Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Love Revealed

Deep within 
I welcomed Him in 
Into my brokenness  
Jesus broke through the darkness

Over the last couple of years I have struggled with my faith and healing journey.  A number of years ago I became a participant of this inner healing prayer ministry.  I eventually joined the team volunteering my time to join others on their healing journey.  I look back at that time with much gratitude for a number of reasons. During my time as a participant I had so many encounters with God.  It was such a different concept from what I had previously believed.  I had placed such a heavy emphasis on being the Christian that was expected of me. That quickly became an exhausting place.  I had to be strong, I couldn't be weak or reveal any weakness.  Vulnerability was something to reject and I had this false belief that suggested the less I struggled and the less I experienced any form of temptation towards sin would somehow speak to the level of maturity achieved.  Most importantly, I couldn't admit to any kind of struggle towards same sex attraction. I had to be anything but gay.  All of this only increased the toxic shame I had experienced in my life as well as this intensified growing hatred of myself.  I couldn't be a person in need and yet I recognized I had needs and I hated being a needy person.  I had to be self-sufficient in every way possible and yet I could never achieve what I felt people expected of me.  To admit failure is to admit weakness and it would expose me in ways I didn't want to be exposed.  At least that is what I had believed. Needless to say, when I became increasingly aware of this growing conflict between my faith and sexuality I couldn't admit it and it seemed to have been a defining marker in my faith journey.  For a time I could repress it all and pretend it wasn't there. The end result was that I had become so disconnected with my feelings and emotions I didn't experience any form of attraction and lived as this asexual person.  The problem with this, that when you cut yourself off from perceived or real negative emotions you cut yourself off from all emotion. Not only would you not feel sadness but you wouldn't feel any happiness or joy.  The only feeling I felt if I felt anything at all would be anger.  When I became a participant of this inner healing prayer ministry I quickly realized that maturity was the ability to admit weakness, to admit struggle, and come to believe that vulnerability was good even if it meant being hurt and actually feeling the pain and sting of rejection.  

When I first began to share with people I thought were my friends I faced a lot of rejection and was hurt by many within my church community.  It was perhaps one of the loneliest and darkest of all places I had ever walked through.  I wasn't involved in the gay community.  I was involved in the church community.  So... if I didn't have the gay community and didn't have the church community... what community did I belong to?  I continued to attend church.  I smiled at people as I greeted them Sunday morning.  I sang on the worship team and every morning I entered the church with a smile on my face but increasingly I'd leave church Sunday morning feeling even more alone and would hurt more leaving church then when I had first arrived. My experience at that church wasn't all bad.  At times God intervened.  It would be enough for me to press through it all and hang in there just a little longer.  I remember one experience I had.  There was this couple attending the church.  He was a retired Pastor turned bus driver and she was the former ministers wife.  This church was a relatively small church in a small town where most people knew me.  I was painfully aware of the the grief I had felt in the loss of my mother which seemed unbearable.  My mother had passed away when I was 2 and so I grieved not knowing her.  I was siting by myself in prayer.  I prayed, "God, I know you are the father to the fatherless but who are you to the motherless? I don't remember the voice of my mother, I don't remember her embrace, so God... in my grief, in my loss, in my suffering, in my very legitimate needs who are you to me?"  I was praying this silently in my heart.  As I sat quietly by myself the former ministers wife siting behind me reached over and wrapped her arms around me so tight I felt like I was inside this little cocoon.  She held on tight and to the point where it had become awkward but I remember this time so vividly because it was a turning point for me.  Though feeling this uncomfortable sense of awkwardness I sat there until there came this ability to receive whatever the Lord wanted to give to me at that particular moment.  She just held on until she sensed released to let go.  The awkwardness of it all also came at moment of silence during the worship service.  It was quiet yet the church was packed full.  The worship band stopped playing their instruments and the place grew silent.  I sat there with this lady I didn't even know with her arms wrapped around me so tight I could barely breath.  It was then, at that moment I sensed God say to me, "this is who I am to the motherless and this is a mother's embrace," I began to cry uncontrollably. I broke through the silence.  I cried so aloud I disturbed everybody in the church but didn't care because this was a God moment.  

The church is great at being spiritual sisters and brothers but few have the ability to become spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers and yet what we need most in the church are men and women willing to convey the love of God as spiritual mothers and fathers.  

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon this song from the Vertical Worship Band. I had this song on repeat as I began to write this blog post. There is more I could write and I probably will expand on this in my next blog post but for now I'll leave you with this song.

How Great is the Love

Thank you for the way that you love us
How you love us
Thank you for the way you have made us
We were created for your pleasure, for your presence,
For the glory of your name
Thank you for the way that you love us

Jesus, faithful King 
Lord, with grateful hearts we sing
How great is the love 
How great is the love
Of our Saviour 
The weight of your cross, the curse of my shame
You carried it all and you rose from the grave
How great is the love, how great is the love 
Of our Saviour

Thank you for the grace that has saved us
You forgave us
Thank you for the way you have freed us, 
We have been ransomed
We've been rescued 
We've been purchased 
with the price of your own life
Thank you for the way that you love us

I'm convinced that all healing begins with the foundation of being loved and knowing your loved. With that knowing of being loved we have the freedom to become the women and men we're called into.

It is from that place security in our identity as children of God begins to grow.  Without that foundation we'll never be able to break free from the toxic shame that had controlled our lives.  

From that place of being secure and in that kind of genuine love received we're less likely to bend into our insecurities and the false identity we've created of ourselves and it's also from that place we're able to then look outward to love others authentically (as our true self), and love others well in the process.   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Myth Buster #2: Being single is the cause of loneliness

I often hear people who are single complain about how lonely they feel and say marriage would fix their feelings of loneliness. I understand because it's actually quite common for single people to go through feelings of loneliness and it's easy to blame feelings of loneliness on being single.  Over the years I've also observed a trend of people going from one dating relationship to another just because they don't want to be "alone" while believing it is better to date somebody, anybody, even if that means getting involved in a bad or unhealthy relationship or caught up in a situation where morals and convictions are compromised.  I don't know much but what I do know is that if getting involved in a relationship with somebody causes me to compromise my moral and ethical convictions then that person is not the person for me.  However, if that person encourages and inspires me towards my moral and ethical convictions they're a keeper.  I also know that if I think marriage is the cure for my feelings of loneliness I set that marriage up for failure and if I get married to show "how much God has brought healing into my life" and "how mature I am" then not only am I not mature enough yet but I'd be getting married for all the wrong reasons.  

So if being single is not the cause of our loneliness ... what is? 

We haven't yet realized the gift of solitude.  Learning the art of solitude vs being alone is a lot easier for the introvert than it is for the extrovert but here's a challenge for all of you who are extroverts.  I mean, many introverts compromise on some of our boundaries when we make the choice to go out and socialize when we would really just like to go home and read a book. Yet the extrovert will rarely spend time in solitude.  For some of us the idea of going out to see a movie alone or hanging out at a coffee shop with a book instead of with a good friend seems torturous.  The idea here is to learn how to enjoy the simple things in life while in solitude.  I think, for some, this would be a hard transition to make but not impossible.  So I have a couple of challenges and if you're just crazy enough perhaps you'll take me up on this challenge. 

Can't remember the last time you were single? 

If you can't remember the last time you were single and you know the person you are dating is not right for you then maybe it's a good time to set a year apart to be single.  Yes, you heard right. I challenge you to be single for a period of one year.  The challenge is not just to be single for that one year but to dedicate that year for personal growth while learning the art of solitude. What do I mean by the art of solitude? Find a good book to read, commit to reading one chapter of that book each day.  That isn't too difficult when most books these days a chapter is like 4 pages. Find places to go like your favorite coffee shop or the beach or your favorite chair at home and read that chapter.  Being in solitude doesn't mean that you have to remove yourself from civilization and it doesn't even have to mean ignoring the people around you either.  It doesn't have to be reading a book.  You can just as well set out to go watch a movie by yourself.  I know, what a concept it is to spend a night out at the movie theatre by yourself.

Tired if being alone? 

The greatest challenge to experiencing joy in life is learning to be content in whatever season we find ourselves in.  Learning to be content in a season of singleness can be difficult but not impossible.  I'm not talking about the lowering of expectations or withdrawing from community altogether and becoming like a hermit but chances are if you are tired of being alone you kinda do feel like a hermit. Set out to do one activity one day a week.  Take a book with you and go to your favorite coffee shop and strike up a conversation with the stranger siting close by or set out to go watch a movie at the movie theatre by yourself.  Find an activity you enjoy and allow all your senses to take in the environment around you.  Find a group of people and socialize.  A good mix of both men and women would be best.  If you have the finances get yourself a pet like a dog.  Dogs can be a good companion to have and when you don't have anybody at home greeting you when you walk in after a difficult day at work you can bet your dog will come running.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Myth Buster #1: Single people are irresponsible

I find it interesting that the only people who say that single people don't have any responsibilities are usually people who are married with children.  Of course, they remember simpler times.  They remember when they were single, going out partying, and doing whatever they wanted.  Now that they're married they are held accountable to their spouse and they have children to take care of.  They can't just decide to spend a Friday night going dancing at the clubs and even if they wanted to go out socializing with a few friends they'd have to find a sitter and that's not always a possibility.  Setting up play dates for their children makes things a little easier because at least you do some socializing but usually that socializing is centered around their children. In fact, it's a rarity you find married people socializing with single people so it's not surprising to me when you find a whole lot of people with a whole lot of assumptions about single people... because they remember their life before they were married.  Responsibilities change as we get older.  For some, these responsibilities include married life with children.  Responsibilities change when the season in your life changes.  Changed responsibilities doesn't always equate zero responsibility.  It is true that when you're single and in your early 20's maybe your only responsibility is to your education and that part time job you have to pay for your education.  Married life is supposed to signify getting rooted in community, settling down and having a family, and no longer living life solo while the single life is supposed to signify freedom and doing whatever you want whenever you want, not having any roots in community, and living life solo.  

It is true that currently the season in my life I don't have much to be responsible for.  I have my job and ongoing education to be responsible for.  I have my personal life to be responsible for.  I am accountable to my own actions and behaviours.  I have the responsibility to pay my rent and my bills on time.  I am accountable to my employer and supervisors at work.  I am accountable to patients who walk into my first aid room, those who's life may very well depend on my first aid treatment, and to the people who certified me to be in that position and so I am accountable to keep my skills up to date so that I can give the  best level care possible.  Being rooted in community does look different for the single person vs those who are married but that doesn't mean a single person is not rooted in community and as I've just stated above a single person will have responsibilities.  It just looks different.  Even if I wanted to, it's not that easy to just pack up my bags and leave town whenever I want.  

Over the years I have noticed there are people who are happy in their singleness and making every opportunity to take advantage of that season in their life.  Then there are those who are not happy, not satisfied, not content, and very depressed and blame everything on being single.  They say being single is the reason for their unhappiness, loneliness, and depression.  They are the ones who usually say, if they were married all of their problems would just go away and they would be happy.  Your happiness is not dependent upon other people and the problems you have today will not change magically when married.  In fact, a lot of the problems that exists when single unless dealt with, will most likely follow you into marriage which will only make your marriage that much more complicated.  Not dealing with your problems before marriage may even be what will slowly break apart your marriage and lead your marriage to the growing statistics on failed marriages. Your problems going into marriage then become not just your problem but a problem that also becomes your spouses because your life is no longer just your life.  

Those who are happy or at least content in their singleness are doing something different from those who are not content.  Here are 4 things these single people do differently:

1. Make a home for yourself

This doesn't mean that going on all kinds of adventures is now off limits.  It just means there is a central place that you live from.  It means, that when you are done travelling the world there is a place to go home to, a place you can kick up your feet and find rest and say, ah ... I'm home, home sweet home.  Make a home for yourself and be creative!  There are many ways you can create a home for yourself and you don't have to wait for marriage to invest in a condo or a townhouse.  It takes a certain kind of income and financial security in order to invest in a condo but not impossible. 

2. Invest in your career

There are advantages when being single.  You have greater freedom to make choices.  Why not use that freedom to make good choices.  You have more time to invest in your career and in your education.  You can go out every night and party, that is your choice.  However, the other choice is to invest in your career. Many single people today are making the choice to invest in their career and if there is time and money available they'll go out on a Friday night and party with friends.  

3. Get a pet: a dog or a cat makes for good companionship

For the most part cats are independent.  You can give them water, fill their bowl up with food and train them to use the kitty litter.  They don't need affection and do relatively fine alone.  A dog however, they need community, they need and crave affection, they do not do well when left alone.  When you are single and come home to an empty apartment you can feel alone but after a difficult day at work being greeted by a dog who's happy to see you it's guaranteed the day just got a little better.  In fact, many people view their pets as family and have adopted their pet as their child.  You have to keep them fed, you have to provide them with nurture, you can't neglect your pet.  You have to take them out for walks and heck socialize with other pet owners.  You have to provide your pet with a home.  In some ways taking your dog to the dog park is like setting up play dates for your dog.  I know it sounds silly but any pet owner who's single knows what I'm talking about.  I don't fancy turning myself into the cat lady so when the time is right I'm getting myself one dog.  

4. Get rooted in community 

Join a social club or get involved with a bible study group.  Meet with friends on a regular basis and don't live life solo.  You can live life solo but we need community.  And here's part of the myth buster.  Single people may not always feel like the third wheel.  I find it's only the married people who feel the single person feel like the third wheel.  If a married couple invites a single person to their home occasionally for dinner it adds to the enjoyment in life.  Occasionally I'll go have dinner with my brother and his family or my sister and her family. I'll enjoy the company of my brother and my sisters and all my nieces and nephews.  Find ways to get rooted in community and keep in touch with your family.

Myth buster #1: Single people are irresponsible 

People will say that single people don't have any responsibility or don't know how to take on responsibility. That may be true for some but not for every person who's single.  If you have a job, if you have to pay the bills and pay for rent, and if you have to care of a pet you can't just leave them alone for any length of time. All of these are responsibilities.  Being single does not equate lack of responsibility or lack of being able to take on responsibility. It's also true that people who are married could very well be irresponsible and not capable of taking on responsibility. The point here, is that marriage does not mean that one is more capable of taking on responsibility than somebody who's single.  It also doesn't mean that married people can't be irresponsible themselves as if marriage proves they have greater capacity to take on responsibility than somebody who's single.  What it does mean is that responsibilities are different.  The responsibilities are different and looks different.  The fact of life is, some people are responsible and some irresponsible. Marriage doesn't prove one's capacity for taking on responsibility... what you do with your life whether single or married children or no children will prove ones capacity for taking on responsibility.