Can I handle the truth?

There’s a scene in the movie, “A Few Good Men” where Tom Cruise’s character is questioning Jack Nicholson’s character in a courtroom. Cruise’s character pushes at Nicholson’s, demanding the truth until Nicholson finally snaps & yells, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I’ve been thinking a lot about that in the context of God’s truth & insight into my own life.

I’m on ‘Day 2’ at the Center for Spiritual Renewal in Christiansburg, Virginia. (You can find out more about it HERE if you’re interested.) So far, my time here has mostly consisted of grocery shopping, eating A LOT of BBQ, reading, pondering life, & a whole lot of quiet & alone time. But the highlight of each of the last 2 days for me has been when I get to sit with Chuck, my mentor/counselor/friend, & wrestle through “that which plagues my heart, mind, & life.” Chuck serves as one of my “healing relationships.” (You can find out more about what a healing relationship is HERE.) When we talk, he doesn’t just sit there like a bump on a log & ask inane questions, like, “How does that make you feel?” or go Dr. Leo Marvin on me. Instead, Chuck listens. Asks pointed questions. He draws stuff out of me that I hadn’t even consciously thought about, let alone verbalized. And then he speaks God’s truth to me.

Granted, it’s not always easy to hear the truth; & the Holy Spirit is always good about confirming what he’s said or whispering to me that I really need to pay attention to what was just said – that God was using Chuck to speak life, health, wholeness, & growth to me. That if I could handle the truth & respond to it with appropriate actions, I would continue to see God’s purposes for me & my life continue to grow & develop.

There have been times where Chuck said something & the Holy Spirit nudged me & STILL I was tempted to gloss over what I’d heard. To deny it. Justify or make excuses about WHY I am the way I am. To point fingers at others. To ignore it. To feel sorry for myself. To come face to face with truth & want to turn & run from it to avoid having to do something difficult.

The truth, spoken in love, challenges me to examine & be open to change/be transformed in my thought patterns, behaviors, &/or ways I see myself & my role at home, work, with friends, & others. God’s truth invites me to grow up into being like Christ in my relationships & interactions with others. To leave my childish sin & flesh-encrusted ways behind in order to  intentionally  embrace Christ-likeness, without regard for how (or if) others might act or respond.

The truth isn’t always easy to hear – but when it is spoken in love, with God’s heart for redemption, restoration, & transformation fully evident, it is a lot easier to handle. And the alternative is stagnation. Becoming set in my ways. A gradual(?) deterioration into the results of me living for me. The loss of the ability to hear the still, small voice of the Lord calling me to come to Him to be being made new.

My 2 cents: Find someone who will speak God’s truth to you, in love. Then, handle the truth by responding to God’s instruction. It’s worth it.

Stopping to feel the feelings & other musings…

Not long ago I had a conversation with a dear friend who was sharing about how different her life was since she began taking the time to “feel her feelings,” especially the unpleasant ones: frustration, helplessness, sadness, grief, anger, hatred, disappointment, & the like. So, instead of ignoring her feelings, minimizing them, making herself so busy she’d ‘forget’ about them, &/or stuffing them in one of the seldom-visited compartments that exist in our minds, she (with the help of the healing of the Holy Spirit) began to feel them. To really experience, reflect upon, & invite God into the waterfall of her feelings & emotional responses to those feelings. Her verdict?

Feeling feelings is hard. A lot of the time it hurts. The feeling/reflecting/responding can lead to difficult & painful conclusions about the state of our lives & the relationships we’re in. They alert us that something needs to be worked through, acknowledged, addressed, &/or processed – activities that hold a promise of pain in the same way cleaning gravel out of a scraped knee does.

I know what she means. The first quarter century of my life I was “feelings challenged” – I didn’t know how to feel the negative feelings, let alone how to process through them. So they were ignored.

The problem is that the unresolved mess floated in my subconscious like a program running in the background of my brain, & whenever a situation would arise that remotely reminded me of any of those weak & negative feelings, I’d have a mini-meltdown. That looked like an outburst of anger, crying for “no reason,” depression, &/or the hopelessness of not knowing how to deal with myself or to make a change.

God provided an outlet of sorts… but it wasn’t like I asked Him to “search my heart” in order to heal & transform me. I prayed vague prayers, read my Bible, did church stuff. A lot of church stuff. Looking back, it was like keeping Him at arms length while asking for a miraculous work that would change my issues in a moment, when what was needed was a walk with Him through the difficulty, the darkness, the proverbial “valley of the shadow of death,” so that the underlying problems, areas of hurt & wounding, places of brokenness & pain could be healed.

The story of God’s work in this area of my life is a long one – & it’s not something I’m going to write about today. However, I do want to highlight one element that ended up playing a big role in this journey for me – reading through the Psalms.

For as long as I can remember, I have read the Psalms everyday – I’m a creature of habit, & my “habit” involved a plan that would take me through all 150 Psalms every month. (You take the day of the month – for example, today is the 6th, & you’d read Psalm 6, add 30 & read Psalm 36, add 30 & read Psalm 66 & so on.) The Psalms provided a back entrance into the conundrum of my feelings – because they are written RAW. The Psalmist (mostly David) pulls no punches in articulating to God EXACTLY what he’s feeling. And what ended up striking me as so odd was that God could HANDLE whatever David threw at Him. Nothing fazed God, even when David was angry, disappointed, frustrated, &/or feeling abandoned by Him. And as David processed through the Psalms, his own heart changed even if his circumstances didn’t. He started seeing himself & his life situations, as hard as they often were, as being firmly in the center of God’s hands. And by “feeling his feelings,” David got a perspective on those feelings that allowed him to keep moving forward as a “man after God’s own heart.” For some examples of David letting it all out, check out these PSALMS

David’s example has been a path for me over the last 15 years. And I’m thankful that God can “take” me when I’m at my very worst – He knows the depths of my heart – He loves me. And is healing me.

Nobody owes me anything…

January 2006, I was in Los Angeles with theMoses & brother for a the National Foursquare Youth Leadership conference. One of the plenary speakers is my now District Supervisor, Ron Pinkston. Something he said that morning has stuck with me to this day, & I repeat it to myself daily.

Nobody owes me anything.

When he first said it, I smirked, & my internal response was, “That sounds good… &, even better, I don’t owe anybody anything…”

That thought was still on the tip of my brain (you know what I mean; it was still bouncing around, being pondered & whatnot,) when he said, “And don’t go thinking that you ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’ is the same thing as ‘Nobody owes me anything.’ Cause its not. I don’t owe anybody anything is selfish. It’s petty. It numbs us to our personal responsibility to love one another, actively. To do to others as you would have them do to you…”

I was floored.

You know the times when someone is talking & it seems like they are talking just to you? That the subject matter & the things that they’re saying specifically address you, where you’re living, right on the dot? This was like that. Except stronger.

My heart was in my throat & it raced 100 miles an hour.

I. Was. Convicted.

The rest of the speech is like a dream in my memory; I remember bits & pieces vividly, other details not so much. What I do know is that the whole time Ron talked, I was consumed in an inner-dialogue with the Holy Spirit.

It felt a lot like Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” (the George C. Scott version of course,) where the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, & Future view scenes from Ebenezer Scrooge’s life, & let him be an observer to himself & to the people in his life.

Unbeknownst to me (or at least successfully ignored by me for a time,) a virtual bastion of thoughts, strong beliefs, & feelings that I was OWED something by others had born ‘fruit’ in & through my life.

Anger. Resentment. Entitlement. Bitterness. Offense. Pessimism. Negativity. Biting sarcasm. An inability to enjoy people, relationships, & situations that SHOULD’ve been enjoyed.

Some fruit.

I saw:

  • A wife & family that OBVIOUSLY didn’t appreciate all that I did – from working hard to provide for them, working around the house, personally going without so that they could play a sport or purchase a ‘want.’ I was OWED at least a regular diet of “Thank you’s.”
  • Countless times where others, especially those closest to me, should have known what I was thinking, feeling, hoping for, only to let me down. I was OWED more consideration.
  • ‘Friends’ who hadn’t reached out, hadn’t called, hadn’t sought me out, hadn’t done ANYTHING, when it was OBVIOUS that I was hurting – I was OWED more attention from them.
  • Times where I found out that my friends had gotten together to do something fun, & that I wasn’t invited – I was OWED an invitation.
  • People that had left the church without a word, a note, or an email – people I had loved, cared for, wept with, & invested in – I was OWED more than silence.
  • Being overlooked for a series of special assignments within our church family – that I was BEST qualified for, & didn’t even get ASKED about. I was OWED more.
  • Disappointment at unmet hopes, dreams, & expectations, even feeling let down by some as though they should have been a part of making MY hopes, dreams, & expectations a reality. I was OWED that.

You get the picture.

A really bad part  of the ‘fruit’ of my entitlement was the collateral damage  it had caused to other people through my example, my frequent ‘sharing’ of my feelings (complaining? gossiping?,) thereby influencing them towards the ‘dark side’ of cynicism, negativity, & self-focusedness.

I saw that I’d given away, neglected really, the responsibility for myself. My feelings of peace, happiness, &  joy. My contentment.

People had to walk on eggshells around me, not knowing what to expect… Because the very worst part of feeling like I was OWED, was that I didn’t express my feelings or thoughts to the people I was feeling OWED BY.  In retrospect, it feels silly to me to look back; embarrassing even.

This last week I ‘tweeted’ that I’d be writing a blog on this topic – my friend Tim wrote me giving his take on it & I want to share it with you…

I just saw your twitter post. Wanted to chime in.

Nobody owes me anything. I started to try to intentionally live this way a few years back. There are many great results, but one of the most unexpected ones was this: I am more confident in my communication of who I am and more bold about what I would like.

It’s like this: As long as I felt like people did owe me stuff, I’d either:

1. Sit around and expect that they would know what they owed me and wait for it to come, or
2. Speak out the things I felt I was owed and have emotional turmoil about the potential response.

Now, I can freely talk about who I am and even the things I’d like to see without putting a visible or invisible expectation on anyone else to actually give it to me…

Nobody owes me anything” allows for a kind of detachment that allows me to fully express my heart, because I don’t believe my heart must be confirmed by anyone else. If it is, great. If it isn’t, it does not diminish who I am or the dreams I have.

Nicely put.

Bottom line, I know that what I have learned & am learning can be redeemed, & maybe someone, somewhere can learn from me & what I’ve gone through, instead of having to choose the ‘way of pain.’ That’s my hope.

Nobody. Owes. Me. Anything.