healing a broken heart

1

Category : God, Romans, different, faith, hope, shame, trust

……….

My girlfriend has the most annoying cat known to man.  This is the type of cat who the minute you sit down jumps into your lap.  He’s the type of cat who can’t go five minutes without craving attention.  He’s the type of cat you almost always step on, because he’d rather be under foot (literally) than in another room.  I have never seen a cat who wants more human interaction.

We often joke that he’s “broken.”

But the sad reality is, he is broken.  He is what is sometimes called a “rescue cat.”  That’s a cat who was mistreated and been removed from a home.  In Ben’s case, he was abused as a kitten.  Mistreated in cruel ways.  And because of that he’s developed an unhealthy need for attention.

So what does Ben have to do with living out a life of faith?  Simple.  That cat is a reflection of many of us.

Many of us walk around broken.  We carry the wounds of abuse, sexual assault, cruelty and vindictiveness.  We are weighed down by those horrible acts.  And in response we turn to unhealthy fixations.  We may crave attention.  Crave validation.  Crave sex, drugs, or alcohol.  Anything to make the pain stop.  Even for a moment.

Yet we have something that Ben, the cat, can never experience.  We have a redeeming God who is actively trying to rework our lives to bring in new meaning.  We no longer have to be confined by our pain.  We can be set free.

Sometimes people will say, “all things work for good for those who believe.“  And they take that to mean that everything, no matter how horrible is God’s will.

It isn’t.

God doesn’t want you to suffer any more than he wants that Ben (the cat) to suffer.

What that phrase really means is that God can take your suffering and change the meaning.  Your pain can be used for something other than bondage.  It can be used as a platform for healing and growth.  I once heard Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International, speak.  He shared his experience of torture and abuse at the hands of people his parents trusted to take care of him.  How do you overcome that horror?

The truth is, on your own you can’t.  On your own you end up like Ben.  Broken.  But with God’s help, Wess’ story is one of redemption.  One of hope.  It’s about God being bigger than the most terrifying things in the world.  It’s about God redeeming a moment, and using it to touch millions of kids around the world.

That’s what that verse means.  That’s what it means when all things work for good.

We don’t have to remain broken.  We can ask God to redeem us, to change the meaning of our pain.  And you know what?  He will.

i don’t need to listen to God

2

Category : God, Jesus, Mark, bible, shame

  

“Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’” (Mark 14: 29)

That’s a bold statement.  You’d have to be pretty confident in yourself to say that no matter what happened, the only person to stay faithful is you. 

Peter was determined though. 

When Jesus responded saying that all of the disciples, including Peter, would turn away from him, Peter reaffirms his statement.  Telling Jesus emphatically “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Mark 14: 31)

Cue ominous music.

We all know what happened: Jesus was right and Peter denied him.  But I have to wonder – what would have happened if Peter had listened to Jesus?  If Peter had been more interested in listening to what Jesus was saying than proving his loyalty, would Peter have remained loyal?  Would being aware of his weakness allow him to overcome it? 

There’s no way to know, obviously.  But reading about this incident forces me think about the role pride plays in my own life.  When I feel pride I don’t want to admit I’m wrong.  I become invested in protecting my definition of reality.  And often that means I’m not prepared to handle dramatic change. 

I bet Peter wasn’t much different. 

And lets face it, Jesus’ arrest was something Peter didn’t expect.  He never dreamed that Jesus would be lead away without a fight.  He never dreamed Jesus wouldn’t use his powers to protect himself.  It must have been crushing to Peter to see Jesus give up “so easily.”

If he was filled with pride before, his emotions must have been raging.  He must have felt the fear that comes when we believe our world is being destroyed.  But more than that, he must have felt shame.  Shame at believing in someone who wouldn’t (or perhaps it crossed his mind – couldn’t – save himself.) 

It’s no wonder Peter denied Jesus.

Peter was so intent on following his pride that he couldn’t hear Jesus’ warning.  Even though Jesus told all the disciples that he was about to die for them, they simply refused to believe it.  Their pride kept them from the truth.   

Sometimes we think God takes pleasure in hiding the truth from us.  But I have to wonder, how often does he tell us what’s going to happen, and we respond saying, “that’s nice God, but let me tell you what’s really going on.”

How many things would be different in my life if I simply listened when God spoke, instead of trying to explain to God why he was wrong?

hiding from God

Category : God, faith, hope, shame

  

Sometimes things seem too coincidental to be, well, coincidences.  Of course it could always be dumb luck.  Or perhaps God just really wants to drive a point home.  There are certainly things I need to hear more than once a few times!

Friday as I was looking through some notes I saw something that caught my eye.  A quote I had written down from The Screwtape Letters.  In that book CS Lewis discusses what happens when we’re kept half-aware of our guilt.  Basically it works to Screwtape’s “advantage.”  And for those who haven’t read the book he was a demon.  Screwtape that is, not Lewis.  

By making us only half aware of our guilt, Screwtape says, “All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance [to think of God]; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.” (The Screwtape Letters, p. 58)

What we want to do most is get rid of that guilt.  But the one thing that can remove that guilt is the one thing we turn from.  Or as Erwin McManus says, “we run from God because we are certain that the closer we come to him, the more guilt and shame we will feel.”  (Soul Cravings, Entry 9)

I wasn’t thinking of these things when I wrote about turning away from God when my faith feels weak.  But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been running from God because I feel “half guilty” about being faithful.

Screwtape must be pleased by that.

I think it’s time to change direction and run the other way.

the friends and family plan

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Category : God, bible, shame, sharing faith

                  

There are many things I struggle with in my faith.  And there are many things I do that I regret.  (Not the least of which is eating too many Brownie Obsessions.)  But one area that really bothers me is sharing my faith with friends and family.  Or to be more precise, the lack of it.

I don’t have any problems getting into a conversation about God with a stranger.  In fact I seem to do that all the time.  Strangers are easy to talk to.  I don’t have to worry about looking like an idiot or damaging a relationship because after we part company I’ll never see them again. 

But friends are different.

Christians don’t enjoy the most positive of images at the moment.  Nothing drives this home like the book unChristian, by the Barna Group.  Their research shows that nonbelievers view Christians the same as they view Mormon evangelicals.  You know, the kind that show up at your door when you’re about to go eat a Brownie Obsession.  Not that this ever happens to me…

So what do we do?  Didn’t Jesus tell us it was important to talk to people about him?  The problem is our friends might not be interested in hearing about God.  Maybe they don’t care, maybe they disagree, or maybe they have their own issues around God.  Or maybe they just are looking to relax and have fun. 

Even our best efforts to be sincere and open may come across as judgmental and trying to “convert” them.

It seems a tough place to be.

And for me it is.  The people I should care about most are the people I’m most hesitant to talk to.  It’s as if I have this great secret, but I’m afraid of sharing it.  Not because I think they’ll laugh at me (although I suppose they might) but because I’m more afraid of pushing them away from God.  I’m afraid of them rejecting the most important thing in my life, because I was clumsy and awkward. 

So for me, I think the first place I start is this – I’m sorry if my attempts to tell you about what Jesus has done in my life come across as awkward.  I’m sorry if it feels weird for you.  It feels weird to me too.  But I wouldn’t be talking about him if I didn’t think he was amazing.

So maybe we can both just be honest with each other.  And maybe we’ll end up better friends (or family) for it.

shame

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Category : God, shame

 

Why is it that we hate feeling shame so much? Can’t shame serve as a reminder that we’ve done something we shouldn’t have? Isn’t that all the more reason we should pay attention ? When we get down to it, isn’t shame something that’s good? Of course I know I hate feeling shame because it means I’ve made a mistake. It means that I’ve done something I shouldn’t have – and more importantly, I know it! For me there is almost nothing worse than being wrong. Every time I make a mistake I’m one step closer to someone telling me I’m not necessary. That I’m no longer needed.

Because of that reaction, whenever I feel shame I go to great lengths to minimize that feeling. I’ll try to justify it, or ignore it, or argue about it. Just as long as I don’t have to deal with it. But by doing those things I give shame power over me. And as soon as we give something power over us, we are distancing ourselves from God.

There are many days where I put avoiding shame as my highest priority. Something even more important than God. How can I hear God call to me when my number one priority is to not feel shame (or embarrassment, or fear, or <insert your own emotion here>) The more I think about that, the more I realize how unhealthy that is.

While I’m sure I’ll never enjoy feeling shame, I need to find a better way to deal with those feelings. That’s why I want to look at why I feel shame and ask God to show me what I should learn. I want to give my shame to God so I can grow closer to him. I want God centered in my life, not my feelings of shame.