Our goal is to become fully human

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”[1]

~Theodore Roosevelt

What really counts, what really matters, what makes all the difference in life satisfaction is about what you decide to do with your one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver paraphrase). No matter how much others might disagree with your perspective, it is yours and no one can or should try to take ownership of your life from you.

My prayer is that we continue to encourage one another to enter the arena and fight for a life of purpose. Dare to believe that you can and are worth doing hard things so that you might enjoy a life of meaning. You are capable and uniquely qualified to bear the image of God. You are made, and it was a custom job, to show up in this world as a person of virtue. Fully human.

“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

~Matthew 10:39, The Message


[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7-it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts-not-the-man

Boundaries can change as we grow

When I work a spiritual program, there are so many decisions I do NOT have to bother considering. I do not have to decide whether I am going to try to manipulate my husband to make me happy - I am not. My feelings are my responsibility. I can move on from asking him to make me happy and ask instead - what do I need and want? I practice the habit of thinking about what I need to do to take responsibility for my own well-being. Do I need a meeting? A long walk? A nap? A snack? Coffee and a date night with my hubby? Of course, part of my work can include saying to my husband, “Hey, I am feeling disconnected from you. I would like a date night. What about you?”

He then considers his own boundaries and can reply, “Me too!” or “I am too tired for a date night tonight; can we just order take-out and go to bed early and snuggle?” I do not have the right to violate his preferences in order to make me feel better. On the other hand, I also know that it is not my job to make him happy either! If he wants a date night too we are happy campers and off we go to play tennis, see a movie or eat out. If he’s too tired my response can be, “Ok! Cool!” With healthy boundaries I also have the capacity to respectfully circle back around later. If I still feel disconnected after we eat pizza and fall asleep at 8:30 pm like two old people, I can say, “Can we revisit the conversation about feeling disconnected? Pizza and our bedtime ritual that resembles a toddler’s isn’t helping me connect with you!”

The ultimate walls and fences that do not move (unless I come to greater understanding of God and his ways that result in an adjustment) are the ways of living and loving that God says are acceptable (mercy, love, forgiveness, respect, kindness, etc.) versus those that are not acceptable (revenge, manipulation, hatred, rage, meanness, selfishness, etc.). These skills were not learned in a vacuum. They are developing as I grow in my conscious contact with the God of my understanding. As my understanding grows, my boundaries adjust accordingly.

“The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”

~ John 3:34-36, The Message


Boundaries in light of God's Will

One of the consequences of living by a set of unhealthy principles is boundary confusion and mayhem.  A boundary is an invisible and essential fence that is supposed to guard our personal space.  Every human has them.  They are flexible and can be adjusted as situations arise.  I have a very thick boundary around my relationship with someone who has a history of verbally abusing me.  I have a very thin and pliable boundary in relationship to my husband who is kind and respectful and loving toward me.  There are two kinds of walls - one is internal and the other is external.  The external wall serves to protect us physically and sexually.  The internal wall protects us intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  In both situations we have a responsibility to share with others our boundaries so that they can respect them.  We have a responsibility to respond according to what they teach us about their willingness to respect our stated boundary.  Perhaps most important of all - we are absolutely responsible for deciding and living by our boundary preferences.  We cannot make someone else respect our boundaries BUT we can make decisions that keep our boundaries intact.

For whatever reason, Substance Use Disorder disrupts the boundary system of the suffering person, their family, and their friends, but a host of other issues also disrupt boundaries.  Some folks choose to build a fortress to protect themselves from the chaos that the active addiction creates.  Others are so freaked out by the chaos that they completely abandon their walls and crash through the walls of the person they love who is suffering in a misguided attempt to save them.  They are overly helpful. In the biz we call that enmeshment and enabling.  Healthy boundaries help us choose whether we will say yes or no to others; they also help us graciously receive a yes or no response from others.  As we heal and grow, we begin the necessary work of repairing the walls.  One of the “simple” but hard to apply aspects of our work is learning the discipline of using our boundaries based on God’s will, not our own.  We turn to his word for guidance.  We learn, for example, that no matter how desperate we feel it is not okay to treat others disrespectfully.  We have a boundary of respect for self and others BECAUSE God says that this is how we treat one another.  There are countless examples of re-framing our boundaries and beliefs as a result of leaning into the work of understanding how God says we are created to live and be in the world.  This is the journey of a lifetime.

 

But me he caught—reached all the way

    from sky to sea; he pulled me out

Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,

    the void in which I was drowning.

They hit me when I was down,

    but God stuck by me.

He stood me up on a wide-open field;

    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!  

~Psalm 18:16-19, The Message

God's Boundaries

One question we all wrestle over is the legitimate confusion we have about suffering.  I know this guy who is a really bad dude; he hurts others and one would think that the justice system would stop his reign of terror.  It hasn’t happened yet! He keeps getting released from jail with a long list of instructions to follow, all of which he ignores. Even his grandmother (and you know how we Memes are about our grandbabies!!!) is scared of him.  I got a ticket for an illegal U-turn one time and was sure they were going to lock me up for life. What’s up with this guy?

 

 

I know this other sweet, loving family who seem targeted for suffering.  They’ve lost three family members in six months, their young child was diagnosed with cancer, their house burned down and the primary breadwinner in the family lost her job due to downsizing.  

 

When these crazy dynamics collide our community often asks what’s up with God.  Where is he? Why doesn’t he intervene? Why does he send suffering on the righteous?  Why don’t the bad guys get what they deserve? These are great questions and I get itchy with anticipation for the great discussions we have because of our community’s willingness to wrestle what they honestly wonder about God and his ways.

 

In the next few days we are going to unpack a few things.  But first, here’s a scripture for consideration:

 

What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

 

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them - the God we bless, the God who blesses US.  

~ Romans 1, The Message

 

Point one:  God has boundaries.  He hasn’t a codependent bone in his body.  He doesn’t interrupt the consequences of our choices like a helicopter parent.  But what he does quite consistently is this: he blesses us. However we parse out our thoughts on what God is or is not up to, I put a stake in the ground and raise a flag to remind me of this one true thing:  God made us and he blesses us. No matter what my eyes can see, I must interpret it through this filter: God made us and he blesses us. We can have all sorts of feelings about how life is shaking out for us and those we love, but this one thing we must factor into the narrative:  God made us and he blesses us. How have you either remembered or forgotten this when you are trying to make sense of suffering?

To be continued….