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.

Needy by Design

No one wants to be needy. But this one thing makes us needy and there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how hard we try. And we try really hard. We pretend really hard. But the one thing that makes us needy against all our best efforts to the contrary is… God’s Design.

God created us, like it or not, with basic human needs like being loved unconditionally. Like being welcomed and wanted. Like being touched in loving, respectful ways. Like being known, heard, and understood.

God created us needy to draw us into community. We are his image-bearers, after all (Genesis 1:26), and the Godhead himself lives in Community within himself.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” the Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:4. The word translated “one” at the end of that verse in the Hebrew is a plural oneness we don’t have in English. It is only used for God. The point is, the Trinity lives in community with himself. So if we’re his image-bearers, shouldn’t we live in community also? If fact, we reflect his image more when we’re in healthy community with each other than we do individually.

God created us to long for community with every fiber of our being, because it’s only with others that we find our completion, the fullness of our own identity.

But something’s gone wrong. We’ve been hurt by others. So we often decide we don’t want community. It’s too risky. It’s not safe.

So we hide from what we desperately long for. Hide ‘n’ seek is only fun when someone comes looking for you. If the person who’s “it” counts while we hide but then goes inside for a snack, leaving us in our hiding place, it’s no fun at all. It’s downright hurtful. It’s no fun hiding for long. Yet some of us have been hiding all our lives.

We hide with all our might while desperately yearning to be found. Sometimes we hide behind controlling everything and everyone. “They will only find what I want them to find.” Sometimes we hide behind perfectionism, behind being the good boy or the good girl. “I’ll be good so they won’t see who I really am.” Sometimes we hide behind bad behavior we know is wrong. “They’ll never come close enough to see the real me in here.” Sometimes we hide behind addictions to medicate the pain. “I won’t even see me in here. I won’t feel the pain.”

The only problem is, none of it works. And that’s the grace of God in our lives. He won’t let it work, for long at least. He keeps engineering situations and circumstances that undermine our best efforts to hide.

Like a loving parent playing hide ‘n’ seek with a child, he knows where we’re hiding. But instead of violating our hiding place, he’s standing in the middle of the yard saying, “All-y, All-y, all come free!” It’s safe to come out now. It’s safe to run to his loving arms. We have a choice to leave the false safety of our best hiding places, engineered to keep us safe by our own efforts but failing miserably. We have a choice to run to the true safety of his arms, a truly safe, but vulnerable, place where we’re not in control, but neither is our fear.

And that’s our choice, between fear or vulnerability.

So often God brings healing in the context of community, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be loved to life by imperfect people whom we are called to love to life in return. Yes, these imperfect people will still hurt us, but what we do with that hurt is different. We embrace it and give it to Jesus, rather than hiding from it. And he heals it. Occasionally we need to change communities to a healthier one. But more often God gives us his heart for the other person, and shows us how to love them to life.

How about you? Are you hiding in fear? Or have you embraced vulnerability in a safe, loving, community? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this post would bless someone else.

Fearful Control or Loving Confrontation

There’s a world of difference between controlling someone out of fear and confronting them out of love.

When we have to deal with someone else’s bad behavior, we have a choice. We can try to control the other person and manipulate them into doing the right thing. Control is hypocrisy because we’re trying, by sinful means, to get them to not sin. How do you think that’s going to work? God won’t bless that. The ends do not justify the means.

Or we can loving confront them, speaking vulnerably from our heart. We can say what needs to be said, as lovingly as possible, but still as directly as needed. Then we trust God to speak to their heart, and we give them the grace to be in process while they work it out with God.

Here’s an example.

Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He was afraid it would make him look bad. He was afraid she’d vent to someone else and her toxic spew would get back to the pastor, or worse, one of the church gossips. He was afraid she’d embarrass the family, and him most of all. He knew he had to do something about it. He had to take control, and out of his fear he tried to.

“Miranda, stop it!” he demanded the next time she started to spew. “I’m not going to listen to this! It’s wrong for you to spew like this about everybody! How can you even claim to be a Christian woman when this is what comes out of your mouth? You need to repent and stop talking like this right now!” Thomas knew he was in the right and his self-righteousness demanded instant change.

How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. But she was incensed more that Thomas didn’t even try to hear her heart. She wanted to change how she spoke about people, it didn’t make her feel good at all. But she didn’t want to be bullied by his control either. He made it harder than it already was for her to deal with her sin.

Ok, now, stop. Rewind. Replay.

Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He got up half an hour earlier than usual (3:30 AM instead of his usual 4:00 for the commute). He fasted breakfast, giving that 15 minutes to the Lord. So he had an extra 45 minutes each morning to pour out the pain and fear from his own heart to the Lord. He was determined to do this for as long as it took to get God’s strategy for dealing with this, but it only took a few days.

Almost immediately the Lord gave him a concern about what pain was in her heart that she was medicating by talking like this. He knew he had to say something about it. He had to confront her, and out of love he tried to.

“Miranda, wait a minute,” he risked the next time she started to spew. “Can I say something? I want to be there for you; I’m so glad you talk to me. I want to listen. I want to hear your heart. But I know this isn’t your heart for these people. You like these people, they’re our friends, but you talk down about them for hours. It’s starting to affect my relationship with them, because I find myself seeing them through this negative lens. But help me hear your heart. What are you afraid of? What’s wrong?” Thomas then prayed silently and put her in God’s hands. He left her and her response to God’s process, knowing even if she responded negatively now, God wasn’t done speaking to her heart. His love allowed her to be in process.

How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. And she was angry at him for bringing it up and calling her on it. It hurt. He was inviting her into dangerous vulnerability, which she desperately longed for but was also terrified of. But she knew he was right, that there was something deeper going on in her heart. Now Miranda had a choice. Would she go there, to that vulnerable place, or would she try to control and bully him back into listening to her vent without saying anything to her about it?

This post isn’t about Miranda. It’s about Thomas. The second Thomas above may not have done it perfectly, but he tried. He approached Miranda with loving confrontation, with the strategy he asked the Lord for, not fearful control. He left her response between her and God. He loved her enough, and trusted God enough, to allow her to be in the Holy Spirit’s process.

If something was wrong in your life, which approach would you prefer someone take with you? Personally, I’d prefer loving confrontation. I’ve had enough of fearful control to last a life time.

How about you? Have you been through this process on either side? We’d love to hear your story. And please share if you think this would be valuable to someone else.

The Power of Dropping Offenses

They could not have been more different. When Jack said “black,” John said “white.” When John said “black,” Jack said “white.” One drove a smart car, the other a hummer. One was rightly concerned about social justice, the other rightly concerned about government over-reach and losing freedoms. One loved the Washington Redskins, the other the Dallas Cowboys. What was God thinking when he brought these two men to the same church, working on the same committees? They both thought the other was really jacked up. They both passionately knew they were right in their convictions. They were both willing to die on their swords over being right. They could not have been more the same.

They were both offended. Offense is one of the greatest barriers to friendship in the church. Actually, offense is one of the greatest barriers to godliness in any sphere of life. For example, there is a huge Spirit of Offense operating in both political parties in America right now, playing us for fools against each other. But that’s another story. This story is about two men in the same church who can barely stand each other, offended, not over anything righteous like God would be, but over their own petty preferences, that only they valued so highly.

Whenever they got excited about something at church, darned if the other would show up too, and work on that same project. The other person sucked all the joy out of it for them, because they both chose to give the other that power over them. In fact, they ended up bumping into each other so often that they began to wonder what in heaven was going on. In fact, something in heaven was going on. Heaven had a plan.

God knew that one of these men was molested as a child by a family member they were taught they must respect. God knew the other had parents who demanded silent perfection. Neither had a voice growing up, and the pain of being treated as an object had traumatized them both. To one, something horribly bad had happened, and it shut down his heart. To the other, the daily lack of love, the daily lack of the necessary good thing, had slowly but surely sucked the life out of his heart. God knew these two stony hearts desperately needed each other.

Both marriages were about to collapse. Their wives were miserable, and neither of their wives respected them. One man was a servant with no boundaries, and his wife longed for him to stand up to her and lead. The other was oppressively over-bearing and his wife longed to be heard and have a voice herself. These men had much to teach each other.

In God’s economy, they each had something the other desperately needed. In such a friendship, they could speak hard truths to each other, within the safety of fraternal, brotherly love. God wanted to use those hard truths to work paradigm shifts in both men, bringing them into a new, exciting, and adventurous life they never dreamed possible.

There was only one thing standing in the way. Fear, manifesting as Pride, fed by Offense.

But God kept stacking the deck. John couldn’t worship without having Jack’s face pop into his thoughts. As God planned, it was beginning to drive John crazy. Jack couldn’t go to sleep without having some dream about John giving him something he desperately needed—the one person Jack didn’t want to be indebted to. God was on the move.

One day John bit the bullet and asked Jack for coffee after church. Much to his disappointment, Jack accepted. Jack wouldn’t let John be the righteous one by refusing the invite. Heaven cheated. God actually played their pride against them to bring them together. Whatever works.

During that first cup of coffee all hell broke loose. Literally. Lies and deceptions that demons had spent years building fell to the ground in moments, smashed into a million pieces as each man realized the other was not who they thought. Hell was quite upset. It was like Heaven had no regard at all for the years of hard work it took to stand up that delicate, but powerful, deceptive house of cards.

Letting their offenses against the other go in that first conversation over that first cup of coffee wasn’t easy. It was a blow to the pride of both men. They each had to consciously decide to drop their offenses, starve their pride, and risk being vulnerable. But, on the other hand, their pride hadn’t been working out so well for them lately, so they gave it a go. After a year, they were both enjoying a deep friendship so much more than they had ever enjoyed being right. It was worth it and not nearly as lonely.

How about us? Does God have a friend for us, whom we desperately need, that we’re too offended at to ask for coffee? Can we lay down our right to be right and be friends instead? Have you had this experience, on either end? Tell us in the comments and please share if you think this would bless someone else.

The Secret to Repairing a Relationship You’ve Damaged

We’ve all done it. We’ve damaged a relationship we cared about. We know we’re at fault, although we don’t like to admit it. How can we repair that relationship? Some would say it’s like feathers shaken out of a pillow on a mountaintop—you can never put them back in—it’s too late. I respectfully disagree. There is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow.

Relationships are like bank accounts. They have balances. When we damaged the relationship, we tipped the scale away from the other person. From their point-of-view, there’s a negative balance in the account. That’s why the relationship’s damaged. We need to make a deposit.

“Making it right” is not good enough. Maybe we broke or lost something that belonged to the other person. Just replacing the item is not enough, although that technically “makes it right” and undoes the thing we did. But really we just brought the negative balance back to zero. The other person went from a positive balance to zero—they still lost overall in the transaction. They’ve forgiven us at this point, but they still feel slighted in the transaction, which is why the relationship is damaged.

The secret is to make a deposit (or several deposits) great enough to get the other person above their previous positive balance. Once they feel the scales are tipped back in their favor, you’ve repaired the relationship.

Look at it from their point-of-view. Say my neighbor borrows my car, gets in a fender-bender, and has it repaired. He brings it back and says, “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. Here’s your car.” I thank him and forgive him, but am I going to let him borrow my car again? Nope. I feel slighted in the transaction. Now my car’s been in an accident. They never quite drive the same. My resale value is negatively affected, blah, blah, blah. While I’m thankful he at least fixed my car, the relationship is still damaged, because I feel like I’m still getting the short end of the stick.

But say he brings my car back and says this instead: “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. While it was in the shop, I took out your stock AM/FM radio and replaced it with a state-of-the-art, surround-sound, premium sound system, with a 6 CD disc changer. Here’s your car.” Now can he borrow my car again? Anytime he wants! And I hope he gets in an accident! Maybe I’ll get spinners next time. (Kudos to John Sandford, Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

You see how this works? It’s called Restitution. It’s the secret to repairing damaged relationships. You have to go over and above to do something the other person views as significant to tip the scales back in their favor. Restitution makes a deposit that takes the relationship balance back above where it was previously, in the other person’s eyes.

Here’s a couple more examples:

  • If broke your neighbor’s lawn mower, not only do you buy him a new one, top-of-the-line even if his other one was not, you buy him a top-of-the-line weed-whacker as well.
  • If you lost your friend’s book, not only do you replace it, searching high and low on eBay if you have to if it’s out of print, but you give her a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples. Here’s a non-monetary one.

  • Maybe you’ve said or did something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they normally do that you know they hate. Maybe you know they clean the bathrooms every Friday, so you get up at 4:00 AM every Friday so you can do it before going to work. How long? Forever. And you don’t say a word about it. Let them discover it.

Restitution is a sacrifice you make, could be monetary, could be effort, from a place of empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

Some caveats here:

  • It has to be something significant from the other person’s point-of-view, not from yours. It has to be something meaningful to them.
  • You can’t ask them—that just comes across as the manipulation it is. This might not seem fair, but think about it. Once you ask, you make it about you: “What box do I have to check to get on your good side again?” But that’s not fair! I can’t read their mind! No, but:
    • The Holy Spirit can, and will tell you the answer if you seek him out about it. God is totally into restoring relationships. That’s what that whole cross thing was about.
    • If you care enough about the relationship, you’ll put the effort into figuring it out. Trial ‘n’ error is ok.
  • You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them because you want something from them. You’ll truly broken and hurt, not because you feel guilty over what you’ve done, but honestly because of the pain you caused them. You hurt because they’re hurting, and you want to bless them not hurt them.
  • Don’t bother with narcissists. There are people that secretly rejoice inside when you do something negative to them. They hold that negative bank account over your head as a way to manipulate and control you, and no restitution you do is ever enough. I wrote this post with the assumption that the relationship you’re trying to repair is a healthy one. No relationship with a narcissist is a healthy one. Do whatever a reasonable person would accept, but don’t submit to any control a narcissist tries to exert beyond that. If they walk away from the relationship, let them.

The other person may or may not allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything the Holy Spirit lays on your heart to do. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s so worth it.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us your story in the comments. How did you repair that relationship? And please share if you think this would help someone else (share buttons below).

Peace Making vs Peace Keeping

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 are pretty self-explanatory, if very counter-intuitive. But there’s one in particular that’s often misunderstood. At least it was by me for a long time. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). But there’s a world of difference between peace making and peace keeping. I had them confused the majority of my life, and I’ve paid a high price for it.

When we mistakenly think Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace keepers…” we live by the ungodly principle of Peace At Any Price.

But wait a minute, I thought peace was a good thing! It is, that’s why peacemakers are blessed in the Kingdom and called sons of God. But Peace At Any Price is not a good thing at all. Peace At Any Price sacrifices the plan, wisdom, and calling of God to avoid conflict. It brings unity around a false peace. And false peace is not really peace at all – it’s oppression.

Peace making is bravely going into an interpersonal conflict and bringing the plan and the wisdom, not to mention the calling and the purpose, of God to it. If God’s wisdom is accepted, it brings true peace to the situation. However, if God’s wisdom is repeatedly rejected, then it’s time for godly conflict.

But peace keeping is quite different. Peace keeping is acquiescing to the situation. Peace keeping compromises (or outright silences) God’s plans and purposes. We trade God’s calling for peace in our interpersonal relationships. I confess I did this for a long time, and my family paid dearly for it.

By my observation, many husbands live by Peace At Any Price. It takes one to know one – I did for a long time. Too often we trade our vision for our family, and our place of leadership in our household, for peace in our home.

Now common sense here, that’s obviously not an excuse to lord it over your wife. And wives have a significant role and get valid downloads from God just like husbands do. But, c’mon guys, we need to be the spiritual leaders of our home, not our wives.

Peace At Any Price is institutionalized in the culture, even in the church, with regard to home and family. How many times have you heard people, even Christians, say one of these re-phrases of Peace At Any Price:

Happy wife, happy life. Translation: “Sell out your vision for your family in order to keep your wife happy.” Or you could say it this way: “Lack of conflict in your home is worth more than God’s calling on your family.” Sorry, but not true.

If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Translation: “If I don’t get my way, I’ll make my entire family miserable!” This is hardly the manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit in a godly woman’s life. Anybody out there still think this isn’t demonic?

Now please don’t flip out on me. This doesn’t mean a husband should just impose his vision on his family. It’s just as demonic for a husband to expect his wife to roll-over and practice Peace At Any Price. None of us, husband or wife, parent or child, teacher or student, should compromise or abandon what they know is God’s wisdom, calling, plan, and/or purpose on their lives or in any situation.

It comes down to this. Peace at Any Price, a.k.a., peace keeping, is just getting bullied, pure and simple. If you are living Peace At Any Price, you have let your God-given identity get shut down by a bully. You need to repent and stand up to the bully.

In a marriage, when we come out of being bullied, we don’t impose our calling on the other person. We don’t want to become the bully. Instead, we invite: “This is where God is calling me to go. I’m going there, and I’m inviting you to come along.” And we walk toward God’s calling on our life with an open hand back to the other person. They may take it or not; that’s on them. But we are walking toward our calling, and that brings true peace, in our heart if not to the situation.

Blessed are the peacemakers (not the peace keepers), for they will be called sons of God.

Does this hit home to you? Tell us your story in the comments? Are you living Peace At Any Price? Did you used to? How did you come out of it? Tell us in the comments, your story will help others. And if you think this article would bless someone else, please share it with the buttons below.

The Good Guy and Bad Guy Chairs

When someone has seriously wronged us, especially when they don’t acknowledge the wrong and their hurtful behavior still continues, it’s really easy to put them in the Bad Guy Chair. This automatically puts us in the Good Guy Chair. Which on the surface doesn’t seem so bad. After all, we’re the innocently wronged party here, right?

But there’s a catch. A subtle, tricky, deadly catch. Just like a hook is death to a fish, the God Guy Chair is one of Satan’s sneakiest and most deadly hooks to our spiritual growth and life in the Kingdom.

Because the Good Guy Chair has another name. A secret name. A hidden name. It’s real name. And you really don’t want to be in this chair:

The Victim Chair.

Nothing stunts our spiritual growth faster than a respite in the Victim Chair. Because holding the other person in the Bad Guy Chair sucks us into the Victim Chair with a force as deterministic as gravity. In fact, go ahead and call it Spiritual Gravity. Unforgiveness. And unforgiveness is the most effective spiritual growth killer in Satan’s arsenal.

Here’s the deception: We don’t think of ourselves as being unforgiving. We may have even overtly “forgiven” the other person. But secretly in our hearts, we haven’t. As long as we still consider them the Bad Guy, our unforgiveness holds them in the Bad Guy Chair, which holds us in the Victim Chair, which arrests our spiritual growth right there. It condemns us to a life of bitterness and victimization. Who wants that?

The trick is, the only way out of the Victim Chair is to release the other person from the Bad Guy Chair. But wait! You don’t know what they did to me! It was really, really bad!!! Yes, it was. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing the evil they did to you or pretending like it never happened.

They did something horrible to you. Hold them accountable for it with whatever (godly) means are at your disposal. Press charges if it’s a criminal act. Confront them. Set boundaries so they can’t hurt you again. Holding them accountable gives them opportunity to come out of their deception that caused them to hurt you in the first place. It also protects futures victims from becoming victims.

But here’s the point: They themselves are not the evil thing they did to you. It came out of their own pain and their own deceptions that they are living under. Hurt people hurt people. That does not justify what they did, and they are accountable for it. But coming to the realization that they are not the evil thing they did to you is the essence of true forgiveness. We are not what we do.

Then you finish forgiveness by praying blessing over them. Real blessing, not through gritted teeth. When you can do that, without that heart-twinge because you’re forcing it, you know you’ve released them from the Bad Guy Chair and so you’re out of the Victim Chair. Hallelujah! Let’s hear it for freedom!

The stages of forgiveness parallel the stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. So give yourself a break if you’re not ready to pray true blessing over them yet. Just keep moving in the right direction. Don’t short-change the process. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself grieve. Tell the Lord you want to want to and he’ll get you there.

Is this ringing a bell? Have you gone through this process of forgiveness? Is it something you’re working on? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you. Your story will help others. And please share on social media (click the appropriate share button below) if you think this would help someone else.

Who’s the Enemy?

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire? I sure have. Usually it comes from being deeply hurt. When we’re hurt and angry with another person, we often forget who the real enemy is. We easily get deceived into thinking the other person is the enemy.

There is an enemy. He wants to destroy both us and the other person with every fiber of his being. Satan, the prince of this world, is our real enemy. But we forget that in the heat of the moment.

Not knowing who the real enemy is condemns us right up front to fight a losing battle. Why? Because we’re fighting the wrong person with the wrong weapons. Once we get the real enemy right, we can fight effectively with a whole different strategy and a whole different armament. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4). This was brought home beautifully in the movie War Room which I highly recommend and strongly encourage everyone to see.

If this strikes a chord with you, pray with me: Lord, I repent this day for wrongly thinking ________ is the enemy. (Fill the blank for you.) They aren’t my enemy, Lord; they’re just a hurting person like me that you love. I acknowledge my true enemy is Satan, and I ask you Lord for your strategy against Satan in this situation. Help me be a blessing to ________ even when they aren’t to me.

This doesn’t justify the other person’s actions in hurting us nor absolve their responsibility. But it does help us understand they are confused about who the enemy is too. And so they’ve been tricked into reacting out of their wounding. Hurt people hurt people.

Does this resonate with you? Ever been down this road? Tell us your story in the comments.

The Vows of Victimhood

HeadShot Dave 100x100

Bob had a business meeting in Boston, and decided to drive instead of fly from his home in Washington, DC. His wife, Barb, called him to see how the road trip was going.

Barb: How’s the road trip going, Honey? Where are you?

Bob: I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Barb: Honey, you’re going the wrong way!

Bob: Yeah I know. I want to go north, but the car’s going south.

Barb: Who’s driving the car?

Bob: I am.

Barb: Then why are you going south?

Bob: I don’t want to. I want to go north. But the car got on the southbound ramp and won’t turn around. I’m worried I might be late for my meeting in Boston if the car goes to Florida.

Barb: Honey, turn the car around.

Bob: Hey, don’t judge me! I’m the victim here in this crazy situation! I want to go north; it’s not my fault the car’s going south!

Pretty jacked up, right? Bob’s words, saying he wants to go to Boston, all of his good intentions and planning, all of his heart-longing for it, aren’t going to get the car there. His actions are driving the car, not his words. If he ever wants to get to Boston, he needs to take responsibility for his actions and turn the car around. Pretty obvious, huh?

But we do this in our relationships all the time. We pursue our life-goals this way. It’s our actions that are driving our car and setting our destination – not our stated good intentions or our desires.

When we live this way, we’ve taken the Vows of Victimhood.

“I want to relate but not be hurt.” Although we say we want a relationship, we take steps by our actions to push people away. We decide we’re going to control the situation to keep from getting hurt, instead of trusting God to heal us through the hurt. And it turns out that our trying to control causes us worse hurt than the natural situation would have. But we blame the situation.

“I want to learn but not fail.” We say we want that promotion, but we’re not willing to learn the technology or acquire the skills or do anything different. We don’t want to risk failing. It’s as if Bob intentionally drove to Raleigh to avoid the traffic in New York City. He will avoid the traffic in New York City with this strategy, but he’s also not going to Boston.

Kudos to Dr William Clark from The Lay Counselor Institute for this excellent analogy.

Does this strike a chord with you? Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt? Tell us in the comments or send us a private message with the Contact Us link above. We really want to hear from you.

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