Tag Archive | courage

Hope is the Lump in Your Throat

You can live in hope or you can live in hopelessness. Or you can merely exist in numbness devoid of hope in any form. This was my chosen method for fifteen long years. Shutting down my emotions eased the agony of an emotionally abusive marriage. Some days I could almost forget it was there. I learned how to hide my scars and secrets. I functioned well. I did the best I could to protect my children. I didn’t know from what at the time. Just that I needed to be more than enough for them.

For me, numbness relieved some of the suffering some of the time. That is what made it a viable survival technique. However, it also reduced my ability to experience positive emotions. You cannot choose which feelings to avoid and which ones to embrace. It is all or nothing.

Unlike the day I chose numbness over hopelessness, I did not make a conscious decision to leave numbness behind in search of a hope filled life. It was my Heavenly Father that set me on that path. But before I could find hope, it was necessary for me to sink into the despair of hopelessness again. You see, God can and will reach down and pull us out of the miry pit, but He can’t do that if we are content to be stuck in the sludge. Often God will set a plan in motion that brings us to our knees in desperation where our only option is to call out to Him.

It is overwhelming and terrifying to have the bandaids pulled off your carefully concealed wounds and watch the bleeding resume all over again. The pain is just as intense the second time around. I wept. I prayed. Or more accurately, I brought the broken and shattered pieces of my heart to God. I did not ask God to mend the fragments. I did not ask God to heal my pain. I simply cried that I didn’t want to hurt anymore. That was it. No requests for love, joy, peace or hope for my future. That was an impossible prayer, a far away dream that I didn’t dare put into words able to betray me. Asking not to hurt anymore was difficult enough.

I recently read a description in Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” of what vulnerability feels like. Someone described it as “A lump in my throat and a knot in my chest.” And I thought, yes, that is also what the beginning of hope feels like. When hope was first offered to me it emerged as a tiny ball in the pit of my stomach, ascended to my chest, my throat, and finally became a pressure behind my eyes that I fought to keep there. Behind my eyes. Where I could deny it and push it away again. Not betraying me by leaking down my cheeks to be seen and felt. My mind fought the possibility of hope, but my body believed and responded before the rest of me was able.

At one time or another you have been advised to listen to your body. Pay attention to its signals. Sleep when you are tired. Eat when you are hungry. Drink when you are thirsty. So, I ask, why not hope when your body is desiring the promise of healing?

Hope is challenging. Hope takes courage. But hope will not disappoint when you place it in the hands of our Abba Father, the One who will wipe every precious tear from your eyes.

Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

Choices!

Back in July I wrote about going to see my spiritual counselor and what God showed me at that time. I also mentioned that my counselor made a second observation and I would share it in the next post, well, I didn’t….because honestly, I was truly grappling with it. I didn’t like her suggestion or observation. I didn’t want to look at it and to some degree I am still wrestling with it.

What she shared with me was the Serenity Prayer; the first part of it. If you are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous then you have encountered the Serenity Prayer. The prayer has worked its way into so many cultural outlets that many non-Christians know it, or at least the beginning, by heart:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.serenity 1

The rest of the prayer goes like this:

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

I admit I reacted to her strongly because deep down I was truly afraid to accept the things I could not change and feared I didn’t have the courage to change what I could…..and would I really know the difference??

Why did I struggle to “accept” things? Because I believed that accepting something was laziness. I was afraid that accepting that there are some things I could not change would make me complacent. But slowly (very slowly) I am beginning to realize instead that acceptance constitutes a leap of faith — an ability to trust, as the prayer goes on to say, “that He [God] will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.” I then make the choice to let go and have faith in the outcome.

acceptance

Accepting or surrendering takes courage…..for me the word “surrender” like acceptance, had mostly negative connotations. I associated it with resignation, failure and weakness. But the Serenity Prayer reframes the notion of surrender as an act of faith and trust. The wisdom of the prayer lies in exchanging a life of endless “what ifs” for a life of trust in powers beyond ourselves. That changes my perspective!

Another thing I am coming to realize is that acceptance takes courage, it takes courage to change ourselves. And I didn’t want to be courageous anymore, it was too much work.

One of life’s greatest challenges is imagining how our lives could be different than they are now. Often, my own deeply-ingrained habits are my own worst enemies, and simply identifying them is half the battle. Since habits gain power through repetition, it takes real focus and perspective to take a look at ourselves and our habits and ask, “Is this how I really want to live?” As the prayer states, this act of self-investigation is nothing less than an act of “courage.”

And in my mind it also meant that I must accept “hardships as the pathway to peace.” What??? I didn’t want hardship, I wanted easy, painless even!!
Yet, every person confronts obstacles in the course of his or her life. Yet, it’s what I do with these obstacles. Do I view them as frustrations or failures, or as opportunities for growth and learning? If I choose the latter then I can transcend my circumstances.
courage
Accepting what I don’t like may be one of the most difficult aspects of life, because there will be people, situations, and events I don’t like and I am not able to change.

Yet, it is true, acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. I can continue to push forward despite accepting that there are things beyond my control. It is not passive when I lean into and trust God with my life, situations and relationships. It is not passive when I seek His wisdom and ask for His supernatural courage. It doesn’t take resignation it takes strength, perseverance, faith and trust.

Please understand what I am not saying….if you are in an abusive relationship or have been abused, I am not saying that you should just accept what is happening or what happened. I am not talking about abuse. I am talking about situations and circumstances that affect us and that we feel we have no control over, maybe in our workplace, our marriage or our relationships.
It truly takes supernatural wisdom to know the difference of what we can or cannot change.

serenity-quotes-7

As you can see I am still chewing on this, wrestling with it and walking this out…..to be continued!

What about you? How do you see “acceptance” or “surrender”?

No Longer Victims of Fear

Women, especially those have been sexually abused, oftentimes carry deep fears. Men can as well, it just looks different for men then it does for women.

While fear is normal and valuable because it can keep a person from dangerous situations and mobilize a person to flee when danger approaches, it can also be an enemy, wearing a person down, robbing one of health and keep us from enjoying positive relationships.

One area I have had to deal with specifically in my life is that of changing my expectations and not viewing everything through the lens of fear.

expect-great-things

People tend to both see and experience what they expect. How do you feel about that statement?

None of us entered life expecting to be abused, and although there are exceptions to the rule regarding the statement,  generally speaking, I think it is pretty accurate.

Let me use the following story to illustrate.

A King wanted to find out whether his kingdom contained more weeds or flowers. He called two men into his court. To the first he gave the assignment of cataloging all the weeks in his kingdom. The second man was given the assignment of cataloging all the flowers. They were given two months to complete their assignment.

At the end of the two months they returned to the king. The first said, “O mighty king, your kingdom is covered in weeds! It’s a horrible sight! You must do something about it. It’s sad to have so many weeds invading your kingdom.”

The second man said, “O mighty king, our kingdom is absolutely overrun with flowers of every kind and color. They are glorious. They make your kingdom fresh and alive. It is a joy to be part of your kingdom.”

Talk about two very different perspectives.

What we expect to see colors what we do see in life!! 

believe

Because I have been talking a lot lately about “words” I’d like to share something I have discovered over the years.

While it’s true that although words can be thrown at us carelessly and sometimes they can be hurled with the intent to injure, I can’t help but wonder how often we filter situations or words from others through our already gaping wounds….words from friends, family, co-workers, Christian brothers and sisters…..how often are words spoken and we assume they are insinuating something when it was really the farthest thing from their minds?

Yet their words can pierce deeply because we are hearing them through words and wounds long ago spoken that have left a fracture in our spirits and we tend to filter everything through that.

And so we react, we turn away, we put up a wall, we take offence, we write that person off, we withdraw deeper into ourselves instead of taking the wound or the assumption or the questions to Jesus. How often do we find the courage to go to the person and ask what they really meant, asking them to elaborate, or to risk telling them the effect their words had on us.

I am not saying this to heap more guilt or shame, I am not suggesting that it didn’t hurt, I am never denying the pain….but perhaps it is time to honestly look at our reactions through the lens of Jesus rather than our fears.

Please understand that I am not talking about words that are abusive, insulting , harmful or offensive, words used to control, wound or manipulate us. I am talking about our everyday relationships with friends, co-workers, those with whom we are in community.

Isaiah

 

In dealing with fear, changing my expectations has been a part of my healing process. I was hurt many times as a child, but there are flowers in the kingdom, I had to make the choice to look for them. I had to realize that my life was not totally ruined because of the weeds unless I decided to quit on myself.

 

Our fears are frequently tied to our pasts….maybe it’s time to look at the present for what it is.

 

Because if we live our lives expecting to be hurt, expecting to see weeds wherever we look, expecting others to always let us down, wrong us or think the worst of us….then our abuser wins again.

Remember…..today and tomorrow have no writing on them yet……. 

My hope is that your story will be about changing your expectations, about allowing God to birth something beautiful inside of you, that you will trust Him, and  that you will learn to love without fear.

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