Do you trust me? – God
God has done amazing work in my life over the past seven months. I can’t explain it other than to say ‘I feel different.’ I know that’s not very profound, but only I can feel what I’m feeling and I just feel different. Better. More like myself. Not distracted. It’s awesome! My period of complete separation from Distraction this past summer was the help I needed to ‘get off the merry-go-round’ and trust God with who I am. God is enough and I am going to be ok without a romantic relationship, marriage, family. This is not really a profound truth . . . but it took a lot of tears and fist-shaking and confusion and confiding and trusting to embrace that simple statement. I had to trust God with my personal life like never before. If I never experience what so many others my age get to experience, am I going to survive? I will. I am going to be ok. I am going to live for what I have, not for what I yearn. God’s love is sufficient for me. It’s more than enough.
With that being said, I knew all along that it would be pretty impossible for me to shut Distraction out of my life forever. We have several very close mutual friends, so avoiding him means avoiding them in many circumstances and that just isn’t an option for me. These are some of the dearest people in my life and he is a part of them. I want him to be in my life. I feel he is in my life for a reason. And, so I let him back into my life this fall . . . slowly. A conversation here and there, then some texts and emails, then some phone calls, and then several lunches and dinners out, just the two of us.
This is when I put my ‘feeling different’ into practice. I didn’t allow myself to be swept away. I was open and honest and real with him like I was in the past, but with the understanding that he valued me as a friend, nothing more. And, that’s what I wanted. Nothing more. Just friends. I’ve had people in my life tell me to never speak to him again. That I could never just be friends with him after the road I’ve been down. But, I don’t believe that. For me, it’s separating the person Distraction is from the ideal of who I wanted Distraction to be.
So, tonight I came home from a gathering of close friends and he was there. As I drove home, I came close to tears. Why? I caught myself watching him a few times over the course of the afternoon. Not because I wanted to be with him, but because I wanted to be with the idea of him. Today, I mourned the loss of what I wanted him to be. How unfair to Distraction is that?! God truly opened my eyes last summer and I realized Distraction is not a good fit for me, he wouldn’t make me laugh (as one dear friend said), he doesn’t hold dear the things I value so much, such as my music and quality time together, he views life as glass-half-empty, not glass-half-full like I do. Being together just wouldn’t work. But, regardless, I was still sad as I reflected on our time together this afternoon. I haven’t had anything close to these feelings since the summer and it felt almost foreign to catch a glimpse of those emotions again.
Yearning for that ideal. I don’t even know what that is. It’s make-believe. What I realized over the summer was trusting God with all that I am and all that I have brought me peace. When I took control, I felt like I was going crazy. When I was in the driver’s seat, I felt out of control. Trust. Trust for today. Strength for the moment. This is what God has been laying on my heart. Trust is my word for 2014. My pastor told me that trust is in every part of my journey. It’s an integral part of my Christian faith. It’s not separate. It’s the way I view the world. It’s the foundation of my relationships. It’s at the center of the decisions that I make. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this truth because I just don’t trust very well. I don’t trust people with who I am. I hold on to things tightly with a gripped fist and call them mine.
‘If I do it the way I want to, it’s just better that way.’
‘If I open up to someone, they might hurt me.’
‘It’s so hard to trust in God’s will for my life when I want what I don’t have.’
Why trust? Why now? I don’t need to know now. My word will be revealed as I continue the journey. My words become the fabric of who I am. My life is enriched by my experiences reflecting on and experiencing them. I now live my life more JOYfully than before. I LISTEN for God in all circumstances, not just hearing Him, but engaging all of my senses in discerning His call. It’s profound that trust is my word AFTER my experiences of letting go of Distraction this summer. During that time, I trusted God like I never had before. I gave Him all of it and told Him I was finished. It felt amazing. It changed me. A veil was removed and my true self was able to shine. I pray that everyone who is close to me gets to experience this.
Do I trust God? Absolutely! I trust in this amazing journey . . . . every moment by grace-filled moment throughout 2014 and forever.
I’m on vacation this week. I always take time off in August. After a busy couple of months at work, I’m feeling fried and ready for some time away. This year, aside from a trip to the mountains this past weekend, I’m enjoying a “staycation” this week. No traveling out of town . . . just time for me and time with my family. I love how being on vacation breaks my routine. It offers a different pace; a different feel to the day.
Right now, I’m sitting at my favorite locally-owned coffee shop, enjoying some space to reflect. A change of location brings new perspectives. Being here allows space for insights I miss in my regular day-to-day settings. I love coffee shops. They’re like a microcosm of our lives. Serious discussions. Laughter. Business meetings. Conversations about new endeavors. Moms with kids. Singles. Couples. Working. Reading. A coffee shop provides a space for people to talk, listen, and be. It’s a shared setting that offers separate, intimate space for all. I so enjoy my time here (and, their iced skim chai latte is the best in town).
A friend and I went out to dinner last week and I told her there’s this space inside me that feels like it’s being emptied. She shared that it’s a space that’s reserved for romantic relationships. It’s one of many spaces within myself that, when taken as a whole, are the essence of who I am. Do you know those spaces I’m talking about? When relationships cease to exist, those spaces are left empty for a time. For a while now, that relationship space inside me has been held solely by one guy in my life. How easy it’s always been for me to jump right back into that space and reach out to him. He’s been the only one I’ve wanted in that romantic relationship space, so naturally, he’s the one I keep going back to when I want to pursue a relationship. Even though I decided to walk away this summer and not look back, I’ve considered breaking the spell several times by reaching out to him. At times, it would be easier just to backslide back into the familiar, even though it isn’t ideal. It fills some of that space that sometimes feels so uncomfortable being empty.
My recent shift from pursuing him to distancing myself from him is changing that space he filled. That space is being repurposed. It’s a place for God now. It’s a space that He wants to fill. It’s a space that’s no longer filled with MY wants and MY desires. The space is being filled with God and me and joy and life-giving relationships. The more that empty space is filled with God’s plan for me, the farther I walk away from that romantic relationship I pursued for so long. The less he consumes my thoughts. The less I want to reach out to him. The less I want to jump back in. It’s hard work. It’s still a struggle. It’s unbelievably freeing.
This isn’t about emptying the space only to quickly fill it up again with another romantic relationship. I don’t want that right now. I’m not looking for anyone and it feels really great. No pressure. No distractions. I canceled my online dating subscription last spring, but still get email updates of new matches who want to get in touch with me. I’m not ready for that. For now, I want God to fill that space. I want Him to show me what that space should look like. I keep jumping into that space without really knowing what He wants for me; without really knowing what should be there.
I get excited about this fresh, empty space that’s soon to be filled. I’m cleaning it out. I’m emptying the nooks and crannies. I’m reflecting and writing though the process. I’m making room for God and His will for my life. Instead of cleaning it up and tidying it up all by myself, I’m allowing God to come in and declutter it with me. He’s polishing it up and making it new. I’m opening myself up to His possibilities for me. I’m opening that space to His love and His desires for my heart. If He has someone down the road that He wants to join in that space, then I’ll know it’s His will for me. But, even if God’s love is all that ever fills that space, it will be more than enough.
It’s always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out, shake it out . . . .
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
so shake him off.
~ Florence and the Machine
We all long for something we don’t have. We all want for something that’s out of our reach. “We will never find true contentment this side of Heaven,” a dear friend shared with me several years ago. It still has a grip on me. I can’t figure out if it’s me who has a grip on the situation and can’t completely let go, or if the situation itself has the grip on me. Does that make sense? I don’t feel as if I’m consciously holding on, but it’s there and it’s strong and it’s real. The giddy, romantic girl inside of me still looks for him. I still feel that flutter sometimes when I think about him. You know that feeling? It’s like a butterfly inside of me. It gives me pause and makes me feel happy, bliss-filled. I still watch for him to come through the doors at church. I still wonder if he had a good day at work or what he’s doing this weekend. I still have moments of expectancy when my cell phone lights up with a new text message wondering if it’s from him. It felt good. I felt young and warm and carefree to hope for attention. And when he did respond, I was in a state of bliss.
In this time of moving on, I’ve felt a void. It’s a space that’s been left vacant; a hole that I’m assuming will close up and heal over time. Moving into a new stage of my life and stretching my faith has not been easy. I don’t want to keep thinking about how I’m NOT thinking about it. But, I realize that I will continue to think about him and what he represents for awhile; deep roots take hard work and strength to pull up. I want to get to a point where this situation doesn’t invade my thoughts at least once a day. One stage at a time; one foot in front of the other. It’s a form of grief. The process is the same. It’s letting go of something I will never see again. I truly do believe I’m not simply letting go of my disappointment over some guy. It wouldn’t be this difficult if that were the case. I’ve been holding on to him and what he represents for a long time. A lot is wrapped up in him. I’m letting go of the promise of marriage and children. That may seem ridiculous, but that’s what it feels like to me. That I’m letting go and I’ll never ever experience it. I’m accepting that. It very well could be my reality. Sometimes, I think God wants me to completely let go before He shows me what’s next. It’s His way of testing me to see if I truly trust him. I have a good friend who left her job without any plans of what was next. She let go and God unveiled a wonderful new career opportunity for her. It’s not void of struggle, questioning, and doubt, but stepping away sheds light on new paths of discovery. It’s like letting go of the bar on a trapeze swing and God’s on the other side with arms stretch out ready to catch me.
I had become so comfortable living into a situation where I was consistently hope-filled. Even though there wasn’t a relationship there to speak of, I caught glimpses of a life with him – partners, trust, in love. It was a yearning that I sought to make that my reality. It wasn’t real. But, the hope of more felt good. And the crazy thing is, that part of me wants to turn around right now and run back into that situation. I crave the challenge of the hunt. At times, I desire to reach out to him, but I refrain (and, I have too many friends who told me that if I ever even think about contacting him, then I need to call them so they can talk me down.). I still feel this struggle within myself where Good is resisting Evil. My Christ-centered self is moving forward, but there’s still this ‘devil on my back.’ There’s still this urge to go back to the way things were before. Oh, do I need God or what? Yes, but I also need the strength from my family and friends. Words of encouragement, prayers, and a listening ear are amazing blessings as I journey through this. It’s about really knowing who I am and how Christ made me. If I’m not content with that, then I certainly need to be comfortable with it. I’m moving on sans romantic relationship and not interested in looking for it right now. What challenge there has been in moving on to continue in my singleness; being alone; by myself. Sometimes it’s so much easier to continue to live in the comfortable – the familiar, even if it’s not ideal.
There has been noticeable progress. I don’t yearn for these experiences like I did even a few weeks ago. I have amazing moments of pure joy. Like the other night when I went on a walk in my neighborhood. I was overcome with thanksgiving and gladness. I was basking into the next stage, even though I’m not quite there yet. God was showing me the grace of living into this moment, and not turning around to see what’s behind me. He was showing me what it feels like to be free. This situation will always be part of my past. God used it to grow my faith, but I can let go now. He doesn’t want me to hold onto it anymore. I’m tired of holding on and I’m grateful that these moments of struggle I’ve described are not a state in which I consistently live. I’m not there yet, but I will be. I’m loosening my grip….one finger at a time…..and it feels amazing.
I don’t know where to go from here
It all used to be so clear
I’m finding I can’t do this on my own
I don’t know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I’m done fighting. I’m finally letting go
I will trust in You
You’ve never failed before
I will trust in You
If there’s a road that I should walk
Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will, whatever Your will
Can you help me find it?
Can you help me find it?
This song found me this week. It’s Help Me Find It by Sidewalk Prophets and I had never heard it before. It came on the radio on Sunday morning on my drive to church. As I let the lyrics sink in, I smiled and knew that God had sent these words to me at just the right time. I love it when He uses music to speak to my soul. I needed that song in that moment.
I’ve written about Distraction, a guy friend I’ve struggled with having stronger feelings for. I thought this relationship would eventually blossom. I was convinced that we were meant to be more than friends. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was in God’s plan for me. But, it turns out he wasn’t ‘the one’ for me. I was wrong. And, I don’t understand how something that seemed so undeniably of God turned out not to be. My relationship with God is usually pretty intuitive. Until now I’ve been able to discern His will for me and step out in faith-filled confidence in the direction of His plan for me. That’s what I thought I was doing in this situation. Why was this experience so different when it felt like it was so meant to be? How did I misread it for such a long time? I don’t understand. But, my bag of tricks is empty. I’ve used them all up and I have nothing left. I’ve held on by strings and then by threads until last month, when I finally let go.
I’ve been struggling with this for awhile. When I say awhile, I’m talking years, not months. The roots run deep. It’s not like digging up the roots of the dainty pansy flowers that surround my back patio. This struggle is like a mighty oak; the roots have formed over time and are hearty and strong. Time is needed to dig them up, to sever the roots and stop this situation from growing. Time away from him. Room to refocus. A chance to gain perspective. It’s time to pull up those roots and dig deeper within myself to heal and move forward.
Of course, I’ve been reflecting…..a lot. Reflecting on how I got to this point. How I’ve been so convinced all this time that I was following God’s lead. Somewhere along the way, the line between God’s plan and what I wanted got blurred. I went astray. I kept trekking on when God had stopped moving in that direction. And, I ended up getting to a point where I didn’t recognize what the situation really was anymore. I had built up in my mind the person I wanted Distraction to be and allowed that fantasy to become my reality. I traveled down the path by myself and when I stopped to see who was with me, no one was. My decisions had been solely mine. I consulted no one. I was all alone.
God is always visible the moment the inner eye is clear.
~ Rufus M. Jones
~ Rufus M. Jones
Never in my life have I questioned this much or shook my fists at God like I have. I didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t relate it to anything else I had experienced. But, God is now using my time spent out on that lonely path to grow and stretch me like I never have before. I have to believe that Distraction WAS part of God’s plan for me, but not in the way I thought or wanted him to be. I was meant to fall for Distraction, and fall hard. I was meant to go through all of my tricks and be frustrated and confused and dumbfounded that things weren’t going the way I thought they should. I was meant to grow closer to him and want more than friendship. I was meant to open up and trust him with who I am. I was meant to sacrifice and give and love without receiving the affirmation I craved. These were all new experiences for me. I grew so much by going through them. When I sat heartbroken, angry, and confused at how I could so horribly misread God’s intention, it was exactly where He wanted me to be. He took this experience and grew my faith.
Pulling up these roots has meant revisiting the relationship. I’ve been looking back on my experiences from the outside, as a neutral party. I’m seeing things now, really seeing them, not through my smitten-filled eyes, but through an impartial lens. For the first time, I’m seeing our friendship for what it really was (and, more importantly, what it wasn’t). I’m realizing how biased my perspective was. How I read into Distraction’s messages to me and made more out of our conversations than what was really there. In hindsight, I’m seeing our interactions at face value; not reading into them (like I so often did). I’m discovering that much of my hope-filled enthusiasm centered on my perception, a perception that was false. My wants for the relationship weren’t based in reality. The carrot that I latched onto didn’t exist. I created my own reality where he was the perfect guy and no matter how long I needed to wait it out, we were destined at some point to be together.
My hopes of getting married and having kids have been wrapped up in Distraction. I never wanted either until I met him. I couldn’t envision that life for myself until he came along. That’s why the letting go is so hard. It’s not just letting go of him, it’s letting go of what he represents. It’s letting go of the idea of marriage and family. It’s not to say that those things won’t be part of my future, but for right now, I’m choosing to move on, not to another relationship, but to singleness….and wanting that to be enough. I’ve passed my mid-thirties and have no prospects. I’m not even looking for anyone. Some days I have a really hard time living into that reality.
So, I’m pulling up roots and moving on. I’m living into God’s future for me and I’m not looking back. Never again will I put so much of who I am into something that does not feed my soul in return. Never again will I be so blinded to the truth. Never again will I be so utterly distracted that I begin to lose sight of who I am. My faith in God and confidence in myself are enough. And, those are some pretty strong roots.
This summer, I’m distancing myself from a guy friend who I struggle with having stronger feelings for. I have not initiated communication with him and have not seen him since May. My hope is that I’ll be able to slowly let him back into my life after some time to process and free myself from consistently being distracted by him. But, for now, I need space to protect my heart. I’ve been reflecting a lot on our friendship during this time. I realized that over the past few years, I’ve set completely unrealistic expectations for him.
HIS expectation = to be friends.
MY expectation = to grow our friendship into being more than friends.
HIS expectation = to catch up with each other once in awhile.
MY expectation = to be in continuous contact with each other.
But, these are not the expectations I have for my other guy friends. Why do I do this? I know why. It’s because I’ve wanted our relationship to be more than friendship and so I expect the same level of intimacy and consistency of interaction as I would if we were dating. I get sad and angry when this doesn’t occur. How unfair to him is that?! It’s my own doing. It’s my false reality. It’s me putting him on a pedestal that’s impossible to stand on. It’s me setting unrealistic expectations. And, then I fall into a cycle of getting my hopes up, only to have them crushed when expectations don’t become my reality. What a blessing to have this time and space, free from distractions, to bring about clarity in this situation.
When you don’t set expectations, then you can’t be disappointed.
I’ve heard this statement many times and see it as a shift in perspective. When I set selfish, rigid, all-about-me expectations for something or someone, then I will always be disappointed. If I don’t hold on to MY expectations with a gripped fist and I gratefully enter into experiences and relationships, then disappointment does not exist. There’s something almost freeing about the statement. I always set expectations. My expectations. When people don’t react the way I think they should; the way I want them to. For upcoming events; for interactions with others; for how something will play out. Why do I feel the need to set expectations for others and then grow disappointed when they don’t follow through with my unwritten ‘rules?’ It’s unfortunate that I sometimes base my own happiness on the actions, or inactions, of others. Why do I set higher expectations for some people in my life and not others?
I expect others to be mind readers. When they don’t ask me about something that is so important to me. When I yearn for acknowledgement and for others to show interest. Sometimes I just want others to share in my excitement. When I’m excited, I feed off another’s mirrored sense of enthusiasm. It’s like it validates my feelings or something. I want my energy to be contagious. I want others to be passionate about the things I’m passionate about. It’s almost like I want them to take on my feelings so they understand just how much something means to me. When others don’t reciprocate my energy level, I feel my enthusiasm deflate and melancholy ushers in. I shut down.
He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations.
Men had drowned in seas like that.
~ Robert Jordan, from New Spring
Setting expectations for others is dangerous. Other peoples’ reactions, or lack there of, should not dictate my feelings of self worth or determine my mood. So, why does it bother me so much? It’s like I’ve already predicted how something is going to go, set it in my mind, and then when things fall short or don’t go as I want them to, I get grumpy. This is not fair to me, and especially not to the other person. Others may have expectations of me all the time, for which I fall short of. And, they may be disappointed in me…and I never knew. I don’t count it as my fault that I didn’t respond in the way they had hoped. I will never go through life having others behave in a way I think they should or want them to. It’s a recipe for failure. I can’t control it. It’s selfish. And, I can’t base my happiness on what others will or won’t do. If I always seek another’s affirmation, then what does that say about my own self confidence and ultimate source of acceptance?
Trying to put this into words is difficult. It’s more about feelings and emotions than finding adequate words to describe it. I can identify what it is NOT easier than I can find the words to name what it is. It’s not fishing for compliments. It’s not wanting others to agree with me all the time. It’s not wanting everyone to be happy around me. It’s not superficial praise. I can’t quite put my finger on it. What I do know is that I feel let down the most when the essence of who I am is ignored. It’s receiving words of affirmation at a time when I’ve shared a deeper part of me. When this doesn’t occur, I take it personally. Very personally.
But, there are blessings within the burdens. I’m thankful for NOT receiving this earthly affirmation I sometimes crave so much. Who do I turn to when I’m sad and frustrated by this? God, of course. He’ll never let me down. He reminds me that it’s not all about me. HIS expectation is that I live through each day in love and service for him and to others; to love others for who they are, for they are the very reflection of Him.
I’ve been conducting an experiment: To determine whether or not I can just be friends with a guy I’m madly in like with. I’ve refined and tweaked and rerun this experiment countless times in hopes of a different conclusion, but I always end up with the same result. I’ve concluded that it’s not possible. I can’t just be his friend. I can’t be with him without wanting our friendship to be more.
‘Distraction’ and I have been friends for a while. Several years into our friendship, I told him I wanted to be more than friends. He was kind and honest and expressed that he values our friendship, but was not ready to move into a relationship at that time. But, deep down in my soul, I’ve been convinced that he’s ‘the one’ for me and that eventually we’ll end up together. It’s been near impossible for me to let go of that. With BIG decisions in my life, I’ve been blessed with an undeniable confidence that something is the right choice. Almost a sense that God is pushing me from behind, nudging me down a particular path, and the doors are opening as I’m led through to new opportunities. I’ve had this experience in determining my profession, making a big move out of state, and buying my home. My courage was not my own. God was leading the way and I was open and in total trust to be led. This powerful force is the same experience I’ve had with this guy . . . an undeniable attraction and connection that brings about such certainty that we’re meant to be together. But, it’s been too long and I’ve given all of myself and it’s still not enough. It’s out of my control. Distraction just doesn’t feel the same way about me as I do about him. Focusing on him distracts me and takes my mind away from life-giving relationships in my life. I am an intelligent woman. Why does relationship stuff always launch me into this realm of stupidity? Am I the only one who goes through this? I sometimes feel as if I am. Like I’m going crazy.
My control post was so healing for me as I processed and named what it is that makes me struggle so much with love. Control. My determination to figure out the magic formula for everything to work out MY way. I feel this wrestling match inside me. A tug-of-war between me and God. Me wanting to control the situation and allowing myself to be distracted and God wanting me to let it go and give it to Him. I always tell friends that even in the midst of the valley and in the most difficult part of a struggle, I am still grateful. Through tears and frustration, I am thankful for situations that challenge my faith. Things I question. Things I don’t understand. Things I get mad at God about. Things I wrestle with. I think going through these situations is when we take leaps instead of steps in growing in our faith.
Obviously, this is a situation God wants me to struggle with until I fully submit it to Him. God is relentless. He will not give up on me, and so He continues to allow me to do things ‘my way’ as he patiently waits for me to relinquish control to him. I keep handing over a piece at a time. Little bits that I feel comfortable letting go of. I’ve given some of it to God, but not all of it. I still want a piece of that control. But, God wants the entire wad. He doesn’t want chunks of this; he wants ALL of this. Once I give it over to God for good, it’s finished. It’s His. It’s no longer my concern. This is between me and God. It’s MY issue. It really has nothing to do with Distraction. I’ve been frustrated by the length of time I’ve been distracted by him, when really, it’s been up to me all along how long I stay here.
I refuse to continue putting myself in situations where I’ll be tempted. So, for now, I’m freeing myself of Distraction by not initiating communication with him. Immature? Maybe. But, giving total control over to God is my number one goal. I want out of the struggle. No more drama. I’ve tried to be with Distraction and keep my feelings in check, and I’ve failed and continue to fail. I’m just not strong enough. I’m going to work through this process free from distractions, focus on what God wants for me, and finally move on. One step at a time, I’m letting go and God can take the reins. I’m beginning to catch glimpses of what total freedom from this situation is like, and it feels amazing. Coming out on the other side of this will yield enormous blessings, a greater self awareness, and trust in God like I’ve never known before. I yearn for this. I want this with the deepest part of my being.
Thank you Lord for the struggles in my life. They make me love you more.