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We received this story from one of our readers. It truly touched us deeply and wished to share it's raw and unaltered content as is. For the protection of everyone involved, this article has been shared anonymously.
"THEREFORE, AS GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE, HOLY AND DEARLY LOVED, CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, GENTLENESS AND PATIENCE." // Colossians 3:12
Seeing Jesus as the loving healing Saviour and God as the loving father, seems like an easy enough statement; but for me it has been one of the hardest things to accept. It’s remarkable how your past and the way you perceive things can hinder your ability to receive this simple truth.
I grew up in a home with an abusive alcoholic father. Most mornings I woke to the early dawn hours of it, most evenings were spent with it and every day I nervously sat in school waiting to go home to make sure he hadn’t went too far and that my mom would be alive and mostly well when I got home. Many school days no one noticed that I was wearing the same clothes as the day before, with no breakfast, snack or lunch from having to escape in the middle of the night with my mom only to sleep in a parking lot for safety. Everybody knew my dad and the bullies at school were ruthless with this. They didn’t know about the abuse just that I had the ‘outspoken drunk’ as a dad. Nobody knew how bad it was.
You’d think I would have been a troublemaker or maybe in detention school by high school but I was the opposite. I put on a smile through a timid, frightened and ‘less than average worth’ mentality. I escaped the torment through studying and had one of the highest marks in school throughout. We probably looked like the perfect family but you really have no idea what people are going through by appearances alone. My mom’s friends had no idea; she probably came off as a snob, never going to any outings. We were completely isolated. That’s the manner in these types of families. Why didn’t we go for help? We had nowhere to go and no one to go to.
SEEING JESUS AS THE LOVING HEALING SAVIOUR AND GOD AS THE LOVING FATHER, SEEMS LIKE AN EASY ENOUGH STATEMENT; BUT FOR ME IT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS TO ACCEPT.
One Christian I knew told me that my father would be going to hell because he was an alcoholic. Christians I knew definitely came off as outspokenly judgmental and were very quick to invite their critical opinions. I had already felt that our family, including myself, was ‘lower’ than others and felt that we weren’t good enough for God to listen to, not good enough for Christians to love us, for the time or care of anyone; we just were too broken.
When I was in my mid-teens, I knew it was getting worse and my dad would go too far one of these days. He admitted that he was going to kill my mother one of these days, even explained the foster system to me. That night, I told my mom that he was going to kill her, maybe both of us and that I knew she'd never leave him, the fear and ability to do so just weren't there. That night I prayed. I asked God where he was, and why we weren't good enough to save.
My mom would sneak stories of Jesus to us. I know this sounds crazy but at the time it made sense to me. I prayed that Jesus would take care of my family. I knew if I committed suicide that my mom would have no choice but to leave. It would be the motivation for her to open up to others and get help and courage to leave, so that night I prayed that God would recognize my sacrifice for others and would save my family. I felt that we weren’t good enough as it was, so I would have to sacrifice something to get help. Surprisingly I woke up to my mom freaking out, blood everywhere, I wrapped a towel over my arm and prayed what I thought was my last prayer and was shocked to wake up again. I still have the scar but it's fading like all the bad memories.
I FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT GOD WAS OUR FATHER, A FATHER WHO LOVED US SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE HIS SON... AND SO THAT HE COULD HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH US. A LOVING FATHER, WHO NEVER CHANGES, IS SLOW TO ANGER, AND WHO CALLS US TO LOVE HIM AND OTHERS AS HE LOVES US.
Well two weeks later my mom left my dad, and years later my dad quit drinking and even began dabbling into God and the Bible a bit, we have an amazing relationship now. It's important to mention that although my childhood was hard, it also had lots of good memories too, with my dad and us as a family. I have a lot of my dad’s strengths and I am so thankful for them. And him. I don’t defend what he did but I do defend the harsh judgments against him. His story is his to tell, but every hurting person, every alcoholic, has his or her own reasons and story. They don’t just decide to wake up and make their lives that way, and the painful regret and guilt that torment them, you never know. I guess it goes back to not judging others due to the plank in our own eyes. You can’t judge a book by its cover or appearances. You hear about so many families who have unfortunately had to suffer through this but you rarely hear of the long lasting effects.
Physical and emotional abuse can cause the inability to trust, poor self-esteem, anxiety disorders, and even post-traumatic stress. This crossed with the image of a “father” being ruthless and unpredictably angry;, leading to a love hate relationship can really add further distance with the idea of God as a father. I found it difficult to believe that God was our father, a father who loved us so much that he gave his Son, his blood and body, to us, so that we could be forgiven and receive a free gift of grace, eternal salvation, and so that he could have a relationship with us. A loving father, who never changes, is slow to anger, and who calls us to love Him and others as he loves us.
WHEN I RECEIVED MY OWN BIBLE, I STARTED READING THE GOSPELS. I STARTED TRUSTING AND REACHING OUT FOR HELP, SOMETHING THAT WAS A HUGE TABOO GROWING UP.
After we left my dad, my mom almost died. Being too much for me, along with the financial hardships, I decided to leave school for a while and work. A lady who barely knew us came almost every day and helped nurse my mom back to health. That and the grace of God saved my mom. Her faith didn’t sway, and it inspired me. (Later, I did go back and put myself through school later when things settled down). My mom and I started going to church. I remember the first time I went to church. That feeling of awkwardness, anxiety and obligation to fight the feeling that I don’t belong and put on a smiley happy face during the all time dreaded “greet your neighbour” part.
When I received my own bible, I started reading the Gospels. I started trusting and reaching out for help, something that was a huge taboo growing up. It is a very hard thing to do: to be vulnerable with God, with others and with myself. To have close relationships without the fear of feeling like you’re not good enough to be loved. God has shown me that I am good enough and that my past does not define me but that God is good and uses all things for good. Because of my experience, God has used me to help others going through similar issues, on both sides. God has given me so much love and compassion for others, and I think because of my past it is only strengthened. Recently I’ve been reminded that, no matter how hard things get or impossible they may seem, that he will never forsake us. Nope, he will never abandon us. He never changes and he’s always there, especially during those hard times, and even if we can't see him in them at that moment.
Years after my own walk with God began, I am very comfortable in my church, in my relationship with Jesus, and my relationship with my church family. Some of our closest friends came from there, and I look forward to "greet your neighbour" time with a sincere smile knowing we all belong here together. Church for me is a privilege to worship our amazing God, full of love and peace and healing. A place of encouragement, safe place of vulnerability, an inspiring opportunity to grow. And relationships, how important I’ve realized they really are to my physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I AM TRULY GRATEFUL AND BLESSED AND CAN SEE GOD IN MY PAST WHEN I COULDN'T SEE HIM IN THE MOMENT. I'M STARTING TO SEE MORE LOVE THAN FEAR IN THE WORLD AND JESUS AS A LOVING GOD WHO I'M GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE WAY I AM, BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN IN HIM.
Even more years after that, I realized that raising your hands in church, although at first, a terrifying idea, can have a huge beautiful impact on your relationship with Jesus. Freeing yourself from everything, surrendering all and giving it all to Him, and letting yourself go in that freeing feeling of love and receiving Him. Amazing. Our church has remarkably grown my ability to see Jesus in an even clearer light, shed light on past distortions of events with Him, and emphasized relationships and church family.
It’s been amazing to grow out of the chains we didn't know that still hang onto us. It's a process, and that's okay, it's still hard but I feel every time I read the Bible like it's my first time, the clarity gets better. I've never known Jesus like I do now and as my relationship gets closer with Him, I see him in an even newer light. The thing that keeps getting me over and over again, is the love and grace he has for us when and where we are. We are enough just the way we are right now. Just focus on your relationship with Him and receive his love and acceptance for you right here and now; he will guide your path. Jesus said to love God and others, and I think that the importance in that is easily overlooked; with my past I truly see the need and power of it. Especially when you really don’t know what others are facing. We're all facing something. Gods peace, that surpasses all understanding, and Jesus’ healing and revealing love can conquer so much. And we all so desperately need it.
I am truly grateful and blessed and can see God in my past when I couldn't see him in the moment. I'm starting to see more love than fear in the world and Jesus as a loving God who I'm good enough for the way I am, beautifully broken in Him.
To read a excerpt on the same topic: THE FATHER'S HEART: HE WILL NOT LEAVE US AS ORPHANS.
picture taken from wehisbeloved.wordpress.com
“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you”
So often we forget about the heart of the father - the heart of our father. So often we, like the disciples so long ago missinterpret the words of Jesus, ignoring when He says He must go and believing that He is simply there to fulfill what our selfish hearts desire. And then in the moment when it feels like He’s left us, we become unglued, falling apart; fearing His wrath, or that He has abandoned us and left us to die.
This is one of the cores of the orphan mindset, a mindset that has pervaded church thinking for centuries. It is the belief that once we can no longer see someone, they are no longer there for us. That when someone leaves us, we forget their promises and focus on the problem at hand. That when God suddenly seems silent and absent in the midst of our darkest nights, our worst struggles; that He’s somehow abandoned us.
GOD SPOKE AND THINGS HAPPENED, AND IT WAS GOOD. GOD STOPPED SPEAKING, AND THAT’S WHEN LIFE WAS BORN
But He hasn’t. He is still with us, abiding within us and helping us carry the heavy burden that is weighing us down. To quote Kris Vallotton, “When God speaks, worlds come into existence; but when God stops speaking that’s when He begins to form us.”
Let’s think practically here. Creation story - God spoke and things happened, and it was good. God stopped speaking, and that’s when life was born - He formed man out of the ground and fashioned women from the rib of man. When He spoke, drastic changes happened - when He fell silent, that’s when we were created.I would like to propose that even when He seems distant and silent, that’s when He’s forming you. That’s when He begins to shape who you are, to work out the imperfections and impurities within you. The orphan mindset will try and make you think that He's abandoned you, but that’s just not true. He won’t leave you as an orphan - He is always coming for you. With arms wide open, in love.
Read a true story on the same topic: THE FATHER'S HEART: A STORY OF BROKENNESS AND HEALING
Photo taken from denisboudreau.org
When I was in my early twenties, I became a very argumentative person. It would seem that in most conversations I was in, where I would disagree with someone, I felt the compelling need to explain why that person was wrong and what they needed to believe. Now don't get me wrong, the idea of challenging someone's worldview and beliefs and presenting what we think is possibly a better perspective isn't bad in itself. But in many cases if the only filter we use to decide if we should speak is 'what' and never ask why we want to push back or how we actually go about doing so, we can easily be taken the wrong way, fall on deaf ears, or worse, actually have wrong motives in our desire to speak.
Let me give you an extreme example in my own life. Full disclosure, this is not my most proud moment as a human being. While at the funeral of a friend's grandfather, my friend started sharing their hopes and thoughts about their grandfather in the afterlife, in an informal conversation after the service and while their grandfather was being placed into the hearse. Without even really thinking, I proceeded to correct the bad theology and thinking that I felt was laced in their ideas. To this day, I am not sure why I even thought that would be the appropriate thing to do.
Though this story is extreme for sure, this kind of conversation and dialogue happens all the time. If you really want to see people digress to the lowest common denominator and see people de-evolve before your eyes, simply head to the comment section of any YouTube video. I am not sure what motivates us to become so violent and vulgar in our words that we are ready to kill, but I believe we need to be intimately reminded of the dangers of the tongue:
NOT MANY OF YOU SHOULD BECOME TEACHERS, MY FELLOW BELIEVERS, BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT WE WHO TEACH WILL BE JUDGED MORE STRICTLY. WE ALL STUMBLE IN MANY WAYS. ANYONE WHO IS NEVER AT FAULT IN WHAT THEY SAY IS PERFECT, ABLE TO KEEP THEIR WHOLE BODY IN CHECK... THE TONGUE ALSO IS A FIRE, A WORLD OF EVIL AMONG THE PARTS OF THE BODY. IT CORRUPTS THE WHOLE BODY, SETS THE WHOLE COURSE OF ONE’S LIFE ON FIRE, AND IS ITSELF SET ON FIRE BY HELL... ALL KINDS OF ANIMALS, BIRDS, REPTILES AND SEA CREATURES ARE BEING TAMED AND HAVE BEEN TAMED BY MANKIND, BUT NO HUMAN BEING CAN TAME THE TONGUE. IT IS A RESTLESS EVIL, FULL OF DEADLY POISON. WITH THE TONGUE WE PRAISE OUR LORD AND FATHER, AND WITH IT WE CURSE HUMAN BEINGS, WHO HAVE BEEN MADE IN GOD’S LIKENESS. OUT OF THE SAME MOUTH COME PRAISE AND CURSING. MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, THIS SHOULD NOT BE. JAMES 3:1-10
The tongue has the potential to give life but also bring death. It can be used to lift people up or tear them down. It is an animal that is not easily tamed. A matchbook in the hands of a toddler. A weapon that can bring great destruction. The human race as a whole, too easily and hastily run headlong, fists swinging. Too often, we are too quick to think we are teachers when we don't even fully understand the power our tongue has. Our fingers are on the trigger ready to pull at first the glance of trouble. We, much too often, are inexperienced and we lack wisdom, love, grace and empathy. For that reason alone, we should be quick to take the posture of pupil and not be quick to think we are a master. We should be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).
DON'T FALL INTO THIS TRAP
Even if what I held as truth was right in the above scenario, in no circumstances was that appropriate. I lacked loads of self-awareness of the timing of my words, the empathy for the person I was speaking to and their pain. Truly, there was no good reason or need for correction. I spoke words of death when I had all opportunity to be used to speak life. I had a hurting person before me and my calling in that moment should have been comforter, not teacher. My intentions were not malicious and I wasn't even mean in how I expressed myself, but I was flat out wrong to assume every instance demands a defence of truth or that 'truth' trumps love.
No matter if your intentions are right and your heart is filled with concern and love, be careful that your method and timing communicates that reality. Make sure that you are fuelled by empathy and love and not simply full of knowledge. Because "knowledge puffs up, while love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1). Knowing the right answer and being right isn't enough, it must be fuelled by love. Love needs wisdom and wisdom thinks on how we speak (the words, tone, body language), why we are speaking (motivation and purpose) and even if we should speak at all (does this situation warrant it?). For example: sometimes, true wisdom isn't knowing what to say, but if something should even be said at all. If we feel that truth should be spoken no matter the situation, maybe we should not speak at all.
Maybe this guiding principle will help: If you want to correct someone, maybe you shouldn't. But if you don't want to correct someone, but you know you need to, maybe you are the right person to do it. When it comes to interpersonal relationships and dynamics, there is no hard fast rule, but ultimately, what I am saying is: do a gut check and ask yourself, "what are your motivations for this?"
IF I HAVE THE GIFT OF PROPHECY AND CAN FATHOM ALL MYSTERIES AND ALL KNOWLEDGE, AND IF I HAVE A FAITH THAT CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS, BUT DO NOT HAVE LOVE, I AM NOTHING. 1 CORINTHIANS 13:2
Maybe you are thinking: but if I see a fault, isn't the most loving thing to do is correct that fault for their own good? I mean Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, 'If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over." For the sake of argument, let's assume for a second that this isn't about a debated issue, and you are not simply forcing your convictions onto someone else. Let's say that this person's actions are unwise, destructive and sinful and you are the only one who is able to point this out. With all that, we also need to consider how we will actually communicate that truth. Simply making a point and/or defending truth does not necessary bring about change. Be careful not to solely focus on the first half of the passage and negate the second half. It isn't good enough that we simply correct, make our point, show that we are right, if that person doesn't actually hear us, because in the end we will have failed and not "won them over".
Are we simply looking to make a point, to be right, to stand for truth, or are we looking to actually resonate with the person, hear what they are saying and see real change. Much too often we see people ready to take a stand and make a point, but in the end they only drive the people they are trying to win over further away from their goal. We nee to make sure we are not simply filtering our decision to speak up through the lens of what, but also how and why. Not everything needs to be said all the time, all at once or to every person.
Let's not simply stop throwing hand grenades over the wall, but let us also tear down that wall. Sometimes we need to listen and really listen to understand, not simply to respond. Sometimes a well-placed question to cause someone to think, is so much more powerful than declaring truth. Sometimes, they simply need to take one step towards change instead of us trying to convince them of everything all at once. And sometimes, we need to say nothing because the truth we hold, may be the worse thing for them to hear with what they are facing in that moment. I can't stress the fact that we need so much wisdom and being quick to speak is a sure mark of a lack of it, I know this all to well. "The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words" (Proverbs 10:19).
WHEN YOU MEET PEOPLE LIKE THIS, GIVE THEM GRACE
I am a verbal processor and that can get me into trouble. I can, in many cases, speak thoughts without them being fully developed, though can come off like I am speaking with authority and certainty. The scenario above and many others were huge catalysts in my life to bring some real self-awareness that it wasn't just what I said that was important, but also how I said it and why I was saying it. When you come to the realization of how powerful your words can be and the impact they have, good and bad, you become much more careful and sensitive to it all. If it wasn't for so many gracious people that came along, in love, who walked with me and showed me how my hasty speech was actually affecting people, I may have never changed, grown up or grown in wisdom. It takes time for people to grow out of bad habits, and to be a catalyst for change, we need patience, grace and love.
BUT I TELL YOU, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU... MATTHEW 5:44
The problem is, much too often people react in turn the same way when they see people who are judgemental, legalistic, quick to speak and given to anger. They return hate with hate, anger with anger, judgementalism for judgementalism. I have spoken with many people who were once ignorant and arrogant and having their eyes opened, have swung completely to the other side and become open-minded and gracious. Well... except those who still see the world through a closed-minded lens of ignorance and arrogance. Is it possible we see the ugliness of our old selves, our old lives and react?
Maybe that isn't the case for you, but the same principle above applies here. Are you simply looking to make a point, or do you want to see real change? If we want to win over the person who is a steam roller, we need love. If they lack love, we defeat that with more love. Now, not all battles will be won, and in many cases, the person will not listen and you need to know when to give up and walk away. But sometimes all we need is to leave a stone in their shoe by shocking them with the power of radical love. Let us extend grace and love in the same way we would hope and want them to extend grace and love to those they disagree with. Not only because this is the tactic that works, but this is what we are called to. It is the mark of a follower of Christ.
BY THIS EVERYONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES, IF YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER. JOHN 13:35
So if you are dealing with someone like this, if you are walking with them and praying for them, don't give up on them. They need grace, love and above all... patience. They need that positive voice in their lives and someone to model and walk in grace and wisdom and even bring a challenge when it is needed. Lest we forget that we too are on a journey ourselves and it took time to get to where we are and we are still a work in progress.
If you are wanting to explore more this idea of what 'Healthy and Helpful Dialogue' is and looks like, check out this video on the topic and explore our video section as it is full of these kinds of conversations.
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