A Motive to Love.

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You cannot give away what you do not have. The majority of my life what I thought was love was actually dependency, needing a person to give me what I thought I needed, instead of getting it from God. I was not loving others, but needing them. When God is the central source of my life I can truly love another human being freely because I believe “Love does not demand its own way”. [1]

If I go to God to be my source for love I find it in abundance, then can I enter relationships with something to give away. This is what true intrinsic motivation to love looks like, it comes from a place of total freedom… I love you just because I do—not expecting anything in return. Love that is given conditionally so that I get something in return is not true love but manipulation. This is being selfish and it is not about loving you well, but all about me.

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When I feel lonely, abandoned, isolated, wounded or hurt my motivation becomes tested. It is in my pain that my true motivation is revealed. If my motivation is fear driven then when I am in the pressure of a crisis and feeling all those difficult feelings, I’m going to slip into my codependency. I continue to learn in my own struggles the unique and powerful difference between the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

What I have learned about myself is that I am really driven by the need of your approval and acceptance to make me feel lovable. I can be easily dependent on your approval and acceptance at the expense of being dishonest with you and myself. If God is my primary source for love then he is whom I seek for my value. Seeking fulfillment outside of God gets me in trouble. The pattern is I give to get which is functioning from a deficit and it is very dysfunctional.

If the truth will set me free, then the truth is nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. I must accept this truth and trust God will do for me what I cannot do for myself. God must become everything to me first, and then I can reach towards others with the gift of love, instead of the manipulation of neediness.

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Growing up, I always knew that when I went home someone would be there to love me no matter what. Like that love, Christ’s love for me is unconditional and I do not have to earn it. Daily, God is teaching me to love, transforming and pursuing me until I come home to him.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:5 New Living Translation

Thank you Disillusionment

I am a recovering perfectionist. What that means is every day I fight for my worthiness by admitting that I am powerless over my need to prove my worthiness. It means admitting that I make mistakes, and that people may not always like me (cringe). And it means believing that improving is possible, perfection is not. Unlike a substance addiction, perfectionism evades definitive ‘using’ or ‘not using.’

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Without practicing daily awareness, my addiction is “more crafty than any other wild animal” (to quote Genesis 3:1). It slithers into my life in subtle, deceptive ways. Perfectionism talks over my rational thinking, fabricates myths about what is possible and whispers to me doubt about being God’s beloved. It disguises itself in all the bustle of daily living: my relationships, my work, my home… My kid scored a “5” on his AP European History exam? Time to rejoice! (and just proof of my perfect parenting)… A co-worker thinks my latest idea is genius? So grateful to help! (and affirmation that I am a perfect employee).

So many thoughts collectively spinning through my unconscious every day. Sorting the worthy from the unworthiness? Exhausting.

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I watched the Olympics, wishing that I could appreciate them the way I once did. But all I can see now is the exhausting drive for perfection. Because let’s be honest. We are hoping to see the perfect swimmer or gymnast and marvel at their flawlessness. And then replay that flawlessness over and over in the highlight reels. I would love to believe that all of the athletes are well-balanced individuals who mirror strong work ethics and a belief in excellence. Perhaps they exist. But I would chance to say that beneath most of that competition lies fierce comparison, struggle to feel good enough, a deep need to feel accepted.

There is a fine line between using our gifts and exploiting them. I get it. I really, really get it. We all secretly want that moment when the world says, “You are the absolute best” because the addict in us believes that will fix us.

The problem is…the world is fickle. It likes to send us all sorts of messages. Perform. Achieve. Look your best. Don’t let them see you sweat. Make something of yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to. It’s all a matter of how much you want it. You can have it all!

The word says that you can work out, be present for your kids, spend quality time with your spouse, pray, meditate, go to work, achieve amazing things, make plenty of money, pay the bills, have a photo-worthy house, schedule all your appointments and never forget one, do the household chores, be involved in church, go on mission trips, volunteer in your community, coach the baseball team, take the kids get to all their life-enriching after-school activities, maintain a network of close friends, cook a low-carb dinner, buy organic food, get a good nights’ sleep, never appear to be aging and never look tired.

Until the day you realize you can’t. We have been set-up.

Worldly success and others’ approval is a myth. The perfect life is a myth. As soon as we think we have it, it eludes us. As soon as we have all the plates spinning in the air, we drop one, and sweep it up quietly. Just as long as no one knows…right? Because it seems like everyone else has this perfection thing down.

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We have to accept that life’s perfect or imperfect moments are not a reflection of my worthiness. Who we are meant to be; who we were created to be is in the world and not of it. Our paths need to be guided by God’s deep love for us. Easier said than done? Yes.

So ask yourself: what am I trying to perfect and who am I perfecting it for? By whose standard am I living? Why? And for how long? If we can get to the heart of why we look for perfection, we can start to loosen its hold over us, one day of mindful living at a time. Let’s all agree to talk about being imperfect more, get out of our heads, silence the doubt, agree to not be complicit in perpetuating myths so we can all live better lives.

Why I run from what I long for…

 

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Recently, I have been stuck in a pattern that I dislike: longing for intimacy, but being terrified of vulnerability. For me, there are two types of vulnerability: one type I bring into a small group; the second I bring to one-on-one relationship. In close personal relationship I am far more guarded. I am comfortable in group, but in one on one relationships, I retreat because the risk is so much greater. Vulnerability with those I’m closest with requires honesty and truth about what I am longing for and what my weaknesses are; it is here that I am most afraid. In truth, I am fully aware that you can use my vulnerability against me and choose to reject me.

Rejection would really hurt so I remain guarded, distant, disconnected, no intimacy in close relationships, and I remain lonely.

What I have come to realize is that I fiercely cling to what I know. Even though I may be suffering by clinging to dysfunction, I don’t do anything to change it. Instead, I continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I fear confronting a reality that I find unacceptable. But I accept it fearing that I will just make it worse if I try to change it.

This pattern becomes dangerous because I isolate and withdraw, then use some type of escape to fill the void, perpetuating resentment and self-pity. This pattern continues repeating with some small periods of relief like vacations or trips–but at the heart of it is loneliness. I stop trying to connect.

Brené Brown says, “Those who are vulnerable and risk pain and suffering from vulnerability live whole-heartedly; imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and belonging.”[1]

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What I am learning in this struggle is people deserve to know the truth. Yes, there is risk and potential suffering from sharing the truth, but it is the only path to being truly known. Isolation is the fertile soil of making bad choices to alleviate the pain. I can choose to suffer in isolation and silence withholding my truth from people, knowing that it will never bear fruit other than loneliness, or I can choose to suffer in the power of being known.

The very thing I run from is the very thing I long for.

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The only way I am going to grow and enter into the sacred place of intimacy is to risk truth in vulnerability. So I have decided that I am not going to suffer in isolation anymore, because vulnerability is the only path that leads to connection with others and ultimately myself.

 

[1] Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Conditional Gratitude

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Gratitude comes from an attitude of acceptance

I was in group the other day, we were talking about struggles with anxiety and stress. I shared that the reality about my anxiety is that it stems from areas of my life that I am trying to “control” and I can’t. In my fear I turn to obsessing and worrying about the uncontrollable and it creates a lot of anxiety in my life.

That is why admitting my powerlessness is so foundational to me being free.

Recently, I have become more and more aware of my physical diminishment as I turn 60. This is about the age my Dad was when he got diagnosed with cancer. So now a stomachache makes me question, could that be cancer? I’m the age he was when he was diagnosed—am I next? I start to become anxious about something I have absolutely no control over. I can’t control cancer, or getting older, and the inevitably that someday I will get sick, and I will die, and there isn’t anything I can do about that. I truly am powerless over getting older and what will come as I age.

If I let worry take over I become resentful with the realities of life, and eventually depression creeps up to stop me from obsessing. I have always heard that if you are surrendering to self-pity or resentment, you are headed toward isolation—I really relate to that.

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A good friend of mine who participates in AA gave me a surprising solution to my worry. He said that a heart of gratitude is the perfect antidote for the anxiety that we feel when we cannot control things. I can already hear your comments…Gratitude? That’s the big solution? But this gratitude always comes through the attitude of acceptance.

“Whenever I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”[i]

Interesting concept isn’t it? Learning to be grateful for whatever is going on in my life at this moment, because I know it’s a part of God’s plan and there is something good that is going to grow out of it. Only then can I become grateful for the growth of my character through the most unacceptable of circumstances.

Too often, our gratitude is contingent on our lives going the way we want.

Folks, God just doesn’t working that way.

Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn and God said nope, I’m not going to do it because, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[ii] In other words, God is saying, “Paul, be grateful for where you are and what it is that you are dealing with because I have a plan for it. I am taking care of it.”

Be grateful my friends and accept life for what it is today knowing that our hope is growing on the ground that we are standing.

 

[i] Alcoholics Anonymous “The Big Book” Chapter ‘Acceptance is the Answer’

[ii] Bible 2 Corinthians 12:9, English Standard Version

The Vulnerability of the Mountaintop

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This week I was reflecting on my struggle with what I call the “mountaintop experience”. This is the place and moments where I can have great vision for my life. Vision is a great thing. Vision will make the difference between success and failure on the path to change. Oswald Chambers says “Wherever there is vision there is also a life of honesty and integrity because the vision gives me the moral incentive.[1]

I am vulnerable in the mountaintop experience when I’m living the vision I want because I cannot stay on the mountaintop forever. Next month I’ll be headed to Minneapolis where I have been asked to speak and train the next generation of facilitators. I’ll be in the middle of ministry, and in the lead role where people are seeking my wisdom—this is a place where it’s so easy to have purpose and vision. But I can’t stay in Minneapolis forever. After a few days, I’ll board the plane and come back home to Nashville, and dirty dishes and bills are waiting. Plain. Old. Scott. It’s easy to lose perspective, so in the valley of everyday life where it is most critical to have a vision for my purpose. Most of life is spent in the day-to-day grind of life. It is in the valley that I must not lose vision, or I will be distracted by all the voices around me.

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It’s in the day to day that I must ask myself, “What are the things I want to live my life by instead of what others have told me I should live by?” I must make the intrinsic choice to live out the values I believe in. I can’t be about the approval of others and stay on the right path in difficult circumstances. My vision can’t be extrinsically driven.

Being alone in the dull-drums of daily life, I lose motivation because I lose sight of my vision. I don’t believe what I cannot see. On the mountain I see it all clearly, but down in the valley, the buildings and trees blind me. I need a vision in my day-to-day routines because Christ has purpose for me there.

The bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Without a vision the people lose restraint[2].” What is restraint? It is self-discipline while standing in temptation to say, “No, I am not going down the wrong path”. Even in that very moment my choices steer my course. On the mountaintop I feel so close to God but when I come down in the daily I lose vision.

How do we keep a fresh vision alive and in front of us? We must share vision together and be willing for vulnerability, inviting God to lead. God gives a picture of the future, which will motivate all my actions in the present, and I will no longer be stuck in the failures of the past. Being a part of a healing community keeps me inspired as it keeps God’s vision in front of me. This is the great gift of community.

Without a God-inspired vision, we are extremely susceptible. A vision based on circumstances will create idols and distractions that ultimately leave us feeling deeply uninspired. If we put Christ first, he will give us abundant inspiration—a vision of what he wants for our life. This vision will ignite purpose, and there we will find freedom.

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[1] From ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ by Oswald Chambers, May 9th

[2] New American Bible Revised Edition