The Frightening Freedom of Being Known

Do you ever build walls to protect yourself? I occasionally notice that the view has gotten more restricted around me and discover I have erected yet another wall.

Recently, I have begun to realize these walls are rarely to keep dangers out but to keep my true self locked away and unseen. I allow out only those qualities that people seem to like – the one who is good with words, the voice, the cook, the laughing and joyful one, the one who seems to have unwavering trust in God. These parts are accepted and even enjoyed, and so, they are mostly allow to stay outside the walls, (though, even they try to hide at times).

There are aspects of me very few get to see – the one who has a meltdown over fears which may never happen, the one who beats herself up over what she should have said or done differently, the one who forgets God’s promises, (or worse, chooses not to trust them), the one who has been known to sit at home in her pajamas eating junk food when she is struggling or feeling alone, the one who sometimes chooses to immerse herself in stories rather than talk to God about what is troubling her. These parts don’t fit my picture of acceptable behavior for a woman of God who teaches others about finding their identity and purpose, and so, they are hidden.

This may seem obvious to all of you, but I am only recently rediscovering that there is great freedom outside the confines of my self-made prison. The aspects of myself and my life that seem to me to hinder the message God has given me, sometimes make my story more relatable to those who need to hear it. I am not perfect. I have not arrived. I’m still walking the journey of learning to live boldly as the woman God made me to be.

The fear that if we are truly seen and known, we’ll be rejected and left alone is an insidious one. The truth is, I never feel more alone than when I’m locked behind the walls I build to protect me from being left on my own. It may be scary to step outside the confines of our “protective” prison and be known for who we truly are, but there is a freedom found on the outside that is well worth the risk.

We are already fully known and loved by God. He sees beyond our walls, and knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows who we are created to be and how far we still have to go, and He loves us more than we can imagine. His love is all the “wall” we need to protect us from what others think of us. And, while there is a risk some people will reject us if we venture outside, there is also a chance that we will find a place of belonging, a place where we are greeted with the words: “Me too. Let’s walk this path together.”

God Loves…

I was having a conversation with some friends on Sunday afternoon, and one of them made a comment that caught me off guard. The comment? God loves us, His children, but He doesn’t love everyone. By this statement, he meant not everyone will spend eternity in heaven; some people will spend eternity in darkness, separated from God.

While I know it’s true many people will not be in heaven, I am bothered by the conclusion he made that God doesn’t love the people who are not “His children.” There is so much going on around the world right now, and it would be easy to think God doesn’t love this person or that group of people. But God IS love. He cannot choose not to love people – even when they choose not to reciprocate His love – because it would mean denying His own character.

God loves each person on this planet the same amount. The only difference is whether His love brings Him joy or pain. He is not willing that ANY should perish, and I believe He weeps over every life lost without being surrendered to Him.

The part my friend must find difficult to reconcile is how God could love someone and still condemn them to eternity in darkness. The simple answer is: He doesn’t. It is because of His love for people that He gives us free will to choose Him or not. If a person wants nothing to do with God while on earth, how would it be loving to force His presence on them for eternity?

Each of us chooses our eternal destination by deciding whether we want a relationship with God or not. In His love, He gives us that choice. When the choice is made to accept His love and love Him in return, there is a party in heaven. When the choice is made to reject God’s love, He weeps for the one who rejects Him. He loves them still, and it breaks His heart that He cannot be with them forever.

Nearly every time I open Facebook or see a news story, it seems hate fills so much of our world. Even among people who follow Jesus, it appears so often that lines are drawn and sides are taken. Races, jobs, political parties, religions, and on and on it goes. So many barriers to unity are being built with words and ideas that are harder to break through than any brick.

God doesn’t take sides. Despite what my friend says, God does love everyone. I want to be more like Him. I don’t know exactly what that looks like in the midst of the messes surrounding us, but I want to learn. I want to seek Him for solutions and receive His grace to love as He loves. I want to see the best in others and forgive when the worst becomes evident. I want to bear, believe, hope and endure all things.  

Who’s with me?

When “Helping” Doesn’t Help.

I enjoy helping people. I love to listen, share wisdom, and “fix” things for others who are struggling. I am an encourager, and I find satisfaction in bringing life to others with my words and actions.

I am learning, though, that there are times when “helping” doesn’t help. There are times when taking action on behalf of someone else can actually hurt that person, times when they need to be the one to take action. Taking that step for them enables them to remain where they are at instead of growing and walking on their own to the place where God wants to lead them.

We are supposed to love one another, but how often do we take time to realize that doing the loving thing may look different than what we think love is? Sometimes, the loving thing may involve allowing someone to fall without intervening. Perhaps it involves discipline. Maybe it means speaking things that make you uncomfortable. It could mean separating yourself from them for a while. Maybe it simply means being silent for a time.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to love our neighbors – family, friends, significant others – because true love means not “helping” them this time. It goes against my nature to be quiet when I feel someone needs encouragement, but sometimes it isn’t me they need to hear from. If my words keep them from seeking God’s words to them, I’m not doing anyone a favor.

Why is it so hard to stay still or quiet when I think I should be “helping” someone? Unfortunately, I must admit that the answer to that question is often about my own needs. I find my identity in helping others. I know that God has made me to be a conduit of His love to others, and I forget that my worth doesn’t come from how well I carry out that function. I get my eyes firmly fixed on myself and what I can do for others, and I forget to ask God if what I think will help is truly what those people need. Too often, I find my value in being able to “help” someone instead of in being the daughter of the King of Kings.

When my own need to feel valuable drives my “love” and “help” for someone else, I am being the opposite of loving – I am being selfish. The only way to truly love others is to keep our eyes fixed on God and to see ourselves and others through His eyes. He may lead us to encourage others and help them in practical ways, but He may also ask us to pray for them, stay silent, and allow Him to draw them out of their comfort zone.

Is there someone in your life you’ve been “helping”? How can you best love those around you? What might “tough love” look like for those you care about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

It’s February…

Hello friends. Welcome to February 2016!

I used to really dislike February…. Or at least the first half of it. It seemed a month designed to rub in my face the fact that I was single. All of the ads, displays, flowers, chocolates and other sweets, hearts, and talk of romance coming at me from every side were just reminders that I would get none of those – unless I bought some sweets for myself or my mom gave me some (which often happened).

I know a lot of people still feel that way. They have just survived and recovered from a holiday season filled with parties they had no date for, a million engagement announcements on Facebook, and loads of moments they would love to share with someone special if only there was someone. And then, BAM, Valentine’s Day stuff is everywhere, once again hitting them with the reality that they are alone…

But the fact is, we aren’t alone at all. Romantic love is not the only or even the most important kind of love in life. Jewelers, chocolatiers, and Hallmark may try to make a fortune by selling romance, but what about the friendships we have? All of us have special people in our lives we can celebrate and encourage this month.

Who can you encourage this month? Is there someone who makes your life better? Why not tell them and celebrate your relationship – whatever it is? What about yourself? When was the last time you did something special for you? You’re pretty great, and as nice as it is to have others acknowledge that, sometimes it can mean more just to remind yourself that you are worth being treated to something special.

Yes, I look forward to romance one day. I look forward to the day that someone will choose me, to love me in that way. Until then, though, I want to celebrate the love I already have in my life – the love of family, friends, and most importantly, the One Who is Love itself! I want to love others and remind them that they are special. I want to love myself and recognize that the most important Person in the universe thought I was special enough to give up everything for – and still thinks that.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating love this month… whatever that looks like in your life today. It’s okay to long for the things we hope are to come, but let’s not miss out on all that we have by lamenting what hasn’t arrived yet!