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Wouldn't It Be Better to Just Hide?

House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

One afternoon while scrubbing in the bathroom, just doing my routine household duties, an image suddenly popped into my mind. With the image came a memory. The story with this image was familiar because it was told to me years ago while facilitating a class at House of Hope.

2016-04-30_0008The description was short but graphic and horrific. In the years since I heard it, it hasn’t gone away from me. I haven’t forgotten it. Tucked away in my memory, it stayed hidden, until an unguarded, innocent moment.

Another thought followed. Why do I open myself to the pain of others when there is the danger of keeping some of it stashed in the dark corners of my own mind? Wouldn’t it be better to just hide in my own little “safe” life?

This story was not mine. But the described image comes back every now and then. I see the scenario, hear the noises and imagine the pain. I wonder at unthinkable selfishness; the kind that heaps shame on innocent people.

I’ve come to call these flashbacks to a sister’s story - battle wounds. They are the cost of fighting for women’s hearts and souls. Fighting for freedom from shame and worthlessness requires heavy weapons, ones that present the possibility of wounding or scarring. Listening to the stories, Identifying lies, seeking truth, encouraging feelings, digging deeper and asking insightful questions requires insight, wisdom, prayer and diligence…and sometimes tears along with agonizing sadness.

2016-04-30_0007When I help others process what happened to them, I work hard. I seek connections and concentrate on details. I watch body language and pray as I go, desperately asking God to lead and guide me to His truth and wisdom.

But along the way, sometimes, I get hit with something I didn’t see coming; a story leaves an image that stays and once in a while, pops up unexpectedly.

Does that mean the work is too dangerous? Does it suggest that keeping myself safe is more important than getting out there and fighting! Should I have stopped long ago?

My answer is, "No!" I count it a privilege to suffer this flashback in honor of the women I walk with; the ones who bravely sift through the details and feelings of the life they have lived, step by step right through the lies and into the freedom of light and truth. For many, this process is life changing.

Amy Tan writes, “In the telling of stories something happens, your whole perception and memory of things begins to change and you can let go of what you have just told - you give it away.” In letting go, we begin the healing process.

And those of us who carefully and seriously walk along side, sometimes get hit in the process. But I can only count it an honor and remind myself:

  • I can keep an image that pops up in my mind or I can refuse to “savor” it by remembering Paul’s encouragement to think on whatever is true, pure, lovely and excellent. (Philippians 4:8) If it presents itself, I can reject it.
  • I can understand that this kind of work needs to be covered in protective prayer. I am not on my own here. I have powerful resources, God himself, who is with me to fight the battle.
  • God’s Word is here to help me also. It is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and I can use it for this protection. Psalm 5:12 tells me that the LORD surrounds those he loves with his favor, as with a shield. I can visualize this shield of protective love surrounding me as I do battle with evil in the stories I hear. This is not my fight. But it is outright war on horrible memories that seek to ruin people’s lives.
  • I can be self-controlled and alert, knowing that my enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I am called to resist him, standing firm in the faith.
  • I can stand in the Light. In Him, no darkness can remain.

2016-05-09_0001Yes, it would be easier to just hide from all this sister-pain. But I know from which I, myself have been delivered and so I remain firm in my determination to walk in the truth of God’s complete grace-filled love. Often we just need some healing in order to actually be free to experience that beautiful love. So I stand with the sword in my hand and declare: “You are not defined by what happened to you!” Come along and let me tell you some things about our great God’s amazing love and the truth He declares about you.

Through Which Lens?

Faith, House of HopeDeane WattersComment

2016-02-25_0024“Grandma, put your glasses back on!” Our three-year-old grand daughter, Lucy, didn’t like that I took off my glasses when I tried to read from my cell phone. She didn’t know what a strain I felt when looking through them.

What do you see when you look at yourself through the glasses you’re wearing? Is what you see a true picture? Is the strain distorting your view or does it make you tired? Should you clean them up or would a different pair of glasses offer you truer clarity?

Let me explain. I remember the days when I viewed myself through a certain lens. That lens magnified my “negative” traits and produced thoughts of “too fat,” “not very smart”, “insecure,” or “not enough.” Not good-enough plagued me daily. ”Why are you so stupid?” or “This is too much for you,” spewed from my self-talk on a regular basis. Often what I saw or did reinforced my “seeing.” So I believed it.

Do you know people like this? Have you noticed people (maybe you, yourself) seeing themselves through the lens of: “I don’t fit here. I’m not doing enough. I am too much. Nobody wants to get to know me.” With such a wide array of brokenness out there, we could think of many more self talkisms that are hurtful, unkind and very untrue.

What I didn’t know, and maybe you don’t either, is that I can TAKE THOSE GLASSES OFF! I can realize the “sickness” of a lens and go after the truth and put on some different glasses, or take them off completely. How can I know what is true?

  • Pray and go to scripture. What does it say about how God feels toward you? Psalm 5 tells us that God surrounds God seekers with his favor, as with a shield. We have God’s favor! Perhaps we should have our own favor as well.
  • Ask a trusted friend to tell you what they see. Be teachable to listen and adjust your thinking. I am ever indebted to delightful “angels” who were assigned to me to tell me God’s sweet message of accepting love. They listened to my quiet wailing, the birth pangs of a now- free woman: my husband, siblings, mom, our kids and their spouses, Lenchen, and other dear friends, to numerous to name here.
  • Read books about your worth. God has gifted many authors with delicious words that can fill your soul with sweet healing nectar. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller, The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner and anything written by Ann Voskamp, have all contributed to my understanding of God’s incredible love and plan in making me – just the way I am.

Henri Nouwen writes:

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life

because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us “Beloved.”

Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. “

From Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Every day I need to either take off these dirty glasses of mine or clean them up with the glory of God’s grace-filled truth. I am loved and lovable. I am enough because He is enough in me. Who I am is God’s gift to me and to the world around me. I can rest in God’s favor. He is happy with me.

Put your glasses back on, Grandma. They have a new lens!

Resplendent with Light

FaithDeane Watters2 Comments

Smoky incense permeated the temple. The musky overpowering odor filled our lungs and clouded the view. People were bowing dutifully to the gods of Buddha. Unsure of what was happening, I could see worship: incense sticks smoldering, candles being lit, flowers laid down with men and women bowing, reverent and serious.2016-01-20_0033

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On this hot August day with hundreds of people, I came to observe, to respect, to learn, to feel and to find my God.  The words, "Your Name is higher," kept forming in my heart and I felt the calm assurance that I need not fear anything. My God was there and He is higher. More than any hand made thing, He is alive.

Beautifully carved buildings filled with many silent statues surrounded us. The prayer wheels,  chanting monks, tingling bells, reverent attitudes and ancient smells engulfed us as we watched, mesmerized by the intensity of it all.

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Unfamiliar with the Buddhist beliefs I did not know what or who the people were worshiping but I knew it was not God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth.

Our group of college-aged people gathered around at one point and started quietly and respectfully singing. The melody was gentle and bright and honoring to the God it was lifting up.

Holy Spirit you are welcome here.

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.

Your glory God is what our hearts long for

to be overcome by your Presence, Lord... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

God is resplendent with light and no amount of darkness can overcome Him.

Questions remain for me after this visit. I want to know more about this ancient religion that binds its people to incense and sacrifice and the desire to be good enough, acceptable. On that day, though,  I once again stepped into the warmth of my Father God with full assurance that he already sacrificed all that was needed, is alive still, and continues to guard and woo hearts around the world toward himself.

 

the invitations

House of HopeDeane Watters2 Comments

2015-03-12_0028A little pink envelope waited on the kitchen table.Nervously I tore into it. "You are invited to my birthday party!" Surprised and delighted I ran to tell mom that this time I was asked to join in the fun!

Last time another girl in our class asked all the girls to her party. Everyone was invited, except me. Awkwardly I watched as they giggled their excitement and made plans for Saturday's fun.

But on this day, just a few weeks later, all of us found an envelope ready to be opened when we got home from school.

I was asked to the party but another invitation was waiting for me as well. It held an offer which I readily accepted and embraced, unaware of the future impact of my consent.

On party day my mom drove me into town, across the river and to a neighborhood of humble houses, clean, painted and well kept with nice-enough cars in the driveways. Stepping out of our car I felt shy, not knowing what to expect.

Looking back, I wonder if the soft carpeting and indoor plumbing held as much fascination as the party itself because my memory skips the actual celebration. It starts up again as the car load of girls and the birthday girl's mom turn from the gravel road onto our long winding lane, leading to the rented farmhouse my family and I called home.

As the car slowly made its way closer to the house, our little group suddenly became quiet. Looking up, my heart nearly stopped. Oh. No. I hadn't even considered this part of being included. The house, unpainted, dirty and stark in comparison to the one we just left, made me wish I could become invisible. The grayness of the boards blended with the darkening colorless sky. All I could see was the muddy yard and broken front porch door. With flushed face, I could hardly breathe.

What must they be thinking?

I could hardly stand it. What must they be thinking?

I wish I had never been invited.

That's when the second invitation arrived. Swift and direct as a well-aimed arrow, it found my heart and slipped right in. Confirming what I feared to be true, the message was clear: not as good. Not as good. Not as good. Lesser-than. Not as good. Not good enough.

Agreeing, I took it willingly, folded it into the fabric of my being, and stepped out of the car. After politely thanking the birthday girl’s mom with a shining little cover-up smile, I turned away, trudging slowly toward the dilapidated house.

Today that second invitation gets a second look. At the time, it felt so accurate. The filter of shame distorted who I thought I was. ‘Not good enough’ and ‘what must they be thinking’, felt so spot-on. But now I examine another view of that house, my family and me.

I have taken a steady, honest, determined look at my life in my growing up years. I’ve come to learn of Father God's deep love for me that has nothing to do with being poor or rich, included or left out. Every person has worth unconnected to what their house looks like or the family they came from. Now I recognize that devastating messages often slip in with painful experiences.

Now I know. I really don't have to accept those kinds of invitations any more. Healthy boundaries now allow me to say, “No thank you. Return to sender.”

I am loved. I am known. I am free from the burden of shame.

Thank you, thank you, Father God.