I’m experiencing some of God’s disciplining. And I don’t like it! He is messing with my belief that I can (and must) control finding acceptance and love.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. (Hebrews 12:11a NIV)
Needless to say, I don’t particularly appreciate His meddling in this area and wish He’d leave well-enough alone!
My belief that I have to control others’ accepting and loving me creates anxiety. I fear that I’ll trip up, lose control, and experience the very rejection I’m trying to avoid. Which makes me work even harder to keep control. Which leads to more anxiety. Which causes the very pain I’m hoping to avoid through my illusions of control.
This vicious cycle is exhausting and prevents me from relaxing and “living real” around those whose acceptance I think I must earn. When I described to a friend ways that I long to come alive, he laughed (not unkindly) and answered “That doesn’t sound anything like the Mark I know.” Unfortunately, he’s right.
More troubling, this self-protective cycle extends to how I interact with God. If I am in control of earning love, I must also earn God’s love. And trust me, that’s exhausting and stressful! So then I “do” to escape from that stress; often using one addictive behavior or another to try to feel better. Which of course ignites fear of God’s anger. So I then swing back to controlling that fear by performing to placate Him. (Is this what is meant by “being religious” as opposed to “living in relationship”?!)
Thankfully God IS a Good Father and He’s dealing with this insane cycle of control, whether if I like it or not. He wants me to experience more than a controlled illusion of acceptance and love. He wants me to experience real relationship with Him, and with others.
I don’t think it’s any accident that my devotional reading included this scripture:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message)
Christ, who loves perfectly with His perfect grace, is inviting me to walk with Him. Not to run in my old despairing cycles. As I allow Him into my frantic behaviors, the vicious cycle is slowing. He’s teaching me the value of being quiet and still. He’s training me to trust His love, rather than relying on my ability to earn being loved. He’s gently helping me to accept His and other’s acceptance – regardless of how well or how poorly I am doing.
Folks – this is tough stuff for a guy addicted to trying to protect himself through illusions of control! That’s why I’m appreciating these verses.
What children are not disciplined by their father?… God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12: 7-11 NIV)
When I asked God why He is dealing with all this, His answer was simple: “Because I love you.” Accepting this truth is a BIG step towards living in the unforced rhythms of His grace!
What Cycle are you needing to break?
Whether your vicious cycles are similar to mine or very different, are you ready to stop and rest? Are you ready to accept God’s loving you with His unforced rhythms of grace? Are you willing for Him to help you break your cycles of DOING and just enjoy BEING the person He has created you to be?
I’d love to hear how you are experiencing God’s unforced rhythms of grace in your life!
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