The Example of Peter

6 07 2017

Context: 1 Peter

The first epistle of Peter is all about the practical ways that we apply our faith in relation to each other.  It has instructions for our attitudes, our way of living, holiness, our  relations to government and leadership, our relationships in marriages, a perspective on suffering, living our lives with freedom and suffering and how we relate to elders.  Mind you, that’s just a quick summary.  It’s very full of information!  Because of what I know about Peter, I’m not surprised that he’s giving practical advice.  More on that later.

I also want to remind you of something:  this letter was written to exiled people who believed in Christ, and not to a church.  Paul wrote his letters to churches, and Peter has written to specific people.  It was probably a personal letter sent to encourage the people that he knew personally.  Notice that he only identified himself by name and not his audience, which to me, communicates that the people he was writing to, Peter wished to remain anonymous.  Perhaps because they were in political trouble, perhaps for their religious beliefs.  And I also want to point out that from this, we we see that Peter knows that they’re in trouble, indicating that this is part of a series of letters probably exchanged with these people.

From this, we also see that Peter, because of the personal nature, we see he had no intentions of the letter becoming part of the canon of the New Testament, a shared experience of all of the writers of the New Testament.  I think that is worthy of consideration and thought.

As a disciple, we know a lot about Peter, and one of the things that I think Peter never got over is how God chose him, despite all of his flaws and dis-beliefs, he was chosen.  His faith, with all of its questions and insecurities were enough to build a church upon.  When he was killed for his beliefs, he asked to be crucified upside down, because he did not see himself as worthy of the same death of crucifixion as the Christ.  He died a martyrs death, for professing his faith, and refusing to renounce it.  His story is something, if nothing else, another story of how God uses ordinary, imperfect people to share his story of love, his gifts of grace.

Today’s scripture comes from 2 Peter 1:3-11.  I’m dividing it up into three sections, and I’ll identify these three sections according to my commentary sections.

vs 3-4:  Promises:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

One of the things that I identify with in Peter, is my constant insecurity over whether or not I am able to be used by God despite my lack of faith, my past or my experiences.  Sometimes, I lack trust, sometimes I lack confidence.  Sometimes, I lack security.  I have major performance anxiety and just anxieties in general.  And Peter man, he constantly failed Jesus.  He denied him three times, he failed to trust him when he was walking on water, and he was selfish.  We sometimes like to puff ourselves up and like to pick on Peter, claiming that we’d be able to walk on water if the Lord commanded us.  Peter, I love you because you’re so human and you’re so relate-able to those of us who are like me.  I believe that if I were in the middle of the sea and God told me to get out of the boat, I’d look around for another boat to jump into, or a life jacket or something.  I wouldn’t get out of the boat in the first place, probably.  My confidence as a disciple is shaken, when I fail to get out of the boat.  And the royal screw-ups of Peter?  On my own, I could never recover from that.

But Peter did!  Look at what he says.  He says that we’ve been given everything that we need by God to live out this life of faith.  Everything  We’ve been given the courage, the confidence, the power and the courage that we need.  We’ve been given this life to live, according to the knowledge of God and who God is, simply because God has called us to be his.  Peter figured it out.  He had been given everything that he needed in order to live out the life that he was supposed to.  Jesus knew that Peter had it, because he identified Peter as the one that he would be building his church on his shoulders.

Wow.  What a promise!  Peter, with his fumblings and stumblings, to be the rock that Jesus would build his church on!  What a big thing!  Peter knew about promises.  One thing that he knew is that he, Peter, broke them.  Remember the last supper?  Where he promised that he would never denounce Jesus?  How, later, he did so three times, only a few hours later.  Through it all, in his lifetime, Peter realized something about promises.  He realized that although he (Peter) couldn’t keep them, God always did.  He probably realized that Jesus recognized the value of Peter long before Peter realized his own value.  When Peter became a believer, Jesus knew he would one day become a leader in the faith because God had already given him the promised gifts he would need.  He would have the gift of leadership, of vision, of commitment, and they were already embedded within Peter when Jesus made that promise to him by re-naming him.  Peter probably didn’t really understand what it meant when Jesus gave him that promise, but like our salvation, he would understand it better later on.

In the same way, I hope that we recognize that we have been given everything that we need to live a godly life, and I hope that we see these things as promises as well.  Promises to sustain, promises that lead, promises that verify our calling and identity.  These are the gifts that sustain us when things get hard.  When I became a believer, I remember praying the prayer, and I was climbing the stairs of the building afterwards, and I felt something.  The only way that I can describe it was like my heart had exploded.  I wasn’t exploding, my heart wasn’t racing, but it was like this great big open spot was now there in my chest.  It was different.  In different times of my life, times of doubt, I have remembered that aftermath of explosion with in me.  And bit by bit, it’s like all of the learning I do, I fill up those spaces.  But that empty space?  According to this scripture, I’m now going to call it my promise.  The promise of things to come.

vs 6-9:  Building Blocks of Growth

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

We are told in churches to grow our faith.  We talk about how we need to grow and get to know God more and how we need to—–well, you get the picture.  I’d like to take you back to the example of Peter.

We know that Peter tried to walk on water and then he failed?  Why did he fail?  Because he got afraid, looked at the water and took his eyes, his trust off of the one who told him to walk on the water in the first place.  Jesus was already there, he was already on top of the water, he told him to jump out.  But Peter lost sight of the one who was leading him.

Let’s contrast that with another Peter story.  Picture it, day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit came down as Jesus had promised that helper and it filled the room.  Filled them.  Peter arose, he stands up and begins preaching about Jesus.  From this moment on, he becomes a leader of the disciples, it is because of his words and obedience, that the first church is founded among believers.  Jesus’ promise fulfilled!  Church was born out of Peter, even though he got afraid on the waves.

Woah.  What’s the difference?  How could it go from a sinking, floundering person, a denier of the Christ and a doubter, to being a courageous, strong and secure person who births’ the first church? It’s all because of growth.  I think Peter used his near drowning experience to teach him, his doubts to affirm him, and his denials to motivate him.  Something happened to Peter, and he grew so much.  It seems like the denial would be a hiccup to his growth, because true growth is hardly, if ever, linear, but a maze that is often disorienting.

I love how Peter describes this process through in his letter.  He makes it like building blocks, no doubt representative of his own growth.  Each step is like building blocks.  Each step is because of the previous step.  I don’t have the capacity to expand very much on each of the steps, but I will do a quick summary.  He says that the first step is moral righteousness.  If we are honest, that righteousness step/entry into heaven, is our first motivation and reason for faith.  From that, we grow to knowledge, the mental aspect to our faith.  This is an “academic” understanding of God and scripture.  From that, we realize our need of self-control, because our knowledge exposes places where we still have to become better and more godly.  That leads to perseverance, because self-control, man, it’s a beast.  It’s difficult to stay in control of whatever thoughts or actions that we find difficult to shake.  As we persevere through these sufferings and many more, we move into godliness and understand the purpose of our sufferings.  From that, we develop mutual affection, which from my understandings, means empathy for others and sharing in burdens.  From that, develops love, and love for others is the embodiment of our faith, it’s the way that Jesus said his disciples would be recognized.

Because of these building blocks, Peter says that we continue to grow and we will remain important to the faith, and will will remain engaged, vibrant.  Alive.

Peter also addresses a very different type of believer.  He says that if we don’t build on our faith and grow in the faith, then we are ineffective.  We are nearsighted, we can only see the present troubles right in front of us, not the greater glory.  We can only concern ourselves with the things of the world, because that’s all that we can see.  He calls believers that aren’t growing towards love as blind, because without growth, they cannot see their neighbor as worthy of love.  We cannot see when God is working and moving.  We cannot see how to help others.  And we can never get past our past.  We can never allow someone else’s past to get past their past in our eyes.  We can’t forget, and we can’t forgive.

If we are the latter of the two, there is no growth, and salvation is basically fire protection.  It’s not a changed, transformed way of life.  If we use Peter as an example, the latter is not like Peter’s experience.

vs 10-11:  Go the Distance

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned earlier, Peter died on an upside down cross, thinking himself as unworthy of the same measure of death as Christ.  The called rock, founder of the church, given a criminal’s death.  After his denial of Christ, all evidence points to that moment being a turning point in Peter’s life and faith.  He grew from that period, and I hope he never returned to the doubting self, but used his experiences to grow.  He remembered the call that Jesus had laid on his life and he did something about it.  He stayed the course and finished his life as the founder of the church.

Because of our growth, Peter says that we should be firm in our salvation and in our growth of God.  That we should not be insecure about our salvation.  If anyone had a chance of being insecure, Peter is among them, and he says that we should be secure.  He didn’t remain insecure, because he already knows where he stands.  He knows his value in Christ.

Which is more than a lot of us can say, because if Peter looked at the church right now, I don’t think he’d see a strong, secure body.  I honestly think he’d liken us to a bunch of toddlers crying because our blankey is in the wash.  He’d call us out because we get our feelings hurt and claim injustice, while our literal neighbors are starving.  I think he’d tell us to get our eyes back on Jesus, and not on the waves, because he knows that’s why he began to sink.  I think he’d tell us to love each other instead of focusing on beautiful buildings and important programming.  I think he’d tell us that our faith and trust needs to be strong enough to not only endure the good times, but also the bad times.  That we can’t abandon our beliefs just because someone hurt our feelings.

But if we stick with it, and we keep a holy growth, we keep our calling close in our minds, then look what God can do through us.  Look what he could do.  After all, it was the denier, the fearful of downing Peter that God built his church upon.  Truly, if God can use Peter, the butt of our scorn to build a church, how could he use us as well?

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Message for the Day

12 04 2017

I’m a deaf teacher.  I know many deaf people don’t claim me as deaf because I have two CI’s that I use to hear my students, but the nature of my job as a middle school theatre teacher is that I prefer to be able to hear instead of requiring my students to learn sign language.

When I was going to become a teacher, my supervising teacher told me “You can’t be a teacher, you’re deaf, you won’t be able to hear the kids”.  It broke my heart.

It was the first time, that I’ve ever experienced that type of attitude and recognized it for what it was.  All my life, I’ve heard “you’re deaf, but you don’t sound deaf!” or “I think it’s amazing that you’re able to function….”

I really struggled with it, because all of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people who have always encouraged me and have always pushed me forward to accomplishing the great things that I want to do.  It affected me so badly, I recognize now that I was in a period of depression.

I’m glad to say that I’ve proved him wrong.  I’m glad to say that I am soon to finish up my 3rd year of teaching.  I’m glad to say that I didn’t let that man decide my fate, and impact my choice of careers.  I love my job.  I love what I do.  I bet I love it more than he does.

Don’t let anyone deter you from your dreams.  Don’t let any one stop you.  Don’t let anyone keep you from doing what you want to do.  YOU are important.  YOU are valued.  You are loved.  You have something to offer the world.

-happysloth





Creation: A Creative Retelling

31 01 2017

You have molded the heavens with your hands, you ran your fingers to form mountain ridges.  You uplifted the waters to move the waves.  You punched the soil and made valleys.  You scooped up dirt and made hills.  You ran through the land, dragging a stick through the earth and made the rivers.  You moved the ocean into the land and made lakes.  Made mudpies, and they became swamps.  Dried otu the dirt, and deserts were born.  I have this image of God, you, playing all over your creation, to make all of these things happen.  Joyful in your creation, you bounced around like a child.  You transformed your drawings into fish and birds, monkeys and elephants.  Breathed life into those masterpieces, as all sorts of animals began to walk the earth that you created.  They explored and ate off of the trees and plants, drank of your water, and moved with joy.

Then, you made man.  You crafted every vein in his body with purpose.  You sculpted every muscle from the dirt.  You covered it all in skin to protect him.  And you took your breath and kissed man alive.  In wonder, he looked around, not understanding what had just happened, and saw all of the creation moving and growing.  And you proclaimed all of its goodness!

And then you rested.  You watched your created ones get familiar with your creation.  It was your playground and entertainment all in one.  You delighted as man ate your fruit you provided and you were pleased as he named them.  You laughed at his reaction when he saw a platypus for the first time.  You were warmed in your heart as he freed a baby lion from thorns.  Your curiosity was piqued when he saw his helper for the first time.  You had surprised him, not told him that she was going to be made.  He surveyed her beauty and she looked around the same way that he had, when you first breathed life into him.  At night, you sang them to sleep with the birds and grasshoppers singing their song of praise to you.  Your creation was all good, and it was peaceful.  Days went by, and your joy was increased as you got to spend more and more time with them, they led you on tours of your creation, and they told you all about the things that they had learned about what you had made.  You fell in love with them.  You fell in love with this, all of your creation.

Then, came an intruder.  It wasn’t a battle army from foreign land.  It was an old rival that you had banished.  He was once a part of your inner circle, but then he fell from your grace.  He was conniving and jealous of you, wanted to be more than a worshipper of God, he wanted people to worship him because he knew you.  So you banished him from your kingdom, and he took his own kingdom.  He penetrated your garden.  Slithered into the body of something you created.  He slid across the dirt that you made and wrapped himself into your creation.  He thought that he could talk to your beloveds, even though they were yours.  He whispered words of adultery, and they tried to resist at first.  Then they succombed to the pressure.  The enemy said that they would have power unlike that which they had never had before.  But you watched as the connection that you had with them was destroyed.  You couldn’t believe it.

They were frozen, felt it immediately.  The fruit had given them knowledge which they had never had before, but at the price of intimacy with you.  He slithered away before the true effects of his victory were realized by them.  The fruit, they abandoned as they responded in shame.  Your heart was broken as they exprienced blame and anger at each other over what had happened.  They realized they were naked, and needed clothing.  YOu called out their name as you pushed the bushes aside, hoping against hope that they hadn’t really done this thing that you feared they had.  You looked in their eyes, and it had.  Your heart broke.  The one limit that you had given them, they had broken.  Your paradise was infected and the infection lay within them.  There was no way that you could rescue them from this now.  Later, perhaps, but not now.  Not while your heart was breaking and bruised.  Not while they began the journey out of your paradise.

It was all over.  All for nothing.  All of your dreams and all of your efforts were just wastes of time and effort.  It was all for nothing.  You tried something, gave of your heart to create something that would bring your joy, and it was all for nothing.  Wasted.  Futile.  Anger swelled in your heart, they had done wrong.  They must be punished.  Food would no longer grow freely, man had to work at it now.  Her body would no longer live in harmony, as you gave monthly pains to her.  You sealed the garden when they left, now it was plagued in sin, it had been smudged and you had to clean it up.  You would never let someone into your paradise again.  Your anger covered up the fact that you were heartbroken, and they could not see that.  All that they saw was your anger.  Your heart was broken, your creation betrayed you.  In your mercy, you could not destroy them because you loved them.  So you let them live.  But it would never be the same.  Ever again.

You did not give up on them.  One day, they’ll see that.  One day, they’ll see your plan of restoration.  But today is not that day.  Today, you’ll nurse your broken heart.  Today, you’ll cry and ache.  Today, you’ll experience pain.  So that you can give forgiveness.





For My Good!

26 05 2016

Author’s Note:  I didn’t mean to take a break from the Fruits of the Spirit series….this topic just could not get off of my heart and I learned so much from writing this post and I hope you do the same!

It’s a different experience to hear the news secondhand than it is to experience it.  Everyday, thousands of newscasters report on the events of the world, but I rarely think that those who experienced the event firsthand, rely on these newscasts to inform them of what happened.  But, once the event happens, there’s no way for us to go back in time for us to move from being a second-hand observer who learned about something on the news, to becoming a first-hand participant.  The man who served in a war, can never move to being a second-hand observer.  He felt the heat of battle, the sting of death, the brush of bullets and bombs.  The person who hears about a riot cannot experience the riot itself personally.

I used to think that the disciples, they really had it made.  They were first-hand observers of Jesus.  They walked with him, smelled his body odor and they ate with him.  They were shocked by him, cried with him and slept near him.  What an experience that must have been!  I used to get jealous, because I thought that if I only walked with Jesus and saw the miracles, then surely, my faith would be like a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that produces the largest of results!  But then, I read some scripture that Jesus shared with them, John 16:7, which says “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  Wow!  That verse is really powerful.  Jesus starts it out saying, “this is the truth” and then he drops the bomb on them  “It is for your good that I am going away.”  I would have disagreed with my friend, if I were a disciple.  I mean, sure I know that he’s the creator of the universe and all, but I would miss him.  My life was made complete by having him in my life and it was made better with him.  He made me wine out of water, fish and bread out of nothing, provided growth and love and companionship, where I didn’t feel it before.  I found acceptance, despite my lack of faith or ability to trust, despite my low social status, I found love.  And to think that this source of love and friendship was going to leave me, and I was going to be better off than when he left me?  That’s preposterous!  That would mean that I would be moving out of a relationship with Jesus and then back to life as normal!

A Second-hand Watcher
This type of person is a benchwarmer, so to speak.  A benchwarmer is a part of a team, but they often miss out on the real action of the game.  They may be substituted in and step up once in a while, but they are not a consistently actively involved person.  If I, as a disciple, would’ve went back to my life as usual, then I would be considered a second-hand watcher.  I am someone that knows the expectation, because it was clearly explained and outlined to me by Jesus, but instead of living up to the expectation, I simply expect it to happen to me!  When the day is over, I’ve neither contributed to the game as a whole nor detracted from it.  I have simply floated along and have nothing to show for my time with Jesus.  Instead, I have evidence of my existence, but not much beyond that.

To me, this sounds very similar to that of the experience in the Christian church.  Honestly, if we want to criticize the world and our society for being “godless” and going against the call of God, we have to first look at ourselves.  Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Although it seems that Jesus is talking about the companionship from believer to believer.  I think it can expand beyond that.  I don’t think that he means that the way we relate to each other is not applicable to the way we relate to other people in the world.  We must give respect and love to the people who are around us, regardless of the shared faith or lack of shared faith.  I honestly think that Jesus means for us to treat our Christian brothers and sisters with the same regard as we give to those who believe different from us.  And vice versa.  Think about that.  And vice versa.  It’s harder to make us look at ourselves than it is to criticize the world.  Before we even think about criticizing others, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves, and how we have failed to be anything more than a benchwarmer.  Jesus tells us that it is shameful for us to criticize our brother, when we are guilty of having issues that keep us from growing.  WE cannot criticize the world and its policies without first critically examining ourselves.  And honestly, if we had been doing so all along, we would not be the secondhand observers that the world knows us as.  Shortly speaking, it is the church’s fault that our society has felt the diminishing impact of the church upon that society.  We stopped doing the things that make us active participants, and started warming the pews, and being content with Sunday being the only day reserved for God.  Instead of remembering 1 Corinthians 13:1, we gave Christianity a bad name by clanging out our objections without love.  And we were not growing spiritually.  We were not making disciples of Christ.  WE were simply living our lives and going to church on Sunday, and somehow, we thought it would be enough.

 

Active Participant
Who wins the games?  Who handles the trophy?  Who goes down in the sports halls of fame?  It’s not those that keep the bench from floating off the game floor, it’s the people who are the active players and do whatever it takes to be successful.  It is the ones who intend to accomplish something, who are intentional about what they do.  Active players don’t just wait around for skills and special abilities to happen to them, they are the ones that continuously strive to become better and the ones that desire very greatly to be better players.  Players don’t wait for life to happen, they don’t wait for accomplishments to just be handed to them or spontaneously occur.  Instead, they devote afternoons, hours to improvement.  Each practice, they show up, regardless of how they emotionally feel about getting out to practice, and they practice, knowing each practice makes them better, stronger.  Excuses don’t matter, because if it is important to you, you make time for it, no matter what.

The more and more I study Jesus and the more and more I read the gospels, the clearer it becomes to me that he expects me to realize that belief doesn’t matter all that much, unless its an active thing.  Until we believe it so much that we live it, we will never learn more than mere drops of grace and small fractions of love.  We will not learn how to love people a smidgen of the way that we are supposed to, the way that Jesus loves us.  Unless we get off of the bench and get in the game, the Bible will be mere words of fiction, Jesus is a mythical character and love is a construction paper cut-out heart.  Matthew 7:3-5 says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  When we are not active participants, yet we are pulling out planks out of others’ eyes and criticizing others and not critically looking at ourselves, we fail to embody the call of Christianity.  We fail to be the lovers of people that we are called to be.  We fail.  That’s it.  Until we get off the bench and are actively growing, we have no idea what our faith really calls us to do and be for others.

Well, that’s all well and good-but how do we get off the bench?  From what I understand, spiritual growth has several components:

  • You must spend time in the Word with God.  It’s not enough to just read the Bible, we must also understand the meaning behind those special words.
  • Pray and ask God that he will help you find understanding, and apply that understanding of the scripture into your life and into the interactions you have with other people. He will teach you how to interact with others in love.
  • Seek to serve God through the church and on an individual level. Use your natural talents to help you figure out how to serve God and others.
  • When given the opportunity to share your faith, do it! Your story is an experience that they can’t take away from you.  What God has done in you, they can’t contest.
  • Remain faithful to your growing relationship with God. It’s easy to let the emotional fire die, but remember that there are some things work committing to doing despite how you feel.

Don’t let the excuses get in your way.  We can make anything an excuse.  Don’t.   If this is truly important to you, and if you believe that your faith makes a difference, you will see the fatality in  being a bystander.  If it is worth it, you will make the time.  If it is meaningful, you will choose to remain faithful and committed, despite the feelings or excuses.  Be warned though, the excuses are overbearing.  The task is difficult because it involves a departure from your selfish way of things.  It may ask you to sacrifice, it may hurt you a little bit, but you will grow.

Take encouragement though.  Jesus said once says “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  The thing that makes it different for us than it does for the disciples, is that we have never experienced the human Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit inside us, instead!  How cool is that!  See, Jesus isn’t interested in us depending on him for physical or depending on his physical presence for us to gain his assurance and peace in his presence.  Instead, he wants to reside in us!  How cool is that!?  Our assurance and security does not rest in the physical presence of Jesus, but in the unending presence of the Holy Spirit.  And this is for our benefit!  How cool!  This is for my good!  It is for my good that I am an active participant and not a benchwarmer.  It is for my good that I am growing!

And let it be for your benefit as well!

 





When People Stay

7 12 2013

Author’s Note:  Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post entitled “When People Walk Out” and in this post, it talks about when people leave you, and do so without looking back, and what our response should be.  I realized that I never assumed the best in people, and described what happens when people don’t walk out, and when they stay.  So this is for that purpose.

Congratulations.  Someone didn’t leave.  They had the opportunity to do so, and they didn’t go.  If you’re in the middle of a conflict or a trying time, I know that you appreciate their commitment to you in a way that you’ve never had it mean to you before.  I know what that’s like.  A few months ago, I was going through a rather difficult time, and I didn’t want to drag the person that I was dating through that mess…and I gave them the opportunity to walk away.  I gave them that freedom and I said, “go, make life less stressful for yourself.”  And they stayed.  And they’re still staying.  This is rather overwhelming to me, because like I said in the earlier post, I’ve been left a lot.  When the hard stuff happens, people are prone to leave.  It’s just easier.  It’s easier to give up and walk away, than to stay, and work through it, fight through it, or support through it.  So yay you!  You were not left.  What now?

When someone chooses not to leave, it is a lesson of love again.  I don’t care how well you think you know what love is.  I don’t care how many times you’ve told someone you love them.  But many times, when someone chooses not to leave, and decides to stay in your life, this is the prime opportunity of your life, for you to learn a little more about love.  I guarantee it.  Like in the scenario in the opening paragraph above, since that person has stuck by me, I’ve learned a little more about what it means to love someone.  It still amazes me sometimes, that someone thought that I was worthy of sticking by when the going got rough.  But love is like that sometimes.  Sometimes, it teaches you that you are worthy of being loved.  Which is overwhelming, in of itself, but more than that, sometimes, the fact that someone loves you enough to stay with you teaching you more about what love truly is, and what it is not.  I am sure that the following is familiar to you:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, It is not proud. It does not dishonor others, It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

In all of that, we see that love requires a lot from you.  This list is just the barely beginning.  If I am truly to embody love for someone, then at all times, I am supposed to have all of these emotions towards those that I love.  I will be the first in line to admit that I don’t meet this criteria at all times.  I am selfish sometimes, I sometimes can’t get over things that my loved ones have done in the past, sometimes I am distrustful…but I’m working on that.  I am trying my best to be that loving person in that loving standard, but I will be the first to say that I don’t always do that.  I am working on that.  But the point is, that once you make the decision to stay with someone, or when someone makes that decision to stay with you no matter what…the test of love comes out.  You and that loved one will probably be put through a rough period of trials for awhile, until life decides that you’ve proven your love to each other enough. 

When someone chooses you, this is the time for you to grow.  One of the things that I love the most about those that I love dearly and who have chosen to stick by me through thick and thin, is that they’re not afraid of telling me the truth.  And they tell me the truth and call me out on my stuff.  They hold me accountable, they tell me to quit being an idiot.  They call me out on my stuff.  When I am pushing them away because I’m going through something….they tell me to stop doing so.  When I’m avoiding them because I don’t like their truth that they told me, they hang around me all the more.  They discuss things with me, explore my heart, get to know my thoughts, because they truly care about me.  Suddenly, when someone loves you, they care about your well-being and challenge you to grow.  They do so in a healthy way.  However, a word of caution:  their challenges are only as effective as the positive attitude that you are able to receive that challenge.  If you approach their instruction and correction with a heart full of pride and arrogance, their challenges will be useless and will create havoc in your relationship.    A story:  I knew this couple once.  They’d been together for forever, and the couple once had a relationship where both of them called each other out on their stuff, and they challenged each other, and grew together.  Then something happened, and one of them started to struggle with self-identity and confidence issues, and started taking these challenges as criticisms.  Today, the relationship is not the same, it is unhealthy and damaging to both of them, because they are unable to communicate and are unable to express that love in anything but through two shared negative experiences.  The moral of that relationship is that if you’re unable to receive someone’s honesty, you cannot give it, and you also will receive it in the wrong terms.  And that is not a healthy way to respond.  I have found that in my experience, when I am challenging someone to grow, it takes the pressure off of my own individual total pursuit of perfection, and I just get to focus on one thing at a time, which is majorly helpful.

When someone stays, don’t constantly test their commitment to staying.  At some point, you just gotta know it for a fact.  This is one that I struggle with.  And this is a struggle that is mine and mine alone.  I can’t expect anyone else to fix it, nor can I expect anyone else to tell me how to fix it.  I have just got to learn it with each person that comes into my life and stays.  But, I really struggle sometimes whether worrying if someone is genuine when they say they’re not leaving me.  For some reason, I doubt them once the commitment is made.  I don’t know why.  I’m sure a psychologist would tell me that this comes from a line of people leaving me before, and trust issues that I have.  I don’t really want to by psychoanalyzed here, nor do I really want to go in-depth here.  But the short and sweet fact is that I struggle with knowing that a person is committed to me, and no matter what happens, they’re standing by me.  This person is in my corner from now on.  I don’t feel like I constantly test whether or not someone will leave me or not…but within the space between my ears, a parade of questions comes marching in from somewhere, wondering if the person is leaving me just because I haven’t heard from them in this amount of time, or because they’re distant, or etc.  Constantly worrying about someone’s presence in your life is a very unhealthy way to live.  Doing so has the ability to suffocate the other person.  I have learned this from relationships in the past, and this time, I am doing my best to combat those militant questions with the facts of how that person has not left thus far, and will not leave.  Don’t make the other person prove to you something over and over again, when they’ve proved it to you in the first place.  At some point, it no longer becomes their problem, but your problem for not accepting that.  It’s suddenly your problem for making them prove to you over and over again, that they’re not going anywhere.  I am doing my best to ensure that the people who have chosen to stay in my life do not have to prove to me why they’re with me, and I am doing my best to simply accept the gift of what they are to me and all that they bring to my life simply because they’ve chosen me.  

When people stay, this is when you get to be the most “yourself.”  Let me explain this concept.  Let’s apply this to a friendship.  Say you become friends with someone simply because you both like video games.  Initially, all you two talk about are video games.  Eventually, the conversation will sway to other topics.  And let’s say there’s some divisive issue that the two of you disagree on, but you come to the conclusion that there are plenty of other things that you agree on, and that one issue won’t break your friendship.  As time goes on, and the years pass, you notice that you’ve stopped worrying about what this person will think, because love is acceptance.  You no longer worry about how they’re going to react, or what they’re going to say, they’re simply just going to accept many things about you.  Some things may be a struggle, but at this point, you’re no longer going to be concerned with pulling off a certain type of “image” with them, they get to see you without your makeup, so to speak.  As time passes, they see you at your best, and they see you at your worst.  They see how happy coffee makes you, and they see you when you’re sleep deprived and ill.  You’re no longer trying to be a good person, you’re just yourself.  I love this. I love when I can stop trying to appear cool and they see me for the big nerd I am in reality.  Let them see it all! Go beyond the surface, and talk about the real stuff, the true stuff.  Learn their past, their history, and allow them to study you as well.  This is where a real relationship, a true relationship, a deep relationship….this is where it all begins. 

Because you are a beautiful person, and you are worthy of someone choosing you, and staying despite all of the muck and dirt in life.  Everyone needs somebody that they can count on.  Be that to someone in this world.  It just makes things a lot easier. 





When People Walk Out

2 12 2013

I’m sure you’ve been left before.  I am sure that there has been someone in your life that has left you.  I’m sure someone has broke your heart and left.  I am not alone in heartbreak, there are tons of songs and tons of poems and movies and TV shows that deal with the subject of leaving.  This is real pain, when he walks out, despite your every protest.  This rips you into pieces when that girl that promised that she’d never leave, walks right out that door, and doesn’t even look back.  People leave sometimes.  That’s just a fact of life. 

I’ve been left.  I’m gonna get a little personal here, and if you’re mentioned here, don’t take it personally, this is not your story and it’s not anything other than my story.  The first time I was left, it was actually when my biological mother kicked me out.  I was homeless.  This was after months and months, years even, of emotional abuse, an atmosphere of fear and control.  I was told to leave, that I no longer had a mom…and no longer had a home.  All I had were the clothes that I had packed, and the car I was driving at the time.  To make matters worse, I apparently wasn’t moving fast enough, so she started breaking the glass in my dad’s shotgun case…I didn’t stick around to see what would’ve happened if she actually got the gun out.  The second time I can remember, I was in this relationship with a person who meant alot to me.  I recognized that if I continued on this course, that life as I knew it, would change, and I wasn’t quite ready for that change just yet.  This person left, because I wasn’t ready.  They left because I wouldn’t be ready for a few years.  I met a girl in college, and she became a fast friend.  We were connected not only personally, but spiritually.  It is because of her that I grew so much in college in a spiritual sense, because she challenged me.  She didn’t always agree with me, but she would challenge me to make sure that I knew why I thought what I believed, and why I believed what I thought.  Eventually, we both realized that this wasn’t going to work out.  There was one thing that I was, that she could not reconcile me with that one thing.  And I pushed her out the door, and she didn’t look back.  I was in a relationship about a year ago, and the person I was with, got scared, realized the relationship was more serious than they wanted it to be, and they left.  Then they left again, when I was honest with them and told them exactly why it would never work out between us.  And they left.  There are several more stories of me being left, but I think you get the point. 

Why do people leave?  This is a question that I posed to a very dear friend of mine.  And the only response she had was the following quote:

“You keep listening to those that seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They only say that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.” -Henri Nouwen

 

I cannot say it more clearer than that.  You see, initially, I realized that all of these people left me.  They left ME.  What was the problem with me?  Why could they not handle staying?  But then, this quote, which has become more and more beloved with each time I meditate upon it….it says that should a person leave…it’s not your fault.  It has nothing to do with you.  Instead, it has everything to do with other people, those who left.  They gave up, they cannot give you what you’re asking from them, it’s just not one of their capabilities…and in order to flourish, in order to be okay, they have to distance themselves from you. 

Let me use an example from my life:  Four and a half years ago, a very dear friend was taken from me.  In many ways, this was the first time that death became personal to me.  I struggled.  I really had to endure pain as I’d never encountered it so before.  A very special friend died.  I didn’t know how to cope.  I didn’t know what to do.  I would cry, scream and pout that this beloved person was taken away from me.  I tried to live my life, I tried to move on, but it just wouldn’t happen.  And I had this friend, who just told me to “suck it up” and “move on.”  They told me my grief was irrational, because they knew that I would see them in heaven, and that I just needed to grow up and not be so selfish.  I grieved for a really long time.  The longer I grieved, the less important the friendship became, because in the end, I realized that this friend truly did not know how personal grief is, and had never experienced true pain like this, and was incapable of relating to me and relationshipping with me.  And so she left.  What I was going through, she could not handle and imagine, and did not understand. 

Sometimes, it’s tempting to look after the one who is leaving, to attempt to drag on their coattails, hoping they’ll stay.  Sometimes, it’s easy to look at the person who is leaving you, while forgetting to look for the new person that has come to take their place.  Sure, sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have not let that person walk out the door, to stand there and fight for them, fight for them to stay in my life.  But here’s the thing, if someone is leaving, it’s best to just let them go.  They can’t give you what you need, and so, let them go.  Instead of grieving over what has left, take a look around, look at the people and things that haven’t ever considered leaving you, and hold on to those instead. 

Those who leave were never apart of your destiny.  If someone is supposed to be in your life to see your destiny fulfilled, they cannot leave, and they won’t leave when given an option.  If someone is able to so easily walk out of your life without a second look, they were never a part of the destiny you have.  Let them go.  Don’t try to make them stick around, don’t fight for them, stand up, and take a good look around, and recognize that if these people are meant to be a part of your destiny, they’re not going anywhere.

I considered leaving someone once.  It was a few years ago.  Me and this person were going through an extremely rough time.  And I considered walking out on them, leaving, because the relationship was just stress and rough times.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t.  Something inside me knew that this person was a part of my life, and I was supposed to be a part of this person’s life.  Something inside of me knew that I was connected to this person for the rest of my life.  Since, we’ve left that rough place in our relationship, and are currently enjoying peace and connectedness, and wisdom and support, regardless of what’s going on.  I have since learned that leaving is not quite so easy, when your destiny is tied to that person. 

They left us, but they were never really with us.  If they had been, they would have stuck it out with us, loyal to the end.  In leaving, they showed their true colors, showed they never did belong.  -1 John 2:19 (MSG)

 

I just recently found this passage of scripture.  It has been really powerful to me.  In context, the writer of 1 John is talking about those who are not a part of the body of Christ, and those who have abandoned the faith, but I think it can also apply to those with whom we share our lives with.  If the people we share our lives with are supposed to be with us, and are supposed to be a part of our lives for a really, really long time…then they will never leave.  Should they leave, then that is the moment that we know that they are not supposed to be with us for the long haul, because they are not equipped with whatever it is that we need, in order to be successful and thrive in this relationship.  Should a person leave, don’t look longingly out of the door, don’t go through their facebook pictures, don’t lament and moan and groan over the fact that they are gone, simply know that they’re not part of your long-term life, and move on!  Don’t be hung up on someone who is clearly and obviously not hung up on you!  Don’t long for what was, and don’t ponder the “what-ifs,” go on!  Get a move on!  Grow up!  They couldn’t possibly give you what you need and what you’re asking for from them, so why do you want them in your life???  Go on!  Have the courage to make that break and look forward to what is coming!  Have the courage to make a break with that past and move on!  Do not let the unanswered questions of today hold you back from your destiny.

But Mary Beth, I love them.  Don’t you dare say that!  Don’t you dare use love as an excuse to allow yourself to be drug around by someone’s coattails, don’t you dare use love as a reason to be all depressed.  If someone is going to leave you, let them walk!  If a person truly loves you so deeply and personally, they’ll be unable to walk away.  If someone truly loves you and is truly capable of being everything you want in a person, they won’t consider leaving you for a moment, they won’t be capable of it.  Let them walk!!!  If they won’t look back at what they’re leaving, you should not waste your time with them.  Pull yourself up, pull yourself together and recognize that something greater is coming.  It may not be a person, but something greater is coming, and that is part of your destiny, that is closer to the life you’re going to live for a really long time. 

Learn to recognize the difference between people who are tied to your destiny and people who are seasonal.  Both are important, I truly believe this.  Some of the friends I’ve had for a season have been some of the most valuable and refreshing relationships I’ve ever had.  I treasure those moments, and I am so grateful that we had that time together.  I define seasonal people as the relationships you have for awhile, and then for some reason or another, the relationship  ceases to exist.  Nothing blew up or caught fire.  It just was no more.  But those people with whom you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with…you know it.  Something invigorates your soul in being around them.  You have a spark, that connection that you just simply cannot let go of, for whatever reason.  Some people define the seasonal people as those with whom you live and share life with for awhile, but then you don’t.  This can include those people that walked out.  Regardless of your definition of seasonal people, either way, there comes a time where the relationship is no more.  Not every person you meet is tied to your destiny.  And that’s okay.  It’s not a bad thing.  There’s a peace in knowing whether the relationship is seasonal or “destinal.”  And if they’re seasonal, recognize the value of what it is, when it is, and understand with compassion, when it becomes no more, and is no longer a part of your life.  Let them peacefully go.  Don’t cause havok, but let them go and chase the people who are a part of their destiny, as you chase those who are a part of yours. 

Sometimes, relationships last.  Sometimes they don’t.  As the old Adele song says:  “Sometimes it lasts in love, and sometimes it hurts instead.”  And when they don’t, this is the very time to recognize that you need to get out of that bed, get off of that couch and go live your life without them, while you wait for that person or people with whom your destiny is tied to!  Do not allow yourself to get discouraged!  Remember this, you are far too amazing to beg someone to stay with you.  If you have to beg someone to stay with you, then they’re not supposed to be with you!  Look for those people who already recognize how awesome you are and don’t need to be told why you’re so amazing!!  Go forth! 





Myers-Briggs Personality Test Results

13 09 2013

Last Saturday, I spent nearly the whole day with two of my favorite people, and helped them move out of the place they were living, and into a new home that is literally 4 minutes away from my house.  Where it was an hour away, it is now a few minutes’ drive away from me.  I am SO excited about them being closer.   Anyways, as we were packing things up in their old home, we started talking about the beginning of their relationship, and on one of the first dates they were one, she made him take the Myers-Briggs test.  (Which you can take here!)  I highly encourage you to do so!

So, I got the inspiration to take the test myself.  I’ve taken it before, and in general, my type has never changed.  But it’s nice to see if you’ve changed or grown in certain areas or shrinked in some areas.  I am INFJ, if you’d like to see an explanation of my characteristics or persona, here‘s a link to that explanation.

I’ve read the explanation before, but I don’t think it really affected me, or perhaps I haven’t read THIS explanation.  But it really affected me.  Here are some facts about me, and perhaps a little discussion:

  • INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities.   I like to think that this is true of me.
  • Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.  Um….wow.  Let me expound upon this:  I’ve recently (within the past few months) encountered some people who have consistently told me how rare I am.  That there’s something special about me, and that is something that they cherish.  The things that they say make me special, I don’t see as a very special quality to have.  I mean, it’s just what I do.  If I listen carefully, and give a response that is reflective and sensitive, that’s just the natural response I have in sharing my life with someone.  To me, that’s nothing special…but when I look at the lives of those around me, I realize that sometimes, this response is not quite the norm.  It’s not that I haven’t believed that I am pretty awesome, but the rarity of my personality type surprises me.  This has just been something that I’ve encountered in all different walks of my life, personal, professional, you name it.
  • INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic in their outer world.  I organized my junk drawer and random utensil drawer.  I have a random utensil drawer in my kitchen.  I have a daily routine each morning.  I’m surprised that OCD isn’t in the personality type description.
  • Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive.  This is pretty true to me.  There is a inner stability that I’ve always had.  No matter what, there are certain secrets and thoughts that I don’t share.  I used to think that I was an open book and that I could tell anyone anything.  To certain people, I am, but I don’t just share absolutely everything at whim.  It sometimes takes some poking and prodding before I will share a certain arena of thoughts.  And when I do, that thought process is often more filtered out than just the harsh reality that it is.
  • But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring.  This is rather true.  I am so grateful for the people that I share my life with that have chosen to spend their lives with me and who have seen that value in me.
  • INFJs are concerned for people’s feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger.  I learned this fact about myself very recently.  It was an interesting process and fact.  I should’ve learned this sooner.  In high school, I lived in a home that was highly abusive and degrading.  My biological mother was very controlling and demanding.  As a consequence, I started to withdraw into myself and actually started a process of almost starving myself because I couldn’t handle the stress.  In my circumstance, I thought that if I ate or something like that, I would lose it later on the porcelain throne.  I experienced this at some point this summer.  I guess you continue to learn things about yourself a lot.
  • INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves – there’s always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don’t often take time to revel in their accomplishments.  Speaking of which.
  • INFJ is a natural nurturer; patient, devoted and protective. They make loving parents and usually have strong bonds with their offspring. They have high expectations of their children, and push them to be the best that they can be.
  • The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.  This is really encouraging to me.  I once had this roommate who simply said to me, “It’s so sad that you have such a rough life.”  No matter how happy I am or how content I am, it seems like each moment of happiness is accompanied by like 4 or 5 different potentially depressing or difficult moments/events.  The joy of a new job is compounded with a difficult process personally, a difficult relationship and a rather terrible drive.

It’s nice to learn something new about myself or appreciate something more about myself.  I appreciate these moments for what they are, and I simply wanted to share a little bit more about myself than I do typically, because I am that private person.

I’d love to hear what personality type that you are!  Feel free to hit me up (not literally)and let me know what you are!