Grief Doesn’t Have an Expiration Date

This month it will be my third Christmas without my father.  No need to write on my calendar which day my family will celebrate at his house.  I won’t have to rack my brain to come up with a creative gift idea.  He is no longer with us.

Over time I’ve discovered that grief doesn’t expire.  It doesn’t ever truly end…it just changes.

People often wonder if grief gets easier.  I don’t believe it does.  Grief in itself doesn’t get easier but some aspects of it do.  Like it might be easier to laugh about past memories.  Or think about that person without crying.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.  And we should be okay with that.  It only becomes a concern when we remain stuck in our grief.

I was thinking about our last Christmas together.  My youngest son (who was 16 at the time), was sitting in my dad’s living room watching something on TV.  My dad walked in and said to him, “Are you watching this?”  My son replied that he was and my dad said, “Oh,” as he picked up the remote and changed the channel.

That was just my dad’s sense of humor, even if my teenager didn’t think it was funny.  The memory makes me chuckle.

I also recall it was the last time we took a family photo.  Even though my oldest son was serving overseas at the time, because we had been Skyping, we got a picture of him on my laptop.  That memory brings a tear to my eye.

And then there was the game we played, “Imaginiff,” which can sometimes hurt feelings.  My dad did that when he made a comment (as part of the game) that I was bossy.  Not that what he said wasn’t true because I definitely can be bossy…but to hear him actually say it, well, it kind of smarted.  But now when I think about his comment, it makes me smile.

Different emotions stirred up from memories that at the time, didn’t seem important.  And yet, three years later, have become part of the grieving process.

With Christmas upon us, thinking about him still brings an ache to my heart.  I don’t think I will ever not grieve for my father.  I won’t ever stop wishing I could get one more day with him.  That I’d get the opportunity to hear him call me “Sweetie” or to seek his advice on a problem.

My faith and the faith He had in God gives me the comfort of knowing that one day I will see him again.  Yet it doesn’t erase the hole that’s been left behind.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

But you know what?  I don’t believe it’s supposed to.  Grief serves not just as a way to mourn the person we’ve lost, but as a way to connect to that person.  Through our tears, laughter and yes, even the anger we might feel…we continue to process the unique experiences and emotions that attach us to the person.

That person is “gone,” but only in the sense of his/her physical life being taken away.  Memories live on.  They are precious reminders of moments, big and small, that contributed to our life.   They are a piece of the puzzle that makes up the whole of we are.  They matter.  They hold value.  They are significant and worthy of our attention.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

So, let the process take you where it goes.  Don’t deny it.  Don’t fight it.  Don’t believe you should be “over it.”  Cry.  Scream.  Laugh.  Question.  Wonder.  Emotions are just part of the journey.  The grief you feel may not end but with God’s help, the process will become easier to navigate.

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The Imperfect Holiday Gathering

How did your table look at Thanksgiving this past week?  Was it a picturesque Norman Rockwell gathering of loved ones?  Smiles, laughter and good conversation all around? 

Or was it more like a disjointed assembly of people you can barely tolerate?

Were there missing plate settings because of separation caused by death or distance?

I stopped having expectations of the “perfect” holiday gathering years ago.  It started when our oldest son went into the military.  Followed by strife amongst extended family members and the death of my father.  There has also been a divorce, separation and broken relationships that has contributed to the imperfect gatherings I began to dread.

Not everyone looks forward to the holidays—at least when it comes to family gatherings.  Through the years, it started to become more work than fun.  And I’m not referring to the physical labor of preparing.  I’m talking about the work of trying to keep the peace.  The work of putting on a happy face or biting my tongue.

As Thanksgiving approached this year, I literally wanted to run away.  Go somewhere with my husband and be freed from the burden of having to host and keep things together as much as possible.  Honestly, if it weren’t for the jacked up airfares, we would have done it.  Instead, we opted to get away the week after.

Anyway, at times I found it a little difficult to see the happy family gathering photos flooding my Facebook newsfeed.  But then I remembered that it doesn’t always tell the whole picture.  After all, I posted my own pictures and bragged about the delicious side dishes my daughter prepared.  I didn’t share the other parts…like how we got out of having to invite certain family members to our house by making sure our daughter hosted at her apartment.  It was a great excuse.

I didn’t talk about how my heart ached, with it being the 6th Thanksgiving in a row my oldest son hasn’t been with us.  Or how I’m estranged from a certain family member.  Who shares all that?  And yet…it’s the reality for I would guess, a good majority of our homes.

So how do we get through these difficult holiday gatherings?  We put more weight on the goodness of God and His blessings.

It’s much easier to pay close attention to what’s “wrong” in our life than it is to focus on what’s right.  But if we truly believe that God is good, it’s not so hard to see our lives the same way.  There is always something to be thankful for…no matter what challenges or obstacles we’re facing.

It might take a little work, but I challenge you (and myself) to seek out what’s right in our lives.  Deliberately set aside time to think about and perhaps even write down, all the blessings of God and the goodness He has bestowed on us.

Even further, with Christmas still upon us, I challenge you (and myself) to look beyond our personal hurt to the needs of that other person.  To make peace where it’s possible.  To consider that maybe we’ve been too judgmental, critical or stubborn.  To give of ourselves regardless of how we feel.  To let up on some of our expectations.  To find the good in others and even our difficult circumstances.

It might be an imperfect holiday gathering…but we still serve a perfect God.

#METOO

In case you haven’t noticed (you avoid social media and don’t watch/read the news), there has been an onslaught of sexual assault allegations coming out.  Hollywood top of the list, politicians coming in second.

Attention has been drawn to the issues of sexual assault and harassment through a social media movement.  As a declaration of being a victim, people are posting the hashtag #metoo.  While I commend those who boldly proclaimed their victimization, for me it wasn’t something I felt comfortable sharing.

Yet here I am now—on my blog—getting ready to do what I couldn’t bring myself to do on Facebook.  Perhaps it’s the momentum of the movement, the bravery that has been demonstrated, the sense of arm-in-arm unity for those who have victimized…but I am here to declare that yes, #metoo has been a victim.

In my opinion, the publicity that has been drawn to this movement is very important.  I’m not referring to the incidents involving the rich and famous…most will have their day in court.  And not that I’m downplaying or dismissing their experiences—but for the everyday, ordinary person it’s about time that attention is drawn to the widespread problems of sexual assault and harassment.  In the workplace.  At school.  Yes, even in the church.

I read that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be the victim of sexual assault at some point in life.  So imagine any setting—sitting at a restaurant or in your favorite pew at church—there is someone in the same room who has gone through this type of painful experience.

Years ago I led a group at my church called “Vessels of Honor.”  It was for women who had been victims of sexual abuse.  I can’t even tell you how incredibly taxing it was on my emotions.  Hearing the stories, seeing the pain they were going through, and watching these women continue to suffer in one way or another…it was a heavy burden to carry as a leader.

One by one, this large group of women who were seeking healing, became much smaller and intimate.  While that was beneficial to those left, it saddened me to know that some of the women just couldn’t face the pain and trauma of their past (and in some cases, their ongoing suffering).

The biggest factor that closed some women off, the one that caused a few to stop attending, was shame.  It’s not easy to admit you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or assault.  We could get into a whole other topic regarding the reasons why…but my main point is that shame oftentimes leaves us suffering in silence.  In turn, we miss out on the opportunity to find healing.

It’s about time we give voice to an issue where the perpetrator isn’t always held accountable.  Where victims continue to be victimized long after the assault has occurred.  Where discomfort overrides addressing the problem.  Where shame keeps us from speaking out.

Will the #metoo movement stop sexual assault and harassment?  Not while we’re here on this sin-filled earth it won’t.  Will it mete out justice for victims?  It’s not likely unless you’ve been victimized by a rich or famous person.  Will it foster healing?  Not really.  But will it give voice to a commonplace issue?  Yes.  Will it cause others to stand up in the face of shame and say, “Me too!  I have been a victim!”  Yes.

Is raising awareness enough?  No…but it’s a start.  I won’t pretend to have the answers.  It’s a sensitive topic that is unique to each person’s experience.

At the very least, can we start having some open and honest conversations about the problem?  Can we help eliminate the shame factor by demonstrating compassion and understanding?  Can we make resources available to those who are broken?

In my lifetime I’ve tried counseling.  I’ve done the numbing your pain thing with food, alcohol and bouncing from one guy to the next.  I’ve buried the hurt in hopes it could be forever hidden, only to have it rise up again.  Some of these have been temporary fixes, while others only deepened the chasm in my soul.

True healing has only come through the work of Christ in my heart and mind.  Not that I’m 100% set free from the emotional pain and residual effects.  Work is still to be done.  Yet I have hope because of what God has already accomplished in this journey.

Yes, #metoo has been a victim.  But #metoo knows the source of my healing.  #Jesussetsfree #Jesusknows  #Jesuscares  #Jesusloves #Jesusheals

Now that’s the kind of movement I’d really love to see spread across this world!

When the Church Hurts You

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hurt by the church.

Yep, I can almost see those virtual hands being lifted up.  There’s a pretty good chance you have a story to tell if you’ve ever stepped foot inside a church.  Anything from being slighted by a fellow churchgoer to something much more horrendous, such as being the victim of sexual molestation by a leader.

Attending church for more than two decades, I have heard quite a few stories.  And with my experience in leading various types of Bible study groups (including those focused on healing from sexual abuse), some of the stories are outright heartbreaking.

The youth pastor who took advantage of a vulnerable teen girl.  The affair between members of the church that broke two marriages (and families) apart.  Division that results in a church split.

I’ve had my own share of hurt in the church.  A friend who deeply betrayed me.  Gossip and unkind words spoken when my teen daughter got pregnant.  A son whose absence from youth group was never noticed.  The loss of friends when my husband and I left our church to attend another one.

Here’s the problem with identifying these issues as being hurt by “the church.”  This suggests that it’s an entire group—a denomination, an area of the church or a particular church body—that is responsible.  In reality, hurt most often occurs at the hands of an individual.  Even when it does involve more than one person, in most circumstances we still can’t blame “the church.”

It’s so important we don’t blanket a set of people, organization or group by our personal experiences.  Generalizations are always dangerous and many times, unfair.  “The church” is really a body of believers that stretches to the ends of the earth.  It’s made up of all different tribes, tongues and nations.  When we keep things in perspective, we’re less likely to exaggerate our hurt.

But I believe there’s an even more important reason to not blame the church for our hurts.  It becomes an excuse to fall away.  We perceive it as a valid reason to stop attending or to not engage in corporate worship.  Hebrews 10:24-25 is a reminder of the importance in gathering together.  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

If I pulled away from my husband every time he slighted me, we would have been divorced a long time ago.  Or if I stopped engaging with my children every time they hurt me, we wouldn’t have a relationship.

Yet why is it that we can so easily walk away from “the church” just because we have been hurt?  I’m not saying it invalidates or diminishes what’s been done.  Not at all.  But our need for community doesn’t go away because of the infallibility of people.  Especially when it ends up negatively impacting our faith walk.  We become the inflictor of our own hurt by closing ourselves off from the church.

I’m not going to pretend there are easy answers.  If you were looking to receive them, well, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  I just know that from personal experience, I have handled some of my hurts well and other times, not so much.  The times I didn’t–when I was disillusioned, let down and consumed by the hurt–it impacted my walk with God.  It was subtle enough that I didn’t even recognize it was happening at the time.

Here’s the simple truth…church people are sinners.  They do wrong.  Struggle with addictions.  Fall into old habits.  Gossip.  Lie.  Backstab.  So is there a good chance you will be hurt by a fellow believer?  I can almost promise you it will happen.  Does it mean the church as a whole is responsible?  It’s just as unfair for me to be personally blamed for the deaths of Jews just because I’m German.  My being part of that heritage doesn’t automatically make me responsible.

Getting hurt by an individual or a group should never be an excuse to walk away from or deny your faith.  You might not like what I’m going to say…but it’s a cop-out.  It’s an easy way to avoid the hard stuff of our faith walk.  If you think walking away from the church is going to give you a better chance at not being hurt, think again.

And let’s not dismiss the fact that we have hurt others.  Ever talk negatively about your pastor ?    Excluded a person for a selfish reason?  Ignored the needs of others?  Used a “prayer request” as a cover for gossiping about another?

I’ve seen too many people walk away from the church because of the most petty things.  But I’ve also seen deep hurts that most definitely require some kind of response.  In either case, let’s be careful to not lay responsibility on the church as a whole.  And let’s be sure to guard our hearts so that we don’t allow the hurt of others to hurt our relationship with God.

God will never let us down…even if others do.

 

The Greater Love

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

(John 15:13)

Jesus is our greatest example of sacrificial love.  The kind of love that would endure torment.  The kind of love that would carry the burden of sin.  The kind of love that willingly gives of self for the saving of others.

Not many of us can fully grasp the implication of laying one’s life down.  Most of us won’t find ourselves in a position to do it.  But there are men and women who quite literally died for this country.  Who fought for the preservation of freedom.

Others made it through but with the knowledge it could cost his or her life.  That was my dad.  He served on the front lines of Vietnam.  He faced choices that no person should ever have to make.  He witnessed things that no person should ever have to see.

I grew up knowing there was a price paid for that willingness to lay down one’s life.  I was taught to honor those who serve this country.  I learned the importance of respect for the American flag.  I was taught patriotism…something we seem to be losing in the younger generations.

I will always stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.  I will always sing for the National Anthem.  I will never bend a knee unless it’s to the King of Glory.

On this day, I say THANK YOU to every man and woman who has served this country.  I am so grateful that you were willing to lay down your life.  Greater love has no one that that…

Defending the Weak, Even When It’s Risky and Uncomfortable

Working at a school, I have an especially keen sense of brokenness.  Families who are broken apart by divorce and now the kids are being shuffled back and forth from one home to the other.  Allegations of abuse as child protective service workers interview students in the adjacent conference room.  Grandparents raising their grandchildren because parents are strung out on drugs.  Police involvement because of an altercation between adults in front of the school.

I don’t need to turn on the nightly news to see the brokenness of our world.  I see it every single day at work.  The information that I know, the conversations that I hear, the involvement that I have…makes it quite clear there are a lot of hurting people.

It would be fairly easy to ignore the hurt and pain surrounding me.  To stay comfortable in my little bubble.  To focus solely on completing my tasks and going home to my safe, mostly normal family.

Maybe it’s because I come from a childhood of brokenness that I can see beyond the “bad behavior” of students to the hurt that’s inside.  This sensitivity isn’t always appreciated by others.  Some would prefer to focus on the child’s actions, with no thought to what else may be happening in his world.

Psalm 82:3 talks about defending the weak and the fatherless; upholding the cause of the poor and oppressed.  If we want to even remotely portray Jesus to the world, there has to be a willingness to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.  To see beyond the surface level of stuff to the deeper issues at hand.

I don’t say all this as a declaration of how I live each and every day.  In all honesty, most days I can put aside the events that have transpired and go on with my business.  I sit on the sidelines, watching things unfold, thinking only about getting to the end of my workday.

Every-once-in-a-while I get out of myself and genuinely care about someone else.  I sincerely desire to improve the situation, understand the underlying issues and try to make some kind of positive difference.

It’s always risky to be a selfless person.

Maybe that’s why we’re prone to not step out.  To turn our eyes away.  To pretend it’s not a problem.  To justify our inaction.

Sometimes there is a price to pay to be a selfless person.  It may cost a relationship, your reputation or even your pride.

This past week I took a selfless risk.  I came to the defense of two middle school boys, who from outward appearances didn’t “deserve” it.  You might agree if you had heard their language and seen their body language.  Yet I knew there was more going on than disrespect and cursing.  I had knowledge of their backstory.  I also observed the way they were being handled and how it wasn’t helping the situation.

So I stepped in.  Or should I say, I stepped on some toes.  In a school setting, the secretary doesn’t exactly rank above a teaching professional.  But I felt the boys were at a disadvantage and I had to defend the weak.

It was one of those (sad to say) rarer moments of choosing not to bury my head in the sand, taking a risk, and ultimately, paying a price.  In that moment I saw beyond myself.  Overriding the outward behavior was an understanding of the inner hurt.  This caused me to go into a protective mode, shielding them from what I felt was an inappropriate response and handling of the situation.

They needed someone to defend them, to have their backs.  Because there really was more to the story than a couple of “unruly” students showing disrespect.  I truly believe this insight and understanding came from God.  In that moment, He called me to defend the weak.

It became a messy situation, with parents and police involved.  Definitely uncomfortable.  Certainly risky.

But here’s the thing.  You can never go wrong in any situation when God is involved.  The discomfort is a small price to pay when compared to the joy of knowing God has used you.  And that’s what it’s really about…God.  Not me choosing to care.  Not me focusing on someone other than self.

I’m challenged to pay more attention to the hurt and pain surrounding me.  To step out of my comfort zone.  To focus on meeting the needs of others instead of watching the clock.  To do what all believers are called to do…not just talk the talk but actually walk the walk.  To be a true reflection of God’s love and grace.

What about you?  How are you doing in the area of defending the weak?  Share your thoughts on what it means to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone.

The Day I Stopped Rescuing My Child

Every parent has experienced it, one of their worst mothering (or fathering) moments.  Not that I don’t have more than one…but there is always that particular moment that tends to stand out the most.

Let me set the stage.  It was the first year I put all three of my children into a public school after homeschooling them.  My oldest son was in 5th grade, my daughter was in 2nd grade and my youngest son was in Kindergarten.  Not working, I had plenty of time to volunteer and help out at their school, so needless to say, I was a frequent visitor.

I honestly can’t remember why I was at school on this particular day…nor do I know why I went out on the playground at recess time.  But what I do recall is walking onto the playground and seeing my 5th grader get punched in the head.  Not by a kid I didn’t know but in fact, my son’s best friend that he had grown up with in the church.

With my blood boiling and no concern for those around me, I yelled the name of his friend and told him to keep his hands off my son.  Well, it wasn’t quite as nice as that.  Mama Bear had reared up and bared her teeth in front of nearly the entire school.  My son was embarrassed and his friend was scared (at least that’s what I assume since he ran away).

It didn’t end there.  I marched myself right into the school, declared my outrage to the principal, got on the phone to call the mother (right there in the office) of the boy who had punched my son and proceeded to argue loudly with her (keep in mind she was my friend).  While it temporarily fractured our friendship, thankfully it wasn’t permanently broken…we’re still friends 15 years after that incident.

Why did I feel it necessary to act that way?  I was the type of parent who felt a need to rescue my children.  Whether it’s a school fight on the playground or repercussions from a bad decision, it’s always been a natural response for me…to throw a lifeline to my children.

However, there comes a time when we have to let them struggle.  We may even have to let our child sink.  I know what some of you are thinking.  This sounds so cruel.  Perhaps even impossible.

What parent would deny their child a lifeline to safety?

A parent who recognizes the value of hard lessons learned.  A parent who realizes that coming to her aid hasn’t really helped.  A parent who truly gets what it means to entrust her child to God.  A parent who loves her child enough to not rescue him.

 

It has taken me 20 years to get this…with one child in particular who seemed to always be in need of rescuing.  One poor decision after another and yet—I threw the lifeline each and every time.

The day I stopped rescuing my child happened not that long ago.  I had to make a decision to withdraw the lifeline.  It went against everything in me as a mother.  When I shared with my prayer group what I had done, one of the ladies responded, “Dang.  That’s gotta be so hard.”

Did I doubt myself?  A little.  Did I feel bad?  Slightly.  But I had finally arrived at the place where I found peace in God and what He could do, instead of relying on my own (oftentimes flawed) lifesaving efforts.

In the end it turned out to be the right decision.  Even though some had doubted me, I put my faith in God.  I had a peace in my heart that didn’t make earthly sense but was like a divine gift from above.  Even my child seemed to understand that my denial of rescue was necessary.

Here’s the thing we have to remember.  While it might hurt to stand on the shoreline watching our child flail in the treacherous waters of life, we can know that in God’s timing and way, He will come to the aid.  His timing and way is critical in the rescue efforts.  It may appear that time is running out, but He knows just the right moment to help.  We may see the method of rescuing as one that doesn’t cause negative consequences, but He knows what it will take to keep our child from sinking again.

A rescuing parent is a loving one with good intentions but oftentimes makes decisions out of fear.  A non-rescuing parent is a loving one with godly intentions, who makes decisions out of faith in God’s plans.

Which type of parent do you tend to be?  Why do you think this is?  What kind of parent do you want to be?  Please FEEL FREE TO share YOUR THOUGHTS!

The Value of a Discerning Spirit

In my early days as a believer, I didn’t understand the value of a discerning spirit.  Especially when it came to sharing my heart with others.  I pretty much put it all out there, not giving a whole lot of thought as to how much information was divulged.  I also didn’t use much discretion, opening up to anyone willing to listen.  Believe me…there were a lot of willing participants.  Which I can’t entirely blame them because I definitely had a juicy past.

Let’s just say it didn’t take long for me to realize two things.  One, not everything is meant to be shared.  There are parts of our past that should stay there—buried, never to be resurrected again.  But there are also parts that in the right time should be shared.  Which brings me to the second realization, not everyone is the right person to share with.  Yes, even if the person shares our faith.  Because the reality is that we’re still human, so that means we’re dealing with people who may be unreliable, untrustworthy or uninformed.

I learned this the hard way, early on in my walk with God.  The freedom I felt in baring my soul to Him carried over onto others.  I used little, if any, discretion.   That left me vulnerable.

Proverbs 2:11 “Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you.”

Discretion serves as a protective measure.  If we don’t use it, we risk all kinds of problems.  Some of what I shared in confidence was blabbed all over the place.  And while one person was sympathetic to my face, she talked about me like a dog behind my back.

My expectations that people in the church would be different seriously impacted my ability to trust.  I put my own guard up, instead of allowing discretion to be my guard.   As a result, I felt let down by the church and oftentimes suffered in silence.  What made it worse is that trust had already been an issue for me.  Events from my childhood and past experiences caused me to put up a wall that made forming relationships difficult.

Although it took quite a few years to get to this place…I now realize the importance of discernment.  Just because it happened doesn’t mean it has to be shared.  In fact, most things are better kept between me and God.  I find comfort in being vulnerable with Him.  He understands me in ways that no one else can.  He knows the whole story and He is ultimately the source of all healing, restoration and reconciliation.

If I am to share with someone else, I trust God to show me who that person is and how much information should be given.  We need trustworthy people who sincerely care about us and will pray for our needs, but we also need a discerning spirit.  If this is something you’re lacking, just ask God, who gives generously to all (James 1:5).

What You Did Is Not Who You Are

I recently shared some thoughts on how “what you do” doesn’t define “who you are,” and how sometimes we allow our roles to cloud the truth about who we are in Christ.   Yet there’s an even bigger danger we face when it comes to our identities.  It is basing “who we are” on “what we did”.

I don’t get many opportunities to tell my story on how I came to know Christ.  My hope is that it helps to lay a foundation for why I think it’s so important we don’t allow our past to identify who we are right now and who we are yet to become.

I’m not aware of any church history in my family.  What I do know is we have a history of mental illness, addiction, suicide and yes, even murder.  When I was just two months old, my maternal grandfather killed my maternal grandmother.  Of course, growing up I didn’t give much thought to my family’s history.  I certainly didn’t understand the impact it would have on me.

Needless to say, my childhood wasn’t ideal.  The result was an insecure, scared little girl who didn’t understand boundaries.  That turned into an attention seeking, reckless teenager…which then turned into an angry, promiscuous, controlling woman.

You can probably guess there were some struggles with finding my identity in Christ.  Coming to know Him was the most wonderful, freeing experience of my life.  Yet the “who I was” seemed to overshadow the “who I am” in Christ.

My initial response to the gospel message was like a kid in the candy store.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  The realization that all of the icky stuff I’d done was forgiven—nailed to the cross—began the process of finding deliverance from shame.  Long “churchy” dresses replaced short skirts.  A fun night no longer consisted of a brandy and coke at a bar but coffee and sweets at a Bible study.  My speakers now blasted the likes of Steven Curtis Chapman and Point of Grace, instead of Beastie Boys and Bon Jovi.

Maybe it’s not glaringly obvious—but as “good” as these changes might have been in my life—they did little to address the deep-rooted shame that laid the foundation of who I was.  In my head I could say I was new in Christ.  But in my heart, I still felt like the old me, especially when I continued to battle with some of my past struggles.

Despite ongoing years of Bible study, church teachings, and doing my best to be the right kind of Christian wife, mother and friend…”who I was” continued to be “who I am.”  I wasn’t living in the freedom of being a new creation in Christ.  When I looked in the mirror I still saw the unredeemed me.  The broken, messed up, lost soul who yes, was saved by the grace of God…but just couldn’t believe I was loved and accepted.  How could One so holy accept the likes of me?!

There is a danger in identifying ourselves as “who we were” rather than “who we are” (in Christ).  On the most surface level, it keeps us from reaching our potential as a believer.  But on a deeper level, it chains us to the past.  That eliminates freedom of movement in the things that God has for us.

One of my favorite bloggers is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t allow “who she was” to identify “who she is.”  At “Beauty Beyond Bones,” you will meet a young lady who overcame her eating disorder and now offers hope and encouragement to others.  While I have never struggled with this particular issue, her blog feeds my soul.  I can relate to the journey she has taken in learning to love herself.

No, we can’t erase our past.  We can’t pretend it never happened.  Nor can we deny its impact on our lives.  But we can embrace what’s in front of us.  We can learn from the struggles of our past.  And we can finally find freedom in Christ.

What Is the Answer to Evil?

I don’t have words to adequately convey the deep sorrow I feel about the state of our nation.  Las Vegas was rocked by the greatest mass shooting in U.S. history.  This at a time when the country is at odds with one another regarding the appropriateness of protesting during the National Anthem.  Mix in with that threats of war and terrorism.

Everyone is looking for “answers.”  Talking heads believe they have them.  Opinions permeate our Facebook newsfeeds.

The world is losing hope.  Even those who know to find their hope in Christ are struggling.

There are no easy answers.  More gun control sounds like an obvious solution.  Yet those bent on evil, individuals with severe mental illness, people intent on hurting others…will find another way.  How many lives have been lost by a maniac behind the wheel, plowing into a crowd of people?

The passing of new laws, the demanding of rights, the disrespecting of our flag…these will never cure the sin-sickness of this world.  Jesus is the only answer.

But here’s the thing about declaring He is the answer.  Some misinterpret this to mean that He has the ability to stop evil and so it’s in His hands to end mass shootings…to stop violence…to ensure equal rights and fair treatment.

Believers declare that Jesus is the answer…but the world wants to know if that’s true, why is there still so much evil?  Why are people treated unfairly?  Why is there so much violence?

Unless those who commit such atrocities surrender their lives to Jesus, there can’t be healing of mental illness and a bent toward evil.  He is the answer because He is the One who cleanses us from sin.  He is the One who can help us find freedom, deliverance and healing from the sin that imprisons us.

Jesus being the answer doesn’t mean He holds the puppet strings of this world.  He is Ruler of this world but unless He is made ruler of our hearts, sin will prevail.

I can understand the struggle with hopelessness.  Yes, even for the believer.  What took place in Las Vegas is senseless and absolutely heartbreaking.  But I don’t have to park my thoughts there.  I know that Jesus is the answer and that means regardless of what happens on this earth, a day is coming when all wrong will be made right.  When all sin will be washed away.  When tears will no longer fall and gravesites will no longer exist.

We need to share the hope of Christ with a hurting world.  But we can’t do that if we start to lose hope.

Our agendas and opinions can’t make a difference.  What we need is the Difference Maker.  What this world needs is a Savior…yes, Jesus IS the answer.