Help, My Identity is Shrinking!

In my last post I disclosed the issue I have with seeing God as he really is and seeing my authentic self. In my years coaching, teaching and counseling I have come to realize this is a state of being for many people. Many people have a blind spot when it comes to seeing themselves. Our narrative is riddled with old scripts and pictures that don’t fit us anymore. Or we are haunted by the words and actions of others and are stuck believing lies about ourselves.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad was a mechanic and my mom stayed home to raise us kids until we reached junior high, at which time she found a permanent part-time position as a secretary. My parents love learning but neither has education beyond high school. In fact, my dad earned his GED when I was young. We lived in a white collar neighborhood, one my parents could afford because dad applied sweat equity to the house to keep costs down and we moved in before all our white class neighbors.

I have never been ashamed of my roots. My family is smart, dedicated and loyal. I am honored to be a part of this family. Not everyone shared my value system and early on in elementary school it became clear that I was the odd girl out. I was introverted. I wasn’t athletically coordinated. I read at a much higher level than everyone else in my class. And I dressed “poor”. I also had a hard time remembering things like play dates and birthdays. I continue to have this difficulty but thanks to advancements in technology, I have a smart phone with a calendar that will remind me as long as I program dates in.

I’m also very opinionated and, well, like to be right. If I knew the answer, I would raise my hand. I found pride in being able to excel academically and to grasp concepts quickly. I also had an almost eidetic memory. If I read it, I remembered it. Especially if I heard and read it. Ah, I miss those days. In other words, I was a brainy, nerdy, bookish kid who loved learning. I was a teacher’s dream.

Due to all these things, and likely some other things I was blind to (social cues were a bit beyond me at times), I found myself alone on the playground at recess, the last one to be picked in gym class and excluded from social activities. Usually I didn’t mind. I had all those books to keep me company.

It really stung, though, when any friendships I attempted to make with children my own age were thwarted by the “in crowd”. I would extend the branch of friendship to new kids, especially to those who were shy and bookish like myself. My new friend and I would enjoy a few blissful days or weeks together and then, the whammy. I would show up to school, often after a day of being ill or volunteering in the school library for lunch and recess, and my new friend would avoid me. And the popular girls would taunt me with notes or snide remarks telling me they rescued my friend from me by telling my friend all about me. Never did they tell me what it was they told my friend. Sometimes my lost friends would make their way back to me for a time, but they would never tell me what it was that swayed them over to the other side.

I outgrew my social awkwardness and I learned to voice my opinions in more subtle ways, or to keep quiet and let others talk and share instead. My training in psychology has really helped me to develop good listening skills and to share empathy instead of a quick answer. I’ve grown as a person. We all do. We are not who we were in elementary school, high school, college. We aren’t who we were five years ago – or we shouldn’t be. We are constantly growing and changing and becoming.

Even though I am no longer that girl, I feel like her all the time. I feel like if I do something wrong or make a misstep I will lose the few amazing friendships I have. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in on the popular kids and because of that, I’m slow to participate. I wait for someone to slide a snide look my way to tell me they have told the world about who I really am; someone who is not worthy of the time or effort to be called friend. I live in fear of rejection.

This last weekend Claire and I spent the weekend together at a conference and as we spent time digesting and discussing the content, it came out that I was a lonely child who had issues with mean girls. What I didn’t tell Claire was that I sometimes have this visceral fear that I will lose her friendship, something that means so much to me. And due to this fear I hide my insecurities so I don’t come off as too needy. Honestly, I don’t want to be that person. I was a needy kid. Or maybe it’s more honest to say I was a lonely kid. And that loneliness tags along with me to this day.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

                      ~2 Corinthians 5:17

The Holy Spirit reminded me on the drive home from Claire’s house that as far back as I can remember I was never alone. That even now I am never alone. He reminded me that Claire is a smart cookie and amazing intuitive and knows me, has seen the depths of me and loves me. The same way my husband loves me. I’m not a powerless child anymore. I am the beloved of God, his child. The child, not of a king but The King. And as his child, I have more gifts,  resources and fellowship at my disposal than I realize. That he is opening up to me new levels of relationship, of authenticity then I ever imagined I could or would ever experience.

This old image of a lonely, brainy, bookish girl who has no friends and lives in a constant vigilance against rejection, it’s just that. Old. Faded. It doesn’t fit anymore. Like the ratty old security blanket my cousin’s teenage daughter carries around with her, it’s no longer necessary. And it has no place in my current identity.

It’s not easy to shed the remnants of my old identity. So what do I do? I wake up in the morning and thank God for his promise and provision. I take time through the day to voice my gratitude for thing both small and large. I pray for God to continue to reveal to me who I am in Heaven so I might live in that identity while on earth. I have some doubt, some unbelief within me so I pray for God to show me how he sees me in dramatic or memorable ways.

I’m not who I used to be. I’m becoming. And as one who has been reconciled to Christ through the work of the cross, I am becoming more like Christ every day. I just have to open my eyes and see.

Through A Glass Darkly

I have an image problem. I have a faulty image of myself. And a faulty image of God.

As I stated earlier, the God of my formative years was a harsh task master. He had exacting standards that no one except Jesus could ever meet. The message that was repeated over and over again was that we would never measure up. We are sinners. Defective. God pitied us.

How can a child even see a clear vision of God when all she is taught is that she is not good enough? That she must work harder to be deserving of her salvation? This message was repeated not just by well meaning teachers and leaders in my church, but by family as well. Most notably, my grandmother. The other borderline in my life.

Her message to me was harsh and unforgiving. I was, and continue to be a disappointment.  Not worthy of her love or favor therefore I will  never receive it. Oh, she encouraged me to try and try again, slapping me down with every attempt I made to be the person she said she wanted me to be. I didn’t know there would never be any pleasing her. I saw my mother bow to the same pressure. Watched her sense of self erode every time we were around my grandmother. And somehow as a young child I equated my grandmother’s treatment of her family as how God must treat us. We could try, but we would never, ever please Him.

Many people have warped images of God due father issues. The emotional triggers we have about our earthly fathers are transferred onto our Heavenly Father. I’ll admit I have father issues, but nothing like my grandmother issues. Then there’s my paternal grandfather. We’ll save him for another day. I transferred my view of my grandmother onto God. This image I carried around of Him was a combination of faulty, works based Christianity and my borderline grandmother. This god was manipulative. Removed. Wanted everything from me, sucking me dry like an incubus. He didn’t care if I was hurting, lonely, used, abused, happy, sad. He didn’t really care about me. Any of us. Relationship? With God? Not going to happen.

Jesus, he was personal, but even with Jesus I had this picture of an impotent but compassionate older brother. He cared but wasn’t really able to do anything to ease my suffering. He was the source of my salvation. He had died, after all, for the sin of the world. But I still had to atone for my sin. It was all so very abstract and convoluted. As I write this I wonder why I even remained a Christian. There is no hope in the picture I carried. I lived a life that was driven by fear, hard work and a lack of hope. How dismal. How…sad.

I survived adolescence and went off to college. Where I learned more about how theologians viewed God. But I also learned that the god of my childhood was not really God. Through therapy and some spirit deep crying out I started to replace this faulty view of God with something more true. More real. The Holy Spirit started to woo me in ways I couldn’t see then but can see clearly now. This kept me from walking away from a faith bruised and battered by life. It gave me something to cling to when I married and moved over 2000 miles from everything and everyone I ever knew.

I still have an image problem. I have learned in the last two years more about who God is, who the Trinity is and who God wants to be for me. I still cling to some of my religious misconceptions like a child clings to a security blanket she no longer needs and is no longer useful. It’s familiar. To let go means to let go of the false sense of security it brings. But I am learning to let go.

Right now I am fasting and seeking God’s face. He’s slow to speak, or else I’m slow to listen. I am relearning about gratitude and thanksgiving. Two critical elements in the Christian life and the life of the prophet. I am learning what it is to be myself. Who I really am in Heaven so I can live the life God has been wanting for me all along.

It’s not easy, letting go of resentments, fear, false pictures of a false god. But if I’m going to move forward I must.  I need this if I’m going to live in peace and joy and with compassion.  I want to know God, truly know him. I can’t do that with my past hanging like a milestone about my neck. Can you?

Dream Until Your Dreams Comes True

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Jesus at the temple dream. What does it mean for me? What is God trying to tell me?

My world has spinning layers of complexity. My MIL is a borderline and the family dynamics are shifting. Some acknowledge her mental illness and others in her family do not. My husband acknowledges it but doesn’t always put me, his wife, ahead of her. Or ahead of the rest of his family for that matter.

My husband is likely depressed and is burning himself out. He is grumpy and prickly and not the laid back man I married. He hates his job, but chooses to remain where he is due to benefits that are allowing him to finish a very important degree necessary for his line for work. He does not engage easily in relational intimacy right now, which puts a strain on our relationship and on my desire to pursue intimacy with him.

Work doesn’t fulfill me. I have a chronic health condition that makes keeping up with everything challenging. In this moment I feel as though hope has been deferred and my heart is breaking. I hold things together because someone has to and I often feel I cannot be my true and authentic self. I’m not even sure who that is any more. I don’t speak of my prophetic gifting except with a very very small circle of friends. I am unlearning misinformation about the prophetic and being taught anew what the prophetic is to a new testament world.  These are not easy lessons because they strip away layers of my beliefs and understanding of who I am.

When I had this dream of Jesus watching the shenanigans of the temple money changers, I had had a particularly nasty fight with my husband about his mom and some boundaries I needed to put in place. I was called a shrew and accused of transferring some of my experiences with another borderline in my life onto his mom. This wouldn’t have hurt like it did if just a few weeks prior my husband hadn’t acknowledged some things about his mother’s behaviors and I had this sense I was no longer trying to cope alone.

In that one fight I felt as though our hard fought unity had been shattered and he was going to revert back to excusing her behaviors and leaving me out in the cold. I felt as though I would always be on the losing end of this battle for our marriage. Exhausted, alone and licking my wounds, I crawled into bed and cried. I think I told God I couldn’t fight any more. That I didn’t know what else to do. Then I had THE DREAM.

Claire had a similar dream around the same time. She has her own reasons to cry out to God. I thought at the time I was dreaming for her. Giving confirmation that Jesus had her back, was watching the money changers in her life and was going to turn the tables. Jesus is glorious that way, and I see that so clearly for other people. And he has turned tables for Claire in real and wonderful ways.

Little did I know that this dream was a message for me, as well.

Only recently do I see Jesus standing for me. I am letting go of low self esteem, inaccurate beliefs and false humility and my eyes and heart are beginning to open to the realization that Jesus has my back and that it his desire to help me. He has a plan. He sees my hurt and frustration and he wants me to know he stands before me. He will clear the temple just for me.

What does God want me to know? That I’m not alone. That He sees and acknowledges the truth of my situation. And that He will not let injustice stand. He has my back. I can trust Him to not only stand for me but to also give me what I need to rise up and over my challenges. That He is in the middle of my marriage, my relationships with my MIL.  He has always been and has never left.

I hope it doesn’t take me too long to learn from this new insight. I have a feeling this is just the leading edge of the storm.

Love is a Battlefield

I’ve been thinking about love and prophecy and marriage and people in general. As a follower of Christ, I believe Jesus gave us a new law and covenant. It’s easy to remember as it only has two parts. Love God with everything and love others as you love yourself.

As easy as this is to remember, it’s difficult to live by. Why? In all my study of human nature, I think it boils down to this: humans look out for themselves first. There is no judgement in that statement. We have this internal drive to survive, even thrive so we put our needs and wants first. It is part of the foundational way we are taught through experience and observation. We don’t want to be hurt in relationships, so we insulate ourselves somehow, holding something back from others. Or becoming cynical and expect to be hurt so when the big let down happens, we tell ourselves we weren’t surprised therefore we aren’t hurt that badly. Of build a wall between ourselves and others through shame and judgement.

This is a simplified explanation, mind you. It doesn’t explain how deep or repeated trauma impact a person’s ability to love and trust. And again, I’m not judging. I live with this subconscious mindset every day. I hold back parts of myself from people because I want to feel safe and to put myself out there, I feel unsafe. I lock onto views and impressions of people and hold those beliefs close to my heart because to bring them out and examine them in the light of true unconditional love, I may be wrong. And being wrong hurts.

To truly love someone else, to be unconditional, we need to step outside this propensity to put ourselves first. I want to get something straight here – I’m not talking about not taking care of ourselves. I’m not talking about not doing the work to be healthy so we can enter into healthy relationships. To be healthy people who are capable of loving others as we love ourselves, we need to do the work. And sometimes doing the work may mean we deliberately put our need for wholeness ahead of nurturing others. I’m also not talking about putting others ahead of ourselves. Though sometimes love shines through sacrifice, this is not where I’m going.

Where was I? Right, loving others as we love ourselves. Engaging in self-growth allows us to put others on the same playing field. As we grow we see others differently. We open up ourselves to others. We learn to see others without cynicism or the baggage of our past. We aren’t swayed by the opinions of others as we once were. We seek out the truth because we are finding the truth within and around us.

Love others as we love ourselves. I can’t love someone if I don’t love myself. I can’t give love if I don’t know what love looks like, feels like, tastes like, sounds like. I can’t be healthy in my relationships if I don’t have a true view of myself as beloved by God.

Without these things, I, we, judge. And we do it well. We compare. We resent. We open up ourselves to bitterness and anger and cynicism and capriciousness.

I can’t be a prophet if I don’t have a foundation of love. The visions I receive, the whispers from the Holy Spirit about others, they could easily lead me to feeling superior. Better than the person the Holy Spirit is giving me words for. I definitely wouldn’t be driven to pray and speak with humility and compassion. Mercy would not have a place in my vocabulary.

Love is so very key. I’m not there yet. I’m a work in progress. Take my feelings toward my MIL. I resent her. I find it difficult to think kind or loving thoughts about her. I want to clench my jaw and tell her all the things God is showing me, not to edify or build her up, but to show her just how awful she has been and to shame her. Yeah, not very loving.

God is using my MIL to help me see some of these very difficult things about myself. Oh, he’s patient. So very patient. And he has a sense of humor. Amidst the pain associated with lancing the poisonous bile of judgement from my spirit, God shows me the funniest pictures of my MIL. Not to shame her, but to help me understand her motivations. They make me laugh, but they also drive the point clearly home. My MIL is a hurting woman with a mental illness. She is responsible for the consequences of her actions, but she is also worthy of grace. She is beloved by God. Cherished. We have that in common. We have my husband, her son, in common as well. I can start here, with the Holy Spirit showing me just how loved she is. And reminding me of how loved I am.

Love is a battlefield. Not because love itself is war, but because there are so many things out there that want to kill or warp the perfect love of God.