May 11, 2014

The Power of Story

Some days I wish we had the ability to see others in terms of their story rather than in terms of how that story has affected us personally.  Although there are moments where two people have their stories meet and beauty is reflected as their chapters intertwine, there are also moments where a person's story so deeply impacts another's that there is an abrupt stop...pages ripped out and thrown to the floor, and ultimately all that can be seen are the moments where the stories met causing pain, rejection, and wounds that have left a deep scar.

Once a wound has been inflicted, once another's story personally impacts ours in such a negative way, it becomes impossible to see their story objectively, and often compassion, grace, and understanding are just simply great ideas, rather than something we are capable of extending into the story of another, as new chapters emerge, chapters labeled THE DAY I BECAME A VICTIM, chapters labeled SELFISHNESS, and THE STORY RESPONSIBLE FOR MY PAIN.

For instance, I met a woman once who it didn't take me too long to fall in love with. Sure, she was rough around the edges, spent time in and out of rehab, and cheap whiskey often tainted her breath, but as I sat down over coffee and listened to her story, I saw a life impacted from a young age, a life set up for failure, addiction, heartache, pain, and ultimately wounds so deep they would leave her spending the majority of her life attempting to chase them away by numbing herself to the world around her.  As she recounted her story for me, I fell in love with her chapter by chapter, there was no judgement, merely compassion, grace, mercy, and a deep sense of anger at those who wounded her so deeply.  And as she shared the deep traumatic wounds, I found myself wanting to scream to God, "Where were you?!!" as she struggles to understand the same.  My friend, my sister, longs to stop the cycle of addiction, but every time she is sober, the haunting memories come flooding back, and she would rather leave this life than have to feel them once again. Her story included children, and as she told me about each of them it brought joy to her eyes, that was quickly followed by deep sadness.  Ultimately, her wounds, the pain inflicted upon her, and the addictions in her life, led her to the decision to abandon them.   So, her children have a story whose chapters read,  MOM LEFT. I WAS ALONE. I WASN'T WORTH BREAKING THE ADDICTION.  And that is where the mixing of their stories ended, and it is not for lack of effort on her part.  Her children's scars are deep, valid, and just like her story, these wounds caused deep heartache. Consequences are real however, and my friend wonders if grace really can exist, if mercy really is new every day, and if she is worthy of compassion.   All her children know is a mom who wounded them,  but they don't know her in terms of the power of  her life story.  They cannot objectively zoom out and see the beauty that remains in the ashes, and they do not understand the stories that impacted hers so long ago, the stories that caused her soul agony, just as hers caused them... 

As I drove home from my last encounter with this beautiful friend of mine, I was torn in two, for when her story met mine, there was beauty, compassion, and grace...yet, I hurt for her children, both for the agony caused in their stories, but also at the thought that they cannot see the story as I see it.  This got me thinking of stories that have impacted mine in similar ways, and how I have not been able to objectively see others in terms of their story, but ultimately, could only see them in terms of their impact on me.

Some days I wish we had the ability to see others in terms of their story rather than in terms of how that story has affected us personally. This would be an incredible gift in many moments..a gift that would help us tap into grace, mercy, and compassion, the same that has been extended to us from our Heavenly Father.

This is my prayer, will you pray this with me today? 
Lord Jesus, you see each person, every moment, of every day, and your capacity for grace, compassion, and mercy are limitless, without borders, and not dependent on how we impact you.  God, I long to have that kind of capacity to love and extend the same to others, selflessly, considering others as better than myself, considering them as your beloved child, worth dying for. My fear is that if I extend this kind of grace, it stamps my approval on the way their story wrote pain into mine.  I fear it gives them permission to continue inflicting wounds...yet, I am reminded how often I fall short, how I continue to battle with sin in my own heart, and how patient you are...always eager to give me another gift of grace. Teach me to be like you Father, for on my own, I am incapable of loving another with your mercy, your grace, your compassion. But with you, I can do all things, and that includes loving those whose stories caused me deep wounding. Thank you Father that when I pray you bend down to listen. I love you Lord. AMEN.

April 17, 2014

Embracing my Leaking Eyes & Gushing Heart

I am an emotional human being.  My whole life I was characterized as being "too sensitive", "too emotional", "too messy" and "dramatic", all of which led me to believe that emotions were a bad thing, and something to apologize for. For years, every time I felt tears well up, which was often, I felt the need to suck it up, hide, and if the tears came, despite my efforts to choke them back,  I felt a deep need to apologize profusely for it. I always attributed my tears, my fears, my deep emotions, as being "messy", and assumed that it proved that I was not very mature in my faith. So, I waited for the day, where my faith would be so strong that I would not have these deep emotions anymore...and I waited, and I waited, and I waited....Years into this process, I figured there was no hope for me when it came to "transformation" in this arena.  

One day two years ago, a dear friend of mine, grabbed me by the shoulders during one of my apology sessions, and said, "sister,  I am sooo tired of you apologizing for the depth of your heart, for the tears that flow, and for the moments that you are emotionally vulnerable. This is one of the most beautiful parts of your character, and who you are. When I see you get emotional, and when I hear the heart of who you are, I see Jesus. I am encouraged that "feeling deeply" is part of the heart of God.  Thank you for being willing to risk sharing your heart, being willing to risk vulnerability, rather than putting up an image of strength. Please don't apologize again."  

You can imagine, when I heard that, I was stunned.  I didn't know how to reconcile what my friend was saying in contrast with the beliefs that I held. Could my emotions be a part of the heart of God? Could they be something used for His glory? What would happen if I actually embraced this part of myself?

So, I set off on a journey to embrace this part of myself, rather than doing all that I could to suppress it.  I began to open up, to share the deep parts of my heart, to share the deep emotions that I felt, all the while, doing my best to not "suck it up" or to hide from people when I was struggling.  I made some tremendous changes, pressed into this part of myself, but there were still some hiccups. 

I recently heard myself if I was outside of my body, and I heard myself say, "I apologize that I am so messy." I realized that deep down, at the core of my being, I was still believing that it was somehow sinful to allow myself to feel, and when I did, that equated to being "messy"...instead of being human!   Old habits die hard!  

Earlier this week, I was feeling discouraged, disheartened, and I was grieving a transition that I have walked through. I bravely opened up to some of my peers and shared exactly how I felt, and honestly, I didn't manage whether they thought that I was weak, dramatic, messy, or too emotional, but rather, I pressed in.  Then, in typical fashion, I apologized to a friend of mine, and told her that I would get it together soon. I knew that if I just spent time in His word, that I would be able to focus on obeying Christ, and that I would stop thinking selfishly, and sinfully.  I apologized for my pity party.  I was caught off guard when she said, "when are you going to stop being so hard on yourself for having feelings!!!?..Sunny, I am pretty sure that Jesus was an emotional man too...He felt deeply".
She then reminded me of the Psalms, and how they are a book packed full of emotions, and that was somehow part of the human experience.  

I read this yesterday in Hebrews 5:7-9 following that conversation.

"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey.."

And the soft, gentle voice of my Savior invited me to feel, reminding me that He too felt deeply.  I am not comparing my road with that which He endured, but I do know that even though Jesus longed to obey the Father..He still felt deeply, He still cried, He still asked the Father to remove this cup from Him...and that doesn't make Him weak, it doesn't make Him "disobedient" or "messy" makes Him Jesus.

So, I am going to continue to embrace this part of ME, and I am going to refuse to believe the lie that it is sinful, messy, or dramatic to do so.  I won't do this perfectly, but I am so thankful that I am making progress.  I pray that you too will press in to being exactly WHO GOD MADE YOU TO BE...without apologies.  And my friend, you are not "messy" are human!  It's ok to doesn't mean that you are disobedient or lacking submission if you feel.  

Amen by myself. Preaching to myself.  Hope you gain something out of my ramblings.....