Let's talk about gifts, shall we?
'Tis the season. Every company is bustling with promotions, blogs are buzzing with gift ideas, and stores are crowded as shoppers seek out gifts for friends and family.
Now, I'm not here to lecture about American consumerism or the materialistic corruption of Christmas. Blah blah blah. I know my readers (you!) are wise and well aware of these perspectives, and you, like me, simply love the joy of blessing others with gifts! But I do want to use this opportunity to talk about another type of "gifting."
There are many things to be said on the subject of spiritual gifts, but I just want to point out a few key things from this Scripture today.
Another late assignment submission. This has been happening a lot lately. Actually, a lot all year long. And while my GPA is still a 3.7, the truth is, if it were just based on the potential quality of my work, you know, if I was doing more than the minimum, it might have the potential of being a 4. However, if my professors hadn’t been so gracious and forgiving about my lack of timeliness about meeting deadlines over the course of my graduate studies, it would likely be a 1.
Here’s the thing. Over the past year, a lot has happened. I found out I was pregnant and stopped taking all medicine cold turkey. I left the comfort of my job and moved to a different state where I had no friends or family- just my newlywed husband. I went through a painful custody battle for my first son, whom I had never been away from for more than one week, and he began spending multiple weeks at a time at his dad’s. I sank into isolation and a pretty deep depression throughout my pregnancy.
Then, in August, my second son was born, and while the depression lifted, I was hit by an unexpected wave of debilitating postpartum anxiety. Because of that, and because of the trauma of a second c-section, I started having heart palpitations which only made the anxiety worse. It was hard.
Throughout all of this, I wish I could say that I stayed mentally strong. I wish I could say I kept trucking along productively and positively. But I didn’t. I binge watched Netflix to drown it all out. I procrastinated on assignments out of the fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, do well enough. I stopped blogging all together. That book I was writing? Haven’t opened the document all year. And I did it all under the notion that I was giving myself grace.
But here’s the thing. At what point does “giving yourself grace” turn into “living with a victim mindset”? Because that’s exactly what happened to me.
I don’t want to live a life suppressed by limitations I put on myself because I’m thinking and operating as someone who is a victim to life’s circumstances. I don’t want to be defined by problems or inconveniences that happen in my life. I don’t want to use the things I struggle with as excuses to avoid being obedient to the things God has called me to do well.
We ALL have challenges in life, but if we just sit right down in the middle of them and park our minds there, we will never move forward into the glory and goodness that God has planned for our lives.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be kind to ourselves and forgiving every once in a while if something comes up; we should. We are not perfect. But think of it this way: if a friend cancels on you every single time you make plans together year after year, you’re going to eventually get fed up. You’ll get tired of making plans. Your friendship is going to start to fade apart. You’ll start to expect that he/she will never follow through.
That’s exactly what happens when we sink into a victim mindset.
I can’t do this because I’m too busy with work.
I can’t do this because I have a baby to care for.
I can’t do this because I’m too depressed.
I can’t do this because I just don’t feel good.
And so it just doesn’t get done. But at the end of the day, we make time for the things we really want to do. So be honest.
I’m choosing not to do this because I just don’t want to right now.
And grapple with THAT instead. There comes a point in time when you just have to SHOW UP and do what you’re called to do, faithfully and obediently. You have to stop making excuses and talk yourself into it instead. Mind over matter. Take captive your thoughts and make them obedient to the will of Christ!
So, I don’t know what you’ve been talking yourself out of. Maybe it’s a big dream, like starting a business or writing a book or making a move or applying to a program. Or maybe it’s something small, like finishing that art project or getting that workout in or cleaning your room or sending a letter to Grandma. But stop telling yourself that pitiful you just can’t get it done right now because of blah blah blah (preaching to myself here).
I know what I need to do- finish a project for school! And even though I don’t feel good.. even though I have a baby to take care of... I’m determined to get. it. done. ✅
Free your mind from thinking of yourself as a victim, someone whose circumstances make it okay to live a less than kind of life. God has made you for more. And He has made you stronger than any trials life may throw your way.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
You know what's hard? Persevering despite disappointment or discouragement.
It can be so easy to become discouraged when just a few things don't go our way, especially when those things are the things we hold dearest to our hearts. It can be so tempting to just let go of our dreams and goals when our previous efforts have all seemed to go unnoticed or unrewarded. The pain of trying something AGAIN after having been less than successful before and still willingly putting ourselves up against the daunting possibility of failure is often overpowering, debilitating. Who wants to experience rejection, failure, or setbacks?
So what do we do instead? We decide to just play it safe. We tell ourselves that it wasn't meant to be, it isn't for us, that we are stepping out of bounds. We convince ourselves to just live comfortably in the roles we're already in without the added risk of attempting to branch out and go after what we really want.
I am the QUEEN of haphazardly throwing in my rod just to see if something takes. Sure, I'll try something I've been dreaming of doing. Once. The problem is that if nothing takes that first cast and bait, I'm out of the water. I don't want to try again.
But what it boils down to is this: we have to believe in ourselves, get back up, and try again (yes, I'm singing Aaliyah right now). As cliche as this notion may seem, it is true.
We've all seen the quotes on Pinterest. The difference in someone who is "successful" and someone who isn't is the fact that the one who succeeded simply did not stop at failure. They faithfully persevered.
We have to stop talking ourselves down and out of the things we dream about. We can't hand ourselves over to our insecurities and fears just because it's easier to aim small than to TRY something great and not succeed.
And if we've been trying and trying and we have still yet to succeed? That's okay. Until we stop trying, we have never really failed.
I was en route home on one of the 700 mile drives I've been partaking in quite often lately (it's complicated), listening to my "Worship" playlist, and praying that the last two hours of my drive would be a time of fellowship and communion. My toddler had just fallen to sleep in his comfy car seat in the back, yet a lot was weighing on my heart and I knew I needed to bring it to God.
So, Bethel Music's "For the Cross" streamed from the speakers and before I knew it, hot spiritual tears were streaming down my cheeks. (You all know the kind I'm talking about, right?)
My heart was laden with conviction. In that moment, I realized that in the midst of the recent trials I'd been walking through, I'd been letting fear, not faith, reign in my heart. The result? I'd been taking out my fears, frustration, and self-pity on the people who love me most.
This is the lesson the Spirit brought to the attention of my heart:
Just because you're going through something hard doesn't make it okay to sin in your attitudes towards others, to let bitterness take root in your heart, or to let anger reign your disposition.
Just because something doesn't seem fair or just doesn't make it okay to live in a place of ingratitude.
No matter what, sin starts in the heart. If you let the ways you've been "wronged" in life pile up in your heart without the cleansing key of forgiveness, that hurt will flow out of you and into the lives of people around you. After all, it's hurt people who hurt people.
And yet, Jesus was tried in every way and was without sin.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin."