I would like to have the Lenten Special, please.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:25-26
Traditionally people “give up” certain things during the Lent period. Usually a person will “give up” something they really like. It usually is a habit of some sort, and it really depends on the person. I really have a sweet tooth; but, have to have something salty to get the sweet taste out of my mouth…hahahaha!
Lent is not about a deprivation of our selfish habits…the ones we mostly partake for our personal gratification. Lent is a season of self-examination. During this period of self-examination we are called as Christians to examine how we “nourish” our bodies…as members of the body of Christ. It’s about how we nourish our hearts. It’s about how we focus on Jesus, who gives us strength.
My pastor said, “It’s like a spiritual test of where your heart is. Your heart is where your treasure is. Is it focused on “me” [self], or is it focused on Jesus?”
It’s human nature to want to focus on ourselves. I’m extremely guilty of this. In fact, I tend to focus on things that I may have regretted doing wrong or I may focus on good things that I feel have gone unnoticed. Either way, my focus is on “me”, and not Him. I focus on things that don’t give me true life.
There are also some who may focus on the things I’ve done wrong, and are really good at pointing them out to me, and sometimes to others. It’s not like I live in a box. I know I’m a sinner! Most of the time, I actually regret doing a lot of the things I do. But, something that I tend to forget, and need constant reminding of, is that there is no condemnation in Christ! Only others, or my miserable self, may accuse of past, or present things.
Lent can also be a time to be a part of community; to be a part of others–who have a commonality of fixing their eyes on Jesus.
That’s really the goal isn’t it? To fix our eyes on Jesus. To understand that this beautiful gift from God, His only Son, is not just for ourselves but to be shared with others…with no strings attached.
Lent is a time to extend ourselves to others. Extending not to just those who are impoverished, but, those that are older in age, those that may need comforting (for whatever reason), and to the sick and weary. We should extend ourselves to those in our broken world; to be His messengers of love and mercy. Our extension of ourselves should bear the very image of God.
Giving of oneself can be tough; but, there is a high return on the satisfaction odometer. Giving of oneself can be like a ripple effect. Those that take His Light out into the world of others–do so because they take delight in this action, not because it’s “dutiful”. It becomes a celebration that ripples out into the world.
I know that there is a lot more to Lent. I could write pages on Lent. Lent is not only about self-examination, it’s a plethora of practicality of sorts. Some of it’s about focusing on our faults; some of it’s about repenting; some of it’s about extending ourselves to others; but, it’s mainly about keeping our eye on the prize of Christ Jesus. He is the Author & Creator–the Finisher of the story of our lives.
During this season, what will you be serving up for your Lenten Special?
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep that have taken hold.”
Because of my past sexual abuse, I have a few things from my past that the hurts go rather deep. I’ve thought…could they ever really mend?
My pastor, Tom Gibbs, once told me that, “By giving into the fear of darkness, it will only compound the pain and evil of what has already happened. By you keeping things hidden it will gain power over you. Remember, that God is Light and there is no darkness in Him.”
The hope in my brokenness is through the Light of Jesus; because through His Light all darkness shall go away.
My pastor also told me that I had been standing–waiting in the dark.
I have ignored the Light for many years. While I had been waiting in the dark, I remembered that there was a light that had been behind the “door of my heart”. I had been longing and hoping for the Light of Jesus to be shed on me.
Come to find out–Jesus’ Light had been there the whole time. I just needed to turn around, truly see Him, and let Him into the dark places of my heart.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” ~Psalm 34:18
Looking back, I suppose Jesus allowed the memories of my past abuse to resurface because it needed to be dealt with. Maybe the Lord was reopening these wounds, so that I could truly forgive my self, and others.
For years I felt intense anger, and had tried to ignore my emotions. I was angry at my stepfather for the sexual abuse he had committed. I was angry about the memories that I had been left to deal with. I also felt guilty about being angry.
After studying Psalms, and learning about God’s emotions, I began to learn about my own emotions. It helped to see some examples of how God felt about certain things; therefore, I was better able to understand, and was able to let some anger go as well.
It has been a slow process; but, I have made some progress.
I’m not going to lie, opening wounds, is a lot of my own fault! No one makes me hold onto the past. The last few years I have been searching as to why I have harbored so much pain deep within. I don’t want to pick at my wounds keeping them fresh; but, sometimes I find myself doing just that. While keeping them open, it has caused pain for myself, and others. It’s a vicious cycle that had potential to consume me.
In my desperation to find out answers of why others could not understand me…I began hurting them. I hurt the very ones I cared about. I might verbally be abusive, and this only compounded the feelings of guilt that I already felt. I began to feel that I was not worthy. I felt that I was a mistake, or a disgrace, to all that were around me. Once again the cycle was in place and continuing to gain force.
Sometimes, I couldn’t stand myself for what I had done; thus, on occasion I hurt myself. I felt that if I hurt myself–there would be some restitution for hurting others verbally. However, most did not know that I had sought restitution…within myself.
I began isolating myself. I thought that isolating my self from others–would “save” them from me. In my mind this is how I thought I should “handle” this type of situation. But, in isolating my self, it caused much pain of feeling abandoned…even if I was the cause of my own abandonment.
I have a friend Joey who recently told me that, “the one who abuses is usually the one holding onto their own personal wounds. They never really heal because they keep picking at the scabs, re-opening the hurts of the past and keeping them fresh. Then they lash out at whoever is closest to them, because the ones that originally caused the hurt are usually long gone. The wounding then becomes transferred to another victim. It becomes a vicious cycle unless the abused can short-circuit the circle of pain; thus, the need for a professional counselor to help me. His name is Jesus and I thank Him every day!”
These were some words to mull over. These were strong words of wisdom.
I began to continue picking at my wounds–keeping them fresh and open. I felt few seemed to understand me. I felt others didn’t believe that there was great suffering in my past. I felt I had to defend myself to others so they could understand. I felt since they had not experienced that kind of abuse…that they may feel how that could have happened. I also felt worse when some didn’t want to understand my past at all…to be discarded. I felt they were extremely insensitive. I let these feelings cause great confusion within me.
Now, pondering what my friend said…I realized that Jesus is the best counselor. My pastor and I had also talked about how the Lord had given me His Holy Spirit–to be my counselor/comforter. He had been with me always, even when others were absent. He walks with me right now!
I definitely need to hold onto this truth, even when my way seems very dark. I know that there will be brighter days!
Knowing this I began to feel safe enough to take steps forward toward healing, and understanding Him. I have learned that I could trust, and not all would judge me—no matter my mistakes. I was beginning to understand that I was not a misfit.
I tend to see things in night or day. I am a perfectionist about some things and lack concern about other things. My pastor told me that Jesus was less interested in me being perfect than in me knowing His mercy and grace. The very mercy and grace that covers all of my mistakes.
Through great wisdom of many, I have begun to replace my thoughts of guilt with thoughts of His joy, truth, and grace.
Finally I am beginning to feel that I am loved, valued, and treasured.
I know there have been many prayers for me, some like “Lord, keep Beth from lying to her self. Pray that she will begin to see Your truth—Your Light. Prayers like, “May You be a beacon of Light for her in dark places, when all her other lights go out.”
Right before Jesus died on the cross he said, “Into Your hands, Father, I commit my spirit”.
I need to commit my spirit to Him. I should no longer be powerless or broken from my past guilt. Through Jesus, I have the same power to resurrect myself from my pit of darkness, brokenness, and despair. I should no longer feel guilt over my past.
Physically, on Earth, God could not carry my guilt; but, He told me to release it, let Him carry me, and finally be rid of it.
One of my favorite parts from “The Return of the King”, is when Samwise and Frodo are at the bottom of Mt. Doom. Samwise begins talking to Frodo about the ring and says, “I can’t carry it for you! But I can carry you! Come on!”
The ring had caused open wounds around Frodo’s neck because of the weight of the ring. Frodo needed to get rid of the ring; therefore, Samwise carries Frodo up Mt. Doom. Eventually, Frodo was able to throw the ring into the fires…where it was destroyed.
God is telling me that He will carry me. God would not have brought me to the abuse, and then back to the memories of it, or healing of it, if He could not bring me through it. His eyes are fixed on me. Like the “refiner’s fire”, God begins to purify me of my past guilt, so that I can be made new in His Light.
Praise Him for His great strength, and Light!
I have been thinking, and trying to pinpoint, on how to express myself on the particular topic of strength. Some kinds of strength are good. After all, it is a reflection of God Himself, and He said this is a good thing. But, I think some strength, if misused, can be hurtful. It does not have to necessarily have to be physical strength (like tackling someone to the ground); it can be as little as a look of disapproval.
Certain strengths have the potential to become an intimidating misuse of power over another person. I think it is important to know, that if gone unnoticed, strength could get out of hand and end up hurting others (like a form of bullying). My disclaimer is that I have taken part, and we probably all have taken part in a misuse of power some time or another. I myself can be rather dominating and/or manipulating. It is a control thing. It’s the power within me thinking that I can fix things on my own…instead of truly turning things over to God. I have finally realized that can become a misuse of power that I frequent.
I think that it is God’s desire for us to use our positive strength to lead our families; like the Sanctus Real song says, “To stand up for them when they can’t”. To be a wall…a somewhat pillar of strength. God’s own characteristics include strength & tenderness; respect & forgiveness through His grace & mercy. Only God can be the true judge of our life.
If we are truly made in God’s image, then we must have a desire to gain those characteristics—to be strong and loving.
There is nothing wrong with being physically strong, if one acts in an appropriate manner. I guess I am trying to say that maybe a better strength to “workout” for–would be the strength that comes from the heart. Reading the Bible, worshiping, taking part in a community are all great ways to strengthen your heart.
Strength looks different for different people. It could be a silent strength, verbal strength, strong- heroic type strength, being protective and gentle for the abused, or even having the strength to be humble.
In Genesis, we find out that Eve was very manipulative. Granted, she probably could not have wrestled Adam into eating the apple; instead, she used her verbal strength and tempted him in this way. Although, Adam had been informed of this particular tree prior to Eve being created; he chose to remain silent, or passive. Adam could have spoken up and said something to warn Eve about not eating from this tree. Eve obviously did not understand the importance of not eating the apple from the tree. She insisted, to Adam, that the serpent was telling the truth…so they ate from the tree, and we know the rest of the story.
Eve using her verbal strength to tempt Adam led to his passiveness…which led to other problems; for instance, violence followed once they began procreating. This violence started between brothers and definitely became a misuse of power and strength. I believe many have seen this kind of power misused at some point in their life. This type of strength does not discriminate!
I also believe that we have the capability to misuse our own strength of power at times. We are all sinners! An extreme misuse of this strong power can be destructive for all involved.
So why do people misuse their power?
Maybe their “good” strength was ignored, or shamed, by someone. Maybe their insecurities lead to their downfall. Maybe wanting the other person to change encouraged manipulation of others…which is a misuse of power.
I am guilty of this sin. My idol of controlling outcomes of others is one of my gross misuses of power.
God was proud of Jesus. He claimed Him as His son, and said He loved Him. Affirmation is really important! Although men and women like different kinds of affirmation, that does not mean to ignore each other because of the differences. We all feel that we don’t measure up. We are all insecure at one time or another—made vulnerable. For some, the vulnerability might come from past abuse; belittling could be happening presently. Finally, some are scared of what the future has in store for them. Will I be made fun of because of my lack of _?_ (fill in your own blank).
Abuse is a type of strength that is blatantly misused. It comes in many forms. It could be words spoken, or not. It could mean being aggressive physically, or passive emotionally (not being protected). It could be getting fired for something that one did not do—maybe simply because you’re too old. It can also come as sexual abuse. This type of abuse can have many levels of abuse: from harsh words spoken to the extreme of being beaten, or even worse things that I don’t really care to mention.
Sometimes rather than being a strong leader, we give in to our fears and insecurities. Sometimes, we are just plain jealous of other’s strengths. I know this all too well. Sometimes, I am more concerned about what people think of me, rather than worrying about how I am alienating God. I also get caught up in wanting something that I really don’t need and may want to coerce someone out of it…or want them to give it to me. It doesn’t have to be a material object; it could be as much as wanting protection, love, and respect.
When a person lashes out physically, or verbally, they feel as if they have some kind of strength (or power); but, in essence, it is not genuine strength. It is hurtful, and it might be considered bullying. Again, this could stem from their own insecurity or weakness.
This is not always true; but, some may have a deep rooted insecurity that they may not even be aware of within themselves. I will say nothing really justifies bullying, or being manipulative of others. It is very hurtful to those that are on the receiving side.
Loving accountability must take place to help achieve the goal of healing from misused strength. This can be done through community; such as with a church, some peers, or a strong group of friends. Loving accountability must also take place to help one not to misuse their “weak” strength. Both types of accountability need love and encouragement.
I will say that pointing out the misuse of power of another will usually not help. Often times, it will make things worse. Learning to love boldly would be most helpful in this situation. Dan Allender uses an example of telling a story/example so that another may see their misuse in character. It’s like a mirror; thus, one could see the reflection of their action. This may allow them to see how they are truly behaving.
The act of “loving boldly” does not always work. One may have a change of the symptom, but not of the heart. To love someone boldly takes some practice. For one thing, the mirror would have to be turned one self first before reflecting the mirror on the other person.
Good strength, or power, can lead to good things. Just look what Christ did for us so that we could live. It took great strength, courage, and forgiveness to be able to do what He did. I could never really fathom what He did at all. It was the greatest heroic act that has ever taken place.
Knowing that there is freedom in Christ, the heart will need to go under a complete restoration. One might begin with being less self-centered. I struggle with this quite often as well with many other idols. I may think that it is all about me. How I am feeling? I may not always take into consideration how the other person may be feeling, or what pain I may be causing to them.
One thing that needs to take place for restoration to occur may be admitting that a change needs to take place…especially in one’s heart. If you can’t admit your weaknesses, it will be almost impossible for restoration to take place. Blaming others will not make a change in the heart.
Now some may say that the other is too sensitive. Of course there may be times when one can be too sensitive. If others continually make others feel that they are too sensitive; then, it’s possible that the weakness of the one pointing out may hurt others.
Now a misuse of power can take place within one self. One can blame them self or have a self loathing of self due to guilt and shame. All of this can lead up to the misuse of power within one self, and will usually get worse.
There will be times that one may tell their self that another person may be the problem, and that the other person needs to get the help. This could be an excuse which seems to cover the true problem…maybe the problem is within them. Literally, the misuse of power can’t be seen by the person abusing it.
Surrendering and/or confessing your misused strength to Christ is essential. It is important to acknowledge what you have done to hurt others, and it is important to ask God for forgiveness; but, it must be sincere.
When talking with another be genuine, and give many details. This allows the other person to know that one is truly sorry. Being humble is good when it’s sincere.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Luke).
Let God love and forgive those that misused strength. His grace and mercy should be all consuming. One must accept the fact that God can use a restored heart to further His Kingdom, despite one’s weaknesses–past or present or even future.
Again, responsibility and accountability should take place. This is one of the first steps to restoration of misused strength. It is not just enough to say sorry; but, to truly understand why. To tell the other that one is sorry, and act upon it, is a great strength. Those that take responsibility will take their consequence and learn from it to become a restored person.
Now understand that restoration may not always occur; but, when one realizes their sinful nature, the process can begin to take place. One must learn to put off “your old self” so that one can “put on the new self. To know that we are created to be like God”. (Ephesians)
God wants to bring true healing; but, it can’t happen without humility. If one continues down the wrong path they might become self-destructive, or may be the root of someone else becoming self-destructive. Being humble does not mean to let others run all over them; but, to just stop misusing the strength that God has given.
One must become totally broken and surrender to Him. God is for the brokenhearted and He will make the heart new. We are sufficient in His grace, and He finds strengths in our weaknesses; thus, we will be given strength to carry on. The kind of strength to carry on restoration due to grace, love, and humility.
“…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
We will have the strength to carry on…with the Son, and through the Son. Power will be given to the weak, and make us strong!