vulnerability

You’re F**kin’ Perfect To Me

Claire had a word for me earlier this week. A profound word that I received from her while I was at work. A word that drove me to my knees, figuratively cuz, you know, at work. But there in my cubicle I fought the need to cry until the desert within my soul was saturated with tears of release and longing. To rage at the sky at the hurts I have buried deep within my soul, at the things that have been said over me and done to me and agreed to by me that have done nothing but tear away at my sense of self. This word has ripped me apart inside and when the pieces are put back together I know I will never be the same.

[Y]ou are a talented, intelligent, beautiful, capable woman. You are gifted. The Lord has deposited His image in you. It’s a unique image. No one else on the planet, past, present, or future has this particular image. Your expression of this image is your own, and He is excited to continue revealing it to you and others day by day. You, therefore, have no need to compare yourself to others.
Comparisons are pointless. It’s like hummingbird comparing itself to an orchid. The hummingbird is iridescent and beautiful. One must look hard to see it. It is made with purpose. Everything about the hummingbird allows it to do exactly what it was purposed to do. The orchid, on the other hand, lives in rainforests. It’s not even a bird! Like the hummingbird, it’s a rare beauty, but it’s wildly different. The two cannot be compared. How are they alike? They are alike in that they are  magnificent. They are wonderfully made. They cause one to stop and stare.
When hummingbirds are in action, pollinating flowers, sipping nectar, people gather because the hummingbird in action is a wonder. When the orchid is at rest it seems to just be a collection of leaves. Nothing special. But when it blooms, it stuns. Each variety of orchid is different. In fact, one can’t even compare orchid blooms to each other because they are so different and beautiful.
To compare a moth orchid to a Lady Slipper seems almost like a crime. It denigrates their beauty. Each one is incomparably lovely.
For you to compare yourself to another person decreases your worth. It insults God. He thought you up before the foundations of the world were set in place. Everything about you; your laugh, your eyes, your spirit, your hair, even the way you walk. The name given you. The way you drink your tea. Your creativity. Your longings and secret desires….your desire for more. It’s all known by Him and to compare yourself others, to agree with anyone else, natural or supernatural, that you, as you are, in the eyes of God are somehow lesser or less beautiful or too much or not enough in comparison to someone else is wrong.
Come into agreement with who God says you are. On the day He thought you up, He declared to the Heavens–“I  made her. And she is. ‘She is fearfully and wonderfully made.” Agree with that. If you ever get confused go back to that. If you ever lose your way go back to that.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am good.”
“I am as magnificent as a hummingbird and lovely as an orchid.”
“Incomparably beautiful. There is no one like me.”

This was the first part of the word. It went on from there to show me generational sin and agreements in my family line. In my own life. God used Claire to show me how God sees me and to let me know that in some of the deepest and darkest moments in my life God didn’t abandon me. Which I have always known on an intellectual level but truly believed? No. You see, there’s always been this voice in my head telling me I’m not worthy. I’m not worth God’s love. I’m never going to really be His daughter because I’m broken beyond repair. How could a good and perfect God love someone like me.

That voice sounds an awful lot like my grandmother. But it’s not her. Sure, she spoke words over me that were curses rather than blessings. And the spirit of victimization, the spirit of poverty, a spirit of jealousy started to become empowered in my life. It hurts to type this. I am looking back over events in my life, at social ostracization, at always being on the outside even within my own family and I see a girl who had no idea what was at work in her life. And I see a broken view of God. He wasn’t big enough or didn’t care enough to stop these things. He didn’t stop my grandmother from speaking curses over me time and time again. He didn’t stop the mean girls from making sure my life was a social hell. He didn’t stop the sexual abuse or my own choices that occurred after.

I’ve been harboring anger at God. As for how I feel about myself, I’ve been seeing myself as too much and not enough. Always reaching but never deserving.

God spoke to Claire and she imparted to me that God was with me through it all – the good and the bad. And God has never seen me as lacking. He was with me and He knew He would heal me. God is outside of time. Heal me then, heal me now, does it matter? There is healing. God is there, holding my head through the darkest memories and like a good parent, He is telling me that it will be okay. Telling me He knows it hurts, and hurts horribly to the point where I don’t know if I can stand through the pain. But He will heal these hurts and tend to my wounds. And He wants to do that now.

God also knows that like Thomas I have doubts. Prove it to me, Papa. Prove to me that you were there and that you have always planned to heal these wounds. Prove to me that you can. Prove to me that you loved me when I see myself at my worst. Prove to me that nothing I have done to dare Heaven has diminished your love for me. Prove it, Papa.

Since God knows this part of me, He had Claire tell me that it was okay to ask the hard questions and go into those dark and devastating memories and look. He will be there. He has always been there. Even when I raged at Him for not loving me enough, for playing favorites, for letting dreams fall to dust. For not saving me from myself. God basically dared me to bring Him any bad memory and He will show me where He was and what He was doing. He will show me His goodness.

Funny how well God knows us. Had He not dared me, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Had He not said, “bring it” I would have taken this word and I would have tucked it away. But I wouldn’t have done anything with it. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling God to show me exactly where His goodness was when in sixth grade all it took was one sick day for the head mean girl to turn my best friend of a year against me. When upon my return to class she was mocking me during lessons and ridiculing me at lunch. Where was HIs goodness when that same mean girl made it her mission to turn every new student our age against me to ensure that I was always on the outside and alone? Where was His goodness when I was abuse by babysitters, by a family member? Where was His goodness when my grandmother told me time and time again that I would never be enough. When she would destroy my mother in my presence and then turn to me, daring me to cross her, flaying me verbally when I did.

And God wouldn’t be patiently showing me exactly that. Or He would be, but I wouldn’t be listening. I would have my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears chanting, “la la la, I can’t hear you” like a stubborn strong-willed child.

I certainly wouldn’t be listening to Pink’s single F**kin’ Perfect over and over again, the words a love song to the child I remember and the adult I am becoming because seriously, I think God wrote part of that for me.

You’re so mean, when you talk
about yourself. You were wrong…
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever  ever feel
Like you’re less than, less than f**kin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever ever feel
Like you’re nothing, you’re f**kin’ perfect to me

There’s more to be done. More conversations to be had between God and I. There are old  agreements to abolish. There is bondage to work through. Legal rights to revoke. Exchanges to be made. And healing to be had.

This is an opportunity. An open door. And I have a choice to be made. Will I hesitate to walk through that door and enter into the work of healing and divine acceleration of growth that God has placed in my life? Or will I exchange poverty thinking, fear and judgement for compassion and knowing, really knowing my God-given worth and step through that door?

We all have these moments in our lives, moments of great opportunity that may seem like they carry great cost. And evangelical teachings tell us that the cost is to be weighed and never taken lightly. However, I am reminded that God gives us all we need in order to pay the cost, which in essence means we don’t really pay anything. God does. Why do we fear then? Why do we resist? Because we believe the lies and look at what we have and decide it’s comfortable enough here, where we are. And we miss out on so much.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to see myself as God sees me. I don’t want to be angry anymore or tired of fighting or lonely in a crowd of people. I want something more. Don’t you?

I Want Your Sex – Sexual Identity and the Church

I have had many things on my mind lately. I’m a thinker. I like to sit and ponder things, churning them over and over again in my brain until I either come to some sort of conclusion or I realize I need to put this line of thinking aside for the time being.

I read a very interesting post on a friend’s blog, one that got me thinking about the deeper levels of identity and ignited within me, again, the question of why the faith community in general is afraid to “go there” with certain topics. Specifically, why do we avoid the subject of sex and healthy sexual identity? Especially with those who have been sexually abused, enslaved, or otherwise mistreated?

I’m not going to blast anyone for their sexual orientation or their kinks. Jesus never did, why should I? I am going to state right off the bat, this post is not about whether being homosexual is right or wrong. It shouldn’t be an issue. We are to love everyone, right? And under the law of the land, everyone has rights, correct? And whether you are gay or straight or something in between, you have the right to be treated with compassion and to be seen as God’s creation, correct? Then let’s agree on what we can and move forward. Okay with you? Good.

When I was a child, I was sexually abused by babysitters. I was exposed to inappropriate sexual material, I was encouraged to touch the genitals of at least one babysitter, and I was fondled by yet another. In my teens, it was an old and infirm grandfather who sexualized me and my developing body. And that’s just what I feel open to sharing on this blog. There was more, much more. Why do I share this? Because the statistics share a horrific story:

Women

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1
9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1
  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.1

  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim. [online source]

I never reported my abuse. I didn’t realized anything was wrong enough to report. I thought the lack was in me. Not in the ones abusing and misusing me. Instead, I internalized what these abusers, the church community, and others were telling me about sexuality in general and my sexuality specifically, letting it become a twisted and raw mess.

When I was in high school I started to learn to use my sexuality to get my way. I learned to target the boys who were not popular, the smart geeks who either faded into the background or who were favorite targets of the jocks for ridicule. And I used my sexuality to gain their adoration. I was a vampire feeding on their adolescent lust, using the fact I had breasts and curves to toy with their affection. I was a young woman who knew far more than she should about the power of sex but didn’t know enough about the links between shame and guilt and the cycles of abuse.

I didn’t realize I was harming others while I was punishing myself for being a sexual being. I was just doing what the other girls were doing – flirting. Only I wasn’t trying to land the popular and hot guys. I was aiming low because I didn’t feel I deserved anything better. And it made me feel good to know there were guys out there who would do things for me for the price of my smile. That’s heady, heady stuff for a teenager. especially for a teenager who had no idea what it really meant to be a sexual being who is beloved by God. And my lack of that knowledge and my shame laced confusion led me to some very risky behavior, including a night of sexual experimentation with another woman. After which I can conclusively say I am not a lesbian. However, would I have even gone down that road if I had known what God really thinks about our sexuality. And what God really thinks about the person who has been sexually victimized.

I have had therapy. I have worked through many of my issues and I’ve been married for 19 years to a man with whom I have a good sexual life. God has been healing my identity, and this includes my sexual identity. We are whole people to God. We aren’t sacred and secular. He’s not just in love with our hearts and our spirits. He loves all of us. Our entire being. Our intellect, our hearts, our bodies, our souls, our sexuality. He really does. I’ve believed this for well over 20 years. Ever since that night of experimentation when I heard God tell me He loved me far more than I loved myself at that moment and He was going to do whatever it took to help me love my entire being. He knew that I had issues with my sexuality, that I loathed it. That I had been shamed into thinking I had to suppress this side of myself in order to fit in at church and youth group even as I used it to my advantage elsewhere. That sex was dirty, wrong. That I was dirty and wrong. I believed that I could either be sexual or I could be moral, but I couldn’t be both.

This is the lie I want to address, and this is the lie that I see taught over and over again in the church. Please know, I realize not every believer lives with this dichotomy. If you are one of these people, I thank God you exist and please continue to speak God’s truth. For everyone else, I have a question – Why do you believe we can either be moral/spiritual people or sexual people but not both?

Over the last 20 years, I have seen men and women struggle with their sexual identity. I have seen both genders succumb to porn addictions, seek out affairs (sexual and emotional), engage in destructive sexual practices time and time again. And this is what I’ve seen when abuse hasn’t been a root cause. I have also heard women proclaim that they wish they enjoyed sex. That they didn’t feel they had a voice during sex, that it was all about their partner, that to voice a need or a want was somehow wrong. I’ve heard men complain that they don’t know what their women want and why couldn’t there be a magic pill to allow their wives to have a higher sex drive, and really, what do they need to do to ensure their wives feel pleasure during sex.

I have heard men and women miss the mark when it comes to sex and sexuality. They treat it as an act to be performed or desired. They don’t seem to understand that it is part of who they are and there is so much more to sexuality than intercourse.

I have heard stories of women who have no idea what is normal and who are either afraid to ask or are unable to find someone who will talk to them freely and without judgement.

I have seen teens dress and act provocatively without understanding the message about themselves they are broadcasting, confused because the message they receive from the world around them is the more provocative and blatant the better. And not knowing why they aren’t fulfilled if they do engage in some form of sexual activity.

I have seen people throw themselves into sexual relationships without understanding the natural consequences that exist beyond STDs and pregnancy. That they are forever going to carry around with them a part of each partner they have sex with, and that they are chasing an adrenaline high rather than true intimacy. That their behavior may become more extreme or more risky so they can continue to feel…something.

All I hear from the church is “wait until you are married and then be faithful” or ” you’re married now, your body is not your own so when he/she wants it, you have to give it” or ” Homosexuality is bad, the end.”

I’m sorry, but this is not helpful. Shaming someone for their behavior does not help that person develop a healthy sexual identity. All it does is push them further away from realizing who God made them to be.

What I learned about my sexual identity I learned through the Holy Spirit and through non-Christian friends and resources. God protected me and helped me to draw out the truth from these resources so I didn’t end up falling down the rabbit hole of misinformation. When I asked other newly married women in my church about whether their husbands wanted sex far more often than they did, they shut me down. Didn’t want to talk about it. That was private and taboo. When I talked to my other friends, they were more than willing to talk about the subject, and how difficult it was to be in the mood all the time, helpful ways they found for speaking with their spouses, and how intimacy and sexuality were interlinked.

It took me going elsewhere to learn about my sexual identity. The church offered me nothing helpful. When I needed to talk about what was normal and healthy when it came to expressing my sexuality, I didn’t find help in the church. I found that elsewhere as well. Those candid conversations that helped me to see that instead of connecting with men on a real level, I was using my sexuality to basically enthrall them, I didn’t get that from my youth group leaders. I got that from a group of women who were in the S&M community. They were the ones who helped me to see that I was abusing those men by alluding to promises I never intended to keep and using their vulnerability against them.

When it came to integrating my sexuality into my full identity, well that came from the Holy Spirit. I was in college and dating the man who would become my husband. I was tired of people – Christians –  telling me I was too sexual, or that I was going to lead this man astray. They had no idea what was going on in our relationship. They didn’t know the discussions we had, the honest communication about my past history or his. All they knew was they perceived me of being this siren who was going to lead good men astray. Imagine carrying that burden with you. Basically, they were telling me I wasn’t worthy of the love of a good man because I was a sinful creature. I was a succubus who was going to bleed him dry.

Then one day what was happening became clear. A prior boyfriend was watching the music video for Amy Grant’s hit Baby Baby. He made a point of taping the video and bringing it, a television and a VCR to my dorm and “forced” me to watch the video. His intent was to shame me by drawing parallels between Amy’s flirtatious behavior in the video, behavior that had men watching her instead of their own girlfriends. If you have ever seen Amy Grant, sure she exudes this earthy and lovely sexuality but it’s wholesome, not lewd.

And this is what was finally clear that day – what others were seeing wasn’t a woman who was highly sexualized and perhaps even a predator. They were seeing someone who was becoming comfortable with her sexuality and didn’t shove it in a closet. I would be kind and gentle and match the energy of those I was talking to, giving them my full attention. And my facial expressions, my body language, that was a part of that. Was I still using my body to garner the wrong kind of attention? No. Was I attempting to turn men’s heads so they would notice my body and fall in deep lust with me? No, I was not.

What was I doing? What I do today. I was being myself. I was being open and friendly. I was being comfortable in my own skin. I was feeling the joy of being in a new relationship and letting that joy be present on my face and in the movements of my body. I was learning that I am a woman who is loved by God. I would walk and move as one who was comfortable with her body and when I danced, I would move as a woman worshipping God with her body. People were noticing. And that was mistaken for being a temptress. I have to laugh now because I didn’t dress provocatively in college. I went to a Christian college with a dress code and I wasn’t one to attempt to push the boundaries of said code. Breasts were never bared, my midriff was always covered, nothing was too tight or too short. But something about my demeanor was obviously offending people.

I was being punished for their discomfort. Women, it seems, are always being punished when their very presence make someone uncomfortable. We are too loud, too brash, too meek, too pretty, too sexy, too much. Is that really how God sees us? Look at the Song of Solomon. If you need any further proof that God is in love with our sexuality, it’s there in the beautiful and haunting descriptions of two lovers and how they feel about each other’s hearts and bodies.

God loves us. And that includes our sexuality. God wants us to live fulfilled lives. That includes our sex lives. Now, before you go out and take this as permission to engage in risky behavior, a fulfilled life doesn’t mean doing what feels good. It means a life rich in relationship with God. God is present with us all the time. Did you read that? All. The. Time. In and out of the bedroom. During times of abuse and times of deep healing. When we turn our back on others and when others turn their backs on us. God is with us. As with everything we do, what we do and how we embrace our sexuality, it first and foremost is to be honoring to God.

God has a plan for our sexuality. He made us in His image, after all. Do I know what that is? No, not entirely. But I know this – there is a way to be sexual and to honor God. And repressing our sexuality is just as dishonoring to God as flaunting it or using it to harm others.

Just how different people of faith would be if we could understand how God sees our sexuality and if we were willing to openly discuss this within our communities of faith and with the world in general. Not pointing fingers or hawking chastity rings or burying our heads in the sand. If we want to be a culture that’s different, let’s take a cue from Jesus and get out there and love people and be honest with them. Let’s make sure we know what the God’s truth is about sex. Let’s remove the language of shame from our discussions. Let’s be willing to be gritty and honest and in the trenches with people. And, please oh please, let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s deal with our hangups and misconceptions and guilt and shame. Let’s finally see ourselves and our sexuality as God does. Amen.

Who Are You, I Really Wanna Know

Confession time. I’m not trying to be cute with my blog post titles. The vast majority of them are lines from songs, titles from songs or plays on lines from movies. This is not to be cute. This is how my brain draws parallels between what I’m learning in the spirit or the abstract and how it applies in the natural. Said differently, it’s my own personal mnemonic device.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Now back to our regularly scheduled post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately. Claire and I seem to be on similar paths in this season of our lives. Our conversations seem to always circle back to identity. The dreams I wake up remembering all have this component that relates to identity. We even attended a seminar this past weekend where the focus was on identity from God’s perspective. I’ve decided to go with it. If this is the area God wants me to focus on right now, that’s where I’ll focus my time and effort.

I’m not new to the idea of identity. In my graduate work in psychology we discussed theories of personality and core identity. How when behavior deviates from how a person presents themselves you have a window into where there may be hurts, distorted beliefs, mental illness, or potential gaps in a person’s development and internal integration, or a window into what that person really believes. For example, if I say I love and respect my parents, but am always mocking their decisions or putting down their beliefs, then I either have a very distorted and disturbing view of love and respect that needs to be addressed, or I’m showing you my true colors and I really don’t respect my parents at all. Or something in between. Either way, something needs to be addressed so my beliefs and my behaviors can align.

It’s similar in the spiritual. What I believe about myself, about God needs to align with what is true about God and how He views me. It’s sifting through the stories I’ve told myself about who I am and letting go of anything that isn’t reality. It’s being willing to shed the labels others have placed on me so I can find out who I really am underneath all the labels I’ve accumulated over the years. And being willing to reclaim parts of myself I’ve allowed to diminish over the years.

After Saturday’s seminar, I had a dream that I was a superhero with a benign every day persona and a larger than life superhero persona. Then God reached down and ripped off my mask. He told me that when I wore the mask, I only wore the parts of myself I thought had value, that were accepted and admirable. The parts I considered strengths either because they were needed by others or because I believed they were what other people wanted from me. Everything else about me faded and became so very small no one could tell they were there.

When I wasn’t wearing the mask, those larger than life parts of myself diminished and these other parts of myself started to grow and develop. People who saw me with my mask didn’t recognize me without it. I didn’t recognize myself.

So when God took away my mask, I was devastated. I need it! In order to be what everyone else was telling me I was, I needed it, otherwise I was lost. No one wants to be lost.

Just before I awoke and the dream started to fade into the misty memory it is today, I remember God whispering in my ear as I was panicking. He said it was time to reclaim myself, to be reacquaint myself with the parts of myself I’ve let go in order to live up to these other expectations, including expectations I’ve heaped upon myself. It’s time to meet the me God created me to be.

I figure in order to grow as a prophet, or to grow in any of our spiritual gifts, we need to really know who we are. This takes work. Sometimes difficult and trying work. But always rewarding work. Identity is the next step for me. It’s time to mine my inheritance words and the prophecies I’ve received and layer by layer dig and sift and dig some more to learn all about who God has already said I am. The answers are there, waiting for me.

It’s there for you, as well. Who are you? Who does God say you are? Don’t you want to know?

For What It’s Worth

If performance is not the marker of God’s love for us, what is? How do I know God loves me? How do I know I please Him?

I struggle with this. Intellectually, I know God loves me and is pleased with me because of who He has declared me to be in Heaven and because of the defining work of Jesus on the cross. I know He delights in me.  In my head, I know this. It’s my spirit that has a difficult time believing.

I think it’s because God’s love is so very counter to how our worth is measured in our day-to-day lives. At work, I am given assignments, promotions and merit increases based on how well I do my job. My great smile and winning personality might count for a very small portion of my worth to my company, but the bottom line is this: no matter how well I am liked for who I am, if I do not perform at or above the company’s expectations, I will be out of a job. In the professional arena, my worth equals my performance. I’m not saying this is wrong. The workplace isn’t often about relationship, it’s about outcomes. My integrity and personality, my strengths play into the measure of my worth but at the end of the day, it’s about outcomes.

In my relationships with family, I like to believe my worth is based on unconditional love and acceptance. Parents tell their children they will love them no matter what. Siblings may fight bitterly one moment and then embrace each other in spirited camaraderie the next. On the surface this can feel like worth is about who I am within my family, but when I dig deeper there are inconsistencies. I do something wrong, and someone may threaten to box up all their toys and take their relationship away. Or there’s the family member who will withhold any type of love or affection UNLESS I performed in a manner pleasing to them.

Then there is the spousal relationship. We vowed to love each other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  And we do. I love my husband and he loves me. We don’t always like each other. When I reflect on my marriage, I see two people who keep score. Who like to be right. Who, when thwarted, instead of finding that middle ground of compromise, can pull the rug out from under relationship and lord it over the other person. Oh, how I wish I could say this behavior is the domain of my other half. Sadly, I have been found guilty of this very same behavior.

In all these relationships there are moments where worth seems to be based on performance. On how well we measure up against another’s wants, desires or expectations. We get this mixed message about what it is that makes us worthy.  People, in my experience, tend to be fickle. God is not. He’s consistently and fully in love with us. With me. And my worth is not something I have to earn. Or validate. Or prove. Not to God. He doesn’t react out of anxiety or fear. He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t take past hurts or slights and hold them against me. His love is consistent. Constant. His relationship with me is always secure. 

Intellectually, I know this. And I feel funny asking Him to show me, to write it so deeply upon my DNA that the experience of this knowledge becomes as common as breathing. I want to experience God’s love and delight so deeply, I can’t help but see others in the same way. I don’t want to confuse my worth with performance ever again. And I don’t want my love for others to be based on performance. I want to love my husband the way God loves him. I want to delight in my siblings and my parents. I want to see my friends with great compassion. I want to look at strangers with kindness.

I can’t earn love. I can’t perform my way to Heaven. But I can be with God. And I can sit at His feet and commune with Him. I can abide with God. I can enter relationship with him. I can stand between the Father and the Son and bask in their love for me while the Holy Spirit gently holds my shoulders and helps me to stay. With God, at the end of the day it’s about relationship, which is always, always secure. Always true. Always full of love and delight.

So, feeling funny or not, I ask God to show me His great love in ways that are so clear, so fantastic I can’t help but see it for what it is. And to remind me there is not need for shame or timidity or fear. Tonight I pray for signs of God’s love. For reminders of His delight for me. I pray this for you, too. We can’t reframe how we see ourselves and have that truly stick without God.

Love Me Tender

Life would be so much easier if we always interacted with others from a place of love and grace and compassion and mercy. That is who we are becoming but it’s not always how we live. We can’t treat others in a manner counter to how we treat ourselves. We can’t see others in a way we don’t see ourselves.

Who I am in Heaven and how I live my life now are often at odds with each other. When this chasm in who I am and how I behave is pointed out to me, my first instinct is to defend my behavior. And shift blame on to others. She made me do it. He made me so angry. There was nothing I could do. The devil made me do it.

Raise your hand if you’ve reacted to criticism in the same way? This reaction that we think is so normal is rooted in fear and shame. Why should we be defensive when a person or the Holy Spirit is pointing out an area in our lives that are in need of growth? Why should we be afraid of growth? We shouldn’t. But the enemy is If we grow, we become more like Christ. We become stronger and more able to resist and triumph over the the schemes of the ruler of this world.

I was reminded recently that part of the prophetic journey is not just to remind others of who they are in Christ and the great gifts God has for them, it’s for us. God wants His people to be filled with His compassion so we can be that compassion for others. We live in an age of grace. Judgement for the world was poured out on Jesus at Calvary. Jesus was judged for sin past, present, and future. He was punished for our sin. He paid for our sin. We are no longer bound by sin. There are natural consequences to our actions, sinful and otherwise. But God is not sitting up on His throne casting judgement.

God speaks to us in love. As His prophet, I need to be filled with this love. Without this love, I am prone to judgement. If God is not judging in this period of grace, I certainly should not be judging. The church shouldn’t be judging. Anyone. There’s a lot of judgement in today’s church. Heck, in today’s world. We don’t agree with someone, we judge them. Someone offends our belief system, we judge them. Someone hurts us, we judge them.

I’ll admit it, I get something out of judging other people. I feel smug and superior and for a girl who always felt less than, this can be a heady experience. This is not a helpful thing for a prophet. Or for any Christian for that matter. We aren’t better than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we are all equal. He doesn’t see castes of believers and non believers. He sees His children and He wants to reconcile the relationship with each of us. That takes a whole lot of love. He knows that most of us will reject Him and yet He showers us with His love anyway. And it is this message of love He wants to spread through His prophets. This is why the first lesson the prophet needs to learn is about love. 1 Corinthians 13 love. The way God loves us, that needs to become how we love others.

I’m not there yet. I still find myself sitting on my high horse at times. But I see things differently. 1 Corinthians 13 is taking on new meaning for me. It’s not an unattainable standard we will never be able to live up to. Turn it around. Don’t read it as though it’s a manual for us. Read it as though God is speaking to us. Read it over and over again and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the passage from God’s perspective. To show you God’s deep and abiding love for you. For us. It will start to really change your life.
It’s been changing mine.