40 Days Lighter – Day 18: Room for Improvement

I had a humbling experience today.

Today was the start of my on ground seminary course for the spring semester, and I will tell you in no uncertain terms – I was NOT happy about having to take it. An Introductory course focused mostly on writing and research (at least that’s what I gathered from the description), was redundant for me at this point. I have an MBA, I write all the time, I know how to do research, and I’m pretty good in the editing department. 

I know – it sounds so arrogant – but in truth, this was my attitude going into the class.

I sat down, ready to “endure” 6 hours of what I  was sure would be a repeat of everything I’ve learned in my college career about writing.

I should have known better. 

Since starting my seminary journey last fall, I haven’t had a single course, no matter the subject, that hasn’t challenged me to my core. Every. Single. Class. Has lead to some “Aha!” moment about who I am, where I’m going in life, what I believe, and what on earth I should be doing with these gifts of mine.

I would soon find out, today’s class would be no different. 

Everything seemed to line up with my initial assessment of the course, until the professor spoke these words that bypassed my pride, sidestepped my assumptions, leaped over my intellect, and slammed straight into spirit.

“You are the people who will be publishing to share the Christian faith. And I have to prepare you for it!”

Arrested by this revelation of the deeper purpose of our time together, and yanked from my self-appointed pedestal, I had no other choice but to assume the posture of the eager student – humble and hungry to learn what I did not know.

In that moment, I let go of my “expertise”, my “experience”, and my “credentials” to free myself to receive new transformational insight on writing well. 

And the floodgates opened. 

As I opted to move from spectator to eager note taker, I found such profound truth in the simplicity of what was being taught – seeing the mechanics of academic writing with new eyes.

How many times have we been in the place to receive something new, something of great value to our purpose and call, yet because it appears simplistic and familiar, we treat it with disdain, missing the possibility of a transformational moment?

It is my sincere prayer that I won’t make this mistake again. I aim to see the world around me with new eyes, fresh perspective, understanding that even in the simple things, God is working His greater purpose out in my life.

This time, I needed to let go of “me”, so that I could receive more from Him!

 

Exposing Shame

Exposing Shame

Shame became my companion…

So secretly and subtily that I didn’t even see him coming. Like that acquaintance that kind of tags along quietly with a group of friends, whose presence goes almost unnoticed until everyone else has left the party.

And in this case, it was in the moment that I had lost hold of my joy, misplaced my peace, had a falling out with both logic and reason, couldn’t find self esteem, value or self worth, and beauty simply refused to be my friend, that I saw him. Sitting there, as smug as can be, waiting to “console” me.

I knew that I should have dismissed him right then and there, because once he wraps his arms around you, it can be so hard to make him let go. But I ignored the knowing, and as he leaned close, I could smell his stale, stagnant breath, laden with the missteps and mistakes of so many years of my life. He parted his lips and began to speak, spewing out accusatory and condemning thoughts and ideas, that he then worked tirelessly to make me believe were my own.

The thing about shame is that he attempts to secure a permanent place with you by introducing you to his best friend – Fear of Exposure. He keeps you feeling vulnerable and naked by threatening to reveal all of your hidden faults and failures to anyone who will listen. He intimidates you into allowing him to remain your companion by convincing you that if the rest of the world knew the truth about you, he is the only one who would still want you.

But today I am exposing Shame. I am calling him out as the fraud he attempts to make me believe that I am.

Shame’s agenda is to alienate and assassinate your most productive, meaningful and wholesome relationships in the present by keeping you handcuffed, as long as possible, to your past, no matter how long ago it was. He steals opportunities before they even materialize. He locks doors before you even arrive. He works overtime to make sure that you Never. Even. Try.

You can recognize his voice because he always lies to you, tells you the opposite of the Word of God:

“Hey, you know all of that nonsense about being a new creature, that song you love to sing about all things being made new?? Yup, not true – You’re still that same person that messed up all those years ago.”

“And you know how you love to throw around this idea that God has forgiven and forgotten – Yeah, He still sees you the same way, and He’s just waiting for you to fail…again.”

“Don’t let me get started on this ridiculous notion of ‘no condemnation’ – You’re still guilty and still unworthy.”

Lies. Lies that directly oppose God’s Word and His promises to us.

In John 8:34-36, Jesus responds to the questioning of the Jews about what He meant by stating that the truth would make them free with the following:

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, everyone who practices sin habitually is a slave of sin. Now the slave does not remain in a household forever; the son [of the master] does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free” (John 8:34-36 AMP).

Shame attempts to convince us that the freedom found in belief in the Son of God and repentance from sin, is merely a token an act designed to assuage our emotions, and quiet our conscience. But the freedom that Jesus gives, not only releases us from our past, and delivers us into righteous living in the present, but it also removes the hand, silences the voice, and reverses the impact of shame in our lives, from this very moment and into the future.

They say that in an argument, the person who is the most wrong is the one who yells the loudest. Shame screams our past and our faults and our failures at us because he has nothing new to say or do to us. If we successfully separate our hope for the future from the pain of our past, shame ultimately loses all power. And because he has no control over the future, he strives to keep us paralyzed in the only place that we have true power to make change – the present

So today, I’m exposing Shame. I’m calling him out, and I’m casting him out. Because my future is too bright, too important, too full of potential, to allow a mere shadow of the past to keep me from embracing the place that God has for me.

And yours is too!

In the (Momentary) Silence – My Pledge

When I was in elementary school, every day had the same routine: go to your seat, put your pencils and notebooks in your desk, stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance, and then there would be a moment of silence, prior to taking our seats. Back then, in my limited youthful understanding, this was a mundane, ritualistic observance, repeated out of sheer habit on my part, and tradition on the part of those who required our participation. Now as an adult, I am well aware that we were being asked to pause to remember, and appreciate the freedoms afforded to us by the sacrifices of others in our country. Yet even as I sit here, awake in the silence of my home while my son and husband slumber, my mind has brought me back to this seemingly insignificant part of my childhood existence – and with good reason.

Consider this:  What if each day, before we ran full steam ahead into the challenges that awaited us, we took a moment to settle ourselves, organize our thoughts, make a pledge to ourselves to be the best WE can be, and participated in a moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made to get us to this point? Would this change the way we approach our day, or tackle the obstacles that come our way? The answer to that question is an emphatic YES!

With each new dawn we are blessed to see, we have a brand new opportunity to forge a new path for ourselves. And no, this won’t require making major, life-altering changes for everyone. For some of us, it is simply a challenge to take stock of where we have been, thoughtfully contemplate our current position in life, and give ourselves a little breathing room to determine our next steps.

So as this new day has begun, join me in making this promise:

 “I will start each day by pausing to quiet my mind, heart and spirit; organizing my thoughts to identify the positive and eliminate the negative; pledging to be the ME that I desire to be; and observing a moment of silence, saying goodbye to the old, expressing appreciation for the present journey, and wholeheartedly embracing the new.”

Peace & Love,

Andrea