Friday, April 12, 2013

Dependence Does Not Equal Weakness

This post has been on my heart for a little over a month now.  I keep coming back to it, tweaking it, adding to it, and praying about what I am supposed to say.  Very rarely do things get deleted, but things just seem to keep being added.  I am hopeful an encouraging message will finally be posted today.

For most of my life I have been described as strong-willed, independent, hard-headed, and just a tad bit stubborn.  In my teenage years, I loved a good "debate."  I viewed people that needed things as weak, or soft, definitely not something I viewed as positive.  I never thought about circumstances causing a person to feel weak on the inside, but look incredibly strong to everyone else. 

The last ten years of my life have worn me down, caused me pain, and broken me from the inside out.  I have learned that the life you planned isn't guaranteed, happiness is not determined by what others do for you, and that independence is wildly overrated.  I have learned that to be strong doesn't mean winning, nor does being dependent mean you aren't strong. 

Although I married altogether way too young, I learned some of my most important lessons and beliefs during that marriage that was too long in some ways and not nearly long enough in other ways.  I depended upon another person for so long that I began to view dependence as the ultimate sign of "loser status."  I felt helpless, hopeless and completely broken.  I felt weak, exhausted and tired of feeling worthless and lost in my situation. I longed to feel independent and on top of my life again.  So, when I separated and finally divorced, independence was what I craved most.

Dependence is defined ( first as the state of relying on or needing someone or something for aid, support or the like.  The second definition is reliance; confidence; trust.  When I read this a few days ago (this post has been going around and around in my head for a few days), I was kinda stunned.  You see, the first definition makes a person sound weak, needy, unable to function without said object or person.  The second definition is what I have grown to realize is an underlying source of strength. 

My road over the last 5 years has had more downs than ups.  In the last 5 years, I have experienced unimaginable stresses that ate at my heart, mind and soul.  Aside from taking care of the girls, money was always my biggest worry.  First, there was never enough.  Second, what there was, was typically spent on another's alcohol problem.  One night clearly stands out in my mind.  One of the girls (I am pretty sure it was Cassie) was sick, and had a high fever.   Not only did I have a newborn to take care of, but two other kids who needed my attention,  one of which was sick.  To top that off, my homework load at that point was overwhelming (oh, how I wish I had homework like those days now!).  I was stressed, I was anxious, I was so tired.  All I wanted to do was give up.  I asked my then husband to pick up Motrin on the way back home.  He said he had no money.  Frustrated, I believed him, but had to pick up the phone to call family and see if someone could bring me the medicine.  I had to depend on someone who had no responsibility to me or my child, and pay for medicine because we just didn't have it.  When my husband walked in with a case of beer under his arm, I remember losing it.  I look back at that night and know I said things I didn't mean.  Looking back, I remember knowing what would happen after I lost it, knowing I would probably be "at fault" for the beer he so desperately needed.  And absolutely hating myself for 1) not being able to provide for my child what she needed, 2) not being able to give my husband what he needed, and 3) not being strong enough to stop the drinking and verbal attacks from happening inside my home, especially three sets of little eyes around witnessing some of it.  This night was a turning point in my walk with God.  I didn't know it then, but I know it without a doubt then.  Even then, in the midst of chaos and confusion and such incredible sadness and frustration, He truly was working all things for my good. 

I realized then that sometimes you have to depend on someone other than yourself to give you the things you most desperately need.  That night, it was a bottle of ibuprofen.  Several months ago, it was a bag of clothes.  Not big things, but necessary things.  I remember I felt so utterly weak in the situation, and remember calling upon His name to deliver me from the hurt, from the fear, from the absolute frustration that my life was.  Not but a few weeks later came a promise of deliverance.  I learned how to closely depend upon God for my happiness and joy.  And, most days, I failed miserably.  When I wasn't focusing on how to make the promise happen as soon as possible, I was focusing on how to change the person causing my pain and frustration, rather than focusing on God to change me.  Fast forward about a year, and I had finally been given release from my marriage.  I was angry.  Let me be clear, I was angry not only with myself for failing and being so weak and needy, but also my ex-husband, but honestly, I was mostly angry with God.  Because, I had learned to depend on Him for the promise to be fulfilled.   I waited.  I prayed.  I believed.  I trusted.  One night, shortly after the separation took place, I remember crying out to God.  Anger and despair completely consumed me.  I had been hurt by the man I married.  I had been hurt by the God I served. 

That night, God spoke to my hurt, to my heart, speaking life over the situation.  He told me my promise was going to be fulfilled, but that my miracle had already happened, that it had never been for my ex-husband, but instead, for me.  I look back to that time, so many years ago.  I feel sadness, that the miracle I wanted to happen (healing in my marriage) never happened, and never will.  I do not miss or regret the abuse or the overwhelming chaos.  I miss the hope of what was to come. 

Funny enough, I am in the middle of the "Believing God" Bible study by Beth Moore.  I have never felt more challenged to believe God for the rest of His promise over me to be fulfilled.  Lol, and this presents new challenges I didn't even know I would encounter.  This week, I have come face to face with the reality that I have accepted defeat.  I have accepted that God promised me something, but that I don't believe I am worth enough for the promise to actually happen.  I believe He can do what He says He can do, but have a hard time knowing I am worth enough for Him to do it for me.  I want to take control of the situation and be independent, not needing to rely on Him for anything.  Some days, it feels easier to just do it on my own than without Him.  To just do it my way and have it happen already.  But, you know, on second thought, I think I already did that once. And, it didn't really work out all that well...

My problem lies within that.  God wants me to rely only on Him.  Not on my friends, not on my kids, not on my church.  He wants me.  He wants me to pursue Him, not because of what He can do, but for who He is - my Savior, my Redeemer, the Restorer of my soul.  He knows my struggles, He knows my failures, because He already planned the way out of them.  But, without trusting in Him and looking to Him for the answer, I am lost.  My "plan B" was His "plan A" all along.  He knew it would take me being broken and battered so that I would hit the place in my life I would be okay with being dependent upon Him.  He doesn't see that as weakness at all, but strength of the best kind. 

I don't know why I had to wait until now to remember these things.  I don't know when all of my promises will be revealed.  But, I do know until then, I can sit back and wait for Him to move.  I do know that when I am weak, He makes me strong.  My independence is such incredible weakness in His sight, and that He just wants me to sit back and rest against Him.  I will be strong.  I will be dependent.  And it will all be okay.  I am finally beginning to realize my failures are only in my head.  My failures might just be the beginning of the success in His plan for me.  So, if you read with me earlier in the week, thanks for the encouragement.  The sun is finally coming out...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Failure is an Option

I really want to write.  You know, complain, vent, cry, and just let it all get ugly and out.  I am a strong-willed, hard-headed person.  And, those are my good qualities.  I am also a wannabe perfectionist, and a do-gooder by instinct.  And tonight, there are a few things that pretty much slapped me upside the head. 

First revelation of the night: I want life to go according to my plans.  While I want to be in God's will, and do what He wants me to do, I really just want Him to go alongside of my plans, and agree that I want what He wants and he wants what I want and that we are both on the same page and its all gonna be just perfect.  Except, I am not God.  Nor do I want to be God.  So, yeah, this whole according to my plans thing isn't really working well for me, because while I seriously want His will for my life, I struggle letting go of my plans for my life so I can let His plans take over.  He ordained these days, but am I walking them the way He first planned?  And, if I am not walking in the ways He planned, do I really want to?  Talk about scary.  Freeing, yes, but scary too. 

Second revelation: I have a hard time accepting defeat.  I have a hard time allowing failure to even be an option.  My motto has always been failure (or imperfections or a slight change in plans or ... and the list sadly keeps going) is not ever an option.  It isn't something I like to think about, it isn't something I do well.  Failure is weakness.  Weakness is not something I like to think about, because I like to feel strong, with a nothing-can-stop-me sort of attitude.  On top of that, if there is the risk of failing, I just don't start.  Failure is just not an option.

And, oh yeah, revelation three: God's sense of humor is just not funny sometimes.  I see His hand over me, showing my insanely multiplying flaws.  The last three days, I have done nothing but beat the crap out of myself.  I failed with this, I failed with that.  I don't even want to try that, because, honestly, I will fail it too.  I have never wanted to just quit everything so bad as how I feel right now.  And yet, I sat in the midst of frustration and despair and had women tell me I was good.  That I was doing things right.  And, the only thought that kept going through my mind was, "Are you serious?  Do you see who you are talking to???"  I mean, thank God they don't read some of the prayers in my book lately.  Talk about doubt and fear and insecurity.  It is all written out on those pages.  But for some crazy reason, I keep going.  Because, deep down, I really want to believe them.  I want to quiet that voice that keeps telling me I am a failure that isn't worthy of anyone's love.  I want to believe that God really has a purpose and a plan for all of the craziness I am walking through right now. 

To be totally transparent, I have really been struggling spiritually over the last few weeks.  I pray.  But do I really hear Him?  I seek, but only for what I want to find.  And, my Bible study, I can't seem to get into it.  I feel like crap.  I am miserable.  I am failing at every single thing I am doing.  And I hate it.  I stood in church, and was pretty much spanked.  I prayed, and crazy enough, heard from God almost immediately.  I simply prayed that I would wait as long as it took.  That I was waiting, in the middle of praise and worship.  His reply was painful.  Cause, you know, He let me know He is waiting for me, too.  He is waiting for me to desperately need Him, above anything else.  He is waiting for me to seek Him first, instead of under my breath muttering or calling anyone who will listen.  He is waiting for me to just sit back and talk to Him, about the good, the bad, this nasty ugly cry thing that keeps happening,  to communicate about my silly doubts and fears and worries and exhaustion.  He wants me to fully pursue Him.  And, then clears my schedule so I have plenty of time to do so.  No excuses, right?  Except, that one...

Reality hit me square in the face tonight.  I don't fully seek God because I am terrified of what His plans might lead me into.  That failure is possible, and that my course might go the complete opposite direction from what I want.  I step out, and the challenges seem so incredibly huge.  He gives me strength for this challenge, or those kind words, but when will He decide I am not worth the effort anymore?  My Bible study hit home tonight.  What if I fail God?  What do I do then?  What if I screw up so bad that He decides I am not worth it, just like almost every other man  in my life has?  What happens then? 

I could not get out of that building with all those smiling happy faces fast enough tonight.  And, if you are reading this and you were there, sorry.  This big ugly cry thing was getting ready to go down, and well, I don't let most people see me break down.  So, I am sorry.  Anyway, Beth Moore hit it.  I may fail.  I may screw up.  I mean, I could really, totally, completely fail God.  Big time.  Or worse, do something that makes someone else fail God.  But does that change the way He feels for me?  And, if it does, what do I do, then?

My head and mind say, "Of course not, Cil!  His love for you is NOT performance based."  But, my heart is a little shattered.  My ego is a little bruised and battered.  I am not where I was.  And no man or woman can take me back there.  But, my heart still wonders whether or not I am fully capable of being truly loved by a man, including God.  I know I will put this out there tonight, the sun will come out tomorrow, and I will regret it.  I will feel embarrassed that I am allowing thoughts of doubt and negativity to creep in.  I will feel shame.  But, at some point, I am going to have to choose and stand behind one of a few things.

Option A: I can choose to believe that I am a worthless woman, who will never deserve love, will never be worth loving, and will fail at every relationship she will ever have.  This cycle could go on forever and ever, with this woman sinking deeper and deeper into negativity.  And, truly, who wants to be around this girl? 

Option B: I can choose to believe that I am worth something , but only when I am succeeding, not failing, when I am everything to everyone, and everyone loves me because of what I can do for them.  This cycle will cause this girl to be used and abused time and time again, because she will never realize how unconditional God's love is.

or, Option C:  This girl can embrace the promise she received tonight.  The one that said God will not fail me, regardless of how often I fail Him.  And, oh, that is a hard one to believe.  I see my faults.  I see my hurts, my longings, my doubts.  I look at myself and do not feel worth it.  I don't see what He or anyone else sees.  But when He looks at my face, He sees a different creation, washed clean by the blood of Christ.  One that struggles often, but refuses to quit.  One that puts forth her best effort, and sometimes just goes about it the wrong way.  And, when I choose to not believe all of that, I am choosing to believe Christ's sacrifice for me just wasn't quite good enough. 

You see, I have heard it all before.  I sang, "Jesus Loves Me," more than once (or a hundred times, probably) as a child.  I tell myself all the time that He loves me just the same as He always has, and that it will never run out.  I remind myself that no actions of my own are going to make Him love me more.  Even when I fail.  Even when I cry.  Even when I bolt because the thought of losing it in front of a room full of women feels like the worst predicament of my life. 

Honestly, I know that I am not alone in my battles.  I know that in order for me to fully believe, I need help.  I need God's Word moving through my heart all day long.  And I know that when it is, I don't doubt for a second how much He loves or cares for me, or that His promise is made good in His time, and He knows when it will be perfect for me.  I have to stop trying to fulfill this God-given promise in my ways and remember He doesn't need my help.  He just needs me to seek Him.  I am going to challenge myself this week to speak life-giving words over myself.  Praying this hits someone else, as it did me.  Really, for two reasons: 1) Because I don't want to be alone; and 2) Because if you are struggling, too, you probably need to know you are just as loved as I am.