Working in Reality

My pastor taught a sermon on work ethic yesterday. While God has transformed my work habits for the better over the past couple of years, there are definitely areas of improvement for me. Lately, I’ve been struggling with discontent in the workplace. I fantasize about how much happier, creative, and comfortable I’d be if I could start working for myself sometime around the year of… now.

It’s hard working a full time job, working extra to pay off debt, and then using the remainder of my energy to work on my dream. I can’t express to you (and maybe I don’t have to) how easy it is for me to get into negative self talk. Before I know it, I can’t get out of bed in the morning because I don’t want to face the day. My mandatory work appears uninspiring. It begins to seem tiresome and demanding. I get lazy just thinking about it and pull the comforter over my head.

The joy gets zapped from me and I just stop doing… everything. Laundry doesn’t get done, dinners don’t get made, codependency recovery slows, and I begin to do the minimum necessary to survive and keep my dogs thriving.

I believe this happens when I reject reality and focus in on a fantasy.

Fantasies always seem better than reality. There are no bad feelings in fantasy. No hardships. No one forces you to do anything. You only do what makes you happy in the moment. How can reality top that?

Fantasy vs reality continues to be my battle. Why? Because thanks be to God, He has allowed me to discover the full beauty of reality the adventure of a life lived to honor Him. Before, I just lived in my fantasy world. I didn’t know reality. I ignored it. I trudged through the present desperate for the hope of tomorrow. That’s why I’m a huge Springsteen fan. I’m “just around the corner to the light of day!”

Fantasies come from a desire to escape. We don’t like where we are or who we’re with or what we’re doing, so we escape reality by getting lost in the future. If I can just get this everything will be better. If I find someone like that then I’ll finally be able to feel safe and rested. If I didn’t have to do this then I’d be happier.

I’ve lived much of my life in misery because I didn’t stop and face the fact that I was running. Ultimately, when we push ourselves away from reality, we isolate ourselves from God in the process. When we face our misery and surrender it to God, we can walk in the light of God’s reality with a lifted spirit. Reality with God allows us to experience the joy of Him using us in ways we couldn’t have fantasized about.

A day with God is one of intrigue. How are You going to use me today? What do people need? Who am I going to meet? What will happen? It’s all a surprise! You think you know how your day is going to go, but you don’t. You think you know how the rest of the year is going to fold out, but you don’t! There’s comfort in that because we know that God is good and He will take care of everything.

When we wake up with a boring, defeated idea of how our day is going to go, we rob ourselves of the adventure.

Joseph in Genesis, found himself in some unpleasant realities. Before he was named second in command over Egypt, he was thrown into prison for 13 years! Now that is a reality I’d imagine it’d be easy to want to escape. This reality of his was nothing like the actual dream God had given him when he was younger of power and authority.

However, Genesis reminds us that the Lord was with him in his present circumstances. And isn’t that the point of life? To be with God? The greatest blessing of choosing reality over fantasy is to be in the presence of God. It was the favor and presence God put on Joseph that got him to a leadership position within the prison. Genesis 39:23 states, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Even in the midst of awful circumstances, Joseph could experience a little heaven on earth.

Did you know you have favor with God?

It pleases Him to glorify Himself through you. We have the privilege of working for a higher power. We can turn any job into an adventure, because we know there is an eternal, solid purpose to what we do. Paul in 1 Corinthians told the church, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” He wanted the church to know that they weren’t going to work for money, for status, or for purpose. They were going to glorify God and hopefully share truth with lost souls. People need God and God cares about people. When we take our earthly work and see it from an eternal perspective, it gives life to what we do. It adds color and purpose and joy! We can see that relationships matter and how we work matters! We receive everything we need for the day from God. We see God move because we’re paying attention.

If you sense that you are running from reality and living in a fantasy, I encourage you to stop and reflect. Don’t live in an alternate world anymore. Surrender your pain to God and watch Him transform your view of reality.

 

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Did Somebody Paint That?

I was walking into church yesterday, and as I was walking through the children’s ministry section of church, a girl looked at a mural painted on the wall, pointed, and asked her mom, “Did somebody paint that?”

I looked at the mural and was like, wow, what a stupid question. It’s obvious someone did that. The brush strokes were evident and the paint layers on the wall were painfully visible. My mind held on to the girl’s initial question, though. Did somebody paint that? 

I started thinking, Isn’t that what everyone is asking? Dying to know? They look at nature, people, emotions, gender and ask, “Did somebody create that?”

The answer is innately known: YES!

Without a creator, this world really is too good to be true. It is increasingly evident that more faith has to go into the solution of time to explain what’s around and in us than the solution of God the Creator. God who has made Himself known through creation, His word, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

This is an important realization for a recovering codependent such as myself, because knowing that this world was created, knowing the creator is Yahweh God, believing in His Son, Jesus, and reading the life-breathed word of God, I can know some important things:

I was made. And not by any amateur artist. I was made by the Master Creator. The One whose creation peaked the inspiration of our history’s greats. All art is an imitation of what God has made. The human body is a fascinating, intricate, and beautiful structure. Not only that, we, unlike the rest of creation, have the life of God in us. It says in Genesis that God breathed into Adam the breath of life (also translated souls). God filled man with a life unlike anything else given to creation.

Knowing from our very beginning that we were given such value, we also know the following because God told us so in His word and in His actions:

We have a purpose
We have a future
We will never be abandoned
And for you love addicts out there: your love story is already happening.

And when I say that, I mean: wouldn’t it be nice if a person could give us love, affection, affirmation, protection, provide for all our needs, show up at just the right time, and be completely head over heels for us? In my short life span that has been packed with dating, I can say I’ve never met someone who has met these qualifications. I don’t believe I ever will either. I think what we’re looking for is God. He has put His life into us and until we acknowledge we come from a Creator who loves us and surrender our lives to His will and His calling, we will never ever be satisfied or reach our fairy tale happy ending.

God is the absolute best fairy tale ending and better than that: He is in reality.

Wow, I got off on a tangent there. Anyways, the question! Did somebody paint that? Of course! Did somebody create this? The evidence is undeniable. True, effective healing from codependency starts with surrender to the Creator of it all: Yahweh God.

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:44-

 

Fool Proof Marriage

Writing this post could potentially seem odd because I am not married, so some may think it obvious that an ignorant single in her twenties could write something titled, “Fool Proof Marriage”. Stay with me though. This is coming from Ephesians, and, well, Paul wasn’t married either.

Ephesians 5 and 6 have traditionally been loved and hated by many. We all love the concept of “walking in love” and “taking up the armor of God.” What fantastic imagery and an ideal reality! Then comes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ew. Don’t like that. “Children obey your parents”? No. “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters”?!?!?! Not okay. Even though pastors smoothly cover it as employees honoring their bosses and working for the Lord.

But it was Ephesians 5 I found myself reading the other day and I came across some amazing ties between codependency and Christianity.

The part that drew my attention was the section on husbands. Check this out:
“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'”

We see that God placed some fool proof backups into the institution of marriage. In Genesis, God designed man and woman to become one. In so doing, a marriage could never be torn apart. And why would it? Our ego has wired us to survive. No matter how hungry you are, you won’t eat yourself. We are not prone to self-cannibalization. Ideally, you can’t do something to destroy you spouse because that, in turn, would be self-destruction.

However, the problem comes from behind the ego. The part of your subconscious you live with daily but don’t allow yourself to acknowledge. Why did Jesus say divorce had been placed into the Law? It was because of man’s hardness of heart.

How can someone love another as they love themselves if they don’t know what it means to love themselves? That was trippy. In other words, how can you love someone else if you inwardly dislike yourself?

Many of us have been shown from a very young age a distorted version of love. It may look like abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, enmeshment, or an expectation for you to behave beyond your capabilities. We take this on as normal and “love” our spouse in the same way. We shame them. We hit them. We drain them emotionally or we deprive them of emotional intimacy. We keep score of all their mistakes and hold them to a standard we could never meet ourselves. This is how we were treated and it’s what we believe we deserve.

Codependency recovery largely involves working through past shame and fear that keep you from liking yourself as a person. Knowing and believing that God loves and likes you for who you are. When we choose to step up to our past pain and unravel the shame that holds our identity in its grasp, we can begin to love God and love ourselves. It’s only then, that we can love our spouse as we love ourselves.

God created a fool proof institution that reflects the love He has for us. Living in a world that is broken emotionally and mentally, we miss the beauty of the ideal. However, it’s not impossible to gain. Change does not begin with your spouse (or for single people, your roommates), it begins with you. It begins with your relationship with God and your recovery. When two people come together and each live under the sovereign love of God, the love they can then give to each other is miraculous. It’s a mind blowing picture of the love God has for His Son and the love His Son has for us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Desire without Knowledge

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” -Proverbs 19:2

Have you ever made an impulsive relationship decision? I have. Many, many times and over again. Usually it is in response to my obsessive thinking.

Obsessive thinking begins with a desire. The desire could be seeking a cure for loneliness, pleasing someone, it might be to solve a problem… something to make your life better than it currently is. Desires are natural. We are wired to satiate our needs and that’s not bad. It’s how we seek to satisfy those needs that can get us into trouble.

For example, in college, there was a guy I was friends with. He was a great guy but I had never liked him in a romantic fashion. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot and was waiting for me to come around. I knew this even though he hadn’t communicated it to me. Guys can be so annoyingly obvious (when you don’t want them to be).

One night, I was in my apartment and felt this strong need to connect on an intimate level with a guy. I wanted to be associated with someone. I didn’t want to be single anymore. I wanted to have “that someone” I could talk to. I felt so warm and sure about this feeling. It was definitely time to make that happen. Well, who do you think popped in my mind to fill that longing? My friend who liked me, of course!

I lovingly texted him that night (because who talks about serious things on the phone anymore?) and confessed to him that I really did like him as more than a friend. He was very excited about this news and felt that his waiting was finally paying off. We set a time to go on a real, official date. I went to bed that night feeling satisfied. The obsessive thoughts and the feeling of being incomplete now over.

Guess how I woke up? Terrified.

The romance of a lonely night being over, the reality set in of what I’d done. I’d told a guy that really liked me that I liked him back… when on reflection, I realized I didn’t like him like that at all. I felt better in the morning. Not so alone. But now I had a serious problem. I had let a guy on that I cared about. He was thrilled thinking that we were off to a romantic journey that would end with us getting married and having a lovely family (is this true? I didn’t know because he had never said that, but it was what I assumed he was thinking – another bad trait of living in a fantasy world and not reality).

This is how it ended with this guy and how most of my relationships played out: I tried to stick with the relationship and hope that my feelings would grow for the person I had roped myself into dating. It never worked and usually within two weeks, I was breaking up with the guy, he was confused, and our friendship was over. He was hurt… and so was I.

“Desire without knowledge is not good.” In Proverbs, Solomon teaches that knowledge, wisdom, discernment all come from God. If you are not including God in your decision making, you’ve only got half the brains… maybe less. The second part of that psalm states, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

I lost my way repeatedly because I was reacting to my desires and leaving knowledge (reality and God’s will) out of it. Losing my way caused the guys I dated to feel lost, as well. We ended up with hurt and confusion.

If you struggle with love addiction, it’s important to let the fit pass before making a decision. Wait at least a week before making big decisions, especially when it involves another person.

It’s easy to believe that only a significant other can satisfy your desires. If that were true, God would not be as awesome as He says He is. The great thing about God is that He always does the unexpected. You think you know how He is going to answer a prayer and then He does something you could have never dreamed and it’s way better than you could have imagined.

When you feel lonely, tell God and ask Him to remove the feeling of loneliness and replace it with His love, contentment, and companionship. Ask Him to heal your feeling of loneliness in the way He deems best. Let Him know that you look forward to seeing how He does it. If there is a person you have in mind that you would like to fulfill that need, let God know but be open to His way of doing things.

Through my recovery, I am now beginning to see the patterns of my emotions and thoughts. By slowing down and making myself wait to act on my desires, it’s helping me gain discernment on areas of my life that are unhealthy. I’m learning to go to God and surrender my desires and seek His will on an issue. This is so much better than falling prey to my desires which have no foundation, minus my fantasies.

Bottom line: wait on God. His will is best and He knows better than you do what you need to fulfill the desires He has given you.

Exercise: If you struggle with impulsively acting on your desires, pause. When you’re obsessively thinking, stop and write out your desire in detail. Surrender it to God. Ask Him to satisfy your desire in the way He deems best. Thank Him for what He’s going to do. Then, wait. Don’t make a decision for a week. Surrender your desire to God as many times as you need. Remember, you’re in no hurry. Allow time for prayer, reflection, and hindsight. Embrace your desires (meaning, it’s okay to feel lonely for a little bit. You’re not going to die.). Wait on God and He will answer.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Obsessive Thinking… And How to Turn It Off

As a codependent love addict in recovery, my two biggest challenges are obsessive thinking and anxiety. Those two usually come strolling into the forefront, middle, and back of my brain and increasingly remain there until I feel insane.

Here’s today’s insanity:

A former boyfriend of mine was mentioned in conversation which led to me thinking about said former boyfriend.

Thoughts went to I wonder what he’s doing, what it would be like if he was here, how would my life be different, why did it go wrong again? Which led to, I’d love to see him, what would happen if I contacted him? Should I contact him? Which led to extreme fear of intimacy and backing away quickly from thoughts like commitment, vulnerability, revealing feelings… Which led me back to, I wonder what he’s doing, what would it be like if he was here, how would my life be different, why did it go wrong again? Which led to… on and on and on. The wheel turns and leads me to the same conclusions of contacting him or running for the hills.

Insanity.

There are varying reasons why thoughts of former relationships or people we want to be in a relationship with pop into our head. We could be triggered by a feeling, a situation, a song, a mere mention of a name… It can really be anything. Heck, we might just be lonely one day or needing to fill some space in our brain with a little fun fantasizing sesh.

The fact is obsessive thinking is miserable. You find yourself unable to reach any solid conclusions because it’s all in your head. It’s a hypothetical being turned over and over until it has been exhausted and there’s nothing left to analyze… so you go back to the beginning and start all over. This can bring with it feelings of anxiety, loneliness, martyrdom, victimization, nausea, impatience, and confusion (to name a small number of symptoms).

In recovery, it’s so important to work through these moments of temptation to obsessively think. The thoughts I had today would have, in the past, plagued me until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I would act. I’ve contacted many a guy out of emotion due to obsessive thinking. And it was wrong of me. It misled some great guys into thinking I was actually in it “for real this time.” And I wanted to be, but I was not capable and I was not in God. I was acting out of selfishness. I wanted to feel better in the moment and get out of my obsessive thinking misery. At the time, it felt like if I could just hear their voice again or hold their hand I would finally be at peace in my mind. I would get my fix for a time, but it wouldn’t take long for my fear of intimacy to creep in and get me obsessively thinking about what was wrong in the relationship, which would lead to a sabotage. It also left good guys alone, confused, and hurt.

If you are a love addict and facing the misery of obsessive thinking, here are some tips that help me get back into reality and into God. It’s important to know that doing these exercises once will not be a cure all. You may need to do them over and over again at the start. That’s okay. You’ll be connecting with God and that’s never a bad thing.

Step One: Pause.

When a gross feeling or confusing thought pops up, it’s natural to shove it back down and say, Nope! Not dealing with that today! So, when you realize you’re turning a thought over and over and getting anxious about it, pause, and embrace it. Don’t suppress it. Uneasy feelings can be great warning signs of an issue that needs to be resolved.

Step Two: Write or talk it out.

If you don’t have time to do either, thank God for using these thoughts or feelings to bring up an issue. Ask Him to remove the feelings/thoughts for the time being and give you time later to work through whatever it is. Ask God for peace in the meantime.

When you do have some time, write or talk out in detail what’s going on in your mind. Ask God to show you why you’re feeling or thinking what you are in His timing. After that, ask Him to remove the feelings and thoughts your having and replace them with His attributes (usually it’s the opposite of what you’re feeling/thinking, ex. replace anxiety and confusion with His peace and clarity). Ask God for forgiveness if needed and then thank Him for the work He is going to do in you.

Step Three: Change the Subject.

After you’ve presented everything to God, do something else. Go on a walk, do some dishes, call someone who may have more needs than you to give you perspective, or whatever it is that you like best. You may be at work and can get back to a project you’re working on. Whatever it may be, just do something.

Step Four: Repeat.

Doing this exercise once may not kick every obsessive thinking spell right away. That’s okay. Recovery is a process and the fact that you are recognizing you’re obsessively thinking is a huge step. You’re going to be okay and this miserable, obsessive thinking will show up less and less as you do the work with God to surrender your life to Him daily.

Day “Four”: Helplessness

As my “ten day” challenge to myself progresses, it’s apparent that my definition of a day is not the 24-hour term, but more like a day in regards to a long period of time… which is great. So, here we go:

Helplessness! Here’s a great one: “Overwhelming others with your needs and wants.”

This one is for all the love addicts out there. Helplessness is not as obvious as it sounds (to the helpless one). If someone had told me I was acting out of helplessness, I would have denied it. Consciously, I’ve always defined myself as independent. I believed that if I had a need, I would take it straight to God and trust that He would take care of it.

Subconsciously, I was a big, melting blob of helplessness. When no one was looking and I could shed all the walls and defenses of the day, I would collapse into woe-is-me mode. I would beg God to fix my life, fix me, get me out of situations; help me. When I felt that He wasn’t doing a good or fast enough job,  I would dump all of that on the guy I was dating. Not upfront, but in nonverbal, in between the lines expectations.

Any time life got uncomfortable, I would expect my boyfriend to set things right. I needed his calm assurance, advise, prayer; time. If he didn’t text me properly, give me the right affection, or read my mind and show up at my house when needed, I took that as him not caring about me. If he did, somehow, come through for me, I was on top of the world. Life was perfect and hope-filled.

I know this sounds dramatic, and it was, but not outright. I could hold my crazy in pretty well. However, the roller coaster of the dating game was miserable. The continuous expectation that some guy could read my mind and fix all my problems was absurd… yet plausible at the time.

Pia Mellody writes that helplessness sabotages your life because others, “…may experience inadequacy and guilt at not being able to meet your needs,” “…may need to back off and escape such a huge responsibility,” and “…may experience pain when you react with resentment because they are not meeting all your needs.” What a heavy burden to carry for your significant other, friend, or family member! How can someone experience intimacy with a person that is always in heavy dependency?

The answer is: they can’t.

If people can’t help you in your helplessness, who can? What if I told you that there is someone who not only knows your dependent, but unconditionally loves you for it?

Dr. Glenn Kreider wrote in his book, God With Us, that God knew you would always be dependent on Him from the beginning, but He created you anyway. God is the only one you can be completely dependent on and also intimate with. He can handle your resentments, calm your crazy, and fill you with a companionship unlike any other. When you are filled with love and intimacy with God, you can have healthy relationships where you pour into instead of constantly drain.

I’ve been working through this character defect for a while and it has cleared away the miserable chaos from my life. Take your needs to God, ask Him to remove the gross feelings and replace them with His good character traits, and ask Him for forgiveness for not trusting Him. God is good and He wants you to be dependent on Him. So do it. 🙂

“Tomorrow”: Financial Problems… Ew.

 

A Plant, A Dog, A Husband Pt. 2

So, I’ve got the plant, got the dog – all thriving, do I get the husband?

Short answer: I don’t care.

Not to say I don’t want a husband, but the point is that I don’t need one. I believe one of the most important parts of being a recovering codependent/love addict is looking to God to provide 100% of my affection, acceptance, approval (a lot of a’s…) – basically 100% of my everything. If I look to anything or anyone besides God for those things, it’s not going to go well. No one is going to be able to fix me like God can — and no one should want to make fixing me their life’s work.

It’s like Major Payne said in the movie… Major Payne, “I figure if the Marines wanted me to have a wife, they’d of issued me one.”

God knows exactly what we need (and want). He’s a good God and a good Father. He’s given us the best gift already: Himself. And this is accompanied by the promise of a better, brighter gift – the gift of eternal life. And not just eternal life. Eternal life without pain and misery. Without codependency and love addiction. A place where there is no fixing required.

To me, codependency is basically, 101 Ways to Surrender to God. I don’t know any better peace than the peace that comes from trusting in God for everything. Life becomes an adventure, not something to be feared.

If you are struggling with surrendering a desire to God, try this exercise my counselor gave me. It’s been super helpful for a number of desires, fears, and conflicts I’ve experienced this past year.

Letter to God:

Write a letter to God describing in detail what it is that you desire. Ask Him to remove the fear, guilt, shame… (whatever feeling is troubling you) and then ask for forgiveness for not trusting Him with your life. Thank God for what He is going to do.