I learned a few lessons in getting unstuck this week. And surprise surprise, it all came back to Be Still. Be Led. But also, Be Open... to the new, weird, and extra-ordinary ways God wants to speak to you.
I feel stuck.
I have felt stuck for nearly my entire life. I have mountain top experiences, camp when I was young, Kairos a few months ago. I do well afterward, I get up in the mornings fired up to spend time with God. I have my bible and notebook ready, I'm praying. I'm connecting. I'm getting things out of it. Then... I disconnected. I sleep in one morning and don't get up in time to do my routine. Then one day, weeks/months have gone by since I've been in my bible or prayer time. This has happened for as long as I can remember, Jr. High even.
After enough time passes with my loosing all that momentum, I've fallen back into old behavior and thought patterns. I'm over eating, under sleeping, and engaging in behaviors and thoughts that are counter productive to the vibrant life God has created me for. Sometimes, it goes far enough to open back into the depression I've struggled, off and on, with for so many years.
I keep thinking there has got to be a secret to unlocking this thing. There has got to be a way to live in the type of victory I hear other people living. I tried various churches, I tried A.A. These were not ineffective. I learned great things, made great strides, had revelations and breakthroughs. I haven't touched alcohol since December of 2001. I haven't smoked since August 7th, 2002.
But I just replaced alcohol with Dr. Pepper, and smoking with Cheeseburgers. The same thoughts and patterns of behavior exist. Just different substances.
Then one day, I discovered Freedom Ministries, through Gateway Church. It started when I took the class "Levels of Change". I took the five foundation classes in person, and went through them online many times. I've taken copious notes. I'm about to go back through and basically transcribe the classes for myself so that I can really internalize the lessons I've been getting through those. (Part of my Learner and Input strengths).
I took it another step forward and attended Kairos. It was a great experience, and I grew a ton in those two days. I left knowing that this was another giant step forward toward the breakthrough I needed. Then I decided, (and was nudged by my wife), that I am so Intellectual and Introspective, that I could use a little outside perspective from men (who are not me or my wife) that have experience with these freedom concepts.
Here's the thing. I'm an open book. You ask me a question, and I'll tell you what's on my mind. No life experience, or past issue is off limits. I will open my life to you and share what God has done through me. Pains, Hurts, Triumphs, Victories. Nothing is off limits for discussion and sharing.
But, I'm also guarded. I don't mind sharing with total strangers in a grocery store, or thousands of people online. But meeting with people face to face, who will continue to know me, see me, "judge me", etc... that is a level of vulnerability I'm not used to.
As open as I am with strangers, I have very few friends. In fact, I've been in Texas since 2009, it is not 2015, (six years) and I have yet to invite anyone over to my house except one birthday party once for my son. My list of friends that I would openly call just to say hello (outside of my family) is about five people, and one of them lives in Texas. I feel awkward around people. I'm much more comfortable with ideas, concepts, thoughts, studies, facts, and figures.
I can help you with your problem, as long as you don't start crying, then I get really uncomfortable. Inside I'm thinking, "You go handle that emotional thing, and then come to me when you are ready to talk ideas, actions, and solutions."
So, I took my wife's advice and met with some men from the church to start getting some outside help on this journey. I've decided to dedicate this post to sharing some of the insights that came from that encounter.This is not the end, this is only the beginning. But it's one more step toward this life of Freedom.
Belief - Thought - Action
In Levels of Change, I learned that actions come from the variety of thoughts we have. Thoughts are like branches that grow from the root of a belief. You cannot deal with change at the level of actions or thoughts, as these just manifest in different ways. When one is cut down, the next pops up.
You cut off Alcohol, and you are addicted to Dr. Pepper without realizing it. You cannot deal with the substance, addiction, or behavior. Behavior is irrelevant to the change you seek. Trying to change by changing your behaviors is mostly pointless.
You cannot deal with the thoughts "I really want a ...." because that too, is a symptom. You cut off one thought, another equally dumb thought takes it's place.
Belief gives birth to thoughts, thoughts give birth to actions, and the resulting events that arise from those actions reinforce the belief. This is the stronghold cycle. This can be both a negative and/or positive cycle, depending on what belief is in question.
If I believe that gravity causes me to fall, and I have thoughts that if I jump off of tables, ladders, cars, roofs, I will fall... then I do some or all of these things and it happens. This reinforces my belief.
Attempting to change thoughts or actions without changing the belief root is ineffective at best.So how can I get at beliefs? Many times you don't even know that beliefs are there.
In the natural, you cannot know what you look like without a mirror. How will you know about the smudge on your forehead without seeing it in a mirror? If someone tells you that it's there, how will you know they are telling the truth? (I've seen people say it's there when it's not just to mess with people).
God is your mirror. You are made in his image. When you get close to Him, he reveals who and what you are. But unlike a natural mirror, when you get close to God, you also become more of who and what you are.
Other humans can help with this process, they can point to the smudge they see, that you do not see. But some humans have a warped image, and therefore give you a warped reflection. You have to rely primarily on God as the revealing image, and only those humans He leads you to submit to.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Therefore faith is from the hearing ear, and the hearing ear is from the word of God.
Young's Literal Translation
...so then the faith is by a report, and the report through a saying of God,
International Standard Version
Consequently, faith results from listening, and listening results through the word of the Messiah.
Now hold on to your religious high horse for what I'm about to say, don't count me off my rocker yet, hear me out.
Faith does not come through reading the bible.Faith is based in hearing. If Bob says that he'll give me $100.00 next Friday. I have a choice. I can believe him, or not. If he has proven himself to be faithful and trustworthy, I will most likely believe him. If he has proven himself to make 100 excuses for why he didn't do what he said he'd do, I likely won't believe him. Faith is action based.
Faith is the actions or stance I take, based on my belief.
Let's take Imaginary Bob for example.
If I believe Bob to be a flake, I will most likely not take any actions or stance that aligns with the $100.00 promise. If I believe Bob to be a man of his "word", I will take actions or a stance that aligns with his promise.
I can read Bob's Facebook profile, follow his twitter feed, and read all of his books. Those things will give me an idea of who Bob is, what he has said and done, etc.
However, do I have a relationship with Bob?
I have a good idea of who Bob is, but I do not have a relationship with Bob. There are plenty of online personalities, ministries, etc, that turn out to be frauds and fakes. But if Bob and I went out to lunch once a month, and we talked about life. He said he'd meet me at X, and he did.
After some time my intellectual agreement with who Bob is, would be either confirmed or questioned by my experiences with Bob, which will result in a set of beliefs about Bob.
So I need to hear his active present tense voice, in relationship through on going experiences, in order to believe Bob and put my trust in him. Bob may point to a portion of a book he wrote, in answer to my question one day, and say "read this". But that is part of the dynamic relationship I have with Bob.
Lets say that I have no relationship with Bob, but know who he is, and then one day I go to my driveway, and my car is wrecked, and someone comes to me and says "Yeah, Bob came over last night and borrowed your car and got drunk, and wrecked it. Sorry man." If I don't know Bob, I may believe this person, this demon spirit, this lie. But if I know Bob, and I know Bob is not this way, I would say "That's ridiculous! Bob would never do that, there is another explanation. I don't know what it is, but I know Bob didn't do this!"
This is how God gets blamed, by the devil, and through him by people, for all kinds of wild things. God used this storm to teach them a lesson. God killed that baby because he needed another angel in heaven. God did this, it was an "act of God". But then, if you know God, you know that this is all ridiculous. You know the DEVIL comes to steal, kill, and destroy. All things that bear the fruit of DEATH, have the root of DEATH himself. All things that bear the fruit of LIFE, have the root of LIFE Himself.
As with Bob so with God. God may point to his written word (He definitely will) and speak to me through that word. But there is a difference between treating the bible as a spell book and treating it as a love letter.
Treating the bible like a spell book means I look up the formula for the situation at hand, and speak that spell hoping for a solution to magically appear like Harry Potter. Whereas, when I treat the bible as a book written to me by my loving Father, as a means to understand him better, and deepen my relationship with Him, I am letting that letter lead me to an active vibrant relationship with Him.
I can't have faith if I haven't heard. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing comes by the Word.
Faith that Bob will give me $100.00 comes from hearing him say that he will.
Faith that God will bring me a new car, or otherwise fix the car situation I'm in, comes from hearing God say that he will.
Jesus said, that he only said what He heard the Father say, and did what He saw the Father do. THAT is Faith. I can't have faith, until I've heard something to respond to.
I can't have faith that Bob will give me $100.00 just because I read that he did it for someone else. I can read that he did it for someone else, have a relationship with him, then hear him tell me that he will do it for me too, and THEN have faith that he will give me $100.00.
Grace Speaks, Faith Responds.
So it's not enough to know God can provide, and will provide. I need to take it beyond intellectual agreement, get into His presence, hear His instructions, and follow those instructions. However, if I'm only getting into His presence during times of crisis, it will be harder to hear clearly (past the voices yelling for my attention). If I've practiced hearing his voice, through fellowship/relationship over a period of time, it will be easier to hear His instructions, and easier to believe and follow through on them as well.
There is this dynamic between Grace and Faith.
Check this out from Jeremy Perasons.That is how faith works. Grace Speaks, Faith Responds.
Don't ask "Is this God, or is this me?"
This is the wrong question for many reasons. Here are some.
- God Speaks To and Through Your Uniqueness. God doesn't just speak in sentences, although he can and does do that. He also speaks in words, images, visions, dreams, impressions, ideas, concepts, and more. God has also given you a set of gifts, talents, and perspectives that, when put together, are you uniquely yours. Then God puts ideas into your heart that align with the way He's built you. So when I have an idea for a story, or to go to certain place to minister to someone, or whatever, it very well may sound like me. This because it is coming from God, through my gifting, and resonating (bouncing around off of all of my giftings and talents) in me.
- There were two trees. Knowledge and Life. When man operates without God, it looks like Knowledge. Religion attempts to overcome the knowledge of Evil with the knowledge of Good. But the Knowledge of Good will never re-connect you to LIFE, which is the real need of man. So do not attempt to find the will or voice of God through Knowledge. "Is this God or is this me?" attempts to rationalize the voice of God. This is almost like saying "Does two plus two equal purple?" The question makes no sense. This is because (as pointed in #1) we are built in a specific way, and God speaks to us through our uniqueness. Also, we are built in the image of God. As with a branch on a tree, as we get closer to Him, it gets harder and harder to identify where one ends and the other begins. You can clearly see that the branch is not the tree, and that the branch can be cut from the tree. But can you honestly say that you can find the exact point at which a branch ceases to be the branch and the tree begins? The joining point is so integrated, that is become difficult to distinguish the point of separation.
There are only two options.
- Things connected to LIFE bearing the fruit of LIFE.
- Things connected to death, bearing the fruit of death.
Out Of The BoxParaphrase of an actual conversation(s):
"You stated that you are an intellectual. You study. You study the words, the meanings, the history... etc. God gave you those gifts and they are good. But consider this.
If you have read someones book, and their Facebook profile. You know all their stats. Do you KNOW them, do you have a living vibrant relationship with them?
(Good Will Hunting Scene- **Warning This Scene Has Foul Language, but it shows this disconnect between knowing about and knowing.)
No, you just know about them. You don't know them. If the book is not leading you to the author, put the book down, and go after the author. You are so intellectual, that your disinterest in reading the bible during your "devotional time" may be the Holy Spirit himself leading you to put the bible down.
This is not to say that bible study is bad, or that you should stop it forever. This is to say that God may want you to let Him out of the box, so that He can speak with you in the 1,000's of ways that He wants to, instead of the three or four (Bible, Journal, Prayer, Study) that you put Him into.
If you are experiencing this cycle of Spiritual Connectedness, followed by a disinterest in your usual routine, then flowing into apathy, and this cycle has repeated itself since you were a pre-teen.
STOP the cycle!
God is not interested in what you do, He is interested in who you are!
He is not looking for better behaviors, traditions, or rituals, he is looking for a vibrant relationship. Hearing is an experience. You can't get hearing from reading. You can hear while you read, He can speak to you through the words you read. But hearing and reading are two separate things. God can just as easily speak to your heart during a class taught by an atheist, as He can through a sermon. But this will only happen if you are keeping your lines of connection open and unplugged"
Interesting Thought: When the heart is connected to LOVE, fear looses it's rational grip.
LOVE is a heart mater, fear operates on the mind's rational processes. You rationalize yourself into not obeying God, or believing Him. This is result of the fall, when we were disconnected from LIFE and connected to KNOWLEDGE instead.
My Achiever and Intellection strengths have a potential downside, the tendency to make my relationship with God a process (religion) as opposed to the vibrant flowing relationship that He desires.
Here are some of the instructions/requests I've received from God (repeatedly) in the past ten plus years.
- Sing to me like you did when you were younger.
- Tell me a story. • Spend some time in the mornings being still. Just be still, no reading, praying, and be still.
- Be still and know that I am God.
It occurs to me now, that they are all centered on getting out of routine and into relationship.
Be still, be led, be open to the weird and extra-ordinary ways God may want to communicate with you. Follow the desires that come to your heart. If you feel he just says "go for a walk", "listen to Lion King sound tracks", etc, don't question it, just flow with it.
If you feel that he says to stop your prayer to go write a story, do it. Go watch a YouTube video, do it. Go drive to a coffee shop, do it. Be ready to be led in ways that don't fit your box of what "spending time with God" looks like.
Also, be prepared to erase forever the idea of a "devotional" time, and instead spend every moment, of every day, attempting to strengthen that connection. Let your entire DAY be your time with God, even as you go to work.
It was suggested I take a look at Todd White and Graham Cooke, as possible sources to learn from in developing this connection.
I'd say that, despite my nervousness going into this, and the feeling I had to be a no-show while I was in the parking lot, this was a GREAT encounter, and I may just have to give this "relationships with other humans in person" thing a shot more often.
And it sounds like I'll still be working on my on going life development theme... will I #BeStillBeLed, and I'll be OPEN to being led in unique ways!
And now I leave you with a question:
So... what is the strangest things you think God's ever told you, even if you're not sure it was Him?
Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe or on Google +DarrellWolfe