Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Me

Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Me,

I know. I know your world is shattered, but I promise you, things will get better. I know that right now it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true.

You’re going to cry yourself to sleep so many nights. You won’t always.

You’re going to wonder if your heart will ever heal. It will.

You’re going to wonder if there is anyone else out there for you. There is.

You are going to come out of this stronger.

Because you are not defined by your relationship status. Your life does not revolve around another human being. Your world will be put back together when you start wholly trusting in the One who created it. Don’t settle because you’re lonely; don’t settle for less than you deserve.

Live your life. It gets better.

Photo credit: unsplash-logoOlaia Irigoien

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang