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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He Touched Me

touch

I believe God touches us so that we can touch others. My relationship with God has come more and more to the forefront of my life from the time I had my first daughter to now. He has moved to the top spot in my life because I’ve relied on Him so much. He’s been tender, patient, and authoritative in my life and I have been receptive. I needed to be. I knew I needed Him, there was no other way.

I am also so thankful I learned who God is to ME. It took a personal encounter with Him to change my heart forever. He touched me in the midst of my brokenness, literally. I felt Him wrap His presence around me lying in bed one night after silently crying out to Him. I asked Him to wrap His arms around me and He did. In that moment, no one else would or could. With His touch, He reaffirmed His love for me. I will never forget it and I will share it with anyone who will listen. He is real. He is with us. He hears us. He protects us. And, He speaks our personal love language.

I know, in my head, that He’s been with me my whole life. I just didn’t pay much attention. My relationship with Him didn’t alter or affect the choices that I made. It wasn’t until I had daughters of my own and the pain of a divorce that my eyes were opened to His relentless love. Now, my knowledge of Him has moved to my heart and I pray that He always stays right there. His touch changed me.

I would never want to go back to the “old me” who lived unaware, unobservant, and unappreciative of His love. The “new me” wants to comfort and encourage others, longs to be in His presence, and wants to conquer fear in His name. I just want to do what He wants me to do….and that brings me true joy. I want to because of what He’s done for me.

He didn’t just die for me, He touched me when I needed it the most.

 

 

The Cards We Carry

cards

I’ve been a card-carrying people lover my whole life. I’ve had teachers and other adults in my life tell me that if there was a new student in school or someone who looked like they were having a bad day, I would be the first to befriend them or try to cheer them up. I really do love people. It pangs me to see them hurt, sad, alone, or scared. All good things! But, with people loving comes the major struggle of people pleasing. Pleasing other people is wonderful UNTIL we need to stand up for ourselves. This is where the rubber hits the road. There’s a big difference between being a people lover and a people pleaser. People love to be pleased, but that’s not always healthy for either party.

I realize now that I have also been a card-carrying member of the codependance club. By the grace of God alone, I am healing and growing. I still backslide, but I KNOW where my help comes from. My help comes from The Lord. Codependance is the perfect breeding ground for abusive and toxic relationships. We “make peace” by rolling over and letting the other person have their way. BUT, what if their behavior is not appropriate? What if they are not showing love or respect and we continue to roll? What I have learned is that allowing bad behavior to continue in order to “make peace” is not truly keeping the peace at all. Being a true peacemaker is being at peace with God, others, AND ourselves. Allowing mistreatment to continue is not making true peace with any of these three.

We need to love ourselves enough as children of the Living God to stand up for ourselves and others in HIS strength.  This is SO hard for a people pleaser! It’s like battling any other addiction. What makes it SO difficult is that we LOVE people and we want to get along so badly that we fear standing up for ourselves will lead to being rejected, the loss of the relationship, and/or being blamed for the conflict or the loss. Can’t we ALL just get along?? The answer is nope, not always. We are not called to agree with everyone, but we are called to be mindful of how we disagree.

We can’t control all the cards we are dealt in life, but we can ask God to replace the cards we tend to carry around and how to deal with the ones we are dealt.