Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies · The Basics

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

flower walk, pink and treesGod knows how to love you.

He knows what’s going to reach you. He knows how to show you love in a way that will connect with you and make its truest mark on you.

He doesn’t love like people do.

People have loved you, but not perfectly. Sometimes, their love has manifested as dominance and even control. And it scares you, makes you build your invisible boundaries so that people can see you but can’t know you. You are open and honest and don’t hide your true self from anyone… but never do you give yourself to anyone. You let them see, but don’t let them touch. Because if they can touch, they can hurt. You don’t want that to happen to you anymore. So you hold up your invisible boundaries, so that you are visible but not truly vulnerable.

You know love is giving. That love is always a risk. But the cost… you’re not sure you’re truly willing to pay it.

She tells you that to love is to be willing to be broken for their sake. And that in order to be loved, you must make yourself vulnerable to receive what they give… which makes you vulnerable to the risk of being hurt. You know she’s right. You want to listen to her.

But you realize that in your efforts to keep people from controlling you, you have begun to act controlling toward them. You’ve learned to maneuver conversations and interactions so that you can keep anyone at a subtle distance, to protect against the chance of them hurting you. And when He shows you that you’ve even extended that to how you relate with Him… it terrifies you. Because who is He, truly, if He isn’t the image you’ve crafted of Him for yourself? If you can’t ignore pieces of Him and pretend He’s someone He might not be?

You pray a prayer you can feel the danger pulsating throughout: “Reveal your true self to me. Help me to accept the way you want to love me, even if it’s not a way I’d ask for.”

He starts answering. But not in ways you expected. And you even expected the unexpected.

He shows you a young man. One who is sweet and humble, but not without being strong and bold. The young man leaves soon, but not without searing that image in your mind. Part of you slowly begins to believe those things can coexist, gentleness and strength. Part of you begins to see that strength makes you feel small, but doesn’t have to in the ways it has before. Instead of intimidating and scaring you, this strength can make you feel safe. You don’t have to feel powerless. You can feel wrapped in it, and it can warm the winter in you. Among the wild mess inside you, there’s a moment of clarity, and you realize that is what’s happening.

You realize it is Him doing it.

You see that His love is meeting you in ways that will get through to you. He’s been going at your pace. Instead of demanding you change so that you can be loved, He has been entering what’s there, even your vices, and loving you. Not simply in it, but with it. Anything, He says, to be with you.

Anything to love you.

He knew what would reach you. You hid, but He still saw you and knew you. He became the shape that would fit the hole you’d found yourself in.

He knew the deep desires you barely knew existed in your heart, and He entered them, met them in ways you wouldn’t have thought. You didn’t think to want these things, because you didn’t believe you were the kind of person who would ever have them. But He brought love home to you, in a bouquet of flowers bigger and more elegant than anything you’d ask for. It blew you into wide-open wonder and gratitude. But you weren’t looking at the flowers when you thanked Him– you just looked at Him. You met His eyes with your teary ones, and you just looked at Him. Because He was the gift. He didn’t only give you flowers; He had given you His heart. Himself.

Love is giving. The giving of yourself for their sake. And He knows that more than anyone. He always has.

He’s been doing it right under your nose this whole time.

You thought you had to do the hard work of breaking down all the lies that live in your core before you could let yourself be loved. You tried to take steps to do so, and it was beautiful and brave of you. But He chuckles, and He murmurs into your ear that only one thing has ever been necessary.

All you had to do was lean into Him, and let Him love you.

So that’s what you do. You close your eyes, lean against His chest, feel Him wrap you close.

And you let Him love you.

“Simple trust is your participation.”   –Eve by Wm. Paul Young

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On Media & Art · Practical · Testimonies · The Basics

How I’m Replacing My Anxiety: On Power, Positivity, & Choices

dsc05066When I picked up a dingy little book at a yard sale for a few cents, it was simply because the title seemed interesting to me: “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.”

I was struggling with questions about anxiety and how big a role it played in my life, so much so that it was nearly all I could think about every day. I knew nothing about this book, but I’d reached a point where I was willing to hear out anyone who might be able help me figure out what I could do about what I was facing.

During the time I read the book, not only did I receive deep convictions from its words, but I also had an open conversation with a counselor friend of mine about anxiety and its presence in me. These things paired together, following God’s revelation to me about the peace He’s made for me to walk in, have helped me find a grip on my peace and led me in the process of beating my fear.

If you struggle with anxiety, I want to share what I took away from “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Dr. Susan Jeffers with you. I know every experience is a bit different and not everything works the same in everyone. If these things end up not doing for you what they do for me, nothing is wrong with you; you are working hard and doing an incredible job, finding the best weapons and strategies for your own battle. Do not let shame lie to you, and do not give up. This is just my experience, and if you end up being able to share in it, it would be cruel of me to keep what I’ve learned from you.

Not everything I learned from the book is completely related to anxiety, but all of it has been transformative for me. These were my four main takeaways:

1) Fear is based on the lie, “I can’t handle it.”

When I become obsessive and fearful about something in my life, no matter how big or small, there is one common belief that fuels the anxiety: I believe that if the bad thing I’m anticipating happens, it will be too much for me and will overcome me. Usually I am not even aware that I believe this, but the presence of the fear reveals it about me.

A few months ago, I was overwhelmingly anxious about visiting my old stomping grounds. I didn’t want it to be a painful experience, and I’d had panic attacks the last few times I’d been there. But I asked myself: what would happen if my fears were true, and it was painful and I did have a panic attack? I’d have a few difficult hours in my day– and then I’d go home. It might take me a few days to recover, but I’d recover. Was that devastating enough to keep me away? Despite the anxiety I still hosted, I decided to go– and it ended up bringing a lot of healing for the bitterness I’d been hosting toward that place. I did have a panic attack, but afterward I had a lot of good moments, too. I’m glad I didn’t let fear keep me from them.

Two years ago, I was terrified to drop out of college, because I didn’t want to be occupation-less, lose relationships, or be looked down upon for it. But what happened when I did drop out… and I did become occupation-less, lose relationships, and get looked down upon? I cried. I was hurt. I grieved. I wrestled with armfuls of questions, for months. Then I made my peace with it, and realized I was healthier emotionally than I’d ever been before. I became grateful for the opportunity to live a life more true to what I was made for. My fears might have become reality, but it didn’t ruin me; in the long run, it healed me. I survived it and found treasure along the way. I needed things to happen the way they did.

When I accept my fears at face value, they seem giant and domineering. But when I look deep enough into them, I can see how small they are against the backdrop of everything else life holds. I can see that no matter what happens, positive or negative, it won’t be the end of me. I have experienced deeply painful, terribly oppressive times, lasting moments and lasting years– and I am still here. I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. What we’re scared of does happen sometimes. But we survive. We learn and we keep walking. Nothing is final or too much for us.

Nothing can come for us that is bigger than He who is for us.

2) We can hold fear from two positions: pain, or power.

How you view your circumstances is known as your locus of control, and there are two possible versions of it: an external one or an internal one. If your locus of control is external, it means that you believe life happens to you and there’s nothing you can do to alter your circumstances. However, if your locus of control is internal, it means that you believe you have the power to use what you have in your given circumstances to create the life you want.

I refused to consider this concept when I first learned about it. My locus of control was completely external; I believed I was stuck where I was in life, which was a terribly harrowing belief to have, because it was eating me alive to stay in my circumstances. When I was told I could change my situation if I wanted to, I immediately shut the idea out, because I didn’t believe I was capable of doing that. But multiple people from multiple areas of my life all began unknowingly asking me the same thing: “Have you ever thought about doing something else?”

And my answer, when I finally gave one, was: “…no. Is that possible?”

Once I opened myself up to the idea of making my own changes, once I realized I had power over myself– God showed me how to use it. He didn’t leave me floundering by myself, nor did He become angry at me like I feared. It turned out that He was the one who made me powerful in the first place. Using that power was not, in fact, a rebellion against Him, but rather a submission to Him and His design for me.

It took months for me to say yes to my new direction, and even longer to tell anyone about it and begin acting on it. But I did. I started making changes. I left old things and started pursuing new ones. It was still hard, but a different kind of hard than before; this was the kind I knew was going to birth good things.

I’m not stuck anymore. I know that, at any time, if what I’m doing is not good for me, I can change it and do something else. I have the power to do that.

When we’re in any situation, we are making a choice to stay there. We can choose not to stay there anymore if we want to. I used to constantly say, “I can’t do that because this thing is preventing me.” But the truth is that there is truly nothing I can’t do.

If I wanted to move to Los Angeles today, I could. I don’t have money, transportation, or a place to stay, but I could pack a suitcase and get on a bus, and once I arrived I could find a shelter somewhere. Would it be the wisest thing for me to do? Probably not. So I choose not to do it. But I don’t get to say that I can’t do it.

If I want something badly enough, I have ability to go get it. It is just that sometimes the payoffs of not doing it at this point in time might outweigh having it right now. That’s okay! It teaches me patience and trust. Life is largely about the process; waiting times are not times we have to despise or rush to escape. Sometimes it’s the right time to make a change; other times, it’s the right time to wait it out for a while. But we are never stuck. Once we understand that, we are living from a much more productive and positive place.

I think a lot of us grew up viewing power and control as negative things. I have known and been affected by controlling people my entire life, so I know it’s easy to have those negative connotations. But do you know why controlling, manipulative people do what they do? They feel powerless. The reason they are seeking to control you is that they see power in you and want to benefit from it; they don’t believe they can do what they want to do themselves, so they use other people. Controlling people have an external locus of control.

A healthy sense of power is so different from that. When you believe you are powerful, you believe in your ability to do what you want to do, not to make someone else do it. A truly powerful person is someone who knows they are in control of their own actions and attitudes, and exercises that control in order to make good choices and love well.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; it’s something He gives us and wants to see in our lives. It is not simply the ability to keep yourself from bad choices, like we seem to teach all the time– it’s also using your power to make really good ones. When you use your power well, you are demonstrating spiritual growth.

This all affects our relationships with fear and anxiety because if you believe in your power, you will start using it. With an internal locus of control, you know that your circumstances don’t control you– you control you. Whatever fear is living in you, you know you are bigger than it and that you can combat it. You do not allow yourself to become a victim of anxiety, but rather a master over it. You might have anxiety, but it is you that owns it, not the other way around.

When I am afraid, I have a choice. I can choose to succumb to it and let it lead me, or I can choose to ride the wave out and get through it. Fear still exists for me, but it doesn’t have to win out over me.

It’s a cliché now, but it’s still true: when you learn you are powerful, you begin to realize you also carry responsibility. You realize you can’t blame others for your happiness (or lack thereof) anymore, because you are in control of your experience. No one can be responsible for your quality of life except for you.

There’s an important distinction between your experiences in life and your experiences of life. Things happen to us that we had no hand in. We don’t get to choose where we grew up, or what programs accept us, or who falls in love with us. But we do get to choose how we let those things affect us. Bitterness? Despondency? Entitlement? Those are responses. And while we may not be able to choose our initial feelings and it’s important for us to recognize them, we one hundred percent control what we decide to feed and sit in versus what we decide to let go of and move past. We have control over how we choose to live; we have the power to look at everything through a hopeful lens instead of a victimized one.

I have found that when I take responsibility for my feelings and my mindset along with my behavior, it is easier for me to be kind to others and to love my enemies. I can’t get mad at someone for not giving me something I have the ability to give myself. It doesn’t mean I’m condoning their negative behavior; it just means I’m not letting it change my positive behavior.

3) Being positive is not being in denial, it’s being perceptive.

Many of us have been told that when we look for the positive, we are not aware of the reality of the situation and are being oblivious to what’s going on. But let’s take a minute to think about this: what makes it so that a positive mindset is less realistic than a negative one? Both are perspectives, ways of viewing reality. And the way you view reality determines how you treat it. So if we choose a negative mindset in the name of being realistic, what we are really doing is determining to have a negative reality.

Choosing a positive mindset is not being unrealistic– it is choosing to have the best experience possible in reality. When we view life through a positive lens, we don’t need denial, because we can see possibilities for ways to make things better, and we are more likely to act on those possibilities because we believe they can make a difference.

Positivity is not weak, it is empowering.

It can be wildly hard to get rid of a negative mindset when you’ve been hosting one your whole life, or when you are in environments that are full of the kind of talk that fuels one. Perseverance matters so much in this. Our subconscious’  believe what they are told; if they are fed insecurities, lies, and thoughts of helplessness, and they aren’t also being fed a greater measure of affirmations, truths, and motivation, they will continue to operate out of destructive patterns.

We have to out-talk our negativity. When you feel insecure, name strengths and good traits you possess and point out to yourself how you’re doing a good job; when someone tells you something that is against your God-given identity, reaffirm your identity and what it means for you; when you start to feel helpless, tell yourself that you are powerful and remind yourself of all your options. Be kind to yourself. Be active and relentless about it, and have people in your life who echo these kinds of healing words to you. Let love, not fear, have the final word in you.

4) When it comes to making decisions, there is no loss, only gain.

I am the queen of indecisiveness. If there are multiple options, I pretty much go into paralysis until it’s narrowed down to two, at which point I will toss the two options every possible way they can be turned, then make a very hesitant choice. I will proceed to doubt my choice for weeks. What a fun cycle, eh?

But making decisions is actually a lot less complicated and dire than I’ve believed it to be. No matter which option I choose, the truth is that there is not a losing decision. On any path I walk, there is a wealth of lessons, experiences, and treasures for me to find. I think often we fear making a bad choice because we don’t want to miss out on something good. But what if we had a different perspective when making a decision? What if we focused on what the different options have to give instead of what we’d potentially lose? When we do that, we are no longer looking for the least costly option, but instead for the most rewarding one. It is much more productive to function this way.

And if you end up being unsatisfied with your decision? You can still make a different one! It is okay to make mistakes. No matter how many zigzags you make on your path, you’ll still be able to get to where you’re going. We gain lessons and experiences from everything we go through. God’s business is redemption; nothing is wasted. And He knows what you’re going to choose before you choose it, so you can rest in knowing it’s all part of something bigger, something that will always work out for your good.

——-

Phew! There is so much to unpack in these concepts, so much we can reap from them. I encourage you to keep ruminating on them. And, if you’d like, I so recommend reading “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.” The last two chapters are a bit out there and I admit I only skimmed them because they were more opinion-based, but the rest of the book was such a transformative tool in my life.

Anxiety doesn’t own me anymore. I am better equipped to face it than I knew I could be. All of this is my story; I’m not going to present it as the cure or the never-failing balm for anxiety. But I wanted to share my experience and the tools I’ve found useful, if there’s any chance you might be helped by it, too. I am rooting for you and fully believe in a breakthrough for you, however in comes into your life. Thank you for being interested in how in came into mine.

Responses · The Basics

On Brokenness, Fear, & The Cure

I’ve never been able to articulate any thoughts or feelings about tragedies; I just can’t talk about them. I have always turned to music instead. I’ve painted with tears in my eyes as I listened to a song in attempt to find comfort; I’ve sung words that poured out of me and became prayers; I’ve written verses that maybe no else hears but that have been some of the most genuine, crafted verses to come from me. It’s the only thing I can manage. For me, tragedy becomes music.

I’m beginning to understand why.all of God's children

I believe fear and all that comes from it is the driving force of all that is broken about the world, about us. I believe love is the cure.

I believe any action born of our brokenness comes from a deeply-rooted fear. And I believe the deepest fear we all carry is this: that God doesn’t love us like He says He does. This fear ends up convincing us we aren’t loved at all, because God is love. We fight the fear every day, often without knowing. Some of us lose the fight, miserably, every single time; I believe that is why we do the terrible things we do. If we don’t believe in the love that exists for us, we can’t believe in any love that can come from us. So we don’t love. We don’t know that we can.

That is why I believe love is the cure. I believe that when we all accept the love that exists for us and enter into learning how to love others, our brokenness will be healed. Love is the cure. God is love. And I run to Him with tears in my eyes, and He holds me close and tight until the pain finally stops.

I am discovering that all of this is why my response to pain has always been music. Music is my home. I’ve always felt a belonging and a kinship inside it. I’ve been through seasons of distancing myself from it, but every return is genuinely like a homecoming, like waking up. I was made for music, or it was made for me, or some combination of both.

Music is the place where love is manifested the greatest for me. It is where I feel most alive, where I feel like I am living in what my Father has made for me to live in. Music is how I most purely receive love, and it’s how I most purely give love.

Of course it would be my response to tragedy, to violence, to pain, to brokenness, to fear– it’s where I meet the deepest love I know.

I want you to look inside yourself, and I want you to find whatever your music is. What makes you come alive every time you find yourself in it? What is home for you? What is the biggest fountain of love in your life? When you find whatever it is– do it. Do it wholeheartedly and without reserve, and do not stop. Your souls needs it, but even greater than that: the world needs you to do it.

When fear and all its friends is our response to tragedy, we’re only allowing more of the problem into the world, because fear is the source of it. But when you find your identity in the love that exists for you, and when you release the love that’s living in you, you are adding to the cure.

If we all loved from our deepest places, we would see love come into its fullness in our world. It would become the kingdom on earth. And our greatest hope is in His promise– that this kingdom of love is our inheritance, is our actual future.

He proves His love for us, as He teaches us to love like Him. And He fixes the brokenness; with His perfect love, He casts out the fear.

Fear doesn’t have the final word– love does. Love always has the final word. Because love is bigger and is stronger.

So, please: enter into Love. Find your music. And make it with all that you have.

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”  -Leonard Bernstein

[Listen]

 

Testimonies

On Struggling & Peace

I don’t usually like telling the stories behind my artwork. Often I want to, but then I remember a friend who told me about a piece of mine that connected a few dots for her. What she gained from it was not at all what I’d meant in those brushstrokes, but it was just as meaningful. I don’t want to ruin the beauty in what you see by sharing what I thought you’d see.

But this time… I need to tell you. It matters to me that you know what it means.

I painted this piece yesterday:DSC05919

There’s a story behind it, but it’s not a complete story; it’s honestly just an early paragraph of what I’m still living. The prologue: I struggle with anxiety sometimes. And sometimes I can’t fall asleep because I’m just so alert and afraid. What am I afraid of? Honestly, I don’t really know. Fear doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s the practice of telling stories to yourself. If something isn’t real, it doesn’t have to make sense to terrify you, because you believe it’s real.

I haven’t always known what to do in situations like these; only in the past year have I recognized how big of a struggle anxiety can be for me. I didn’t know there was anything I could do. But now, when I’m lying in bed and my heart is pounding and I don’t want to move or open my eyes– I breathe. I inhale deeply, and exhale long. I do it over and over until the wave passes.

At some point, I realized the best way this worked for me was when I visualized Jesus lying there with me, leading me in my breaths like a faithful husband would. And it’s not something I’m imagining in the sense that I’m projecting Him into my situation. He is there with me, and He is leading me into peace. It’s real. I simply need some semblance of His physical presence when I’m that hyper-aware of my surroundings. And He meets me there, and He stays.

One night, I was anxious, but not to the point of panic. I simply closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

He gave me a vision.

In the vision, I was lying on a giant, royal blue pillow of silk. It waved like the sea, and it floated among the stars. On that pillow, I was at peace.

“It’s me,” He whispered. “You’re with me.”

I haven’t been able to forget it.

Life and being a person have been a bit difficult lately; I’m struggling with a lot of fears and doubts. Normally, I’d be the first person to turn all this into an encouragement. Which isn’t a bad thing, and I do hope you find encouragement here. But if I were to do that completely intentionally this time, it wouldn’t be the fully honest thing.

The honest thing to do with all of this is to tell you that sometimes, things get hard. And sometimes when things get hard, you know what you need to do; you know the simple truth and what response it calls for. But sometimes… even the simple thing is incredibly difficult.

I know the key to peace is to rest inside my Father and His strength. I know it. I know it’s what my vision meant. And it’s such a simple act to lay down your burdens and just lie on your Father’s chest, to let Him take care of you and find peace in Him. Yet it is something I am working so hard to do right now. I trust Him. But I also fear what’s to come. Which means there’s a part of me that doesn’t trust Him. And it takes a lot of effort every day to silence that part of me, to break out of my worries and just let Him be my peace.

I want to tell you to rest in Him, to let Him do the work, to trust Him. And I do tell you that, whole-heartedly. A mind focused on Him the key to peace. But I also can’t tell you that without also telling you even rest can be hard sometimes. Because we have to keep actively choosing to remain in it, when there are countless distractions trying to steal us away. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we can trust Him; that He loves us right where we are, and isn’t angrily demanding more from us; that His invitation into rest is a warm entreaty He’s making because He wants to be with us and wants to love us well.

I think that’s why He gave me the vision, and why I felt I needed to paint it and tell you about it. Like I need to visualize His presence in my anxious nights, sometimes I need to see that His presence is here for me to find safety in, here for me to delight in… here. With me. When I’m overwhelmed or afraid, I think of the vision and the world slows down for a few moments; now when I look at my wall, maybe I’ll remember to snuggle close. And maybe you’ll remember the picture when you’re feeling burdened, too. Maybe it could help you. How wild would that be?

Sometimes peace takes work. And sometimes, when we fully believe in how loved we are, we rest in knowing the hardest parts have been done for us.

Responses

On Having a Voice

everything will be okayA few weeks ago I started writing something in anger because someone was speaking pointless words that tore others down. I didn’t plan on writing anything more about it than that little processing-piece only I would see.

Then that person, not knowing I was upset or that I’d even heard their words, opened up to me. They told me they often feel they don’t have a voice; that they don’t have anything important to say, let alone a platform where they can say it.

I realized that I’m often a lot like them.

It’s hard to use your voice, let alone use it well, when you don’t believe you have one.

Shame, doubt, fear… they tell us no one really needs to hear what’s in us. And when we believe that, we not only don’t get to use our voices to spur the good we want to see in the world– we get careless. We say whatever seems interesting or funny or relevant at the time, whether we completely believe it or not, because we don’t think it affects anyone.

But wow it does.

That person’s unkind words were heard so clearly; they caused me to fume for days, and they weren’t even about me. But… how was that person to know? If they believe their words don’t impact anyone, the natural conclusion is that being unkind doesn’t matter, because there’s no one to be affected by it.

Here is the truth: people do hear you.

If you are speaking to one person, you have a powerful voice. You’ve got family members in your home, friends in your goings about, co-workers at your job, classmates at school, cashiers at the grocery store, Facebook friends on your screen… there are people all around you. You have an audience, and they are receiving what you say. You have the power to choose what you give them. If you’re careless and don’t give thought to your words, you can hurt, or confuse, or simply fall flat. But if you speak truth and love… it reverberates and carries on inside those who hear you. Because God is love, and He is the truth, and He is literally the Word. When you speak love, you are placing Jesus in front of those you speak to.

What was that about your words not having power?

Your words, when they’re spoken truthfully in love, have accessed the greatest power there is.

So many people from various walks have spoken love into me. I remember the most random compliments people have given me, because they uplifted me so much; I make better choices when people encourage me in my ability to do so; I remember truthful things others have shared with me when I need endurance; I am even more apt to purse something when people tell me I’m good at it. I’m not the only one who experiences this! We all do. Words matter so much to our souls. Why do we feel like our words would be the exception?

You have a voice. You have something important inside you, and you have an audience to share it with. What you say? It matters. The tongue has the power to kill and to bring life, and you get to choose which you use it for. You can tear down, yes, and you can hide in silence, too. But you can also ignite healing, world-altering things in people, just with your words of love. I know a man who responded to a suicidal-sounding tweet a young girl sent him; with his 140-character (if that) response of love and encouragement, he blew her away with his kindness and convinced her to stay in the world longer. Just a few short sentences. But they had the power of life.

Did you know that you have a voice? Because you do.

And we’re listening.

Misc. · The Basics

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

DSC04999I am both and I am neither.

If there’s an extreme to reach, I can’t. If there’s a side to pick, I can’t. If there’s an ultimatum to meet, I can’t. I’ve looked into both; God has met me in both. I just cannot make myself believe that He only lives in one aspect of everything. I believe He is bigger than I have room to understand.

I was raised around conservative Christians. I grew up and found myself relating to liberal spirituality in some ways, too. I still don’t fit comfortably in any camp. The Bible is my firm foundation and I follow Jesus in relationship, so the latter believe I am religious and closed-minded; I talk about spiritual life on a grand scale and I practice tolerance, so the former believe I am loose and heretical. I don’t fit. I don’t think I am any of the things they think I am; I hope I’m not. I hope you don’t think I am, either. I think I’m just a person just trying to figure things out the best I can. We all are, aren’t we?

It scares me sometimes. Because when you realize no human being has it fully figured out, you don’t quite know who you can go to with your questions anymore. I can talk to someone about something and have such a deep connection with them– then we’ll take the conversation a step further. And we’ll reach a place where the connection ends, where we don’t see things the same way anymore. And I’ll feel alone again.

I realize I will ever fit into any of the categories offered to me.

I’m reading 1 Corinthians. Paul is speaking to the church there, and he mentions that the Jews were demanding signs while the Greeks were seeking wisdom. Two groups wanted two different things to answer their questions, to supply what they felt they needed. Paul then says:

“Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In Jesus, both groups were met. Because of Jesus, they were no longer two groups, because everything each person was seeking was found in Him.

He was the deciding factor of their identity. Of their unity.

When we base our identity on what others say, on groups we can belong to, on categories to sort ourselves into– we are basing our identity on something other than Christ. And when we do that, division enters in as a natural result.

In the same chapter, Paul brings up how the church is experiencing conflict because different people in it claim to follow different apostles. His response is simple:

“Is Christ divided?”

When we follow teachings and ideologies, it’s easy to be divided, because there are so many options to choose from. But when we follow Jesus? There’s only His person. And we can shape ideas to serve us, but we cannot mold a person to fit us. When we follow someone, we serve them. We learn from them. We learn the truth about them because we are with them and we seek to know them.

I’m not choosing an extreme. I’m not picking a side. I’m not selecting a category I might fit into. I can’t.

I’m seeking Jesus. Because He is the answer I’m looking for. Always.

And… I’m loving you. Whatever you might have chosen to identify with. Because the answers you want are in Him, too. It binds us together as family.

And everyone has a place in this family.

[Listen]

Practical · The Basics

My Personal Guide to Internet Anger

Nov 5 15The same thoughts flash through my mind every time I see things that anger me or cause others to argue on the internet. I haven’t voiced or articulated these thoughts, even to myself; I’m scared I’ll contradict myself and am aware of the irony. But I’ve decided to write this as a reminder to myself when those situations come up. If you want to use it, too, that’s totally cool, but I’m not going to claim I know the correct way to handle it. These are just things I’ve learned are good guidelines for me and the way I personally want to interact with people through my computer screen.

So, Tessa–

You do not have to have an opinion on everything. It is a great idea to do your research and figure out what you think about a topic. But if you resonate with pieces of both sides? That’s okay. Don’t be afraid of letting things exist together. You don’t have to choose a side if none completely line up with your own heart about something. More often than not, both sides have genuine merits to them. It’s not you versus me; it’s us, together, trying to figure it all out. Having this mindset makes it hard to see anyone as an enemy.

Or, if you’ve done your research and still don’t really know what to think much at all? That’s okay, too. I have not been able to forget this tweet:

There are a few topics that we simply cannot understand, no matter how much research we do, because we’ve never lived it. We can read all we want about it, but we still won’t truly know what it’s like to experience it; we can have opinions, but we cannot speak into it with understanding, because we can’t know what it’s like. Sometimes it’s just too big to grasp. That’s okay. You are a human being with limitations, and there’s no shame to be had in that.

You don’t have to have an opinion just to add to a conversation, especially if choosing a side brings more hurt to more people, people you’re not even sure are wrong. Most of the time, we just need to listen. And to show love to everyone who speaks, no matter what they’re saying.

Correction has it’s place, and it has places it should not go. Someone is being pretty irrational and using circular reasoning and contradicting himself, and you’re annoyed. But you take a breath, and ask yourself why. “Because someone is being rude and not making sense!” you answer quickly. The follow-up question you get to ask is:

Do rude, non-sensical people heed to someone who points out that they’re being those things?

I’ve never seen someone change their heart because someone else debated with them on the internet. I’ve definitely been challenged and had thoughts introduced to me through something someone has written on the internet, but it has always been something they shared independently, from their own experience, in their own internet space, left for me to find on my own. It has never been in response to me or someone else on a Facebook post or in a comment section.

Correction is necessary for everyone, but here’s the thing– we do not have grounds to correct someone we have no relationship with. If I were to vocalize that I believe something cruel or irrational, my closest friends would talk to me about it– privately, in person, with love for me and with hearts that seek understanding of where I’m coming from. It would be a conversation. Even if we ended up disagreeing, I’d still listen to them, because I know they aren’t just seeking to nitpick or start an argument; they care about their friend.

But if you don’t know me and I come to tell you you’re wrong, what reason do you have to listen to me with an open mind? You know nothing about me that qualifies me to advise you in thinking or living; it wouldn’t make sense. We might not even share the same moral compass. My points could be valid to me and still not matter to you, because your values are different from mine.

It is so tempting to join in and to correct people who have struck a nerve. But correction is meant to be found in the context of the safety of relationship. Which I’m inclined to believe doesn’t include calling someone out in a comment.

We have to remember– humans cannot change other humans. Our goal is never to change people; it is to love people, right where they are, like our Father loves us. Only God can change a heart. And He leads us to repentance with what? With loving kindness.

“Wisdom is proved right by all her children” (Luke 7:35). Time is such an interesting friend; it will tell us how true our thoughts really are. As time passes, we will see how things actually play out, what lasts, and if our ideas come from love or from fear.

We need to have the humility to say, “I believe this with all my heart– and I could still be wrong.” It’s okay to be in that spot; it means we’re teachable, with a healthy view of ourselves. We can be wholly firm in what we believe even as we remain accepting of our fallibility. We might end up being right. But we can be loving, if we’re right or wrong. And seeking to understand the motivations behind any opinion, even if we’ll probably never agree? What a beautiful way to love.

[Listen]

Not attending an argument isn’t the same as not using your voice. I have experienced things that have been more difficult because of teachings that weren’t true, written or spoken by people who had no personal experience or were biased. When it comes to those things, I will speak. I will speak about certain sensitive topics because those things were made more difficult for me by people who spoke spoke falsehoods. I point out the patterns that I recognize, the ones I know deep in my soul to be harmful. I passionately, intimately believe in what I speak into.

But when I see something I don’t agree with, that does not make it on par with the things I advocate for in my life. There are a lot of things I don’t agree with, but my involvement in a conversation about them most likely is not necessary; I don’t have to “speak up,” because I’m not doing it for any purpose aside from adding my two cents. Honestly, that isn’t speaking up as much as it is asserting myself.

There is no reason for me to argue about something that I’m not actively working toward being a voice for in actual life. We show we care when we act, when we do something about it. If I have a voice, I better be using it for something that matters and I better be using it well, stewarding it as a gift that I don’t deserve.

Let your positivity outweigh their negativity. My favorite thing to do when I see something online that frustrates me, that doesn’t seem right, that makes me want to respond back with my own opinion? Independently share some kind of positivity instead.

I don’t have to respond to the particular person and I don’t have to address the specific subject. It doesn’t even matter if that person sees or hears what I share. It’s not about being right– it’s about being a source of love. Love is always the right thing.

The good things we share with the world can outweigh the negativity others are putting out. If you see someone spreading words to shame others? Spread different words to tell others of their worthiness. While that person is being a voice for shame, now there is another voice. And it speaks of love and of grace.

As I said earlier, I’ve never been changed by someone calling me out on the internet. But I have been changed, sometimes radically, by things people have shared in their own spaces simply to express their heart or experience. That’s where I believe the real power of having a voice on the internet lies.

The unkind voices are loud. But when there are more kind voices, they ring louder. And they echo for a long time to those that need to hear them.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
-1 Corinthians 8:1-3

I’m sure this list of guidelines and reminders is not complete or comprehensive. If we’ve learned one thing these past few minutes, it’s that I’m a flawed human being just doing my best to figure things out. We all are.

I guess I’m just writing in hopes that we remember we get to do this as a family.