Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Outsider No More!

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ"
Ephesians 2:13
A few years ago I was a volunteer youth leader. I had been there for awhile so when  women would join the volunteer staff they would often come and ask me question. On more than one occasion I had women tell me they weren't sure they could do this type of ministry. When I asked why, it was never ever about the kids. They thought they were awesome! It was because when they walked into the room, all of the insecurities they had felt in junior high and high school came flooding back. I could so relate to them.  
I now work in support groups and many of the women, including myself think we have gotten over our "stuff" and then all of a sudden find ourselves in a situation that triggers deep feelings of our pasts. Sometimes the trigger reminds us of when we were new moms. Sometimes it reminds us of something we experienced in college. Sometimes it reminds us of something we experienced even earlier like high school, junior high, grade  school, or even preschool years. 
I recently experienced such a trigger. I am not a young thing and have grown children and grandchildren old enough to hold intelligent conversations and all of a sudden I had strong feelings a child would have. The feelings of wanting to be special to someone, to belong to an inner circle, to be a teacher's pet, to be valued, for someone to be glad they saw me. You know the feelings, don't you? Nobody was mistreating me, it was all stuff that was going on inside and caused me to shut down and to not be able to relate, which made me feel even more isolated. And a few times when I did try to express myself, I felt like no one got it. I have talked to enough women to know that many of them struggle with the same thing. Some express it a bit differently. Some say they are afraid of what others might think. Some say they feel like they often don't feel like they fit in. Some state that they are outsiders when no one else sees them that way.  
I have the privilege of picking up my grandsons once a week. One is a gregarious and outgoing guy who will probably seldom experience loneliness and if he does he will quickly initiate connection and it will dissipate. The other is a precious little Eeyore who will pull back if he is feeling a bit down and wait until someone asks him to play. If they don't he will have a very painful day. I so have his temperament and totally get where he is coming from when it happens and am thankful his parents are so wise in how they seek to understand and work with both boys.
But it is really hard when we are adults and these same feelings get triggered. The triggers expose a deep neediness that at our age seems abnormal because it causes emotional memories to rise up and it is as if that little child we were is once again an invisible child or a mute child, clamoring for attention, clamoring to be heard, clamoring to be loved, or clamoring for someone to notice. To be an adult and feel like an invisible, silenced child is hard. It exposes such a deep longings and hurt, causing us to want to run. So, we run, we isolate, we use drugs or alcohol, or we succumb to eating disorders, depression, social anxieties disorders, or simply lash out. If the trigger is strong enough, we vow to never put ourselves in that situation again. Sadly, with these feelings often comes shame which keeps us from talking about them. 
I have thought long and hard about where these feelings might come from. It could be because a child grew up in a home where parents played favorites or maybe a child grew up in a large family and there wasn't enough time and energy to give each child the attention needed. Maybe a child grew up in a home where an addiction or some kind of abuse was present and was zapping the energy out of the family. Maybe a parent was ill or absent. Maybe a child had experiences at church or at school in which they were either ostracized or bullied. Maybe a child had a learning disability that drew negative attention and caused shame. Maybe a child wasn't athletic and was always the last child chosen for a team. Maybe a child experienced trauma that made her feel different from other children, causing her to believe she couldn't relate to other kids. It could even be that a child perceived everyone else as fitting in better than her. Maybe it was true or maybe it was the child's perception. 
I think I have finally figured out for myself where the feelings came from. There was a starting point and then several different hurtful things that happened over the years that exposed those feelings again and each time I stuffed them down, making them more intense. I have learned to look at those feelings with curiosity which helps to figure out the root.
Now, that I understand where they came from I am really more interested in how I can silence those needy feelings. Today as I have contemplated those feelings I had a picture in my head of a little kid standing at the fence on the playground. A bunch of kids are playing and her little hands are intertwined in the fence, her little face pressed up against the chain links and everyone inside the fence is happy playing together. Everything inside of the little girl is crying out, "Please notice me!" But she is silent, believing no one wees her and wants her. It could just as easily been a woman walking into a new Bible study for the first time and sitting in the midst of a group of strangers where everyone knows everyone and seeing their history and feeling hurt because it triggers what she left behind at a previous church. It could just as easily been a woman wanting her husband to notice her and ask her how her day has gone. It could just as easily been a woman struggling with the loss of child or a best friend who wishes someone would ask her how she is really doing today with the pain. Hurts can make us feel isolated. And sometimes we tend to let our feelings become our truth and then we begin to live out that truth, sabotaging our connections with both God and other humans. 
But, the truth found in the verse above is true, not what we believe. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, we are absolutely and radically loved. We are no longer little children, on the outside of the fence looking in, powerless and speechless. When we accepted Christ, He took us from the kingdom of this world and placed us in His kingdom. He made us joint heirs with Christ. He calls us children. He calls us chosen. He calls us beloved. He calls us HIS!
The way out of those feelings is for all of us to choose to set aside shame and talk about them with safe people who understand the powers of the enemy who wants us to remain broken little children caught up in his lies. Te power of a lie power is broken only when we bring the lies to the light by speaking with others who won't shame us, but will allow us to process the lie until we come back to the truth of who we are in Christ. We know those things in our heads if we know the Word, but very often stressful situations we begin to respond emotionally out of old beliefs. Beliefs that were ingrained so deeply that we may not even be aware that we have them. Our work as believers is to take every thought captive and to take that truth from our head and replace the lies we began to believe as children, lies that are at our core.  
If we believe the truth of what God says about us, we will begin to react differently to the situations we are in. We will no longer carry ourselves as ragamuffins longing to be noticed, heard, or loved. We will carry ourselves as women who know we are--radically and unconditionally loved by the God, the God of the Universe, by the King of kings, by the God who chose to be an Abba--a daddy--to those who come to Him by faith. Maybe then we will be the ones who speak encouragement into our spouses' hearts. We will be the ones who enter a group curious about the others there and curious about why God had our paths cross. We will be the ones not missing a chance to connect at deep levels.  
This is an important part of what it means to be working out our salvation. It is an important part of taking our thoughts captive and allowing God's truth to heal wounded hearts and to transform painful emotions into joy. In God's economy, there is no chain link fence! In God's economy, when we experience deep painful neediness, we are welcomed with open arms, with joy, with glorious smile, and a heavenly love song sung by the Savior. We are never an interruption, never unwanted, never unloved, and never a bother. By faith, we are all beloved children. His character itself is love and it is eternal and there is enough to go around. It never ever runs out, doesn't require perfection, and doesn't require hard work. It simply requires we embrace His truth by faith--truth that tells each one of us that we are outsiders no more! 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!