Imagine that you’ve been restless and traveling your whole life and finally you’ve decided to head home. When you arrive and start to settle in, the first task is to unpack all the stuff you’ve carried with you and to decide what you will do with it. And with each item you decide that it has either served you well or not. So you give away all the stuff which no longer works and keep the things that have served you well. Perhaps you recognize the analogy that I am making to turning to God for the first time and then reexamining your life through his eyes. Our stuff forms the walls between us and other people, between us and God. It is the way we hide parts of who we are.
Unpacking the stuff in our life, sorting out the way we think and the attitudes we have frees us up in many ways. We take old attitudes out to look at one at a time, check them out, toss them away if they no longer are in our best interests or serve God. But mostly, unpacking allows us to choose to live in the truth about ourselves. Unpacking requires unplugging from all the electronic stuff and upending our addictions in favor of seeing what toxic things within us we are running from. We get a real experience of our state of being. Am I anxious, fearful, angry, tense? Who am I really? The answer lies in bringing all this stuff to consciousness.
It is the negative tapes in our minds that we run from. So let’s look at what is so bad about those tapes. They are condemning of us. They are critical. They are so negative we just want to shut them off. But wait! Let’s see what we can learn from them by unpacking these inner voices. First, that means we have to look at them objectively: what/who in my life is the source of this negativity? Is what they are saying relevant to me in this time and place? Usually, their relevance belongs to the past.
If your tapes are like mine, they are very self-critical and self-conscious. I can ruminate for days/weeks/months on some “mistake” I made. And maybe you can recognize your parents’ voices in them as I can. Both parents in the admonition to be on time no matter what! Or both on saving money! Or my first grade teacher, Mrs. Magruder,and my parents on obedience to the rules.
As I have brought all this to consciousness and looked at the thoughts objectively, I have gained a lot of freedom in the process. Once acknowledged, and no longer fought, they have faded into the background of my life. These thoughts are still a part of me, but they no longer have any power over me. I no longer react to them negatively, emotionally. They just are a very old part of me and I let their power over me go.
I think of who I am in this way: there is the whole system which is me, Pat Adams—it includes my true self(the soul) and my personality which includes all the false self(ego) and its self-centered focus! It includes everything I’ve ever experienced and said and done. I have a choice of identifying with the false self or the true self. So when I identify with my soul, the true self, and I notice that there is fear in this system that is me, I don’t become afraid. I say to myself, “oh, there is fear here.” Or “there is anxiety.” Or “anger.” And I am apt to look for what is causing this latest fear or anxiety. For me it is a way of stepping back from all that has ruled me in my life and being objective about it. Now I notice the fear or anxiety or anger, but no longer get emotionally upset by it.
Sometimes an issue is so laden with guilt and shame, the only thing we can do is to turn it over to God for healing. We just don’t have the strength within us to face this issue alone.
When these old things rule us, we are forever trying to do something that is unnatural to us to compensate. They upset us. Or we’re trying to appear to be beyond all this difficulty. We look good—that’s more important than being congruent, inside and out, or having integrity. Even so, others pick up the incongruity about us that we are trying to hide, if only subconsciously. And certainly, God knows exactly who we are.
There can be a huge gap between how we want to look on the surface and how we feel inside of us, a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we actually behave. So, for example, someone can believe that God loves him, but never have felt God’s love because of his own beliefs that he is unlovable or that God is punitive—a projection of our own discomfort with something we’ve said or done or with something which was done to us.
Or she can say she loves everyone, as I once heard a woman in my church say, who then went on to say, “but I don’t have to like them.” How can we love someone if we don’t like them? When we notice a difference between what we espouse and how we behave, we need to address these tapes, bring them to consciousness, see what is driving our behavior.
Once we can step back from this negativity a whole new landscape of choices becomes visible. Since we no longer have to behave a certain way to make up for who we are, we are free to do what comes more naturally to us. We are free of the constraints of the world and freer to pursue the truth of who we are in the deeper, truer self, the soul. God is always inviting us to be the person he created us to be. He wants us to shed all these inhibiting outer layers that have only to do with the culture and nothing to do with our true selves.
As we emerge more and more from the culture, our place in the kingdom and our purpose become clearer and clearer. It is as we entertain with God our gifts and talents and what we have learned from our pain and suffering here on earth that our purpose emerges. For so often we are called to minister to those who have suffered like we have. It is to the addicts or the prisoners or those who have been damaged by religion or people who suffer from a particular condition or disease. Whatever we have suffered is the area where we have the most to give. All of us have the same purpose, I believe, to bring in the kingdom, to make it visible on Earth. But each of us has a particular way of doing that task and are called to a particular audience that is based on our redeemed suffering here. It’s in that one area that we understand what others are going through, that we know the language, that we have shared experience and the most to say to someone who is suffering as you or I have. God will lead us to our purpose as we form a deeper and deeper relationship with him. And then it is up to us in partnership with God to fulfill that purpose.
When we unpack the negative tapes we have suffered all our lives, we toss out a bunch of beliefs that are no longer relevant to our lives; we are no longer bothered by the thoughts—they are now put away. They may still exist in the bigger me that encompasses all that I am, but they no longer have center stage and the ability to inflict damage on me or, in your case, on you. I was hopeful for a long time that if I worked diligently on them along the way, they would go away, never to be heard from again. But I have to report that mine are still here. They just don’t have much power any more over me, so I treat them like old friends. Oh, Fear, you are back again! Haven’t heard from you for a while. Or Anxiety, the Lord is certainly reducing you to nothing in my life! Deep in the recesses of my mind they still exist, but they are now no problem for me.
If they should arise in my conscious mind as they always used to, I have only to remind them that they have no power to engage me any more. I treat them more as red flags highlighting something vulnerable for me in the environment I am in that I can now do something about.
Having unpacked and unloaded all this baggage we now travel lighter and freer. Didn’t Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”[Matthew 11:30] All our stuff just weighs us down and keeps us from being the people we were created to be. Will you let Jesus help you carry your load? Are you ready to start unpacking your stuff?
Questions to ponder over the week: What kind of stuff are you trying to hide from God, from yourself and from others? Do you see the value of letting this stuff go or at least being objective about its influence in your life? Is there an issue that is particularly troublesome? Is God calling you to a greater freedom?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who enjoy the freedom of being who God created us to be. May we travel lighter and more purposefully. May we see God clearly now that the walls between us are dismantled.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube, plus two more. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
The Heart of the Gospel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJJbPKSOACc
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.
If you want to read the entire post for this week, check it out atbythewaters.net/blog.