I've been spending a lot of time reflecting lately. Amazing and unexpected things have happened in my life recently. Things I had hoped would become a part of my life. Things I had fervently pursued, prayed, and prepared myself for. But had little clue of how they might unfold. The beauty and excitement of those things are now coming to pass in my life, and an urgency lingers in my heart, to share the lessons from my journey thus far.
This is the beginning. This is the journey of holding hope.
Chapter One: You Must Unmask Fear
The great mystery of this broken world, is found in the paradox of it's opposing laws. Without darkness there would be no need for light. Yet darkness can only exist in the absence of light. Without sickness we wouldn't know what health is. Without poverty, we wouldn't know riches. Without pain, we wouldn't know comfort. Without loss, we couldn't appreciate "having". It is reality, and it is the pallet we are thrust into this world upon. It is the beginning of the journey. The induction into confusion.
Life is an evolving and unfolding puzzle. One that intellectualism tries to explain, but the answers can only be found in the experiences of it. We are all co-creators of our reality. For God intended it to be so. We were created as creators, by The Creator, to further create within His creation. It is one of many ways, he provided a plane of expression for us to relate back to Him through. But left in the hands of the blind, uninformed, and ignorant - what is created is confused for mere happenstance. And under this mentality, we become victims of ourselves. Totally unbeknownst.
Sadly, Western Culture has trained/conditioned us right out of the answers to many of our greatest turmoil. By teaching us the idea that we are spectators. That life is happening to us, rather than happening for us. If the world were using it's creative force to perpetuate love, we would create Utopia. But in a world clouded by fear, fear becomes the ultimate disease. Fear is the cloud that blinds us. Fear is the mountain (the illusion) that stands in our path. Fear is the greatest weapon of influence. Fear is the shirt hanging in the closet, that looks like a terrifying monster when the lights are out.
You've probably heard it said before: "Face your fears, and you will have nothing left to fear".
It sounds good on paper. But how do you do the hardest thing you'll ever do, when no one taught you how to do it? How many people model fearlessness in our world?
Trials are not meant to destroy you, they are meant to teach you. They are meant to free you. Experience is the greatest author, and the greatest teacher. We misunderstand the purpose of confusion and pain, by giving them all of our energy and attention. Curiosity is the key when the contrast of life challenges you with defeat. When we ask new questions, we will get new answers.
We will encounter hardships in this life. Life will not relent in the giving of pain, loss, tragedy, or disappointment. But fear and suffering are a choice. What I had to learn, was that my perception (my judgments) of the turmoil in life, were the very cause of my blindness to their beauty.
Yes - their beauty.
Beauty because, my whole life I asked and prayed to God, to make me into the person He created me to be. And in ways I am (yet) unable to explain in words, I have become that which I asked to become. Do I think God created the turmoil in my life? Not at all. But knowing what turmoil would show up, long before it ever did, He knew how to reflect the image of myself, as seen in Him, back to me in a way I could learn. And in that mirror (so to speak) were the answers guiding me, step by step down the path to seeing myself re-imagined. Re-imagined from the false picture in my head, to the true image that I always was. Because when God created me, He made no mistakes.
Destiny is a choice. Identity is a choice. Complacency is a choice. Suffering is a choice. The hungry know when to look for food. The desperate know when to move. If we ask, it will be spoken to us. If we seek, we will find our way. If we knock, the door will be opened for us.
Fear is motionlessness. It is the disease of our soul. It is immobility. We grow, or we die. Fear is the only thing standing between us, and everything a person could want that is on the other side of it.
The greatest lies we believe, are the lies we speak to ourselves, when we allow fear to converse with our hearts and minds.
Step one is: Fear is a lie I can choose to believe. Or a lie I can release.
Chapter Two: Progress Over Perfection
One of my favorite teachers of "life" has a saying: "Success without fulfillment is failure."
Everyone has dreams, goals and desires - but why? What is the purpose for these things? If we accomplish one dream, we start dreaming again. If we reach a goal, we pick a new goal. If we fulfill a desire, a new desire emerges. What is the underlying pursuit? - Fulfillment!
Fulfillment is the underlying desire in all of us. And fulfillment comes from progress. It is not the completion of a goal that makes it feel good, it is the progress we make as we get closer to its fulfillment. Once we check it off the list, we lose the destination our progress was leading us too. And therefore, we lose the fulfillment that pursuing the goal gave us.
Due to the previous sickness in my life (fear) - I had developed a vicious symptom.
Perfectionism destroys progress. And without progress, there will be no fulfillment. All that's left is a dog chasing the tail of it's downward spiral. A life of disappointment that seems to keep repeating itself.
Perfectionism was the undetected cancer in my soul for many ... many years. It was the standard of my subconscious conditioning. Life had taught me that I was only as good as my credibility, performance, intelligence, and worth - as perceived by others. The brutal reality of that existence, is when you come out the other side of it, you realize that you were trying to live a life for everyone but yourself. And to take the sad reality to another level - it was better to live for someone else, because I didn't know myself. Life is a brutal existence when you feel that your significance can only be found in how well you please everyone else.
Perfectionism is a horrible prison. It is the lowest standard, because it is an impossible standard. It is one of the greatest weapons at fear's side. You are like a rat running on a wheel. You think all your effort is getting you somewhere, but everywhere you go, there you are. And all the problems you thought you were leaving behind, show up again. Just in different places, with different faces, with different names.
It confuses you. Because it will do everything it can, to keep you from looking within yourself to discover the truth. That it's just a small lie, behind a big curtain pretending to be a great wizard. Looking inside yourself is fearful. As perfectionism is about not looking for imperfections. It is the best way to be a victim, while being blind to such.
Without a clear understanding of who we are, or why we are - and so many confusing ideas, opinions, and experiences - it's hard to find a place of certainty in our "knowing". Knowing that God didn't make a mistake, and whatever He says that we are, we can trust that. Knowing that our imperfections are not blemishes, they are part of our uniqueness. But perfectionism will do all it can to hide that truth.
We don't have to be all things to all people. We only need to become *one* person - ourselves as God intended for us to be - current imperfections included.
In the truth of our identity, there is really no such thing as imperfection. There is only purpose. You will never find a bird that complains about not being a dolphin. Or an oak tree, that complains about not being a car. We are the only created beings that can consciously revolt against the very thing we were created to be. Identity and purpose are one in the same.
In the simplest description I know how to give: Identity is knowing that you are love (God is love, and we are created in His image) - you are love manifested into a human experience, to bring other humans (not aware of this love) into the experience of it.
For the created to know their Creator. And to create more beauty together, alongside Him. We are given unique passions, creativity, and multitudes of ways of expressing that identity of love in this world.
Striving to be anything else, or seeing lack within oneself - is nothing short of inadvertently saying God made a mistake with you somehow, some way, somehow.
Chapter Three: Hold Onto Hope
Hope costs us nothing, giving up costs us everything.
The beauty of the journey is the ability to walk with someone through theirs, or show them the way as a guide and mentor. Love is the cause, hope is the effect. The more filled with love you become, the more you inhabit hope. Eventually, what was once hope in the singular and self-focused, now becomes hope abroad. Love begins to fuel your hope so powerfully, that fear disintegrates. Hope that no longer sees limitations, lack, or impossibilities. But hope that *always* sees a way. Hope that isn't afraid of the storms of life, but welcomes the rain knowing that rain is water, and water produces life. Hope that doesn't fear the winds, as wind blows down the old and weak, so the new and strong can emerge.
Hope is not afraid of how life readjusts ones course. Hope is not afraid of how life decides to prune the things that hold us back. Hope is not afraid to transition it's life from the earthly vessel, if it knows the greater effect benefits the whole. Martyrs aren't remembered for how they die, they are remembered for how they lived their lives. It is the inspiration of their life, that creates more hope. And in some cases - more martyrs. As hope always inspires followers.
You can only acknowledge the beauty in (perceived) disaster, when you can see the hope (inspired by love) in it.
"For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross scorning its shame"
What an insane statement in Hebrews 12:2! Jesus begged God, sweating blood, that if there were any other way, that "this cup may pass" from Him. That being the cross. What joy was set before Him? Was it really there?
The answer was in His submission to the Hope which was The Father's heart - and the Father's heart is *us*. We were the joy set before Him, because the Person of Love, was inspired by hope for that which was His heart.
We are that Hope.
Hope is the eternal bridge that brings all of this together, and makes all things possible. But the greatest of these is Love. For HE is love. And He lives in us; those created in His image.
My faith carried hope that love would inhabit me, and now I have hope that all would know the One Love that is inside of me.
This is my journey. This your journey. This our journey.