God is wrecking my life

What is this, a scandalous title? The crazy thing is, it is true…God is wrecking my life.

He’s destroying the life I once lived and giving me a new life in the light of His glory.

Let me break that down for you.

I am shaped by my experiences. I have been shaped by my upbringing, my schooling, my friends, and my interactions with the world. For so long I’ve taken in what the world gives me and have considered it true. I had a less than ideal childhood, so I believed I was worthless. I struggled with depression through middle and high school and I believed that I was broken. I would hurt myself out of this profound sense of brokenness and believed that I would never be okay. From all of these things I carry with me a profound sense of anxiety that is always waiting to strike.

For so long I’ve lived in these things and have allowed them to define me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had little victories. I stopped hurting myself. I got medication for depression. I took all of the outward steps to try and fix myself.

The problem here is in that last phrase: I was trying to fix myself.

I still try to fix myself.

I look to other people to fix me, too. I look to professors for advice, friends to make me feel better, family to make up for what I was given growing up, and while none of these things are inherently bad the focus on was what I could do to fix me. The focus was on the fact that I was trying to control my life, and only once I felt like I had accomplished this or that I could turn to God and say, “now you can love me. Look at how smart I am!”

My life has improved but I’m still fighting to maintain control.

I still walk as the Gentiles do, “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:17b-18 ESV). I continue to cling to my old self because it is what I am comfortable with. I know how to survive and get by in my old skin. Sure, it is miserable sometimes (most of the time), but at least it is controlled misery. I am a Pharisee, who in the face of Jesus performing miracles and changing the status quo thinks, “No, I’m okay with how things are right now thank you very much. I don’t need any of that.” I’d rather drink old wine and pass on the new, because at least I understand the old wine (Luke 5:39).

God offers me love, grace, and new life but I turn my nose at it because I’d rather be in control.

However, in the past week and a half it has become abundantly clear that when I’m in control things don’t work out very well.

When I’m in control I wake up dreading the day because I expect so much out of my time and know I will never be able to meet my own expectations. I go through my day avoiding relationships and avoiding deeper connections because I’d rather be safe and in control than put myself out there to be hurt. When I’m in control I ignore my needs, ignore God, and live an ultimately shallow life.

I live with a hardened heart.

God has been breaking that hardened heart wide open and I’m overwhelmed by it. I’m scared of it. Everything I’ve clung to is dissolving in the light of God’s healing glory.

God is wrecking my old life, my old expectations, my old status quo…

I’ve been made new. I’ve been created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

God has offered me a new identity, but it means I have to let go of the old and embrace it.

That’s where it gets hard.

Confessing a Struggle

1st John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

A friend of mine published an amazing book called Struggle Central. In it, he chronicles the various struggles he’s faced in his life so far. He does so boldly and through a series of “confessions” in which he explains his story and the work God has done in his life. God has redeemed my friend, and God has redeemed me. So I have a confession of my own to make:

My name is Katie, and I have struggled with an addiction to pornography for a very long time.

I say “have struggled” because even though I’ve found victory in it, it never ceases to be a struggle. People talking about it, spam links show up in my inbox, sites like tumblr where I can be browsing innocently and suddenly something appears and I have to scroll away as quickly as possible, and the general nature of today’s culture make it a difficult thing to stay away from.

There is no white-knuckling through a pornography addiction in the 21st century when thousands of hours of smut are just a click away.

This post makes me laugh because I was just telling a friend of mine yesterday that I felt like I was going to be called to write a blog post that I was not going to like writing…and I was sure right (as I sit here feeling convicted at 1am to write this). This confession makes me deeply uncomfortable, no matter how many times I’ve confessed it. I have even confessed it to a room full of my peers and professors during chapel, and writing it in this blog still makes me nervous. There is a dark part of me that winces whenever light is shone upon this particular issue, but I bring it up because I think it is important to start a dialogue about it.

For too long I have gone to churches where the pastor stands on a stage, tells the congregation that pornography is bad, and tells them they have to repent or else they are hurting themselves and everyone around them. The intent behind the meessage is good, but I think it is the method that scares people even more. As the church (to generalize, of course there are always exceptions) we have induced shame instead of creating an environment for healing. We’ve boxed up the issue and have put a big “just don’t do it” sticker on the front without actually addressing the contents of the box.

The church often fails to address the loneliness, the pain, the emptiness, the lust, and ultimately the hole that people are trying to fill when they view pornography.

It took me six years to confess it to someone because the shame I felt, magnified by the messages I was getting from the church, crippled me and kept me from speaking out. As an 18 year old I was scared out of my mind to confess that I struggled with pornography because all my life it had been made into the big bag wolf and I sure wasn’t going to admit to associating with a villain.

I felt scared instead of safe, alienated instead of welcome. Even to this day when I struggle, the old doubts pop into my head and the shame comes roaring out and I find myself pulling away and nursing the wound because admitting the struggle means admitting that I’ve somehow failed and that brings me shame.

I have a feeling I will write more on the topic as time goes on, because it is a topic I have long felt called to discuss. As a woman, as a Christian, and as a struggler I have a lot of personal experience with this particular vice and if my personal experience can bring someone healing, then I am all for sharing. It still scares me, it makes me nervous to wonder what my family will think, or what the friends I have never told will think, but I also think it is important to be open and honest so that others can feel comfortable being open and honest.

After all, it was my friend Tom’s honesty through his book that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Feel free to post any thoughts you have in the comments below. I want to facilitate a discussion, not just preach at people. 

If you are interested in more from Thomas Mark Zuniga, author of Struggle Central, feel free to check out his blog.

The Struggle

It sucks to know what is going on in my head while having no interest in fixing it.

Often times it is easier to succumb to the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, that I’m unlovable, that I’m annoying, that I’m a burden, than it is to constantly fight against it. It is easy to be cranky, to isolate myself, to tell the world to leave me alone because I can handle everything just fine on my own, thanks.

Yet it is in the fight that there is growth. It is when I grapple with these voices, these concepts, and these beliefs I hold about myself that I begin to see change. When I cease to blindly accept that I am worthless, unlovable, and annoying I find that underneath it all that I’m actually okay. The lies that I tell myself crumble under the slightest pressure and I feel freedom.

The struggle is still there, though. I went out with a friend tonight and we talked about the struggle. We talked about how, in the midst of all our issues, things seem so bleak and so uncontrollable. All we want to do is be on the other side of them, to be done with them, to be on to the next thing because the next thing just has to be better. We want to be on the far end looking back and admiring how we’ve grown.

It is funny because we both came to the conclusion that when we look back, odds are we’re looking back from a place of new struggle wishing that we were back struggling with the old things. There is always going to be a new struggle or a new lesson to learn. That’s just life, honestly. I’ll discover something about myself, put it into practice or do something about it, only to find myself in something deeper than I hadn’t realized before.

I find out how to cope in one environment and when I’m thrust into another suddenly I’m drowning in old temptations and struggle all over again.

That’s kind of the cool thing about life though: We never really figure out all the answers. I’ll figure out little bits and pieces about myself and understand more about my mind and how I function, but the moment I grasp that I seem to unlock a whole different level. People are like video games, except there is no final boss battle or kill screen. We just keep advancing to the next level and in the process get to turn around and help people out who are a few levels behind because we’ve been there, done that, and know all the secrets and cheats.

It is a process that I’m not particularly fond of, especially on days like today when I’m in the midst of a struggle to adjust to an entirely new situation…but I know in the end I’ll come out of it more refined than when I began.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

The Battle to be Worthy

My name is Katie and I struggle with self-worth.

There is a psychodynamic theory in psychology called “Object-relations.” I first learned about it in my Theories of Personality class and never really understood it. There was a lot in it about infant relationship with caregivers, internalizing things in the world, and a bunch of other psychological gobbly-gook that did not make much sense at the time.

I still do not completely understand it, but I think the more I wrestle with this theory the more I resonate with it.

I internalize just about everything. By this I mean I take in what the world says about me to be true without really analyzing and questioning it. Someone doesn’t like me? Then I must be an unlikeable person. I did not get enough positive attention growing up? Then I must be someone who is not worth the attention. To internalize is to take the opinions and actions of others and make them truths within our own minds.

I do that a lot. I have a feeling other people do too.

A lot of the time this constant internalization keeps me from being who I truly am and instead leads me to believe I am someone completely different. In my head I can look at all of the good things I do, the powerful relationships I have, the love I have for others, and my successes and see that they make me a worthy person. I’m someone worth knowing, loving, and caring about. When I try to translate that into how I feel about myself, however, I find that there are all of these internalized opinions of others that get in the way of me being the person I intellectually know I am.

“The longest distance in the world is the 18 inches from the head to the heart” has never meant more to me than it has in the past few months. There is this disconnect between what I believe about myself and what I feel about myself and I think it comes back to the things I’ve internalized.

So what am I supposed to do? No matter how many good things happen in my life it seems like I continue to fall back on these dusty old internalized ideas that were imparted on me throughout my child and adolescent life. I think the answer is simple but difficult: It is time to kick out the old internalizations and begin to internalize real truths about who I am and how God sees me. It goes back to one of the questions Bob Goff told me at a conference to ask myself. Who am I?

According to God I’m a new creation (2nd Corinthians 5:17). I’m an adopted child of God (Romans 8:15). I am loved by God for no other reason than because he loves me and in that I have inherent worth. Those are the truths I should learn to internalize. Not the things bullies in schools said, or the misspoken words of my parents and siblings, or of friends long gone. I deserve a shot to be happy with myself for no other reason than because God is happy with me and created me in the best way he deemed fit. God loves me and that should be reason enough to love myself.

Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.