In The Shadows…

Shadow

(FreeImages.com/PetraStarke)

Ever felt like you are living in the shadows?

Something I have heard repeatedly in my mind is the line: “You are in the shadows.”  I believe that repeated thought was a lie from the enemy to get me to believe that I was inferior, insignificant, and overlooked. 

I remember when the lie first started.  Part of it happened when I had a best friend at age 12.  I remember when she gave me one of those Best Friend necklaces, where I had half of a heart, and she had the other.  Then, I remember not long after she gave me the necklace that I introduced her to a girl who had recently moved into her neighborhood.  I remember the pain of discovering they had become each other’s best friends.

The pain of rejection is something that you don’t easily forget.

I remember having birthday parties and my friends attending, but I remember the pain of feeling overlooked.  My older sister had a fun, outgoing personality, and my friends couldn’t help but like her.  My birthday party was spent with my friends hanging on to my sister’s every funny statement and her winning smile.  My sister didn’t mean anything by this; it just happened, but I felt forgotten and overlooked.  It was painful to know that the birthday girl could disappear, and no one would seem to care a whole lot.

I remember the time when someone said to me, “It must be hard to live in your sister’s shadow.”  And the time when a friend said (was meant as a compliment): “You are almost as pretty as your sister.”  Those statements stuck with me, and I began to believe that I was less than and in the shadows.  I concluded that God must not love me as much because He decided that I didn’t need as much charisma or to be as beautiful on the outside.  That was the beginning spiral of coming to resent who I was, how I was made, and added to the lies already in place that I wasn’t loved as much.

Fast forward a few decades, and God had done a lot of healing in my life, but there were still layers, and the old wounds of rejection could be a memory quickly resurrected.

I remember how not that long ago, I was sitting with friends, feeling those old lies of insecurity, knowing that I was not the central focus and taking the sideline position once again. The problem is I hadn’t chosen to stay on the sidelines because of loving others and being other-focused.  I was partially taking that position for that reason, but I was living the lies of insecurity, inferiority, and rejection once again.

God pulled me from that low place, and my focus was re-centered once again.  I was once again walking from a position of wholeness rather than brokenness.

As life goes, it doesn’t take long before a circumstance or person triggers a memory from the past, and we are quickly swept back into the feelings of rejection and inferiority. 

I wasn’t swept away in the avalanche of old patterns, but I knew that I had to replace the old lies with truth. 

This morning, I opened my Bible with the anticipation that God would minister to my aching heart.  I asked Him to speak to me where I am, and He did!

God began to answer the lie about shadows with the truth.  What He showed me is this:

“I am not set aside; I am set apart.”  He began to show me that “my situation is not about me being overlooked but about me being prepared.”  (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God keeps bringing John 3:30 back to my mind this year, and He did once again this morning.  What God was reminding me is that “when we decrease God has room to make big things happen.” (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God is preparing me for authentic ministry, and authentic ministry comes from a full place in God so that I don’t look to others within ministry to validate me.

Authentic ministry means I need to be God-aware and others-focused so that I don’t worry about me.  Until I get this, I cannot be in a place to adequately give to others.

Ministry isn’t about me receiving.  It’s about me giving.  I don’t need to receive from a ministry when I have entered into authentic ministry from a position of having been filled and being filled.  Out of that fullness or abundance flows life and love to others, and that is authentic ministry.

I have an entirely different perspective on the term “shadows” now.  Satan has been attempting to speak defeat into my ears.  God though is saying the sidelines is a good place to be if it means you have let God have the limelight. 

If I am constantly trying to step into the limelight, then it becomes not about me claiming my rightful place or showing others I have worth.  Rather, it’s me taking God’s place. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be in the “limelight” physically, but within my soul, there must first be this bowing to the One greater than me — this realization that the limelight is not mine, but to stand there to bring Jesus into the limelight.

I let self take a shadowed or dying position so that Christ’s life in me can grow.  It’s the death of self.

The real me — the life and identity of Christ, uniquely represented in me — is what will grow and flourish and have room to breathe the more the false identity and false self dies.

I no longer need to fear the shadows because I have not been set aside but set apart to a significant and special calling!

God is helping me to live out the reality of the verse He gave me for this year:

John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

My Former Life In A Nutshell…

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/growing-up-gothard

I am going to link to this guy’s blog post because it summarizes in a nutshell what it was like growing up under the influence of ATI (Advanced Training Institute/Bill Gothard program).

I love how this guy describes his home as a loving home!  Mine was too, and I love my parents!!  They did a lot of good, but we were raised within the ATI culture.  This guy’s article explains a lot of the issues I have with the philosophies of the ATI movement/teachings.

This guy is right on when he explains about the constant pressure to be perfect.  I remember that so well and my twisted view of God, as a result.

I didn’t want to get close to a God who seemed to be always waiting for my next moment of sin/failure and who seemed like He only punished with no full restoration or hope of redemption in sight.  It was taught that consequences were God’s judgment on us; there was no concept of redemption for even our consequences.

It was definitely a place of much fear!  Parents wanted to raise their kids to turn out godly.  So in fear, they pulled them from the world, even from among other Christians, sometimes family members, and society.  They thought that by secluding them, they could produce a more godly generation.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, the issue with this is, they forget that there is evil within not just without.  The heart is what matters!

They also lived from fear.  What they didn’t realize is that reacting to our fears will not lead us into freedom but just into another form of bondage.

We never want to raise our children from a position of fear but from God’s leading.  The safest place to be is always within the center of God’s will.

An interview with a former ATI student that really explains what it was like growing up Gothard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WQy4LGUQRg.

 

Is Religion The Only Offender Against Women?

praying woman

(FreeImages.com/BrendaMihalko)

I recently saw a friend’s comment on Facebook about how a lot of issues within the church are based on gender issues.  I understand the validity and even pain of what she is saying because I certainly saw the reality of some of this personally.  Yes, the Church has allowed some of those false ideas and lies from the past to remain.  They are just labeled with “religious-sounding” terms so it sounds better or more Biblical.

Just because I call a dandelion a flower doesn’t make it so.

So often, terms have been falsely defined, and so we reject the term without understanding that within every lie, there is often a nugget of truth.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he took God’s Word but twisted it and misapplied it in the wrong context, making it a lie.

There is the term submission mentioned in the Bible, but it has been often twisted and misapplied in the wrong context.  Within the same passage as submission is also God commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

How did Christ love the Church?

How did Christ love the Church?  By domineering, forcing submission, commanding their service while lording His position over them, devaluing them, ruling with harshness and unrelenting pride…?  No!  Rather, Christ served.  He laid down His life.  He listened.  He healed.  He cried.  He restored.  He forgave.  Everything He did, He did for them.  Christ did not come to the Earth to be served and but instead to serve.  His was an example of humble, servant leadership, always seeking the best for the other person.  He saw the value of the weakest, most vulnerable in society and acknowledged them and gave them His time and attention.

What Scripture shows is not one ruling, and the other serving and submissive/subdued.  What Scripture shows is both husbands and wives are called to lay down their lives to love/serve another one.  Both are called to put the others needs first.  Both are called to Christ’s example of Agape love, which is the most selfless and humble love of all.  Both are required to lay down their life for the other.

I wrote the following in response to my friend’s FB post, with some additional thoughts:

It is sad the way religion has abused women. It is also sad the way the world abuses women. One tells us that we are inferior to men. The other often continues to promote the same thing by taking it from a different angle, telling us that to be important we have to prove we are like men or better than men, which only says, “We are only important if we can prove our worth by being like a man or better than a man.”

What if the truth is, our uniqueness is part of our amazing, beautiful package of worth?!!! It’s not in being like a man or better than a man, because that actually feeds into the lie; it’s merely a reaction to the lie rather than the authenticity of the truth.

It’s also not about us being a sub-category, inferior, subdued, oppressed, or dominated.

The truth of what I see in Scripture is God restoring the broken image — the bad rap. women got at the Fall (false teaching, BTW). In religious circles, women are often blamed for the Fall.

God always noticed the down-trodden, the wounded, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the undervalued.  That is why I believe He made sure He restored that broken image by how He demonstrated His thoughts concerning women in His life on Earth.

Jesus revealed Himself to women who in that society often felt unnoticed, unloved, undervalued. He demonstrated that He saw, heard, and honored them.

Jesus allowed women to be the first ones present to testify of His resurrection. Women were the first ones to see and hear Jesus in His resurrected state.  Interesting how the very things that women seem to feel within in religion — not seen or heard — are the very things Jesus did for them.  He saw them and revealed Himself to them.  He spoke to them and heard their cries.

God speaks of many women in the Bible whom He showed He valued, regardless of how society at the time regarded them. By lifting these women up and telling their stories, God shows that He heard and saw their worth. (See Abigail, Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah, Eve, Esther, Miriam, Jochebed, Rahab, Bathsheba, Deborah, Lydia, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Elisabeth, Mary and Martha, Samaritan Woman, woman caught in adultery, Tabitha, Damaris, Naomi, Ruth, and the list goes on.)  Entire books of the Bible were dedicated to telling some of these women’s stories.

He showed in the Proverbs 31 woman a woman of amazing dignity, strength, resourcefulness, honor, and trust. She made the decisions for the running of her household, for doing business, for buying land. By sitting with the elders, her husband demonstrated great trust and respect in her abilities. She had freedom, responsibility, and the trust of her husband.

That’s the kind of woman God has called me to be, and I am thankful that His picture is of strength, dignity, honor, trust, resourcefulness, intelligence, wisdom, etc…!

God has restored in me so much of the image that was broken. God alone knows what our purpose looks like — religious doesn’t, and the world doesn’t. Each are just vying to react against each other — too busy pitting against one another.

The authentic image steps out and away from the mess and is secure in knowing her worth.

Religion rejects our image and undermines it.  It says we are inferior and meant to be controlled and dominated by men.

The world rejects our image and tells us there is no value in the way we were created unless we compete to be like a man.  This is nothing more than once again undermining our image.

Christ shows the Father’s heart, and what we see is that women are unique, a glory to God, they are clothed with strength and honor, virtuous, and our voices are heard.  We are seen, we are heard, and we, as women, are valued.  We don’t have just a place in God’s Kingdom.  We are an integral part of His Kingdom!

If we want to know our value, we won’t find it in the world, and we won’t find it in religion.  We will find it in the God who made us, who loves us, and who shows the greatest servant-leadership by lifting us up and calling us into positions of amazing influence and honor.

We don’t have to be more or different to be validated!  We already are of infinite worth!