How “At Least . . .” Keeps Us From Reality

Gina Butz emotions, relationships, Uncategorized 0 Comments

How "At Least" Keeps Us From Reality

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Recently, I lamented a reality in my life. I would tell you what this reality was, but I honestly don’t remember. All I know is that my husband didn’t respond the way I hoped.

His response was, “Well, at least (this other thing) isn’t happening to you.” (Again, what was the other thing? I don’t know. But it didn’t help me).

And we both laughed.

Because we know by now that, as Brené Brown says, “At least . . . ” is rarely the beginning of an empathetic response. It’s a way to minimize or distract ourselves (or others) from the reality of what we’re facing.

Over the next few days, we both experienced more challenges that led us, either jokingly or absent-mindedly, to respond to one another with, “Well, at least . . .”

Each time, we caught ourselves. We saw how easy it is to evade our own or someone else’s pain by this kind of comparison.

Call it “putting things in perspective” or “choosing not to complain,” but really what we’re doing is dismissing our hearts, refusing to acknowledge reality.

In some ways, it’s a decent strategy. At times, it has protected us from being engulfed by sorrow. But if we know God, then we know there’s an opportunity here.

The opportunity is to invite Him to meet us in what is true. A prayer I learned recently from Ruth Haley Barton’s readings is, “Lord, humble me in the presence of reality.”

In other words, help me sit in this situation. Help me not to excuse or dismiss or pretend that things are better than they are.

Because I believe that You are greater than this. You can redeem. You can heal. This is not beyond you, therefore I can face it.

When we sit with God in our own reality, we increase our capacity to sit with others in theirs.

And when we refrain from our “at least . . .” responses with them, we leave space for them to do this same practice with God for themselves. Otherwise, our actions not only keep us from having to feel their pain, they actually keep them from meeting God in it.

So may we catch ourselves when we are tempted to compare suffering. If our sentences begin with “at least” may we pause.

Instead, let’s meet God in reality.

 

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When Weeping Is Prayer

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Learning to Relinquish Control

Gina Butz dependence on God 0 Comments

Learning to Relinquish Control

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

During the 48 hours at our spiritual retreat this June, we were meant to disconnect completely from technology. But I was headed out to walk one morning, and I wanted to check the weather.

No matter that I’d checked it prior to arriving. What if it changed? What if the afternoon rain suddenly came in the morning? I didn’t want to be caught off guard.

In other words, I didn’t want to be out of control.

The Subtle Ways We Control

There was a time, not long ago, when I wouldn’t have been able to check the weather before going outside. What would I have done then? Maybe get caught in the rain. Maybe have been underdressed. Or overdressed.

But now all that’s over. That little weather app on my phone gives me a small measure of control over my life I didn’t have before. I can avoid looking foolish or being uncomfortable. Thanks, weather app!

Throughout those 48 hours of retreat, I saw more and more how control plays out in subtle ways in my life.

When I couldn’t look up a quote or person someone mentioned, I hated that I couldn’t control my ignorance.

If a book title I’d like to buy came up, I couldn’t exercise the agency to buy it on my time.

When our group was invited to sit in silence after sharing, I couldn’t manage their image of me by responding in an empathetic way.

That I like to control life is not a surprise to me. Remember the Little Miss books? I used to joke that mine would be called “Little Miss Control Freak.”

Starting to Let Go of Control

But God’s been working on me. Slowly prying my fingers off areas of my life, inviting me to relinquish my grip and let Him be God. Reminding me that I don’t really control what I think I do. As Anne Lamott says,

“It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

So waking up to this still pervasive itch to control was a bit disappointing. Haven’t I grown out of this by now? But as I’ve said before, we’re all recovering from something.

And this: this felt a bit like God just found my secret stash of control in a back cupboard.

But in true God fashion, He opened that cupboard on the retreat with kindness and compassion, gentleness and patience. He opened it because He wants me to be free. That’s always why He shows us our sin. His kindness leads to repentance.

The desire to control is often what fuels anxious thoughts. Perhaps something in us realizes that as much as we would like to be the ones in charge, we know we aren’t. The distance between desire and reality is bound to cause fear.

The Freedom in Surrender

That is unless we surrender. Raise the white flag. Admit that despite our best efforts, we are not enough.

Surrender means a willingness to be caught in moments of foolishness. Ignorance. Discomfort.

But it also means freedom.

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We’re freed from being the rulers of our little kingdoms, which, as I’ve said before, we’re terrible at. There’s something in surrender that allows us to breathe again and relinquish the burden of holding things together. We’re free to trust in the God who is capable.

And I’m finding that’s the key to surrender: resting in the fact that while I am wildly out of control of the world, God is not. We can rest in His wisdom, His power, and His love. In other words: God knows what is best for us, He can do what is best for us, and He always wants what is best for us.

The more we sit in those truths, the more our fingers relax. Our grip opens and whatever we hold so tightly to-our reputations, our security, our agency over life-can be released into His care. If we can’t believe in His ability to care for us, we will never open our hands.

The word “surrender” has become a breath prayer, one I say on my exhale when I sit in silence and all the cares of the world come flooding at me. When the temptation is to grab each one and do what I in my small power can do, He reminds me to keep my hands open, palms up, to both give and receive.

 

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Are You Childlike?

Gina Butz dependence on God, identity 0 Comments

Are you childlike?

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

I am not, by nature, childlike.

Responsible. Trustworthy. Mature. Those were the words more often spoken over me as a child. Even as a child, I was not very childlike.

“Childlike” used to equate with “childish,” in my mind. In other words, foolish, flighty, immature. Aren’t we supposed to grow up and be done with childish things?

Childish, yes. But childlike, never.

What Are Children Like?

Lately, I’ve taken to volunteering in the nursery through pre-school rooms at church. Aside from the occasional hilarious soundbite (one kid, when I commented on his excellent coloring skills, replied, “Thanks. I’ve been coloring for about a year now”), they help me remember what children are like.

Kids are full of wonder. Delight. Joy. Boundless energy. Everything is new and therefore interesting. They are poor in spirit, dependent, needy. And those needs pour out freely, sometimes overwhelmingly. They cry and laugh without editing. Certainly, they trust.

But maybe most baffling to me is how time slows with children. And how one simple act-swinging in a swing or throwing a ball-they can repeat again and again. It reminds me of this quote from Chesterton:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

“But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.

“It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

So what does it look like for us, as adults, to be childlike?

What It’s Like to Be Childlike

Maybe it starts with wonder. May God give us eyes to see the glory all around us-the blessings He gives us in every small moment. That kind of wonder leads to grateful hearts who recognize the goodness of our Father.

To be childlike is to be poor in spirit, accepting of our poverty, and willing to live from it. That is to say, we are honest about and unashamed of our weakness and need. That leads us to live each moment in dependence on God and others.

Children know they don’t have it all together. They know they’re still learning. That knowledge doesn’t lead to condemnation but to openness. To be childlike, we live teachable. No matter how far we’ve come, we believe there’s more to learn, and are open to how we might learn it.

And woven through all that there is grace. Because kids don’t beat themselves up for their humble position, and neither should we. Instead, may it leads us to trust others to carry us when we reach the end of ourselves. And may kindness and compassion mark how we respond to our souls.

The Childlikeness of God

Being childlike is, in some way, to be like our Father, because He too is full of wonder, delight, joy. His creation invites us to play and discover. Jesus humbled himself in the greatest way in order for us to have life. He chose poverty for our sakes. Moreover, He lived grace, kindness, and compassion. Growing old in our souls moves us away from His heart.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The kingdom belongs to those who embrace their position as children before God. Those who humbly acknowledge their need and let it lead them to trust and dependence. Those who live loved by the Father. At His feet may we be filled with wonder and awe.

 

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Packing Our Fragile Lives

Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

Packing Our Fragile Lives

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

I’m no stranger to packing up and moving homes, so you’d think I would be pretty good at it by now.

Unfortunately, I have a strong streak of impatience and a high commitment to efficiency, so I tend to pack carelessly. This is particularly true in the kitchen because so much is fragile and requires extra work.

I remember packing a box of glasses once to give away. I debated the merits of squeezing them all into one box over padding them well enough that they wouldn’t break in transit (especially because I couldn’t find another box and was too lazy to keep looking. Also, I value efficiency over accuracy).

This is how we can fill our schedules.

When I look at my calendar and see wide open spaces, my instinct is to fill them.

It’s like Pac-Man, trying to level up by gobbling empty slots.

The problem is when I add something new, I don’t always think about the padding it needs to not bump up against other activities.

Here’s an example: Someone asked me once to take on a role that on paper is a 3-hour activity once a month. I thought, “That’s totally doable!” (this is generally my reaction to any prospect).

When I talked it over with a wise friend, though, he pointed out that it wasn’t just 3 hours. Taking on that time meant 6-8 new relationships with people I want to invest in knowing well.

It meant praying for them, probably meeting individually, social activities together, being available to them. When I thought about the amount of space it would really take in my box, I knew it wasn’t going to fit.

It’s not just about the activities we do, but all the bubble wrap time that will go into making that activity succeed. It includes all the prayer, preparation, thinking, and meeting that might surround it.

Most importantly, we have to consider the relational and emotional energy expended on top of the actual time invested. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often have an excess of that kind of energy laying around.

I’ve experienced the side effects of over packing. Things break.

I break.

Bubble Wrapping Our Lives

So I’m trying these days to bubble wrap my activities. Leave space around them to actually think about them.

Space to be fully present in what I choose, to let them bleed a bit outside the lines of the time I allotted for them.

It’s not easy. My ego gets in the way, wanting to prove myself through the busyness of my calendar.

My heart gets in the way too-I want to help. I love saying yes. But if it’s going to cause me to overwork, it’s not my best yes. It’s not the best yes for anyone.

So we need helping packing. Sometimes we need to run it by a friend, as I mentioned earlier, someone with no skin in the game, who can call us out when our hearts and egos run faster than our souls.

And of course, we need God. He knows how fragile we are; He knows He made us from dust. His wisdom will guide us if we’re willing to listen as we pack.

 

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Holding Each Other (When We Want to Fix It)

Gina Butz emotions, relationships 0 Comments

Holding Each Other (When We Want to Fix It)

Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz on Unsplash

When her teammate went down in the middle of a game, our daughter immediately ran to her side. Her first aid training kicked in, and she tried in vain to get her friend to slow her breathing. Shock and pain overwhelmed her teammate, though, and all our girl could do was sit by and cry for her.

Afterward, she lamented her helplessness to me. “I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t do anything for her,” she sighed.

“You did the best thing you could. You were with her. She didn’t need you to fix her. She needed you to be there.”

Unconvinced, she continued, “But it was so hard to see her in pain, and I couldn’t help.”

And there is the heart of the issue.

Our Desire to Fix

When we see others in pain, something in us desires to help. That desire is good. It’s God-given.

But often our desire to help is really a desire to fix. It’s a desire for the bad situation to simply not be true.

It seems right, even good, to fix, doesn’t it? It feels like helping. Really, though, it’s usually avoiding. We struggle to sit in places of shalom shattered, both for ourselves and others.

It reminds us that we are not in control. We feel our helplessness. We feel their pain.

Yet there’s something we can offer in these moments that is precious and valuable. We can offer our presence. And that can be enough.

Offering Our Presence

Recently I was in a small group for my spiritual formation program. We were asked to introduce ourselves to each other, and then sit in silence for two minutes afterward. One person shared quite vulnerably, even to the point of tears.

And after sharing, we sat there without saying a word to her. It felt both awful and right.

Awful, because we wanted to enter into her pain, to comfort and empathize, to say, “Yeah, I get that. Me too.”

But also right, because it meant no one spoke a word out of turn. No one offered platitudes or tried to rescue her from something God might be doing. It felt like enough to just be together, to be human with one another.

M. Craig Barnes, in his book, Yearnings, says, “We don’t mend each other’s brokenness, we just hold it tightly.”

What a relief! It’s not up to us to fix each other. While it’s hard to see someone else in pain, wrestling, confused, unsettled, whatever it is, we aren’t being asked to take it away. God has his eyes on all of us. He sees. He knows.

And so our invitation is to simply hold each other tightly. Be there. Be there right away. Cry with them. That is enough.

 

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Rest for the Sake of Others

Gina Butz faith, growth, rest 4 Comments

Rest for the Sake of Others

Photo by Spring Fed Images on Unsplash

This spring I began a program of spiritual formation through The Transforming Center. “Formed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” is the phrase guiding this process.

It’s that last phrase, “for the sake of others” that keeps running through my mind.

Who we are and what we do is not in isolation. There is power in how we live to impact those around us.

Take rest, for example. I have always been someone with a high capacity for activity. I’m ambitious. I often bite off more than I can chew.

For the longest time, I was unaware of the impact that pace had on me, to the point of outright denial. It’s like the popular meme I’ve seen lately, something like this:

Me: Why do I keep getting tension headaches?

My body: because you’re doing too much.

Me: And why are my shoulders so tight?

My body: Because you’re doing too much.

Me: I wish I knew why I got these stomach aches.

My body: Please for the love of God, slow down.

Me: I guess we’ll never know . . .

Only in my case, it wasn’t just my body telling me. It was my doctor, my dentist, my chiropractor, my friends, my family.

I used to think I could just tweak some things-plan a little better, delegate more, stay in front of the ball.

But after a while, I realized I was being unkind to myself.

So I started slowing down. Leaving more margin. Talking to the little monsters in me that drive me to perform. Giving them permission to stop. Breathing more deeply. It’s been good.

Yet, at the end of the day, I’m still tempted to push through busy days. One more task checked off. A little more productivity to get me ahead. The resistance to rest is never far off.

For the Sake of Others

Except now, when this phrase keeps resonating in my head, “for the sake of others.” And I realize that while I might be able to power through, I have to ask what it does to those around me.

Am I the person I want to be for them when I am strained to my limits?

What does it communicate to them about how they ought to live?

Does this pace form me to the image of Christ?

I never want others to look at me and think, “I can’t keep up.” I want to live my life at a restful pace and to invite others to it as well. May they never feel under the pile by the pace I set.

One morning recently, I woke up early because my body is physically incapable of sleeping past 6 am at the latest. My first thought was, “Hey, church starts later today. I could work for an hour.” And then in my Facebook memories, I found this quote from my friend Ken Cochrum:

“I feel it when I am not hurried to finish a conversation, a workout, a chapter in the book I’m reading, a phone call, a project I’m working on, or a meal. Hurry in me creates apathy and thinness. Ease creates spaces for authenticity, genuine concern, acute awareness, and ultimately LOVE. Remember, ‘Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’” (including a quote from Dallas Willard)

Me resting doesn’t just affect me; it changes who I am with others. It makes me someone who walks better with others, it creates space for relationships with them and ultimately leads to love.

This is true of whatever way God desires to form us into the image of Christ.

We are the hands and feet of Jesus to each other, in how we live, work, parent, play, and minister.Twitter How we order our lives not only shapes us, it shapes who we are with others, and in turn, who they become.

I don’t know about you, but this feels like a call to stewardship. We do not live in isolation, therefore we do not grow in isolation. For the sake of others, may we invite God to do more in us.

 

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What Ever Happened to Sin?

Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

What Ever Happened to Sin?

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

I’m going to come straight to the point: we don’t talk about sin anymore.

We talk about brokenness and being messy, which is good. We talk about crushed Cheerios in our minivans or how we just can’t get to the gym. Maybe even about the truth of our hard days, and where we feel we don’t measure up. All good.

And in light of all that, we talk a lot about God’s love for us, a most necessary shift from the past. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us less; we know that now, right? It’s important to know that God sees into our brokenness and mess and does not turn away. Again, all good.

Authenticity is great. Being grounded in God’s love is necessary. But what happens when we divorce it from sin? When we don’t look past our crushed Cheerios and failed gym membership to see the ways we rebel against God Himself?

What Happens When We Don’t Talk About Sin

Well, if that happens, then we can go to church and just feel good about ourselves.

We go sing about how much God loves us and it fills us up to live another week. We sing what I call “Law 1” songs.

If you aren’t familiar, the gospel tract we often use in Cru ministry called “Knowing God Personally” used to be called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Law 1 is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Good news, but not if we forget law 2, “Man is sinful and separated from God.”

I know. Who wants to talk about that?

I do. Because what does it mean to us that God loves us if we aren’t conscious of the fact that we don’t deserve that love? If we don’t face the hard truth that apart from the death of Christ, I cannot stand in the presence of God?

Why We Need to Talk About Sin

When our “brokenness” and “mess” fails to encompass the reality of sin, we miss something of God.

When it’s only about bringing our wounds and not our moral failure to the surface, we don’t experience the full extent of what God has done for us.

Jesus didn’t die for our crushed Cheerios or our failure to work out. He died for the ways we choose to walk away from God, over and over, day after day.

Growing up, I was not acutely aware of my sin. I was a good kid. The kind other parents probably wished they had.

So when I was presented with the idea that I was a sinner in need of grace, I accepted it at a head level. I couldn’t really see much God was saving me from.

But as I grew, I began to be confronted by the depths of how I do try to live independently of God. I saw the deep desire in my heart to be my own savior, ruler of my own kingdom.

It was terrifying to me. I thought surely God would realize He’d made a mistake choosing me as a child.

But every time I’ve seen a new depth of my sin, it calls me to see deeper grace. And that’s why we need to talk about sin.

A dear friend of mine once said, “I am sobered by the depth of my depravity, and I’m thrilled by the depth of my redemption.” The magnificence of grace always matches the magnitude of our sin.

This is why we need to talk about sin: so that while we are sobered by how far we stray from God, we can simultaneously be overwhelmed by all that God has done to bring us back.

 

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Finding God in the Wilderness

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, transition, trials, Uncategorized 9 Comments

Finding God in the Wilderness

Photo by SAJAD FI on Unsplash

In March, I spoke at a women’s conference about finding God in unexpected journeys.

I talked about the Israelites as they left Egypt (when a season isn’t the good you expected), wandered in the wilderness (when God makes you wait and you don’t know why), and experienced the promised land (when life is just the way you want it to be).

Last fall, when I was writing these talks, I was living in a pretty good season. I resonated with the promised land experience.

And then God invited me back into the wilderness.

Suddenly, I need to listen to my own words.

Finding Myself in the Wilderness

I warned the retreat attendees about this: our real promised land is ahead. God doesn’t leave us long in those seasons. He has more for us to learn. Hence, the journey back into the wild.

See, for most of 2019 so far, I’ve experienced bouts of dizziness and headaches that at times have been debilitating. At the least, they are rarely completely gone (thanks for nothing, new year).

Finally, after an MRI (thankfully clear) and a trip to the neurologist, I was diagnosed with basilar migraines, a diagnosis that still leaves me skeptical, but at least gives me some direction.

It’s been a strange season to walk through. It’s hard not knowing how I will feel from day to day, how long it will last. I’ve wondered what He is doing, what He wants to teach me through this.

Like the Israelites, once I realized I was back in the wilderness, I started asking God for the shortest way out. Sure, You can teach me something, but could you make it fast? And easy?

It’s hard to be in a place where we realize we aren’t the ones in control. The wilderness is tiring, humbling, and at times confusing. A friend of mine put it recently, “God has you in a fog.” Indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see well in the fog. Yet as I said at the retreat (curse my words coming back to haunt me!) we can find God in the wilderness, no matter how foggy it is.

Better yet, He can see through the fog. He knows the way out of this wilderness.

So I’m looking for God in all of this.

And I’m finding Him.

Finding God in the Wilderness

He is using this season to slow me down even more (I swear pretty soon I’ll be going backward). As much as I hate doing less, He reassures me that it doesn’t diminish me.

Prayers I have prayed are being answered through this (be careful what you pray for!).

In my hardest moments, I have heard His voice speak tenderly and consistently to me words of comfort and invitation. He has felt closer than ever.

Friends have stepped in and wrapped my weakness, fears, and grief with love and care, and in the process taught me more how to let others care for me (a much needed and on-going lesson).

In a sweet moment, our daughter asked me, “What would you do if this was happening to me?” It invited me to consider how to extend compassion, kindness, tenderness, and patience to myself as I would want to give to others.

Finding He Is Enough

I believe it’s in the wilderness where God tries us to see what we really want. Do we want Him? Or do we just want what He gives us?

Will we sit in this desert place long enough to experience His sufficiency, regardless of our circumstances?

This has been a hard season, yes. At my lowest times, I beg God to just make it better. I decide I don’t want the lessons I know He wants to give me.

But God is with us in the wilderness. He meets us in the middle of it to show us more of Him, to transform us, to shake us loose from the trappings that hold us.

He uses these places to bring us to our knees. They humble us to receive from Him and others what we’ve wanted all along but have been too proud and self-sufficient to cry out for.

So I’ve tried to sit patiently in this. Keep my eyes focused on Him. Giving thanks for the good I see, trusting Him for the things I cannot see.

It’s easier to have peace on the days when I feel better. But I want peace no matter what. God keeps bringing to mind Psalm 131:2, But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” 

God grant us that kind of trust in the wilderness. Calm and quiet souls who wait on Him.

I know it won’t last forever. God will lead me out eventually.

Maybe you’re in a wilderness too. He will lead you out as well.

So let’s stay close to Him. Let’s trust. Know that He is with us. He will do good to us in this place.

 

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Claiming the Language of Recovery for Our Spiritual Growth

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

Claiming the Language of Recovery for our Spiritual Growth

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

In my early 20s, God began to unveil lies I believed about myself-mostly tying my performance to my worth. Once I saw them (and thank God that I did) I quickly went to work trying to overcome those lies. Over time, He has helped loosen the hold they had over me.

No sooner had I started to see growth, I started to claim that I “used to” struggle with performance. You know, in the past, when I didn’t know any better. But now-ta da! All better.

But these days, I hesitate. Because even though God continues to untangle me from those lies, I am humbled by how easily I crane my neck to listen to their voices. How easily I find myself dipping my toes in their invitations to me.

So I don’t like to say that “I used to” struggle with those things anymore.

Instead, I think of myself as a recovering alcoholic in those places. I’m learning to use the language of recovery. “Hi, I’m Gina, and I’m addicted to performance.” (“Hi Gina.”)

Have I experienced freedom in these things? Absolutely. Do they hold me the way they once did? Not at all. But that is not because of my power but His. They are a constant reminder of how I will, on my own, try to save myself.

If I can be blunt, to say, “I used to struggle with that” stems from pride, not humility. It is the language of self-sufficiency, not recovery.

The minute we say, “I don’t do that anymore” we close ourselves to God’s Spirit revealing greater depths of our idolatry, and we cut ourselves off from needing Him to help us in those areas.

The things we struggle with the most will always be our, “there but for the grace of God go I” temptations. The first step is admitting we have a problem.

Living Like We’re in Recovery

And, like addicts, we must remind ourselves that we are powerless on our own to overcome our tendencies. It is only God who can restore. We must take a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves, acknowledging our addictions and admitting them to God.

It’s not a journey any of us can take on our own. As much as it would be nice to hide in the shadows while we sober up, we are called to do this in community. We can only go so far on our own. As we confess our addictions to others, we find we are not alone. We gather strength and courage for the journey.

Being in recovery means staying in a position of dependence, acknowledging our weakness, leaning on the strength of others. It means accepting that we may always walk with a limp in some areas of our lives.

So what is your addiction, if I might be so bold as to ask? How does it still hold you? As we bring these to Jesus, we invite Him to continue to do the deep and necessary work in us to make us whole.

We’re all in recovery.

 

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Leaving Our Kingdoms Behind

Gina Butz faith, growth, identity 0 Comments

Leaving Our Kingdoms Behind

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

I heard once that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God more than anything else. More than love, or the resurrection, or peace. Why?

Recently, my mind has been fixed on the kingdom. Or rather, my kingdom vs The Kingdom.

I know that there exists a kingdom of my own making. You have one too. It’s in our nature, to build a world for ourselves, to find what Buechner calls, “our place in the sun.”

I also know that we need to leave our kingdoms behind.Twitter

I’ve been in a slow process of doing so for many years. God started it. He always does. We aren’t meant to live in our own self-made domains. He loves us too much to let us live there.

But what do I mean by this kingdom creating? I mean the systems we create to provide for ourselves, to protect us from pain, to find love and belonging.

Our kingdoms have rules and values, ways of operating. And unfortunately, they usually run counter to the uppercase Kingdom.

That’s where we get in trouble.

The Trouble With Our Kingdoms

See, in Gina’s kingdom, I take care of myself. I do a pretty good job of taking care of others too. I perform to, or even exceed, the expectations of others. My reward is admiration and recognition, which kind of feels like love.

If you bump up against my kingdom, you might feel the pressure to live up to those expectations too. If I’m too wrapped up in my world, it might be hard for me to notice if you’re doing ok-after all, I don’t expect others to pay attention to my emotional well-being either.

But in God’s Kingdom, there’s no taking care of self, because it is prideful.  There, perfect love drives out the fear that He won’t show up for me. In His way of living, there is no striving, only resting, when it comes to finding worth. There aren’t expectations on performance, just a hope that we will live gladly and purposefully in light of His love.

The troubles we encounter in life often center around the places where we expect others, including God, to live by our kingdom rules.

If the banner of my little self-made land is performance, but your world is focused on everyone being positive and having fun, and someone else’s dominion is ruled by order and perfection, and on and on, well, you can see where we might all have trouble living in peace with one another. Because deep down, we all think our dominion is the right one and the best one.

After a while, they aren’t kingdoms anymore: they’re prisons.

And our kingdoms need to crumble.

Letting Our Kingdoms Crumble
Jesus talked about the Kingdom so much because He knew we would try to make our own, and they would be lousy places to live.Twitter

He knew we would resist living in that true place He offers, so He wanted to give us a solid picture of His vs ours. He won’t stop until we live there.

The good news is that we are citizens of a new Kingdom.

We have a choice. I believe it’s the choice Jesus was talking about when he said to take up our crosses daily and follow Him. Each day, we choose to walk away from our kingdoms, the rules and expectations we impose on ourselves and others, and to walk in a new way.

We stop believing God should act according to our kingdom rules and we surrender to the life-giving freedom of His.

To do so requires humility. It requires a willingness to believe that maybe our best efforts are simply that-our efforts-and maybe there’s another way to live. For our worlds to fall away, we have to surrender.

When we seek His kingdom first, He tells us that everything else falls into place. We can live in peace with our neighbors, because we’re all actually in the same dominion now, not warring against one another.

So we ask God, “Where am I still trying to make this kingdom work for me? Where am I not living by your way but my own?” And then we raise the white flag.

The good news, God is patient, and He is relentless. The Kingdom He has built for us is always there, waiting for us to lay down our defenses and rest in Him.

 

related posts:

Do You Know Your Real Name?

Drop the Hot Dog: Learning to Feed on What Truly Satisfies

A Story of Two Houses 

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