Tag Archives: safety

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

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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

Be Kind to Yourself

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10474834_690577417644852_3293979167945899032_nI heard a song called “Be Kind to Yourself.” And I loved it. But I didn’t know if I should.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be kind to myself.

I was raised to do the right thing and to let my moral compass guide me, to obey the Bible in everything (which I am grateful for). Making the right choices was of the utmost importance, so if I made a mistake, I needed to know I made a mistake. I needed to be told it was a mistake, I needed to declare it was a mistake, I needed to vow never to do it again, and if I spoke about it afterwards, it was quickly shoved out of the conversation, as if speaking about it was it’s own mistake. This wasn’t intentional, but it’s the way things worked out. And now, as an adult trying to navigate personhood, I still live with this sinking feeling–

“I can’t be too kind to myself, or I’m giving myself license to keep making bad choices.”

When my flaws are especially prevalent, or I make a mistake, or I’m wrestling with messy questions, my first reaction is to tell myself to stop. “Tessa, you know better. You are hurting yourself. You have to stop. Why do you keep doing this? You know it isn’t good. Get rid of it!” My internal voice has been saying those things since I can remember, in her angry, intolerant tone. She has not been kind to me. She makes me feel incapable of being a good person, like every thought I have has to be polished and fit into a tidy spot somewhere, or it has to go. She is seeking spiritual perfection. And I have followed her in that pursuit, and have stumbled into a melancholic inner rage every time I fall short.

So when I heard “Be Kind to Yourself,” I smiled. But I also crumbled, and wanted to cry. Because it was something I wanted to believe, but didn’t think I could.

I asked my Father to help me understand. Because I knew I was broken, and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I was going to have flaws my whole life, I realized. And only He could fix my brokenness. So why was He was angry with me about something I couldn’t change? My heart was heavy, with anger and sadness and fear…

Fear that He didn’t love me the way I was.

But He heard me. And He began sending me voices to teach me about being flawed and broken. He sent Christian Collins to plant a seed in me, to stir my thoughts to wonder if my flaws are supposed to be in me, if they contribute to my unique make-up to help me live fully in my purpose. He sent J.S. Park to point out to me that I will never reach a flawless version of myself while I live on earth; we’re all just doing the best we can with our brokenness. He sent Scott Sauls to remind me that fixing my own behavior is leagues different from letting my Father transform me from the inside. And He sent John Piper to look me in the eyes and declare over me: my weakness is my Father’s favorite place to enter, in power, and He loves me for it. He loves me. All of me. Even my flaws.

He just wants me.

When I first heard “Be Kind to Yourself,” I liked it, but I didn’t know if I should. Because I didn’t want to give myself license to be messed up without being disciplined.

I didn’t know that being kind to yourself is like building a relationship of trust with yourself.

We are in a relationship with ourselves, as strange as that sounds. And if I treated other people like I treat me, there would be no one left around me. Because I would condemn them, remind them of their mistakes, tell them to be better in order to be more loved. I would be viciously lying to everyone, in a twisted attempt to help them.

We feel guilt automatically. If we have love for our Father in our hearts, we will be hurt by our failings. We will feel remorse. There is no need to make sure we are feeling that remorse or that we know we are sinful. We do.

When I am kind to myself, I am teaching my brain that I am trustworthy, a safe place. A few days ago, I admitted to a mistake I’d been making. And something about that admittance was just so different from those I’d made in the past. Instead of reprimanding myself, I was glad that I was admitting my mistake and seeking growth. I began trying to figure out what caused me to make that mistake and what I could do to make things better. I expressed love for myself by offering a hand instead of wagging a finger.

I had been more quick to make the admittance in the first place because I wasn’t afraid of being shamed and belittled by myself. I knew I would be welcomed.

My Father is like that.

I knew the truth in my head, that God loves broken people. But I had twisted it in my heart. I believed He only loved broken people because He saw their potential to be fixed. I believed when I acted out of my brokenness, He was angry with me for it. I didn’t hear “I love you” from Him; I heard, “I love you, but you have to do better.” And that is not how my Father speaks to His kids.

My Father does not reprimand me for my screw-ups, my mistakes, my flaws, my brokenness– He opens His arms.

And He picks up the pieces Himself.

Finding Shelter

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“Sin. When we are young it means, I have made a mistake. When we are old, it means, I have separated myself from love.”    -“A Song I Knew by Heart,” page 77.

I love that quote. I confess that I never finished the book, it was more of a romance novel than I thought it would be, but maybe I picked it up from the library in the first place because I needed to hear that line.

The word “sin” is a difficult word to say for only having three little letters. When we say we’ve made a mistake, we say it remorsefully but more like an admittance. When we say, “I’ve sinned. . .” it’s a whisper. It has to be forced out, and tears often want to come out with it. Because we understand that when we sin, we act against love. And it is so painful.

I wrote about sin at the beginning of this year, and recently I had a dream that is making me think about it again. I retold the dream in my journal that morning, and I’ll share that since it had freshness and clarity. In the dream. . .

. . . I was at a conference/school assembly when I decided to get up from my seat and go down the very long flight of wrought-iron stairs. I ran into a man I’d seen earlier hanging around the same spot. He had a toddler with him so I assumed he was entertaining his son who had been loud and wiggly during the event. We made eye contact and he smiled at me with warm eagerness, which gave me a few butterflies. We made a tiny bit of small talk as the toddler roamed the hallway, but when I began to back away he came closer to me. He put his hand on my waist; I felt swept up in the attention, but when he used both hands to push me against the wall, I saw a greedy hunger in his eyes and a sinister grin. He mumbled things I can’t remember. I tried to run, but he tightly grabbed my wrist. His eyes now terrified me. The only thing I could think to do: scream. And I did scream. “Help! He’s assaulting me! HELP!” A security guard ran to us and grabbed him, who was now angrily snarling at me. The guard attached his hands to the wall and left to call the police to take him away. I stood there as the man who’d attacked me leaned his front against the wall, hands above his head. He was breathing heavily. Suddenly I noticed that the only thing keeping him there was– scotch tape. His wrists had strips of tape across them, and any second he could tear himself away. I was a personification of panic. Then I woke up.

taken May 4th, 2014When I woke up, I knew what this dream meant. I knew that the man represented sin. He seems welcoming and innocent, approachable. He gives me the feelings I want when we flirt. But suddenly, I’m trapped by him, and he is in a position where he can steal so much from me. I can cry out for help, and help will come, but I need to choose to run away from him. Not much is holding him back. When I am rescued, why would I choose to still stand next to the source of so much danger? I need to return to my community. He wouldn’t risk attacking me in the large group, that’s why he waited out in the hall. And if anyone there recognized him, saw something I didn’t, maybe they could even chase him away.

Please understand that I am not talking about real assault. If you are assaulted, it is not your fault. End of story. This dream simply said to me that leaving the safety of community is so frighteningly dangerous. It opens us up to finding an opportunity to flirt with sin. Jesus will always rescue me when I cry for Him, but I can’t just sit idly afterwards. I have to walk away from where sin likes to meet me. I have to find a place with people who will look after me and help me focus on the right things. There is safety in numbers.

We have to talk to people about what’s happening inside, to surround ourselves with relationships we feel safe in. I was going through something pretty difficult a few months ago, and the person I finally told said to me, “Tessa, look me in the eyes and say this: ‘I will not be a lone ranger.'” I did. And she and a few other people have been shelters for me ever since. I take steps every day to make sure I’m not alone with my hardships, from reading in the same room my family is in to calling my best friend when I’m hurt. When I feel alone, I feel troubled, and that’s when it’s easy for me to succumb to behaving like I can’t escape my struggles, because I fall into thinking, “It’s just how I am.”

I am painfully aware that not everyone has the ability to be someone I can go to. It’s happened to me many times, but even recently when I ended up telling a friend about something I was struggling with, it was very clear that their perception of me had immediately changed. It was even more clear that they wanted me to stop talking about it, because they said so with much discomfort in their voice. I am not angry at this person. I just know that I can’t go to them for shelter. It’s disheartening. But there are people I can go to, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

I am not troubled. You are not troubled, no matter how many people have reacted poorly to your courageous honesty. I know that with each hurtful reaction it becomes more and more scary, but please, don’t bottle up. Not everyone needs to know, but some people do. For your sake. Continue to be brave and seek a few people who can hold you up, love you no matter where you are. And as you search, never allow yourself to believe that you are troubled. You are a human being with air in your lungs and Jesus in your heart, which means a piece of heaven is in your body. Don’t let yourself forget who you are. You are precious.

Asking for help does not mean you are weak. You are strong, friend. You can make it. Sin does not have a hold on you, Jesus has rescued you! But sin still exists around you and teases you. You are safe if you don’t give yourself to it. But in moments when your mind wanders and sin flashes his eager smile– you cannot be alone. There is no shame in needing protection sometimes. Never feel that, never. You just need people with love bold enough to vocally say what Jesus is saying to your spirit: “Get away from him, he wants to hurt you!” They will make it easier for you to identify what you’re feeling so you can deal with it without feeling overwhelmed or overtaken.

I am going to promise myself daily that I will not forsake community. Will you promise yourself that, too?