From chocolate to fire and water

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Romans 7:15-24

Main point of this post: God is redirecting me, and it kind of really hurts, and, it just might be one of the best places I have ever been in my life.

Details: As you probably know, over the past eight months or so, God has taught me some really amazing things. You can read about some of them in previous posts, but needless to say, God has really been moving in my life to show me things that have brought about greater freedom, grace, joy and love in ways I hadn’t expected. The lessons He taught were easy and I delighted to learn them.

Now I’m in a place that’s just a little bit different.

God is challenging me.

He is tearing down walls, renovating, clearing out closets, beating rugs, polishing up and refining. He is building a new foundation. He is teaching me about things that have been wheedled so far down into my heart that I did not know they were there. And to be honest there have been times where I have thought, this really sucks.

But, ultimately, it doesn’t. I’m in a place that is both difficult and exciting, heart-breaking and encouraging, impossibly hard and overwhelming and yet simultaneously natural and exactly as it should be. I’m still learning, and being refined, it’s just now the fire is actually starting to burn. It’s like the past months were God melting things away from the heat in His hands, kind of like if you held chocolate in your hand with a small nugget of gold inside. Now it’s like he’s taking that piece of gold, and chucking it into the flames. And the only way to truly purify that metal into what it ought to be is going to be for it to burn.

In having most of what I thought I valued or thought mattered or felt capable or confident in stripped down, dimmed or shelved to some degree in the last three-ish weeks, God has revealed a lot to me. Things such as how I tend to identify myself in fairly rigid absolutes, how I struggle to accept the same grace and love from others that I would like to extend myself, how many of the good things I value about myself are in fact rooted in pride, and how I will destroy myself over and over and over again for the sake of defending said pride.

There are a lot of things that we assume or take for granted about ourselves sometimes. I don’t think that this is how we should live, or in fact how we were created to live.

For example, if I say, “I am shy,” then it is very easy for me to avoid going up to someone new and say hello because I can always fall back on the simple excuse of “I am shy.” By doing this I will miss out on meeting a great many lovely people who could have been friends. I tend to do this to myself quite often, attaching to myself many things that, though they may be true now, may not or perhaps even should not be a part of  my identity later, especially as God sees and wants it to be. A few examples I have clung to at various points in my life, or may be still clinging to include: “I am shy,” or “I am not good socially,” or “I am a ballroom dancer,” or even “I am a Wisconsinite.” Now, some of these may not change. I will always have been born and raised in Wisconsin and thereby be considered a Wisconsinite in many ways, and I should like to think that the idea of myself as a writer will always be true, but the fact is, I need to be open to the fact that it might not be. God knows His plans for me, He knows me better than myself, He sees me with eyes unclouded by presuppositions, biases, lies, wounds, wrong motivations, cultural and societal influences, expectations or any of the other things that may affect the way that I or others may see myself. He wants to live in relationship with me, for me to rely on Him for everything, for my identity to be rooted in what He sees. This is not because he wants to take things I enjoy away from me or because he wants a power trip where I can’t do anything without Him, it is because it is simply the natural order of things. God created everything, everything stems from and belongs to Him, and everything good in my life comes from Him as the source. I, on the other hand, am a human being, prone to mistakes that will, given time, not only bring me to the brink of utter ruin but also–with a laugh and a gleeful shout–push me over that final edge to said desolation (see Romans excerpt above). It should not be surprising given these circumstances that it is easier for us to live in right relationship with and to him–as in constant relationship with him–than it is for us to live in conflict with Him, much as it is easier for a child to live with parents he is obedient and in relationship with than for him to constantly fight and throw tantrums, not because the parents want the children not to have fun, but because they love him.

I know that brings up cans of worms that are too large and tangled to even attempt to open here, and that even if I did I do not have the answers to all of the questions that would arise from doing so, but I wanted to explain why I’m starting to see the importance of not making these assumptions. After all, some handful or two of years ago, you could not have convinced me that someday I would be comfortable going out on a dance floor with somebody that I don’t know, or even that I would end up at a studio learning to ballroom dance at all. Because of God’s work in my life, I have become something new, someone who is confident enough to be able to do those things. By that same token, I am learning that I must be careful not to simply replace these old understandings of myself with new ones that are no less rigid, such as the idea (now somewhat shattered, in ways) that “I am a ballroom dancer.” Life is about balance, and we need to be careful to be liquid enough to go where He directs us, even when it hurts.

This has been difficult for me. One of the absolutes I’ve held on to for a long time is that “I know myself,” primarily through the use of these kinds of absolutes. It’s why I still tell people I am socially incapable when I am not nearly so bad as this suggests, why I still think I can’t do things when I probably can and why I have a 40+ page Abby Handbook fairly accurately describing myself. I have set up walls of identity to “protect” the person that I imagine myself to be. These, as it turns out, are primarily just excuses for me not to do or be something other than what I currently think I am. To be shy, to not try new things, to excuse behaviors in me that I really shouldn’t have.

God is redirecting me.

Things that worked for me before are no longer working. Fallbacks and escape routes I had before are being sealed up and buried. God is transforming me into something that I was not before from something that I will never be able to be again. It is incredibly hard, and unfathomably more good.

Oh, and please don’t mistake this as me saying we should not have any boundaries or anything like that. I am not saying that at ALL. I’m just saying sometimes we can trap ourselves in places we don’t need to be because we listen to or believe things about ourselves that are not really true for whatever reason that may be.

Anyway, I hope that this post was helpful to you in some way. If it is not, that’s alright too. As I continue this journey of figuring out where and who I ought to be, it certainly was to me.

Peace.

P.S. I just finished reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. It definitely influenced this post and has some pretty mind-blowing stuff in it, though it may not be for everyone. Give it a read if you like and let me know what you think!

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Oops I did it again

I’m not going to promise that’s the only Britney Spears reference I’ll ever make, but don’t imagine this becoming a regular thing.

Anyway, lately my life has rather been exploding in a weird and painful but ultimately really good and healthy way, in no small part because I’m a human and humans have a habit of doing silly things that get them into more trouble than was necessary (hence the title of this post) and in no lesser part because that’s just kind of the stage of life I’m in being a young person who is trying to figure out life and find a new job. I’ll spare some details as I’m still a bit in the thick of it and because I don’t want this post to be a zillion miles long, but the basic story is: girl does lots of things, girl starts feeling anxious about all of the things as they start to fall apart a little, girl continues to try to win against anxiety by sheer force of will, girl’s anxiety gets way out of hand, everything crumbles and falls apart, girl feels terrible for several days but then starts learning a lot of things, learning lots of things makes girl feel better, tentatively excited and even happy about everything falling apart because of what it’s revealing and life lessons abound.

So, things I’m learning (or re-learning. I don’t always learn things all the way through the first time.)

  1. I am not God. This is as it should be. Thank goodness I am not.
  2. I should not expect to know what is going to happen to me every day.
  3. The fact I don’t know what is going to happen to me every day is okay.
  4. It’s rather absurd to think you know what’s going to happen every day.
  5. Taking things minute by minute and day by day can be exceedingly difficult if you are impatient.
  6. You learn patience by going through things that take time, minute by minute and day by day. This is especially true when they are difficult things to do.
  7. Before beginning any large endeavor it is perhaps best to consider if it’s an endeavor you are a good candidate for in the first place. It is also particularly wise to check with God before you assume it is for you, because sometimes it is not and sometimes the way you see things is not the way they actually are.
  8. People are not projects. It is exceedingly prideful to think that you need to be the person to help people change or even to assume they want your help. That is not why we are placed in people’s lives.
  9. Sometimes it’s good to step back from things–even things you enjoy–for a time.
  10. Sometimes stepping back from things–especially things you enjoy–will make people sad, including but not limited to, yourself. But if they love you, they will understand. If they do not, that’s rather another matter.
  11. It’s hard to admit you were wrong, but grace allows us the understanding that we often will be and leads to the humility that stifles the pride that says that we never should be.
  12. For as much as I think I know things, I really know pretty much none of the things.
  13. It’s pretty okay that I don’t know a lot of things, because there are a lot of things to know and even if I lived to be 3,045 that would still be the case.
  14. I really, REALLY like Johnny Cash.
  15. God uses really weird things to show us things about ourselves sometimes.
  16. I really like C.S. Lewis.
  17. Worship, reading the Bible and surrounding yourself with people who love you and want to seek out God with you is pretty much never a bad plan when you’re freaking out.
  18. God loves blowing my mind.
  19. I still have a long ways to go.

Anyway, hopefully this list helps you a little bit or fills you in about where I am right now in some sense. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the list will change. I’m sure a lot of the things I am learning still need to be balanced out with other things, but that’s a balance I will continually be trying to strike because that’s sort of how life works. And that’s okay. And so am I.

P.S.

20. My dad can TOTALLY shred it up on guitar. I never knew the full extent of this until yesterday and I am incredibly proud to call him my own.