By Dr. Brad Strait, CCPC Lead Pastor, and an Anonymous friend.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. (James 1:12-18 The Message Version)
A friend of mine wrote to me about her unhealthy habits. Her personal sins.
She and I know we all have some of them. Maybe it’s discouragement, drinking, cursing, emotional eating, pride, or driving too fast. Being hard-hearted. Trying to control life, or escape from it. The thing about all habits is that they are learned behaviors. We learned them someplace, from someone, and they grow over time. Patterns of life can dig deep furrows. Canyons. Do something enough, and it becomes a part of us. Sometimes, that bad habit becomes sin, and then it becomes destructive. She knows it. Her bad habits have cost her a bunch.
It felt good to hear her honesty, to both of us. And to pray for her. As James 5 says, “Confess your sins and pray for each other that you may be healed.”
We learn, if we are willing, from the bad choices of others. So please allow me to share, with permission, the fruits of her “self-inventory and reflection.” Why? Well, the good news is that we can change. We can start new behaviors and patterns. Groove new furrows. I feel that as we’re emerging from such a surreal time of quarantine, we each have the beautiful opportunity of a fresh start. Perhaps the day is today for wiping the slate clean—for bringing into our life those things which help us love and serve God and tossing the others aside.
In 1 John 1:8-10 we read: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
We all have something broken in us. You may not relate to her exact issues. But as her pastor, I find these powerful truths for almost everyone. I think that they might resonate in your heart. At least, I hope so, because they do touch my own heart.
In her own anonymous words, here are her five key unhealthy behaviors (sins) she’s been surrendering to God’s touch as she heals and grows.
1) Living the “All or Nothing” Mindset
Everything is pushed to either 100 percent true or zero percent true. The – “oh, well I’ve already messed up, might as well give up completely.” I was a very black and white thinker: good/bad, fail/success, right/wrong. It stems back to my crippling perfectionism and insecurity. Anything that wasn’t absolutely perfect was seen in my eyes as a failure. Again. The old insecurities emerged. I’ve come to realize that human life is not simply black and white, but rather comes in shades of gray. We are all a mixed bag of both good and bad. God sees this, and he loves me still. Life is so much more enjoyable – and freeing – if I allow myself to exist in those shades of becoming, rather than killing myself to fit into a black/white reality.
2) Playing the Comparison Game
Living in such a connected, online, social media-obsessed world is a double-edged sword. Sure, we can stay in contact with loved ones across the globe and have access to information and entertainment at the tips of our fingers, but it also invites comparison into our sacred mental space.
Models on Instagram, perfect “mommy bloggers,” extravagant lifestyles of the rich and famous, fast lives of celebrities – each bombarding our minds with such lust-worthy content. It left me looking at my own life like a sack of moldy potatoes.
I was willingly inviting envy, jealousy, and thoughts of inadequacy into my heart that made me question my self-worth. I am now ruthless with what content I will let into my space. Guard that heart, baby.
3) Trying to Control the World
If we’re being honest, I can be a little…shall we say…rigid. My schedule, being tidy, having things just so in my personal space. And again, this all can be brought back to perfectionism and insecurity. Controling life becomes a goal, and then a sin. It leaves little room for God to work. The greatest — and truly most freeing — evolution in my life was simply relaxing in those areas. Life is not run on a by-the-minute clock. Schedules should be flexible. Otherwise, you live life constantly on edge — and others feel that too. “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”
4) Having Harsh Self-Judgement
This last one goes without saying. But I had to sever my dysfunctional relationship with the mirror. More specifically, I had to sever the harsh self-judgement the mirror produced.
I had to give myself the grace to be a work in progress. There will always be some aspect of my life that isn’t perfect or what I wish it could be. Freedom and peace come from seeing myself through God’s eyes and allowing myself the patience to bloom and grow and change and be beautifully imperfect. I am so much more than simply my reflection in a piece of glass. Jesus see’s me as I will be.
5) Letting My Past Overshadow My Present
This one took me a long time to let go of. I carried my past with me for a very long time. I let the guilt and shame from my past struggles overshadow my present. It dictated my self-worth, it hindered me from inviting love into my life, it stunted my growth as a person and suffocated my freedom in Christ. Imagine trying to keep your head above water, with an anchor tied to your feet. The past is like this sometimes.
My life changed when I finally made peace with that dark history. When I realized that God has forgiven me of all the manure I was letting weigh me down and loves me anyway. If God can forgive me, it’s time I forgive myself. Period.
The truth of the matter is that I am who I am today because of what I went through. The biggest areas of growth in my life came from lessons I had to learn the hard way. So in a way, I am grateful for God allowing me to endure those trials and blessing me with the perspective and gratitude that comes from healed pain.
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