Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 in Review: RECEIVE

I have had a completely life-changing year in 2010, and so I wanted to write out my thoughts about how much God has done in me this year.  In thinking about all of it, I believe that the best word to summarize my year is RECEIVE.  This year, God has taught me how to RECEIVE His truth in a way I never have before.  I grew up in church and I know the Bible well, so I've never had a problem with doctrine or knowing WHAT truth is.  My issue is really RECEIVING it in a personal way, and God has completely smashed that barrier this year - all praise be to Him!  So below are the main areas in which I have been taught to RECEIVE this year.

The biggest and most life-changing thing for me this year is that I learned how to RECEIVE love.  I've "known" God loves me since I was little.  God so loved the world (John 3:16) and all that.  But I really came to know and believe and understand it in such a personal way this year.  If you had asked me about God's love, I could've told you all the right answers before, but I learned this year that I wasn't actually applying it to myself.  I didn't realize this before, but I was carrying around the false perception that my mistakes, failures, sins, and imperfections somehow kept me from being truly loved.  I saw God's love as more just tolerance - He put up with me and let me be saved, but He didn't really like me all that much, and He was constantly frustrated and irritated by my screw-ups.  I thought that when God looked at me, He would sigh and shake His head: "What potential she has, and she's constantly messing up!"  I felt like God let me be on His team, but He would never actually put me in the game - I wasn't good enough for that.

But I was wrong about that, oh so wrong!  And God in His precious tenderness decided that this was the year for me to RECEIVE the truth of how He really feels about me.  In January of this year, I began a Bible study called "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?" with a precious group of women.  God used that study and those women to completely rock my world and my understanding of who He is and who I am in Him.  Do you want to know the truth?  Here it is: God loves me.  Oh, but not in the way I thought before!!!  God loved me deeply even before He made me, and He crafted me with such tenderness and purpose to be exactly the woman I am.  He knew my weaknesses.  He knew my sins and my failures.  And He loved me deeply, not just in spite of them, but WITH them.  God's love for me isn't dependent on my performance or my faith or my service or my obedience or anything regarding me at all.  He loves me because He made me; He chose me; I am His.

Someone who has never labored under the burden of such failure, shame, and guilt before may not understand the pure freedom and joy that comes when it is lifted!  But oh, let me tell you!  I feel almost like I can fly!  There is such solid ground beneath my feet because I don't have to earn or prove anything anymore.  I can rest secure in the fact that God has declared me to be beautiful, precious, and valuable even while knowing intimately my flaws and failures.  He sees me, He knows me, He loves me, He forgives me, He protects me, He pursues me, He holds me, He calls me His own, He calls me His beautiful bride.  I have no idea how He does it, but He feels this deeply and intimately for every single one of His children, and if you'll just let Him, He wants so deeply to show you how much it's true for you too!  I am so thankful for a God who loves me so much He will NEVER let me go.  I am safe with Him.

The newfound safety I have in Him allows me to RECEIVE more freedom in my other relationships too.  I'm no longer dependent on the approval and acceptance of others to define my value.  Would you like to know what defines me?  See the previous paragraph.  There is absolutely nothing in that paragraph that is dependent on another human being, and so no human being can change my identity.  That depends on God alone, who is eternal and unchanging.  So this gives me the ability to love without needing to be loved in return, and that would make relationships a whole lot easier.  I have definitely not arrived in this area, because old habits, fears, and reactions die hard.  But I definitely know where I'm headed, and I want to honor God by allowing His love to flow through me to others, regardless of how I feel about them or how they feel about me.

Another HUGE deal this year has been the beginning of my journey to understand my relationship with food and how to make sure it has its proper place in my life.  Many of you know that I have struggled with weight and overeating my entire adult life, and it has been a real source of shame and struggle for me.  A friend introduced me to an online Bible study course called The Lord's Table, which is for people with unhealthy relationships to food, and it teaches us to understand exactly why we relate to food the way we do.  For me, food was my fallback.  I ate when I was hungry, I ate when I was sad, I ate when I was bored, I ate when I was frustrated, I ate when I was lonely, I ate when I was tired...  Anyone sensing a theme here?  The basic premise is, though, that I would eat for comfort because I didn't want to feel hunger, sadness, boredom, frustration, loneliness, fatigue, or any kind of pain or discomfort at all.  So I would self-medicate with food.  Unfortunately, food doesn't satisfy, and it doesn't actually bring any healing or help for all the problems I was trying to cover up with it.

But what the Lord has shown me this year is that if I will open myself up to Him and RECEIVE His truth, love, and comfort into my life, I won't have to turn to food to just try to bury my pain.  Instead, I need to take it to Him to actually have it dealt with. 

So I will never diet again.  I haven't been on a scale in about 6 months.  Weight, calories, sugar, size...  None of that is the issue here, and concentrating on it just distracts me from the real issue, which is my relationship with the Lord.  As I learn to love Him more than anything, my eating will begin to line up with that, and all the rest will fall into a place that honors Him.

This is another long road, and I am nowhere near finished with this journey.  In fact, I suspect this is going to be a lifelong struggle for me.  However, what freedom there is for me to be able to recognize that it's ok!  I struggle with overeating and with turning to food when I should be turning to the Lord.  But He doesn't condemn me for that.  He looks on me with patience and compassion, and He wants to help me find victory.  In Him, I have hope and confidence that I WILL find victory.  I'm ok with that.

This year I have finally come out of a very low season that has been several years long.  It was mostly centered around the previous misconception I stated before about how I viewed myself and how I viewed God.  I was living under such a mountain of failures, sins, and unmet expectations that I felt like I was suffocating.  After Elias was born, I had the culture shock of becoming a stay-at-home mom, and I really just spiraled into a depression.  Nothing was like I expected it to me, least of all ME - I wasn't the mother I wanted to be, the wife I wanted to be, the friend I wanted to be, the Christian I wanted to be...  I felt like I was failing at everything I tried.  Honestly, I couldn't picture living a whole life with the failures just piling up around me, and I wasn't sure I wanted to.  But as you can read above, God completely set me free from that, and I am so thankful.  But there were two essential keys to finding that freedom, and they both involved RECEIVING help.  I went to my doctor who prescribed me an antidepressant - there was a difference the very first day I took it, and I'm still on it now.  And I started seeing a godly counselor, who really helped me work through a lot of junk.  I only see her occasionally now, but that's because God has done such a healing work in me that I don't need regular meetings anymore.  But in both of those cases, I had to be willing to swallow my pride and RECEIVE the help that I needed from others.

So this year has been such a blessed one of healing, freedom, and RECEIVING truth and help from the Lord!  I have absolutely no resolutions for next year besides to just keep my hands open to the Lord and RECEIVE whatever He has for me!  I can't wait to see what He has in store!


Ashlee said...

Looks like you have RECEIVED a lot of wisdom from the Lord this past year. Thank you for sharing about your journey. Now I know some specific ways I can pray for you. :)

Anonymous said...

God bless you Joni! Thanks so much for sharing. I am so glad He has done such a great work in your life. We serve an awesome and loving God! It is a wonderful feeling to know His love and to be His bride! I will pray that God continues the work He has started in you and that 2011 will be a great blessing to you, Justin and Elias. Happy New Year!