Beware: The Wall

September 4, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Now I don’t know why this happens, but I want you to be prepared for it because when it happens, it can be downright dis-spiriting.

It goes like this:

You’ve been sowing God Seeds and things have been going very well.  One person that you’ve put God time and effort into is starting to really get it.  They are moving ahead, taking great leaps of faith, and then all of a sudden BAM!

It’s like you slam into a wall going full speed.

Again, I don’t know why this happens, but I can assure you, it does and it will.

First, understand that this is normal.  It is not something you did.  In many ways, it’s almost like peeling an onion a layer at a time and then suddenly hitting a layer that just doesn’t want to move.

I think for the most part what is happening is that the person has gotten down to a layer they didn’t think you–or anyone–could reach.  It’s a layer they’ve protected for a long time, and a layer they are terrified to see underneath.

Let me tell you “the wall” is going to take a LOT of patience and love on your part because most of the time, defense of the wall comes out as an attack against you.  Suddenly the person will pull away or act hurt or angry at something you’ve done (or not done).  This is not about what you did or didn’t do.  This is a passive-aggressive way to tell you to “back off.”

Our problem is, often we are dealing with our own hurts and places in our Spirit Gardens that need weeded, and this rejection can really blindside us.

The best thing I have learned in this situation is to back up.  Don’t pursue!  Don’t get desperate to find out what you did.  Don’t attack back.

Just breathe and back off.  Be patient.  Go to God.  Talk to Him about your own hurt over the situation.  Pray for the person by putting them in the Holy Spirit’s hands over and over–every time you think about them.

Walls take an unbelievable amount of patience and unconditional love–more maybe than you even feel you have to give.  That’s okay.  Remember, “I can’t but God can, and He will… if I let Him”?  Well, now’s the time to use that in spades!

When you see the person, smile, make small talk if they seem willing.  Don’t push.  Let them come to you.

It may take a very long time (and that time will seem even longer to you!).  That’s okay.  You and God have an eternity to convince them that you’re really serious about loving them even when they are being quite unlovable.

Stand in love.  Just stand, believing in God’s love for you and for them.  And you will be amazed at the walls that will eventually fall at your feet.

*~*

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I Need Jesus: Step One

March 29, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

If you read the last post, you know that we are embarking on a journey through the 12-Step program.  As I study these steps, I realize they are not about alcohol at all although that’s where they started.  What they are really about is a systematic approach moving from the Tree of Me to the Tree of Life… from a life dependent upon me, my willpower, my strength to a life dependent upon God, His strength, His peace, His mercy, and His love.

The amazing thing is as I read these in that light, I see how relevant they are to stopping the cycle of misery in a life and turning it toward a cycle of love and acceptance.  It is honestly the steps I went through that brought me out of my misery into a life set on the foundation of God.  It is how I moved from “I can to do this” to “I need Jesus!”

As I also told you in the last post, some of this understanding I’ve gained on this point came from reading the book “Left to Tell” by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculee Iibagiza.  This is so important because her story is a physical representation of the emotional, mental, and spiritual battle we all fight every day.  So in her story, one can come to understand how Satan works in our lives under the surface to get us to doubt and to ultimately give up on God and how relying on God can bring us to freedom.

It is in this place of bondage where we will start.

“Addiction” is a concept most of us know something about even if we’ve never seen it up-close-and-personal.  Addiction is that state where we need something more than life itself.  We will trash our family, our friendships, ourselves in order to have what we are craving.

But how does an addiction start?

I think it starts when we realize that through the substance we can gain something that feels beneficial to us.  Most of the time, that is simply a temporary escape from pain.

The truth is, we all have pain.  It might be physical pain from abuse or self-abuse.  It might be mental or emotional pain.  But all of these have a root in spiritual pain.  And in the addiction, we are looking for something outside ourselves to make us feel better about ourselves and life.  The world is set up to cause this pain.  At the deepest part of this pain is an understanding that we have been separated from God and we have been led to believe that He no longer loves us, that our sin was too great, that we are forever separate, that we are on our own.  Therefore, we do what Adam and Even chose first–we eat from the Tree of Me.  When we do this, we further separate ourselves from God causing more pain.

It is that pain of separation, manifested in a million different ways, that we are trying to escape.  And we do so through behaviors that do not serve us long term in productive ways.

Maybe we choose societal-ills like drinking, drugs, promiscuity, over-eating, or violence.  Or maybe we choose things that others will cheer on like working harder and harder, gaining money, or achievements and accomplishments.  All of these are ways we talk ourselves out of feeling bad and gain for a moment an escape from the pain.

But if the pain remains, we will go back to the thing that got us out of it over and over again.  This is when addiction sets in.

In the extended version of Step 1 on the 12-Step Program page found here, we see this cycle:

  1. Pain ->
  2. Reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain ->
  3. Temporary anesthesia ->
  4. Negative consequences ->
  5. Shame and guilt, which result in more pain or low self-esteem

Notice that PAIN comes first.  Then we “find” the thing that temporarily helps us escape the pain.  However, the negative consequences soon set in.  Now for me, who was caught in something that looked “good” to everyone else, the negative consequences were as simple as the praise dying down.  People went on with their lives.  I was no longer at the center of their attention.  I became “invisible” again.  Which landed me right back in the pain I had momentarily escaped.  That meant I had to do something to get out of that pain again.

For me, my “something” was achievements and success and accomplishments.  So the second the praise died down from “all those A’s,” I had to start over.  Worse, as every alcoholic and drug-user will tell you, it began to take more and more and more to get that same “high.”  I had to do more, be better, accomplish more in order to gain the praise that got me out of the pain.  So instead of getting a 96, I had to have a 100.  Then instead of a 100, I had to have a 105.  It was exhausting.

In my book “Princess,” Heather goes through this exact thing, except she has figured out (just as I did) that there comes a point when others get tired of you “being perfect,” and the thing you have based your worth on and have learned will get you out of pain begins to turn on you as others get annoyed with you always getting A’s or good grades.  You learn that some people will be very jealous and will inflict more pain because of the thing that will get you out of pain.  It’s a trap.

It’s ALL a trap!

So the First Step is:  We admit we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Here’s an easier way to say this, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Have you ever felt like that?  Just at the end of your energy, at the end of what you know to do, at the end of your rope?  Some people call this “rock bottom.”  I mean you have tried EVERYTHING, and the pain just keeps coming back.

I know I was there, and it was only the Grace of God that saved me.  I know others who have gotten there and who just refused to take this first step.  Some times rock bottom is a LONG way down, especially if you have been taught that it’s all up to you, you have to be strong, you have to learn to “stand on your own two feet.”   Oh, yes.  The world has laid quite a trap beneath us.

So today, your first step is to look at your life and see where it feels out of control.  Maybe it’s in your marriage or with your children.  Maybe it’s in your job or your finances.  Maybe it’s your weight or your time management (busyness!).  Whatever it is, consider that in that area you are addicted to something outside yourself that you are trying to assuage the pain.  See the pain at the bottom of it.  Is it having never felt good enough?  Is it trying to prove yourself to someone?  Is it just feeling emotional pain that you can’t even yet pinpoint?  Whatever it is, today is the day to ADMIT that you are powerless to stop the pain, that you have tried everything, and it’s NOT working.

Then breathe and quietly invite Jesus in by simply saying, “I need You, Jesus.  I need Your help here.”

I wrote a Twitter post the other day, something like this:  “God will only unlock the doors that you give Him the key to.”  Someone wrote back that they believe God can open any door whether He has the key to it or not.   Well, yes, He can.  But He will not take the key from you.  In fact, He has already opened the door through His redemption of you on the cross, but it is YOU (and me) that are choosing to stay in that cell.  It’s time to choose something different.  It’s time to come out, Lazarus.  It’s time to rise again, to be reborn, to shake off the chains and walk free. And the first step is to admit you can’t do it on your own.

Like Imaculee, we are confined to that little bathroom, with killers outside intent on our destruction.  In the story, this brave woman finds a place of peace and rest while in that bathroom jail cell… by going to God, by prayer, by meditation.  We will get there in the 12-Steps as well, so stay tuned!

*~*~*

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Learn the Lesson, Move Forward

April 12, 2010

By:  Staci Stallings

I’ve been listening to a song the past couple of days.  I have no idea when it came out or where my mom got it, but it’s a great song called, “Wine Back Into Water.”  The man in the song has a drinking problem, and he says he’s prayed a lot about it.  Now he’s gotten to the bottom of everything he can do and it’ s not worked.  The hook line is, “So on my knees I’m turning to You Father, can You help me turn the wine back into water?”

It’s a sentiment many of us have felt at times even if our issue is not drinking.  Things have changed in our lives.  Something happened–maybe it was a choice we made, maybe it was a choice someone else made, maybe it was just dumb luck, but our world changed forever, and our instinct is to want to go back.  We want to go back to the way things were when our loved one was here or before the fire or the flood or our marriage went sour.

I think that is a very common response, but I don’t think it’s what God had in mind for us.

I was talking with my mom yesterday about my growing up and how I viewed life.  For many reasons, I got the message growing up that I had to be perfect to be worth anything.  And I worked and worked and worked, always pretty sure that someone was going to figure out that it was all a farce.  I wasn’t perfect.  My accomplishments gave me peace for about two seconds, until I figured out they still didn’t make me happy.  They were not the “end,” they were just a stepping stone.  Because there was never an “I’ve arrived” point, I could never slow down and enjoy life.  The time to slow down would be the NEXT goal.  Except that never came.

In “Forgiven Forever,” there is a great line that says those who are living on a law/works system are two things:  1) very busy and 2) very frustrated.

Boy, was that ME!

But as we talked and I shared how God had pulled me up out of the mire of that thinking, I told my mom that I wouldn’t trade having gone through that.  She was surprised, I think.  Most people would like life to be as easy as possible (and I’m not saying I wouldn’t), it’s just that in this case, having gone through that gave me such insights into how badly a person can be feeling even if they look great on the outside.

Having gone through hell to figure out that God is on my side and to figure out that He loves me anyway, to me, was worth it.  I would not have learned that lesson as deeply without going through that hell.  Had it just be “a little bad,” I would not be so grateful for God showing up.  Had it been just “a little painful,” I might not have appreciated the removal of that pain.  As it is, I am shouting praises grateful every day!

In the book “Heaven is Real” (the sequel to “90 Minutes in Heaven”), the author talks about bridge moments.  His moment of change came when a truck on a narrow bridge hit him in his car head-on.  He says that he entered that bridge as one person, but he exited as someone completely different.

That’s the way I feel about the time in my life when I was so attached to the approval of others, my grades and accomplishments.  Without that time in my life, I would not understand the things I do now.  I was one person going into that meat grinder, I was a different person coming out.  I was also different going into the Spirit Led Bootcamp God sent me through (and sometimes I think I’m still in), and another person when I emerged.

But the lesson of Bootcamp could not have been learned without the pain of the earlier period.  How was I to know how desperately I needed to be saved without knowing anything was even wrong?  Because of the pain I went through trying to get others to think I was worth it, I never would have appreciated to the depths I do today what God did for me.

All of our situations are different.  Your issue may be completely different than mine, but I would be willing to bet that the answer is the same.

The answer the difficulties we face in life is this:  God loves me.  Right now.  Without qualifications.  Whether I’m lovable or not.  And He’s willing to reach out to me, even in hell, and lift me out into His light if I will only accept what He has done for me.

So stop wishing you could go back.  If God has used this painful experience to teach you to a deeper level about His love, be grateful.  Realize the experience has made you a different person and let that different person be a better person, a more healed person, a person who KNOWS deeper that God loves them.

Then move FORWARD as your new, healed self.

You cannot go back.  Wanting to will keep you stuck right here.  And here is no place to be if you’re in spiritual misery.


Of Love and Backpacks

August 14, 2008

By:  Staci Stallings

 

The sermon was simple—at least it seemed to be.  The Gospel was the one about “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  The priest began with a discourse on the word “yoke”—as in take My yoke for My burden is easy…  He said many don’t know what a yoke is anymore (it’s not what comes out of an egg).  No, he said, “It is like those backpacks you see the kids carrying around.”

           

In fact, the books the kids carry now are so heavy they are often bowed over with the weight of their backpacks.  This is very similar to what Jesus was talking about with the yoke.  It is a burden we are carrying, and it is heavy.

           

We each have backpacks like this.  Some are filled with worry, some with tragedy.  Some hold old hopes and dreams dashed, some are stuffed with anger and hatred.  And boy, are they heavy.  They weigh us down.  They hold us back from living today.  We drag them with us everywhere.  After all, they are our backpack.  No one else is going to carry them for us.

           

The priest then said that what Jesus is saying is, “Bring your backpack with whatever is in it.  Bring it to the cross, bring it to Me.  Bring it here.  Give it to Me, and I will exchange your backpack for Mine.”

           

Now for one moment, I want you to think about your backpack (or backpacks—because the truth is, we often have more than one).  What’s in your backpack?  Is there sorrow?  Is there guilt?  Is there anger or pain?  Is there frustration or overwhelm?  Worry or doubt? What’s making your backpack heavy, and do you think it’s time to give that backpack to God?

           

One of my best friends signed up to give a personal talk at a retreat.  The talk would reveal some very painful moments in her life that no one knew about.  She was understandably nervous.  I told her that as someone who had given such a talk previously the experience was much like dragging a couple of heavy suitcases in, setting them down, and then walking out without them.  It was truly amazing how freeing it was to just be honest about how heavy things in my life had become.

           

So, I would suggest that you find a way to lay your burdens at the cross—whether that’s writing them down, or saying them out loud, or just sitting and visualizing yourself at the cross giving Jesus your backpack.

           

The next thing the priest said was that in exchange for your backpack, Jesus will give you His backpack.  When you look into this backpack, there will be only one thing—love.  Love that you are then supposed to give to the world.

           

Now I heard this sermon about a year after my brother died.  During his life, my brother had tried so hard to love everyone by trying to make their lives perfect.  It didn’t work.  It took him down when he couldn’t make the world right for everyone.  So the idea that there is only love in the backpack, and it’s your job to give that love to everyone else, would’ve sounded like a great idea at one time—noble and all of that.  But through the filter my life has now, I could see how that love could become a huge burden.

           

Instead of being freeing.  It can become a millstone, dragging a person down—even if they have the best of intentions.

           

As I thought about it, I knew there had to be another answer.  There was something missing in the backpack story.  What was missing was what I had found, what God had given me.  Because the love I had found in the backpack didn’t feel like a burden.  It was the most freeing thing in the world, but why? What was the difference?  As I thought about it, I realized the answer.

           

You see, in the backpack Jesus gives me is not love for everyone else.  It is only God’s love for me.  And that love is very light.  It says, “I love you, My child, right now.  I love you just as you are.  Come let Me hold you. I love you, and you need do no more to earn anything.”

 

And He has the same backpack waiting for you!

           

When you understand it is that kind of love God gives you, you can relax and just do your best.  You’re not having to strive to earn anything because you already have everything that matters. You can then ask for His love to come through you into the world—instead of trying to manufacture that love for others in yourself.

           

As I thought about this and about others that God has brought into my life, I realized that I don’t try to love others as God loves them.  I let God love them through me. But more than that, I show them that they have a backpack too.  God loves them just like He loves me, and when they get that, everything else falls into place.

 

See, I’m not the only one with the backpack that says God loves me.  You have one too.  So do my kids in Sunday School, and my kids at home.  So do my readers and my writing friends.  So does each of my family members and my friends. 

           

It’s not my job to love them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that God loves them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that they have a backpack waiting at the cross, that all they have to do is exchange this heavy one they are dragging around for one that is light and easy.  When they open the new backpack up, they will find God’s incredible love for them, and when you find that… an amazing life truly begins.