Not At Your Expense

Friday, November 7, 2008

One of the things that guides me as I write on this blog is the inescapable knowledge that there are *people* reading what I write. For this reason, I try to refrain from inflammatory issue analysis and criticism. I also attempt to keep my political/doctrinal views to myself. This means that sometimes, I keep my opinions quiet.

Growing up, I didn't know what tact was. I didn't understand what things should and shouldn't be said and in front of whom. My poor parents despaired of my ever owning any discretion.

I'm a venter by nature. If I let things build up internally, I tend to explode later with emotions that wouldn't have been there if I had expressed them earlier.

I used to vent anywhere I got a chance to vent - expressing myself is the way I interact with reality. I am a point-of-reference person, and I often compare new things I encounter with things I have already experienced. It is how I try to make sense of the world.

It doesn't always work, actually, but this is how I am.

I learn and process things by putting words to them. I don't understand people who actually process things by thinking through them. I have to write or speak what I feel and what is true or I find myself confused, brain-fogged, and emotionally constipated.

As I have grown older, I have found it necessary to find a safe place for my venting. Usually, this is someone who either knows me well and understands that I need to put words to my emotions to deal with them properly or someone who is a venter as well. In my spiritual moments, I vent to the Lord about things. In my not-so-spiritual moments, the safe person nearest usually gets the vent.

I have some dear friends who have stayed by my side through this process, and some dear friends who wisely took some space for themselves and their own sanity. If not for these friends, I would not know to take the care that I do for what I write on my blog.

I have learned that while I am always free to speak my opinion and my heart, sometimes my speaking it does not allow someone else the freedom to speak theirs. In fact, it may drive them away, because the constant flow of emotion and words that I express leaves little room for others to offer who they are. Some of my friends have not even tried; the ones who have tried don't often realize how deep their words go.

I think that preferring one another in love means that there must be times when we do not write or speak. Knowing when those times are takes understanding the other person. It takes a willingness to hear their heart and the courage to fight for it.

For me, it seems also to require a vulnerability to the disapproval of others, an openness to judgment of incomplete explanations and thought processes. Preferring one another in love means that I need to offer others more grace than I expect for myself.

Loving my neighbor as myself isn't such a hard thing to understand when I consider how much time I spend trying not to be hurt by others. Sometimes I find myself doing things or thinking things about others that would be hurtful to me if I knew they were doing or thinking that about me. I try to protect myself from hearing their thoughts. I try to perfect myself so they don't have to think them.

But the reality of it is that I can't perfect myself or protect myself. All I can do, really, is love. I'm starting to wonder if others are fighting the same battle.

In the past, people have often attempted to speak into my life to convict me of something that they believe they are doing wrong. I won't toss around the Scripture passages or the Christianese that has been used; most of these situations have been the result of my venting and the other person's misunderstanding of my words and my heart.

People often let their frustration with me build until it comes to a breaking point and they have enough evidence to "convict" me, if you will, in the most godly way possible, of course. This has been incredibly hurtful and counter-productive in the past, but something has changed.

I'm not living in fear right now. Isn't that strange? Fear has gotten to be such a habit with me - the Old Familiar. For years, it has been the safest place. The most comfortable spot. Fear lets me hold onto absolutely everything. It doesn't require trust, and it certainly doesn't impel me out of my comfort zone if I don't want to leave it.

God had a wonderfully sneaky trick up His sleeve for dealing with my fear. He let me express my fear of loss. He let me express my anger to Him. He let me express my disappointment. He let me attempt to maintain the walls I wanted around my heart to keep Him out so He couldn't hurt me. He let me say I didn't know how to trust Him.

A few weeks ago, I was writing a letter to a friend about what He was doing, and it dawned on me that in believing He would do the work in my heart and produce His own fruit, I had trusted Him. Oops - but how wonderful! And He has been working! This situation that would once have been unbelievably devastating became an opportunity to listen to someone and see what God saw in us both.

My heavenly Father isn't raising me as a human child is raised to be independent and self-sufficient. As I grow, I sense Him drawing me deeper into Himself, asking me for more of who I am. Sometimes, I write out my vent as a letter to God. Sometimes, He talks back to me. He never says what I think He will say. Isn't that funny?

Learning to know Him and trust Him as a Person is revolutionizing my relationships with others. It's starting slowly, but I am already seeing people differently. I am finding that I am not as afraid to listen (even if I know someone disagrees with me), and that it is all right if I don't express absolutely everything in my heart on my blog or in my relationships. I can leave my heart to Him to defend. Being in Him and surrounded by Him and letting Him be responsible for the changes in my heart and my life is amazing. It's freeing.

I no longer have to legislate how much I'm going to trust Him. Each day, I find He releases me a little more from the familiar bondage of fear. I am not worrying about covering my bases so others won't have evidence to confront me. The debilitating fear of relationship is falling away from me.

And as it falls away, I find that I am free to speak, to put into words the things that make me real. I also find that I am free to be silent, to offer the safe place that God has offered me. I want to hold out to others the hope that I will listen to their hearts.

Sometimes, I think Christians get it backward. We think that relationships with others teach us about relationship with God, and then we do everything we can to control our interactions and appearances so that everyone knows that a relationship with God is perfect. We *try* to love others by a definition of love and bury ourselves in a yoke of bondage that looks nothing like the incredible, insatiable, freeing love of God in Christ Jesus. We start from the outside and work in, shutting down our humanity as much as we can and going down that checklist of "fruit" to make sure we're like Him.

But our humanity is what we have in common with everyone in the world. Our humanity is what needs His love. Our humanity is what He has redeemed and brought into Himself. He doesn't need us to be like Him, knowing good and evil. If He did, He'd have *told* Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of that tree.

God created us in His image already, and He said it was good. He likes us, dust that we are. He loves us, actually. There is always a safe place with Him. The incredible longing in Jesus' prayer that we would know God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent gives me such hope that there is more than "right and wrong" to live for. He knew that if we knew Him we would be filled and that the fruit we ourselves would bear would be life-giving and rooted deeply in Him.

So I'm not here to insist on having my opinion or my idea of right or wrong. I'm not here to insist that you believe what I believe.

And I'm not here at your expense.

I can't help being me, but I am me being redeemed. I am me being sanctified. It is my desire to draw others into this incredible love that I am discovering. So let me be me. Let me feel and let me live. Let this earthen vessel spill over and shatter and disclose the "real" of my God.

Because that is why I am here, why I have any reason to say anything to anyone. Why I have anything to say at all.

Growing *in* grace is like living in the most beautiful, wonderful room in the world.

There is light pouring through the windows, sparkling everywhere during the day, and at night, the glow of candles offers safety and comfort. Every color of the rainbow is here, and the darkness lives in another universe.

The love of God is everywhere, moving in and out and surrounding and filling. I am His child and this room of life is my home. Jesus is here at my side, and I breathe this love.

I'm inviting you in.


Christy said...

I loved reading this post...very you, but also room for me to be me. I thought it was beautiful.

Beloved of God said...

i love this.. it speaks totally to where i am at today. i never thought i'd get here.. to this place of grace and peace.. but here i am and you have articulated this place so beautifully when talking about your own journey. thank you.

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