What Is Anger’s Real Name?

Gina Butz emotions, grief, perspective 2 Comments

What is anger's real name?

Sometimes on New Year’s Eve, when I’m feeling ambitious and intentional about our family relationships, we review the year together. One question we ask our kids is, “what’s one thing you learned this year?”

Our last year overseas, our then 10-year-old said, “I’ve learned that anger is a secondary emotion,” and I high fived myself.

Partly because it felt like I nailed something good in parenting, but mostly because I was glad our kids learned it so much sooner than I did.

It was something I learned that year too, mostly because I experienced a lot of it (we got a dog. It was hard. I got angry. Really angry).

Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that it’s not all we’re feeling. When we’re angry, it’s usually because we’re feeling something else, something that feels vulnerable. So anger, which makes us feel big, covers the emotion that makes us feel small.

Anger was a theme that year for our whole family. It rose in me when we got our dog and everything in my life fell apart. Our daughter lived in it the summer before we moved back to the U.S.

For me, the anger covered shame, the shame of failure, of not living up to my image of a successful homeschooling, dog training missionary. Our daughter’s anger masked the fear she felt in being so completely out of control and sad in the process of leaving home.

What Anger Tells Us

Anger is a good barometer. We get angry when something we love feels threatened. Often it’s our image. Or it’s a way of life we’re trying to hold onto. Maybe our deepest desires feel threatened-our desire to be wanted, important, safe, right.

Anger doesn’t always show up as rage. In fact, often it doesn’t. It disguises itself as sarcasm, criticism, stubbornness, contempt. It slips out in clipped words and impatience.

Most of us don’t linger in anger for long. It feels wrong. We dismiss it, stifle it, or blow it off quickly, rather than allowing it to be a doorway into something deeper.

When we don’t linger, we never get to the bottom of what we’re really feeling. And we need to.

Because if we sit with our anger long enough, it will tell us its real name.Twitter

The Names of Anger

It might tell us its name is grief. Maybe shame. Fear. Fear of losing control, fear of not being enough. Weakness. Confusion. Despair. Beneath our anger is our true emotions that need to see the light of day so we can deal with them.

This fall, I was, in my husband’s words, “kind of mean.” That’s fair. (He was being gracious-there are stronger words he could use).

He said maybe I didn’t have much emotional margin after sending our son off to school, the prayer rollercoaster God took us on this summer, and the business of gearing up for a conference this fall that I’m leading.

Regardless, I’m glad he said something. It gave me an opportunity to sit with my anger and see what it was hiding. It told me I felt unimportant, lonely, unheard, in certain areas. As I sat with those more raw emotions, my anger began to dissipate.

Don’t ignore anger. Pretending it doesn’t exist, or dismissing it without question robs us of the path to deeper emotional health and wholeheartedness. Sit with it. Dialogue with it. Let it tell you what you’re really feeling.

What is your anger’s real name?

 

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Come Be With Me

Gina Butz faith, rest 2 Comments

Come be with me

Photo by Tom The Photographer on Unsplash

“Come be with me.”

I probably said that a dozen times during the week when our son was home from college.

It was good to have his presence here again. His words and laughter filled the empty spaces. More food was eaten. I did his laundry. Cut his hair.

We ate out as a family, but other than that, it was an average week. I felt we should do something epic, like a beach day (but our kids hate the beach, and my husband traveled).

But that’s ok. We didn’t need to do anything special together. I just wanted him to be with me.

I wanted to be in his presence, hear his stories, sift through his fears, learn what he’s learned.

So, like a creepy person, I followed him around the house.

When he watched TV, I sat with him. While he tinkered with his computer, I sat on his bed and read a book. Whenever I noticed him unoccupied, I called him over, “Come be with me.”

Each time I did, I couldn’t help but think that this is how God views us.

How He Sees Us

As I go about my day, often weighed down by tasks or worries, God patiently waits.

When I slow down enough to be with Him, the temptation is to make that time productive. Purposeful. I’m a soldier, reporting for duty, ready for my orders.

But He just wants to be with me.

I come with agendas. My prayer list, or the Bible study I’m doing.

But He just wants to be with me.

Or I convince myself it’s not that important to Him if I come or not. It should be epic, right? Meaningful time. Spiritual progress. Mountains moved. I should make it worth His while.

Yet God says, “Just come. Be with me.”

Yes, feel free to bring the needful tasks of your day. He will speak to them. But so much more He simply wants our presence. He wants to listen to our stories, sift through our fears, hear what we’re learning.

It’s unfathomable to me that God might miss us while we’re off trying to save the world, but He does. He watches us in our busy days and whispers, “Come be with me.”

Cease your doing. I just want to enjoy you. I love to spend time with you. I’m glad you’re here.

Whether we come in our filthy rags or we come in all our glory, minds quieted and at rest, or cluttered with the tasks of the day, He wants us to come.

I want to cultivate this awareness in my life-wherever I am, He is there. He is waiting. Waiting to sing over me, to listen, to laugh, to simply be alongside me.

“Your God is present among you,
    a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
    and delight you with his songs.”

Zephaniah 3:17, The Message

 

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Why Pray?

Gina Butz prayer, trials 2 Comments

Why Pray?

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

This was a summer of big prayers.

It was also a summer of “no” in answer to those prayers.

It left me a little raw.

I declared myself “the persistent widow” from the beginning (Luke 18:1-8). Our son faced some huge obstacles that needed mountain-moving prayer. I was ready to be audacious. I asked big. Give me the pony, God, I know you can do it.

But He didn’t.

The summer left him without the housing we desperately prayed for this fall. In fact, he’s worse off than he started; one of his closest friends, who was going to room with him in the dorms, got into that housing, leaving him with a random roommate. That was a hard, hard no.

A dear friend of ours suffered a brain aneurysm. For two weeks we joined her husband and sons in aching prayer for healing. They are prayer warriors. Although I know it’s not necessarily true, it feels like their prayers reach God’s ears more than the rest of us because of that.

But they didn’t. Her healing came in the form of going home. That “no” was heartbreaking.

My Big Prayer

I had a big prayer recently, one I was hesitant to share with others, because what if it was a “no,” too?

All kinds of crazy thoughts came to mind when I thought about this request.

Part of me thought, “God, I feel I’m about due for a ‘yes,’ what do you say?” Almost like He owes me. (I told you-crazy thoughts).

On the other hand, He seems to be in the habit of doling out the “no” responses lately. Why expect something else?

And yet, I prayed.

And prayer is hope, and hope is scary.

Prayer is handing our hearts and dreams and control all over to God, like a small child emptying her sticky pockets into His hands. The track record of this summer made me throw some side eye at God, wondering, “what will you do this time?”

I know He does good. I just don’t know how much the good might hurt.

It makes me ask again, “why even do I pray?”

Why Pray?

Do I pray because I want my way? You betcha. In my kingdom, comfort and happiness reign. The problem is, we’re meant to pray for His kingdom to come, not ours.

We become myopic about the ways we want God to answer prayer. Our definition of His goodness is narrow. We forget about His higher thoughts and ways.

But it’s so easy to do.

And that’s why every prayer is a wrestling, a choice to invite His wisdom, power, and sovereignty into our lives and declare our dependence, while at the same time, proclaiming, “yet not my will but yours be done.” We lay our desires before Him, and then vulnerably allow Him to answer as He pleases.

When Jesus saw people walking away from Him in disappointment, He asked His disciples, “Do you want to go too?”

If I don’t get the answers I seek, will I walk away? No, because actually what I want more than an answer is Him. I want what only He can do in me.

Prayer Changes Us

I want what prayer does to me. It takes me out of the position for which I am not qualified-that of decider of my fate, god of my world, ruler of my kingdom. It reminds me who I am and what I can and surely cannot do.

I want what prayer did for our family this summer. It forced us to look at life through the eyes of faith, not sight. Prayer teaches us to look beyond what makes sense and believe God will prove Himself faithful and good in ways we don’t expect. As our son said, “I realized I was praying for what I want and I wasn’t thinking about what God wants for me.” Isn’t that always the way we’re tempted to go?

In the end, prayer is less about moving the hand of God, and more about resting in it.Twitter

As I drove the other day, lifting my big prayer to God, I thought, “Maybe this will be a no. If it is, God will use it. It will be ok.” Either way, I’m grateful for how it keeps me dependent, hopeful, surrendered.

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” -C. S. Lewis

 

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Do You Know Your Real Name?

Gina Butz identity, loved 1 Comment

Do you know your real name?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

There is power in the names we’re given.

I’m told my parents originally planned to name me Cindy Joy. Then I showed up nearly a month late. They took one look at their overripe, bald baby girl, and thought, “Nope. Not a Cindy Joy. Let’s call her Gina Marie.” So here I am.

Names give definition, identity. They remind us who we are and whose we are. Yet there are moments in our stories, places author Dan Allender calls, “shalom shattered”- times when we lose our identities because of sin, lies, pain.

In those moments, we are renamed.

Sometimes, it’s other people who name us. Unwanted. Rejected. Outsider. Betrayed.

Sometimes, we name ourselves. Unknown. Powerless. Not enough. Lost.

We carry those names into every story in our lives.

They become the ways we define ourselves. When shalom shatters again, those names echo in our hearts, reinforcing the idea that those names really are us.

But the truth is, they aren’t. We have new names.

When we lived in Singapore, I was in a small group at church about listening prayer. One of the exercises we did in that group was to ask God how He sees us.

It was, to be honest, a weird exercise, but I am a good student who does her homework, so I asked Him, “How do you see me?”

The response I heard was, “Precious Lamb.”

Full disclosure? I was not thrilled initially, because what instantly came to mind was Precious Moments figurines, which are not my favorite thing that Christians have ever put out there. They rank up there with Testamints and Bibleman for me as far as the cheese factor goes. (the irony? I had one Precious Moments figurine growing up. It was a lamb. I can’t get away from this).

So given my reaction, I know this thought could not have originated from me. The more I sat with it, the more I realized this is how God sees me, and how I need to see myself.

To bring this truth home, soon after that time my brother sculpted this figure for me:

(The crazy part? I hadn’t shared this name with him. He just felt inspired to make it for me).

God knows our names.

In scripture, we see God literally shift the course of someone’s life by changing their names. Abram to Abraham. Jacob to Israel. Sarai to Sarah. Simon to Peter. Saul to Paul.

God calls us by name. He calls us Precious Lamb, Beloved Child, Chosen, Redeemed, Wanted, Known, Seen. He strips away those shattered places and heals them with the truth of who we really are.

For every broken place in our stories, where we claimed a label that says we are something less, God wants to rename us.

The names He gives us redeem, shift the course of our lives, alter how we see ourselves, and therefore how we relate to Him and others.

But to do that, we have to stake a claim to those new names again and again. Each day, we must choose to call ourselves by our new names, the names He gives us. We repeat them until they ring true.

When the old names echo and call us away from home, we tell ourselves who we really are. If others try to call us by those names, we shake our heads and turn back to our true selves. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Do you know your name? Of all the names we gather along the way, the only ones that matter are the ones He gives us. Call yourself by those names today.

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5 Reason to Be a Burden

Gina Butz relationships 1 Comment

5 reasons to be a burden

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before, “I just hate to be a burden” or, “she doesn’t want to be a burden.” A friend once even told me she admires people who don’t want to be a burden to others.

I don’t.

When we say we don’t want to be a burden, there’s usually lies fueling it, lies rooted in our worth.

Those lies tell us that speaking needs places our worth on the table for examination. Am I worth the time, attention, and energy of others? Will they still want me if I appear weak, needy, or foolish?

Some of us respond to the lies by diminishing ourselves. Others of us (ahem, looking in the mirror), respond by determining that we will never leave the worthiness question for others to answer.

And yet, we should let others carry us.

Here’s why:

5 Reason to Be a Burden

  1.  It dispels the lies about our worth.

    When we choose to offer our needs to others, rather than stumbling on alone, we break the power of the voices that tell us it’s not ok. We declare ourselves human and worthy of space in the world. That’s a brave and beautiful thing.

  2. We find healing.

    Not only healing but rest, strength, grace, hope, and help. We need each other-that’s how God made us. I sometimes hear people express an idea that all they really need is God. But what God gives us, He often gives through others. The help we need comes from God, through others.

  3. We give others an opportunity to use their gifts

    when we ask them to carry our burdens. Withholding our needs from others robs them. Ministering to us might be the way God wants to use them today. Who are we to deny them that?

  4. Our humility invites others.

    Sometimes it seems we’re all wounded soldiers, triaging ourselves, insisting someone else needs more attention. But when one of us cries out for help, it frees the rest of us to cry as well. The enemy wants to keep us silently wounded. But we defy him and lead others to healing if we ask for it ourselves.

  5. Bottom line? It’s Biblical.

    Galatians 6:2, “Carry each others’ burdens, for in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? To love God and love others. When we offer and receive the weightiness of our burdens, we love.

“In their created limitations, Adam and Eve were held together in a bond of naked vulnerability . . . that is because in God’s design we do not manage our needs, we confess them. Intimacy demands hearing and telling the truth . . . [and it] recognizes that we will be inadequate to respond to the needs that are shared. We don’t mend each other’s brokenness, we just hold it tightly.”  Craig Barnes, Yearnings

In God’s design we do not manage our needs, we confess them.Twitter

We don’t manage needs, we share them. And when we do, it’s not anyone’s responsibility to fix us; we simply ask them to hold us. It requires vulnerability and humility-both challenging, both necessary.

So be a burden, today, if you need to be. Confess your need. Let someone carry you. This is how God made us. This is how we love and are loved.

 

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What God Doesn’t Need Us to Tell Him

Gina Butz anxiety, dependence on God, faith, prayer 0 Comments

What God Doesn't Need Us to Tell Him

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Sitting in a time of silence one morning, I felt led to pray for our son. In the words that poured out, I sounded like I was informing God of our son’s situation. Like He didn’t know.

I do this sometimes. Talk to God about my life like He needs more information. Like if only He really knew what was going on, He would spring into action in a way He seems to not be.

Alongside this news briefing is a desire to get God to care as much about the situation as I do.

As if He doesn’t.

I beg God to love my kids as much as I do. Care about this crisis in my life as much as I do. As though He’s indifferent.

Why do we do this? Why do we pray this way? God is not a sleeping giant we must rouse to compassion and action on our behalf. He doesn’t come help the ones who scream the loudest and seem the neediest.

God already knows

He is able to do more than we ask or imagine. We are engraved on the palm of his hands. Nothing escapes Him. He’s got this. He’s got us.

Even the care we feel about our part of the world pales in comparison to how He loves it. He IS love. I can’t say that about myself, even toward those who most have my heart. He aches for what we love, more than we ever could.

May that perspective fuel our prayers.

Rather than screaming for God’s attention, may we sink into the awesome awareness that we already have it. Twitter The hairs on our head numbered. His thoughts of us more than the grains of sand on the shores of the world.

Every one of those thoughts fueled by love, goodness, compassion, grace, mercy. Fortified with wisdom, power, insight, sovereignty.

Then our prayers won’t be us waving our arms to be seen but raising them in praise and gratitude. Instead of wringing our hands, we open them to release these things we love and hold so tightly. Rather than pleading, our prayers will bring us to peace and perspective.

We join in with what He’s already doing for our people, the world. Step into the confidence that comes from knowing He is at work. Rejoice that our hearts are known, and already His plans are laid for us. He doesn’t need us to tell him anything. He just needs us to trust.

 

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For the Moments When We’re Not Ready

Gina Butz transition 1 Comment

For the Moments When We're Not Ready

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

“I’ve been waiting for this moment and now it’s here and I’m not ready.”

This is what my daughter said to me the night we sat in our car on a dark street, waiting for another soccer family to pick her up and take her away for a weekend tournament. The weeks ahead of that one moment were marked with anxiety, not knowing the family well, wondering how she would do without me.

So often life feels like that. Moments we knew were inevitable, but we just aren’t ready for them.

I Wasn’t Ready Either

Back then, I wasn’t ready for our son to drive on his own (could I just always be in the back seat?). I wasn’t ready for colleges to send him invitations (back, vultures, back!). They were gearing up to fly to South Africa (SOUTH AFRICA) without us on a mission trip for 6 weeks. Life just kept coming at us.

If I thought I felt unprepared then, how much more now, as those college invites DID come, and he just left? And his sister, who also just got her license, and a job, will follow him before we know it. Life relentlessly marching on, and these moments that feel unbearable keep happening.

I Thought I Would Be Ready

When they were little, I thought I couldn’t wait for these moments. I couldn’t wait for them to do it on their own. I couldn’t wait for my time back. I couldn’t wait.

I’ve been waiting for this moment – the moment when our kids would grow up and stretch out, becoming independent, learning to live without us. And now it’s here, and I’m not ready.

But just like I told her in that moment, He is with us. He has brought us to this moment, and He will carry us through. And just like I promised He would be with her in those moments when I wasn’t there, I have to tell myself the same truth – He will be with them when I am not.

When we said goodbye to our kids that day at the airport, our friend who accompanied them saw the fear in my eyes for my 14-year-old and gently said, “We’ve got her. She’ll be okay.” And I was. We walked through that, and college applications, and teenage drivers, and we’ll get through this too.

He’s Always Ready

Sometimes we’re just not ready, but He is. From that first day of kindergarten to the last day of the place you love. The first scary step into a new dream, or the death of an old one. The last goodbye. The first anything. He is more than enough for those moments we feel inadequate to face. Twitter

The next season that feels so huge, scary, undesirable even, you will get through. So we do it scared. But we never do it alone.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . . for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 2, 3

A Steady Diet of Truth

Gina Butz dependence on God, truth 2 Comments

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My daughter and I recently watched a few seasons of Survivor. It’s fascinating. I would be terrible on Survivor for so many reasons, one of which is that I get seriously hangry when I’m deprived of food. I would be useless in the challenges. Grumpy around camp. They would vote me off SO fast.

Nearly starving yourself in extreme conditions looks insane, but that’s the way many of us can live. I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about truth.

Why We Starve Ourselves

When we get busy, one of the first things that can get pushed out of our schedule is time with the truth.

We might have the best intentions to spend long periods of time soaking in scripture, parsing verses, digging deep into a word study. But then we stay up too late and sleep in and decide to skip the word that morning.

Or the responsibilities pile up and instead of feeding on truth, we take up the time with one more task. I know that’s been the case with me the last few weeks in the rush of graduating a child. It’s, “I’ll pray while I walk,” or, “I’ll listen to a spiritual podcast while I (cook, do laundry, etc).” But instead of praying my mind wanders, and instead of spiritual podcasts, youtube seems more entertaining.

For a while, we can get by that way. But if we do it for too long, we begin to be people who truth snack our way through life. We eat just enough to get by. When our souls feel a little weary, we throw them some scripture, a short devotional, a few minutes of prayer.

And so we starve.

But why?

Why do we just get by, when we could be gorging our souls on what they desperately need?

We can gorge ourselves on truth.

If there is one area of our lives where we can eat until we are stuffed, it’s on truth. Reading scripture. Spending time listening to God. Filling our minds with what is true, instead of listening to ourselves.

And we need food for our souls not only on a regular basis, but even more so in those difficult times. The times when our souls are strained, pushed to the limit, when more is asked of us.

When we are most tempted to get by is when we need to stop and gorge ourselves. Admit our human need for something greater to sustain us, and eat what is good. Feed on the bread of life. Drink the living water. The more we do, the better able we are to face the trials that come.

Feeding Ourselves Takes Time

In some seasons, I wish things were easier and I didn’t have to eat so much. I wish I didn’t feel so needy, or that it didn’t slow me down. But that’s when we need to get over ourselves and surrender.

In Isaiah 55, God invites us,”Come and eat. Buy wine and bread without cost. Feed on me.” Why would we say no to this invitation? There’s no reason for us to starve. We can always be going back and asking for more, finding that truth that satisfies our souls, that carries us through the day.

Our son is going to college this summer. We had to choose a meal plan-either pay through the nose for an all-access plan in the dorms, or do what they call, “Declining Balance.” In other words, put money on a card that they can use anywhere. This plan leans heavily on finding cheap ways to eat-think cereal and ramen. Seems like a sure fire way for our son to lose weight and/or contract scurvy from lack of vegetables.

Friends, we don’t have to choose. We have the all-access plan, and the glorious part is that it’s free. We don’t have to live on a declining balance. Stopping to eat does not slow us down-it fortifies us for the journey.

So friends, let’s eat.

“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:2b

We Grieve and Then We Hope

Gina Butz grief, hope, transition 0 Comments

We Grieve and We Hope

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

“I don’t know if I’ll ever find what I have right now again. There’s just so much that’s unknown.”

That was our son’s deep cry as we talked one night. He’s slogging through the final weeks of his senior year of high school, staring down freshman year at one of the country’s largest universities. It’s a big transition.

His days are consumed with studying for AP tests, shifts at the local grocery store, graduation parties, and college prep. This chapter is closing in a flurry of activity, so much so that finding the emotional space to prepare for the next chapter is difficult. He despairs in the loss, and fears for the future.

We all come to places of transition where the temptation is to despair or fear. Instead, we can choose to grieve and hope. Read the rest of the story today at SheLoves magazine. 

 

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When Grief Surprises You

Gina Butz grief, transition 0 Comments

When Grief Surprises You

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

I’m in a season of grief right now. Oh, I’m not sad all the time. It surprises me, actually. It comes in waves, like the ocean.

I’ve become more acquainted with the ocean now that we live 45 minutes from it. I love walking along the beach at sunrise. The waves are so unpredictable. They surprise you sometimes, coming up further than you expect. You can’t predict them.

Sometimes the water stays far away. Other times it stretches out and touches your feet, even washing up to your ankles if you’re close enough.

That’s my experience of grief.

If only it were a linear, predictable process. Hard at first, and then gradually subsiding. Less and less over time, until you don’t feel it anymore. A clear timeline with a precise end date. You do your grieving and then you’re done, praise Jesus.

Instead, grief feels like a stranger popping out from behind doors at the most unexpected times.

When we walked onto the stage to stand with our son at graduation, I was surprisingly calm. Later, as one of his good friends stood there with her parents, I lost it.

When I have thought about graduation in the past weeks, I have felt more pride than sorrow. Then a week ago I read an email from friends overseas and the tears spilled over at how well they’re doing.

His graduation party was all joy, then last week I folded one of his never-to-be-worn-again uniform shirts and I broke down.

That’s the thing with grief-it’s all right there, but we can’t control or predict it.

I’m often frustrated by this unpredictable guest. Probably because it reminds me that I am not always doing as well as I would like (or like others) to think. It keeps me vulnerable, never knowing when a wave of grief might catch me off guard, when I might start crying about some random person’s life, when it’s really just touching my own.

But I’ve been learning these last few years that grief is a necessary companion. In fact, it is a doorway to wholeheartedness.

I know that part of the reason my grief comes out sideways is that I don’t want to deal with it. It’s easier to stay focused on my to do list, buying dorm essentials and harping on him to finish those thank you notes (I swear, he’s working on them), than to let the waves crash so hard I lose my footing.

But losing our footing in grief is what we must do sometimes.Twitter More and more I am learning to stop and walk straight into the waves. To let myself dwell on what we are losing, and how much it hurts to lose. To say a proper goodbye to this beautiful season we have lived.

When I do, I find that those waves don’t drown-they heal.

And I’m learning that I cannot navigate the waves alone. It’s easier to weather waves of grief when there are people walking beside us, holding us up. They hold our hands and make us brave as we walk into the waves. We need those people who will life preservers, keeping us afloat while we to swim in the grief for a little while.

We can’t fight the waves. Instead, we can accept that they are a natural part of the journey. We can give space to our souls to process the grief when it comes. And we can invite others to hold space for us to feel all of it, so when the waves do come, we can swim.

Let the sorrow come and touch you. When we do that, we let ourselves be human. We live wholeheartedly. Let grief surprise.

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