. I think about the times that I have had similar feelings in my heart, regardless of whether they turned into external actions, and thank God for forgiving me for those evil thoughts. I remind myself that I am in no position to judge anyone else.

I also ask God to let me see the person through His eyes. Every person I am tempted to judge is someone who God loves, so I ask for God to reveal to me the parts that are lovable. I have found that I can behave lovingly, regardless of my own personal feelings, by inviting God’s love for that person into my heart to flow through me and out to the other person.

The Bible says I will be judged in the same way that I judge others, so I want to “judge others” through the lens of grace. God is the judge, not me. My role is to love and extend the same grace that God has extended to me.

[Graphic: Cartoon of kneeling by her bed in prayer under the words, “Praying for You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Extending Grace

welcomeContinued from here.

Now, let’s return to the table of grace. You are seated at the table with Jesus, who has forgiven all of your sins and set you free from who you used to be. Jesus has nailed all of your wrongdoings to the cross, taken your place in judgment, and invited you into a restored relationship with God at his table of mercy. And then Nikolas Cruz walks up, asking if the seat next to you is available for him. What is your response?

My flesh wants to scream no, but my spirit says yes – not because I want to extend grace, but because God loves him. Jesus died for him! Who I am to deny grace to someone God loves?

I don’t want to be like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18, who was shown mercy when he was unable to repay 10,000 bags of goal but then refused to extend that same grace to the person who owed him 100 silver coins. Instead, I want to be like the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume who recognized the depth of her own sin and fully appreciated the enormity of the grace she had received. May I never again take for granted the heavy price Jesus paid to free me from my debt!

The best way for me to show God my appreciation is to love the people he loves, which includes the unlovable, just as I was once unlovable. I need to stop judging people through the plank in my eye and, instead, allow God to remove the plank so I can see clearly. Once the plank is gone, my focus shifts from the sawdust in someone else’s eye to the wounds caused by the sawdust that God wants to heal. I stop seeing the sawdust and, instead, see the person who Jesus loved enough to die for. I stop seeing the actions and start seeing the person.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace peeking over a sign that says, “You’re welcome.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Room at the Table

tableContinued from here.

I know this topic is a tough one, but I hope you’ll stick with me and be blessed.

In my last blog entry, I asked whether Nikolas Cruz, accused of killing 17 people in a school shooting, is welcome at Jesus’ table of grace and concluded that he is. My flesh rebels against this thought because it wants to be the judge. However, as I discussed in my blog entry, in Jesus’ eyes, I am equally guilty of murder, despite never having physically murdered anyone, because I have hated my child abusers in my heart. My flesh points out that 17 people are dead because of Nikolas Cruz while all of my abusers continued to live their lives, so my judgment is that he is guilty while I am not. However, God is the judge, not me, and He finds me equally guilty. Thus, all of the negativity that I and the rest of the country want to pour onto Nikolas Cruz appropriately belong on my shoulders as well.

I’m not exploring this topic to make myself feel badly. Just the opposite – I want to celebrate the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s grace! Even shooting up a school and killing 17 people is not beyond the reach of the grace of God! Pause and let that soak in. Even something as heinous as slaughtering 17 people, most of whom where students, is not beyond the grace of God. God’s grace is bigger!

No matter what you have done, how many people you have hurt, or how badly you have destroyed your life, God’s grace is bigger! There’s a seat at Jesus’ table for you, even after all you have done. There’s nothing you can ever do – truly NOTHING – that is bigger than the power of God to forgive, heal, and restore you. Even the most despicable actions cannot overshadow the grace of God. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross paid for it all – even that!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing in front of a table, looking unsure. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Come to the Table

 

Continued from here.

I love the Sidewalk Prophets’ new song, Come to the Table. As an abused child, I always felt like there wasn’t a place at the table for me, so this metaphor is particularly powerful for me. Being invited to come to the table with Jesus resonates deeply within me.

However, I wonder how I would feel if I was already seated at the table, and Jesus invited Nikolas Cruz to sit next to me. Considering he is perhaps the most despised man in the United States right now after killing 17 people in a high school, is he welcome at the same table with Jesus? The Bible says yes:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

I don’t see a footnote in my Bible excluding school shooters from the “whoevers,” which means even they have a seat at Jesus’ table of mercy. That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?

My flesh wants to scream, “But he’s guilty!!” And he is. Even his own attorneys concede this. However, aren’t I equally as guilty? My flesh says, “Of course not! I have never killed anyone!” But the Bible disagrees:

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. ~ 1 John 3:15

Evil actions flow out of evil hearts, and God sees my heart. He knows every murderous thought I ever had toward my child abusers even though I never acted upon them outwardly. According to Jesus, I am a murderer even though nobody else would believe this about me because my evil heart did not become visible through evil action. While the World judges that Nikolas Cruz is guilty while I am not, we both stand equally guilty before God. That’s a sobering thought.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Embedded video of Sidewalk Prophets’ Come to the Table. Courtesy YouTube.]

Judge Not Lest You Be Judged

judgeOne of my personal challenges is not judging other people because in my flesh, I am an extremely judgmental person. I lived most of my life believing that the world should exist in a particular way, and then I judged people by the degree to which they aligned with my vision for the world. Ironically, I was miserable because I was so broken, so I was the last person in a position to make objective judgments about the ways that other people should live their lives. It’s not like I had the answers!

At the same time, I was extremely sensitive to other people’s opinions about me and despised being judged by them. They only saw one part of the situation. They didn’t know what was going on beneath the surface that led me to do the things that I did, so who were they to make judgments about me? And yet it never once crossed my mind when I judged other people, I was only seeing part of the situation and that they, like me, had things going on beneath the surface that I was unable to see.

Today, I marvel at my own hypocrisy, but at the time, I truly could not see it. I was the embodiment of what Jesus warned against in Matt. 7:1-5 about seeking to remove a speck of sawdust from someone else’s eye while I could not see the plank in my own eye. How self-deceptive I was not to see a telephone pole sticking out of my own eye while I judged others for the sawdust in theirs!

This reminds me of how Jacob saw clearly how Laban deceived him into marrying the wrong sister but did not make the connection to his deception of his own father. Perhaps the fact that his mother was involved in the deception helped him deceive himself. When people we love and respect encourage our deception, it can be easier to lie to ourselves about our behavior.

Let’s explore why Jesus told us “do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1).

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting in a judge’s chair above the word, “Judging.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]