Tag Archives: God

Bad Talk

In the past, I thought that vocalizing insecurities around other people was just annoying. Now I see that it isn’t just annoying; it is handing them weapons to tear you down. I have always been a rather insecure, self-conscious person. I wish there were a shimmering confidence powder I could dust over myself each day, but it’s just a lot of hard work and intentional re-wiring of thoughts and beliefs.

Over the years, people have said a lot of unkind things to me, and I used to wonder why. Now I see that they said unkind things to me because they (unconsciously) thought I had given them permission to do so based upon the way I spoke about myself. If you give others power to wield against you, they will. If given the opportunity to knock you down, they will, especially if you make it easy for them.

Insecure people speak ill of themselves to most everyone, because it is such a constant conversation in their head. Sometimes I am completely unaware of how mean I am being towards myself until someone points it out. Someone once said that insecurity is loud, and it is. Insecure thinking sounds like a kick drum pressed to the ear, rhythmically pumping out self-doubt and shame.

My best friend often reminds me that the words we speak have power. While I do my best to be careful with what I say to others, I am careless when it comes to what I say to and about myself. I think I do this because it doesn’t seem like it matters.

Some claim that you have no power over what people think of you, but I disagree. I think we all have the power to tell the world how we wish to be treated. For years, I have told the people around me that it is acceptable for them to tease me about my appearance, my fumbling attempts at dating, and my quirks and habits. Yet the moment someone asserts or draws attention to any of these insecurities, I feel personally attacked; I wonder how they ever thought it was acceptable to say something like that.

Then I remember: I essentially told them that, and they are parroting it back to me. It is quite startling to discover how  ugly and wounding the words we say to ourselves sound from the mouths of others. True, some people are just jealous ass-hats who like to elevate themselves by degrading others. But in general, I believe we offer people a permission slip when we speak ill of ourselves.

The result is a vicious cycle: we vocalize our insecurities, others say them back to us, and then we take those parroted words as confirmation that we truly are unlovable, ugly, stupid, etc.

I have often vocalized what I hate about myself as a way of receiving encouragement from others. It makes me sick to admit it, but it’s true. It’s not that I am just making up awful things to say in order to have someone refute them; I truly believe those ugly words and I am hoping someone will give me a reason to no longer believe them.

This never works. No matter what someone says, they cannot do the replacement work for you. They cannot re-wire your thinking and beliefs about yourself, only you can. At most, you are giving people permission to treat you badly, or at least you’re giving them a reason to spend less time with you. There is room for grace of course, but you cannot expect people to stick around when you never make an effort to believe you’re someone worth sticking to.

One of my favourite writers, Brennan Manning, once said, “We cannot accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less accept that God could possibly love us.” Those with deep insecurity need to fight for our birthright as children of God, and it takes a lot of convincing from Him to accept ourselves as He accepts us. It takes even more convincing to actually say those words out loud, and even more to live them out loud.

If you also struggle with insecurity, self-hatred, or negative self-talk, I would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee. You and I are not alone, and with God’s grace, we can help each other love ourselves out loud.

Find Your Place

I have always been an indecisive person. I struggle with the simplest decisions, hemming and hawing and turning over possible scenarios and outcomes. A dear friend says my struggle to make decisions stems from shame–a deep rooted fear that I am not enough and that I am incapable of making choices. I believe this is true, for my inner-critic constantly taunts me and fills my mind with self-doubt whenever I attempt to make a decision.

This shame was further embedded into my heart by religion. It was clear to me throughout my teens and early adulthood that I needed God to make decisions for me. “Waiting on God” became the justifying remedy to indecision. My fear of making the wrong choice and veering off God’s “perfect plan for my life”, kept me from developing decision-making skills. It was a way of seeming to be a person of great faith, but in actuality, a terrified decision-phobe.

Though I have struggled with and been hurt by the church, I know God well enough to realise that He isn’t behind all this nonsense. One of my favourite concepts that my therapist has introduced me to is the idea of co-creating with God. As a dreamy-headed INFP with a creative bent, I love this idea. I love it far more than the nail-biting, waiting-on-a-sign-from-God paralysis of my upbringing.

I must make it abundantly clear that I have not abandoned God; I have just abandoned religiosity. I have given up on all the things religious people told me that do not line up with the character of God, or the reality of my experience as His child. I have spent so many years making myself unhappy in order to make God happy, but I am beginning to sense that this isn’t the point of it all.

While I believe that I, as a self-proclaimed Jesus follower, should make it my aim to honour God in all things, I no longer feel that in order to do that, I must fully abandon myself. After all, He made me; why would God put gifts and passions and desires in me just to watch me shove them all down, in order to “please Him?” Perhaps, and I am no theologian, God puts in us exactly what He wishes to bring forth in us. Perhaps following one’s passions and interests isn’t veering from God’s plan at all, but living it.

Last week in my therapist’s office, unbidden tears sprang up as I shared how unhappy and lost I felt. My therapist, a gentle and wise man, told me something I will never forget:

“You must claim your sacred place in the world.”

How does one claim one’s sacred place in the world? By making choices.

I sense that God wants to co-create a life with me,  one that brings me joy and Him glory. It may seem “holier” to wait on God to drop a neon sign from the sky, but I believe it’s just fear dressed in a robe and rosary. He wants me to claim my sacred place in the world, not wander aimlessly on it.

Let’s find our sacred place in the world and co-create with God. Let’s be doers and wise decision makers. Let’s use our faith actively to accomplish whatever we want to do.

In the words of St. Augustine, let’s love God and do what we please.

Shame

For years, I believed that the source of most of my problems was rooted in self-hatred and self-pity. I fully believed that the reason I struggled with self-destructive habits and beliefs was due to an innate abandonment of self.

It has been revealed to me, however, that my core issue is shame. All the self-hatred, pity, and perfectionism that I have wrought come from the same source: shame.

As I became aware that my self-destructive habits resulted from shame, I became increasingly aware of the moments I experience it. A few examples are:

  • Stepping onto a scale or seeing an unflattering photo
  • Eating a food that I (or culture) has deemed “bad” and fattening
  • Meeting an attractive man or going on a date
  • Comparing myself to other women on social media

This is a very small, curated list. Because I am an intuitive, introverted person, I am highly self-aware. This self-awareness has led me to discover that I experience and live through shame on a daily basis. Shame has kept me from pursuing relationships, my dream career, and having peace with God. Shame speaks to me every day, and this is what it often says:

  • “You’re so gross/ugly/chubby/unattractive. You’d be more valuable if you were prettier.”
  • “You’re a terrible writer and you’re not creative. Who the hell do you think you are? People judge you and dislike you, so you should share as little of yourself as possible.”
  • “You are too old and ugly to ever find a man who will love you. Nearly all your friends are married! This proves something is wrong with you.”
  • “You’ve wasted your life. You haven’t done anything important and now you’re in your late twenties and it’s too late. It’s your fault.”

Shame says some terribly wicked things, doesn’t it?

If I wanted to face shame in a fight for my honour, I’d have to grab a mirror, because shame is most often from myself. It isn’t a separate entity that I can destroy. It is a wounded and frightened part of me. Shame insists on perfection, and anything less is a disgrace and should be abused roundly.

This evening I listened to a few TED talks, and one in particular struck me so intensely that I burst into tears. One line in particular drew some fast tears: “Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” I have included an audio download of Brene’s TED talk below, and I urge you to consider her words. It brought some clarity to the cloudy musings of the past year, giving shape and meaning to them.

 

 

I share this deeply vulnerable post not because I want others to pity me; I share because I want others to know that they’re not alone in their shame. I am sick to death of hating myself, of wishing I had a perfect body and perfect soul, of reaching a place of heaven on a very broken earth. Shame may try to destroy me, but it can also lead me to greater vulnerability, which Brene claims is the “…birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

 

A Poem on Faith & Doubt

I wrote this little poem several years ago, based upon James 1:6, a passage from Scripture. I have always struggled with doubt–in God, myself, in other people. Over the years, my doubts have been met and transformed by truth. I am discovering that doubt is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Doubt, when accepted as a path, can lead one to new places and deeper understanding. Ultimately, I believe holding God’s hand on this path leads not to annihilation of relationship, but a greater capacity for it. Allowing doubt to be helpful requires faith, rather than the denial of it.

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“Uproot and plant yourself in the sea,” said the man of mustard seeds. “You’ve held belief in small things, but greater yet is what will be.”

The mulberry tree duly replied, “Surely my roots will never be dry. The fishes will dance among my leaves, for your faith, I’ll do as you please.”

Another man out and lost at sea, drowning in doubt with prayerful pleas. But oh, how should you receive? Marked with doubt, anxiety.

Faithless man, take hold the seed.

Old Poem 

I wrote this poem years ago, but its words still touch my heart. I have only ever shared it with a limited audience, for fear of it being silly or clumsy or misunderstood. In my pursuit of living a more creative life now, however, I am choosing to share my creative efforts with no thought of the reception it may or may not receive.

So without further ado, here is the old poem I found buried in the heap of my creative past.

I remember as a child sitting in the backseat with a story being read to me, about a girl all alone in the jungle who was afraid.

Just like me.

Well, not exactly–I mean I grew up in suburbia and for a while backwoods country.

But God, it seemed like life was like that scary jungle scene; where every corner, every branch held uncertainty, like something was going to happen, like something was going to hurt me.

But the girl in that story said something that stuck out to me, repeating ever so softly,
“God is with me, always with me. I am safe, always safe.”

And it was in the backseat of that car on that warm summer’s night, driving from Seattle on that stretch of 405, that I came to a conclusion in my childish mind, that if I just spoke those trusting words, everything would be just fine.

Though over time, I found these words to be only half-right.

God is with me, He’s always with me. but I am not always so safe.

Does this mean He loves me less?
Does this mean He’s forgotten me?

Somehow we’ve come to believe that following that still small voice gives us some sort of invincibility, a special  protection, that if it’s His will, things will work out perfectly.

But if that’s the case, why hasn’t that come through for me?

If that’s how God works, then why are my brothers and sisters suffering for advancing a kingdom He’s building?

Yet when I flip through the pages of that old book that still breathes life, I see God has never been too concerned with us leading safe, comfortable, predictable lives.

But I still don’t pretend to understand why You allow certain things to happen, and I can’t help but ask so many questions.

There’s really no resolve here, but to keep trusting in You;  for perhaps the body You do not always keep so safe, but as for my soul You always do. And I can rest knowing that no matter the circumstance, You bring about Your redemptive plan.

You promise to wipe every tear from our eyes?

Okay then, I’ll let them fall freely so I have nothing to hide, for I know one day all wrongs will be made right, and we will finally see the “whys” behind this life.

But maybe by then we won’t need the answers, as to why our loved ones died of cancer, or why our sons and daughters are bought and sold like they don’t matter.

All I can say for now, is that I’ll keep listening for Your voice to break through my clouds.

Bad Believer

I’ve struggled in my Christian faith. I’ve doubted, backslid, crawled forward, and failed. Growing up, I would recite the sinner’s prayer every day, just to “make sure” I was really saved. While away at college (a Bible college, mind you) I nearly walked away from the faith completely. But by God’s grace, I shakily remain His.

When I am alone with God, I feel secure in my relationship with Him. Being around His other kids is what trips me up. I compare myself to other Christians, deciding that God must like them better because they seem happier, more faithful, or better than me. I am in therapy and swear like a sailor when I am angry. I laugh at double-entendres, vote Democrat, and am a proud feminist. I am not an ideal Proverbs 31 Woman.

But Jesus loves me, this I know.

He knows my heart. He sees my efforts to change, and He knows I try to follow Him each day, in every area of my life. He didn’t make me His to be like other Christians. I follow Jesus, not religiosity! Though I may feel like I am on shaky ground in my faith, the truth is, I can’t lose Him. And He can’t lose me. His word confirms and promises this:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8: 35-39

What can separate me from the love of Christ? N O T H I N G.

Shame may tell me that I am not good enough, and that’s true. But that was never the point. I am being saved as much as I am saved, and it’s a life-long process. God is far more patient than I am with myself, and the only thing that keeps Him distant is me. When I choose shame over grace, I push Him away.

I’ve always related to the disciple Thomas–infamously known as Doubting Thomas. Growing up in church, Thomas was often made an example of how we shouldn’t be as believers. But he always gave me hope, because even though he was one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, he still struggled with doubt. He could have allowed shame and doubt to destroy his faith, but he didn’t. Instead he cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And as Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that is “…the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.”

I used to be afraid of my doubts, but I’m not anymore. Doubting has caused me to explore the faith, to make it truly my own. A fear of doubt shows a lack of faith that God can withstand questions and apparent contradictions. Some people are so afraid to acknowledge their doubts because they are afraid of what they may discover. I think we’re all afraid of being bad believers, but the truth is, He doesn’t see it that way.

If prostitutes, murders, thieves, doubters, and the ordinary can be celebrated in the family of God, that gives us all hope! Doubt doesn’t exile us from God, nor do our sins. We can boldly and confidently approach Him as we are, because forgiveness and acceptance is assured.

So whether you’re rough around the edges, or plagued with doubt, you are still His. There’s such a comfort for us in the consistency and faithfulness of God. We don’t need to waste time comparing ourselves to each other, or being afraid of what our doubts reveal about us.

Let’s all give each other freedom to pursue Him as we are, and leave all the judgment to Him.