Tag Archives: self-awareness

The Trio: Safe Supervision

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image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Introduction

The first time I met my boss was during my interview; he had his head resting on his hands the entire time. He was exhausted, and there was no denying it. When you’re in politics, and a mercy gift to boot, it’s highly likely that you’re doing some people pleasing–and that was definitely the case with my boss. A compassionate man, he is always willing to listen and give people his time. Everyone who calls our office claims to be “a good friend” of his, and he knows more people than I ever will. (But like a true mercy, he has very few who are actually close to him.) He has told me many times that he needs a great deal of time to process, and he is married to a prophet woman who does a great job of giving him many of the things he needs. More than just compassionate, my boss is caring and has grown into his mercy gift at age 61. He has something that the other two in the trio do not yet have: maturity. And beyond that, he has what my coworker lacks: acceptance of his gift.

The Involvement

The involvement with my boss on my end has simply been that I have gotten to be led by a mature mercy male for the first time in a long time. It has been less about what I am doing to be involved and more about what I am learning through my relationship with him. I have worked under former mercy male leaders, and it has been disastrous in some areas. It is helpful that my current boss and his wife are devout Christians; that his wife has a solid identity and therefore does not feel intimidated by me or challenged by my involvement in his professional life; and that I myself am more grounded in my own identity in Christ. It is wonderful to genuinely care for my boss and see his gifts displayed in such a public way, with such maturity. He is incredibly good at asking for help in the areas where he does not have great control, like boundaries with his time. He is not only well liked, he is well respected by folks in all walks of life and is one of the humblest men I know. Working with him daily reminds me of how much I want a Jesus-loving, humble, grounded-in-his-identity, mercy male husband of my own.

The Importance

My boss represents something in a mercy male relationship that I have not experienced in a long time: safety. This is a stunning revelation to me, even as I write it. Last week, as I was thinking about this blog, I actually said to myself that I did not know what the importance of this relationship was–but now it’s very clear to me. Listen, I know relationships, people, even LIFE ITSELF is not safe. Nor did Jesus call us to a safe life. But I know that I have been avoiding mercy males–or at least keeping a safe distance–because of how many times I’ve been hurt by them. And while I am aware that Jesus assured us we would have a life full of troubles (John 16:33), I am also aware that we are to guard our hearts, because all of life springs forth from it (Proverbs 4:23). I am enjoying the safety of my relationship with this mature mercy male because we all need safe people in our lives. He does not flirt or lead me on intentionally or unintentionally; he does not use me to get his touch needs fulfilled; I don’t feel guarded around him because he is mature enough to set his own boundaries. That means I don’t have to guard my heart, because he helps in that area. So instead of feeling stressed and worried around him, I am enjoying a kinship with a mercy male, and our dynamic flows exactly the way God intended it to. We joke, we laugh, we share, and we naturally work well together but not in any kind of inappropriate or unhealthy way. In fact, he just got back from a week-long trip, and the first thing he did when he saw me was give me a hug. I did not feel used, I did not feel weird–I just enjoyed the cool, safe relationship I have with a mercy male.

There’s something to be said for feeling safe in a relationship. And while I know my ultimate safety comes from spending time in the arms of my Savior, it is nice to know that I can also find safety in a relationship with a mercy male who has no agenda except to care for those he leads. And that has been remarkably healing for this pushy prophet girl.

 

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Breaking Bad: The Sin

image courtesy of Staurt Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Woah. Did I just dream about Chris Evans?

I woke up that morning in a daze. I was at the beach with my friends, trying to relax after a horrible summer (year, really) at work. My mind had enough to think and worry about…so why did I just dream about Chris Evans?

I don’t even know that much about him. Pretty sure I hated him after seeing Fantastic Four (loved the movie, but I remember thinking it wasn’t too much of a stretch for him to play the obnoxious Johnny Storm—which is mean, but you know, prophet here). I’m a huge fan of the Avengers, but Cap is not my favorite Avenger by any stretch—I waited to see the two Captain America movies on TV, and I hadn’t seen much else with him in it. This isn’t like in last April when I couldn’t stop dreaming about Alex Ovechkin because I was watching tons of hockey and the playoffs were consuming me. No, this was weird—I don’t even know what could have possibly triggered me to dream about Chris Evans. I knew nothing about him and didn’t really want or need to.

Except that I couldn’t stop thinking about him after the dream. For four weeks, I just allowed myself to keep thinking and dreaming about him…which was, in many ways, my own personal highway to hell.

When I can’t get someone or something out of my mind, after a while, my preoccupation with it tends to drive me to research the heck out of it. For example, when I started liking hockey, I learned as much about the sport as I possibly could. I didn’t just know my team, I knew all the teams. I was a sponge, taking in everything I could. There was nothing I didn’t want to know.

So naturally, after four weeks, I needed to know who Chris Evans was. It wasn’t enough to just dream…I needed to know. And supernaturally, thankfully, that’s where God met me—because the first article I read not-so-surprisingly confirmed to me that Chris Evans is a mercy gift.

This seems like no big deal, but for me, it fell right into a pattern. Mercy and prophets are beautifully opposites that attract and need each other. I tend to draw mercy males like a moth to a flame. It’s my prophet boldness, fearlessness, and decisiveness that draws them to me. I can pick them out of a crowd with ease. Once I met a friend’s best friend and knew from the moment he looked at me that he was a mercy gift. We became fast friends, and he (of course) eventually broke my heart (as most mercy males tend to do).

Two weeks ago and six weeks into my lust-fest, I was driving to my friend’s house and listening to some worship music. The song My Beloved (amazing song!) came on, and I found myself thinking of Mr. Evans as it played. Did he know he was God’s beloved, God’s child, specifically made the way he was for a reason? I broke down into heavy tears. For the first time, I was thinking about him as God did and I began interceding for him.

As I continued praying, I distinctly heard the Lord ask me how many mercy males he has put on my heart and in my life over the years. The answer was innumerable. I couldn’t even begin to count how many mercy males I have been drawn to or have torn at my heart strings. I have consistently had bad boundaries with them and experienced heartbreak at their hands. So many mercy males have been a part of my life. And then the Lord asked me very loudly, very clearly, and very pointedly: “And how many of them have you prayed for instead of lusting after?”

OUCH.

(The answer was very few.)

This was the moment that God began breaking bad in me.

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

Physically Healthy Habits: Crying

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. I went out of the country for a brief vacation, went to my favorite rappers’ concert (Andy Mineo and Lecrae), and got sick while having very little time to recover. Emotionally during that time, I saw someone that had recently hurt me very badly, and hospice was called in for my father who is expected to live only a few more weeks. A couple of days ago, I found myself sitting at my dining room table bawling my eyes out. I knew that most of my tears were me releasing (physically) the emotional trauma of seeing that person again, and some of it was about my father’s impending death. But what I didn’t expect was that I would feel so much better and lighter after crying. Physically, crying had been incredibly beneficial to me.

You might think it’s weird that I’m blogging about crying as a physically healthy habit. But I’ve found that the body needs to shed tears to be healthy. Crying helps us to be physically healthy in the following ways:

  • Tears release us. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt once I cried a couple of days ago. It had actually been a few months since I had really cried that hard, and I knew that my body was needing to release a lot of stress. In addition, I knew that I needed to release what I was feeling from seeing that “someone,” so I had actually TRIED to cry for days afterward. So this cry was a few days in coming. And when it did, I actually felt the tension leave my body: my shoulders relaxed and my breathing deepened and slowed. Psalm 56:8 says that the Lord collects our tears in a bottle. And when we cry, we release our tears and fears to Him, which in turn releases us physically from being bound by those things here on earth. Need a good release? Try crying!
  • Tears purify us. Many times, our tears come from being a part of the refiner’s fire. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” and to me, that means that every situation in my life has been filtered through the hands of God. He knows what He’s doing by placing me in these situations. But let’s be honest: refining usually brings tears: tears of frustration, anger, sorrow, hurt. Growing and becoming refined as silver or gold comes at a costly price that often hurts as we are stretched and shaped into more Christlikeness. Shedding tears as a part of that journey is not weakness, it’s an expected part of the affliction. As a bonus, that purification happens both inside and out: you are shedding toxic chemicals from body as you cry and bringing clarity to your mind.
  • Tears make way for joy. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Once I cried this week, I was ready to move forward. Many times I’ve found that crying is the last step before I can proceed after some sort of affliction. It’s harder for me to find true joy when I haven’t gotten past something else. Even more, it’s impossible for me to grasp onto God when I’m holding on to past afflictions. I need to cry—to release and purify myself so that I can step up to the plate and hold onto God. And usually, there is something else God wants to place in my now empty hands! This time, it was some business blessings that He could not release to me until I had released my tears to Him. So if you want joy, know that tears come first!

Crying may not seem like a physically healthy habit, but it is! Even the Bible notes that Jesus wept (John 11:35)—and if Jesus did it, then we should, too! Tears can help us become stronger, better people by releasing us and purifying us so that we are free to accept the joy that only God gives. Are you ready to cry your way into physical health?  🙂

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Prayer

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“Pray continuously.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When I was younger, this verse scared me to death. My mother would get up every morning and pray for an hour or so, and she would encourage me to do the same. I just couldn’t sit still that long, even as an adult. Plus, I wasn’t sure I could come up with enough words to say to God for a whole hour! And praying continuously throughout my day…well, I just didn’t think I could do that, either. Then one day recently, I realized that as I was going through my day, I was often stopping to whisper prayers to God, talking to Him while I was in the car or just doing things around the house, and listening for His still, small voice. And then it dawned on me: I had actually learned how to pray continuously.

Prayer is not meant to scare us, prayer is meant to invite us into deeper relationship with our God. If you want to be spiritually healthy, you must talk to the Giver of spiritual health! And here are three thoughts about prayer that have helped me to learn to pray continuously:

  • Prayer is talking to your Papa. Sometimes, my prayers are different, but mostly, I come to God as a little girl wanting to talk to her Papa. I think of when I want to have my mom’s undivided attention and I climb into her lap—yes, still, as a 37-year-old woman, I do that! I also do that in my head when I’m praying. I imagine that I’m climbing up into God’s lap and talking to Him about everything—my hopes, my fears, my failures, my successes. I confess, and I receive forgiveness there. I express my gratitude and I humble myself like a child. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Praying to my Papa in this way is how I live out this verse.
  • Prayer is talking to your Friend. Sometimes we think of God as a taskmaster waiting to punish us when we do something wrong. But Jesus tells us something different in God’s Word. In John 15:15, Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” A taskmaster has slaves, but we are not slaves—we are friends of God. Jesus confided in us what the Lord told Him, so we can be confident in talking to Him as a friend would. And just like our earthly friends, God can handle our anger and our doubt, He can share in our hurts, and He can laugh with us and enjoy our sense of humor. Even better, God is the greatest Friend who will never let us down!
  • Prayer is talking to your Creator. We have to remember that God is not only our Papa and our Friend, but He is also our Creator—and the Creator of the entire universe. I don’t call Him my “homie” but I bow before Him. I talk to Him as my Abba Papa and Friend, but I don’t disrespect Him or treat Him as a human being—because He is not! In Psalm 50:15, the Lord says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” God can deliver me from evil, defeat darkness, help me be an overcomer, and speak things into existence. He can bless me beyond my wildest dreams and answer every one of my prayers, if it is in His will. As such, I will regard Him with awe and respect, because He deserves it.

Knowing these three things about prayer has made it easier for me to pray continually throughout my days. Every situation I encounter can be filtered to my Papa, my Friend, and/or my Creator, so I can go to the Throne before I go to the phone (Joyce Meyer). If you want to be spiritually healthy, try increasing your prayer life and communicating continuously with the God who will be there for you in every possible way!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Serving Others

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I serve the homeless every month with my church. I love doing this for many reasons, but I wasn’t always keen on serving others. I used to believe that serving others meant I could just serve my family, friends, and church community and call it a day. Or that it meant that I could just donate money or needed items and never have any kind of hands-on experience. Then I went on my first mission trip. I took a team of youth to Kentucky to fix up a shelter for women and children. “This will be easy,” I thought. We are just fixing up a house…anyone can do that. But I soon realized that our tasks consisted of more than just painting, gardening, and cleaning. We were to work alongside women and children who had lost everything—they were homeless and hurting, sometimes physically. At the week’s end, one woman showed her appreciation by giving me the boots right off her feet.

Serving others goes is a tricky subject in Christianity, because it entails so many different things we could do! However, here are three things that serving others should do for us if we want to truly reap its benefits:

  • Serving others should stretch us. Serving our family, our friends, and even people we don’t like is definitely a call that God puts on our lives. We should seek to serve everyone. Serving others should make us uncomfortable. It should put us in positions that we haven’t normally been in, because then we rely on Christ instead of our own strength! I could easily claim that I go home and serve my family by helping my disabled uncle. But that is comfortable to me, even though it’s a pain. What makes me uncomfortable is going to the homeless shelter, traveling to a foreign country to teach God’s Word to persecuted believers, and serving in prison ministries. But those are the exact things we are called to do. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-45 that when we stretch ourselves to serve others, we are actually serving Him and growing in Christ-likeness.
  • Serving others should humble us. There are few things more humbling than to accept the gift of the shoes off of a homeless person’s feet. I had thought that I was going to serve others and show them God’s love; but in fact, I was the one who was served and shown the true love of God. It reminded me of the story of the widow’s offering that Jesus noted in Mark 12:41-44. I had gone to Kentucky believing I was giving out of my wealth, believing that my offering of time and talents was pleasing to God—and they were. But this woman at the shelter, much like the Biblical widow, joyously gave to me out of her poverty, insisting that I take one of the few possessions she had. I have never felt so small in light of God’s love. But that is what serving others should do for us.
  • Serving others should change us. The stretching, the humbling, the discomfort—those are the things that truly change us by decreasing the amount of “us” in us and increasing the amount of Christ in us. So while serving others shouldn’t ever be about us, in many ways is IS about us. It’s about changing our perspective, challenging our ideals, and choosing to trust God. If God’s goal is to remove us (not improve us), then serving others is one of the best ways to achieve that. Jesus put Himself in the servant’s position and encouraged us to do the same to increase the power of the Lord in our lives (Mark 9; John 13; Matthew 23). When we are decreasing self, we give God more room to work and move through us. And nothing could change us more than increasing the power of the Lord in our lives!

If you want to see lasting change happen in your life, practice the spiritually healthy habit of serving others. Get yourself out of your comfort zone and into a place where you truly have to depend on the Lord’s strength and power! You won’t regret it!

Spiritually Healthy Habits: Meeting Together

spirit health by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

A couple of years ago, I was disgruntled with church in general. I wasn’t mad at anyone, and I had just finished up an incredible Bible study in a neighboring town. However, I couldn’t really find a church where I felt comfortable, so I just stopped going. In the process, I also stopped hanging out with my Christian friends. I started hanging with a non-Christian coworker and doing things that I knew weren’t right: drinking more, hanging with her friends while ignoring mine, flirting with married men. I was in a downward spiral. And then, before I knew it, I was dating a married man. Luckily, I told one of my Christian friends what I was doing (without remorse, sadly), and she gathered some prayer warriors to intercede for me. Within a couple of months, the relationship had fallen apart and I was back in church, repentant.

Meeting together with other Christians is an important piece to being spiritually healthy! Here are three benefits of consistently meeting together with other Christians:

  • Meeting together with other Christians keeps us honest. It’s so important to meet with other Christians so that honesty remains an integral part of our lives. Other Christians can be a spiritual thermostat in the midst of your thermometer moments. That simply means that when your feelings or emotions are rising or plummeting (thermometer), other Christians who know the Word can keep you grounded (thermostat). Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) tried to hide their sin, but the truth eventually came to light because they were in fellowship with other believers. In my case, had I been hanging out with my Christian friends during that time, they would have told me from the beginning to stop flirting with and hanging around with married men. They would have been praying for me specifically for purity in all areas. They would have reminded me of God’s truths amidst the world’s lies.
  • Meeting together with other Christians makes us more Christ-like. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Real friends will sharpen you. I found that I was dulling down as a Christian when I spent time with my non-Christian friend. I didn’t feel challenged to be a better Christian; in fact, I hardly ever spoke about God around her. I had to ask myself if I was being a good friend to her, because I wasn’t even challenging her beliefs or ideas. However, in contrast, when I hang around with my Christian friends, most of the time, I am challenged by them in all my attitudes and actions. They are not asking me to be more like them, they are challenging me to be more like Jesus. And as a Christian, nothing makes me better than being more like Jesus in every way.
  • Meeting together with other Christians gives us encouragement. We all need encouragement in our lives, and for Christians, our encouragement comes from many places—but rarely does it come from the world. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.” As the world gets crazier, we need to be reminded and encouraged of many things: Jesus’ peace, the eventual return of the Savior, the end of suffering, a final victory. In addition, sometimes we simply need encouragement about our true purpose and calling and how our current situations are defining that. While the world can encourage us in some ways, our Christian brothers and sisters can reassure us in all of those ways—because they know Jesus. Christians can inspire each other because the Truth has already set us free.

If you are out of Christian fellowship right now, I’d like to urge you to return to your church or small group. There’s nothing the devil loves more than to separate us from God, and one way he does that is by separating us from each other. You can begin practicing spiritually healthy habits, but you can’t do it alone—so start by meeting together with some Christians this week!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Boundaries

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I was at my family’s house for the week helping to take care of my uncle. My normal schedule includes a lot of solitude, very little television, no pets, no children…lots of quiet time for my thoughts and prayer, and always a good night’s sleep. At my family’s house, however, there is a loud 8-year old, three barking dogs, a television running 24-hours a day, and two other adults. It’s chaotic and lacks quiet—completely opposite of my normal routine. One night, after I went out and got dinner, I went into the kitchen to enjoy eating quietly. My dinner wasn’t even open before someone said, “Did you see the latest news report?” I sighed and calmly (but firmly) said, “Can I please just have some quiet time?” I was granted my request, albeit grudgingly, as they left the house. I then retreated upstairs to write and enjoy that quiet time—and the enforcement of necessary boundaries in my life.

I’ve blogged about boundaries before, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said (check it out, though!). However, in light of my recent experience, I do want to note a few positive things that boundaries do for you:

  • Boundaries keep the bad away. You should set boundaries in your life for your own protection, because while they definitely keep out things like bad people and bad circumstances, boundaries also keep out bad attitudes like anger and frustration. What begins in your mind as anger can easily build into other unhealthy emotions and actions, so having healthy, firm boundaries keeps you away from bad habits, bad feelings, and bad interactions with others. I may have waited a bit too long in my experience with my family, because I was already feeling frustrated when I communicated my boundaries. However, I knew I needed to say something, so I did and then I stuck to them by retreating to the bedroom for some solitude. When you are creating boundaries, ask yourself, “What bad things am I keeping out by setting this boundary?”
  • Boundaries allow the good to stay. Boundaries are not just about keeping the bad out. You don’t put a fence up just to keep the wild animals out; you do it to keep the kids inside the yard and out of the street. I wanted to be in a good mood for my family; I am not a nice person when I don’t have alone time or when I don’t have enough sleep and peace. I wanted to set and communicate my boundaries so that I could be in a good mood and be useful to them, instead of tired and cranky. I wanted to have joy and peace when dealing with them so I could show them Jesus. So when you are creating boundaries, it’s also good to ask yourself, “What’s good things will stay in my life if I set this boundary?”
  • Boundaries, when communicated, remove anxiety. Quite honestly, I was stressed about going to stay with my family before I even left my home. I knew that their routine and environment was incredibly different from my own, and that I might not be able to operate in the same fashion that I do when I’m at home. If I had discussed those issues with my family, set the standard, and shared my boundaries, I would have enjoyed myself and accomplished more while there. I realized that once I communicated my boundaries, I felt less anxious about staying there—but it was almost too late, because by then, I was already sleep deprived and bothered by the noise. So now I know that the next time I go to help my family, I will ask myself beforehand, “What stress can be removed from my life by communicating my boundaries from the get-go?”

Ephesians 4:15 says, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Boundaries involve speaking the truth about ourselves in love to others so that we can grow and mature as Christians and become more Christlike. And being Christlike means practicing emotionally healthy habits—and spiritually healthy habits, as we will begin talking about next week!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Forgiveness

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I was depressed this summer. I didn’t want to get out of bed, and I literally felt as if the entire world was weighing down on me. My brain was in a fog, my thoughts were cluttered, and all I wanted to do was cry—in fact, all I did was cry for two straight months. I couldn’t do it, I told myself—I couldn’t get out of bed and get going in life. Even though I had been on a pretty nice first date the evening before, even though I had plenty of friends to care about me, even though my life was going well (despite some rough circumstances), I couldn’t get out of the funk. I couldn’t move forward because I was holding on to some hurts that others had dealt out to me earlier in the summer. I was deeply depressed because I couldn’t forgive.

Forgiveness is a choice, and probably the most difficult choice we have to make when it comes to emotionally healthy habits. I still struggle with it! But every time I practice forgiveness, I realize three important things happen:

  • Forgiveness releases you. The moment that I prayed to forgive, I felt the burden on my soul lift. The heaviness that I was experiencing, the weighted sense of doom, the cloud of darkness that had hovered over me—these all disappeared immediately. But I didn’t just get released from the weight, I was also released to receive forgiveness from God. In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” In order to be in right standing with God, we are also encouraged to leave our offerings at the altar and go work out our issues with others—including forgiveness—before we make an offering to God. So forgive—so that you can be released and receive from the Lord.
  • Forgiveness heals you. Psalm 38:3-4 says, ‘…there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” Does this sound familiar? It should—it is exactly the way I described feeling when I was harboring resentment and unforgiveness. And in case this isn’t clear, let me reiterate: unforgiveness is a sin, because we are choosing our anger and our hurt over the forgiveness that the Lord offers to us. And when we are sinning, we can’t be healthy! But once we choose forgiveness, we can begin to experience healing from the Lord. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our unrighteousness. But cleansing and healing can’t happen until you choose to forgive.
  • Forgiveness challenges you. If one of our main goals in life is growth in all areas, then forgiveness meets that criteria. We don’t just want to forgive to be released and healthy, we want to grow from our experiences as forgiving people. It is against our natural desires and flesh to want to forgive others; we are carnal beings who, without God, are focused solely on ourselves. We believe that withholding forgiveness from others harms then, when really, it harms only us. That is why we choose forgiveness. It stretches us in every way to forgive—the emotional darkness within clears, the physical heaviness lightens, and the spiritual sins are cleansed. That is the challenge in forgiveness—to act against our sinful nature and choose life through forgiveness. That is also why forgiveness is always a choice and a challenge that results in your growth.

The moment I realized that I was harboring resentment and unforgiveness, I prayed to the Lord and asked for forgiveness and then offered it to those who had hurt me—without ever speaking to them about it. Sometimes, forgiveness is about them, but mostly, forgiveness is about YOU. Seek to practice forgiveness not only for release, but for healing and growth as an emotionally healthy person!

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Unoffendable

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I’m extremely sensitive. In fact, for a pushy prophet girl, you would be surprised at how easily I get hurt by others. Because I’m so honest and forward in my dealings with others, people often think that it’s okay to treat me the same way—which it should be, but my sensitivity finds me taking offense all too easily. In addition, I also find myself quite hurt by God’s activity (or inactivity) in my life—because it doesn’t seem like He’s listening to my needs and wants and doing things my way. “God hates me!” is one of my favorite phrases to scream when I’m feeling sorry for myself and offended by His ways. But what I have recently learned is that in order to be Christ-like, I need to develop an unoffendable spirit.

Having an unoffendable spirit is one of the most overlooked traits in the Bible. In fact, we often believe that we have a right to be “offended” by the people and circumstances in our lives. But here’s a two things that I’m learning about being unoffendable:

We should strive to be unoffended by others. In our offense-driven, self-centered society, this is also very difficult. We tend to make things all about ourselves, and then we get offended when our expectation of a “me-focused” world isn’t met. Even Christians striving to be less “me-centered” will find themselves offended by others. In our desire to be Christ-like, however, we have to look at ourselves when we feel others have offended us. As Francis Frangipane notes, the best question to ask yourself when you feel offended is, “How can this produce more Christ-likeness in me?” Recently, I had a conflict with someone who said a few things that were quite rude and pious. I was quite offended, but because I know this person very well, I expected that response and also knew that responding to every single offense would just lengthen the conflict. Instead, I overlooked most of the offenses and only responded to the issue at hand, and I did so with love—the other person even commended me for my loving response! I chose to be unoffended, and I was able to resolve the conflict easily. This is a small first step we can practice in being unoffended by others.

We should strive to be unoffended by God. This is the biggest culprit for me. Quite often, I will have a plan in mind that I may or may not run by God, and if it doesn’t turn out the way I expected, I immediately go into prayer and question God about why this did or didn’t happen. But the Bible says that the ones who do not take offense at Him are BLESSED (Matthew 11:6). The context of this verse is that Jesus sent these words to John the Baptist, who was waiting on Jesus to rescue Him from being beheaded while in jail. It’s important to know those circumstances because sometimes, we are waiting on the Lord in dire circumstances and situations, and the only word we might receive from the Lord is Matthew 11:6. The question is, will we be offended by God or will we choose to be blessed? I’m not speaking as someone who is great at this, because I’m not. Often, in the dire circumstances, I will take great offense because God hasn’t answered a prayer the way I think He should. I try to take things into my own hands. I try to act outside of the will of God. And every time, when I quiet my soul, I feel God asking me to not be offended, but instead to trust His perfect plan.

It’s not easy, but having an unoffendable spirit is a serious step towards Christ-likeness and being emotionally healthy—because being unoffended means we are less likely to carry grudges. And if we are less likely to carry grudges, we are less likely to suffer under the weight of unforgiveness (which is our next post topic!).

What are some ways that you can practice having an unoffendable spirit?