When I first ran up against the spiritual gift of prophecy I had this image in my mind of the prophets of the bible. Or my Americanized version of grizzled men who were at turns angry and depressed. Men who beat their chests and ranted at the people, spouting words of judgement. Who wants that? Not I.
This is part of what I was running from when I ran from myself. I was already a melancholy soul. I didn’t need visions of destruction and despair driving me deeper toward depression. Never mind that when I “saw” people, while I might not always see their best sides, I always saw them with a layer of grace. I can only attribute that to God because my nature was to judge and to use what I saw to build up my own self esteem. Looking back, I wasn’t secure enough in myself and my relationship with God to truly embrace the prophetic. I didn’t love myself. I couldn’t fully love others. And without love, all the other spiritual gifts are just noise. That’s what I Corinthian’s 13 taught me.
One of the first lessons I learned from Claire was that a seer must love people. It took a while for that to sink in and wasn’t really put to the test until I had to apply what I was learning to my mother-in-law. Isn’t it funny how it’s usually from our relationships with family that we truly start to see our own growth points?
I don’t have an easy relationship with my MIL. I wish I did. I do love her and she has her strengths. I have learned about dreaming big and a strong work ethic from my MIL. But there has been something that has never been quite right between us. She is different around me then she is around my husband. Passive aggressive. Laying claim on my husband and all that she perceives belongs to him in subtle and not so subtle ways. I’m never restful around her. And yet she presents a very different face to my husband and his siblings. To everyone else.
For the longest time I thought it was me. That I was the one who was off in our relationship so I tried harder to love her and to see only the good in her. I made excuses for her behavior. She was lonely. She had been hurt, likely victimized growing up. She had low self-esteem. I compensated. Some of this compensation was to allow my husband to stay stuck in unhealthy patterns and to put pieces of my marriage on the line.
What I didn’t realize was that the nudges and the unease was part of my gift. I was seeing her true self and God was telling me there was something wrong. He was urging me to pray, but I had numbed myself to the prophetic so that all I knew was that I saw someone very different than everyone else did. This is a risk I’m learning about this particular spiritual gift. I see the world through a different lens.
When there was a death in the family I was filled with an unease that bordered on panic. I did what I usually do. I prayed. And I called Claire. I prayed for love and to see clearly. God spoke to Claire and gave her a vision of a hen trying to be a peacock. A woman who wanted to be the center of attention, to be the epicenter of her family. We both got the sense that there would be bad behavior from my MIL the weekend of the funeral and we both felt strongly that the most loving thing to do was for me to pray for eyes to be opened so her children could start to see her true self. See the bad behavior that has always existed in a way that they could no longer ignore it or overcompensate for it.
This doesn’t sound loving, but it is. I’ll tell you why. My MIL has borderline personality disorder. She has not allowed her children to differentiate from her. She has in a sense brainwashed them that certain behaviors are acceptable in her relationship with them. For her children to heal, they needed to see so they could ask questions, see her behavior superimposed against normal, positive behavior. For her to heal, she needs boundaries set by her children. They love her. They want relationship with her. But they won’t be able to grow to their full potential in their marriages, in themselves, if they do not address their mother’s mental illness.
So I prayed. I asked for grace and mercy. For eyes to be opened. For my mouth to be kept closed and my inclination to protect my husband to be numbed. I prayed for my MIL, that she would allow herself to be truly known by her children. That she would see God’s love in a new way. I prayed for God’s vision of her to replace my experience.
And in the end there was a breakthrough. There was bad behavior. There was questioning. There was a turning in my relationship with my husband.
What does this story have to do with the prophetic? It was time for a family to start down the road to acknowledgment healing and God needed me to hear this so I would take the information He gave me and hold my family in prayer. A prophet doesn’t always speak, but a prophet needs to have a relationship with God so she can discern a clear interpretation of the information God is sharing with her. And she needs to feel God’s love for people. If I hadn’t had that, I would have been so smug when my MIL starting behaving in such an outward manner no one could miss it. I would have felt self righteous. I may have even held this over my husband.
I was tempted. Oh, the times I was tempted. Instead, I prayed for a vision of love for her and her family so I could see what God sees. Without love, I wouldn’t care about the relationships or the pain. I certainly wouldn’t care about anyone’s journey of healing.
There may have been easier ways to learn this lesson, but as usual I’m pretty sure I was deaf to the more subtle messages God was giving me. So, instead of waiting any longer, God threw me into the deep end of the pool. Thankfully, I had a good friend and the Holy Spirit to help me swim.
One thing I’ve learned is that “idols” can warp and muffle our experience of God and warp our view of other people. It’s a very religious sounding word–an idol, I suppose; but I’m not sure that there’s another word that captures the essence of “idol”. We don’t always choose these ideas, beliefs, philosophies, etc, that are placed in front of us. These demiurges that take sensible ideas and enslave us to them. Suddenly, we are slaves to self-care in the form of excessive exercise and dieting or even plastic surgery. Love of family becomes worship of family, and it becomes a sin to try to leave it–ever. God forbid you say anything about your father’s excess drinking or mother’s manipulative behavior.
What I’ve learned is that if we hold on too tightly to these ways of living or even our judgments upon these things, we don’t experience God as intimately as we are intended. Our own opinion becomes more important to us. Sometimes we might indeed hear something, see a picture, and we misunderstand because of our filters. I believe that this is why the prophetic people I know suffer so much. I don’t think that we have to suffer as much as we do, but if we commit to a relationship with God there will be suffering. I think there’s suffering because prophetic people tend towards judgmentalism, black and white thinking, know-it-all-ism, and an extraordinary lack of mercy and compassion. I know one man who justifies this by turning to the OT example of the prophets. Alas, Jesus is our model. He is our prophetic example, and if we are going to be like him then we love. And it starts with *being* loved.
When I read about your MIL and her peacocking, I thought of something. My oldest daughter can be very obnoxious. She can be very judgmental, black and white in her thinking, know-it-all, and terribly unmerciful. Sound familiar? She is a little me. She love justice, and she hates when the vulnerable are hurt. A few years ago her displays would have bothered me to no end because, I confess, they would haver reminded me of the parts of my own personality that I’m not proud of. Parts of me that I don’t really like at all. When I think of myself I often think that I’m quite unloving and obnoxious, and i wonder how people even put up with me. But, I’ve come to know–really know–that I am sincerely liked by God. He doesn’t see me and feel disappointment. He not only loves me, but he LIKES me. Something has shifted in me. Because of this shift, I am finally able to view others with their flaws and not feel threatened or bothered–too terribly. I can find peace more quickly now, and ask God what his plans are. Sometimes we are allowed to see things in others not only for their benefit but also for ours. What God intends to say to them he also intends for us. His healing will be twofold. When I see those qualities in my daughter and I hear God say, “I love her fire.” I’m just amazed. And then I hear, “It runs in the family, you know…” as he winks at me. Those are healing words. My “fire” was criticized. Never praised or directed or shaped. Just…put down.
I wonder…do you see anything in your MIL that at all reminds you of yourself? Or something in her that you wish you had and it pains you to see it?
Also, I don’t know if you realize it, but the first time you referred to your MIL and your husband in this post, you wrote: “She is different around me then she is around her husband.” HER husband. I think you meant to write MY husband, but what an interesting slip.
I have now hijacked your post.
Hijack away! It’s all good discussion. I think the slip is revealing as my MIL has, and does, treat my husband as a surrogate husband. It’s creepy and unsettling and one of the things God is revealing to my husband without my having to say a word to him at this point.
I do resent my MIL. I love her, but I resent that there are things that appear to come so easily to her that don’t to me. And I am angered by the fact she “hijacks” my husband and he has chosen to put her first over me time and time again. This is changing – his behavior and belief as well as my own. When I see my MIL within her mental illness, I see a reason for her behavior. What she does to me is still personal, but I have a context for it.
My understanding of who I am is also changing. I’m learning to not compare. I have always compared my life to the lives of others. Judgementalism, low self-esteem, and a lack of mercy contrubute to this behavior. Jesus is allowing me the opportunity to be him for my MIL and to allow him to enter my life in new and profound ways. Am I finished with my resentment? No. I can say I am still on the journey and God is using my MIL to grow me in grace and compassion.
Something I would say on this…You don’t have to be Jesus. You are not. But, you carry with you the favor of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And, a prayer I’ve just learned: “Jesus, expand yourself within me and empower me in this moment, with this person, in these circumstances, to extend your love–whatever that looks like.” Sometimes Jesus left the masses and sought solace, alone. Sometimes he chose not to minister at all. Sometimes he healed. Other times, he only said one thing. Then, you know, he called the Pharisees ‘vipers’, and he cleared the entire temple complex. So, God’s love often doesn’t look and feels like love to humans because we don’t always like boundaries.
That’s why God spends SOOO much time working on our character, I suspect. I think though I leave most of the viper-calling and temple clearing to someone else…
I think this is where modern Christianity gets in the way of a life in Christ. Be Jesus. I read that an I cringed. How arrogant of me. I can’t be Jesus. I can hardly be me some days. For years I thought I had it all together, that I knew what a life in Christ looked like. What I had was a head full of christianese and religious jargon but not a relationship. Thank you for the reminder. And the prayer. Being a prophet is a humbling experience. Living in relationship with Christ is rewarding and hard. It changes us.
You’re not arrogant. Don’t judge yourself. God doesn’t. xo
Something I need to remind myself daily.