Ready to graduate but not enough life credits?
As I stood in the bathroom one overcast Seattle morning getting ready to head out for the day, I heard these words in my spirit, “How are you feeling?” Well to answer truthfully, I was overwhelmed. It was a mind-bending time in my life and everything in those moments felt unsecure, unsafe and unfamiliar. I didn’t know how to answer at first with it being such a broad question so I started to think about different areas of my life (work, family, church, hobbies) and I was going to answer in the usual way however God wasn't asking me how I was feeling about what I "do" but how I was feeling about "who I am". I was sure God was asking me how “I” spiritually and personally was doing and if I was being honest with myself and Him, it wasn’t all good. Let me give you some backdrop, over the last few years I'd gone through an excruciating time, one problem after the other seemed to plague my life, I kind of felt like I belonged in the story of Job in the bible, maybe a cousin or close friend of the family. I was absolutely grateful but I could not deny that the environment I called life hadn’t been exactly as fulfilling or kind as I would have liked it to be. I was ready to close the door on this chapter, to graduate from this grade already! What I was about to learn was, sometimes we want to graduate from life's situations but we are shy of the credits God knows we need in order to have our name called to walk across the stage.
The thing that seemed to be plaguing me the most was housing, everywhere I’d decided to rent some weird thing came up and I had to move, I started to feel like a vagabond, no joke! The most current debacle, in 2018, my landlord let me know that he did not want to renew my lease on the rental house I was living in and to boot he reminded that I needed to get out every month (I am not exaggerating) until the lease was up even though I was a stellar tenant. I took care of his property like I owned it and paid my rent on time. Even when it was time to do the closing walk through he didn’t show up and sent a total stranger to inspect the house. The stranger spoke in a completely different language and finally said to me straight face, “No deposit back.” I left the house in better condition than when I received it so I tried hard not to blow a fuse. I started to feel like I was being punked and Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out at any moment. As I calmed down, God helped me through the moment and it all worked out in my favor. Even when things aren't going your way God can and will step in to be a present help in times of trouble.
After this, I’d decided to buy a house- I wanted to experience the investment and security of homeownership for once in my life. If I was going to move again, I wanted to own something of my own so I proceeded in that direction only to have the deal fall through at the last minute and three months later have to start the process all over again ending with another failed attempt, grueling to say the least. I will tell you this- make sure all of your bills are paid on time and make sure that if you divorce you check your credit before, during and after your divorce because it can affect your closing cost if your ex-spouse has unpaid debt hanging around on your credit report. I was exhausted mentally and spiritually I mean I was ready to throw my sucker in the dirt and keep it pushing! I was agitated to say the least and I was wondering if it would ever let up. I didn’t know it then but four months later I would be laid off from my job, talking about feeling like you were being held back a grade. Adding to my plate, my kids were coming into young adulthood so absolutely everything I said was wrong, no seriously, if I said, “Please put the milk in the fridge so it won’t go bad” I would hear in return something like, “Oh Mom, it won’t go bad” followed by the latest FDA statistic and then I would end up going to put the milk in the refrigerator with an abysmal sigh that could be decoded as “Lord please help me not to go to jail today or any other day!” During these times I would try to stay diplomatic and calm because over the last three years our lives had been pretty tumultuous due to my divorce, work woes and moving around quite a bit, once even out of the state. Working through traumatic events takes time, expertise, prayer, growth, forgiveness and a whole lot of compassion. I was also going through a time of self-discovery, which included maturing and re-invention in just about every area of my life -restoration is appealing once it’s done but the process ain’t pretty. To boot, the security I wanted so badly God knew I needed from Him and not a house.
Fast forward to the present- one day I decided to fast (abstain from food), meditate and pray, to humble my soul and still the merry-go round that felt like my life. Fasting and prayer are God’s gifts to us to help to discipline our fleshly appetites and make us more sensitive to God's voice in any situation. I got in prayer and talked some honest talk with God. Now don’t get me wrong, I was very grateful overall and uber-grateful (yes, just made that word up) for the connections He’d been sending my way, these folks were loving, kind, genuine with stellar standards, moved with intent and purpose and God allowed me to grace their path, oh, how grateful I was to fellowship and glean from these God-lovers! When you are going through tough time’s people can have a tendency to want to be your great "physician" but you will have to decide who the safe voices will be in your life and who you can hold yourself accountable to during times of evolving. When God starts to bring new quality connections in your life He is challenging you and giving you an idea of where He wants to take you.
To the point, we can pour out our heart to God, believe me He can take on our doubts, fears and frustrations, I mean after all He is our heavenly Father. He tells us in His Word to cast our care upon Him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) the word cast has the connotation of “throwing upon” which reminds me of how we can take off a garment and toss it in the laundry basket which is exactly what God wants us to do with the cares of life. Why does He want us to do that? I believe because He knows that we are not designed to be overloaded with anxiety especially with problems we cannot solve on our own or have any control over and because let’s be honest we don’t handle it well. I believe our anxiousness proves we are living too far in the future, not present enough to receive the help we truly need. I was not okay- because I was carrying anxiety like winter coat and that is why God was asking me, "How are you doing?" He wanted me to graduate but knew I needed a few more credits. When God asks you a question, it is because He is ready to school you.
Medical News Today, announced, “persistent anxiety can interfere with a person's well-being." I am speaking of typical anxiety defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." Deeper anxiety disorders are usually treated by medical doctors so if you are being treated please continue to do so. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders represent the most common mental illness in the United States and affect 40 million adults in the country every year. Anxiety can have a significant effect on the body, and long-term anxiety increases the risk of developing chronic physical conditions. The medical community suspects that anxiety develops in the amygdala, an area of the brain that manages emotional responses. When a person becomes anxious, stressed, or frightened, the brain sends signals to other parts of the body. The signals communicate that the body should prepare to fight or flee.
If we are always fighting and fleeing due to anxiety when do we have peace and when do we solve problems? Well, not very often if this is a way of life- which is why I know for sure why God said, “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours] (Philippians 4:6-7).”
In this life, we can and will feel unusual anxiety, it’s a part of life but we are commanded not to live in anxiety because on the other side of casting and praying there is an abiding supernatural peace from God and anointing to solve problems. This God-given peace invokes wholeness (opposite of feeling torn or scattered) that only comes from laying down an over-loaded thought life by faith. Obtaining this kind of peace will require courage to throw your full dependence on the One who is all-knowing, hears our cries and will answer our prayers. Martin Luther said, “So the victorious antagonist of anxiety is trust and the only way to turn gnawing care out of my heart and life is to usher God into it and to keep Him resolutely in it!” If it is great enough to make me anxious it is great enough to for me to talk to God about-no prayer is too small. I am so glad that God is a God of the details, He is concerned about every detail of our lives and He is moved to action by our weaknesses.
After letting it all out in times of prayer and process, I was impressed with a few things in my spirit that helped to declutter my soul and answer the thoughts/feelings of “I don’t understand”:
· Be grateful-Genuine gratitude fosters a lifestyle of contentment without foregoing great expectations in future moves of God.
· Facing mountains with the right identity- Facing mountains with the correct identity and proper perspective is a necessity. God revealed to me in prayer that I’d been facing problems in my humanity alone (which was unnecessary and sapping my strength) when I should be facing them in the power of who I am in Christ. We are to come to God, clothed in Christ Jesus and His finished works because that is how God sees us- so we too need the discipline of seeing ourselves this way. Specifically, from Romans 8 verse 37 (AMPC) “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.” So this told me that in this life I would face all sorts of problems, kind of like I mentioned earlier, yet my identity was still a conqueror, more than a conqueror to be exact. I was also humbled to know that the victories I would attain would be fought from the place of Christ’s victory on the cross and they only come about through the all-encompassing love of Jesus Christ with all victory solely ascribed to Him alone. Our job is to understand this knowledge and worship our way through the process as God's super conquerors! God’s love for us looks like Christ living his victory through us as believers and for us it means we are actively doing what the Lord prefers, by His power and direction, so you are more than how you feel at any given moment.
· We are deeply loved and victorious-Let’s be real, sometimes life doesn’t make sense! If we are honest, we can grow weary in our faith and not necessarily agree with the route God is taking us to get to the promise. In fact, God’s methods can feel unorthodox, downright unfair and confusing when you are going through tough valleys in life. He recently reminded me that although I didn’t agree with His method, His love was constant, if there were any other way for me to “grow” through it he would employ that strategy. A good point to remember here is that we will have a barrage of facts to declutter in life at any given time however God’s truth trumps all facts and makes us free(John 8:32). Think about it, could God get you to change and grow by offering you everything you wanted? The answer is no, because as humans we tend to be more selfish than selfless. In strong contrast to the sufferings we face we are more than conquerers now and eternally because we are so deeply loved by Jesus Christ, in other words His sacrificial love seals our victory (past, present, future). So even though you will have to walk through the valley you do nothing but win (whoa!), We win no matter what problem we face because of our identity as “super-conqueror”. It is with our super-conqueror mindset that we are to approach God, prayer, problems, losses and wins. Next time you go into prayer, ask God, “so what are we winning today?” There was a litany of sufferings in Romans 8 and because of Christ’s love for us; we can have the attitude from Romans 8:39 (Message), “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
God impressed upon me to face situations in the correct way with the heightened belief system that I wasn’t just anybody, but that Christ was living His victory through me and most importantly I had access to an inheritance that was gained by Jesus Christ sacrifice for me on Calvary. I was led to some more verses, this time it was Galatians 3:25-29 and here is what I believe he was trying to show me:
Approach is everything and I was approaching the situation as I did with many relationships in the past, (including parental, friendships, romantic and with God) through the lens of being let down, rejected, hurt, betrayed, unfaithful or disappointed. When we approach relationships like this we lose the potential and the fullness of the relationship because-
1. We are not completely healed in area
2. We are afraid and do not trust the other individuals either due to our own emotional baggage or proven mistreatment on the behalf of other individuals
3. We have not gained the courage it takes to be vulnerable again in healthy relationships
4. We have not forgiven God, ourselves and others
· Unsafe soul systems-I was approaching God afraid and in a deeply rooted system from the past that was hiding in my soul- This “soul-ar” system showed up as fear. The fear was that God did not love me enough to show up when I needed Him most, that He was somehow going to leave me in this situation rejected, embarrassed and not having my needs met because that is what I’d experienced with others in authority in my life. I also felt this way because I’d let myself down and I felt like a failure in my own eyes. The situations were pointing to the truth that I needed to let go of the shame I was experiencing. Shame was preventing me from seeing myself, my position in Christ and my situation from the correct vantage point. I felt I trusted Him with every ounce of my being but with shame in the way I couldn’t properly receive (my credits). The truth is God wants to reward us for our trust in Him as only a good Father would (Matthew 7:11) the truth is He wants to show up for us more than we know. In order for him to do this we need to shift positions from pecking to soaring as sons/daughter of God. Shame is an internal cloak on our soul that render symptoms in our life that we wear and they look and feel like inadequacy, feeling unloved, unworthy and regretful to name a few. God does not want us living in this negative sense of shame because shame does not make a difference between an action and self. So, with shame, "bad" behavior is not separate from a "bad" self as it is with feelings of guilt. When we live with shame we don’t want people to “see” us fully which prevents us from living authentically either because of something we’ve done or something that has been done to us and we need God’s deliverance to be free. God wants to see you and He wants you to be seen (live authentically and free from sin and shame) God wants shame off of you not on you! Shame was never to be a part of our experience and I know this because Genesis 2:25 says, “The two of them, the man and his wife, were naked, but they felt no shame (Message version). I believe our intended purpose(as it still is) was to live a life of honor clothed in God’s glory,with God and each other unashamedly walking in purpose but mankind lost this honor by way of sin. Thankfully, honor has been restored through our Ultimate covering in Christ Jesus(Galatians 3:27). God’s desire is that shame is uprooted in our lives so that we can live in unhindered fellowship with him and others while experiencing full acceptance (of self) and living a life of purpose. It wasn't all good, I wasn't ready to graduate because in addition to being anxious I had had on the wrong clothes!
· The Law and Grace-God was teaching me by using the examples of the law and grace noted in the Word of God. The law represented Mosaic law given to point out man’s transgressions so mankind could take note of how far they were from God’s mark. When God prescribed the law through Moses he never intended it to be a permanent solution for mankind, it was brought about to increase transgression to define sin and it was not the promise i.e. Jesus Christ. With humans trying to meet this mark outside of Jesus Christ it shows up in our lives like striving for self-achievement apart from God seeking to earn God’s favor instead of receiving it by faith. He also wanted me to know that he had taken up residence with His permanent place and solution (grace) in my life and I was his child, whether I owned a house or not! The truth is I didn’t need to approach God afraid, like He was a temporary part of my life or a temporary solution(the law) instead He wanted me to know I could trust Him, He wanted me to know He was all in (on my behalf) and I could trust His word with expectancy. He was solidifying in my soul that He was not going to abandon me like others had; He was not going to fail me like I’d failed myself so many times. He was dissolving the idea of abandonment and congealing the idea that He would walk with me through the valley in order to see that the mindset of striving for His attention, affection, support, protection and provision was worked out of my head and out of my approach to Him! He tells us in Hebrews 4:16 (AMPC) to come boldly to His throne of Grace where we can find help- Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right time.
· Possibly flunking-I was approaching God with the do’s and don’ts that I’d completed instead of with a grace-approach that has already been paid for by Jesus Christ. I was constantly questioning why I wasn’t seeing results and saying things like, “I am doing everything I know to do, I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong, what’s wrong God?” My prayers were centered on me instead of His solution because I was in an uncomfortable place. I was talking more about what I was doing, what I wanted, what was wrong with me and incorrectly looking for outward results. God on the other hand was working within me to get soul-centered results. He was setting Galatians 3:26 in my soul, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” He was teaching me His grace approach to parenting because naturally speaking he knew I felt like a transient! He was reminding me of my blood-bought position and identity in Him and how to approach Him in son-ship with my situations. I was approaching them in frustration like a child with no parent and a child who was not in covenant with Him none the less. A good reminder: even as we grow in the Lord we can still hold on to some of our child-like ways. In Christ, we are free to be yoked with Him in ease (this takes trust and maturity) and instead sometimes we choose the yoke of bondage because it’s more familiar. Now that we have embraced Christ as Savior, we do not need the law as our tutor (before anyone writes me yes I believe we need to read the whole bible- old and new testaments). We could never keep the law which is why we needed a Savior, the law can diagnose our sin but it cannot prescribe a solution for sin and I was imprisoning myself trying to keep a list of my do’s and don’ts. I needed to trust further in the work of Christ so that I could be free in the current situation and eternally. I was clothed with Christ and that is how I was to approach God’s throne- in the perfection of Christ not in my fear of abandonment. Did you get that? I wonder how fast our prayers would be answered if we approached God clothed in Christ instead of clothed in doubt, shame or fear? Answered prayer is God’s will- so we first should ask for the revelation (Gods mind) and God’s decision on things so that we can waste less time and see more results.
· Compassionate covenant-My frustrations were even more abated when I read about God’s compassion and lifestyle design for Abram in Genesis 15- Abram had a lot of things but he didn’t have a child of His own (an heir) and he wanted one-bad; so God being a good Father made Him a promise that he would have a son and many other descendants according to His promise and sealed it with a covenant (promise or pledge). I belonged to God in Christ Jesus, so that also meant that I was righteous like Abram because I believed God, not because of my long list of do’s and don’ts that I presented in prayer. God heard Abrams heart for an heir, then showed compassion on Him and made him a pre-ordained promise that was sealed by presence of His covenant (unbreakable promise). Wow! As it was with Abram, it is so with us today, God's promises to us are "Yes and Amen" in Christ.
· I am an heir-God was showing me His character as He did Abram, and the result of this was I was moved from inadequacy and frustration in prayer to requesting to know God more. I wanted to know more about the faithfulness of His character, His presence and His works (blessings) toward His people so that I could approach him with reverence and accuracy. And let’s be clear I wanted to see and experience the mighty works of God so that I could testify, “Let the Lord be magnified who takes pleasure in the prosperity of his saints!” He was very clear with Abram, when He noted (paraphrase Genesis 15: 6-18), “I brought you out of Ur to give you this land of promise. And though your people will be enslaved, they will come out with great possession and I will deal with their slave masters. In addition, you will have a good long life and your descendants will make it to the land I have promised. What is an heir? An heir is a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person's death. According to Galatians 3:29 because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ by faith we are Abrahams seed and with that comes being an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. As believers we are blessed among all the families of the earth! Another result from this lesson was that God was not just listening to my concerns, He was paying attention and He was going to do something about each of my prayers by revealing a promise. His history proved that I could be assured He would do something specific for me because He chose me. The “light” switch came on, He was teaching me to approach him as someone who accepted me and wanted desperately to bless me- like a hungry baby, I needed to calm down long enough to receive the provision that was already waiting from a doting, loving, providing parent. He was teaching me Ephesians 3:20 “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us (Message). God was using this awful place in my life to not only to teach me His identity but also provide an exodus, a new and better beginning! A graduation.
So, how was I doing over a period of five months after He'd asked the question? I was good, honestly good; it was like my soul had a make-over! All of that wresting yielded a change in my nature, new knowledge, new courage, new purpose blueprints and blessings! Once your mind changes your situation changes -I was relieved that I could lean on God and receive the plan for my departure out of the situations that felt like they were never ending. I had peace that God was not going to leave me in my situation or otherwise, I was even more confident that my problems were not a match for my identity or my position in Christ.
You see the lion’s share of these situations was not simply the temporal needs I was praying about, the lion’s share was both the temporal needs/desires and the internal sanctification and transformation in my identity. The lion's share is the biggest and the best portion.The lion's share for me is walking in step with God and it is the peace of mind in God that we receive when we superimpose His word over our situations. The lion's share is the maturity/self-control we obtain by yielding, it's faith on fire, it's new courage, its preceding favor, hearing Him clearly, and it's obedience to will of God that uncovers his will in our lives- plus the stuff. The lion's share was getting back to back speaking engagements not having been in my place a week.The lion's share is me putting a key in a door and somewhere safe to lay my head, somewhere to create and work purposefully, to enjoy family because I know who is with me. I love my new place, the view is amazing surrounded by nature and most times I look out the patio door I smile because I feel like God is right outside my window.
We can trust that God’s goals for us are good and the goal will always be metamorphosis: to go from quickly crawling caterpillar to beautifully soaring butterfly. I was just fine (In my Mary J. Blige voice) and I was good because I passed one of life’s final exams only by the grace (kindness and enablement) of God, because I embraced the maturation process. We will always be good in God when we say yes to His plan, His plan will always yield “better” than whatever we had in mind, His rewards wealthier than anything we could have experienced on our own and his presence richer than any relationship we could ever encounter. The sense of harmony you feel after graduating from a destiny detour is hard to explain so I will simply agree with God's word, "After you have suffered a while the God of all grace, (who imparts His blessing and favor) who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, strengthen, and establish you (making you what you ought to be) 1 Peter 5:10.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful especially when you belong to God.
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