What are My Chains?

chains

If we haven’t battled the demons of drug, alcohol, or sex addictions, we may not be aware of our own personal chains. We all compensate our pain one way or another. All of these compulsions start as an escape. Escape from neglect, pain, or sheer boredom. Escape to feel better in the moment. Then the next time, the next, the next, and eventually we feel dropped into the pit of despair with no idea how to function without them. Affecting children, marriages, friends, careers, a downward spiral. We’ve all heard the stories if we haven’t lived them. These testimonies are powerful, they get our attention, they warn us, and they open our eyes to what a powerful work Jesus truly can do in a life. Praise God for each and every one! But, if we don’t fall into these categories, it can leave us to wonder….what about me? What are my chains?

What are you dependent on? For comfort? For “normalcy”? What or who do you go to? What makes you feel better? If it is destructive, these are chains. We all have quirks, preferences, and interests, but at what point do they become destructive? This is a chain. We all need to eat, but food can be a chain. Overeating and anorexia. We all need to clean, but then there’s obsessive cleaning. We should all exercise, but there is also exercise addiction. We all need rest, but laziness can also turn into a chain. Relationships, friends, spouses, parents, and children are all wonderful, but if we turn these gifts into idols, they can become chains.

We all want to be loved, but people pleasing is a chain. The more I seek Jesus, the more He shines the light on this chain of mine. The chain of speaking up. The chain that my opinion doesn’t matter or is always wrong, just because it’s mine. The hardest concept for me to wrap my mind around is that it is possible to love others without pleasing them. My fear has always been that if I disagree, they will feel unloved by me or stop loving me altogether. So I freeze. I keep my opinions to myself. I feel like a don’t have a voice. After all, my thoughts on the subject must be wrong, so why voice them anyway?

Then, He reminds me that I am His daughter. Then, He reminds me that He died for me. Then, He reminds me that His love is greater than anyone else’s that I’m afraid of losing or hurting. And, it breaks. And, I’m free. Free to be me. Free to speak. Free to make choices. Free to admit how hard this is for me. Free. And, you know what I’ve also noticed? The ones who’s opinions I tend to fret about the most don’t seem to care one iota about mine. You see the chain?

This may not be a testimony that includes drug rehab, loss of custody, or Alcoholics Anonymous…but, to me, it’s powerful. Jesus is personal. There are some things only you and Jesus know that you struggle with. He will shine a light on your chains if you ask Him to. This is life changing, because once you begin to see His progress, you will be amazed as to how tied down you were.

Now, every time I speak my personal opinion or verbally disagree with someone else’s, I’m actually surprised. I still get scared of their reaction and don’t want to hurt feelings, but I realize more and more that my feelings and opinions are just as valid. This a chain that once broken, doesn’t stay that way. This is a heavy chain. My weakness. My struggle. My thorn. Oh, how I wish it would go away completely.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV)

Paul pleaded for his thorn to be removed, but He said the Lord didn’t remove it in order to keep him from being conceited (verse 7). To keep him humbled. To keep him dependent. To keep him face down in awe of His Savior. If our thorns keep us at the feet of Jesus, then praise God for them. And, Paul did just that.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

Making us aware of our thorns (crutches, tendencies), the damage they cause, and the relief available through Him alone is breaking our chains. It’s interesting to me that broken people know the weight of these chains. Once broken, we look to Him in our weakness. We go to Him with our problems. We appreciate others who do. We recognize His power. We request prayer. We want Him first. Once broken, He becomes the light and love of our lives. Once our chains are broken, we want to help others feel the release of theirs. Only Jesus.

 

 

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Behind the Smile

behind the smile

I was reminded today, ever so blatantly, of the brokenness in this world.  Today, the tears flowed with nowhere else to go but down. Remember, that most of us have been broken by the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a childhood, a family member, or an illness. There are countless ways we may feel broken. This great sense of loss will change a person. Behind the smiles, you may not know what people are going through or have been through. Be mindful that others may have been touched by tragedy. Think twice before you envy someone’s seemingly “perfect” life. Remember, that brokenness is a part of this life…only.

Yes, there are blessings to be found in brokenness. Yes, finding out that God has never nor will ever forsake us is the ultimate blessing we discover in our trials. But, that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Our human race was broken in the Garden of Eden. The shame, guilt, grief, and separation from God is still evident in our brokenness today. Our souls long to be complete in Him. Cultivating a relationship with God does not guarantee we won’t be broken again, but it does show us where to turn when we are. It reminds us that He is still in control and keeps us ever homesick for heaven.

Open your eyes and hearts to others around you. Be aware that there has been pain behind their smiles. Pain is increasingly evident in this world. Today, I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t encourage, all I could do was empathize with and feel the pain and loss. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus….there are times when this simply means lending an ear and following up with a heartfelt “I’m so sorry”. Sometimes there are no words, answers, or clichés to relieve the pain. There are times we just have to feel it, let it roll down our cheeks, and pray for comfort. I do believe it’s better to feel it than deny it. To honestly feel it allows for healing and growth.

Being honest about our own pain may strengthen another to open up and receive healing in theirs. I have witnessed and personally experienced that just knowing we aren’t alone can bring the most comfort. Let us actively love each other by recognizing that we are all broken, living in a broken world, and getting by the best we can. Let us also be reminded that God is good, in the good times and in the bad. God is good, in the pain and in the pleasure. God is good, in the loss and in the gains. And let us continue to praise God from whom all blessings flow…

Yearning for heaven where our hearts and circles will be forever unbroken.

Why Brokenness is a Gift

beauty

I read somewhere “there are two types of people, the ones who know they are broken and the ones who don’t.” I firmly believe this. We are all broken. Some of us know it and willingly admit it. Some don’t know they are broken yet (like children), and some just plain refuse to admit it. Viewing ourselves and each other as broken people evens the playing field. This perspective leads to humility and grace. Admitting our brokenness and dependance on Him is when God’s strength and power as Healer and Provider can manifest it’s greatest significance in our lives.

Ultimately, whatever leads us to the foot of the cross in brokenness will be seen as a blessing in our lives. It may be parenting struggles, an illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, lack of a role model, people pleasing, a past regret, financial ruin, addiction. This is how all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). This is how Jesus takes the most painful experiences the evil one throws our way and turns them around for His Glory. This is how people can be touched and loved on a whole new level by admitted brokenness.  This is how He makes beauty from ashes. We are all in this thing together.

To lay our egos and hurts down at His feet and accept God’s love into the cracks is to be beautifully broken. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, God does. Wounds left untreated may fester in time and repeat themselves generation after generation if not brought before the healing power of God. He heals, renews, and restores.

I love the lyrics of the following song and want to share…..”Keep Making Me” by Sidewalk Prophets

“Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

[Chorus:]
‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know You will hold me
Make me lonely

[Chorus]

‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making,
I know You’ll keep making
Lord, please keep making me”

 

Guard Your Heart

heart

I have an interesting career. I look at people’s hearts all day using ultrasound. Just like any job, it can get monotonous after 14 years, but today I’m reminded of how interesting it really is. We check the heart function of every patient by assessing their ejection fraction. A heart’s normal ejection fraction is about 65%. When we come across a patient with a 5-10% ejection fraction, their heart is barely squeezing. Sometimes their heart function is so weak, I catch myself looking over to make sure they are still breathing even though I just walked with them from the lobby to my lab to run the test. It’s truly amazing that the body can still function with a heart that is barely squeezing. But, it happens, and our doctors treat it all the time.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that my sickest patients also tend to be the most kind, gracious, and patient people. Not always, but most of the time. Maybe because they know they are sick, maybe because they are grateful for the healthcare, maybe because they have adjusted their priorities, or maybe because they’ve made peace with themselves and others. It’s very interesting to me that the people with the “broken” hearts that barely squeeze can touch our hearts and spirits in such a tender way. We listen and pay more attention when we see how poorly their hearts are functioning. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could “see” how people’s hearts have been broken, betrayed, rejected, mended, or even revived in our daily lives? Maybe that’s why we pay more attention when we know what someone has been through and what their story is. Everyone has a story.

I can personally visualize a person’s heart function with my ultrasound machine any day. But, I can’t “see” what that heart has been through. Our hearts are physically and spiritually our most prized possessions and worthy of the utmost protection.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23

I work with some extremely intelligent doctors who can treat your heart if it needs physical healing, but I know that God is the ultimate healer. He alone is the great physician and heart surgeon. Let Him hold and heal your heart. Trust Him when people come and go from your life (because they will) and remember that He’s not going anywhere (because He won’t). He created and designed our hearts, that alone makes them worthy of protection.