For the longest time, perhaps as long as I can remember, my usual go to for conflict resolution has been shoot first and ask questions later, and when that doesn’t work burn the bridges and walk away. And for whatever reason that has served me thus far. I can think of some horrific events in my life where those strategies have indeed served me well.
But now I’m 32, and I’m a husband and a father, I am a leader in my community and these methods aren’t going to cut it anymore.
You see, for nearly my entire adult life I’ve been living under a shadow, and not unjustly I’d say. The expectations I’ve placed on myself (and on others) are so heavily based upon this cloud: I need to be the best before I can be accepted; I need to prove that I am worthy of your adoration and praise so I can live in peace without your approval. If I can just be holy enough or spiritual enough then God will accept me, when I don’t need God’s help, then I’ll have met His standard. I’ve been asking God to help me live my life without His help. This has not served me well.
You can see the paradox that this situation causes, and you might think I’d have seen it all a long time ago; I wish I had. But it’s only really been in the last few months that it’s come to light. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve been given the grace to see this for myself, not for the lack of trying from others to graciously show me, or rather help me to see it for myself. The chief among these gracious and loving people of course is my wife.
But I wonder, perhaps I am finally ready to see it for myself. Perhaps now things are in place where this fortress I have built for myself can finally be dismantled from the inside out.
I must be honest, I’m scared. I’m confronting negative patterns of behaviour and thinking. So often (daily) I dwell on negative things and assume the worst. So often I have situations (often entirely fabricated) play over and over again in my head like a movie on repeat. I’ve been meditating on the bad and reinforcing a mindset that is based on fear, not love, for at least the last 14 years. And perhaps one of the scariest things is that I don’t know how to change these things. And with that statement you can see how early this journey is (I am still relying on me). I am currently facing a situation where my old MO is not actually bad or wrong, to leave the situation is not necessarily wrong I believe, but I know it’s not the better option, I can choose to push in to this with God and see some change.
I have been wondering how this mindset has affected my marriage, my children, my family, my friends, those I work with, those I have met along the way… I wonder if they could see how far I have come that they would allow me some kind of concession, if they could see the weight I carry would they be lining up for life advice? It doesn’t matter because those people cannot see those things, I’ve hidden them for the most part because strong people don’t have massive failures in their lives… And these weights and distance I have come, I have only managed to do so because of God’s grace and mercy. There are doors that have opened for me that should be shut, there are opportunities I have taken a hold of that should never have been within my reach. I need to stop pretending that this has been my doing.
At church this week we had a guest speaker, Shannon Riley, come and share. It was a great message (link here for iTunes or alternatively search for “Beyond Church Australia” in you favourite podcast app/website, believe it or not there are 2 Beyond Churches, our logo looks like mountains). In it he very candidly shared about some of the hardships and trials he had faced. The point is he spoke at one point about letting God turn a test into a testimony and turn a mess into a message. I think it’s time I allow myself to stop hiding and use my life as His canvas, not my own anymore.
I’ve been looking to other people for my value, and it has brought hurt and pain to cover my hurt and pain. I’ve been striving to be the best to prove I am more than my failures, and it’s only proven I cannot achieve this.
It’s time to forgive myself, just as Jesus has done. It’s time to let Holy Spirit be my strength just as He has been for countless believers for millennia. It’s time to be OK with not being the best, but sure of my mission, sure of who I am, who God says I am. It’s time to dismantle the prison I built to keep myself “safe”.
I realise that I actually must do some work here, but I’m not going to do it by myself anymore. It would be easy (and not wrong) to blame the institutions and cultures of the world in which we live for some of these failings but God is bigger than all of those things. I hope one day He’ll use me to help others dismantle their own prisons with His help.
I don’t know how long it will take but I don’t want to give up. For starters I am going to stop asking God to help me become the best version of myself without Him, and start asking for Him to be enough. I am going to have faith that God has got this, and more than that, He has got me.