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Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Place of Grace

Last post I promised to share how the escape from the fear cycle is looking in my home. Here goes...

Imagine with me for a minute. Picture your favorite stuffed animal ~ one you loved all the fur off of when you were little or one you've seen somewhere and longed to hold. Mine's an adorable black bear cub with soft fur and chocolate eyes that fits perfectly in my arms for a hug. Once you have a picture of whatever your favorite stuffed animal would be, pretend it's your heart, something very near and dear to you. How would you treat it? Would you hold it close to you and protect it? Would you toss it across the room for someone else to play with? Would you hand it over to your husband or your kids? Would you hide it away so no one could see it?

What do you think Jesus tells us to do with our stuffed animal heart? Give it away? Nope. In fact He says the opposite: "Guard your heart for it affects everything you do." (Proverbs 4:23)

So how does this relate to getting out of the fear cycle? Good question.

Answer: it's the first step. Guard your heart. Take personal responsibility for your heart because it affects everything you do. Protect your teddy bear.

All too often we hear that we're to give ourselves away for the sake of the gospel because we have so much truth and people need us to show them the light. Maybe you've interpreted that like I did and felt guilty because what you had to give was never enough. Here's what I thought that meant using my teddy bear as an example of how I handled my heart:

People saw my teddy bear, thought it was adorable, and wanted to hold onto it to help them through a tough spot. So because God made me with a deep desire to share the truth and a sensitive heart that longed to help, I allowed people to borrow my bear for a while. It felt good to know I could help; I could comfort those in need. The problem came when I wanted my bear back, when I felt a little tired and needed to rest. But I'd let go of it and the other person became dependent on it to make them feel okay. And I became dependent on them taking care of my bear. So what did I do?

I listened to religious sounding words that told me to pour myself out without showing me how get filled. I listened to guilt inducing words that told me I had so much to give I shouldn't have needs of my own And if I did, I was selfish. So I let others smother all the fur off my bear. Then they threw it back to me and wanted me to fix it and give it back to them.

That's where I was a few weeks ago. With a tattered and torn teddy bear and nowhere to go to get it fixed. I thought God wanted me to keep giving myself away and I was hurt that when I did it didn't really help others and it depleted what little I had. Others needs and my needs were a bottomless well that I felt guilty for not being able to fill.

Then the people at the Marriage Intensive spoke an interesting word of truth. Yes, the Bible does tell us to be poured out like a drink offering, to give and it will be given to us, to comfort those in need, to consider others better than ourselves. But the truth that's so often not given at the same time is that I can't do any of those things unless I am perfect like Christ. (Matthew 5:48) In the Greek perfect means "complete" not the highest standard of having all our ducks in a nice religious row like I've been told to work hard to do.

In other words, I'm to give only after I’m complete. But I'm left with an impossible situation if I don’t know how to get complete. All I've heard on how to get there are nebulous words like "be perfect” “be filled with the Spirit" "rest in the Vine" "depend on Jesus to live His life through you."

Maybe I'm slow. Because I thought I was doing those things, but it never worked. I prayed more, served more, read more, woke up earlier to do even more quiet time, and all I felt was exhausted.

Remember my tattered teddy bear heart? The one full of guilt for not being enough? Here's what I learned: It's not enough. Doesn't that feel better? No, it didn't to me either. Not until I heard the rest of what my Heavenly Daddy was saying. Before being poured out, giving myself away, and putting others first, I had to take care of myself (Philippians 2:4) by finding my completeness in Him.

To do that, I had to go back to the two greatest commandments. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."

What does that look like?

It looks like curling up with my teddy bear and spending time in the Father's arms.

That means always holding onto my teddy bear and protecting it~ taking personal responsibility for its care and not hoping others will do it. It means hanging out with God to get full~ all my heart, soul, mind, and strength loving God. And then I can share my teddy bear heart with others as long as they treat it well. If they don’t, I still have my hand on it so I can pull it back and run to God. In other words, spend time with God to get full and spend time with God to stay full. That’s how you guard your heart.

Love God by obeying His command to "Come to me all you who are weary." Love God by spending time with Him and taking care of someone He values with His life~ YOU.

In your emotions: get information from your feelings, listen to your heart, and talk to God about what you hear.

In your spirit: hang out with God and listen to what He says about you.

In your mind: feed it with healthy things.

And in your body: rest, exercise, and eat well.

Talk and listen to Him, enjoy His creation, listen to music that inspires you, read books that draw you closer to God, play, laugh, exercise, eat healthy; spend some time doing whatever fills you. Then you'll have something to give. Then you can love others as you love yourself because you've spent time letting your Heavenly Daddy love you. "We love because He first loved us."

Last time I shared a little about how to empty your heart of the fears and messages that fill it up and wear you out. That's part of taking personal responsibility for your heart: taking your tattered teddy bear to God and letting all the memories and pain out and paying attention to the messages the enemy scribbled onto your heart through the pain. Then let God sing His truth there. He has so much good to say about you.

The other part is what we talked about today, taking care of your teddy bear heart by spending time with God. Love Him by letting Him fill your heart, spirit, mind, and body. Then you can love others as yourself.

Getting filled by God, taking care of your heart, is the best gift you can give.

Jesus did it. (Luke 5:16; John 12:36)

You can too. (Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And when you do, your teddy bear heart will be a place where grace abounds.

What a great place to be!

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