Monday, October 24, 2011

Walks in the Dark

As I made the pleasant walk from the gym to my car tonight, I wound through the familiar shrubs and bushes nestled around the walls of the fitness center. I scuffled across a stretch of dry, brown ground, kicking up dust as I did. I crossed a quiet street, and passed a sleeping church and huddle of houses before reaching my vehicle.

I had made that walk many times before, but in the past, I felt fear.

From the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2010, I dealt with rampant fear in my life. Like a cancer, its mass spread from one area of my existence to another, devouring truth and implanting panic. For example, when I took walks like the one described, I experienced constant paranoia that someone would attack me. In addition, I was consumed by fear that I would be found un-beautiful by the world, so I indulged disordered eating behavior and rejected all affirmation from my husband. Also, I hated flying, because the idea of a plane crash made me pale with terror. The list went on. It was a difficult time, one of profound confusion and struggle.

I won't go into any more details now. Suffice it to say that God delivered me over the course of the year as I met with a Stephen Minister (lay counselor) at Wildwood Community Church, listened to the Word spoken and accepted the love poured into my life by loved ones. 

My walk tonight reminded me, with a burst of clarity, of just how far God has brought me. I'm no longer scared of dark walks alone, nor am I a slave to bad eating habits and thoughts. I also dislike flying only for practical reasons now. 

Can we say HALLELUJAH? God was so patient with me the entire time, which is material enough for an entirely new post! What I want to comment on right now, though, is how my past issue of fear branched out, in seemingly unrelated ways, so that I felt its effects holistically.

If you see a pattern of fear (or some other issue) cropping up in several different areas of your life, whether or not they seem connected, it is likely that you need to deal with the general issue of fear (or fill-in-the-blank) in your life. And by deal with, I don't mean grit your teeth and will yourself to do better -- I mean bring before our holy, healing God. For I know that he is the only one who can deliver us from ourselves.

To the dismay of my writer's mind, I don't have much of a conclusion to offer here. Just keep in mind that we see patterns in our thoughts and behaviors for a reason, and instead of trying to play whack-a-mole and kill off the different ways a bad thing manifests itself, we need to go after the thing itself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Imperfect Forgiver

Strangely, I've only recently realized that God sanctifies our ability to forgive, along with the other aspects of our character.

Chris and I had just come to the end of a typical marital spat, probably involving a decorative pillow or something similarly random, when we both reached the point where we could say "I'm sorry" and mean it.

With our "sorries," of course, came our "I forgive yous" --  usually much easier words to make our lips form. Chris confessed his sin and asked my forgiveness. I told him I forgave him with a golden swell of purity and magnanimity in my chest. Just as I was basking in this feeling, the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge. Heart check! he urged. What is the origin of this feeling, as if you were being particularly charitable toward Chris when you had to ask his forgiveness of you not five minutes ago?

Suddenly, I realized the reason I was so amenable to forgiving Chris is because, deep inside, I believed that Chris was the only one who had done something wrong, even though I had apologized for sinning, too. I was happy to forgive only because I was happy that I had been the "good" one during the squabble -- the one who had been irreproachably holy -- while Chris was the sole perpetrator. Believe you me, dear reader -- that realization deflated the golden swell of purity and magnanimity in my chest real fast.

Yes, it's true that when I told Chris I forgave him, I was truly forgiving him. That's a good thing. However, the motive behind my eagerness was not because I wanted to exemplify Christ, who has forgiven me much, but because of the twisted belief that I was innocent and was doing Chris a favor. That's not a good thing.

After this incident, I spent time thinking about how even something like forgiveness, which seems so straightforward, is tainted by our sin. Because it is, we have to allow God to sanctify it. We have to recognize that, as is true of so many other things in life, we have not "arrived" at a place of perfect forgiving power. Even as we strive to forgive well, we will mess up when we act in our own power.

But rejoice, dear reader, for as always, the solution is not for us to will ourselves to do better next time. The solution is to look to Christ, who is our flawless example of how to forgive. The more we know him and seek him, the more we will become like him, and our forgiveness, along with the rest of our hearts, will become more sanctified.