Tuesday, October 6, 2015

No Strings Attached...

Seriously God... are you telling me that after all these years of living and loving, i've been “off”.

That's exactly what my Abba tells me. But His words are wrapped with so much love and grace. Not berating and harsh, but gently wooing. i find myself pausing lonnnnng to actually grasp that He is once again using the “rod and staff” to comfort me (even as He corrects me).
That same rod will discipline me if i linger too long on the guidance of the staff.
It's the right moment to go silent. To sit still, be steady, and drop my head. To allow the wind to blow away what i thought..., and let the Son settle the warmth onto my shoulders of what is better.

It's been a mystery for most of my decades.
You might want to stop reading now --- as what follows might be something you “got” long ago. You'll possibly roll your eyes over the words below and declare inwardly, she's a mess.
But as i reach for the robe over, and over, and over again, i bend to the obedience of sharing what He's teaching me and if only the slower to learn surround me, well, how beautiful to know He calls even the slow ones His Beloved.

After more than 5 decades of l-o-v-e, here's the bony skeleton of me.
Why is it Lord that i can love someone completely, sincerely, purely, with an upright heart, but the result of my love for them might or might not bring love in return? It's not a pitiful “i'm not loved” issue. Not at all. I am loved, this i know. But, instead it's a lonely whisper of rejection and dismissal that has plagued me for far too long. Today, is it's last day of hiding in a back room.

In a recent conversation with my oldest son, he said words that dove deep into the waters of what my Abba had already begun pouring. He said, “Mom, do you know what you could do to make me the happiest son in the world?... Let yourself rest and know, that you are wildly loved.”

Steve and i have just finished reading “Beyond Ordinary” by Trisha and Justin Davis. It's a great read for the married couple who's decided they really do love each other, but they are tired of the whiplash moments in their “good” marriage when life hits too hard and the seatbelt of commitment that holds them in place, might have saved the marriage but they're left stunned and aching.
It seems that man of mine and i are always learning. We graduate out of one “class” feeling pretty good about our new-found-knowledge only to realize the next “course” we need to attend started maybe 2 or 3 days ago and we're behind again. (Not really --- but well, sort of). Perhaps it's because we've dedicated our lives to ministering to marriages that it seems we're always 3 steps forward, two steps back on the path before us. And being honest, (but not giving too much attention to or credit) it's a reality that the Lord we love and serve so earnestly, He has an enemy. And that enemy works day and night to stop the kids that love and serve the Father. So sometimes... sometimes it feels like the wind is blowing too hard to stick our little, feathery heads outside our timid, creaky birdhouse... maybe we should just forgo the worms, let's just huddle in and hide.

But love...
Have you ever noticed how love compels us onward... always.
Self will invite us to hide.
Fear whispers, you might get hurt.
Rejection declares, they're not gonna like you.
Isolation uses a megaphone, “you --- are ---- alone”.

But love...
Love is like the wind-chimes outside my window. It's gentle but clear, it responds to the wind but not with resistance or frustration. It glides with it and produces something the wind alone could never have accomplished. joy-sounds.
Love says don't hide, i want to use you in the wide open spaces.
Love says, yes, you will get hurt, but it's ok, i'm in tight with the One who can fix those gouges so that you'll be even better than you were before the wound broke you.
Love says, oh, for sure, some will push you away. They do me too. It hurts for a time, but then, when all the dust settles, you'll find --- i'm still alive and well.
Love says, when you are most alone, nothing can hide.

Trisha and Justin Davis share their pursuit of extraordinary out of the shadows of ordinary. Thank God for the beautiful ones like them who are willing to pull back the shades and let us see GOD AT WORK.
After all, if something is perfect ---- what need does it have of God.

In one of the chapters, Trisha says something that whammed me. Steve was reading that morning (we take turns), and as the words slipped through the air, tears slipped down my face. Trisha was sharing about her own epiphany while reading a Brennan Manning classic, Abba's Child, with her husband, Justin. Got the picture here --- i burst into tears as my husband and i are reading about what another couple was reading from yet another book. Go ahead, laugh, yep, i'm a mess. (We are now reading Abba's Child – my learning continues.)
But here's what brought about my salty eruption. Trisha writes:
“In the past when i would authentically and deeply love people with compassion and tenderness, I often didn't get the same in return. While I love seeing people succeed, it crushed me when they would break my trust in the process... I had thought, 'If i am faithful to you, then you should be faithful to me.'”
(I wrote in the book margin --- “this has been a heart trap for me”...)
In my lifetime i've had many, many friends. What a gift a true friend is. Many of you reading this blog, you are God's gift to my heart.
But throughout my life there have also been a very few friends that devastated my heart with their false reciprocation of love. We've all experienced those short-term friendships that shocked us when we realized they were only there for what they could get. But wait... we thought they'd be there forever.
For me, when i love a friend, i'm all in. But what happens when the friend only wants to use you while you're “in” their life, and when you no longer have anything they want, they toss you out, perhaps even with a smile on their face.
It's always been a mystery to me. Users who take, and feel fine moving on to greener pastures after they've gulped all the grass you've lovingly given them.
Well --- Trisha and i could share a long cup of java over this kind of hurt.
But, what she writes a paragraph later, opened my eyes (and expanded my tear ducts).
“God's mercies are new every morning because He knew we would need them every day. I had to embrace the painful reality that my view of myself masked a dangerous illusion that I would never be unfaithful, when in truth I am unfaithful to God every day. Yet in his great love and his daily mercies, he still chooses to love me. The question – would i surrender to this new way of life that would ask me to do the same?
“My new life in Him is daily choosing to surrender my need to find my identity in the way people respond to the way I love them, forgive them, and trust them. The “impostor” (from Chapter 2, Abba's Child), tells me to stop trusting others because they will let me down.”
(Oh Trisha, thank you, can i pour you another cup of coffee...)

Of all the beautiful, close-to-heart, loving friends i have, i've always had this horrific fear lurking in a backroom closet. An impostor that sent relentless messages, “if they really knew you, they'd hit the road”... “remember, once you stop doing what they want you to do, you'll be alone again”... “you've been a misfit all your life, you'll never really fit in”...(i'm not saying these are "truths", but just what the impostor presses for)-------
and that impostor works relentlessly to keep people apart, friends separated, hearts unsure (and he's not just doing that in mine and Trisha's lives...)

But wait...
If i am unashamedly loving others ----- then won't they love me back?
People pleasers silently believe that if they can please you, then your overflow of happiness, will sprinkle back on them. And at the end of the day, everybody goes home smiling.
And yet ---- people pleasers often feel the slam of the screen door in their face as they watch their “friend” walk away ---- pleasing them didn't secure the friendship. No amount of sincere love could maintain faithful friendship.
Bottom line ----
people choose.
They choose if they will love, why they will love, when, where, how often they will love.
Love is a choice --- when people are concerned.
Love is a guarantee --- with God.

Inside my Bible, on one of those blank pages at the beginning, on the thin, parchment like paper, i have written:
My life in HIM is daily choosing to surrender my need to find my identity in the way people respond to the way i love them, forgive them, trust them.
The impostor tells me to stop trusting others because they will let me down. This impostor works against me trying to take over my thoughts, shut me down, and keep me prisoner in the muck and mire of bitterness and self-protective anger. (Trisha Davis)
This is painfully true in my life as well. So i must daily choose to surrender to God how others see me or respond to me. “Others” do no define my identity.
I must choose to do the next right thing... and focus on God's eyes on me, not others responses to me.
God loves me ------- His mercies are fresh and new every morning for me.
God chooses to love me.
That's my focus.
And therefore ---- i choose to love others ----- freely --- with no “if i, then you...” strings attached.
Surrender all the strings to Abba --- and love others as God loves me! (they don't have to love me back) Abba Does Enough of that...

It's been over three years now since i last spoke with a friend that walked away from my heart. She had no idea how much i treasured her gentle friendship in my life.
It was ten years prior, that a different friend had exited our family's friendship.
Neither of them gave a reason. They just went away, a slow fade.
Does it sound laughable to you --- that as a grown woman --- i wept over the void they left?

I prayed for them, reached out to them, forgave them, asked God to bless them, prayed for their kids, missed their kids in our home, and each time i pulled out a family-favorite-recipe they had shared, i wondered... what did i do that drove them away...?

Did you know i've always struggled letting a new friend get close ---- because i knew it would matter deeply to my heart if/when they chose to walk-away?

It's a secret... shhhh... don't tell anyone...

But when Brennan Manning exposed the “impostor” and Trisha Davis shared her secret pain, my tears came quick and they were laced with years of hurt, over honest friendship rejected and a people-pleasers sorrow.

And God entered in ---- center stage ---- and whispered from His spotlight position (no microphone needed) ----
“My dear girl, you've been living and loving with your life wheels out of alignment. You've always thought you loved unconditionally, but hear my loving words over you as i make all this clear. You have loved much ---- but with strings attached.”
What God? No, truly, this can't be true...
“donna, just breathe and listen carefully to My heart-words-of-life for you. You've not known it, but I have... don't condemn yourself, instead, feel My grace.
“You've always done it. Somehow when you were the littlest of girls, you did it. You've done it so long, you didn't know there was a better way. My way. The way I love. You've always loved others, but you've had little invisible strings attached to your love. You silently thought, 'if i do this for them, then they'll naturally want to do this for me, and we'll both feel loved, and all will be well'. 'if i love them 'good enough', then they'll automatically love me back, and i won't be alone, i will be loved.' 'if i love my children with focused selflessness, they'll always know they are loved and they'll always love me back.' 'if i'm a good friend to others, loyal and true, then they'll be a good friend to me...loyal...true.'”
Oh Lord --- when the words aren't polished and the rawness hangs out --- that sounds so horribly selfish. It sounds like --- “i'll love others SO they will love me back --- and that means the reason for my love --- is wrapped up in what it will get me in return...” Oh GOD --- that's not the way it should be. Oh Father, i've been so wrong...

And His Heaven-clean words came and washed me again...
“donna, you've loved. That matters. Now I, God, want to take you further into the great mystery of LOVE. Your strings-attached love has been your frightened way of trying to self-protect yourself. When that first hurt came to you, as hurts always come to everyone, you, like others, began trying to figure out how you could outsmart the pains of life. And you decided you would out-love others so you could have a good return for your investment of love. You didn't trust the simple fact of MY LOVE flow, you wanted to insure a flow of love would come from those 'indebted' to you. Do you see my daughter? Look deeply at it. For it has grieved my heart these past many years. That's why when your friend walked away, i allowed that pain to sit sideways inside you. I cared that you were hurting, but what was more important to me was that you begin to see --- loving others is no guarantee of their love --- and yet, it's what i want you to do each and every day --- no return policy allowed. No strings attached. No --- i'll love you and then you'll love me strategy allowed. Because, I, God, am the only true source of love. I loved you first --- donna, have you always responded to my love with love. You haven't. And... it's ok daughter.
I will always love you whether you love me back or not.
I do not love you in order to gain your love in return.
I love you no matter what.
I don't need your love to steady the flow of my own.
I love you freely, completely --- with no strings attached.
You can respond to Me however you like – and I will always respond with love.
And that is what I am calling you to now.
Love others freely.
No strings attached.
Don't love your husband sweetly and deeply, hoping you'll get a good return on your investment.
Love your husband with a Heaven-gush of surrender.
Don't love your children with the dream that they will call you every day and invite you to lunch every Sunday.
Love your children for the pureness of making sure they feel loved, accepted, seen, treasured.
No strings/hopes/desires/expectations allowed.
Don't love your friends with the dream of never feeling alone or abandoned or forgotten.
Love your friends because you are willing to let My love water-fall-out-of-you in their direction, their response is mine... not yours. If they don't love you back, look in MY direction, you'll be flooded.

Love with no strings attached.

Your love is not yours --- it is simply mine flowing through you.
So know that I, your Daddy-God, I see you loving others, and that brings me great joy ---
You Are Loved Deeply not because you do or do not love others ----
but because
I AM LOVE and I choose you.

How about you my dear one.
Pray deep and ask the Revealer to show you if you too have been loving with a few little invisible strings attached.
Don't answer quickly.
Give Him a chance to whisper clear.
I personally believe this string-attached love has drained countless hearts and left just as many feeling abandoned, betrayed, and cast to the side.
Our Good Father wants the impostor exposed, the strings clipped, and the unencumbered flow of love to storm the gates of our lives.
Just ask --- He'll show you too.

----- i write this, with so much love ------
no strings attached,