Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Joy and Pain

A friend of mine said once. "You have to let the pain wash over you and then when you are ready, you will move away from it." That made a lot of sense to me because I strive to understand emotional pain and why it affects me so deeply and so personally for such a long time. Yet, there is sense of joy that will overtake the pain if I allow it to.

This is a devotional by Rick Warren. I just had to share this so I copied the parts that put words around what I have been struggling to express.

"My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible! Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible. We have to start somewhere more realistic — and close to Scripture.
So here’s the definition I’ve come up with from studying Scripture:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.
We tend to think that life comes in hills and valleys. In reality, it’s much more like train tracks.
(Here's the part I like.)
Every day of your life, wonderful, good things happen that bring pleasure and contentment and beauty to you. At the exact same time, painful things happen to you or those you love that disappoint you, hurt you, and fill you with sorrow. These two tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of your life.That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there is still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus Christ in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense."

There are days when life does makes the day my new grandson was born 5 weeks prematurely and my prayers given up with fear and panic for all those months were radically, graciously answered with a resounding "yes". Despite all the warnings from the specialists, he was perfectly normal, breathing on his own, crying and a full pound heavier than they anticipated. I can't even begin to describe the joy and relief I felt at the moment the nurse came out with what I would call miraculously good news. I thought I might just burst.

Not every day is that emotionally charged but I have to focus on the idea that there is joy to be experienced in each day. I admit being sensitive, easily hurt and overly aware and honestly, there are few who truly get that. My artist's soul needs "something beautiful to touch me"...yes, pretty much every day. This beauty comes in many forms like music, art and contact with friends and loved ones. But, topping the list is the Savior I have, the God who answers prayer. That should be enough to turn a frown upside down....every time, every day.
I'm working on that

What's This Self Love Stuff?

Self love, self esteem, self preservation...all buzz words that are pretty prevelant in our culture today. I don't remember hearing a lot about that as a kid. In Sunday school, I mostly learned how to be "unselfish" and how to love others. There is some sort of line I must be missing.

I've been talking to a friend about self love. Doesn't that sound pretentious or arrogant? I have to define for myself what love of self is and then what it means to me.

I do like some of the things I do. I could list those things that fall mostly into the accomplishments/experiences/relationships category. I could even tell you how incredibly blessed I am in many ways but I don't think that is the axis this thing is spinning on.

A friend asked me if I enjoy being alone with myself? I said that I don't know if I ever have been alone with least for an extended period of time. Then, here's the question. When you are alone, are you with your best friend or your worst enemy? I spent time trying to wrap my head around that, well frankly, sometimes I truly am my own worst enemy. I am harder on myself than anyone would ever be and I let my thoughts take me to places that are not safe or healthy for my self-esteem or for my faith.

My life has been predicated on serving others, students, family, kids, parents, community and of course, God. I usually fall in somewhere near the bottom on my "to do" list and if there are needs that interfere with what I'm thinking I want, they always come first. That, my friends, really is an addiction. Do they have a PA? Pleasers anonymous, or CA Caretakers Anonymous? It would be great to be able to share that struggle with others who walk this path. I have the gift of exhortation, (encouragement, cheerleading). I am attempting to set healthy boundaries around that.

John Eldredge, from the book "Walking with God", You can't find your real purpose in life while you're still slavishly serving other people;s expectations of you. You can't find peace while you're ruled by fear. You can't enjoy what you have while you're envying what the other guy has."

I am shocked to find out that I need not give up myself and my innermost desires in lieu of others and their needs....all the time. I do think there is a place of sacrifice for the good of the whole and I will never become calloused to the needs of others. I am in the business of service. I serve others as a teacher but there is a point at which I give up myself and what makes me tick. I give up on seeking those goose bump moments that fill my own heart and set my spirit free. Why? Here's what resonates in my thinking. Others needs are more important than my own. I don't like confrontation. I don't want to "rock the boat" or make people mad or cause people to hurt or to dislike me. The list goes on and on. Those last statements have been an integral part of my daily thought process. I have given up many things that I love, things that make my socks go up and down. And I absolutely DO know what those things are.

So, the question remains. Why do I do that? "People pleasers have never learned to say no, they think that others would get mad at them; and when that happens it means they're bad people and would be abandoned by the people they love." Earnie Larsen

Okay, here's the simple Biblical truth that may have helped me turn a corner.
A wise woman quoted scripture, a commandment, to be exact, that I committed to memory as a child. She said, "Love thy neighbor, as thyself." Hmmmmm. That means it is a given, to GOD, that we love ourselves.
That thought never occurred to me....until now.