Monday, November 23, 2015

Affirmation Affliction

Early in my marriage, and for more than 20 years into it, my criticisms of my husband and he of me were not legitimate because they originated from a place of self-centeredness (the same is true for our parenting). Even if the criticism was of an obvious behavior, like not keeping the house clean, the criticism arose from a place of personal displeasure and not from an other-centered desire for the well being and maturing of the spouse.

Only when God, through the ongoing process of His Word, Holy Spirit and the authority and saving grace of Jesus Christ, showed me that I was allowing the little world I lived in to revolve around me in every way, could I begin replacing my perspective with the Triune God’s.

When we begin to unwrap the layers upon layers of why things bother us, or why people frustrate us, or why some people do one thing and it drives us crazy, but another person—or even I—do the same thing and it doesn’t, we begin to see that our take on things, left to itself, leads to tension.

A major culprit in all of this is our incessant need for affirmation, which is a rampant form of pride. We feel that we need to affirm our rights, unmet needs, goals, hopes and opinions. And we need to have others affirm us through reading our minds, understanding us, always saying the right thing to us, never stepping on our toes, handling us gently, knowing our preferences and, especially, meeting our physical needs and emotional neediness.

However, much of what we call “affirmation” is merely appeasement, enabling and tolerating. Is that what we want? To be enabled, appeased and tolerated? That is often the “affirmation” we receive for constantly affirming ourselves vocally in our conversations, actions and attitudes. It is a vicious cycle: I outwardly affirm myself in hopes that I strong-arm the affirmation I desire back from others. What a way to live.

Affirmation, in its holy and right state, is of God, from Him and through Him. He will never affirm self-centeredness. And He will give us all the time in the world to come to the epiphany that self-promotion and self-satisfaction is exactly what we have been trying to obtain!

We need to get it though our head—and to our heart—once and for all that only God can affirm and He will only affirm what is in His will to affirm. This is what sets us free from the neediness of our own, and others, affirmation. This is what allows us to rest completely in Him, and not in ourselves or others.

How do we get there? It can be a complicated process, and an ongoing one at that. Yet it always comes down to how much time in honest reflection—in total openness to God’s estimation of us—we are willing to commit, always and only before God. Past and present feedback from others may or may not be helpful. In every moment we stand before and answer to God, and He will never give His peace where it isn’t. So we check our hearts, which can be deceitful beyond measure, constantly with Him.

And whatever God affirms—through His Word, Holy Spirit and Christ—we go with. And whatever He doesn’t, we don’t.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Monday, November 16, 2015

Confident in Ourselves as Christians or Confident in Christ?

A friend recently posed the question: Why, when we go to church and read the Bible, do we continue to make the same mistakes personally and relationally?

In my fifteen years of being honed and winnowed by the Triune God, I believe the answer to her question is because we continue to put ourselves at the helm (even if it is in lesser and lesser degrees—which is good—but I know I personally have to continue to catch myself so as not to do this).

To answer her question in our own lives, here are some questions we can ask ourselves:

    1.  Is my confidence in myself as a Christian, or is my confidence in the triune God of Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit?
     2. Is it Christian culture I desire or Christ Himself?
     3. Am I thinking that it is up to me to show the love of Christ to others, or do I understand that Christ shows His love to others through me in His power, not mine.
     4. Do I pray to God trusting that I can bring about the answer, or that He can? Do I trust the fact that I prayed, or do I trust God?
     5. Do I trust in the Triune God that “He’s got this,” or do I continue to worry, causing inner anxiety and frustration that reveals itself in all manner of poor behavior and self-centered angst.
     6. Do I cultivate and maintain a Biblical worldview informed by the Holy Spirit, or do I cultivate and maintain the view of Christian culture, my church or my politics?
     7. Do I jettison grace for the cause I deem to be greater and more pressing? 
     8. Do I worship the Triune God or do I worship Christian or political culture? 
9. Has theology, denominational doctrine or liturgy replaced faith in the Triune God and His Word (note that the question isn't whether these things accompany faith. The question is have they replaced or minimized faith). 
10. Does church distract me from the Triune God and His Word?

Copyright Barb Harwood

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:1-3

Friday, November 13, 2015

"We are Half-Hearted Creatures"

I am reading C. S. Lewis' The Weight of Glory, from which this keen quote is derived:

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Take the High Road, Regardless

If we get to the point where we can rise above dysfunction and those within it, then there’s nothing left but to feel sad for those still operating from a place of dysfunction. 

Feeling sad for others is a much better option than feeling sorry for ourselves. We will never be the better person when we’re sorry for ourselves.

Barb Harwood

Friday, November 6, 2015

Being Okay with Okay

I came across an ad in an outdoor clothing catalogue that read: “Better to be an okay trail runner than an awesome channel surfer.”

The ad gets it right. It is better to do something than nothing, and to do it good enough. So...

Better to be an okay bicyclist than not bike.
Better to be an okay writer than not write.
Better to be an okay chef than not cook.
Better to be an okay artist than never paint.
Better to be an okay pianist than never play music.

Better to simply get started than never begin at all.

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:” Romans 12:6a