Most of us have been shaped by words spoken to us in anger or impatience or from another person’s broken perspective. Who of us didn’t have some kid or kids at school tell us we were stupid, lame, ugly, fat or unwanted for some reason. I know I did. Repeatedly. Statistics show that most children have also suffered from the criticisms, insults and abusive words flung at by overwhelmed, scared or generally messed up parents (aren’t we all?). Many of us have felt the abandonment or rejection divorce brings. Four out of five have been exposed to some type of sexual abuse.
Is is any wonder we struggle to understand who we are?
God created us with a specific design and plan for our life. (Yes, even you.) He delights in the unique personality that makes us, well – us. He knows every nuance, every tilt of our head, all the abilities we possess and what makes us smile. And he loves it when we exhibit those traits. No wonder Satan, the enemy of God and us, whispers lies, uses the wounds others have pressed on us, and creates circumstances to distort the beautiful creation of God that we each are.
But how do we find out who we are and become ourselves again?
In her most recent book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldredge shows us how. Becoming Myself takes us straight to the throne of Jesus where we are loved, delighted in and encouraged. As we read, we are transformed by the renewing of our thoughts about ourselves, our God, our relationships and our world. With intimately honest stories that come from the depths of her heart, Stasi reveals how we can see ours more clearly. While her primary audience is women, every person needs what God shares through Stasi in this book. It tops my “must read” list of books. It’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, it is a life-changing read.
In what ways have you lost yourself? How have you learned who you were truly meant to be?
God forgives us. Now, He asks us to forgive others.
But you don’t know what they’ve done!”
Acted foolishly? Lashed out because they are in pain? Stubbornly chosen their own way?
Haven’t I done the same?
God reveals to us what we have done that needs repentance and forgiveness, and lavishes love and grace on us. Then He asks us to do the same for others.
Freely you have received; freelygive. Matthew 10:8
When God reminds us of the details of what someone has done to hurt us, He’s helping us deal with each issue, forgive it and let it go. Remember that last week we talked about how our lack of forgiveness hurts us more than the other person. God doesn’t want us to suffer in anger, resentment and bitterness.
At first, I felt guilty for reflecting on things done to me, but then I realized I could only forgive as I saw the full truth of what I was forgiving. Contrary to what many of us think, forgiveness begins when we can honestly acknowledge the hurt we’ve experienced.
Let’s say my sister used my car without permission and wrecked it.
(Just an example, I don’t have a sister.) If I don’t acknowledge the facts of the circumstances, how can I forgive my sister? If I deny it: “My sister didn’t do anything wrong;” or minimize it: “Well, after all, she’s my sister so isn’t it okay for her to take my car?” or ignore it, then I’m not forgiving her action or the fact it has hurt me.
Doesn’t granting forgiveness means I condone hurtful behavior?
I’ve wondered this, and also if forgiveness requires me to return to a painful situation. But I learned that forgiving doesn’t mean I must disregard or tolerate someone hurting me. It doesn’t necessitate continuing to live in a deceptive, dangerous or abusive relationship. Forgiving someone simply releases that person into God’s hands to handle it. When I was able to forgive, I could let go, and not go back.
Sometimes, a person’s lack of remorse can trip us up.
I’ve struggled with forgiving someone when I sensed they were more concerned for their own suffering as a result of being caught than because of pain they caused. But forgiving is to free me. So I’ve asked God to help me let go even if the other person refused to apologize, excused their actions or didn’t seem sincere.
Sometimes, I wasn’t willing to forgive because I was holding onto pain as proof that I deserved justice. I felt like giving up the pain was giving up my chance to make things right. But God is the one who brings justice. He is the one who will hold the person accountable for their behavior. It may be now or later, but He will call them to account. When we let Him deal with the situation, we are free.
Forgiveness really comes back to trusting God. When we believe He has everything covered it’s easier to be gracious towards others.
Last week we looked at repentance and forgiveness.
I shared how God showed me every detail of things I had done that needed His forgiveness which led me to godly sorrow. And how God has already forgiven us so all we need to do is acknowledge our need.
But what about me forgiving?
I’ve found three areas in which I need to forgive: God, others and myself. Believe it or not, our forgiving isn’t about the other person. Our lack of forgiveness towards others ends up hurting us, not them. We become resentful and bitter, and it carries over into anger at everything in life. That is not the abundance that God has for us.
Often, we don’t even realize we are unforgiving.
This happened to me with the Lord. Through a series of circumstances, God arranged for me to attend an event in which a particular man who has a ministry of speaking prophetically to people was to be sharing. I didn’t want to be there, but it was a required activity because of something I was involved in so there I sat.
Arms crossed, I was convinced this man was a liar and would mislead people. You see, he had given my ex-husband and me a prophetic word exactly six years to the day prior to this event. He claimed that God would be offering us a “turnaround time” in our lives. I had copied the verse he provided and slipped it into my Bible. I read that promise every day for years. But, shortly after that night, our business failed, we lost our home and within a couple of years we were separated. Again.
I felt angry thinking about this man speaking to us.
The circumstances I lived through weren’t my idea of a turnaround! I took notes of each scripture to prove my point, but I knew our pastor would never subject us to someone who would hurt his congregation. The conflict in me grew.
At the end of the service, I couldn’t get to my car before tears began to fall.
I don’t understand, Lord. How could you speak through a man who lies?”
Driving to a nearby cliff overlooking the ocean, I sobbed my heart out without knowing why.
I parked and wailed some more, throwing all that had happened to me at God with whatever verbal force I had. Confusion, anger and despair swirled through my head and heart.
When my emotions abated, I heard a whisper in my mind.
Your life did turn around.
I thought about that. It was true. As a result of those awful circumstances, I had finally chosen to get out of a bad situation. I lived in a beautiful place. My children and I were happy. Our church family was safe, and we were all healing. My life had completely turned around. The situation was simply different than I had expected. I thought my business would thrive, the mortgage company would deal honestly with me and my marriage would be saved.
Suddenly I realized I had been angry with God for those six years.
Tears began again as I faced my anger at God and told Him how sorry I was. He hadn’t betrayed me. The prophetic man hadn’t lied. I had misunderstood and harbored bitterness in some closed off place in my heart. I forgave God and the man. And I asked Jesus to forgive me.
God is so good.
Peace washed over me and filled my car. God knew I needed to forgive Him. He orchestrated circumstances so I would be in that meeting. I hadn’t been happy about that initially, but now that I realized it had been for my good, to bring healing and freedom, my anger turned to gratitude.
Sometimes we need to forgive God.
While it’s natural and even okay to ask God “Where were you when____ happened to me?” or “How could you let___ happen?” or “Why have you done this or that?” we can get stuck in the questions. Sometimes God gives us answers now. Sometimes later. Often, not at all. But if we pit our understanding against his wisdom, we may land in a place of anger. And He knows that in the end, our lack of forgiveness will hurt us more than it hurts Him.
Typically, when we say “addiction” we think of alcohol, drugs or maybe gambling. But we can have addictions to shopping, eating, not eating, reading, television, gaming, Facebook, checking emails, surfing the internet, magazines, exercise, pornography, sports, scrap-booking or sex. Anything that grabs our attention, pulls us into a place of needing it, and dictates our thoughts or actions has created an addiction. The ‘something’ we feel we must have; we can’t go without, shapes our lives and the lives of those we live with.
For decades I was shaped by the patterns of living with someone addicted to sex.
Over the following weeks, I will share what I learned through my experiences. I hope to help and encourage anyone feeling despair over your circumstances–either because you live with an addict or battle with addiction in some area. Most of us do to some extent at some point of our life. Recognizing patterns and symptoms can alert us to get the help we need. Honestly evaluating our particular situation is the first step in breaking free from the bondage of addiction.
While many patterns relate universally to any addiction (and some by themselves simply show a lack of growth in character or maturity), I’m relating the following patterns primarily with sexual addictions. Someone who is addicted to sex probably:
Needs to be in control. The women in his fantasies do exactly what he wants and enjoy his power; therefore, he expects everyone in his life to submit to his desires. Sex makes him feel powerful and in control. He may use anger or violence to control his family, and may not acknowledge their needs or feelings since he has no control over those areas.
Lacks respect for women. The degradation of women due pornography and prostitution causes the focus of a woman’s value to be on her ability to perform sexually or contribute materially. This can be particularly devastating for women choosing to stay home to raise children. That job consumes her time and energy without financial profit, and can leave her feeling worthless, especially if she can’t fulfill her husband’s sexual fantasies.
Is self-absorbed. In a healthy relationship, each person desires to meet the needs of their spouse whenever possible, but an addict focuses entirely on meeting the desires of self regardless of how valid or pressing others’ situations may be. Family needs may be ignored. Someone addicted to sex can fulfill their needs almost anytime, anywhere because much of the stimulation and satisfaction comes from mental images. This constant, instant gratification makes it nearly impossible to put another person’s needs first.
Uses manipulation. In order to get his way or keep his behavior hidden, the addict will often use whatever means necessary no matter what it costs. He may be kind and understanding one minute, making promises or begging forgiveness, then angry and violent the next. He may use guilt, self-pity or even whining to manipulate his family. In her book, The Dance of Anger, Dr. Harriet Lerner states, “If women are constantly made to feel guilty, they remain ‘in their place’ and are ineffective.”
To be continued…
It may be a grueling process to redefine who you are apart from the impact of these patterns, or to allow yourself to be extricated from a life of addiction, but there is hope.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Have you experienced any of these patterns either as an addict or living with one?
If you need help or would like prayer, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message at email@example.com