Grow Up

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1Corinthians13:11

A little over a week ago I went to a one day retreat at my church. I’ve gone to a lot of different things similar to it. Each time pouring out my heart about the same issues over and over again. Each time I think I’ve made more and more progress, but this time was different. I always go up for prayer at events like this. My thinking is always that even if I don’t feel like I need prayer, there’s a good chance I actually do and I’m just not aware of it. I just never want to pass up the opportunity. So I was going into this service with the same thinking. The first part of the teaching was about letting go of control and letting God be God. I for sure went up for that. Then the next teaching about rejection came. I thought for sure when it started that this is definitely an issue that I need more prayer for. Rejection is always a reoccurring thing for me internally and something I was dealing with the week leading up to the retreat. But as the teaching ended and the worship music started for people to go up for prayer, I felt like God was telling me not to go. I felt like He showed me that I needed to stop going up for prayer for this issue and treating it like it’s still happening. That it was time to finally, fully let it go and trust Him and move on. To keep going back for prayer about it hundreds of times is like when a kid continues to ask his/her mom to pour a drink for them even though he/she is ten years old and more than capable of doing it on their own.

Let me be clear, God ALWAYS wants us to come to Him. Period. If I had chosen to still go up for prayer anyway God would not have been mad at me and turned me away. Just like a parent doesn’t want their child to stop coming to them for help when it’s needed. But there comes a time when you reach maturity and you handle your stuff differently. Spiritual maturity is the same thing. God didn’t turn me away, He handled me as a mature adult and walked me through as an adult. Instead of going up I stayed in my seat and released the whole past situation to Him fully, acknowledging that I could trust Him with it. He walked me through it. I had to stop reacting in the same past emotions and take the full knowledge that I have of God’s character and what He says and choose to believe it instead of thinking my stuff is hopeless. When we don’t believe His word and character and continue to just sit in our stuff, we really are just working against Him.

There reaches a point in each of our walks when it’s time to grow up and let these childhood hurts, emotions, and reactions go. To stop handling life as a child and to walk in the reality of being an actual adult. The only thing that is supposed to remain childlike in us is our trust in God. And just like a good parent, the only reason that He wants it this way is for our own good. Without growth, there really can be no real healing. We hold ourselves back and keep ourselves miserable when God is trying to show us that there is MORE to life than this. There is life beyond the past issues. There is actual freedom we can be living in. That we can trust ALL our every day and past problems with Him. We just have to see it and make the choice to trust Him.

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Preparation

I think everyone knows the David and Goliath story. It’s about a teenage boy that stands up to a super big man that an entire army is too afraid to fight. He ends up taking Goliath down with a slingshot to the head. No one believed in David. Of all the people they thought could take down a giant, an unknown teenage boy was last on the list.

“‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Saul replied. ‘There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.’ But David persisted. ‘I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,’ he said. ‘When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!'” 1Samuel 17:33-37a

I think it’s so interesting how God prepares us for the things to come. These trials that come against us like a car breaking down, a job loss, our kids having trouble in school, etc, they ALL have a purpose. They are all training and preparing our character to be able to handle what God has for us. I have no doubt that there were many times that David sat out with the sheep and goats and wished he could be doing something more. Like his brothers, out at war, seeming to be doing something so significant. But God is so faithful. He finds us right in the middle of mundane and ordinary. He found David in the middle of being a faithful son,working for his dad and presented him with these “opportunities” for preparation. I know that he couldn’t have felt like fighting lions and bears was really this great gift from God, but look at the outcome. David was able to have full confidence in God to rescue him out of ANY situation BECAUSE of all those past hard times.

As I’ve said before, I deal with a bad back. I can’t really work more than a few days a week and even then it can sometimes randomly take me out and I’ll have to miss those days even. Financially, depending on my income can really be up in the air. This is a regular trial that I have to deal with that I don’t really enjoy BUT one thing I can say that I’ve gotten from it is more faith in God to provide. Time after time this past year He has come through for us. Every time something happens and money is supposed to be really low and put us in the negative, randomly Tim gets an opportunity for over time or money just comes in from somewhere. It’s hands down been every single time. He has provided in such huge ways. I still stay responsible and plan for when there is money loss, I don’t just get lazy and act like I don’t have to work now because God will handle it. If I did, then the whole point of what God is trying to do in the situation would be lost. But I have actual peace and trust when it happens now. If I need to let myself take a day and heal, then I’m much quicker to listen to that need and actually take the day instead of push myself just to make the money. It has shown me that I can believe in God for bigger and better. That I can trust Him even when things seem impossible. So now when trials come up against me I can be confident in His protection, provision, and love for me.

Point being that trials prepare us. Trials build our character. But we have to be open to what God is trying to do. David had every opportunity to become bitter. The youngest son, left out in the field, dealing with protecting sheep, putting his life in danger, being unappreciated and not believed in. But he didn’t become bitter and angry. He stayed sensitive to God. He saw past what these circumstances looked like on the outside and saw what they truly were underneath. He didn’t see himself as just a random worker. He saw himself as a person capable of anything, protected by God, a man of purpose. It’s all about perspective. We all have these trials come up against us, trying to hold us back. What if we changed our perspective of them and saw them for what they really were? What if we could see the big picture? What if we saw them through God’s perspective?

Identity Crisis

Recently my pastor asked me if I knew who God was. I said yes immediately with confidence and said who He was to me. Then he asked if I knew who I was……….I had no answer. It seems like such an easy question to ask but really I had no clue how to respond in the moment. Am I just treating my relationship with God like I’ve treated every relationship I’ve had? Where I get so wrapped up in who the other person is and I lose my identity in them? This is a tricky train of thought because finding my identity in Jesus is EXACTLY what He created me to do. So when it comes to God, yes, I AM supposed to get wrapped up in who He is and follow His examples BUT I feel like my problem is that I just leave myself out of it.

I find that a lot of times when I come to God I am mainly telling Him how good He is and faith statements about all He can and has done. When I talk about myself to Him, I’m mainly bringing up the things I need to work on and do better, or something I need help with. It’s rarely ever that I really spend time thinking about who He says I am to HIM. I have a hard time believing the good things people say about me and when God says it I react exactly the same way. I have a hard time believing that He actually feels that way about me. Not because of anything to do with His character, but to do with mine. I easily believe what He says about what I’m able to actively do through Him and with His help but I struggle to believe what He affectionally says about who I am to Him and how He sees me.

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” Romans 8:14-17a,b

This is who God says I am. His child. He has adopted me as His own. So what does it mean to be a daughter of God? An heir? To me, that doesn’t sound like just a random girl that He’s taken into His home because she has no place else to go. He has fully adopted me as if He is my own blood family. He’s made me an heir to ALL that He has. He’s chosen me as His own. I have the full rights as an actual blood relative. Back in bible times keeping things in the family was a big deal. Especially when it came to who would be the rightful heirs. So for Him to say He has fully adopted me and made me an heir is no small thing.

So what does that mean for my identity? It means that I need to stop seeing myself as “less than” or not good enough. I’ve been having my identity in my faults and how I feel I don’t measure up. God says I am an heir to all of His glory. I’ve made myself a daughter of fear and shame, not a daughter of righteousness and love. It’s time for me start seeing myself for how God, my Father, sees me, to actually believe what He says, and start walking in the confidence and security of His love for me. I’ve always known and believed that God IS love, but I need to also get it in my head that His love is for ME. Not just for other people but for me.

I think this is a big one for a lot of us. In a culture that is constantly demanding more, better, thinner, faster, etc, we start to feel like enough is never enough.  Just add in some mistakes in our pasts and there you have it…………..a whole world of people trying to prove themselves and find their identities in their accomplishments. Our Father says we ARE enough. The emptiness that we all tend to feel and that desire to feel acceptable can ONLY be filled in knowing our true identity in Him.

Understanding Pain

I really struggle sometimes with understanding why I have to deal with chronic pain. I have a curve in my spine made worse by a car accident I was in some years back. It’s constant, daily upkeep and maintenance just to be able to function during the day. If I slack one day with stretching in the morning and at night or if I accidentally slip when i’m walking or have any kind of impact, I’ll pay for it for weeks at a time. Shooting pain throughout my neck, back, and down my legs.  Can barely walk or stand or sit up or lay for long. Everything is painful. I’m fine for the first day, but by a few days of dealing with the pain and being unable to do anything at all, it starts to get to me. That’s today. I’m an active person, very hands on. I hate to sit still, I love to actively help others and be outside and physically doing things every day. Why of all people do I need to have so much limitation? I know there are absolutely worse things in life to deal with trust me. But anyone out there that deals with daily chronic pain understands what it’s like. It controls everything I do, every day.

So what does God say about it? I’ve asked for healing for years. I get prayer for it all the time. Nothing. Actually just getting worse. I’ve asked Him why many many times and the reason it always comes back to is that I NEED these limitations. That’s not a reality that I deal with well. I have a major problem with being independent, self sustaining, never asking for help or acknowledging that I even need help. It has taken 7 years of being constantly held back by this injury to slightly even begin to stop me from trying to push through and not get help. I still always wanted to push it and it took me to 6 months ago where I wasn’t able to hardly walk for about a month. Couldn’t work for 2 months and had to completely change the way I ever do anything in my day. In that time of being completely immobile and helpless, is where I found out just how prideful I actually was. I always thought of pride as someone being cocky or with attitude or full of themselves. I never thought of it as the fact of really just having the mindset of I can handle it myself and really I don’t need God, I’m stronger than this and can handle anything. I wasn’t turning to Him in dependency AT ALL. I would just try to take His directions in things and run with it. I gave Him no room to even come through because I was trying to just come through on my own. I’d ask His advice but didn’t really want Him involved any further than that, just like how I handled all my other relationships.

In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about a “thorn in his flesh”. He had some kind of issue going on that was bothering him. He said that 3 different times he asked God to remove it, and each time God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness”. Paul says so then when he is weak then he is strong. Not strong in himself, but through the power of God working through him. In my old self, I didn’t want to admit a need for anyone, including God. Not really. That caused me to keep a distance between myself and other people. Really it kept me above them. I was alone and thought I could handle anything. I always said I wanted to be a softer, more intimate person with people. I didn’t realize that becoming vulnerable and admitting your weaknesses was the way to that.

It’s important that we all realize that we DO have weaknesses. If we didn’t, then we’d have no need of God or each other. In my recent time of beginning to see myself for who I really am, as a human like everyone else, the hard shell that I’ve always had around my heart has finally begun to soften. Vulnerability is scary and can hurt and really just doesn’t always feel natural. But my faith is in God, that He is my constant. That even though I am weak and in pain and not able to do all the things I feel like I can, He has a plan. He knows what’s best. It doesn’t always make sense but whatever He is allowing to happen is all working towards building my character to be more and more like Him. So if pain and limitations is what it takes then I guess it’s what it takes. I’m not happy about it and I struggle. I have breakdowns about it and get angry. But God is still God. He hasn’t stopped being God just because things aren’t going smoothly for me. He works ALL things for my good, even in this.

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Rules Vs Relationship

In the Old Testament there’s a story about a man named Manoah and his wife. She had been unable to become pregnant but one day an angel came to tell her otherwise. He said she would soon become pregnant and gave her a list of instructions.

“So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5

So she ran to tell her husband the good news. He of course then turned to ask God for more instructions. Isn’t that just what we do? That’s what I always do anyway. God gives an instruction and I immediately ask for more. Like what was already said wasn’t enough. I really feel like that tendency comes from a lack of faith and the fear of messing up. I say a lack of faith because if we really trusted God to be faithful, then we’d know that if that’s the only instructions that He gave then that’s obviously all we needed to know. But I think we start to worry that we need to ask for more or we’ll mess things up and do it wrong. We want to be told EXACTLY what to do because then that takes the pressure off of us and we can blame it on the instructions if we need to. We can use the excuse that we were just following instructions.

So the angel comes back to see them like Manoah asked for. And what does he say to Manoah?……… “Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her.” Yes, no new instructions. The first set of instructions was all that was needed. We love to overcomplicate things. I know that I personally fall into overcomplicating things again and again. I like rules to tell me what I can and can’t do and so I love to ask God A LOT of questions. Even when I feel like I get an answer I’ll still continue to ask just to make sure. Some might think there’s nothing wrong with that and normally I’d agree, but there is a problem that can come with that when it comes to my relationship with God. Just being guided by rules turns into religious behavior. Where I’m just following the rituals and guidelines. No relationship, just rules. Like I’m just doing a job and checking tasks off a list. I would love for God to just give me a to do list and I could just check my list off as I go through my day, but that would require no relationship with Him for the whole rest of the day. That is not what God wants with us. He wants relationship. He wants us to come to Him throughout the day every day. If He had given Manoah all kinds of instruction then there’s a chance they would’ve just been guided by rules and would see no need to seek God again. But instead, they had to take a leap of faith and trust that God would work in their son’s life. And God did show up throughout their son’s (Samson) life. I won’t get into it but if you read it yourself you’ll see multiple times listed of Samson just going about his regular life and the Spirit of God coming on him and giving him the ability to do things he could never do on his own.

Think of it like in a marriage. There’s an obvious known “rule” that you don’t cheat on your spouse. Everyone knows it and it’s understood, but you don’t just go through your marriage only guided by that rule. You go through your marriage being guided by the actual substance of the relationship. If the relationship is real, thriving, and throughout each day then the rule is just naturally followed. But as soon as the relationship is lacking and lost, you’re soon only guided by that rule. And like we all know, eventually sticking to a rule loses the value it once had and it’s easy to break it.

God doesn’t want us just to be guided by rules with Him. He wants to have a real, daily, thriving relationship with us. We just need to share our day with Him, listen to the instructions He gives, and go about our life. Not waiting for crazy, specific, detailed instructions before we ever do anything.

That has been a major lesson I’ve had to learn over time because I worry A LOT about getting things wrong. Eventually when you wait long enough, life goes on and you’re still stuck in the same place. Better safe than sorry was what I always said. But God wants us to take the chance and trust Him. I’ve found that He typically will only shine a little light on a subject at a time. Like literally He will just show you a single step at a time. That used to scare me because I’d rather know what was coming, but I’ve started to find a peace in it. We think knowing all the instructions would take responsibility off of us but really it just adds more. What really is the freeing thing to do is to just take His one step at a time, knowing that you don’t have to have all the answers.

He WANTS to do this life with us. He WANTS to take care of everything. If we would just get our worried selves out of the way.

This is His promise to us….
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6