Laying the Foundation

The theme for the month of July is “Overcoming”—I contemplated ending the month with this post, but decided that its importance is so great that I would start with it and build from there. In order to have a strong house, it needs a strong foundation. Before I try and get too crazy with writing about overcoming things like not wanting to get a workout in or take a time-out in your life, I need to start from the foundation of where overcoming in those areas truly begins—the inner man. Understanding who you are in comparison with who and what everyone else tells you that you are and need to be is crucial because who you are and what is in your mind, heart, and soul determines how you live. Battles in the physical realm are fought in the mind, heart, and soul.
Life is hard. If you’ve read some of my blog posts, the things that happen day in and day out that are hard (whether self-inflicted or not) have been a resounding theme. I know I don’t have it all together, nor will I claim to, but it is so much easier to put on a façade and tie everything together with a pretty bow to make it look nice so people might take me seriously. I know this might come as a shock, but I don’t have it all together (insert collective gasp). I am absolutely not going to knock people, especially fitness professionals, who seem to, because they have been alive far longer than I have and have far more life experience than I do figuring things out. They may have been far less prideful and not gone into their 20’s thinking they knew everything, or maybe they did and reached the same point I am at and realized they didn’t and simply have more than 6 months under their belt with that perspective. I know that seems like a very short time period, and I’m ashamed to admit that it was within the past 6 months that I finally admitted to myself and started living with the mindset of “I don’t know everything, I’m not the one exception to the rule, it’s time to start listening and living with the intent to learn and apply knowledge and wisdom.” If you’ve got 30 years of experience knowing you don’t have it all together, feel free to quit reading now because you’re going to get the perspective of someone relatively new to this mindset who has taken some hard hits recently to her pride.
I’ve always tried to live life by my rules. I didn’t really expect other people to live according to them, but I lived according to them. I am so thankful that the grace of God kept me from doing overly stupid and regrettable things as I lived according to those rules. Living my way by my own rules, however, means that I lived a very self-centered life. I wasn’t really a bad kid and therefore scooted under the radar in school. I didn’t create waves, and that was okay. However, I left my life in New York to attend college in Virginia and discovered that despite being only one of a far larger student body, I was unable to stay “hidden” amongst the crowds. (For the record, Division I athletics is a completely different beast than any other level. You go to school and you do sports-related things. That is just about all you have time for unless you sacrifice something you need to do, like sleep, for something you want to do, like socialize.) I cannot tell you the number of times I butted heads with certain coaches because, while I was not doing anything technically “wrong” it was not what was being expected or required of me. Excuses were not tolerated (namely one time I lost my keys after swim class and a group workout and was 15 minutes late to practice—I had a legitimate reason (see: excuse) in my mind, but it was not tolerated and I got to run 15 down and back “poles”–from one foul pole in left field to the foul pole in right field). Yes I had a “reason” but I could have been more careful in where I put my keys, etc. and that was the lesson to be learned–I cannot just live on the fly because others are affected. I didn’t learn that lesson, I just left the field sweaty and annoyed.
I have also mistakenly lived according to my own selfishness and pride professionally—“let me tell you about MY experience, even though the traditional education tells you ________, ______________ is what MY experience is and therefore it is true.” I may not have said these things, but I most definitely thought these things and lived according to them. Over the course of living with a lot of pride in my heart and mind, I began to believe a lot of lies, mostly because I believed I was far more objective than I was and believed my understanding and perspective to be the only true one, yet at the same time giving far too much credit to what others said being completely and wholly true because they, too, had sovereign understanding of every aspect of a given situation. I began to believe what was said to me about everything from my adequacy to do what I wanted to professionally to what I looked like physically to inferences to who I am personally. The biggest battle I faced, ultimately, was in my identity. I didn’t have an understanding of who He created me to be and that every facet and quirk of who I am was intentional. My closet nerdiness and perfectionism, as they were termed, in proper use and understanding are really just a love of learning and striving for excellence—I just never used them in that way. When pride becomes twisted in with these traits, it becomes easy to be an elitist and yet at the same time feel inadequate because my best simply isn’t enough. My athletic build was frequently addressed as having “arms more muscular than a guy” and I frequently became my own worst critic as I looked at pictures of my teammates and me and simply saw every imperfection I had next to their femininity and beauty mixed with athleticism. So THAT was why I was overlooked by people as being “enough” and attractive—I was comparable in stature and strength to a guy. When I really started believing and acting according to these thoughts was around the time my home life started to fall apart, and that was when the real battle with control and adequacy began.
I didn’t respond to my inadequacy as a woman, daughter, and sister through promiscuity, thank God, but I did respond through taking my body into my own hands and developed an eating disorder. On the surface, for a while, it just seemed like I was being super healthy, but under the surface my mind had taken some hard beatings and enough was enough. I became obsessed with being enough physically so that I might be enough personally and spiritually. Yes, I had it backwards, but it was far easier to control what was happening physically than what was happening personally. I shut down from everyone around me, even when in love they tried to intervene. Eventually they would abandon me—they really didn’t care, they just wanted me to be inadequate. To sum up my journey over the past 6 years, I’ve tried just about everything to get my life under control and failed. This was frustrating beyond frustrating, because according to human wisdom I was doing a few of the right things, at least enough that should have been producing results, but failing miserably. I have to say that moving to Virginia was a turning point in my life—I began to have glimpses of the living life in freedom and overcoming that I had desired for so long. I had about a month of what one would consider “good days” or that were at least better than they had been, but slowly started to feel sad and alone and fell back into old ways. Suddenly I was defeated and lived like I was defeated, but God was still in the process of breaking me and showing me that I simply could not fight this battle alone, nor was it His intent to let me. I recently began meeting with a girl who has been in the trenches of this same battle and the fact that she has sat across the table from me is a miracle in and of itself. Her body and life are a miracle redeemed by God, and I have begun to understand that this is not a physical battle—the physical is merely a symptom of the spiritual and where I find my identity. The biggest realizations for me (that I believe are far too valuable to not share with you) have been:
1) I (we) have inherited victory in Christ and fight from the place of victory—the victory is mine (ours) in Him and not something I (we) have to fight on my (our) own for. “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”-1 John 5:4-5
2) I (we) defend that victory with truth—note the emphasis on armor. The armor isn’t for attacking, but for protecting and defending. The only weapon I (we) have been given to fight with is the Word of God because that is the only thing powerful enough to successfully put any kind of attack on our enemy. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”-Ephesians 6:10-17
3) The wisdom of God trumps the wisdom of man any day: “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.”-Job 12:13
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”-Proverbs 3:5-8
4) As I have prayed and tried to escape the tormenting hell that has been my mind for the past 6 years, this is a trial that God has allowed for His glory and for me to be able to see the true saving power of the gospel of Christ—that His blood was not just enough to save my soul from hell, but enough to save me in my physical life. This is for His glory and I will proclaim it until the day I enter glory, and I have no doubts forever after. “…so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but God’s power…no, we declared God’s wisdom, a mystery hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.”-1 Corinthians 2:5,7
Greg Laurie shared a story that a fellow pastor told about a man who had been shipwrecked on an island. After years and no one finding him on the island, he had lost hope of ever being found. In reality, he’d made a decent life for himself given the circumstances—he had built a nice shelter with some of the island’s natural resources and always was provided for. He lived day in and day out on this beautiful island. Of course, the occasional storm arose, but the house was able to withstand many of the storms that came up against it. As was typical for the evening, he started his fire to cook the fish he had caught earlier in the day so he had dinner, and he gave thanks to God for His provision. A gust of wind caught the fire and it caught a corner of the man’s hut, engulfing it completely in immense amounts of smoke and flames within minutes. There was no way for one man to get enough water to the house fast enough to extinguish it, and the house was completely destroyed. The man laid down and just wept in despair—this house that he had spent so much time in and that had protected him throughout the years he had been stranded was destroyed through mere chance. That night, he built a small shelter with some sticks and other materials and went to sleep. The following morning he woke up to voices and a ship anchored about 50 yards offshore. “How did you find me,” the man exclaimed, “ I have been stuck on this island for years without rescue!” “Well,” one of the men explained, “we were passing by and would not have known you were here without your smoke signal!” The very thing that he believed to be his undoing was in reality the very thing that was his salvation. The very undoing that a move away from home and into what became very uncomfortable circumstances has proven not to be something that has destroyed me, but that I believe has been the catalyst for my salvation and truly understanding the gospel. Through those difficult circumstances and wrestling with how I saw my circumstances and what God had to say simply about trials, I began to understand that He is trustworthy and I can believe Him in the face of circumstances that seem to contradict His goodness and love—and only contradict because they do not perfectly align with my expectations. The foundation was being laid for the significant work that God was beginning to do through which my “house” (my identity and life) would begin be built.
I know it doesn’t fit into our tidy “God Box” to think that He actually may have destined our hard circumstances for His glory and our ultimate salvation, but it may be that we don’t see our spiritual need for Him without seeing our physical need for Him. Insurmountable problems require a solution that can overcome anything, but you don’t know you need that level of a solution without that level of a problem. That very thing you believe to be your undoing could very well be the thing that saves your life and is a revelation to the world of the power and beauty of God; the catalyst that sets your life on the course you were created to live on which could be far different and far better than you ever could have imagined or dreamed.

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