A while back, I showed up to see a friend with a sad face. A long conversation ensued about where I was on the journey. We spoke until I could see what he meant by sadness should never take root and I should never get used to it. Funny how I hadn’t seen it before.
How could I, a child of God, have so many sad days? How can the weight of sadness be so settled and not lifted? Did I miss something in my journey? Did all the people feeling down miss something too? How could such sadness take hold of the people and never seem to let go? Some days we smile to cover it, while on other days walk away and hide. How could such pain coexist with faith?
A lot of the sadness we carry is often from relationships.
Life can be challenging because of how we interact with people and then how we expect them to deal with us. We hold onto those feelings and even project them onto others unrelated to that pain. It is possible to be so used to sadness that it becomes our cloak and identity. Other times, sadness is a tool in the hands of God to teach us to press into him and earn of him. It could be the place to create compassion for others.
As I write, I see how I choose the cloak I live in; I am astounded. Everything works together in God for my good and His will. I must understand the importance of how I feel and turn it to Him. God is in control because nothing is impossible with Him. Everything happens according to his purposes and plans.
It then struck me that JOY is critical to life, but a choice.
It is not the absence of sadness or a feeling but rather the reality of God as the driver of everything. Joy is understanding His purpose with this season and then walking with confidence. Joy is grounded in God and only understood through Him. Therefore, I must choose to connect to the Father and remain hidden under his wings. No matter how hard the things around me have been, I make a definite choice. I choose to listen; I choose to follow; I choose to become.
I find strength in several scriptures that I will share here today:
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Ps 91:4
The joy of the Lord is my strength, Nehemiah 8:10
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Cor 1:20
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower the righteous run to it and are safe. Prov 18:10
…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises… 2 Peter 1:3-4
…Weeping may endure for a night, but [a]joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5b
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Prov 17:22
My journey in God is founded on and grounded in the realities of His word and His work. The promises of God will never fail.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my responses to life could be traced back to trauma from things that happened to me when I was younger. My need to be strong affected how I view people and what I expect from them. It also tainted how I expected people to support my growth and success and how I supported them. The need to be strong affected my view of my soft feminine side and even led to resentment affecting my response to the strong male. I am not talking about unnecessarily soothing the ego or deferring to foolishness. No! I am talking about learning to be a girl and allowing the men around me to be male. Where to start?
My first realisation is that there was a mismatch in the divine design for male and female.
The Male is Iysh, the one who pierces aptly represented in his genitalia but so much more. His role is to pierce all around: mentally to understand new concepts and expand the existing one, physically to cause reproduction and safety, spiritually to lead the way into the realities of God like never seen before, and economically to provide and expand the knowledge of income generation, and every other aspect of life. He is the one who sees the big picture and finds the support to fill it in. Male is designed to lead, provide and protect, with a deep desire for respect. The male is visibly strong physically and needs to build the internal temerity to be mentally, spiritually, socially and economically strong.
The Female is Iysha, the one who is pierced, aptly represented by her genitalia and so much more. She receives the seed and nurtures it to life then through life. She expands and increases all she receives. The one who sees the details of how to build the big picture and help it succeed. The one who understands the gravity of what she carries. The one who influences everything she has and uses it to grow herself and those around her. The one who provides strength and support to her assignment.
Quiet trauma that festers for so long becomes normal.
My life’s challenges that led to my trauma responses have short-circuited my ability to be led or to follow. I learned to look like I am on the team while quietly doing everything and not expect help. In my mind, I am being careful to get things done on time, but in reality, it is an effort to control the situation no matter what so that no one has the power to hurt or disappoint me.
It all starts when we go through a difficult situation and decide that we will never let anyone have that kind of power or ability to hurt us again. Often addiction becomes the tool we use to deal with the situation. Though my addiction was not to a substance, it was the need to control every situation and never find myself in a position of weakness. This addiction is as terrible as substance addiction. The reality of this trauma hiding on the inside is worse than what others see on the outside.
I now see that even as I have been quite successful to date, there have been significant barriers to my growth and success. My thoughts and defence mechanisms have created blockages that have stalled my growth. It has taken safety and an undeniably loving environment to notice the signs of trauma. This same environment is also providing the needed space to heal. I also realise this is a journey so I must give myself room to travel to the healing. Finally, I have learnt that healing and restoration take time.
I choose to heal one thought and action at a time.
I have listened to many people talk about love over the years. Only recently has love begun making sense. As we grew up, we bought into the notion that love is a feeling of warmth in the heart and a perfect mutual relationship with equal input from both parties. We thought that with love for one another, we would never disagree or be at odds with people we loved. We assumed that love magically removed discord, hurt and pain by inputting softness and sweetness. So imagine our surprise when we fought the most with people we loved. How could that be?
Through my journey, I have listened and talked about love. Now I clearly see that I have missed many things. I discovered depths of truth I did not expect and great sadness in myself and others. I found many broken hearts like mine that needed healing hidden behind thick walls for protection. I realised that:
I cannot force someone to love me; people have a choice to reciprocate or not.
Love is not a feeling because feelings fade over time.
Love has to be modelled and taught because it is so complex.
Love is not limited; there is room for many people: family, friends, and community.
Love is different things to different people
Love never keeps silent
Today I can confidently say that love is a choice because everything about love is a CHOICE.
A choice to stay
A choice to leave
A choice to give
A choice to receive
A choice to share
A choice to care
A choice to rest
A choice to awaken
A choice to rise
A choice to sit
A choice to learn
A choice to grow
A choice to check-in
A choice to check on
A choice to hold
A choice to let go
A choice to speak up
A choice to keep quiet
A choice to follow
A choice to lead
A choice to protect
A choice to provide
A choice to submit
A choice to obey
A choice to follow in the footsteps of Christ
I still grapple with elements of love because I see new complexities daily. There are now shadows I had refused to deal with that I must now face. There are realities of life that demand confronting so I can share real depth with my generations. There are questions I face every day that need the honesty to overcome. I now know that if we do not talk about the things that confound us about love, we leave the next generation with a false view of life that can severely hamper their lives.
I can only say one thing, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13
I CHOOSE love daily, even though I don’t understand it fully.
We are in the days of deliberate choices. True dedication. Clear focus and commitment. We can no longer be complacent in our pursuit of Him who created the heavens and earth. We must do the work, walk the talk, live lives that speak of Him alone all our remaining days.
I know that is heavy, but it is true.
It is easy to think that when God is walking with us, we should have everything on a silver platter, but have you really looked at scripture? Who had an easy life in the Bible? Who did not have anything to give up or deal with? Who walked in easy and comfort? Do you see anyone? Is there any life that accomplished anything for God that sat on the beach all day or in the shade all their lives doing nothing? No!! Not even one!!! Not even Christ the one who was indeed God sent to the earth to lead men back to God. So who do we think we are that life should be easy?
This weekend this reality hit me in the face and wow, I was floored. I looked back at the life of people around me and no one who had attained even a semblance of the path God has assigned to them has received it free or on a platter. Each one has lost something, given up something, walked away from something, chosen something, lived for something, loved God more than themselves, those around them and things of love.
One of my long-time friends loves saying, ‘Forgiveness is for you.’
As I was thinking tears filled my eyes when God reminded me about how forgiveness had changed my life. My friend and I had a big fight many years ago that kept us away from each other for more than ten years. It was the kind of separation that tears the two parties apart because you assumed that life would always be good, and you would always be close. It was the kind of tear that destroys the balance in life because you were pillars to one another then suddenly a bomb explodes and brings down the whole house. Oh, the pain…no words!!!
For a long time, I would catch feelings and anger would simmer every time I heard his name, saw him or he reached out. Couldn’t he see how much pain he had caused me? Did he just expect me to forgive him and continue talking? Did he think he had the right to disrupt my life and appear at will expecting happy smiles? Who the heck did he think he was? Why did he think he deserved this kind of attention and freedom to be around me without apology?
Didn’t I deserve a heartfelt apology? Of course, I did!!! Or maybe not.
In time I realised he did not carry grudges even when hurt. He did not hold it against me and neither did he give space to things he could not understand. He simply parked them at the foot of the cross for Father to let him know when to deal. I on the other hand, was fuming and assuming he knew how much pain I had suffered. But alas!! I had shut down, hidden the tears and brokenness and I held onto that pain as the identity of this lost friendship, stability and decade.
Imagine my shock when God began to deal with me about holding grudges and projecting my pain onto others. After all, I was party to the split because at the time it was good for all parties, so how could I blame it on the other? How could I determine in my heart he would bear all the blame, yet I too caused him pain, I too said, thought and projected mean things? To blame him was to declare that I was innocent and we both knew that was not true.
Then Papa said…’You need to forgive your brother.’
Did you just say brother? There is no way he could still be my brother. There is no way I would be around him. That was just impossible!!! And I stomped my foot and stalked off, angry with a stiff spine. Oh, how God does not relent. How He makes His point clear and His judgement true. Over the next few months, God and I dealt with every part of that piece of the past. He showed me my part, the pain, the break, the anger and resentment and the barrier it was creating to my successful progression.
How every time a new opportunity came, I judged His sons and daughters with the same harsh position I had taken against one. How every time someone looked like they could hurt me I walked away in advance to protect myself. How I used this broken friendship as the reason not get close to people since people hurt people right? It was shocking to realise how bound I was. Stuck in solitary confinement and I did not even know it. Lost in the middle of the crowd with no hope or way out.
What? You mean being angry was holding me back? Absolutely!!!
So, we begun the path to healing and my oh my, it was ghastly painful. I had to let go of all the pain I was holding in and using as a shield. I had to cry and let the pain out one tear at a time (my gals used to say that to me cry was a matter of national importance). I had to let go of and burn every memory that had become a hindrance to my healing and restoration.
One day, I realised I as different…less angry, more joyful, more hopeful, and eager about life. I found release in the separation from the hurt and pain. I found healing in forgiveness first of myself and then of my brother. Finally, one day we had the big conversation. We talked about life, the destruction of our friendship, the reasons behind it, the years of pain and tears, the weight of sadness we both carried for a long while, the sense of imbalance until God stepped in and the healing we had to walk into. I realised he didn’t understand things the way I did, and I didn’t know exactly how he had felt. There were so many assumptions around everything that caused us more pain and so few words for so long. We couldn’t heal fully until we both forgave each other.
The difference was…he dealt with things faster than me.
It became clear that forgiving my brother was the route back to wholeness and peace. It was the pathway to an easier yoke and lighter burden. It was the pathway to a new move of God in my life. It was the pathway peace and harmony.
Over time, I have learnt a lot from my brother especially unconditional love. The kind of love has no bounds and standards other than God’s. The kind that will see me falling flat on my face in the mud and come to sit with me in the mud so we can figure out why I keep losing my footing. The one that sees me walking into the dark and will light a floodlight and call me out. The kind that sees me in the middle of pain and seeks God diligently for me then walks as close as possible cheering me on to deal or holds me as I cry on the other side.
I have found true brotherly love on the other side of forgiveness.
Indeed…Forgiveness is for me!!!
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1