Jesus Talk

catching anxiety in its own lies


WHEN THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD ARE PATHOLOGICAL LIARS


I have anxiety.

And actually, a lot of people have it. Anxiety related disorders are actually the most common type of mental illness, and for me, it usually takes the form of the voice of a pathological liar skulking around in my head. It doesn't always have to be huge things either. That's the thing about having the voice of a pathological liar living in your head; it lies about everything. Sometimes it lies about littler things whether you proofread that assessment for work enough or whether you were too awkward at that get together, when everything was really fine. But sometimes it lies about bigger things too, like whether your life is worth living or whether or not you're good enough of a person.


Anxiety lies about the little things and the big things. it's just what pathological liars do.


Something anxiety's lies often do to me is that they temporarily trick me into thinking I don't matter to anyone. It whispers into my ear saying that because this friend canceled those plans or because this person didn't text me back that they're just completely done with me. They're throwing me away and don't want to have anything to do with me anymore. It can sound a little overly dramatic, but it's one of the looming threats that anxiety holds over me, that all these people I care about are just going to one day pick up and decide that they're tired of me, and it's a terrifying cycle of thoughts. And it doesn't help that anxiety also often likes to borrow from the misguided words of the church when it hisses at me and says that people like me don't get to love or be loved because of who we are. It spits as it says that God doesn't love us and that we're damned to a life of loneliness while everyone around us gets exactly what we've been dreaming of. And it's those tiny snippets of lived experiential truth and the littlest fragments of maybe-they're-right questions that form the hooks that sink into me.

And I'll admit, it's hard and exhausting to be in a constant battle with the voices that populate your head, but the cheap trick they use over and over again is turning legitimate truths or fears into blanket statements, saying that because you don't have that relationship right now that you never will, or because you don't have it that you don't matter to anyone. It takes the truth that we're recipients of undeserved and unearned grace and tells us that we're the scum of the earth and that God could never love us. It takes all the honest truths that keep us humble and human and twists them just enough to make us feel like nothing.


their cheap trick is twisting legitimate fears or truths into blanket statements just enough to make us feel like nothing.


But the thing is: blanket statements are still lies, even if they've been inflated with partial truths that only apply part of the time. Knowing this, I think I'm slowly learning to see through the thin fabric of all those lies, and something I'm blown away by is that even as hard and arduous and emotionally turbulent as things like them can be, I'm finding myself so honored and often surprised that people in my life want me to be a part of things like meeting their significant others, witnessing their weddings, and savoring the final moments of their going away parties.

Though I'm often fixated on the things I wish I had, I'm finding myself newly reminded that despite what my anxiety says, I matter enough and people care enough to want me to be a part of those sweet moments. Sometimes I think to myself that perhaps this is a small and obvious realization, but it's also a powerful one that gives me another weapon to fight the voices and the lies that are often hard to distinguish from the truth, especially when they're so emotionally charged and play off the fears that already live in the recesses of your mind. This weapon of perspective and recognizing the lies for what they are is something that will need to be continually refined, but it's one that's already slowly proving to be effective.


And if any of them happen to be reading this, I just want to give a quick shout out to the following people who have, perhaps unwittingly, been helping me learn more about how the Lord sees us and the different forms love can come in. Maybe that doesn't make quite as much sense in writing as it does in my head, but I just want to say I love them and am thankful for them. So thank you & love you: Hannah Penz, Jasmine Bashore, Elise Krohn, Caitlin Gallagher, Ruth Schaefer.


Thanks for reading this post. If it resonated with you and you found yourself in agreement, please consider sharing and/or liking this post and subscribing to my blog via email. If it stirred up thoughts inside of you regarding this topic, let your voice be heard in the comments below. Let's talk about this. And if you want to get in touch about this post or anything else, send me a note!

Thanks for stopping by!

fame & fortune

img_2911.jpg

Want to hear a confession of mine? There are so many days when I feel like so many of the things I do aren’t worth it anymore, that so much of it doesn’t have a point because it’s not “making an impact,” or maybe just not in the way I might expect it to. There are days when I wonder why I still keep up this blog, why I still write my famously long (and sometimes dramatically pensive) captions on my Instagram account, or why I have my separate Facebook page for my blogging and writing. There are days why I wonder why I still write at all, why I did NaNoWriMo when the chances of actually being a published novelist aren’t always the highest. And these are thoughts that most creatives probably have once in a while.

Because you know what the real, selfish reason is for all that? It’s that we wonder why we’re not wildly successful yet. We wonder why with all the hard work we’re putting into whatever we’re passionate about, why we aren’t famous yet. We wonder why we’re not the next big musician or New York Times Bestselling novelist. And we wonder all those things because that’s how we’ve been so conditioned to view success and to view influence.

 

We wonder why we aren't famous yet.

 

This is what society tells us.

It’s not good enough unless you’re photographing Fashion Week. It’s not good enough unless your novel gets a movie deal. It’s not good enough unless you’re designing for an international company. It’s not good enough unless you have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. It’s not good enough unless it gets enough likes. It’s not good enough unless it goes viral on Twitter. It’s not good enough unless…fill in the criteria here. And by extension, it tell us that it’s not worth it or that it doesn’t matter, because it won’t be good enough unless it fits into one of those boxes.

 

Society tells us it's not good enough unless you have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram.

 

And it’s hard to keep creating when the world’s standards of evaluating the worth of your art are so different from God’s standards of evaluating it. He didn’t necessarily give us our creativity or the gifts we have to become famous or to go viral on social media. That might happen, and if so, we then have to bear the responsibility of that platform, but that’s never been the goal of why we create.

We create because we’ve been made in His image as the Creator. That’s why we have the ability to craft stories, make images, and string together melodies. It’s all because it reflects on Him and the little pieces of His essence that He’s placed into each and every one of us. In reality, maybe it’s better than more of us aren’t famous, because that can be so distracting and take our eyes off the One who truly deserves all the fame this entire little planet hurtling through space can muster. It should all really be for Him, but some of the creative climate has robbed so much of that from Him, telling us that it should be us getting all that glory.

 

But that's never been the goal. We create because we've been made in His image as the Creator.

 

But the truth of that matter is that whatever we create should remind us, subtly or overtly, of where that desire and magic of creation comes from. And the underlying message then is that it is good enough, whatever you’ve created.

 

You're good enough.

 

Your art is good enough. Your writing is good enough. Your music is good enough. Your images are good enough. Your design is good enough. Your copy is good enough. It’s all good enough, because the point of it all isn’t to make us famous, but to remind us that all of our creating flows out of the one Creator who gives us the ability to do it all.

So keep creating. It's good enough. You're good enough.

when you run out of plans

At any given point in life, there's bound to be quite a bit going on (or maybe that's just my life, but I have a sneaking suspicion that's not the case). And I suppose "quite a bit going on" can be taken to mean a myriad of things, but rightfully so. It could be difficult things. It could be wonderful things you've been waiting for. Or it could just be things in general that aren't necessarily good or bad, just things that happen that add another dimension to your daily existence, for better or worse. Honestly, I was almost hoping that my life would go the route of becoming one of those boring adult lives where nothing really happens over the course of several months and you just go to work, go home, occasionally see friends, and everything remains stable for the foreseeable future. But that hasn't really happened yet. For the time being, it seems like there's still a number of random events and "life things" cropping up at every twist and turn, and that's been a struggle as of late. At the same time, something I've been seeing is that with so many new things around every corner, old songs have started taking on new meanings for me.

For the majority of our lives, I think we have most things nicely planned out for us, with a set structure that allows us to know what to expect from life for the most part. Up until the moment we graduate from college (or perhaps high school for some), we have a plan we can fall back on it, because life tends to follow a linear pattern. But after that, I think many of us are taken off guard by the fact that a lot of that structure evaporates once we enter what so many millennials affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) call "the real world."

At that point, things become a lot less certain, because the more or less straight line that's been painted on the ground for us to follow usually ends there. We emerge in this big world without a clear sense of what to do, or at least I feel like I did, and we're forced to rely on God more than we perhaps ever needed to before arriving at that place.

Because of that new reliance, I've found that the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) has really begun to hit a lot closer to home. Maybe it's just because we don't necessarily take worship songs for what they mean a lot of the time, but I feel like I didn't quite understand what the song was really saying until just recently in my life. And it's saying a lot of scary things that are hard to actually mean when you sing the song I think.

If you think about it, what does it really mean to say, "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you might call me?"

That's a crazy thing to say, especially when so many of us, and especially myself, like to have that clear cut certainty about where our lives our going and what our next step is. And perhaps this is even scarier and more powerful when God has already revealed to us what that next step is supposed to be or where our lives are going, but the seeming reality of the world and our life circumstances makes that seem so daunting or unrealistic. It's easy to sing that line, but it's a lot harder to take a hard look at life when our trust in God is reaching our borders and say "Okay, God, I'm here at the edge of my comfort zone. I don't know where I'm going or how You're going to make this work, but I trust you to let me walk upon the water to where you're calling me."

That's crazy. That's scary. That's not easy, especially when we hit harder points and start to sink into the water a little. Suddenly, it's not just a line in a song anymore; it's real life and we have to really mean what we're saying, which is something I think a lot of us aren't prepared for, to really ask God for that faith. At least, I know that I wasn't prepared for it when I reached this point of life, and maybe that's why this song suddenly seems so real.

Some Saturday reflections for you...

setting sail from ephesus

I feel like this is probably a super millennial thing to say, but the transition to the adult world has been pretty jarring over the past few weeks. My college student body isn’t used to getting up at 6am to make it to work at 7:45am and then going to bed early to do it all over again, and my mind isn’t accustomed to all the new routines and mental switches I have to make during the day. All of that being said, it hasn’t been too rough yet, but I think one of the hardest things for me was also one of the more cliche things you could probably say about leaving college and starting to work full time: I honestly miss Bethel so much, and not necessarily specific friends or specific people at Bethel (though I definitely do miss all my friends and everything SO much; don’t get that mixed up, haha). But it’s more the sense that Bethel really did become my second home over the course of my three years there and it was so bittersweet to graduate and leave. I actually applied to a couple jobs at Bethel as graduation was coming up just to see if I could stick around a little longer, and as my job search got longer and more tedious over the summer, I actually started to get upset about the fact that I wouldn’t be going back (now that fall has rolled around, it’s more like tears and a lot of emotions, lol).  

Currently, I work in the office at a charter school in St. Paul, and even though I do really like it, there’s still a large part of my heart and soul that misses Bethel and aches to be back there this fall, coupled with the fact that so many of my closest friends are still seniors there. At the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given moment is exactly where God wants us to be for that season of life. That’s something that was hard for me to accept, being in a place where I maybe didn’t want to be, and something that I’m still working on and through during this period of so much change and adaptation to a different world, a different schedule, a different mindset, and a different group of people that I find myself spending the majority of my days with now. But I still cling to the promise that God never has us walk through specific corridors of life in vain, and right now, as much as I might not like it, I know that where I am is exactly where He wants me to be.

 

But at the same time, maybe just as an encouragement to me (today was the first day of school at work, and it was a crazy, hectic, draining day), God seems to have reaffirmed that eventually my desire to return to Bethel will be fulfilled at some point in the not too distant future, prompting some ugly tears from me in my bedroom circa 8:30pm tonight. This promise came through a section of Acts 18 I was reading. In it, Paul has been moving all over, preaching and teaching in various cities as the Spirit led him. Right around verses 20 & 21, he’s leaving Ephesus and it says that the people asked him to stay with them a little longer but that he declined because he felt the Lord calling him to continue traveling and ministering elsewhere at that point in his life.

 

However, it also says this: But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. – Acts 18:21

 

In all of my weariness and also maybe bitterness about not being back at Bethel this fall, I think this was probably one of the gentlest ways that God could’ve encouraged me and told me to keep at it for this stage of life. And maybe that promise seems like a stretch, but I also think that’s the way that God tends to operate and maybe what He meant when He promised that His word would always be relevant to us, over the course of all of time.

 

Throughout my time at Bethel, Ephesians was always a go-to book for me, and it was also the first time in my life I could actually say I had a favorite book of the Bible. I still want a tattoo eventually to commemorate two of my favorite verses from it (v. 20-21 also super not coincidentally, because that’s how God likes to roll), and it quickly became a home base of sorts in the Bible, just like Bethel became a second home to me, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and physically. So, it seems just like God to sneak this reminder and promise into my day just before bed after a day where I honestly questioned whether I’d be able to make it through the whole year working at this school where every day just seems to suck all the energy right out of me. It’s seriously mind blowing how God does that, how He speaks to us when we’re at our lowest that bring tears to our eyes and an nodding affirmation as we wipe them away that yes, we can do this, but only because He’ll be walking by our side the whole way.

 

I’m not exactly sure when God will bring me back to Bethel, and whether that’ll be in the distant future or whether it’ll be a little sooner, but I’ll be anxiously awaiting that day while simultaneously asking Him for the strength and grace to get through this season that He’s brought me to. I want to love and serve as much as I can right now, right here where I am, but look out, Bethel, because I’m coming back for you someday, and I’ll probably be crying buckets when I finally make my way back.

have we become the pharisees?

Currently doing some storyboarding for some more fiction I'm working on, but I discovered another piece hidden away in the archives that I had never published (seems like this is a semi-frequent occurrence). As I'm transitioning back to writing some fiction, I've been finding that it's taking me a lot longer to figure out how I want to write things and what kinds of ideas I want to use, but maybe that's more normal than I'm giving myself credit for.

With this piece, the primary idea behind it was conceived through a series of discussions I had at my Bible study where we talked about what it means to actually be a Christian in the 21st century, in 2016 and how we can sometimes read our own biases into the parables and stories we read in the Bible. Oftentimes, this manifests as us, as mostly privileged, American Christians, identifying more closely with the oppressed people groups described in the Bible rather than with the oppressors. However, something that we realized over the course of our discussion and Bible study was that while the Israelites and the entire nation of Israel have typically been the minority ethnic group and minority religion in the majority of eras, that's not really the case for most Westernized or American Christians. What we decided is that more often than not, our actual lived realities align more with those of the oppressing Pharisees than with those of the oppressed Israelites. Interesting food for thought for sure.

have we become the pharisees?

When I was younger and still in Sunday school or just in school for that matter, since I went to a Christian K-12 school for a long time, sitting in a sagging, scratchy couch in one of the many rooms scattered along the length of the Catholic church activities building that my school rented, I always thought that things were pretty straight forward. By the time I left that school after my sophomore year of high school, it was easy for me to assume that I had a lot of things about my faith and about the Bible all figured out, something that remains one of the most false thoughts I’ve ever had in my entire life. One thing that particularly sticks out in my mind is the way that we learned to categorize people in Bible stories. I always used to think that the Pharisees were the bad guys in the Gospels, but something I’ve been realizing is that they really weren’t, at least not at the time. No, quite the contrary, the Pharisees were the good guys in their day, and they were probably viewed as the ones who were as good as anyone was going to get.

The Pharisees knew their Scriptures. They knew the Old Testament law. They could probably recite entire chapters from what they had of the Bible without missing a beat. To make a loose parallel, the Pharisees were the pastors’ kids who were born and raised in the church, the kids that showed up to church every Wednesday and Sunday, the kids that were on worship team and hospitality team and everything else in between. Unlike how we were taught to view the Pharisees in Sunday school, they were the good guys, the good Christian kids of Biblical times.

And Jesus and His disciples? They were probably seen as the rebels of youth group and Sunday school. Jesus was the lone rabbi who may or may not have actually had rabbi credentials who went around Israel with his ragtag group of twelve, give or take a few. As far as we know, Jesus didn’t work during His ministry, instead living primarily off the support of his followers such as Mary and Martha and perhaps His family. When you think about it that way, it’s actually not too hard to imagine why the Pharisees and the other religious folk didn’t like Him.

Jesus was the unemployed fake rabbi wannabe who lived in his parents’ basement and only seemed to stir up trouble wherever He went. He took out the moneychangers in the temple with a whip, he hung out with the other good-for-nothings in Jewish/Roman society like the tax collectors and prostitutes, and he repeatedly broke the Sabbath, which, last I checked, was probably just as central to the Pharisees’ theology as being pro-life and saying that marriage is between one man and one woman are to conservative Christian theology today. On top of all that, he told them over and over again that they were being too legalistic, using all kinds of relatively nasty metaphors to get that message across. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Whitewashed graves. Blind guides. Jesus didn’t hold back when it came to telling the Pharisees exactly what He thought of them.

The more I think about those dynamics, the more I think that perhaps I would’ve been pissed at Jesus had I been living during that time period too, and that’s a scary thought to have, because I think that many of us have been raised and taught to identify more with the oppression and hounding of Jesus and His disciples than with the self-righteousness of the Pharisees responsible when I don’t think that’s the place that we hold in modern Christian circles. I think that if we’re honest with ourselves, it makes more sense to put ourselves in the Pharisees’ shoes than in those of Jesus and His disciples, if we’re being very, brutally honest.

Again, the Pharisees really knew their stuff. They knew what the law said about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath or the regulations stipulating this or that about ceremonial uncleanliness, and I think that’s really reflective of many of us today, myself included. Many of us were raised in the church, and we also know all the Bible stories as well as what they’re supposed to mean and what we’re supposed to get out of them. Along the same lines, we also know all the verses that tell us what’s good and what’s not. We know the verses that supposedly tell us that women shouldn’t be leaders in the church. We know the verses that say homosexuality is an abomination. And we know the verses that “clearly” state every other thing we’ve learned in church or in school, but because of that we’re missing the point, just like the Pharisees were.

Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not about the rules or the law or anything else that makes the world seem like it’s black and white to us. It’s always been about standing out and being different, with radical love as our banner, because that’s what Jesus did, even though it doesn’t necessarily seem to make sense all the time. If you think about it, Jesus didn’t have to heal or do miracles on the Sabbath. He didn’t have to be kind and loving to the tax collectors who were seen as sellouts to the Romans. He didn’t have to heal the Roman centurion’s servant. He didn’t have to do any of it if He really wanted to fit in with the Pharisees and live His days as the good Jewish boy that He could’ve been, but instead He chose to be radical in way that directly opposed many of the religious traditions and norms of His day. He prioritized people and meeting with them, touching them, and loving them individually over religious correctness, and I think that’s crazy. I also think that the saying is true that we would probably crucify Jesus all over again if He walked the earth today, regardless of whether that’s physically, politically, socially, or culturally and that saddens me, though I would also include myself in that statement.

Something else that I kept asking myself as I was going through elementary school and middle school was how all of these people missed what Jesus was trying to do and how they couldn’t seem to understand some of the most basic concepts that He was trying to teach them, but I think I understand now because our American world has become so similar to the world that Jesus lived in, filled with people who know the Bible backwards and forwards, who know theology like it’s their native language, who know facts about God and arguments for this doctrine or that doctrine, but also filled with people who don’t know what love looks like anymore. All of sudden, love looks like being right when it comes to this or that theological question and knowing all the proper motions to go through at church, because you know that your love for God is measured by how often you show up to church, or how good of notes you took at that last sermon, or whether or not you’re on the church or school worship team, or whether or not you support the right political candidate, or whether or not your views on a particular issue align exactly with those of your church. That’s what love and devotion to God look like in 21st century American culture, and I think that’s the exact same kind of religious atmosphere that Jesus was born into 2000 years ago, at least by my reading of the Bible, and that makes us the Pharisees, regardless of whether we like it or not. We’ve become the bad guys that we loved to hate in Sunday school, all without even realizing it, because just like them, we think that we’re the good guys.

In light of that, I think that we need to try and do what the Pharisees failed to do. We need to follow Jesus’ example and start worrying less about being the good guys and more about loving the way that He did, because that’s the only way that we’re truly going to transform and engage with culture, not by being right or good, but by being loving.