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What Fear Can Do
Four Personas That Hide Women
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” Proverbs 29:25
I want the safety of trusting the Lord but often I live fearing people and I do feel trapped by that fear.
“Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for him.” Oswald Chambers
Occasionally I let words slip out that expose how mean and dangerous I really am deep down. Or I retell parts of my story that I don’t live consciously aware of…just how far I fell and the emotional state I was in comes back and I remember what my life could have been like without him.
“When the fear of what another person could do to her controls a woman, she is walking into a trap. When she trusts her own wisdom and depends on her own resources to avoid the trap and overcome her fear, she will live ‘like a shrub in the desert,’ and bear no fruit that will bring anything good into her life or through her life……a fear-controlled woman will thirst for soul-satisfying water that she cannot find.”
The hard part for me with a lot of this stuff, is that I became a Christian at a pretty young age and had a lot of teaching so I always wanted to believe I was seeking God’s wisdom and not my own. So it was hard to properly repent and enjoy God’s grace. I either pretended I was satisfied in God or felt guilty that I wasn’t (thought I should have been more content).
“Her resources will be exposed as insufficient to create even the illusion of joy when disaster comes. For her, shattered dreams will mean a shattered life.”
I can really relate to this one. As someone close to me continued to spiral downward and my husband and I disagreed over how to handle it, and all the other areas of my life fell apart; I lost all joy…and then felt guilty again for not living the victorious life of the Christian.
“The woman controlled by fear will either die or merely survive. As long as fear rules her life, she will never know what it means to be fully alive as a feminine woman for the glory of God. She will realize in her heart that something is missing, that something is wrong. And when her resources fail, she will have her best opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus: that as a forgiven woman she can truly live.
I’ve felt like I could die (or wanted to) and I’ve merely survived (barely) for months, maybe years as I’ve struggled with all this. I was blind to how much fear was controlling me. I think of others I love with this paragraph also. Its possible the heart attack was triggered by severe anxiety. I can see it killing them one day. They are in survival mode most of the time. It’s hard for me to see that when my resources fail it’s actually God’s severe mercy for I still need to be reminded of the good news….that because I’m forgiven I can truly live.
“Glimpse 1: The Defensively Deranged Woman”
I did not see myself in this illustration. I can be quite defensive and I often feel ‘crazy’ but I don’t believe I’ve experienced those kinds of symptoms. I know someone who has bi-polar disorder has had delusional episodes where she thought she saw things she didn’t see and had memories that later she said were merely from the power of suggestion from reading a book about abuse. It’s understandable with the kind of trauma and other kinds that a split from reality takes place.
“Glimpse 2: The Prematurely Satisfied Woman”
I do relate to this second glimpse. “…they find their contentment in life’s blessings.” ”If they feel burdened by responsibilities, they feel nobly overwhelmed…..their complacent satisfaction in blessing, a satisfaction they mistake for joy…..that their good deeds serve to suppress a deep fear…”
As I re-read the description though, I must say I’ve never been too easily satisfied even with lots of blessings…I tend to always be aware that relationships could be better. I don’t relate to the woman whose favorite word is ‘Good’, I’ve never had that kind of false optimism. I think I have a tendency to be envious of these kinds of women and falsely believe or pray for the blessings that seem to make them joyful. But I have too much pain associated to my own failure to keep me there for long. In a way I think I’m trying to live there now though. Just sort of an ‘eat, drink and be merry’…don’t think about all the problems that I cannot do anything about. I wonder when I’m really trusting God and when I’m just trusting his gifts/blessings (as I look out on the bay in my beautiful apartment, living this adventure in Japan).
“Glimpse 3: The Angrily Hardened Woman”
Sadly I relate more than I care to admit to this kind of woman, especially when I’m in a ministry leadership role.
“This woman becomes hard, angrily determined to escape pain by controlling her life and everyone in her life that is important to her. She may become a demanding wife, a domineering mother, or a distancing friend.
Well, that pretty much sums up me as wife and mother. Seeing how my fear is what is really behind that demanding spirit I feel justified having (esp. regarding some of the ways my husband has hurt me in the past), doesn’t make it any easier to soften my heart. Truthfully, I think even in this move to Japan I had mixed feelings because I wanted to distance myself from people who weren’t letting me control them (for their own good of course, blah). I had dreams about the closeness we could experience and the mutual encouragement to be enjoyed.
“Although she may appear to be a charming, helpful, sincere Christian woman, she is constantly maneuvering to bring things under her control.”
“Glimpse 4: The Visibly Troubled Woman”
I relate to the first paragraph in this section. I try to be ‘self-aware’ and I’m often times troubled. Many more mature Christians want me to be more joyful and positive. I even remember feeling passed over by the young moms group, no one wanted to hear my story of parenting…too many honest examples of my own failure and my kids struggles, not the success stories they wanted.
“Because she knows that she is not the woman she was meant to be, her humbled soul never hardens.”
I think NEVER is a strong word. Maybe seldom would be a better choice. What fallen but redeemed woman never hardens? Of course I want this last description to be true of me and sometimes it seems to be. I do realize that I have the least control over what matters most. Sometimes my worst failures still bring shame and anxiety but there are times of staying alive to my longings and softly aching for the day all will be made right.
“In brokenness over both her failure and her helplessness to change, a prayer rises to God from the center of her soul: ‘God, I come to You. Do with me as You want. Embrace me in Your perfect love that casts out all fear.”
“Preoccupation with herself is slowly displaced by worship of God.”
I hate that I feel so cynical about the word ‘worship’ but that is my first thought. What is true ‘worship’? Arms raised and tears when we sing emotional praise songs? Maybe but maybe something more/different. In any case I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an example of this…a woman without fear and so preoccupied with God that she is free to be fully alive in her femininity for the glory of God.
“The beauty of Jesus becomes visible in the midst of ongoing trouble, precisely because she no longer is obsessed with whether she is beautiful. It is enough that Jesus is beautiful and that she lives in Him.”
I do long for that to be true.
- PREPARE: Have large trash bags ready for charity and trash, boxes or plastic containers for off season or undecided items, label boxes. Also have a spiral notebook for making a list of what is needed to complete the job.
- BEGIN: Take everything out of the closet (you can sort quickly as you go for obvious discarded items like stained worn out t shirts or maternity clothes, but do not take the time to decide difficult items, move quickly).
- DIVIDE: Divide clothes and shoes into seasons (I use 2 categories: warm weather or cool weather)
- CLEAN: Clean closet well: dust, vacuum, wipe down shelves, But move quickly.
- CATEGORIZE: Go through the clothes in current season first, hang back in the closet – arranged by type then color (pants from white to black, shirts from sleeveless to turtleneck by color, etc), discarding obvious items for trash or charity into
- QUESTION: One category at a time, now go through and ask the hard questions: does it fit, do I love it, does it serve a purpose, does it go with other items (shoes, tops, etc), is it age appropriate, do I go places that allow me to wear this outfit? Still work as quickly as you can, placing undecided items on the bed, leaving only what you LOVE or use very often out of necessity in your closet.
- CHOOSE: After you have gone through each category, pulling out undecided items, see if there are obvious needs (like ‘I love this skirt but I never wear it because I don’t have a top or shoes that match’. Start making a list of what you need to complete those outfits. If you have room, place those misfit items at the back or side of the closet, out of the main view. At this stage I literally try clothes on to make sure they do in fact fit and enhance my appearance. (If I’m planning to loose weight, I choose a few very favorite pieces that are smaller and place them in a box or spare bedroom closet for one year, if I don’t loose the weight, I get rid of it, if I do, I pull those items out and place some of the larger ones in the spare closet
- LIST: Now look at what you have left and go back to the pile of undecided items on the bed, fine tune the selection only keeping what currently fits, is loved and/or is really necessary (for instance, if you don’t love your black blazer but you have to wear it to work tomorrow…keep it until you can replace it, add those items to your notebook list). Also add the list containers or tools needed to keep your closet organized (plastic boxes for folded sweaters, hooks or hangers for belts, etc).
- STORE: Now start the whole process with your off-season, if you have space place those clothes in a spare bedroom closet, by category, by color. If not, box them up and label them well (winter pants and sweaters, summer sandals, etc).
- GIVE: Place bags and boxes of clothes for charity in your car and take to Goodwill or Salvation Army the next time you can leave the house during their open hours. I keep them there in the trunk so that it’s harder to go back through them after I’ve decided to let them go.
- SHOP: Start the process of replacing the items you’ve discarded if they are really necessary. I like to live with less for a while and enjoy how freeing it feels to have fewer choices and less clutter before I start shopping. But for others the reward of getting to shop afterwards might help with motivation.
Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)
14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Current political debate seems to hinge on how one defines what is good and what is evil. I hate politics. I hate arguing. I understand the need for debate but I seldom see it handled well. I watch in awe when I visit friends where the family members move in and out of discussions with disagreements and the relationships and emotional health of all seems to be just as strong as before. I’m sure my anxiety around this subject is related to how disagreements were handled in my family growing up. I wanted to handle conflict differently in my home. Model for our children a healthier way of discussing controversial subjects. We failed. Any attempts to discuss highly controversial subjects with our adult children seems to end in a few harsh statements or accusations and then complete avoidance of the subject for years…maybe forever.
More and more I have become silent when controversial subjects come up. I want to avoid the whole subject. I dread election years and simply hold my breath until they are over. But lately it seems there is always something stirring up controversy in such a way that I’m forced to admit an opinion. Or at least wrestle with the questions myself and try to come to some stance on the subject.
This morning I read the Book of Hebrews in one sitting. I like to do that from time to time so that I keep each verse in context and get the overall message. I’m always amazed how different verses catch my attention at different times in my life based on what I’ve been experiencing and thinking about. Today it was this verse.
I find I’m always internally asking ‘What is good or bad about any given situation.’ I don’t conscientiously want to be asking that question but I cannot seem to help myself. Sometimes in the shape of ’What is beautiful and what is ugly?’ Whether it be inside myself or in the environment around me. ‘What to feed and what to kill?’
I have another WordPress blog that is just about art. You can see more of my current and past work and the process of making art here at Creative Expressions by TJ.
This morning on page 14 of ’66 Love Letters’ by Dr. Larry Crabb, I read these words (it’s written as if God is speaking to us regarding the message of the book of Numbers): “You will experience terrible failure and crushing conflict on the road that leads to where I’m taking you, but it is the right road even when it feels like it’s killing you.
In My fourth love letter, I make clear that the road to life is rough. You will begin every new adventure in life with naive hope and excitement. Every wedding will begin with passion then move into problems. Every decorated nursery will receive a baby that will present unanticipated challenges. Every church plant, every new ministry, every small group that starts with happy hopes – everything you do, no matter how well organized and well intentioned – will run into trouble. If you are in touch with what I created you to enjoy, everything in this life will diappoint you, even the best spouse, the best kids, the best job, the best church, the best vacation.
And that disappointment will lead you to wonder if you’ve missed the right road, if perhaps there is a better, more satisfying, less bumpy road through your life. There isn’t, not one that leads to real joy. I wrote Numbers to tell you that. The road to life will expose you to terrible failure and crushing conflict. But only that road leads to the life you want, the life I give you.”
This was a good reminder for me as I enter the final days of preparation for my 50th Birthday trip to France. I have the hardest time letting go of the unknown and uncontrollable. I tend to go through life trying to prepare myself for every possible scenario. This trip is just a little window into how I deal with everything. ‘No matter how organized or well intentioned – will run into trouble’, I need to accept that and trust that this is part of being on ‘THE path to Life’, real life in a world that no longer functions as it should, with real people no longer loving as we were designed to love. But He is with me, He already knows what joys and sorrows and frustrations this trip will hold for me. My part is to find my balance between preparing and resting. I don’t need to be constantly paddling as if I’m going upstream nor do I want to drift with the current down over the waterfall.