I have a long list of worries I need to shed NOW! The word responsibility is a balloon banner over my head with strings attached to each of my concerns. With hands cramping from their tight grip, occasionally one string escapes my grasp, and I scramble to grab it without letting go of the others. If I let them all go, does this mean I’m not a responsible person?
But near burnout, I wish I could let them all go. I want to be a kid again where I’m free to explore, and my meals miraculously appear on the table, and play is my most serious activity.
Suddenly the wind catches the balloons, and up, up, up, into the air I go. But now I’m in trouble if let go. My muscles are burning. I want off this ride!
“Look up,” says Jesus. I see He’s holding the responsibility banner, and I’m on a puppet stage. He’s responsible for the “responsible.” That takes the pressure off decision-making, but I’m still not satisfied. He created me with free will, and I don’t want to be a puppet. I don’t want His job as director of the play, nor can I be in the audience. What am I supposed to do?
“Let go of the strings,” He says. Willing to surrender at last, I unclench my fists and drop my arms. I do not fall. I do not collapse. I let go of worry and make life-giving choices.
When a person is ready to face his pain, it’s like giving a thirsty man a drink. But when there’s resistance, you can stand there all day with the cup in your hand, and he won’t reach out to take it. Telling a story sometimes helps when I’m trying to persuade someone to seek healing for emotional wounds.
I have also used stories in an inner healing prayer session with a client with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). When there’s resistance, a story can soften the bud and open the flower.
The disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables.
He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. Matthew 13:11-13 (The Message)
Jesus’ solution (according to The Message) was to tell stories. Those who wanted to hear truth “got it.” Those who didn’t, well, maybe it piqued their curiosity a little. In any case, it got their attention and got them to listen. Which part of the sermon do we remember the longest? The story of course! Even a daydreaming child in the pew will sit up and take notice when a story is told.
While processing some grief issues this week over another person’s unreceptive heart, God told me to write a story to present to this person to see if it would open a discussion. And it did.
The Bible instructs us to keep our vows; however, some vows are unhealthy and must be broken “I’ll never do that again!” or “I’ll build a wall to protect my heart” can be detrimental to our healing journey.
When I was in junior high, my ambition was to become a missionary nurse—just like my mom. But one day, one of my teachers whom I highly respected asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I told him, he replied, “Well, you should consider becoming a doctor instead. You have good enough grades.”
To please my teacher, for the next six years I informed everyone I was going to become a missionary doctor, and I began to look into med schools. Very quickly, I realized I really had no passion or even the slightest interest in studying the medical field. And so I floundered, trying to figure out who I was. Consequently, I made a vow never to become a counselor. I did not want to be responsible for guiding someone incorrectly in their life choices. How ironic that I am now pursuing a Master’s in Pastoral Counseling!
Today I read:
Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish andcounsel andinstruct one another also. (Romans 15:14 Amp, Emphasis added):
Note the order:
First comes goodness
Then comes knowledge
And finally comes the act of counseling.
Character precedes knowledge. Practice comes before proficiency. I have no business counseling others if I don’t begin with character; and without training, counseling others can be dangerous. In Job 38:2 God asks, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” I wonder if I’ll make a good counselor?
A 2023 Update. Technically, I kept my vow since I became in inner healing prayer minister instead of a counselor. However, breaking that vow would have been acceptable as it was made from a place of emotion and wrong motives. Better not to make an unhealthy vow or promise than to have to break it later.
Prejudice is an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge. (Webster’s Dictionary)
From my 2005 Journal.
I had a dream last night in which a professor told me I had an issue with prejudice. I denied it—but part of me recognizes the truth.
Prejudice has a negative connotation, but prejudice simply means “pre-judging.” We live most of life that way. Before I sit in a chair, I pre-judge that it will hold me up. Why? Because I’ve had prior knowledge and experience with chairs. What happens when we pre-judge people, however? The problem comes when we attribute one characteristic to an entire race, not allowing for individual differences.
What’s the relationship between pre-judging, expectations, and anticipation? When does it become negative, wrong, sinful, unproductive, or damaging? In a court of law, to pre-judge is to declare guilty or not guilty without prior or proper trial. What would be the opposite? No judgment at all? Or . . . judgment after the fact instead of before? How is it possible to avoid pre-judgment of people?
Isn’t prejudice merely a trigger? Reduced to that, it would be easy to detect and feel one’s own prejudice—because there is emotion involved. There are or can be good triggers, can’t there? Or is that suspect too? Pre-judging what Christmas will be like can set you up for disappointment.
A 2022 Perspective: I went through a lengthy period where the Lord worked on my heart about my judgmental attitude. Obviously, I’m not perfect in this area, but looking back, I can see how very far I’ve come.
I’m not sure where or when in my spiritual journey (from the pulpit?) I picked up the notion that we were supposed to strive to do the list of Fruits of the Spirit. “Look over this list,” they’d say. “Which one do you lack? Work at this one today. Be more (“more” is unquantifiable) loving, put on a joyful countenance, exercise patience or self-control.” Shame for failing in any area became a natural by-product of this teaching.
But one day I began to ponder the nature of fruit, and then, thankfully, I heard (from the pulpit?) a correct interpretation of this verse. Spiritual fruit is not a to-do list but rather a by-product, a result of abiding in the Spirit, of being attached to the vine, of mind renewal. I can choose to exhibit the fruits by determination and self-effort, and that is not a bad thing. I can choose not to punch my friend in the face if I’m mad at her. But how much easier and freeing to have these qualities flow out of me naturally, graciously, without effort as a result of inner healing prayer and mind renewal. Even “abiding in the vine” is no longer a grit-my-teeth, work-at-it endeavor. Rather, it is a natural by-product of connecting all parts of my heart to the Lord.
At my missionary boarding school, I was taught it was a sin to hate. Therefore, if we hated someone, we’d piously say, “Oh, I don’t hate her; I just strongly dislike her!” As if we didn’t say the words, we were not guilty of the deed.
This week the Spirit of God confronted my self-righteousness with a memory where I carried hatred in my heart. As I released that emotion, years of bondage slipped away, and I felt free. Nobody but Jesus knew that sin was there. And nobody but Jesus and the person who prayed with me for deliverance knows it’s gone. But will others sense a change in me? I don’t know. I feel the change, and I know that something is different.
Going for an Oral Interpretation major in college, I once performed a reading with a powerful visual about standing atop a cliff, desperately trying to stop people from going over the edge (presumably to hell). The point was to urge believers to evangelize. I even know one missionary who went overseas because of this visual. But all I ever felt was guilt, helplessness, and powerlessness.
As I sit with my emotions, I notice there are danger signs at the edge of the cliff. In fact, there are warning signs before the danger signs. I’m praying desperately for people to open their eyes and take notice, and if I take my eyes off the scene, I’ll miss someone. Still I feel helpless. I have to DO something. If I sit down to rest, I’ll get stampeded! Where do responsibility and trust intersect?
Jesus says, “Back away from the edge of the cliff, find a bench, sit there and wait. Offer cold drinks and sandwiches to the weary travelers. Invite; don’t panic. Invite them to rest with me and talk. Tell them about the cliff and encourage them to share the news with the other travelers on their path. And if while I’m talking to one, and another passes by, I can just wave and smile. And if I need to sleep for a while, I can ask Jesus (or an angel) to tap me on the shoulder when I need to wake up and pay attention. Whew! That feels better.
Journal 2005. I am an introvert who knows I need people, but some people emit negative energy like a giant, pulsating sore thumb, throbbing like a plucked low bass guitar string.
I remember a former classmate whose aura left little barbs, fingers of electric shock that kept poking and jabbing me.
When I asked for God’s help, He gave me an enveloping coat of Teflon—not to keep the person out, but so I could get close to the person without getting zapped. The droning noise got mingled with a heavenly symphony of praise, and together we looked and listened for other sounds around us. I guess I needed another focus other than myself.
My heart hurts when my children are not at peace, and my soul longs for growth and godliness for each of us. I’m weighed down by a stone that is too heavy to carry, and I drop this boulder on someone’s foot. The thought that I might have hurt someone, even inadvertently, is heinous to me. I feel helpless to make it right because, even if I apologize, and even if they forgive me, the damage is done, and it’s my fault. I feel regret and sorrow.
When I sin deliberately and someone gets hurt, I am accountable for the damage. If I sin inadvertently or unintentionally, God knows my heart. He can turn the stone into flower petals. And if I seek reconciliation and I repent and confess my part in the hurt, He can restore and bless and soften the blow.
O, Lord, bring rose petals to my family today. Open our eyes to see truth and give us courage to act upon it. Amen.