From March 1998
Your first pony ride. The first snowfall of winter. The first ice cream cone of summer. Your first car. Your first kiss; okay, and the second. Your first REAL job. Your wedding. Your first child. Delights all!
Do you remember when you first realized that your sins, your rebellion, were truly, genuinely, completely forgiven? Now run those feelings, those realities throughout the rest of your life.
Oh, not there yet, huh? I’m not talking about people who don’t know Christ; well, in a way I could be. Rather, I’m talking to Christians who always get stuck in their lethargy, or who never quite entrust their lives to Christ; guarded Christians.
Seriously, why would anyone want to live as a ½ committed Christian, hanging on to their ownership of who they used to be?!? That has to be one of the most frustrating, exasperating lives imaginable. Too much work, always keeping track of what you’ve said, or done wrong. No way!
Delighting in Christ, knowing the freedom to dance before God with a clean slate, is one of the most amazing realities about being a genuine Christian, instead of a half-hearted, morbid self-condemning “Christian.” How does anybody live like that? Who would want to?
Check yourself. How are you living? Like a guilty Christian or as a forgiven sinner? This is NOT just a matter of perspective: it is a reflection on how you view Christ’s work on the cross— for you. I’d rather be dancing and delighting than constantly wondering if I’m good enough for God.
An end-note— I struggle with depression. [See this Patheos article for further insight.] I’m on meds to correct the imbalance in my body chemistry; but there are some days when even they don’t work. So I’ve learned to push through, to live through, to tough it out; but not everyone can do that. In the end I wind up doing what I should have done in the first place— turning to God for mercy, healing, and forgiveness.
It is in those times that our Lord asks me—
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
~Psalm 41:11 (NKJV)
Delight, joy, and hope. This is a description of the normal Christian life. Get into to it.
I’ll be on the dance floor,
There is a section in the Judeo-Christian scripture that asks a question—
“O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?”
In other words, who would live long in Your presence? The Psalmist offers a number of criteria. For our consideration, I will choose only one—
“He swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
~ Psalm 15: 1, 4. NASB
Dedication is our internal, decisive will power to stick to the matters at hand. It is commitment, determination, stick to-it-tiveness, perspicuity— call it what you will; it is a critical obstinacy that we use to fulfill a decision we’ve made, no matter how hard the road.
When it comes to the Christian faith, this is the one characteristic that must be exercised the most…, after prayer, and worship, and probably a few more. But for me, it has been the one thing that has pushed my faith to the limit. Remember Never give up!? Well, never give in, either.
In marriage vows we swear to be faithful and committed to one another. Loving, too. The primary reason marriages shatter is our lack of dedication to make it work, no matter what. The same is true of our faith in Christ.
Too often in our life of faith, things go wrong, or we sin, rebel against God, or just find the journey too tedious and binding. So we jump ship. Or sex grabs us; and I don’t mean the kind within our marriage. Our entire faith gets dumped for some handsome guy or cute little thing. Just brilliant!
G.K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. As long as WE continue to set the perimeters of our faith, it will remain just that— our faith. But if we are serious about our decision to truly follow the claims of Christ, no matter what, that’s when the required dedication needs to kick in.
Setting our minds to the task of being a Christian is not a simple matter. The most probable reason Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us is that He understood that. He knows our weaknesses, our whimsical nature when things get tough. He knew our dedication to Him would be challenged. Therefore…, God within us: establishing our commitment to Him: forging a faith within that is unshakable.
Dedicated, determined, and heading in the right direction,
PHASES— #4, Discipleship
Welcome to the Christian life!
The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.
To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.
Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—
1. Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.
2. It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?
3. It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?
4. Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.
5. You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.
Growing in grace and forgiveness,
“It hurts like hell; and then, one day, it doesn’t.”
-Ari Eastman’s mother.
From I PROMISED YOU
I WOULDN’T WRITE THIS.
Learning to love again takes everything you’ve got. You have to relearn trust, transparency, touch, and to risk speaking truth. You have to remember love is more giving than taking; that people are not perfect; that flaws and faults always come with the territory.
“11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” [1 Corinthians 13:11. NKJV]
Learning to love again is a matter of maturity, fortitude, and determination. It does not “just happen.” It is a decision based on ongoing healing and forming new relationships. It is time to take a chance with new experiences that confirm trustworthiness. It is involves making a commitment to dropping your protective shields and allowing another to know you more fully. It is an adult thing to do. Children simply get mad or sullen, but only for a time. Some adults I have known never move beyond. They wallow in hurt, spite, and revenge. They never forgive, or forget. Somehow, they fester vile to feed their anger; what they do not realize is that this venom is slowly poisoning them from within, like a cancer. Let it go!
To overcome your fear and bitterness, your isolation, you will need to awaken these 4 qualities—
- Trust (risk). We live in community, not separation.
- Faith. More likely than not relying on God is a much better idea than stubborn independence.
- Heart. Activating your passions, your emotions, and fear are worth the risk. Learn to feel again.
- Commitment. Make a decision to commit is stepping out of your comfort zone. You will have to do it sooner or later. To NOT decide, to NOT commit is a decision to die.
Failure to embrace these 4 qualities will leave you in emotional and relational limbo, encased in the darkness of your soul. It will take work to emerge from your cocoon a new butterfly rather than rotting within a decaying caterpillar shell.
Learning to love again will take real effort on your part. Do not love simply as a response to someone else’s love for you. Initiate love from within. Sponges in the ocean have little more function than to suck up the impurities around them. You are not a sponge.
Again, love is a give and take, not the other way around. You must be proactive, not passive.
This concludes our series Learning to love, maybe again or for the first time. Where would like us to go next?
Awaiting with baited breath,
Being in love is not for the faint of heart. Loving has become a dangerous enterprise in Western Culture. Expressing love, no matter how up-front or innocent, is open to interpretations of manipulation, harassment and aggression.
Let’s start with our own love-wounds. If you have not been hurt through love, you have not loved, or allowed another to love you. Hurt is part of life: it gives joy its perspective. So if you are guarding your heart, sadly, you also have given up hope of ever trusting or loving at another time. The longer this continues the harder it will be for you to ever love, or be loved, again.
Some of those I’ve counseled have constructed such a protective shell about them that they can barely bring themselves to speak. Fear overtakes their lives and they retreat even deeper into their reclusive shell. Others shut down all and any emotion; no sadness, no elation, no joy, no sorrow. They become the living-dead.
If you are tired of feeling no pain, no joy, no love, try implementing one of these action plans.
- Find a friend. Anyone. They need to be someone with whom you feel safe, more at ease.
- Spend time in sunlight. No, seriously. Vitamin D works wonders on the soul. Take a walk while you’re at it. The exercise will rid your body of the toxins that accompany the pain.
- Talk with a counselor about any abuse. Remember, neglect is abuse too. Whether from a father, a sibling, or a bully, or a spouse, your scars run deep. Don’t let them fester and feed your dark side.
- Find an empowerment group. You’re not the only one who’s been hurt. Others have been through the same or even worse pain. Bond together with them for mutual building. [Not bitching.]
- Come along side someone who has been hurt. That’s right; in your misery reach out a caring hand to someone else. It may do more for you than it does for them.
- Cut back on sugar. Sugar is probably one of the most poisonous substances in our diet, causing everything from depression, to heart disease, to early dementia. Eat fruit. I am dead serious.
- If possible, confront the cause(s) of your pain. Not alone. Take an advocate or an arbiter; especially if the cause is an abuser. Actually, with an abuser, the best course of action may be a simple old snail-mail with no return address. If the cause is a former boyfriend/girlfriend…, well, they probably will not want to meet with you. There is always email, though. Be kind…, and truthful.
For future encounters, please keep in mind that love is always a risk, even more so in these early decades of the Twenty-first Century. It beckons you to put out a little, and then a little more. Reciprocation will tell you if you are on the right path. Do be careful. But do take the risk. Yes, you may be hurt again. But you will be wiser and stronger to handle it this time around.
On a personal note, I have been hurt by people so much in life that I have lost track. And that is a good thing. If I hung on for resolution of every painful experience in life, I would be a useless blot on the DNA scan of the Universe. So now I struggle to live without resolution, yes, but with great hope and trust in the God of my faith. He has always proven to be faithful, safe, and, for me, a little dangerous. It’s just hard sometime.
NEXT DISCUSSION: Learning to Love Again.
Healing from the hurt,
Love is a peculiar thing. Every individual has their own Love Language. Gary Chapman categorized The Five Love Languages (1995) for us—
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving (giving) Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Most of us fit into one (or more) of these five ways of wanting to be loved.
Our personalities have a great deal to do with the way we want to be loved…, and how we love. [If you have not thought much about your personality I encourage to take these two “personality identifier” tests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (the MBTI) here— http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html, and the DISC test here— https://discpersonalitytesting.com/free-disc-test/ . They are great fun and quite informative. Enjoy! And don’t copy.] Learning how to love another person is just as important as actually loving them.
If you truly want to know how to love another person put your agenda aside and observe the other; a.k.a.- learn their ways. What do you see? Do they like heat? Chocolate? Tech stuff? Promptness? Silence? A good book? Vegan? A good steak? Honesty and transparency? Time alone? Or, time outside…, wandering? Putting out some effort to discover how another person wants to be loved is one of the clearest indications of genuine love.
When my wife and I were first married, I would often buy her quite nice articles of clothing. No response. It took me a good five years to learn that she did not care that much for clothes, style, “outfits,” etc. She loved books. Once I even snatched a bundle of her books, took them to a book store and asked “What are these and do you have any more like them?” I bought her a book. She was elated!
I was loving her the way I would want to be loved, not the way she wanted to be loved. The same goes for friends and fellow employees. Before you give your friend a box of Havana’s, better find out if he smokes. If you want to give your boss a nice pen, better find out if she even uses one…, or constantly loses them.
Our personalities and preferences hold great sway over the way we love other people. We need to learn how to love them the way they want to be loved— in a safe other-centered way. Furthermore, if I might add, do not love expecting anything in return. For if you love to provoke a love-response from the other you are, in truth, loving yourself. You may want or need their love but do not love them to get it. Love them selflessly, expecting nothing in return. That is truly LOVE.
Your personality does have a lot to do with the way you love people, how you love them. Get a grip on your personality. If you do not want to take a test, ask your friends the brutally honest question, “How do I come across to you? To other people?” Give some diligent consideration to what they say. O, hell, take the test anyway. It’s fun. Do it in a group with goodies to munch during the subsequent discussion.
You truly ARE how you love. Learn what that means.
NEXT DISCUSSION: LOVE HURTS!
Now buying my wife British murder-mystery novels,