Christian Living

Love lives differently

This week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, we’ve been talking about starting new things. As I was reading through my journal, I was reminded of this great chart Priscilla Shirer has in her Bible study on the Sabbath, Breathe. If you haven’t done it, I highly, highly recommend it!

Priscilla starts her book with a quote from Harriet Tubman: “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” Isn’t that the truth? A person has to know they’re in bondage before they can get free. And sometimes, the only way to tell whether you’re in bondage to something is to take a break from it. Can you go without coffee for one day? Can you go without computer games for one day? What about sugar? Or TV? Or [insert your go-to method of dealing with stress]?

So often, we are slaves and we don’t even know it. It’s an excellent strategy for keeping us ineffective and unproductive in our faith.

Anyway! Priscilla has this great chart in Breathe. Take a look (& take the time to read through it slowly and thoughtfully):

Slave hoard–Free people give.
Slaves live fearfully–Free people live lovingly.
Slaves live with closed fists–Free people live with open hands.
Slaves live from a posture of lack–Free people live from a posture of abundance.
Slaves live from a  stance of deficiency–Free people live from a place of holy expectation.
Slaves never think they have enough–Free people believe that whatever they don’t have, God will graciously, miraculously, and abundantly give in His timing.
Slaves keep going–Free people can willingly discipline themselves to stop.

Breathe, p. 76

 

Slaves live out of fear. Fear is one of the big reasons I don’t start new things. It’s scary to do something outside of my comfort zone. Uncomfortable by definition. But that’s not who God has called us to be.

Re-reading through this chart, I found myself wondering what new things I would start now if I was living out of love rather than fear. I mean, I have things on my radar to start if we ever have the finances to do it (for example, a trauma house or a scholarship for natural health). But what about now?

Maybe it would be as simple as being a little more open in my relationships. Or maybe I’d be a little more relaxed about my schedule–that’s definitely something I tend to hang onto with a white-knuckled fist. Or maybe I’d jump into something insane like actually publishing my second book (it’s been languishing on my computer). There are loads of things we could be doing at any given moment. You don’t have to do what you did yesterday–you could quit your job and join a circus. I wonder what we’d learn about ourselves and what God’s called us to do if we were a little more open-minded about how our lives could change.

There’s this great clip of Will Smith talking about fear and skydiving. He points out that so much of our fear is leading up to the thing. We wreck our lives being terrified of things that haven’t even happened–missing meals and sleep and not enjoying time with the people we love out of dread for something that we aren’t doing in that moment. And then, often, we find (if we do the thing we’re scared of) that it wasn’t as scary as we made it out to be ahead of time.

So how about you? Where are you living out of fear? And what would it look like if you were instead living out of love? What new things would you start?

Blog_ Love lives differently-2

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The Mechanics of Fear

A couple weeks ago my kids ended up in a ghost-story telling session–it definitely prompted some interesting discussions. One of the things we talked about is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in my own life. Have you ever considered how fear works?

As I’ve mentioned before, I love David Eddings’ series that begins with The Belgariad. It’s one that I read regularly. At the end of The Mallorean (which is a continuation of The Belgariad), Eddings’ characters talk about one of the differences between the light side and the dark side: that the child of the light is surrounded by companions who all help accomplish the task whereas the child of the dark stands alone, working with minions rather than companions, if they work with anyone.

The characters realize the dark evens out this disparity utilizing nightmares and madness, that the dark fights a mental battle–one that causes them to fight themselves. I think this is a very apt portrayal of fear. I’m not talking about caution here; we need a healthy dose of caution to keep us from doing dumb things–as Dr. McCoy says, “Fear of death is what keeps us alive.” 😉

However, the Bible says God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Or how about 1 John 5:8, “Perfect love casts out fear”? Because of who God is and who we are as His children, fear is not supposed to rule our lives. I’m sure there are various reasons for that, but fighting ourselves is, in my opinion, a big one.

Maybe it’s just having lived in a state of fear for a long time and seeing the deleterious effects spread to every area of my life… but I firmly believe we don’t have time to waste on fear–nor do we really want the consequences. My kids and I were talking about how if you stay awake because you’re afraid of a ghost coming in while you sleep, you end up fighting yourself. You keep yourself awake. You make yourself miserable. And all for something that’s not likely to happen.

Fear works well to mess up our lives, but not because of something happening. It works because it turns our own imaginations against us and causes us to self-destruct.

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The Other Side

So I started doing Beth Moore’s Psalms of Ascent study again–it’s my third time through. I actually really love using the same bible study book over and over. I use a different colored pen and date when I’m doing the study, so I can really see how what was stressful or important has changed. It gives me the sense that I’m growing, that life is moving forward.

Anyway! This morning I came across this little note that jogged my memory. It was about emotions and what’s on the other side. My example was fear of spiders–it’s a nice generic emotion, right? When you’re facing the fear, all you see is the fear itself–how gross or scary spiders are or maybe there’s something deeper, like some trauma you experienced as a child (e.g., in Harry Potter where Fred and George turn Ron’s teddy bear into a spider when he was young).

But what’s on the flip side of that? Spiders are actually a testament to God’s creativity and can be a reminder that God protects us all the time, that He’s sovereign and present. When you add in faith and love and surrender, there’s a whole different side to the fear–one that shows us more about who God is and who we are.

I believe that all the rest of our emotions are the same way. When I’m feeling overwhelmed without how busy I am, it can remind me to slow down and that God is really the scheduler of my day so there’s no point in freaking out.

I love the idea that we’re not just stuck with our emotions–that emotions exist to change us, to move us, to draw us closer to God, rather than to exist for themselves. It’s fascinating when you start studying the neurobiology of emotion and all the neural pathways and chemical composition of emotions. Every emotion does something to us on a physical level, but it also changes who we are and how we respond to a situation (both in the present and in the future). And once we allow the emotion to sweep through us and transform us, it goes away. This is incredible to me because I spent a good chunk of my life suppressing things over and over and over–shockingly enough, when you do that, the emotion never goes away.

So, challenge for the week: At some point, when we’re feeling something, let’s stop and think about what the other side of the emotion is. What does it tell us about who we are and who God is? And is that accurate or do we need to broaden the information our emotion is based on?

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The Life of a Victim

Today I looked out the window and I saw a tree. A deformed gnome, squatting and scraggly. It’s been growing too close to a building. The tree didn’t choose to be planted there. The tree didn’t choose to have the sun blocked out for much of the day. The tree didn’t choose to have its branches sheared away when they got too close to the building.

The building is scheduled for removal and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the tree. Will it be so accustomed to surviving with the building there that it stays a deformed gnome? Will it ever gain the courage to stretch out its branches, despite the fact that every other time it’s done so they get cut off? If I come back in a year, will the tree look the same–constrained by all the choices it didn’t have before now, trapped in a reality that exists only in the tree’s memory?

It’s a terrifying thing to break free from the past and there are days when I’m completely unable to discern reality. Do I have a choice? Do I dare make the choice? Or am I so conditioned by my previous traumas that I passively keep making the same supposedly safe choice over and over just because I don’t know, can’t know, that the building is gone now? Stretching my branches to the heavens is a terrifying task. But I can’t know in my being that it’s safe until I try it.

That is the catch-22 of being a victim. There is no safety. There are a only a host of terrifying choices and a mind that can no longer tell the difference between survival and thriving. There is only the day-in, day-out decision between having the courage to try again–to fight the fear of history repeating itself and do something that may cost you another part of your self; the same something that has already cost you a part of your self in the past–or to live as a pale, deformed shadow of the being you were created to be. Alive, but not living. Safe, but terrified. Alone, closed-off, without a welcoming embrace, unable to give oxygen and shade. Or to do neither–to escape from it all because the choice is too hard, whether that’s via alcohol, sex, drugs, computer games, work, books, TV, food, or some other coping mechanism–to make different bad choices because you’re so busy trying to avoid making any choices.

The sad part is that as a victim, I actually miss my building on some level. I may not have been safe, but things were familiar–I knew how to survive. Now I don’t know. I can’t even tell how to grow without it there. The world is safer, but it’s not. It’s full of unknowns.

The life of a victim has no easy choices.

Movies

Frozen

Last week we took our girls to see Disney’s Frozen for Christmas and I loved it! As in, I told my husband I want my own copy so the girls can’t take it with them when they get old enough to move out. If I had the chance, I think I’d watch this one more times in theater than I did The Matrix (8 times). This movie had good music and good acting, but if you’re like me, what you really care about are the redemptive themes. Frozen more than delivered in that respect! It had some amazing themes in it and has sparked some great conversations with our children. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know what happens, go see it and then read this 🙂

One of my favorite things was how the Frozen folks defined love in this movie: sacrificing for someone else, whether that’s in the context of romantic relationships or anywhere else, and then they showed it with Kristoff, Olaf, Anna, and Elsa. The trolls talked about how you can’t really change people, but when you love them, they change themselves–and they talked about how we need this kind of love from family and friends and in the context of romance; we’re all “fixer-uppers.” We regularly talk to our girls about how humans are incapable of loving on their own (1 John 4:19; Galatians 5:22-23). God initiates love and that transforms us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pass along God’s love and others are transformed. And then, of course, Disney hit the sacrificial love that saves Anna at the end, just as Christ’s sacrifice saves us. Love transforms us as we are loved AND as we love. So beautiful!

I also loved how Elsa’s parents thought they were protecting her (and everyone else) by isolating her and teaching “conceal, don’t feel” her magic, but at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. She’s trying so hard to control things. We had a great conversation with our daughters about how feelings are like that. When you lock them up inside you, they explode out and end up hurting people at some point. Instead we need to love and then share our feelings in the context of relationship. I could also really relate with the family dynamics of keeping secrets as a self/others-protective mechanism that ends up sucking the life out of and isolating those involved in the secret. Love is where it’s at.

Another amazing theme was freedom. Elsa feels trapped in her room/her power (or as she calls it, her “curse”) and then she sings about how she’s finally free when she goes up on the mountain alone and can let that part of herself out. She is free in the sense that she is finally using her power, similarly to how she used it in her childhood. She’s no longer pretending to be someone she isn’t and it changes her. I love how Disney visually showed this by switching up Elsa’s costume from a very straight-laced look to very flowey hair and dress. By changing her circumstances, it provides her with outward freedom to be herself, which is a step in the right direction, but later she realizes she’s not really free there either because she brought her own internal storm with her. It’s only once she learns to love and be loved that she’s really free. So beautiful to see a Disney film talk about how circumstances don’t determine our happiness, peace, etc.–that freedom is about being free from our own personal demons. And then combining that with her honesty about herself–Elsa ends up free because she lives out who she is AND deals with her internal storm. She lives a wide open life in a spacious place. I was really convicted by this theme. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about how people can’t see what God is doing in us if we don’t live wide open lives. But it takes having time to be anchored in the reality of who we are. I’m not sure that Elsa would have been able to handle things as well if she hadn’t had that time alone where she was exploring her power. I have a short memory so I need time every single day to be alone, to sit in God’s presence and know who I am and who He is, to re-create that space in my soul. Only then am I able to love in truth. Otherwise I’m hemmed in on every side with no margin.

The Frozen folks also addressed fear and control and how the opposite of fear is love. Elsa and her parents are motivated by fear after the accident with Anna. Fear causes them to focus on control. They think they’re loving Anna and others by living out of fear, but as I said before, at the end Elsa discovers love is what protects people. I thought Disney did a great job of juxtaposing fear and love and how control is an illusion. Control promises to fix things, but all it does is hide the problems. And once you have some control you end up needing more and more to deal with the problem… it becomes a never-ending cycle. As a person with PTSD, this is a lesson I feel like I need to hear every single day. My natural response is to run to control because it seems like it’s the road to security, but I’ve learned that my heart is the problem.

I also liked that the bad guy didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Usually you can guess who it is from the get go, but the sudden reverse of Hans provided a great opportunity to talk to our girls about giving people time to show who they really are. Maybe it’s my background, but I think it’s important to teach kids to be wise in who they trust–obviously, it’s important not to swing to the side of teaching them to fear. Hans is also a great opportunity to talk about how having a hungry soul makes you vulnerable. He even tells Anna that he was able to fool her because she was so desperate for love. It’s sad, but she practically fools herself. I’m not saying that her situation didn’t come into play; obviously the fact that she was alone for years was a big part of why she was willing to give herself to whomever came along. However, from a spiritual perspective, having a satisfied soul is a great way to safeguard oneself from bad relationships, bad choices, and the like.

I think it’s very telling that Frozen did so well in box offices. When a storyteller connects with the themes of God’s bigger story and the way He made the world to work, people connect with it on a heart level. Suddenly they can picture themselves as this character or that character (and I think it’s very telling to see which characters they relate with–my daughters each picked a different character as their favorite, one that matched up well with where they’re at!). So, if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to watch this beautiful story and think about who you are.