Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Simple Pain

Flash of anger.
What is this?
Flutter of my heart.
What is this?
Shove it all down.

God, it hurts!!
If for no other reason than this:
He took his love
and he gave it to something else.
My hearts screams in agony
over ripped out lifeblood.

Now I know how You feel
everytime I spill my love
on the ground
before lifeless idols.

Lord, clear the stage.

The Rumblings of Anger

I've been thinking a lot about the emotion of anger lately. Maybe it is because my best friend asks me repeatedly why I am such an angry person.

The latest chapter I read in Hope, Help & Healing for Eating Disorders by Dr. Jantz was titled "The Price of Anger." This is where I am in my own healing journey.
Even before devoting an entire chapter to topic, Dr. Jantz makes the following comment about anger: "Anger is often the emotion of choice for parents in families in which eating disorders develop. Anger is expressed in a variety of forms as a response to the majority of life's situations. . . . Though the parent can and does express anger freely in this type of family situation, the child soon learns it is unsafe to express his or her own anger, for fear it will trigger an even greater outpouring of anger by the parent. So anger, hurt feelings, and frustration must be locked away inside, expressed only in private, furtive ways."

I learned a while back from my counselor that anger is a secondary emotion, which covers the emotion of hurt or pain. (The tertiary emotion, which comes after anger, is hatred.) However, if pain is to be covered up by anger, and if anger cannot be expressed, then the solution is to control the anger. This is done by numbing it out (along with every other emotion), and the numbing agent of choice for me was food (or abstinence from food). By controlling my food intake and my body, I was controlling my anger. And if I could control my anger, I never had to deal with the pain.

So if one thinks of an onion, the core is pain, the second layer is anger, and the third layer is a desire for numbness (which is related to hatred), and the fourth layer is an eating disorder. I am finally down to the second layer. I am feeling my feelings. Unfortunately, I find a lot of anger.

Thankfully, God is working on my anger. A lot of anger came up during my time in Living Waters. And the protective environment allowed me to get past the anger and allow the pain to come up. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.

At the end of Dr. Jantz's chapter on anger, he included an anger questionnaire. I am going to share my answers for a few of the questions:
7. What pleasure do you get from anger?
Answer: Anger is power.
9. How do you use anger as a weapon against others?
Answer: Anger gives me the strength to lash out at others instead of allowing myself to be lashed out against.
16. Complete this sentence: I feel angry when others __________.
Answer: try to correct or change me.
17. Complete this sentence: I feel that my anger is _________.
Answer: protective.
18. Complete this sentence: When others express their anger, I feel _________.
Answer: threatened and scared.
19. Complete this sentence: I feel that the anger of others is ___________.
Answer: dangerous.

These responses betray the fact that I am still looking at anger from a childish perspective. The adult in me says: "Jaime, anger is only an emotion that you and others feel."

Dr. Jantz ended his chapter with this statement: "Anger is powerful, yes, but God is more powerful. He is able to handle your anger--it is safe with him." I honestly still have to sit with this statement. I still have to digest it.

Next, I read out of Ephesians. I found this specific statement on anger: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Eph. 4:26-27).

The statement on anger tells me a couple of things: 1) It is possible to be angry and yet not sin. Anger--once again--is an emotion. It has the potential to become sin when we allow our anger to control our thoughts and/or our actions. 2) We are encouraged to work out our anger as soon as possible. This is because anger is powerful. Anger is dangerous. Anger has the potential to lead to sin. Anger has the power to destroy (ie. work against unity). 3) Satan likes to take our anger and twist it. Therefore, the longer we let anger fester, the more opportunity Satan has. Remember I said that the tertiary emotion of pain/anger is hatred? Hatred is a callousness of the heart. Although God can hate things (read Proverbs), I am not sure it is possible for a human being to hate something without sinfulness being present. Hatred is almost always in the control of Satan rather than of God.
Ephesians 4:26-27 is surrounded by verses about transitioning from the old man to the new man, and about unity in the body of Christ. At the risk of oversimplifying God's Word, the argument could be made that the book of Ephesians is about the power of love.

I look back at Dr. Jantz's statement: "Anger is powerful, yes, but God is more powerful." God is love. The book of Ephesians tells me that love has the power to unify....anything.

One way of looking at this concept that helped me was comparing the emotion of anger to the sexuality of humanity. Sex is a gift from God--it is a powerful gift from God. And yet, because it is so powerful, it is what Satan loves to target for His own twisted purposes. So now we have a world where the battle between Light and Darkness is taking place in the sexuality of mankind. We have a world that has become desolated by perverted sexuality. A similar scenario is occurring with the emotion of anger. Anger is a gift from God in that He created it--intended mankind to experience it. Anger has its purpose: it points out where we have been wronged--where division has occurred--to that we can pursue reconciliation. Yet Satan knows that anger is powerful, so he looks out for it, and he seeks to take control of it when we feel it. We now have a world torn into disunity through anger.
And yet I must remember: "God is more powerful." God is more powerful than my anger. God is more powerful than Satan, who seeks to control my anger. God is more powerful. Period.

What does this mean for me? It means that I am free to feel anger. But it also means that I have the responsibility to submit my anger to God. This implies that 1) I cannot act out of my anger and use it as a weapon, 2) I cannot let my anger fester into hatred, and 3) I will have to work through my anger in order to feel the pain that is at its root.

Once more, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for you?

Next time you feel angry.... Don't try to escape the anger by suppressing it, ignoring it, or numbing it out. Feel your anger. But then think critically about it. Why are you angry? What or who caused your anger? Were you hurt in some way? If you were hurt (which most likely you were), then you must allow yourself to feel the pain. (It is important to note here, that it is probably wise to get alone--just yourself and God--while you are processing your anger and hurt. Or if you have a trusted, Godly, unbiased community, then you can get together with one or more of these individuals--only be sure that you are free to process.) Ask yourself questions. Why does this hurt? Is there some sort of void in my life? Do I feel wronged? Then next step after feeling pain, is submitting that pain to Christ as well. Once you give it to him, He can heal you or fill the void that has been exposed. Then--and only then--can you move toward forgiveness. I use the word "toward" intentionally--because full forgiveness may not be immediate, and it may be a more complex process than you first believed.

However, as always, you will have someone to travel the journey with you--our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So.....anger. The rumblings may be scary. But you and I have a God who is infinitely more powerful. And anger, whether it is our anger or the anger of another, is safe in His hands.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Journey of Healing

When I first sat down to write this testimony, I was going to try to include as much as possible—make it comprehensive. This was going to be an exercise for me more than for you. But for some reason, I found that I could never sit down to write it. I would sit down, and then feel completely uncompelled to continue. So….I’m going to scrap that idea and start from scratch. Here are the words from my heart:

I was sexually abused as a child. I am not going to tell you how long or how badly or by whom. Because—to a certain extent—that doesn’t matter. What matters is the pain and destruction that continued to fester into my adulthood.

If I hadn’t been diagnosed with an eating disorder my first year of college, I would have never looked back at what had happened to me—I would have kept it buried for life. But psychiatric intake interviews don’t leave sexual abuse uncovered.

However, although I didn’t deny the abuse, I did not let it surface either. In fact I refused to talk about it with multiple therapists. It was not until I relapsed the third time, and God rescued me with a call to life—a true life; not the lie that I had been living—did I submit to the need for healing of this deep wound.

I mentioned my intention to my therapist, with whom I had been working for about a year. However, it took another year and a half—and lingering (albeit easier to hide) enslavement to my eating disorder—before I finally decided to jump into intentional healing from my abuse. I joined an intensive healing ministry at my church called Living Waters.

Living Waters was a ministry originally founded for those struggling with same-sex attraction; however, over the years it developed into a ministry for those desiring freedom from sexual abuse and sexual addiction, and now the program involves relational healing as well.  I joined this program, which is six months long, with the specific purpose of dealing with my sexual abuse, and in turn getting rid of my eating disorder once and for all.

Little was I prepared for what Living Waters introduced into my spiritual relationship with God. The ministry involves teaching and a heavy emphasis on prayer—through which, one comes into contact with the Holy Spirit of the Living God. The lesson on abuse came about half-way through the program. I knew it was coming; my leaders and small group knew my testimony—they knew it was coming; long story short: EVERYONE knew it was coming. However, in the weeks and months prior to this night, I merely skimmed the surface of what was really deep in my heart. The abuse was actually touched on twice before that night, but I was too afraid to go any further.

One of the times that I could have addressed the abuse, my leader said to me, “Jaime, that has to come up and out.” Although I backed down, those words stuck with me. To my ears, they were eating disordered words (purging). Her words made me realize that it was this very thing in the pit of my stomach that I was trying to push down with food. And once it was “up and out,” I would no longer feel compelled to stuff things down my throat anymore.

The night to pray finally came. There was another woman in my small group who had a history of sexual abuse and she went first. This caused me to fear, because I needed to go that night—I had already asked to see the one who had wounded me the next day—fully intending to make this a finished work. However, God had everything under control. Because this woman went before me, she was able to lead me on the path to healing with God. She had already asked Jesus for a memory in which she could pursue healing. I had not thought of this. So I asked Jesus for a memory. And he gave me one immediately. Now, I have many memories from the abuse; however, this one confused me because nothing was actually happening in the memory—it was a memory of waiting for something to happen. However, all of the feelings were in that memory: the fear, the shame, the dirtiness, the guilt. Outside of my memory, one of the leaders in my group told the woman praying to invite Jesus into her memory. Doubtful that this was even possible for me, I invited Jesus into my memory. And to my shock, Jesus appeared, standing at the foot of my bed. At this point I began questioning what Jesus would really be able to do for me. Sure He was in my memory, but this was a memory—there is no way He can change what has already happened. He cannot alter my life. He cannot say, “Oh, Jaime. I will protect you. What is about to happen will not really going to happen.” No, Jesus cannot do that. With this realization, I began to panic—I would be stuck with my shame and dirtiness forever! In my memory, I rushed toward Jesus, clutched His legs, and began sobbing, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” By now, the sobs in my memory were my sobs in the present time. The pain was too much to endure without my small group praying with me, so I pulled myself out of memory and began to focus on the prayer of the other woman.

This still was in God’s plan because I was able to see this woman achieve healing for herself, and it gave me hope—hope that Jesus could do something for me too. So I told the women in my group what had happened thus far in my memory, then they went with me back into the memory—back to clinging to Jesus’s legs—back to sobbing, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Only this time, Jesus did something. Jesus reached down, stroked my hair, and said, “It’s not yours.” Although Jesus did not verbalize it, I knew in my heart He was saying that the guilt was not mine. I thought about the guilt going back to the one who wounded me, but that was not what He was implying. Jesus was taking the guilt from me, and putting it on Himself—He was taking my guilt, regardless of who had given it to me. Slowly my sobs stopped, as the shame was extracted from my heart. Then I was able to pray a prayer of breaking the sexual union between me and my wounder. Then I prayed forgiveness over him—and I meant it—I could feel it in my heart.  

The next day, I traveled to see this man. I was able to interact with him out of freedom for the first time that I can remember. I realized that he had been trying to love me for quite a while. Perhaps he had been trying to express his remorse. But I had been keeping up a solid wall between the two of us in self-protection. This particular day, though, I was able to take the wall down—to see him as a real person—to receive love from him. Before the end of the visit, I had spoken of the abuse verbally to him, received affirmation from him that it did in fact happen, told him that Christ has taken most of my shame, given him my forgiveness, and received his apology. We ended the visit with a hug—for the first time, it was a genuine hug—and an exchange of the words “I love you”—once again, genuine for the first time.

I drove home that day, a new person. No longer a girl; but a woman.

However, my story doesn’t end there. That encounter happened about three months ago. Living Waters ended last night. And my life is not perfect.

The abuse that I endured as a child spread out into many areas of my life. I have lived for so many years with a core of shame that it became the foundation of my very identity. Now that that piece of me is “up and out” I no longer know who I am. I spent my life trying to construct a perfect identity that would cover up the dirtiness deep within me. But now, God keeps whispering, “Jaime, you don’t need to be that way anymore.” Now, don’t get me wrong, it is nice to hear God whispering it, but it is also completely terrifying. Because I seriously don’t know what to do with myself. And the problem is that I am tempted daily to take on aspects of my old self. I still struggle with food. I still struggle with my self-image. I still tend to cling to perfectionism. My moods oscillate between normal and depressed. I still don’t have a grip on what healthy boundaries look like. And besides all this, I am noticing other relationships in my life that are broken.

My life is not magically better because I “dealt” with the sexual abuse. To be honest, I was hoping it would be. But such is not the case. I still have a lot of work to do. Healing is never complete. It is never going to be finished until we are perfected in our resurrection. However, I do want to state that Christ did a “finished work” when he met with me that night in my memory. My core shame concerning the abuse is gone. I have flashbacks still, but the paralyzing shame is no longer there. But because the abuse went unhealed for so long, it set me up for more wounding throughout my life. This is the healing that Christ will continually do in my life.

Tonight, I was on the way home from a difficult singing practice. I was thinking about all the work that I have to do—that in a childish way I simply don’t want to do—and I felt myself swinging into a depressed mood. But then this song, came through my stereo, “My Victory” by Jimmy Needham:

Never turning back to the way things were
I'm stronger now than I was before
I hear the sound that freedom brings
It's ringing loud
Now I am free to lift my eyes
For grace is alive

You are the hope that broke the dark in me
You are the light that shines when I can't see
You are, You are, You are my victory

My weakness Yours, Your mercy mine
My God You're not the leaving kind
I sing the song that freedom brings
It's ringing loud
Now I am free to lift my eyes
My God is alive

In times of trouble
When I'm not able
You are, my God, You are
My chains are broken
Your gates are open

You are the hope that broke the dark in me
You are the light that shines when I can't see
You are, You are, You are

You are the hope that broke the dark in me
You are the light that shines when I can't see
You are, You are, You are my victory
You are my victory, God You deliver me, You are my victory

This song reminded me that I am truly free. My freedom in Christ is not dependent upon how “healed” I am or how “perfected” I am. I am free to choose Joy. My mood does not have to be enslaved to the little ups and downs in my life. And furthermore, I no longer have to live a lie. This is a scary thought, because it means that I must trust someone else for my freedom. But this is where faith comes in. I no longer have to manufacture a fake form of victory. I am free to struggle, but I am not struggling to be free (from “The Struggle” by Tenth Avenue North). Healing IS possible—just be prepared for it to be a lifelong process. Thankfully we have a Savior to travel along that road with us. Thanks be to God.

Psalm 149:4
“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”

Restore to Me the Joy of Your Salvation

Last night was graduation from Living Waters. After 6 intense months with each other, my small group gathered for one last time in order to bless each other. I listened to woman after woman tell me how much I have either blossomed into a flower or broken out of my cocoon as a butterfly. It was hard for me to listen to because I still struggle. My Joy has seemed so fleeting. It is here for a moment, and then it is gone, and I collapse into tears or bitterness. And yet, these women have blessed my new found Joy.

This morning, my boyfriend told me to choose Joy. He says this phrase often, and this morning I found myself saying, "Oh, that's nice." But little did I know how important this phrase would be for me today.

I worked for my father today. He was teaching a class and I was to provide childcare for the participants. I was doing fine until my father introduced me to his business partner. The name struck a chord. Deep. Regardless of whether this individual is the same person that the name implied or not, my heart dropped. Doubt seeped in. My mind spun. And my mood quickly began to sink into the dark depths.

Is Joy really this fleeting? Have I truly discovered new Joy through the healing God has given me? Or is this just all a facade?

God has taught me a lot about forgiveness--a lot at the heart level. I am not sure I am even able to articulate it well here... Forgiveness requires one to admit the anger, and to allow the anger to drop in order to feel the pain. Then one must choose to release the pain to Christ. Along with the pain must also go the anger, the shame, the hardheartedness. Then appropriate and freeing reconciliation can be made.

Today, I learned that choosing Joy is an act of forgiveness.

As one of my leaders was blessing me last night, she mentioned the continuing work that I had to do with my stepfather and my father. I was taken off guard by this. But today was a reminder. Today was a reminder of how much anger I have against my father. And it all came because of a single name. I festered on this name for a good hour and a half. I thought about spewing my knowledge to my father--making him feel guilty--making him confess--making him correct how much he has wronged me. But then something stopped me. Why do I need this? Why do I need to know if this person matches up with the name? Why do I need to crush my father with my pain and my anger? Those needs imply unforgiveness. And this unforgiveness was stealing my Joy.

But what was the correct response? Do I suppress my feelings completely? Essentially put on a mask with my dad?

When my father came back to me, I spoke with him in a tone that dripped of depression. I still was unable to get past my anger and my hurt even though I knew I needed to. Finally I gave up trying to suppress; I broached the topic. I admitted my poor mood. I admitted that I was feeling distant from him--that I have even avoided him because of what I knew. I struggled to keep eye contact with him. I struggled to find words. But I was able to be honest. I felt the tears; held back only by a desire not to crush my dad further.

My father merely acknowledged that I have a right to be disappointed and angry; that he is disappointed in himself. Then he shared about his struggle to love his own father. He pointed out that his father will probably never change and he will never be perfect. He said, "We all fight our own demons. I fight mine. My dad fights his." "And I fight mine," I replied, quietly.

It was difficult. I wanted sweet revenge. Or at least sweet release from a father who has let me down. But the truth is that this is impossible. Our world is so entrenched in sin. No one is perfect. People are always going to fail me. (And I am always going to fail people--ouch.) My Joy is being stolen--not by sin--but by my belief in a lie that I can depend on people for that Joy. I wanted my father to restore my Joy to me this morning. But he can't. No one can. Only God can do that--like He did for me earlier this year.

My dad and I did not become buddy-buddy after this short and slightly vague conversation. But I was able to be honest with him. And I was able to extend grace to him. I still don't know the true identity of his business partner. But the truth is that I don't have to know. I don't have to hold my dad accountable to his own sins or weaknesses. It's not my job.

I think that the majority of the despair I feel is a result of me trying to take on the sin of the world (or a few select individuals whom I constantly come into contact with). But it is not my responsibility to take on the sin of the world. That is what Christ did on the Cross--and it is a FINISHED work! I can cry out to God for the pain that this world endures, but He never asks me to carry it.

So my father and I probably have a lot more to talk about, and I will probably have more to forgive him for as the anger and pain become evident to me. But I realized this morning that it is not my job to make penance for him. Nor for anyone else.

Instead I chose to say these simple words to my dad: "I still love you."

And I was able to genuinely choose Joy. It is a choice. It is always available to us because Joy--genuine Joy--is in the hands of the Lord. And that is something Satan or the world or our flesh can never tear away from us if we are found in Christ Jesus.

My happiness may fluctuate. But may I never anymore feel that Joy is out of my reach. That is a bondage that I have been freed of--and I need not continue to clutch onto the broken chains.

Psalm 51:10-13
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

There is Always More Healing to be Done

"There is always more healing to be done." These were the words of one of my Living Waters leaders during the final teaching last week.

Those words feel so true today.

Today has been rough. I find myself quite depressed. My poor best friend is confused and unable to rouse me from my stupor.

Why do I feel this way? I told him I want to die. Is that true? Did I mean it? Do I mean it? (Alright, I have been taking an abnormal psychology class. We did a few days on suicide. I realize that every statement that even slightly scents of suicide is supposed to be taken seriously. So, I look at that statement of mine...seriously. Because....I said it.....and I should know better than to say it if I don't really mean it.) Do I really want to die? My best friend questioned my statement. So I rephrased, "I just want to dissolve into the couch." What was I saying? I just want to disappear. I want to be rid of the responsibilities in my life. More specifically, I want to be rid of the responsibility to feel. Feeling has become such a hard responsibility these days.



My best friend told me to go spend time with Jesus. I didn't want to. My best friend told me to go take a walk. I didn't want to. I thought maybe I'd want to sleep. I didn't want to. Long story short: I didn't want to do anything. I really did just want to dissolve into the couch.

"You must feel the pain. Don't numb it out." Another final-opportunity warning from the Living Waters leader. I slipped some. I ate two items. Thankfully, my stomach is not used to binging any more, and it gets upset and/or full very quickly.

I picked up my book (which I am actually reading for two self-directed school projects), Hope, Health & Healing for Eating Disorders by Gregory L. Jantz. I got to the section on abuse. I pushed my way through it. Trying to remain above the text--not let it affect me or trigger my own memories or thoughts. But God was not going to let that happen.

Each chapter of the book has questions that one is supposed to answer. This is the one that finally got me:
9) Find a comfortable chair or couch. Give yourself comfort. Hug a pillow, or sit with your knees up and hug your knees. Ask a friend or therapist to say each of these statements to you and then have you repeat them aloud, as loud as you want to.
"I am a special person!"
"I should not have been treated the way I was!"
"I am not responsible for what happened to me!"
"I am angry with the person who made me feel this way!"
"That person had no right to make me feel this way!"
"That person is responsible for what I went through!"
"I am not a bad person! I am a person worthy to be loved!"
"If you could not love me, the fault is yours, not mine!"
"I will not be like you!"
"I will be a person who can give love to others!"

This is all it took. The tears came down.

God has given me some measure of healing from the abuse from my childhood--I know this to be true--I have felt it. But there are other truths as well. For one, there are many different levels and types of abuse. Therefore, there is more than one person in my life that I must forgive. Also, even if I have genuinely forgiven and have had some healing.....those old feelings still run deep. And it will take time and intentional reassurance that I don't have to feel that way anymore for them to be released from my emotional system. 

There are still days when I feel dirty. There are still days I am gripped with fear. There are still (many) circumstances that cause me to cringe in guilt. There is still much pain and anger within me....that I don't know what to do with or where to begin to work through it.

God.....I need You. I need You to comfort me. I need You to hold me. I need You to tell me that You love me. I need You to show me where to go next; this is too much for me to sort out with my own mind. I am still so weak. I am still confused. I am still struggling to find Your truth. I still don't know who I am. God, I am completely dependent on You. Forgive me for trying to live in a false reality where I can do this all on my own. I am scared. I am so scared. Please hold my hand. Please cleanse me. Please restore me. Please whisper to me that I am Your child--no matter what. Please give me the capacity to hold Your love, and then to bestow it upon others. I feel so empty, God. I feel like I cannot even hold Your love right now. Send Your Spirit to bind me up. And, Holy Spirit, please stay with me. Please continue to seal me in such a way that I can hold love Divine. Enable me to feel the pain, so that I can forgive, and then LOVE freely. Amen.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

A God of Reconciliation

"Amazed" by Desperation
You dance over me
While I am unaware.
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound.
Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You;
How You love me.

This song was played in Living Waters a few weeks ago. It did not hit me in any particular way at the time. However, my leader has been repeatedly praying that for us: That God would dance over each one of us.

I have felt alone. The first time I said it out loud was a few days ago. "I feel so alone." And my poor boyfriend--I can hear and see him in my memory now: "I'm right here. I'm right here." I could hear him; I could see him; I could feel his arms around me. But it wasn't enough. I felt alone within myself. And the cold feeling was spreading through my body.

I find my inner world is shockingly different from my outer one. My inner world is so broken right now. Yet, I have worn a mask for so long, that I can hide my brokenness well. Or I can portray my brokenness in a collected (essentially, unbroken) way. But the truth remains: my inner world is broken. Only the people who are closest to me see it. My best friend (whom I am dating) sees it the most. He sees the tears. He sees the wrath. He sees the fear. I know God can see these things too. But my best friend is an earthly witness who can reflect back to me what he sees.

I repeat: my inner world is shockingly different from my outer one. I am in the process of looking at a ministry internship. Am I ready? I was just asked to be a mentor. Am I ready? I lead thirteen year old girls in a God-centered youth group. Am I ready? I sing on a worship team. Am I ready?

Here is a clear depiction of the difference between these two worlds. My best friend is very good at pointing out how self-focused I can be. (Most people are self-focused; however, this is not the goal of a God-seeking Christ follower.) So, yesterday, I decided to focus my attention very keenly upon my best friend. I challenged him in ways that I very, very rarely challenge him. I am not sure how he received these challenges--especially since he is aware of my own weaknesses--however, giving him challenges is something he has asked me to do. So I did. And personally, I am pleased with myself for doing it. But as soon--I repeat: as soon--as the challenge-giving time was over, my mood sunk. It sunk hard, and it sunk fast. I moved almost to a mild depression. I noticed it, and it scared me. I thought to myself: does it take this much energy out of me to be present in someone else's life? Do I hold such little love, joy, life that if I expend just a little bit of it that I am left void? And my mood did not get much better. I survived one class, but then the next class was health. I could not contain myself any longer. Anger flared. Not outwardly, mind you. Remember: my inner world is very different from my outer world. But the anger was there. I left that class with the now-familiar hurting heart. Anxiety. I can at least recognize it and label it now. But I was still concerned about my self. I laid down on a couch, put music in my ears, and shut out the world.

If you have not read my previous blog, "Releasing Idols One Step at a Time," I encourage you to do so since I am going to refer to its contents now.

Last night we--the Davis College family--gathered to celebrate Christ's crucifixion. The first man I saw when I entered the room was my professor, to whom I had sent that email. I felt crushed even further. The tears of shame wouldn't stop.

But God was determined to step in. God and Satan waged war over my shame last night. Satan wanted to accuse; God wanted to acquit. Three times last night I was overcome with guilt: as my once-idolized professor gave a devotional about unity, obedience, and love; as we were led in communion; as we were sitting in the garden of Gethsemane being told to pray with our eyes wide open so that we could observe the final temptation of Christ. Each time I felt worthless--dirty--a mess. And each time God whispered in my ear: "I dance over you while you are unaware. I sing all around, but you never hear the sound."

A man of God sent this verse to me two nights ago: Zephaniah 3:17 "The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy."

I have felt so alone in my filth. So alone in my brokenness. So alone in the decisions that I have had to make--and still need to make. Can I believe that God is in my midst? And furthermore that He is rejoicing over me--dancing over me--singing over me?

"Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You;
How You love me."
Once that final phrase came to my mind last night, the tears broke hard. I was sobbing. My heart--my dried up, shriveled up heart--was trying to absorb all of the love God was pouring onto me last night. It was painful. And my heart was so hardened that I am sure it could not and did not absorb it all. But God kept pouring and the pain--the blessed pain--kept coming. When the tears finally ceased, I was at peace--exhausted--but at peace. At peace in God's unconditional love.

But this morning my God--the God of reconciliation--wanted to crown His love-act of last night. Today was the first time I had class with my professor, the one to whom I gave that grievous confession. Not only did I have to interact with him in class, but I was the last person to leave the room (completely unplanned given my still fragile conscience). My professor--my Christ-filled professor--brought up my email. He didn't attack me. He didn't accuse me. He didn't belittle me. He didn't guilt me. He thanked me, and he affirmed me. He encouraged me, and counseled me. He showed me the love of Christ in the way only a member of the royal priesthood can. He was the agent of reconciliation sent by God to affirm every work He did in my heart last night.

My amazing.

"You dance over me
While I am unaware.
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound.
Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You.
Lord I'm amazed by You;
How You love me."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Releasing Idols One Step at a Time

The following is an email I sent to one of my professors, I posted it here because I feel like it was a journal entry more than an actual letter.

It's 12:29 and I should be going to your class, but today I am not. I am not sure exactly why I feel the need to send you this email--maybe it is because you are my adviser. Maybe I am writing this email more for myself, and by the end of it neither of us will understand why I sent it to you. Whatever the case, I am going to continue...
I am sending this primarily to tell you that I will most likely not be attending your class anymore. I thank you for the opportunity to sit in on the class. I hope that you are not offended. Perhaps you are disappointed in me, but that is a consequence I will just have to sit with.
I feel like a completely different person than the girl you meet with before the semester break. That girl was determined to make a future for herself, no matter how much work it took. That girl was desperate for your approval of her (along with the approval of every other professor). That girl was willing to manipulate "God's plan" for her life just so that she could claim that she knew what it actually was.
I am not that girl anymore.
Something happened over the semester break. Something extremely personal. Something extremely healing. Something extremely freeing. Something that I never thought I would do.
Sounds great right?
It is. But it also caused an upheaval for me. The girl you once knew was busy making up her own identity (still! you would think I would have learned by then!).
This thing that happened over break uprooted some deep stuff--that, by all means, needed to come out--but it also uprooted all the identity work I have done to cover myself over the years.
So what am I trying to say?
I am trying to say that I have moved from girlhood to womanhood....but I am a very confused woman. I am trying to explain to you why I have backed off from all the plans that you and I had discussed prior to break. I am trying to tell you that I was really nervous to come set my schedule with you for next semester because everything seems so uncertain. And not necessarily uncertain in a bad way. It is just that I have been so used to molding myself, that now that God yanked this thing out of me.....I no longer need to engage in my past-time of rigidly molding myself. So, I am kind of lost. But not a bad lost. Just lost.
I'm in the precarious position of trying to wait to see what God does, but also not just sit idly.
I have not wiped away my options. In fact, I have added even more. But I am not trying to pursue them head-on without God. I don't want to be like Jacob (I am very good at being like Jacob).
Am I scared to make a decision? Yes and no. I think prior to being uprooted, I was scared that I would make a wrong decision. I was so tied up by the need to gain acceptance of others. I will admit that because this was such an ingrained thought process that I still am struggling with it a bit--but at least I can catch myself and say, NO! I think my fear in making a decision is more of an apprehension right now. That I see so many doors open. And they are all "right" doors. I just want to be sure that I have looked closely at them all and peeked in them all rather than making a rash decision out of a need to KNOW NOW.
I feel like the world is a little cloudy. I no longer feel like I can ascertain the absolute right answer and have that answer be my solid foundation. (I'm not sure I'm making sense even to myself....) I used to feel like I could do it on my own. I spent so much time covering myself with my fig leaf (acceptance of others, mask of perfection, academic wiz, etc). Then God tore away my fig leaf (hmmmm....I feel like He has done this other times in my life as well), and now I feel naked. And it is a bitter sweet naked. I feel more....pure....than I did before. But I also feel more uncertain and unstructured. It is as if I feel free to cling to God for once, but it feels awkward to do so.
So....maybe skipping your class is not a good thing to do after all. But see my problem is that my reason for signing up for the class originally was very different. I need to get my priorities straight. I've been going to the class to get smarter and to gain acceptance from you (you told me that you only let special students sit in on classes)--these are not good motives. These are aspects of the old identity that I was creating for myself. Part of that old identity idolized myself and idolized academics and idolized my professors (you the top among them!). So I am taking a break from the class to get my heart right. Plus, I have not been engaged the last few classes. I don't know if you have been watching me, but I have been sleepy and in my head. So I am not even gaining much from the class at this point--I am just filling a seat and every once in a while making my voice heard.
Alright. I have rambled enough...I don't even remember all that I have said. (So that means you can probably forget that I even sent this....) Bottom line, I respect you very much--but my respect has at times verged on idolatry. I know that may seem weird, and perhaps I shouldn't have told you, but I need to get it out there. I need to expel that from myself. And I need you to know. It is one thing to tell God in secret, but it is another to tell you.
So, I don't know when or if I will be back to class. I will obviously still be in your other class--I dealt with my motives for taking that class a while back--it is not an issue for me like this class is. 
I realize that I may seem like a mess. I feel like a mess. But I am not surprised. There is so much going on in my life other than school right now. And for once I can fully believe in my heart that school is not the most important thing in my life at the moment. And that is such a freeing thing to believe.
If you don't respond, I will not be offended. If you are interested in responding, feel free to.
Thank you for reading,

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Sign?

God, I feel so alone.
Why do I feel so alone?
I feel alone in making these decisions.
But is that really true? This is the same thing I said to You yesterday. Why am I feeling the same way today? Why am I still struggling to get to You?
Is it me? It must be.
Am I really alone? (Alright, I know the answer is no.)
But do I really have to depend upon others’ words or upon circumstances through which I can infer Your movements?
Why do I need that? Why do I need such tangible things?

My best friend spoke with me about the fact that my faith is much more experiential than his. I said that this may be the case because my faith is weaker than his—I needed the experiences. Do I still need the experiences? Haven’t I learned anything from Living Waters?
Although, one could argue that Living Waters is extremely experiential, an opposing argument could be made: that I have learned to encounter God right here and now—all I need to do is press into His Spirit.

Can I make a decision without seeing a vision or a sign?

Mark 8: 12 “Sighing deeply in his spirit, [Jesus] said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’”
Luke 11:29 “As crowds were increasing, [Jesus] began to say, ‘This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.’”
John 4:48 “So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.’”

It’s interesting; it was the connection of wickedness and asking for a sign found in Luke 11:29 that first popped into my head. But because I am taking Hermeneutics this semester, I began to ask myself more questions: Where else does Jesus talk about signs? Are these passages applicable to me? Is the connection between wickedness and asking for a sign truly there?

I want to explore this last question a little further. Does asking for a sign imply that one is wicked? Does being wicked imply that one asks for a sign? Or is this just pointing out that these people are wicked AND they are asking for signs?

Most of the signs asked for in the gospel are meant to signify that Jesus is the Son of God. So what kind of sign am I asking for? …. A sign that my desire to go to Narrow Road Ministries is from God. So, in a sense, the sign I am asking for is similar to the signs of the gospels—both are asking if something/someone is from God. Am I wicked for asking God for a sign? I wouldn’t go that far. But it does reveal my weakness of faith. It reveals the immature alignment of my spirit with the Spirit of God. Because if the alignment was mature, I am guaranteed that I have the mind of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16
“but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which not have entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is approved by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Am I spiritual enough to have the mind of Christ?
That was a dumb question.
I am regenerate.
I have the Spirit of God within me.
I have the mind of Christ—
whether I am used to exercising it or not.
I have the mind of Christ.
But where does that get me?

I remember once hearing someone wise say, if you think that the Spirit might be leading you to do something—as long as it is not sin, or amoral, or plain destructive, etc—just do it. Worse comes to worse, it wasn’t the Spirit. But you are not actually worse off for the choice/action you made.

Matthew 5:37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
James 5:12 “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall into judgment.”

Okay, so I am not considering taking an oath. But I do need to be respectful and certain when I respond to NRM. This is why I find the suggestion given to me—to fill out other applications as well—so unsettling. Because I want to give my yes wholeheartedly to NRM.
And if they turn me down? you ask. Well, then I will begin to search elsewhere. (….Which means I should give my yes soon—for my own sake, as well as theirs.)

Do I need God’s confirmation? I suppose the confirmation will come through God’s words to the leaders of NRM. They are the other half of this potential, God-centered relationship. If I am at peace in my heart—which I am—and they are at peace in their hearts, then together, I believe we will have found God’s favor.

Oh, Lord, have Your way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Outside of Me

I am so irritated with myself right now.
Why? Because I want to be a different person.
For a rare moment in my life, I don't actually want to do homework.
So what is the problem? I don't know what to do with myself when I don't do homework (other than sleep or exercise compulsively).
I am sitting in a room full of people--people playing card games together, people talking, people playing music, people surfing the internet. A room full of people--and I feel like I cannot connect with any one of them.
Well, that's not entirely true.
My best friend is in the room. But see my best friend wants to play cards. He can connect with them. He can enjoy himself.
Me--I just feel stuck. Stuck not wanting to do homework. Stuck condemning myself for not wanting to do homework. Stuck being unable to connect with people. Stuck realizing that the reason I cannot connect is because I have withdrawn so far within myself. And my best friend is the only person I have let in.
I feel stuck between two people: the quite, isolated, task-driven person who doesn't mind being alone and the yet to be discovered and experienced, fun, people-oriented, relational person who can truly be with people and enjoy them.
I feel stuck because I am the first person, but in order to become the second person I have to let go of.....something.
My best friend says it is control. This is definitely one thing. Another is my fear. A third is my perfectionism. A fourth is my shame.
One might say to me: Ask God to take those away. Believe me: I have.
God has not taken them away. Instead, He has said, "Jaime, you must choose to lay them down." And as horrible as this may seem, I am not yet willing to lay them down.
"You will never be ready," says one person.
Okay. But that doesn't change how I feel right now. I feel fear. And clinging to my shame, control , and perfectionism offers me a blanket of protection. ("Oh, no! People!")
So what would happen if the fear was gone? I don't know.
Why do I hold onto the fear? Am I holding onto the fear? I suppose I am allowing the fear to remain in place by not challenging it.
Unfortunately, I did not challenge it tonight. Instead of staying in the tension, people-filled room where I would have had to make a choice, I left. I went back to my bedroom. Back to my isolation. Back to where I can deceive myself and pretend that I am not incapable of connecting. Here I can forget. Here I can hide in the silence and forget about the laughter. Here I can stay in my head and not be challenged to do something different.
How pathetic......How......depressing......
I know how to throw myself over the edge and into freedom. I can go on a trip half-way around the world into a different culture. I can apply to a program that will tear control away from me. I can attach myself to people who are spontaneous and daring and feed off of their freedom.
But I can't seem to just set it down. I can't seem to let my white-knuckled fingers slacken. I can't seem to walk out of the prison door that has already been opened.
God tells me that He has done His job; now it is time for me to do mine. I am the one holding myself back. Why?
I feel so distant from God. As if once He said, "Jaime, it's your job now," that He just walked away from me. But I know better! I know that's not true! It must--it MUST--be me. I must be the one turning my back from Him. I must be the one saying, "I WILL DO THIS ON MY OWN! LET ME DO IT!"
Perhaps that is the answer. Perhaps I am insisting that I must be the one to lay it down ALL BY MYSELF. Maybe--just maybe--Christ is willing to help me more.
Will I let Him?
Will I?
Do I throw myself off the cliff once more? Until I am convinced that He will catch me regardless of if I jump or merely set it down?

Friday, March 1, 2013


I feel myself getting lost.
The snow is falling outside;
I could stare at it forever.

I feel myself getting lost.
My lips sewn shut;
my thoughts loath to form.

I feel myself getting lost.
"Jaime, speak to me."
With what words do I speak?
How can I bridge the gap
between you and I--
and me and you?

I feel myself getting lost.
You are on a ship,
and I a small dinggy.
The ocean between us.
I can see you;
you can see me.
But it is just too far.

I feel myself getting lost.
Floating farther
and farther
You stretch out your hand.
Do I dare lift mine?

I feel myself getting lost.
The world seems foreign;
it's safer in here.

I feel myself getting lost.
I'm scared to let you in;
scared to come out.

I feel myself getting lost.
Will the world drift away?
Or will I simply dissolve?

Is this really,
what I want?

I feel myself getting lost
in silence.
I feel myself getting lost.