Christian Life

Craving For Love

Blog_Craving for Love-2In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis writes about a conference she attended that impacted her life in a profound way. The insight she had about herself was realized when a speaker asked the audience two questions, “Which parent did you crave love from more?” and “Who did you have to be for them?” Upon reading that second question, my chest began to tighten, emotions began to well up, and I sat silently, thinking about my childhood. Growing up, I lived with my mother and two older sisters. I craved my mother’s love on a daily basis and tried to get her attention by misbehaving. Subconsciously I thought, maybe if I was mean to the dog, talked frequently, was overly expressive, or an all-star athlete she would pay attention to me. Then my mind wandered to my father. I never lived with him yet I always longed for his love and attention, on the rare occasion when I was able to visit.

As I continued to sit in silence, pondering my answers, these questions gripped my heart. Without a doubt, I knew I longed for my father’s love more than my mother’s. I knew this because of a memory that came to my mind of a time when I visited my father sometime during middle school. Shortly before this trip, I was in a production of Beauty and the Beast in a theater outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I wasn’t just a part of the production, I starred as Belle in this theater’s academy program. In my 12-year-old mind, this role made me special… it made me important… it made me somebody. I was so excited to show my dad the VHS recording of the performance so he could share in my glory and affirm that I was talented and special. However, after my father watched that tape, he remarked that it would be a “bigger deal” if I starred in a musical at a real theater. It did not matter that he was wrong about it not being a theater production. What mattered to me was his lack of affirmation. All I really wanted was a daddy who loved and affirmed me. I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt me with that comment but the damage was done.

That was the last extended stay visit I would ever have at my father’s home during my childhood years. I was done trying to become the daughter he would be proud of. I was done trying to earn my parents love. The next few years would be spent searching for love through dating relationships that left me feeling empty and hurt. The only thing that could mend my broken and hardened heart was the love of Father God. This realization began when I was 15 and has continued to strengthen over the last 18 years. Therapy, pastors, mentors, books, and relationships have been instrumental in my growth but what transformed me the most was when I stopped believing the lies I told myself; lies that I was worthless, unlovable, damaged, and unintelligent. Ultimately, I could not have done this without replacing those lies with the truth. The real truth is, the word of God is the most powerful source of truth that speaks value and worth to each and every person. God’s love is unconditional and no amount of performing could make him love us more. Scriptures tell us that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), greater than all other created beings (Genesis 1:28), adopted as his children (Ephesians 4:1-5), created with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), gifted (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and the list goes on.

When you read those two questions, what came to your mind? Whose love did you crave as a child? Do you have a story like mine? Whose love do you still crave? Who are you trying to be in order to be loved? I encourage you to take some time to ponder these questions and think about lies you have been believing about yourself: lies that say you are less than; lies that say you will never amount to anything; lies that say you need to be someone else in order to be loved and accepted.

Christian Life, Mental Health

Six Biblical Principles for Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Food Relationships

vectorstock_3710686We live in a nation that is obsessed with image. Unless you live in a remote area without television, internet or places to shop, you are bombarded every day with images of photoshopped people that society pressures you to look like. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder in the United States and every 62 minutes one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (ANAD). Even those of us without a diagnosed eating disorder struggle with an unhealthy view of food and our bodies. I honestly cannot think of a time when I did not think about losing weight before taking a beach vacation…okay, maybe when I was pregnant.

There are many excellent therapies for eating disorders but I believe true success cannot happen without spiritual integration. Many people with eating disorders struggle with poor self-image and a negative view of God. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or a poor relationship with food and self-image, here are some helpful biblical principles to help transform thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

  1. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). The word of God has the ability to create positive thoughts and a healthy identity, which is countercultural to a world that stresses the importance of perfection.
  2. Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NIV). Having faith in God and hope that life can be different is an important part of creating change. Scripture has the ability to develop one’s faith and provide hope for the future.
  3. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (NIV). This is a difficult concept for many people who have felt rejected by their parents. Joshua 1:5 says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (NIV). God is a loving father who will never reject us or abandon us like people do.
  4. Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches that people’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts and that his thoughts are higher than ours. People with an unhealthy relationship with food always have poor views of themselves. God’s thoughts of us are opposite of the lies we believe about ourselves. In fact, each day that God created something in the universe, he used the words “it was good” or “it was so” to describe that particular creation (Genesis 1:3-25). It wasn’t until God created mankind that he used the words “it was VERY good” to describe his creation (Genesis 1:31). We are God’s delight and were specifically made so that he could love us.
  5. Feelings of shame and dishonest behavior are common in those with eating disorders. Both of these are displayed in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time (Genesis 3). The first thing Adam and Eve felt was shame. This feeling caused them to cover their bodies and fear God. When God asked what they did, both were dishonest and shifted blame to someone else. Knowing that people in the bible had the same struggles we do can help normalize the feelings and behaviors of those with eating disorders.
  6. Lastly, recovery from eating disorders should involve recognizing one’s gravity of sin and the need for atonement (McRay et al., 2016). Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). This truth allows people to understand that when they acknowledge their sin, God removes it and brings them back into relationship with him. When people begin to see themselves as forgiven and accepted, they can let go of shame and be confident in their spiritual connection to the Father. That loving connection is essential for true recovery.

References

ANAD Your Future is Worth Fighting For. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved from http://anad.org

McRay, B.W., Yarhouse, M.A. & Butman, R. (2016). Modern psychologies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal(2ndEd.). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Christian Life

Valentine’s Day Idea: Married, Single, and Dating

BlogPic_LoveFinger

image © Sherri Robbins

It’s February… the month of love.

While so many people focus on plans and gifts for Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think about learning how to have healthy relationships and to love my family unconditionally. Unfortunately, from early childhood, I was taught that love is conditional.

From the time I was a young child and into adulthood, both my parents withdrew from me when I did not meet their expectations. Yes, my mother threatened to sue me when I let her down and I have gotten hate mail from my father, but I understand why they did it. Their dysfunctional childhood years taught them how to push people away when things don’t go the way they envision.

We are all narcissistic by nature and many of us don’t know how to change. Broken relationships all over our world are evidence of this. Our presuppositions of others and tendencies toward making things about ourselves originate from our past relational wounds. Because we don’t learn unconditional love as children, it affects the way we love as adults. I wasn’t shown how to love my husband and kids, but I’m determined to learn how. Do I fail? Yes I do, but I continue to come back to the one who can show me how, God.

So my challenge this month is for each of us to focus on our relationships. What past hurts are preventing us from having healthy relationships now? Who do we need to forgive? What behaviors and thought patterns do we need to change in ourselves? Have we strayed from the One who is our example of unconditional love?

Work on your relationships, seek counseling if you need it, and this just might be the best Valentine’s Day ever!

“Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to do both.”
( 1 John 4:21b MSG)

Christian Life

I Fell Off the Bandwagon

running3

After months of consuming too much food, growing horizontally and avoiding a sports bra, I finally laced up my athletic shoes and went for a run. It wasn’t pretty but I know it’s what makes me healthy! My lungs burned, my heart felt like it might explode and most people could have walked faster than my uphill pace. I felt like I was in a slow-motion video, but in reality, I was going as fast as my body would let me.

Last year, I could run an 8-minute mile with little effort, plus I completed a half marathon and a 12-mile Tough Mudder. Now I can barely run a 12-minute mile without feeling like I might die. It’s amazing how quickly we can lose our physical fitness, but it’s also amazing how hard it is to start at the beginning again – gaining flexibility, stamina, speed and greater lung capacity.

As I pushed through the pain of my short 1.7-mile run, I couldn’t help but relate this to God. Many of us go through seasons of consistently attending church, reading our Bibles, praying and growing in our faith. During these times we are often filled with strength, joy and watch our lives transform through the power of God. Then life gets busy…Our schedules change…We fall out of our routines…We start to grow weary… And we find ourselves right back where we started – feeling lonely, stressed, tired, bitter, depressed, even hopeless.

Starting over hurts! Sometimes we allow so many painful things to weigh us down without giving them to the Lord. It’s like we’re trying to run a marathon after gaining a hundred pounds and developing asthma. Yes, it hurts but we don’t have to run a half marathon at an 8-minute mile pace to hang with God. We just have to lace up our shoes and go out for a run with Him. God is patient and sets the perfect pace.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. NIV

Matt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. NIV

Matt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. NIV

Christian Life

Running Away

Have you ever wanted to throw in the towel, “call it quits,” or even run away from life?  As I look back at my childhood, I can remember numerous times that I tried to run away from home.  As a kid, I was rebellious and believed that I had the worst mother in the world.  There was one occasion that I was determined to live in a cabin two miles from my house that was often deserted during the winter months.  After a few short hours, I was so hungry that I had to give up, go home and find something to eat.  There was another time that I talked a friend into venturing into the woods behind my house so we could live in a shelter made out of tree limbs and plastic sheeting.  Once dusk hit, we were so cold and scared that we ran back to my house as fast as we could, holding on to each other the entire way.

As I look back at my childhood, I can laugh knowing that I was just a typical middle-schooler who lacked judgment and couldn’t see past my current life circumstances.  Although I’m no longer a kid, I must admit that I still face times in life when my perception is wrong and I am tempted to run away.  A few years ago I was standing in my kitchen holding tightly to my car keys, contemplating whether I should drive away and not tell anyone where I was going.  My husband was in the shower, the kids were playing in their rooms and it would be the perfect time to escape.  I only lived 15 minutes from an international airport that could take me anywhere I wanted.  After rationalizing it all in my mind, I gave up and found a place to hide, behind the stockade fence of my townhome.  I spent about an hour sobbing and pouring out my heart to the Lord, wondering “How could I call myself a Christian, let alone a pastor, and be feeling this way?”  I didn’t want this “calling” anymore.  I was tired of having to be everything to everyone.  I loved my husband and kids, but I just didn’t know if I could live this life any longer.

I learned something about myself that day.  I was acting a lot like Elijah when he lay under a tree, praying that he might die, saying; “I have had enough Lord…” (1 Kings 19).  The rest of the chapter goes on to describe a 40-day journey that Elijah spent self-loathing.  He told the Lord that he was no better than anyone else.  He rambled on about how he was fervently serving God, and explained to the Lord that he was the only one doing “the work.”  He also took the time to shift blame and point the finger at the other Israelites that weren’t following the Lord like he was.  In fact, he complained about how the Israelites were rebellious and destroying everything that represented what he was doing for God.  He couldn’t see any good in his life.  He had no idea that God had reserved 7000 other people that were serving Him just like Elijah.  He just couldn’t get past the circumstances he was facing at that moment in his life.

How many of us are just like Elijah?  If you look at the things that had happened in Elijah’s life before this incident, you would be amazed that a man as great as he, could have had such a low moment.  He had just been fed by ravens, watched God bring down fire from Heaven, slaughtered all the prophets of Baal and prophesied that rain would come after three years of drought.  The problem with Elijah was that he was constantly on the run.  He had just run about 26 miles (a marathon) to Beersheba, fleeing from Queen Jezebel.  He was spiritually and physically exhausted, and no longer wanted this life of ministry.  It wasn’t until he reached Mount Horeb, that he took the time to rest in the presence of God.  He had been doing it all on his own strength.

My story is not much different from Elijah’s.  I have a tendency to run this life as fast as I can, until I can’t go on any longer.  I try my hardest to be the best wife, mother and pastor that I could possibly be.  I strive to be a great leader, a light in a dark place, and the image of a healthy, well-balance woman.  The greatest lesson I am learning is that I need to pace myself.  It’s not my responsibility to please everyone, but it is my responsibility to allow the Holy Spirit to work through me.  I will never be able to live this life in my own strength.  Romans 11:29 says, “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”  God has placed a call on my life that I can’t run away from.  For me to live out this journey, I need to constantly spend time being renewed by the presence of the Holy Spirit.