Clayheart

Outpourings from an imperfect but redeemed & treasured heart of clay.

Author: Clayheart (page 2 of 54)

Openness and Relationship

I wrote part of this post last November, but I’m going to finish it today in June 2016. 2015 was a year of minimal writing, if any. I feel like I’m finally coming out of that again and being restored and taken into a place where I have the energy and means to write once more on a consistent basis.

Last year was like one struggle after another. I would take time to overcome one thing, only to be smacked in the head by the next wave of pain. It was an emotional roller coaster that bled into the early parts of 2016. I don’t think I had ever felt quite that beat up by “life” before.

I had been so tired and overwhelmed back then that I wasn’t even able to pull myself to express things outwardly. So I did a lot of withdrawing and isolating within myself. Even the little that I did, the tone of my writings tended to lean more on the gloomy side.

I was really smarting last fall and winter due to the way people I’d opened up to and trusted chose to treat my heart. If there’s one thing I can’t handle, it’s neglect, disregard, and hidden feelings. I find these far more painful than rejection. I want things exposed and out in the open. It’s so much easier to deal with them in relationships that way.

I spent a lot of time grieving about “relationship” over that past year, and thought a lot of how greatly we’ve diminished it in society, the body of Christ, and as a whole. I am as guilty of this as any. But I can’t seem to stop dwelling on the active living relationships, how we relate with one another in this day and age and society.

There had been multiple breaks in relationship for various reasons that past year, and it was painful. It was painful because I couldn’t air things out for a while, because stirring it up meant potentially hurting other relationships in the process. Or the other party could not handle it being out in the open.

Relationship…

It’s what we were created for… and yet, it’s one of the hardest things for each of us to develop and maintain.

Relationship describes or defines how two or more people are connected to one another. Within relationships there can be distance and intimacy. However, we are built for and drawn toward intimacy.  What else was the Cross for but to rebuild that intimacy in relationship with God?

We crave acceptance and understanding. “Love” is also probably the highest on the list in our human desire/need bank, and we seek it out. We often search for it in all the wrong ways too, sometimes leaving us confused, broken, and hurting when what we thought was love was only a cheap imitation or worse. But it still doesn’t stop our drive, it may hinder it for a while and we isolate, but regardless of what phase we enter on the search – we still want closeness and safety, we still desire relationship.

Yet on this journey for love, closeness, safety, acceptance, and intimacy… there are always risks to discovering where that all resides. And in the process, there is awkwardness, uncertainty, miscommunication, different expectations, and vulnerability, just to name a few. It’s only for the courageous, and those who don’t want to play games with others’ emotions… but who will truly battle through to find what is real. Those who are willing to break off the masks and facade, risk the awkwardness, break through the uncertainty, communicate until there is clarity and understanding, destroy your expectations over someone without giving up your standards, and remaining open enough to learn trust even if you’ve been hurt.

Then you’ll come to find where true love resides… in Christ alone. Then after you’ve discovered Him, you want to be more like Him, and have relationship with those around you like He would.

A friend of mine once said to my sister “marriage is sanctifying.” That phrase stuck with me so deeply and I still cannot get it out of my head. But I’ve changed a word in it to include all of us because what is marriage anyway but a chosen commitment to forge a unique, exclusive, and deeper relationship?

Relationships are sanctifying…

I mentioned this verse in my previous writing, but I actually had included it in this writing back in November.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

How can we be one in spirit and one in mind? We are all unique individuals created by God, yet we’re supposed to be in relationship with one another…

Conflicts always arise in relationship because we are separate from each other, but I think this verse is talking about a journey toward oneness in spirit and mind, by humbling ourselves and valuing another above ourselves just as Jesus did/does.

We learn to love and conduct relationship each and every day. It always looks different, and it’s all helping sanctify us by the grace of God.

I recently brought up an uncomfortable subject to a friend of mine. It took us a few hours to work through and communicate about it fully, but he was willing to go to that place with me. I broke through the uncertainty of whether I should bring the conflict out into the open, he responded by willingly risking the awkwardness of the topic. Then we each communicated until there was clarity and understanding on both sides. Humbly we listened to the other and began to understand the expectations we had over the situation and relationship as a whole. We each expressed ourselves vulnerably and grew in grace. By the end of the conversation, the closeness of our relationship, trust, and safety in the other person had been restored.

While I’m not exactly sure what Paul meant by being one in spirit and one in mind. I feel like my experience with my friend the other night was very close to it. Two separate people coming together to a mutual understanding and acceptance of their relationship and who each individual is with sensitivity to the Spirit of God moving in each of our hearts. We displayed our relationship and responded in openness.

Belief Expressions

So after my confession of “bitterness”, repenting before the Lord and asking for His deliverance, forgiving those that I perceived had wronged me, and moving forward into a renewed state of mind… my attitude has totally shifted. Life has felt so much lighter and I feel so much more at peace, even despite a lot of situational chaos and drama going on around me.

The past two weeks have been very busy, full of new experiences and perspectives. I’ve been at my “new” job for about 6 weeks now. I’m finally starting to settle into my different roles at work, as well as my new living space. Additionally, the place where I work hires a lot of international college students for the summer. So I’ve been surrounded by a variety of cultures, with their own set of personalities, languages, religions, and value systems.

It’s not only been highly entertaining and exciting to observe and take in so many unique individuals, but it’s been challenging me as an individual as well. I grew up fairly nomadic, so I experienced a lot of different lifestyles and people from various parts of the United States. It broadened my horizons tremendously, while simultaneously keeping me sensitive to the differences of others and grounded in who I am as an individual.

Yet for the most part, all these “different” people I encountered throughout my nomadic youth, spoke the same language as me. We could pretty much relate on a few different levels and our thought processes were similar. Now, there are not only language barriers that bring a set of challenges, but I also don’t often speak the same “mental” or “spiritual” language.

It’s interesting what something as simple as a language barrier surfaces in a human. There is a lot of curiosity surrounding our interactions, with a bit of uncertainty mixed in. It’s interesting how each has to learn to find common ground when you can’t fully understand the language, but add on to that – trying to understand how another person functions or thinks outside of your own culture. I’ve had to adjust to explaining basic English words or phrases, as well as explain concepts that are not easily explainable to people who understand my own language, much less someone where it’s their second or even third language.

It’s quite fascinating and beautiful, these various interactions. Though we’re each so different, we all share a common need for interaction/socialization… relationship. Why is that? Hmm… I already know why, but that’s rhetorical and I’ll leave that up for personal reflection.

I can’t help but ask a lot of new questions lately, as so many new and unique questions are asked of me.

At one point during orientation, we were supposed to state a phrase or word of what we would want most in life, what we want to be remembered by, or what we wanted to do in this lifetime. There were various things stated around my table which were thought provoking to hear. When it got to my turn to say something, I wasn’t quite sure how to sum up what I wanted to be remembered by, but I ended up stating it in two parts: “to love every person unconditionally” and “to bring hope to the broken-hearted”.

My first phrase “to love every person unconditionally” was questioned by the Russian guy sitting next to me. He looked at me and stated “unconditionally?” I wasn’t sure if he didn’t understand the word itself or what he was asking, so I did my best to explain what “unconditional love” was by its English definition of the word itself. Then he was correcting me a little bit and still attempting to wrap his mind around it and said ‘so you meet someone and you just love them?’

These are the types of interactions that are causing me to pause, reflect, and learn how to state my values and what I believe. I’m learning the importance of not only understanding my worldview for myself, and what I believe about life, love and Jesus Christ… but how to actually explain and express it in such a way to someone who doesn’t speak the same “language” as me or who believes differently. It’s challenging, and it’s good. It’s what I need, I think… because it actually helps solidify what I know in my heart and brings conviction when I have to express things outwardly.

I think that’s why the common theme with humans is relationship… we need each other. God created us as relational beings because He wanted a relationship with us, and He wanted us to experience relationship. Relationships help us grow. They are beautiful and painful. They are awkward and comforting. Relationships take us outside of ourselves… they sharpen us, and we learn to get over ourselves, if we’re open to that. They teach us how to love and serve someone else. They teach us what to value. They challenge our false perceptions. They humble us.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:3-11

Bitterness & Exhaustion

I have missed writing…

Yet, as much as I’ve missed it, I still cannot bring myself to write consistently. I think because my attitude has been in a steady downward spiral since November, I didn’t see the point anymore. As blow after blow has pounded upon my heart, the enemy was winning…

I’d become bitter.

And that bitterness has permeated my being and poisoned my expressions. It’s apparent in my thoughts. It’s apparent in my words. It’s apparent in my actions. It’s apparent in my interactions. It’s apparent in my energy levels.

It’s taken me 6 months to realize it fully. I had the sneaking suspicion bitterness was taking hold. I felt it altering, changing, hardening my heart. That tenderness toward people was nearly gone – replaced by suspicion, cynicism, and isolation. Yet I turned a blind eye, because I was so bent on being justified in my anger. I had good cause for this bitterness, I really did. Deceit, lies, betrayal on intimate relational levels… from people I trusted most in my life. It was confusing… and then I became angry and bitter at God for it because He didn’t “protect” me or others I love from the pain.

How could you, God? Why didn’t you protect me from experiencing this? Do you really even love me at all? 

As of yesterday, I finally admitted my bitterness openly and accepted it. As of today, I looked up Bible verses on bitterness. As of this evening, I’ve cried about it and am accountable for it. And before I sleep, I will repent and beseech the throne to cleans me of it.

Bitterness is exhausting. It has affected every facet of my life.

The Lord used a dear friend of mine to penetrate my hardened heart a few weeks ago. He’s known me since I was 4 years old, and he’s almost 10 years older than me. I also hadn’t seen him for 10 years, but got to reconnect with him in person again. He gave me hope with his words, and he had no idea what all I had been through. He said that I was still the same as the day he met me.

It took a few days for that to sink in, and I cried so hard when it finally hit me… because there was hope in the Cross and in my Creator… that I was not beyond redemption again. That there was still a part of me that was the soft, sensitive, caring individual that God calls me to be – only by His grace.

The Lord, through my friend and older brother in Christ, was calling me out of my darkness… breathing life and light into me once more. I’m finally feeling the affects of it. Love is becoming real to me again. Slowly, but steadily – His love conquers all.

Praise His name!

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10

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