Entries in hope (13)
It is a difficult and lonely place to be, to work on a marriage (or any relationship) when the other has no interest in counseling, marriage seminars, relationship books, or even conversations about one’s marriage. Working on a relationship with another who is resistant to the process of growth is not a journey for the faint of heart.
At some point, the focus must turn from “How can I make our marriage better?” to “How can I be a loving, committed, healthy wife/husband/father/mother/sister regardless of the fact that I am doing this alone?” It is possible to be a loving mother to a child who will not reciprocate that love. A difficult marriage should not be a shameful fact for the husband who gives 100% for his wife. An ethic of love asks that we give even when we do not receive, that we sacrifice even when the hands of that sacrifice are stepped upon, and that we continue hoping for change when there are no indications of transformation.
This ethic of love is a journey of a disciplined mind, deliberate movements, and a well of strength.
1. Disciplined Mind
My friend Alicia Britt Chole says (I quote her a lot because she is the wisest person I have ever met), “Intellectual strength is not merely the ability to think…it is the ability to choose what and when to think.” Wow! If we could train our minds like an Olympian trains their body, can you imagine the freedom that would accompany such obedience? Racing minds, hateful dialogue in one’s head, rehearsing past and future conversations, plans of revenge, hurtful wishes toward others, self- sabotaging “why me’s?”… these are all indications of an undisciplined mind.
Questions for change:
~ What am I thinking about right now that is causing me to feel so terrible?
~ What could I think about that will help me to be a more loving spouse in this moment?
~ How can I take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, physically, so that I can have the energy to continue loving?
~ Am I in a good place to communicate in a healthy way?
~ Where should I spend my mental energy right now?
2. Deliberate Movements
One-sided relationships (or relationships which suck-the-very-life-right-out-of-you) deserve thoughtful actions after healthy thinking.
Steps for Change:
~ I suggest the book “Bold Love” by Dan Allender and “Boundaries in Marriage “by Cloud and Townsend.
~ It is important to seek counseling and friendships that will help you walk the very difficult journey of sacrificial love!
3. Well of Strength
Some call it a “Higher Power,” some cry to God, some rely on friends and family... You need not be alone.
~ Calling a friend who will support you.
~ Cultivating disciplines including silence, solitude, and contemplative prayer. There are many resources for this. I suggest any book by Henri Nouwen. “The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us” by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is also an excellent resource.
There is a freedom found at a point on the journey as you walk in obedience in the ethic of love. You no longer love the other in order to receive love back. The grip of trying to control loosens and you are free. Free to love.
As I was biking on the cady way trail yesterday I found myself focusing on Easter, on Christ, and on what it all represents. Yes, I know the “Christian” answer of what Easter means, but my relationship with God is personal. I was digging deep for a personal "reaction" to Easter. At first I hit the usual; Easter represents God's love, his sacrifice, and a physical act of His taking on my sin. This by itself is a powerful thing to sit in (or in my case ride in). However, as I continued on, I realized Easter represents the underlying hope that I strive to show people on a daily basis. So often I talk about emotional pain, disconnectedness, vulnerability, risk, and fear; however, today as we head towards Easter I want to direct us towards hope and restoration. Hope and restoration are why I spend so much time talking about the dark places.
I believe that at the end of it all there is hope: Hope of a restored life, of love, of belonging, of connectedness, and joy. So as you reflect, think about what you put your hope in. Is your hope in your husband/wife, your children, your job, a phone call, being thinner, and/or wealthier? Is your hope in a future yet to be determined? Or, is your hope in a God who chose to make himself human, who loves you unconditionally, and who wants to connect and have a relationship with you? Hope abounds in all things. Today, allow yourself to reflect on what this hope may look like for you on your own personal journey.
As we enter another Easter season, I’m reminded of amazing themes that this time of year brings to us over two millennia. Life over death, good over evil, humility over pride, and sacrifice over selfishness… these are just a few that come to mind. A few days ago I was tossing a small football with my three year old grandson, Keller, and noticed that when I tossed the ball to him he instinctively turned his head every time. The ball would not have harmed him if it hit him, and my tosses were appropriately soft for a child his age. Still, every time his head would turn, no matter how much I encouraged him to “watch the ball”. He was fearful. Here was another Easter theme played out in the front yard of my daughter’s home: confidence over fear. My grandson, try as he might, didn’t have confidence that I could throw the ball to him and not cause him harm. His instinct of fear took over.
This is my Easter theme this year: I can overcome my fears with the confidence that God has my best interests in mind and that I can trust in His pure and unconditional love for me. His Son laid down his life as a sacrifice for us so we can “…draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Use this Easter season to bring God into your fears and allow Him to teach you about his grace and mercy. And as we see Him at work in our lives, then, with confidence, we’ll be able to keep our eye on the ball without fear.
Let's face it, nobody likes pain. Physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual. It does not matter which sphere we might be experiencing it, we do not like it. Our natural instincts are to run and avoid it, or put a band aid on it (band aid can be used literally or metaphorically in this context) in hopes that it will be gone quickly, and often times we flat out deny that pain even exists within our body, mind, soul, or spirit. For many years I ran from pain and it came out of me in the form of an eating disorder. The short version of a very long lesson for me is that it was not worth it.
Embracing pain can feel much like you are in the middle of a dark room and you can not see. We do not know if we will run into things, or get hurt, or even get out of the room for that matter. As we are willing to take a look inside ourselves to see the pain and all of its deeply rooted issues, a deeper sense of awareness and clarity begins to happen, and as that happens, the room begins to lighten. It might just be a dull light at first, but it is present. This look inside is not an easy one, as much of the time we will find anger and pride that work themselves out in the form of self-protective mechanisms that prevent us from true intimacy with God, self, and others. However, a true look inside also provides balance. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. The feminine and the masculine co-existing and existing together. Both are true, both are real, and both exist inside of us. The knowledge and acceptance of both lead one to humility and also our need for God.
"The greatest beauty is always beyond knowledge and hidden in the darkness of the unknown."
Carl Jung would put it in the words of a shadow. The dark places within us. I believe God honors and respects our journey into the dark of self. It is there that He is waiting. Waiting for us to surrender purely so that we can love purely and receive love purely. He is there waiting for us to receive forgiveness so that we can give forgiveness. The more aware we are of our dark side, or shadow or whatever you want to call it, the more we understand our need for God. We see how fragile and self-protective we really aware. In the presence of God the need to preserve self above all else can begin to be laid down. Life is breathed into us, and balance is restored.
Christmas is less than a week away and I’m already looking beyond the holiday to the year ahead. Clients of mine have been through very rough sledding this last year, due in part to the perilous economic times we live in. Jobs are in short supply, and good jobs seem to be almost non-existent. However, Christmas provides a good environment for perspective. The man Jesus came to this earth in dire economic times, to a family extremely poor with no hope of any dramatic improvement in their circumstances. He was born in a stable… with neither position nor influence that would allow them to enjoy anything close to being in an adequate environment for the birth of a child. And his life after he was born was immediately in danger from a madman who governed the land in which he was born. Perilous times indeed!
But the Good News of Christ’s birth still speaks to our hearts even two millennia after the actual event. Out of desperation comes hope; out of discouragement comes wonder; and out of confusion comes wisdom. Regardless of your circumstances this Christmas season, Jesus still provides us with perspective. He still calls us to a life of faith, hope, and love, and His birth is the most poignant reminder of God’s overwhelming love for us. And, all believers still exclaim along with the Apostle Peter, “Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life!” So here’s to a Christmas where our thoughts are turned from ourselves and our own personal problems and predicaments, to the recounting of God’s blessings and a view ahead to the hope He alone can give us. May you enjoy a Christmas with a view to eternity, and be reminded not only of the wisdom of Jesus, but also of the loving sacrifice He was for us all. Merry Christmas!