Transformation Barrier

This week during Bible study we were talking about Romans 12:9-21 where Paul lists all these things that love is. The girls and I discussed what transformation would really mean if we did these things. My friend Vanessa had the idea of making two lists, one of all the things that are not demonstrative of love in the Kingdom and another corresponding list of who we really are in Christ. Then, she said, “You burn the first list.” I got really tense when she said that. I literally felt myself freeze and say internally, I could never do that. While I had always heard of (and continue to) transform my thoughts through writing, I for some reason like to visually see all the crap that I believe written out. Sometimes I just write all the negative thoughts down and forget to go back and actually write the transformed statement next to it. I like to go back and read (and reread and reread) all these thoughts. It gives me some sort of perverse pleasure.

The idea of burning my list of crap seemed revolutionary for some reason. Almost terrifying. In that moment I realized the very simple truth: My barrier to growth and true healing is that I love my crappy self too much. Or I think I do. I continue to believe that I am a more significant, interesting person being “messed up” than “healed” and “whole.” It all goes back to some weird belief that I need more love and attention in my life, and I can get that by being “sick,” “messed up” or “weak.” Even though I know for a fact this is all crap, I continue to believe it.

Why do I think I need more love? What more could I ask for? I have an amazing God who continues to pour on me blessing after blessing when I least deserve it. I have a supportive family who loves me and true friendships that will last a life time. In fact, I can’t think of one person in my life that does not continue show love and unconditional acceptance of me.

Again, it goes back to my mind. I am always striving for what’s right in front of me. Lately, I have been irritated because I am trying to recreate moments from my past. Times I have felt “high” on life. Instead of living for today. I basically abandon things I have always enjoyed like writing in my journal or playing the piano simply because I can’t get that emotional high to please me the way it used to. I do the same thing with caffeine-the bane of my existence-food and with particular types music and boos. I have experienced such extreme emotional highs on these substances or activities in the past, as if these temporary highs are eternal and significant. I have all these damned expectations for myself, expectations no one in their right mind would place on another human being. If I can’t reach some sort of inexplicable perfect feeling, I, at best, avoid the activity altogether (my black-and-white nature) or continue to “feed” myself until the day ends. Realizing, obviously, that the emptiness still remains.

But, thanks be to God, I am learning to say, “This is a new moment.” and “You are a new person.” “Accept yourself for who you are now.” And “There’s more to life than a fleeting feeling, however intense.” I am glad I am learning to tell myself the truth; I have really transformed in that area. But I am so sick of this back and forth war. I want to be done with all this childishness. Love freely from my deepest self, without wondering what my true motives are and analyzing every tiny decision I make or word I say. Will I ever be free?

Mostly, I don’t know how to live in shades of gray (but am very aware and learning to change). I am either in the past OR the present OR the future. Somehow it seems impossible to learn from my past experiences but not become obsessed with them and even more impossible to accept and cherish this moment while also anticipating and being hopeful for the next.

That’s all.

Where wholeness can be found

I have been so intrigued by this book, I can barely put it down. It has inspired me to write my own stories. There are so many of them-too many to count, thousands a day. Sometimes I think they are too ordinary to share. I haven’t had anything miraculous or crazy happen to me. That is, nothing miraculous the way the world defines it, but I do indeed see miracles every day. And like this author, I am aching to write about them.

Probably one of the best quotes so far is in her section on “Freedom.” She writes,

We usually look outside of ourselves for heroes and teachers. It has not occurred to most people that they may already be the role model they seek. The wholeness they are looking for may be trapped within themselves by beliefs, attitudes, and self-doubt. But our wholeness exists in us now. Trapped though it may be, it can be called upon for guidance, direction, and most fundamentally, comfort. It can be remembered. Eventually we may come to live by it.

This spoke to me fiercely. I am always looking for outside help, ideas, support  and clarity. Most often, I hear the critical voice saying, “You’re stupid. You don’t know anything.” “You’re incompetent, how could you think you’d make it?” “You’re going to have break down.” and other absurd lies. But I do believe them most days. The author later, through a story, talks about how we become the real “us” and surprise ourselves. I do that a lot. I look at a lot of the things I have accomplished with God’s (and others’ at times) help and I stand back in awe. The ugly person I sometimes think I am could never have done these things: studying in Guatemala for a semester in college despite challenging physical/emotional problems, returning to college after having left for a semester due to severe depression, graduating from college, teaching inner city for 2 years with very difficult students and an unsupportive principal, radically changing my diet and lifestyle, advocating for my health in unknown situations, staying on top of loans and bills, working odd jobs to make my way (after losing my job), starting a 3rd new teaching job while also tackling grad school, supporting friends going through hard times, my commitment to my church groups, and my most recent feat of getting off of anti-depressants (after 9 years). For all these and many more things, I am so in awe and grateful. I just need to remember those things.

On the hard days, I tell myself, “I have been through worse.” And it’s true. I have gone through so much and I will no doubt go through worse things later. But the truth of the matter is, I need to use the God-given resources I have inside me already rather than searching for a solution in all the books I read or in a person I think is smarter than I. What a good reminder… hopefully you can be reminded of this too in your own life! And I highly recommend this book!