Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Give Yourself the Gift of Not about You

The Christmas rush. Do I have all the presents? All the food? Are all the decorations done? I hate the crowds, the lines, the traffic, because when I’m scampering to get my last-minute presents, they’re in the way of accomplishing my goal. I do commando shopping: get in, get the target, get out. My focus is on my objective. And that’s my problem. It’s all about me.

My best shopping trips are when I go into the store intentionally focused on making someone else’s day better. Determined to be Jesus to someone, I look for that grumpy face that’s forgotten it needs to smile. I have to be uber-intentional about it or it won’t happen. As an introvert, I can easily and happily slip in and slip out without talking to anyone and be quite happy about it. But I sense the Holy Spirit has a different agenda.

I’ve seen grumpy store clerks completely change their demeanor when I just said something nice to them that built them up, instead of tearing them down (2 Corinthians 10:8). I try to say something both empathic and complimentary. Like how hard it must be to be nice to inconsiderate shoppers all day, and what a good job they do at it. Like how they’re the unsung heroes of Christmas, and we really do appreciate them. Sometimes I apologize for taking them for granted.

It always gets me a smile. That’s become my new objective – to get a smile out of someone who looks stressed, to make someone else’s day. And that’s the best gift I buy for myself at the store – the gift of making it not about me. Best of all, it doesn’t cost me anything but a little intentionality.

I don’t think Jesus is frustrated by the crowds, the lines, or the traffic. But I don’t think about what Jesus thinks about often enough. I look at the crowds and see obstacles. He sees opportunities. He yearns to be with them, while I just want to avoid them. He has compassion on them because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

Yes, Christmas is about the Father giving us his son. Jesus came to give us his life for our salvation, so we could have abundant life (John 10:10). But that’s only the beginning. He also came to give us his heart so that life would be worth living, by serving others (that’s the “abundant” part).

So, when you run out in a panic to get that last-minute thing, celebrate Christmas’ abundance by going out of your way to make someone else’s day.

Does this resonate? Can you relate? Tell us your story in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this would make someone else’s day. Merry Christmas!

5 Steps to Embracing the Intimacy We’re Both Terrified of and Longing for

Are you ready to go deep today? Because in this post, I’m going to talk about what we all want and desperately need, but we’re all terribly afraid of. Deep down, sometimes way down there, we all want intimacy. But how can we embrace the intimacy we’re simultaneously longing for and terrified of?

Intimacy == Into Me See

 

We all want to know and be known. We were created in God’s image, after all. God is a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He’s in relationship with and within himself. We were created for relationship, with him and with others. And in relationship we reflect his image much fuller than we do individually (especially in a marriage, but in friendships, too).

We long to live out who we were created to be, but because of our wounding, we’re often terrified of it. We send conflicting messages like “come here, stay away!” Or maybe “come close, not that close!”

Because of our heart-wounds, often very early in life, we make judgements and believe lies about ourselves, about the world, and about God. Judgements and lies like:

  • “Men can’t be trusted.”
  • “People will reject me.”
  • “I’m dirty.”
  • “Emotions are bad.”

Then, in a desperate effort to protect our heart, rather than trust God with our pain, we make inner vows to protect our heart, in our own strength.

  • “I don’t need anyone. I will take of myself.”
  • “I’ll reject people before they reject me.”
  • “I’ll be what anyone else wants me to be so I’m accepted.”
  • “I won’t have emotions.”

Yes, we’re keeping ourselves safe this way. But we’re doing it by chaining ourselves into a dark dungeon of our own making. And living in a dark, dank dungeon brings its own pain, which we live with as the price for safety. Like a boat safely raised in dry dock, we never risk setting sail on the adventure we were created for.

How tragic is that! Fortunately, God has something better for us, and Jesus made a way with his sacrifice on the cross. Here’s 5 steps to escape from this prison we’ve made for ourselves.

1) Talk to your heart. We can discover these inner vows by, when we’re feeling afraid of a relationship, talking to our heart. Maybe the fear is masked by anger or rage or some other bad behavior to keep people away. But at the root, it’s fear, and if we’re honest with ourselves in a quiet moment, we know it. So find a quiet place, and ask yourself, “Heart, why are you afraid?” Then hush up and listen.

Now our mind, wanting to be helpful, will often jump in and answer the question with lots of rational reasons. If we’re getting words, rather than impressions or emotions or pictures or memories, it’s probably our mind and not our heart. You have to tell your mind to hush up, too. You can literally tell yourself, “Mind, thanks for trying to help, but I was talking to Heart. So just be quiet now and let Heart speak for itself.” Then listen. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart.

We’re not used to listening to our heart, so this can take a while sometimes. Maybe even a couple days or weeks. But keep asking your heart. And keep asking the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart. Some of us have buried our heart pretty deep. And often our heart doesn’t speak in words, so it can take some effort to figure it out.

2) Identify the benefit. Once we know what the lie is that we’ve believed, and what inner vow we took to protect our heart, we need one more piece of information. What benefit did we get from the inner vow? Somehow it’s protecting us from the pain (although causing us worse pain). Again, ask your heart, and ask the Holy Spirit.

3) Get the opposite of the lie. The next step is to ask God what’s the opposite of that lie for us. If we’re familiar with the Bible, he will often pop a scripture into our heads. The Bible is a promise book, after all. Pastors and other spiritually mature mentors can be tremendously helpful with this. The game here is to replace the lie with God’s truth.

Now we have a choice. We can keep believing the lie, falsely believing we’re in control. Or we can surrender control to God and accept his truth. It’s up to us.

4) Forgive the person who hurt us. Nothing keeps us in prison like unforgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending they didn’t do evil to us. It’s coming to the place where they are not the evil they did to us. We know we’ve finished forgiveness (which is a process, not an event) when we can pray blessing over the person and mean it.

5) Replace the lie with the truth through repentance. Finally, repent of that vow and break it. We need to repent of the vow, and renounce the benefit we’re getting from it. Replace the lie we believed with God’s truth. Here’s a sample prayer. Use this as a template and make it your own.

Lord, I forgive _____ for _____. I repent of believing the lie that _____, and I repent and renounce the inner vow I made, _____. I renounce the benefit I got from that inner vow of _____. I’m now trusting you with my heart instead trying to protect it myself.

This is how we start living in freedom and embracing intimacy with God and others around us. But freedom can be scary, because we’re not in control anymore. We’re living by dangerous faith. Yes, it’s dangerous. Living this way will change us. But don’t worry, it’s good. It is so worth it.

What do you think? Does this resonate? Please tell us in the comments and share it on social media. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

How to Be Hopeful without Being Impatient

We all hate to wait. We live in a culture where we want the microwave to cook faster. And often we treat our relationships like that. Let’s just cut to the chase. But that’s not how relationships work. We can do grave damage trying to take short cuts in our impatience.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Sometimes other people just need to understand how right I am! And so I tell them, in love, of course. But it never goes well; I can’t imagine why. It’s almost like the Holy Spirit doesn’t care about getting to the right answer as much as he cares about the process of getting there.

And you know what frustrates me the most, the very most frustrating thing about the Holy Spirit? He’s not in a hurry. Doesn’t he realize my relationships are on a tight schedule, here? After all, I have in my planner that this relationship was supposed to be fixed by November.

The problem is, God is on his own schedule, and he doesn’t ask for my input. Of all the nerve! He acts like he’s God or something.

It’s kind of like Gandalf tongue-in-cheek rebuking Frodo at the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings movie (The Fellowship of the Ring).

“A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Neither is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”

God’s like that. Never late. Thank goodness. Always on-time. I can live with that. Never early. Now that’s just downright annoying!

Sometimes people have to figure things out for themselves by experience. This can be very frustrating, for example, for parents. We have all this truly great advice that can save our children a world of heartache, hurt, and bruising if they’d only listen. But I had a very wise woman tell me, “We have to let our kids live their own adventure.”

The fact is, my getting antsy and impatient is not going to speed God up. Truth be told, if anything, it might actually slow him down, because now he’s wanting to do something in me, to replace my impatience with faith. And so in his great mercy, he’s going to give me ample opportunities to practice faith over impatience, much to my consternation, and finally, if he gets his way, much to my surrender.

I’m not saying we sit back and be lazy and just wait for God to drop stuff in our lap. That’s obviously not how it works either. Clarity so often comes with action. We often have to do something, try and fail, and then try and fail again, to discover the destiny God has for us.

But I am saying this. We can take action and do stuff, but we don’t need to bring along the stress and pressure of our impatience. My stress and impatience comes when I take up responsibility for the outcome, instead of leaving it in God’s hands where it belongs. Taking responsibility for something that, deep down, we fundamentally know is out of our control is really stressful.

When we finally truly trust God for the outcome of the actions we’re taking, we can be hopeful without being impatient.

How about you? Are you more often impatient or hopeful? Tell us in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this post would be helpful to someone else.