Posts Tagged ‘ thoughts ’

Mental Anesthesia

Where is the existential unrest? I miss it. I have become too numbed by circumstance. I am too fatigued by the day-to-day to dream and question and remember the injustices that lie parallel to my reality and how much I once longed to intersect with them for hope of somehow raising them to my plane or higher. Maybe my trip to the Dominican Republic will revitalize the me that felt angered by corruption and was filled with a fire to uplift the survivors of marginalization and the victims on their way to survivorship. Where has she gone? Why is her voice so faint? No… absent? Or rather, whose ears am I now activating and how did the messages they carry come to dominate my worldview? I feel nothing. I resist nothing. Everything is “cool.” Why question anymore? Why not just appease? Just accept?

I am numb.

How unbelievably tragic.

The recent death of my father has made me think a lot about life. I suppose that is the natural response when someone dies – think about life, realize we truly are not invincible, that our days are numbered and therefore, we need to cherish and live them to the fullest. All the clichés that, in reality, should not lose their meaning. I suppose I have joined the ranks of mourners struck by such realizations. But for me, they have had a more positive effect, and, it is conflicting to say and likely sounds incongruous, but in a way I am thankful for his passing for this lesson that it is teaching me. I have largely wasted the past 4 years of my life due to fear and doubt. But I am slowly realizing that everything that matters so much to me – my intellect, my work, what other people think about me – are nothing but trifles in the major scope of my life. What I need to return to and inhabit is my conviction that my life contains the potential and power to impact others for good and that therefore, my focus needs to be on placing myself in a position of access to the resources that will better their lives. It truly is as simple as that. I am so sad that this conviction has only returned after his passing, but feel a burning commitment to carry it out as his legacy.

Hmm… wow. Lightbulb moment. In light of my dad’s death, I have been thinking that the timing of my pre-scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic is quite odd. However, I realize now that this may very well be perfect timing and may supply the tangible encouragement to fully occupy the person God intends me to be and the good qualities that both my dad and I have sought, but been unable to attain. He certainly has them now, in the presence of God’s glory. I pray it doesn’t take death in order for me to attain them.

May he continue to live in peace.

I need to, I will…

M

Your Greatest Ally

“Instead of seeing yourself as your greatest enemy, see yourself as your greatest ally. Because no one knows you better than you do.”

~ A1chemist (me)

A New Take on Emotional Purity

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

A close girlfriend and I were chatting a couple of weeks ago about Godly relationships, singleness, and Christian friendships. When we got to the topic of male-female friendships, she posed an interesting question to me:  “how would you rate your emotional purity in your relationships with male friends?” This was a concept about which I had never heard or thought. I inquired more from my friend, but she encouraged me to search the Word on my own, something for which I am so grateful.

Side-note: I think we need to do this more often with each other. It is so easy to just rely on each other for explanations of the Word, instead of finding the truth ourselves. In encouraging each other to independently meditate on the Word, we encourage growth in our brothers/sisters’ relationship with Christ. Now that is love.

Back on topic: So, in thinking about emotional purity and comparing it to physical purity, I garnered that the basic concept is not revealing too much of your emotional self or fostering too much emotional intimacy with male friends, so as not to raise one’s expectations (for singles) or the temptation (married) for a committed relationship. It seems especially important for women, since we are the more emotional sex. But I’m not going to get into emotional purity for married women in this post… I’m single, so I will mainly address the emotional purity of single ladies (“all my single ladies, now put your hands up!” – sorry. i couldn’t resist, haha).

Not Your Buddy

By chance, I found an article on Boundless.org, which describes the reasons for this purity:  Not Your Buddy. At first thought, this explanation of emotional purity made sense to me, especially given that I had begun harboring some similar concerns in my own life. It made sense to just avoid conjuring any emotions by keeping distance between yourself and guys and not revealing anything too personal to them. However, new clarity came through a discussion with my mom and challenged this notion.

When I described the above definition of emotional purity and how it may be wise to back away from friendships with males, she immediately looked dubious. “I don’t think I agree with that,” she said. “It seems to me like the problem is expectation.” She left it at that, giving me something more to think about on my own. After pondering it for a few minutes, I realized that I agreed with her more.

The real problem isn’t having relationships with guys or even opening up to them. I think guys can teach us women a lot and provide us with different ways of thinking and seeing our situations (and vice versa!). Yet, we say that we should limit our emotional selves regarding our friendships with men because we as sisters can start to expect more from our brothers… and by more, I mean a romantic, committed relationship. We start interpreting their communications as laced with romantic interest and start expecting that they should return our friendliness and interest with an advancement toward a relationship. I have personal experience of this. I know, I’ve done it too. But I would encourage you to consider what is going on in this case… to consider how we as ladies may be contributing to this potentially hurtful situations with our expectations.

It seems like we ladies are always one step ahead of ourselves. If we have something good, we wonder what the next step will be and try to put a rush order on getting there, rather than enjoying where we are and what we have now. And even as the Boundless article said:

“You never have to wonder if your brother is romantically interested in you”

… because, being a Godly man, if he’s interested in you, He would let you know. So what are we doing by feeding our expectations and getting frustrated when the guy in mind doesn’t fulfill them? If he hasn’t explicitly expressed his interest, then that means he’s not interested in that way. <– now, there may be aberrations to this if we consider the shy guys who are too afraid to be open and blunt with the girl they’re interested in, but that’s more than I care to get into right now.

To further this point about the danger of expectation, I would encourage you to think about our female-female relationships. Oftentimes, when we become close to another female, spend more one-on-one time with her, and reveal more about ourselves to her, what do we begin to develop? It’s the same deal here:  Expectations. Oftentimes, we ladies find ourselves hoping that she’ll call so we can chat or disappointed when she doesn’t pick up because we have something from our day that we’d like to share about. We expect her to make time for us when we need her, or hang out with us, and are a little disappointed when she can’t. Expectation also arises in the development of a close, female friendship, not just something that we must face in our friendships with men.

I guess I just can’t help but think that we are restricting ourselves from what could be a spiritually beneficial relationship just because the person we would share it with is of the opposite sex. Must the rules really be different just because he is male? I think it is better that we recognize our tendency to expect more than we have and challenge ourselves to grow emotionally and spiritually.

And if you find yourself developing expectations or confused by his behavior with you, then you should be mature about it and talk about it with him. If he’s a brother in the Lord, I would think that your feelings would be important to him and that he would be more than willing to curb his actions in a way that wouldn’t suggest that he wants more than a friendship. I know, I know. “Easier said than done.” Trust me, I realize that. But I just have a hard time accepting the easy way out of avoiding meaningful spiritual relationships with men altogether. I think we as Christians should strive to harness our own weaknesses and grow beyond our faults.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

This verse is often quoted as a defense for the first definition of emotional purity that I shared at the beginning of this post. However, I think this verse can also be interpreted as a warning to guard our hearts from ourselves and our own actions. How are you contributing to your heart’s unhappiness and vulnerability? Why are we so quick to point the finger?

When I continued this talk with my mom, she said something to me that stuck out. I really want to adopt this type of living for myself:

“Don’t expect more. Only give more. If you give without expecting return, then your giving is great and you are never disappointed. Because the only person you can control is yourself.” ~ Mommy 🙂

There is joy in giving, and only disappointment and dissatisfaction in expecting. Only you have the power to control your mind, your will, your emotions, and your worldview. We must be constantly striving to place these things in the Lord. He is the only One from which we should expect anything because He is the only One who cannot disappoint us.

How are you seeing your situation? How are you approaching your male-female relationships? What changes can you make within yourself to improve them?

And yes, I realize this may sound idealistic to many. We are human and therefore fallible. But what are we doing when we use that as a crutch? When we focus too much on our flesh, we face the danger of using the fact that we are not perfect as an excuse for not trying to live up to a higher standard. In striving to be like Jesus, are we not aiming for perfection? This is the same thing. And like I wrote in another post, when you focus on the limiting factor, that’s the thing toward which you begin gravitate. So I will set my eyes on the Lord and focus my sights, and thus the direction and movement of my whole being, on His ideals and on becoming the person that He says I am in Him.

But by all means, I am not an expert on emotional purity. These are just thoughts of mine and I would love to hear your views as well! I’m always open to differing perspectives.

4/15 – Today, I found a blog post on Emotional Purity by a fellow wordpresser, Dan. I thought it was excellent! I totally agreed with his emphasis on having self-control. You might want to check it out:  Sparky Danny Man’s Take on Emotional Purity

An Old Dog Abandons Her Old Tricks

For all the growth I have made this semester, I have still been held up by old vices, which is extremely disappointing. I feel the Lord changing me, changing the person within me, and oh… God, I am so eager for it! To be new, fresh, unhampered by the past. And I know I can be. I have tasted newness this semester. But, man, can I be my own worst enemy. But I am determined to win this battle against my old self, and to do that, I need to purge.

My real weakness is that I feel too much. I identify with people, imagine their situation, imagine myself in their situation, try to come up with ways to help and guide them, feel utterly helpless if I can’t succeed in helping them, need to let them know that I am there for them, and then must follow through in being there for them fully. An extreme empathizer. So much that, as a school psychologist pointed out earlier this semester, I allow my own happiness to depend on others, which is so detrimental to myself.

I think this disposition is why I so easily identified with my mother, who in her adversity (being married to my dad), had so much need for empathy. I imagined myself in her place and tried to emotionally fill the void that my dad had created within her. Because I identified so strongly with her, I paid more attention to how my dad treated her than I did his treatment of me. And also, because I identified so strongly with her, she became an example of the kind of person I should be, while my dad became the example of the person I didn’t want to be. I put her on a pedestal.

When I was a little older (~late teens?), my mom told me that she is not the person that she used to be, the person she was before and in the early years of her marriage. But the only person I saw and could remember was this new person she had become. A woman who strived to be wholly self-sufficient, independent, emotionally guarded, masking and denying her true emotions… A necessarily strong woman. A private woman. A dependable woman, who denied herself her own desires and happiness, ranking them after those of everyone around her. Growing up, she was the image of what I thought I should be, of what I wanted to be.

But I realize now that I have truly identified too much with my mother. I have become her in many ways. The qualities that I once viewed as strengths have become faults because I have adopted them too intensely.

INDEPENDENCE –  I always feel like I need to be self-sufficient. I don’t like to ask for help for anything, if I can help it. And I don’t allow others to do niceties for me. For example, I remember when I was moving out of my room at the end of my freshman year at college, a friend scolded me for this. “Let us help you!” he said. “You don’t have to do everything by yourself!” I had tried to move my heavy boxes by myself instead of taking up their offer to help.

Don’t get me wrong, independence is an admirable quality and I am glad that I am equipped to and comfortable with doing things for myself. But sticking too firmly to it has been detrimental (i.e. because of my independence, I have purposely created distance between myself and my friends). This is something of which I am coming to the full realization. I shouldn’t allow my independence to divide me from the people I care about.

When I think more about this trait in relation to my mom, I also realize that she was so independent because my dad didn’t fulfill his husbandly role as God describes it. So she had to step up and lead my brother and I. This example, a woman leading her family, only added to my view of female independence and encouraged me to believe that I shouldn’t depend on any man to do anything for me. And because I didn’t know what that looked like… to have a man lead his wife and for her to be able to depend upon him… I now even find myself resisting guys’ attempts to do something for me. I probably appear less “feminine” to them when I hold doors open for them, rather than allow them to open a door for me. But after years of seeing my dad not do such niceties for my mom, I don’t expect it from any man (except my brother, who my mom brought up to be so courteous) and just automatically do such things for myself. But I don’t like that I am this way. Again, I should be willing to allow people to display their courtesy.

WALLS – My mom set up emotional walls after she realized that her emotions were not appreciated by my dad. He couldn’t be trusted with them. So she entered into  subsequent friendships with a walled heart. Encouraged others to do more talking, so that she wouldn’t have to give too much of herself away. Basically Proverbs 4:23 to the extreme.

I am the spitting image of her example. Growing up, it was emphasized that our private business was our business and not to be shared with others (we had extremely gossip-y neighbors). But I have carried this mandate with me into my young adulthood. I let others do the talking, which is fine because, being an extreme empathizer, I like to hear about their experiences and like bringing them pleasure by showing my interest in their life. And I think I don’t share my emotions partly because I don’t want to run the risk of discovering that they won’t be appreciated by my listeners.

But I have realized that this stunts my growth. Part of being in a relationship with someone is giving of yourself. And part of growing as a person is learning how to trust others with parts of yourself. I think a lot of my past friendships ended because I was unwilling to do this – unwilling to open up and show the other person that I trust them enough to let them see me. Trust. Now that is something that requires true strength. This is definitely something I have been working on building.

This reminds me… I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of… “the problem with [emotional] walls is not only that they keep people out, but they keep you in.” This could not be more true. It definitely has been pretty lonely being the only person who knows me.

DENIAL+MASKING – this falls in line with building walls. My mom was a master actress. Being strong for my brother and I, she denied many of her emotions and masked them. She always appeared strong. Always appeared happy. And she was both of those things. But there was a storm inside. Since I am older now and our friendship has matured, I see this more. She will sometimes say things that hint her desire for affection, but then quickly denies it and masks it. But I know her well and can identify when she’s doing this. And I think she does this because deep down she doesn’t feel that she is worthy of having her desires… or, perhaps more correctly, that it isn’t possible for her to ever have them.

I think out of all the qualities I have picked up, this is the one I need to change the most because, I realize now, it leads most directly to self-sabotage. I deny myself of my desires and convince myself that I can’t have them or am not worthy of them, and then mask that I have a desire at all. For someone who so strongly values communication, this tactic makes me a complete hypocrite because it keeps me from communicating with myself and with others, who very well may be able to deliver what I want. It is a breeding ground for mixed signals.

The truth is, it is not that I cannot have what I desire… but that I do not allow myself to have what I desire, and what is perhaps even available to me. So I create my own unhappiness, not my situation or any other person, etc. In living this way,  I  also offend God by not accepting and trusting His ability to deliver my wants, if they are right for me. So I tie not only the hands of those around me, but His hands as well. I deny myself happiness and love, so that in the end, all I have is my independent self, sitting within all those walls I have built. Alone.

—————————————————————————————————————-

I realize that I have been living as though I am a woman in a wrecked marriage, perhaps thinking deep down inside that behaving this way will prevent me from acquiring her unhappiness. But, my God. It’s all SO wrong… couldn’t be more wrong than this. And I just praise the Lord that He is bringing me to the full realization of these things NOW, while I am still young. I need to live up to a higher standard – to God’s standard. I am resolved to not look to any other person as a model for how to live, because we are each fallible in our own ways. God is the only one worthy of a pedestal!

We can’t help what situation we’re born into, but we can help how we allow ourselves to be affected by it. And I choose to love myself… fully love myself and believe that I am worthy of happiness and all my desires and that I can and will indeed have them, if not today than someday! All according to God’s perfect time.

Wow, when I re-read this, I wonder who on earth would want to have such a complicated person in one’s life. Yes, I suppose I am quite a complicated mess right now, but I know that God is a good janitor. The best, actually. And now that I have finally given Him the master key to my building, I know it will clean up better than “just fine” 🙂

Future Post:  Traits I’ve picked up from Dad.

Garden Principles I: The Curses of Adam and Eve Explained

It is truly amazing just how much we can learn from the first 3 chapters of the Bible. It’s jam-packed with so much information and explanation, if we only open our hearts and pay attention! 🙂

There is just TOO much to talk about in one post, so I will be doing a series of posts on this topic. This first one will focus on qualities of men and women, and specifically the dynamics between husbands and wives.

So, a few weeks ago, I attended a Christian Conference on the East Coast. Since it was over Valentine’s Day, the focus was on Gospel-Centered Relationships.

On the first day of the conference, the pastor focused on the importance of the marriage vows and how it mirrors Christ’s covenant with His bride, the church. (Beautiful, right?) But… I will talk about this in a future post 🙂

On the second day, he discussed the Garden, Adam, and Eve. Let’s begin…

So, looking at Genesis 1:27-28, we know that men and women were created as equals and, more importantly, without distinction beyond their physical capacities (i.e. childbirth = female specific). It tells us:

(27) So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

So, with that passage, we see that in the Garden, God did not make a distinction between men and women when he commanded “replenish the earth, and subdue it… and have dominion over…” He did not specify that only Adam or only Eve would have dominion, but rather, that they will both have dominion.

Now, let’s fast forward to the fall in Genesis 3. The pastor brought up an extremely convicting question that I had never before thought to ask. When discussing Eve’s temptation by the serpent in Genesis 3:6, he asked, “Where was Adam when all of this was happening?” We are always so quick to see Eve’s action and blame her for the fall, but where was Adam when she was being tempted? This is a point that stuck with me, and it will come up again shortly.

Next, we discussed the curses that God imparted on Adam and Eve, which was the beginning of non-physical distinctions between the sexes. To Adam, in Genesis 3:17-19:

(17) And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (18) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Thus, the pastor explained that Adam’s curse is job-oriented:  he will struggle to work the land (have a job) and will be concerned about providing for his family (being successful). This can be seen in men today. Men are more task-oriented than women. And not to say that women are not ambitious or do not value their jobs, but research has supported that men are more systematizing. The pastor mentioned research by Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice), which I have read and definitely agreed with most of it. There has been some controversy over her work, fueled by the fact that she for a long time refused other researchers’ requests to view her data. But, if you want a more modern source, check out Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD. Absolutely amazing theories (and evidence) on differences between the “male” and “female” brain.

To Eve, in Genesis 3:16:

(16) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Now, when he talked about this verse, he brought up an extremely important observation. If we fast forward to Genesis 4:6-7, we see that the same phraseology is used to describe the relationship between sin and Cain. God says:

(6) And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? (7) If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

The same language! Just as sin desired Cain, God cursed Eve to desire her husband. Now, our fleshly reaction as women (and men too) is to be upset that we would be compared to sin or said to have the same action as sin, but I would encourage you to stay open and stay with me here!

The pastor broke down what exactly is implied by desire. When we think about sin, what does it aim to do? It tries to manipulate us, control us, have authority over is. This is it’s desire for us. Thus, in the same way, women are cursed to try to manipulate, control, and exert authority over their husbands, but again mirroring Genesis 4:7, her husband will rule over her:

Ephesians 5:23 – For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he (Christ) is the Saviour of the body.

Thereby, the pastor explained that women would hence be focused on her relationship with her husband and their family dynamics. She would be more invested in the emotional sector of their relationship. I think that most of us can see this in our lives today. For evidence, just look to your friendships and the other social networks that women form with each other to vent about what? Their relationships. Their family-life. How they are feeling.

This is a good point to break on (and plus I have to run out for a meeting!). But this was the primer. In the next post, I’m going to talk about what God revealed to me  from this pastor’s teaching and how understanding the Adam and Eve’s relationship in the Garden is 1) crucial for understanding a husband and wife’s relationship today and 2) crucial for viewing and accepting Ephesians 5 within a Christian context. Actually, in my opinion, Ephesians 5 shouldn’t ever be taught outside of Genesis 3. But we’ll discuss that more later.

1 John 2:17 – And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:  but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Love is…

“Love is not an emotion… it’s an ability.”

~ Dan in Real Life

Love Is Like Old Wine...