For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8: 38-39
If nothing changes, nothing changes. Yet we often think that if we wait long enough, if we’re patient and kind, if we have good intentions, if we believe the best in others, they’ll change. The situation will change. The job will get better. Our health will improve. It is flu season, after all. Once that passes I’ll feel better.
A myriad of ‘externals’ is the cause of our unhappiness. It’s the reason we don’t have peace. It’s the undercurrent of our discontent.
Or is it? The misdirected focus of energy on the wrong things is what is truly causing our unhappiness, truth be told. And that can be a painful pill to swallow. Read that again. Mis-directed energy. On the wrong things.
The motivation for starting this Lenten Love Challenge was to reconnect with the Love of God. I wanted to challenge myself to fully refocus on what is always there even when I have lost my way. I know that God’s love never fails.
So if His love never fails and I don’t sense the power of God’s love flowing through me, who needs to change? God? Or me. Am I waiting for Him to do something, am I outside of the fence peering in and hoping He’ll unlock the gate so I can play too? Or has the gate always been open, I just chose to stand outside?
When I was a young mother I was completely unaware of this reality. And I suffered greatly from my unawareness. I was always trying to derive my peace from the external factors of my life. If the girls had a good nap, mom was happy! If they missed a nap and were miserable by 5 pm, you bet, so was I!
I can vividly remember saying, “It’s so weird. It’s like my emotions are tied to the cleanliness of the house.” I didn’t understand why I could be so at peace when everything was picked up and I could not sit down and relax if it was a mess. AND God forbid I cleaned it and YOU messed it up. All hell broke loose. I put a lot of pressure on my family to care as much as I did about picking up and that didn’t go so well either. I didn’t understand how they could be outside on a Sunday afternoon just playing while I was slaving away inside cleaning. Resentfulness was an ever-present friend of mine.
I circled that mountain of emotional volatility for years. Up and down. High and low. Until I finally broke up and woke up and started practicing what I now know are the principles showcased in the Serenity Prayer. Literally, I almost broke up my family I was so miserable. And today I’m so grateful for that rock bottom, come-to-Jesus moment where I knew what I was doing wasn’t working.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
The ONLY thing that I had the power over was me and my attitudes. Not the status of the house, that would always be fluctuating. Not the people who lived in that house either. Especially the other adult member. I had to let go of control.
How does this relate to our challenge? Today, as we head into the second half of, lent let’s refocus our attention on God’s Love. It is ever-present, all-consuming and fully-complete. We aren’t striving to earn it, we already have it. It is as close as our breath and a hand on our heart.
If we’re not experiencing these attributes of God’s love in our life, who needs to change? God? Or me.
Coupled with this reality that God is love and love is our natural God-infused state, how can we act out this love on a more consistent basis? That’s another powerful question.
In addition to changing my focus from externals to internals, this is one more thing I had to learn to change. I had to identify people, places and things that were unhealthy for me. Then I had to change my willingness to tolerate what was unhealthy.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. — James 4: 7-8
This verse is a clear example of God’s boundaries towards us. Does it say, God will chase you down even if you are running away? I know that God will leave the 99 and go to find the 1, but I believe that 1 is someone who mistakenly went off the path. Not a rebellious sheep who is walking away from the shepherd intentionally. Sheep aren’t that smart.
God respects our right to live our lives as we see fit. If we want to block Him out, He respects that choice. It’s not His desire to be uninvolved with us, but it is His love that sets us free. It’s not controlling or convincing. He is the Alpha and Omega and He knows that we want what He has. Peace that passes all understanding. Compassion. Insight. Love.
Ladies, it’s like the guy at the party who knows he’s got it going on. Every girl sees his confidence. His air of indifference. His easy smile. It’s attractive. Irresistible. Compare that with the guy who is following you around. Desperate. Annoying. Trying to get phone numbers. Which one is God?
This is how we can reassess our boundaries. Are we tolerating bad treatment from others? Are we over-giving to our own detriment? Are we overly-focused on other people? Do we have lingering feelings of discontent, uneasiness or resentment when we think about a certain person, place or thing? If yes, what can be changed? That thing? Or us?
It wasn’t easy to change. It wasn’t easy to let go of some friendships. It wasn’t easy focusing more on myself and my needs and allowing others to live their lives to the best of their ability without rescuing and interfering with unwarranted advice and unsolicited help. It. Wasn’t. Easy.
But it was worth it.
I started feeling better. I was acting towards others as I believe God’s love is revealed to me. When it’s reciprocated. When I had made the effort to purify my heart. When I acknowledged the ways in which I had been double-minded. God put that responsibility on me. And He allowed me time and space to change. And He waited outside the door of my heart for almost two decades.
He wasn’t ringing the bell every hour. He wasn’t knocking loudly and peering in the window and showing up when I didn’t want Him there. He let me talk to Buddha and explore the Laws of Attraction and buy a deck of Tarot cards and get a psychic reading, all the while knowing that He had what I was looking for. And once I realized it, I came running back.
Love never fails. Thank God I changed. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
What do you need to change today in your attitudes? What do you need to stop doing? Who do you need to set healthier boundaries with? How can you act more like God and give others the space they need to grow without interference? How would making these changes boost the strength of your connection with God’s love and peace and your confidence?
These are not hypothetical questions. These real questions that need real answers. It’s your turn to change. That’s the only way your life will change.
Day 21 Lenten Love Prayer:
Changing others is what I have been overly focused on for too long. I see now that it’s my ego that wants them to be wrong and I want to be right. Forgive me for thinking I know what is better for someone else than they do. Forgive me for blocking your ability to reach them by being overly-concerned, overly-involved and overly-worried. You see their hearts and I release them to you. Even though it’s hard and my heart hurts over this reality, I know that I need to focus on what I can change. And that is me. Give me the strength to accept this reality. Give me the peace to move forward into your will for me today. Let me not circle the same mountain of discontent thinking it will change if I don’t change. Help me to stop waiting for others to do something and let me see the truth of the matter. If there is something I don’t see clearly reveal it to me through prayer and through the conversations of trusted others who have my best interest at heart. Give me the courage to allow them to speak into my life. I want to be a vessel you can use and not be dragged down by the cares and worries of this world. I see now that my life is comprised of everything I have chosen up to this point and I am willing to choose more wisely who I spend my time, my money, my energy with. Thank you for waiting for me patiently. I’m so grateful.
Day 21 Scripture:
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. — 2 Peter 3:9