I have been pondering the story of Jesus in the boat during the storm and learning more about peace over the last couple of months. A storm that terrified fisherman must have been pretty intense and Jesus slept peacefully during it.
Oh, to sleep like that. I haven't had many restful nights of sleep since I had kids. I mean, the sleep I get now is way better than when they were babies, but there are still the nights of bad dreams and puking and jumpy legs. I had to have a breast biopsy several years ago and I remember them pushing me down the hallway on my bed after surgery telling me the procedure was over and it was time to wake up. I remember saying, "Nooooo! Don't wake me up. I haven't slept this good since I had kids." I think I said a few other stupid things too. I have this vague memory of the doctor talking to me before surgery and me saying since we were all gathered together maybe a plastic surgeon could come in afterward and put back what they were going to take out and then some. She said that wouldn't be possible.
I was drugged up, people. Cut me some slack.
Jesus slept peacefully in a terrible storm because he trusted his Father completely. I have known for a while that I have trouble trusting God. I believe he loves me, but I don't think I matter to him as much as others and it's hard to trust someone when you don't think you matter to him.
I can't fully trust God when I am trying to serve God and myself. Dallas Willard said, "the greatest threat to God's kingdom in my life, is my kingdom." I think about all of the posts I have written about my struggle with people pleasing, learning that it's good to have boundaries, and not allowing what other people think of me to determine my worth. I see how God has gently removed layer by layer, taking me deeper and deeper. And I know he has further to take me. He will always have further to take me in this life. And the day will come when I will be completely free of the approval ratings of others! Oh, I long for that day!
My kingdom of people pleasing has been my way of trying to find worth and hoping I could protect myself against pain. I believed my value was in nurturing others. I fear being abandoned, unloved, and rejected and, somehow, subconsciously, I thought if I bent over backwards for people I might have a better chance of being loved and avoid rejection. And when I did get mistreated, rejected, and not loved well, I would blame myself. I'd try that much harder to be nicer, more giving, more "selfless".
In my desire to avoid rejection, I set myself up for more rejection.
Messed up much? I know. This is why I have both a spiritual director and a therapist.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat with my journal and wrote down a few of the instances in my past when I had allowed others to mistreat me more than once... all kinds of relationships, as an employee, in friendships, with people I didn't know well. And then I read what I wrote out loud. It was painful. I imagined my children allowing themselves to be mistreated over and over again, and I wept.
As crazy as it sounds, I honestly did not know it was okay for me to have boundaries until I read Dr. Cloud's book Boundaries. Boundaries felt mean and unloving, so add that way of thinking to my people pleasing tendencies and it is a recipe for being a door mat. I've been a boundary-less people pleaser.
When the scales fall off your eyes and you see that people mistreating you time and time again was not a "them" issue, but a "you" issue, it's sobering. And not that others don't have their crap ton of issues they bring into relationships because everybody has their something, but I can't control their issues. What I can control is my boundary-less people pleasing.
While my Father tenderly unwinds my tangled mess, the reality of how much of a door mat I have been is saddening. This is not what I was created to be and not what I want to model for my children. I have told my kids throughout the years that one thing I hope they remember about me is how I clung to Jesus. Not perfectly. Not without sin and mistakes. Not without doubts and questions. But I clung. And now, I hope they remember that in clinging to Jesus, I learned to put up boundaries and quit people pleasing.
How can I rest peacefully during the storms? By releasing my kingdoms, so God's kingdom can come more fully into my life.
I was on the back of the farm on Sunday. I was begging God not to leave my heart where it is; to come, to rescue, to restore the years the locusts have eaten. It was very still and quiet in the woods, and I leaned against a tree and started to cry. All of a sudden a bird began to sing. I don't know what bird it was. It sang 3 notes repeatedly and loudly from the bottom of the hill. God whispered, "I will sing over your soul." I started to sob. The bird stopped singing and the wind picked up. I was in the middle of the pines and the branches were swaying, it was a strong wind; it was surreal. The wind picked up even more, blowing hard in my face, and God whispered, "I will fill your lungs with fresh air." I stood there several minutes crying. And then I raised my arms in praise.
Oh God, I am important to you, I matter to you, you love me as much as you love everyone else. Help my unbelief.
As my kingdom crumbles and I open more space in my life for God's kingdom to come, I am more free and more peaceful. More peaceful even in the storm of relationships hanging on by a thread, the ending of some relationships, the uncomfortableness of practicing boundaries, and grieving the way I've acted.
If I could truly believe that my Father loves me as much as everyone else and I matter to him, what would I fear? It would be hard to fear not being loved when I am bathing in a pool of endless, perfect love. Diving deep, splashing around, floating in unfailing love.
"Our sins, our grief, our sorrows were laid on him. Our judgment fell on him. Our locusts swarmed all over him. The life of God's tender shoot was 'cut off.' Then, on the third day, the Son of God rose in the power of an eternal life. He offers himself to you, and he says what no one else can ever say: 'I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.'" -Colin Smith
God, I will trust you to restore the years the locusts have eaten. And when I fear and lament, I will recall your promise to sing over my soul and to breathe fresh air in my lungs. You sought me out on the back of the farm. You met me and I was in your presence on holy ground, that's how much you love me, how much I matter to you, how important you think I am. How great your love for me! Shatter my kingdoms. May your kingdom come into my life. Amen.