“What I really want is…”
This is one of the suggested prompts from Chapter Two of the Born To Fly course I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks.
For 15 minutes a day, over 6 consecutive days, I have been journaling with the intention of answering that one question. As I go back over my notes from those exercises, it’s bringing up a lot of emotion in my heart. I can feel my eyes welling up with tears and I realize that what I’m feeling is intense gratitude.
In fact, I’ve been feeling that way fairly consistently lately and I believe the practice of journaling with intention every day has had a lot to do with it.
The last few weeks and months have been tumultuous, to say the least, and it’s been a challenge for many of us to stay clear-minded and emotionally stable as we navigate these difficult times. Thankfully, however, I’m discovering how the daily practice of checking my thoughts and connecting to my heart has helped me to dig a lot deeper into my spirit and feel more at peace.
In my post “The Paradox of Grace”, I was just getting started with Jane Trapman’s “Born To Fly” course and Val Woerner’s “14-day Prayer Challenge”. As I said then, it was a bit of a wake-up call to see all the unchecked thoughts that were going through my mind, splayed out over several, chaotic pages.
You may recall what I wrote in response:
“I need a different strategy. On one hand, I need spontaneity in my life, but I can’t approach everything like that. I need order in my life but I can’t approach everything like that. I need variety in my life but I also need things to be more predictable and consistent.
If I ‘zoom out’ and look at the bigger picture, I’d say that I expect chaos. Maybe I even thrive on it. Maybe I don’t know how to live in peace. Maybe I’m creating all of this because I don’t trust God’s peace. I know it exists. I know its real for me but maybe I see it as something outside of myself and therefore my experience of it is fleeting.
Another recurring thought I have is that I’m not worthy of God’s grace so, if I’m not feeling worthy of His grace then how can I ever believe that His peace is meant for me?
This “paradox of grace” is a hard one for me to wrap my head around. On one hand, humans are inherently flawed and no matter how much we try to do better we will never be perfect. When we are faced with that reality every day, it’s hard not to be disappointed with ourselves. On the other hand… and this is the hard part…God redeemed us knowing this about us and loves us anyway.
We are entitled to His grace through the blood of Jesus.”
And that is where I left it.
At the time, I thought that was a bit of an abrupt ending, especially since I had never really processed what being “entitled to [God’s] grace through the blood of Jesus” meant for me. I mean, I understand it, theoretically but over the past two weeks, God has been revealing more of Himself through my journaling practice which has caused significantly more spiritual insight to develop within me. In fact, in just two short weeks I have gone from a theoretical understanding of redemption to a visceral knowledge of it.
Yesterday, after a journaling exercise in which I was examining the negative thoughts that extinguish my sense of peace, I went on to answer this prompted question from Val Woerner:
“What practical steps am I taking to prevent this negativity to access my mind and emotions, going forward?”
Here’s what came up:
“Developing consistent habits that keep me pure in mind and body… making better choices and protecting myself from toxic elements such as what I consume and absorb with my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This includes media, food, water, alcohol, air, pharmaceuticals, substances, and even other people.
Paying close attention to when I start to slip [away from those good habits] and why. Challenging my justifications for letting myself slip… sometimes they are valid but it can quickly become a slippery slope.
Being realistic about how far I’ve come and remind myself of where I’m going and why.
Reminding myself of the things I’ve already identified as no longer a priority (in case I become nostalgic) and of the things that are my new priorities.
Being realistic about the fact that I’m a very different person in Christ than I was before and that it may change (or even cost me) certain friendships. Some people may, understandably, be getting tired of the “new me” but who are the ones that are not just tolerating my the “new me” but are walking with me in support of my journey?”
Like anything worth pursuing, there is ultimately a cost involved.
And Christ is worth it.
I learned a lot about myself in those journal pages. In particular, I’ve had new insights about why I’ve been a person who is so averse to conflict that (in the past) I would go as far as keeping silent about my perspective or even compromising my values in order to “keep the peace”.
I told myself I just wanted to be flexible and find common ground but the truth is, it was a transaction: “I won’t challenge you and, in return, you’ll love me and never leave me and I can tell myself I’m worthy of your love. You’ll never really know me. I’ll never feel at peace and I’ll always be walking on eggshells but, that’s okay because at least I’ll have the illusion of worthiness.”
As a codependent personality, I was attracted to narcissistic people was and afraid to challenge them for fear of being abandoned. But I was also too strong a person to play that game for very long and, if you know anything about narcissists, they are not afraid to walk away when you’re no longer playing their game.
I admired their strength and needed it to offset my perceived lack of worthiness but I failed to see that the “strength” (lack of shame, humility or empathy) I was drawn to was the very thing that would make it so easy for them to leave me the minute I stepped out of line. Neither could I see that, as I changed and disowned the parts of me that might challenge them, I was really just selling myself out to get what I needed. However, a codependent person is destined to never get their needs met because it’s a lose-lose proposition:
“Either the narcissist stays and I’m an empty shell with an illusion of worthiness or they leave and I’m still an empty shell, only now I’m alone and face to face with my unworthiness.”
As I wrote down these insights, I started to see how controlling that kind of thinking was and it hit me that codependency could very well be one of the greatest covert methods of attempting to control another person, ever!
Which got me thinking… my “flesh” (my earthly nature) really wants to win. Like anyone else, it wants to feel fully accepted and validated but it’s ultimately self-serving, foolish, and undisciplined, looking to feed its needs through the fulfillment of its own earthly desires and other people rather than denying itself and seeking God.
“So… I must (more than anything else) remind myself of who I am in Christ and see myself through His eyes. To Him, I’m worthy, no matter how flawed I am. He accepts my weaknesses and loves me anyway. I don’t have to prove anything or hide anything because He knows everything about me and He will never leave me. He asks nothing in return except for me to love Him and have faith in Him and for that, He gives me everything and teaches me to be more like Him.
If I am changed, it is because Him.
If I am at peace, it is because of Him.
Becoming “like Christ” isn’t only about representing Him. In fact, we can’t truly represent Him until we accept that we have been redeemed by Him, which is all that matters.
A man cannot redeem another man nor can one control the will or the journey of another. There is a vast, complex architecture in place and we must put our trust in God and His design for, not just our life, but for the lives of others, as well.”
So, in answer to Jane’s question, “What I really want is…”, here is what I’ve discovered so far:
I want the freedom and space to learn how to be the best version of myself, the version that God designed me to be.
I want to be spontaneous and creative with my time.
I want a simple, yet abundant life.
I want to be an authentic, honest human, a wise old “sage” who is still passionate about learning and sharing what I learn.
I want to share the very best of myself with people.
I want to write about things that make people think.
I want to talk about things that make people think.
I want to be bold in my faith.
I want to keep being a “mom”… the very best job I ever had… and to be a grandma, too :)
I want a “homestead” (here in the beach) with a yard, a front porch, and a small studio/chapel for art/music/weddings… a place where I can watch my family grow, where we have the space to spread out, break bread, play games, where I can cook and connect and create and nurture and smile and teach and dance and learn and laugh and be at peace and hold space – a loving space – for others to do the same.
And a fair bit of traveling would be nice, too :)
Until next time,
May you have a renewed mind and peace in your hearts…