Letting Go of Self-Made Props

“For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.” (Henri Nouwen)

Today I met with one of my wisest professors. She has been a source of love and guidance for me through every class I’ve had with her, and she’s opened my eyes and heart to see the world and people in a different way. She’s shaped who I hope to be as a therapist, and has been an example of grace and poise in my life and in the lives of others. She has a way of seeing things before you even see them, an incredible insight into our deep, dark souls. And that to me is amazing.

So today I sat across from her in her office, and we talked about my life and my future plans. But quickly, she allowed me a space to share a huge weight upon my shoulders: I am one who walks around with much guilt. I am one who feels guilty for leaving home four years ago, and still wrestles with that weight. I am one who feels guilty when I can’t fix what I hope to; I feel guilty when I share my hurt, knowing very well that my hurt causes the person who hurt me in the first place to feel pain too. I am one who carries guilt because I can’t seem to set up boundaries that need to be in place, because God forbid, I offend the person who is overstepping them.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. It follows me.

But, my professor opened my eyes to something wonderful. “What is the guilt trying to say to you, Angie?” she asked. “It’s not telling you that you’ve done something wrong. So what is it trying to warn you? Why is it yelling at you, trying to get your attention?”

And I sat there for a moment, wrestling with that question. I’ve found my identity and role as being the solver. I’ve found my identity in being the one that holds it all together, even if this was done unconsciously. And I can’t be that person anymore. Not in my family, not in my friends’ lives. Because that role is not even really mine to take on anyway.

I can’t solve everything. I can’t be the superwoman everyone may need me to be. I can’t feel others’ emotions or pain for them. I can’t be present always, no matter if people want me to be or not. I need to remind myself: I am weak. But He is strong.

I’ve depended on others’ needing me to shape who I am. And although this isn’t entirely negative – it’s not – but as Henri Nouwen writes in the quote above, I need to let go of this role. I need to trust that He is all I need. I need to give myself the space to find out what my identity is without being a pleaser. 

And that realization is a scary one, because it is uncovering a whole new layer of who I am, an unfamiliar one. And although the journey and process will be painful, the outcome and reward will be simply wonderful.

Needing the One who Knows All

I have a confession to make.

I like to run.

Not in the “let’s-go-for-a-nice-run-outside-while-it’s-still-nice-out” kind of running, or the “did-you-know-I-burn-12,000,329,310-calories-when-I-hit-the-treadmill” kind of running.

No, I run away from the unknown. Because the unknown terrifies me.

I like safety, I like comfort, I like having answers. I like to know what I’m going to say before I say it. I like being able to offer answers in a world of unknown. Because here, in the world where I have answers and knowledge and all those lovely things, it is safe. It doesn’t require much of me.

But it’s in places of unknown where much is required of me. In those places I am most vulnerable, offering up a humble reply of, “I don’t know,” and trusting that in my weakness, He is strong.

But I still do it. I run away from the topic of homosexuality, because I just want to avoid the inevitable question, “But doesn’t the Bible say that because I love another man I’m sinning against His Word?” I run away from the topic of knowing what God’s Word says about divorce, and yet knowing that no matter what it says, it never seems the right answer amidst heartache and pain and unfaithfulness. I want to run away when a Believer dates a non-Christian, because although the Bible warns that darkness has no place with light, and that we are not to be unequally yoked, my answers seem weightless in the light of the imminent response, “But you can’t judge my relationship – who am I to judge their beliefs and whether or not they believe in God? Who am I to tell them that I can’t be with them, just because their beliefs aren’t the same as mine?”

And in those questions, in those unknowns, I sink backwards towards where it is safe. Back to my world of knowing the answers, of knowing where I stand, of just simply knowing.

But I have to think sometimes. I’m not sure that’s where God always wants me to be.

I’m not sure if He wants me to live my life in the safety of my comfortable place, in the place where I understand everything.

I don’t think He thinks less of me because I know so very little. I don’t think He’s disappointed in me, when in those times of confusion, when I just don’t know or have any answers, I surrender my not knowing up to Him.

In fact, I think He may love it. Because if we didn’t know so very little afterall, we’d never need the One who knows all.

Pornography is NOT the Problem

As many of you may or may not know, I have been researching for my Honors thesis in the area of female pornography use and its effects.  It’s been a highly enlightening journey as I’ve spent hours reading, researching, and writing. I am not done writing, although the research part is finished.

During this journey, what I have found is a heartache deep within me for the devastation that pornography, or any sexually explicit material really, causes. It destroys and distorts something God created uniquely and inherently beautiful. It dishonours He who created love, and brings shame and pain to those who walk in its path. It never satisfies what it claims to satisfy, for lust is never satisfied. It always leaves us wanting more.

And yet as I’ve read statistic after statistic, as I’ve read cries from woman who are broken by their addiction, as I’ve read the beautiful redemption stories of Christ redeeming those shattered by pornograpy’s grasp: I am reminded that pornography is not the problem.

Let me explain myself when I say this. All the research I have read is good. All of it! It sheds light on a dark, hidden area so many of us struggle with. But unless we deal with the heart, taking away the pornography will never heal anything. It’s the same when men say that if women were to be more modest, it would prevent them from sinning lustfully in their hearts. One man commented on an article that I read that men are designed with a deep desire to “see a woman naked.” (And that is directly quoted!) And therefore, “While not good for the women, the Taliban understood how to keep men from having sexual thoughts … cover the female with layers and layers of heavy cloth. The most sexually pure time I ever experienced was the summer I spent living among a strict Islamic society.” (You can read the original article and find this man’s comments here.)

And I am reminded, Women are not the problem here. 

Pornography is not the problem here.

It’s something so much deeper. So much harder to deal with. So much of a painful process of being broken and vulnerable before the only Healer, of opening our hearts up to the painful sin that resides there and letting HIM make us clean. If we forget to deal with the heart’s sin and deal only with the outward behaviour, we are missing a huge part of the picture here. We need to recognize that struggles with porn and lust and any sin is a heart issue, and allow God to cleanse our hearts and make us pure … and then the outward behaviour will follow suit.

New beginnings

Today, I woke up in my family home for the last time.
Something tells me it should be easier to move – afterall, I’ve moved to school for the past four years. But it isn’t just the moving that breaks my heart.
It’s saying goodbye to the memories that happened there. It’s saying goodbye to the last standing reminder that I once had a family, a family that included a mom and dad that loved and honoured one another, a family that was once as sturdy as the rock out front that portrayed our family name.
I know that those memories will forever be in my heart. But there is something about a physical reminder, the physical four walls that do their best to support the family that resides within.
But sometimes, those walls just aren’t strong enough.
Today I reminded of the lyrics in Chris August’s song “7×70”:
I’ve been living in this house here since the day that I was born.
These walls have seen me happy, but most of all they’ve seen me torn.
They’ve heard the screaming matches that made a family fall apart,
They’ve had a front row seat to the breaking of my heart.

This past weekend at home, I wandered through our home and memories flitted in front of me, memories I thought I had long forgotten. But it was that home that triggered those memories – the sight of the blue entrance tiles reminding me of our first puppy, the stairs making their way up to the second floor reminding me of the time Shelby fell and tangled her arm in the banister, the feel of the wooden floors on my feet reminding me of Christmases gone past where we sat gathered around the Christmas tree. How do I hang on to the memories, when everything in this world is trying to steal them from me? When time grasps at them, my parents’ divorce papers try to erase them, and the words, “forgive and forget,” try to grab them from me?
That house may only be a house, but it stands to me as a living reminder of what we once were. Now all I have are mere memories, memories that evade and escape me far too often.