You wanna change your life?

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Here’s how:  change your narrative.

I think it is that simple.

A friend recently updated me on her warmer relationship with a formerly  (almost) estranged daughter.  This adult daughter repeatedly wanted to rehash childhood pain, assigning blame to her mom.  She maintained that only by revisiting those times could she and her mom reach a healthy place.

My friend decided to ‘change the narrative’.  She practiced a piece of Shakespeare’s advice fleshed out in Hamlet.  You’ve probably heard the adage, ‘assume a virtue and it’ll become yours’.  Here’s the context in this excerpt:

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4, Page 7

Good night—but go not to mine uncle’s bed.
Assume a virtue if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery
That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence, the next more easy.
How did she do it?  By ASSUMING that she and her daughter already had a healthy relationship and then proceeding from there.  In that way, she actually influences the conversations and her daughter has warmed to approach.  Their interactions have grown more frequent and enjoyable to both.
Jesus actually set this precedent long before Shakespeare.  I’ve often read the Upper Room Discourse in John 17 where Jesus makes this outlandish statement to His Father in verse 6:
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
The disciples kept God’s word???? Really?  What about Peter’s denial or James and John vying for the premier cabinet positions in the new kingdom?
But should we be so surprised when the Bible is replete with bold promises that for those who are in union with Christ, God sees them as pure and righteous.  We are told that the Father loves us, His adopted kids, just like He loves His beloved Son, Jesus.
And maybe that is the key to behaving better, to assume that it is true what Jesus says, what the Father says and act the part.
What if in a marriage locked in an impasse, one partner chose to treat his or her partner tenderly,  as though they were worthy of love and respect?
What if like the Jews carted off to Babylon, they started to treat their new pagan neighbors as though they were just as worthy of love and respect as their own race?
To bring it closer to home?  What if I dropped the narrative built up in reaction to the pain of my first years in my current school?  What if I started to ‘channel’:  God has so blessed me by giving me this job here!  What might change?
I can think of many applications of this principle of rewriting the script to break the logjam of negativity and failure.
I can hear someone say, “But it is not true!”
My one-word quick answer:  ….YET!!!!”
Lookit….if Jesus can describe his wobbly disciples as those who have KEPT His Word, then we are in good company if we treat others with grace (including ourselves) and interact with them as though they were ALREADY mature….loving….kind.
One further scriptural support.  Consider the grammar of verse 6 in the second chapter of Ephesians.  The verbs are in the PAST tense, meaning the action has been completed. God through Paul informs us that we are already sitting with Jesus in heaven:
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

 

More peace? Less anxiety?

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Would you like to FEEL at peace more and more each day?

Who wouldn’t!  Personal circumstances and problems as well as complex world situations seem to conspire to keep even the most placid in a state of agitation. Add to the warp and woof of 21st century life the seeming random as well as intentional violence! Just a glance at one’s iPhone in the morning is enough to draw up the covers and stay in bed!

stay in bed cat

Hear the promise of the Lord, however!

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

The last 2 days I have whiffed peace.  God has been working in me for years as I grow to understand and love the FACT that He is sovereign and in control of everything that happens to you and me.  Just that knowledge has eased my anxiety about:

  • traffic delays
  • alarm clock malfunctions
  • minor and major wounds from other people
  • accidents or chronic physical conditions (constipation that dogs me!)
  • the pain of my own chosen sin (‘there I go again, blurting out something hurtful’/ ‘there I go again, overeating’/ ‘there I go again, choosing to indulge in self-pity’ / ‘there I go again, lying to look good’ / ‘there I go again, divulging a confidence’ / ‘there I go again, saying something negative about a friend or family member AND enjoying it!’ )

Coupled with a deeper appreciation for what it means for God to ordain/plan/send/prescribe/allow every event has been a growing understanding of God’s will for the lives of His children.

And you know that I’m talking about our growth in holiness, also translated as ‘sanctification’.   1 Thess 4:3a – For it is God’s will that you should be holy:

A very precious friend has played a significant role in my spiritual maturing.  Last October, she mailed me William Gurnall’s 800-page book called The Christian in Complete Armour. Eleven months later I am on page 422 of collected sermons.  It’s so rich that when I dip into it on weekends, I chew slowly, sucking out this English pastor’s exposition of Ephesians 6.  His 17th-century perspective is refreshingly deep.

Across recent pages Gurnall has been talking about the benefits of holiness.  Today, I read this quote:

“….perfect rest depends on perfect holiness….”

Okay – we will NEVER attain to perfect holiness until we SEE Jesus face to face.  But don’t you think it follows from the above premise that:

As we grow in holiness, we grow in rest and peace

What I wrote in my journal this morning was that ‘I should seek holiness and be GRATEFUL for all the circumstances God has planned for me THIS DAY……

  • if it is true that God works all things for the GOOD of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes  (Romans 8:28)
  • if it is true that NO ‘GOOD’ thing does He withhold from those who are righteous  (Ps 84:11)
  • if it is true that God’s design to do us ‘good’ means to grow and shape us to think, act, react and feel more and more like His beloved Son’

If I take God at His Word, then it follows logically that I should see every event as bearing an opportunity for growth in my holiness or sanctification.  Yes, events can be evil and there is suffering and pain, but each circumstance is packed with holiness-making practical exercises.

And if the more I grow in holiness, the more PEACE I will feel, then why should I fear?  And if God allows/sends/ordains/plans good out of this next event then I SHOULD be able to relax, to rest if I truly trust Him.

Go back to that Isaiah quote and see for yourself.  The taking God at His word lies at the end of that promise…’because he trusts in You.’

Why is this a big deal for me?  Why do I care so much about growing my ability to rest and be at peace and be free from anxiety?  Because I live with fear – a lot of fear!

Some people fear the whole getting old and dying process.

Others fear not having enough money to take them through those final years on earth.

Existentially, I fear something happening to my kids and grandkids.  On a day-to-day basis, I fear not having enough time to get my work done (so I can READ and RELAX).  And in my profession, I fear that I won’t be able to be creative enough to sustain the interest of my students.

So, YES, I AM interested in TRUE and LASTING inner peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances.

And what the Holy Spirit is teaching me through His Word and writers like William Gurnall is that it is in my own personal best interests to see holiness.  I’ll close with a quote of his, taken from page 422:

“There is only perfect rest, because (of) perfect holiness.  Whence those frights and fears which make them a….terror about? (These) make men discontented in every condition.  They neither can relish the sweetness of their enjoyments, nor bear the bitter taste of their afflictions.”

What I am left with is this question:

Maria – why should you fear tomorrow if God promises to use every thing that happens in order to work MORE holiness in you, replacing what is unholy and selfish and destructive?

Just think!  If we could allow this thought to permeate our conscious, waking thoughts, maybe it would begin to seep down into the realm of the unconscious.

What do we have to lose?

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