“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
I’ve been struggling with something my whole life. For some reason, I’ve spent so many years and so much effort unconsciously tearing people down. While my heart isn’t like that at all, it was the result of many of my efforts. Being critical is a disease; and I’ve suffered from it for a long time. But something recently grabbed my attention and reminded me who I am created to be.
As a youth, my sisters and I used to call each other names. It was really all in fun, but that old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true. Even playful name calling can cut deep – especially children. Growing up with 2 older sisters was tough! I always had to live up to expectations. If performance wasn’t to their satisfaction, they’d let me know – usually with a knuckle punch to the arm we knew as a “froggy.” Later after they had moved out, I replaced their criticisms with those of my own. I was so hard on myself, constantly beating myself up if I messed up at all!
Then I got married and began being overly critical of my wife. It almost drove her away, and in many ways destroyed her spark. I hate that now that I look back and realize what I did. Our marriage almost didn’t survive, but I thank God every day that it did.
And then God did it. He trusted me with two beautiful children. It was my job to mold them and shape them – to help them develop into the incredible people God intended them to be! Instead, much of my criticism did exactly the opposite. It made my son feel like a complete failure and my daughter become a perfectionist who, like me, is as critical on herself as I was.
Just who were we created to be anyway?
Well, when I look at that verse, I see something amazing. The answer is all right there! “So God created mankind in His own image.” What had God done in the chapters before He created us? He created. I can only come to the conclusion that we were born to create. But create what? When I looked up the definition of create, its synonym was build. So we were created to build – or to build up.
Then why are we so quick to tear down the ones we love most? Why do we not choose to create grace?
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan wrote the song You’re gonna have to serve somebody in 1979 when I was just 10 years old. I sang that song as my last performance at my church in Oklahoma City before moving my family to Tulsa. The song says it doesn’t matter who you are, rich or poor, old or young – you’ll either serve the devil, or you will serve the Lord.
If that is the truth, what choices do I have? In John 10:10 (NASB) it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So the choice I have is to build up or to tear down. For so long my actions were to unknowingly tear down the character of others, from my family to my friends to myself. I believe this is generally rooted in fear, and the opposite of fear is love. We were created to love.
Choose this day whom you will serve
Being who you were born to be is as simple as choosing to create life and not destroy it. To build up those in your life and those who cross your path instead of tearing down those people – especially yourself.
I’m not perfect by any means, but I know I’m better than I used to be. And it all started with an awareness of what I was creating around me. When I looked around my life and noticed that most of the people around me were being destroyed, it was a good day. Not because of the situation, but because you cannot heal or change what you don’t acknowledge. And you definitely cannot acknowledge what you don’t know. With that awareness, I could exercise my right to choose.
In The Journey Training, we see each class come in the door not knowing what to expect. Before the weekend is over, we see the creation in action! People loving each other without judgement. People building each other up! And it all begins with discovering what it feels like to be accepted unconditionally.
I’ve learned one thing thus far in life: if you want to see someone truly change, accept them unconditionally. When they feel that safety and acceptance, change is inevitable.
I watch people. Not the creepy kind of watching – just people watching. Lately, I’ve noticed how people react to and contribute to their surroundings. It is amazing to see this universal truth: Those who lead lives that are filled with drama, chaos, and turmoil seem to attract those very things. Those who lead lives filled with peace, love, and acceptance also attract those things. So what does this mean?
Sowing is a popular subject!
There are tons of books written on this subject. Just do a Google search for positive energy or sowing and you’ll see a huge list of speakers, books, and blogs. It’s a universal truth that what you sow will come back at you in spades! So think about it; where are you sowing your energy? How do you spend your time? What are you looking at on the internet, choosing for music, or choosing to read? Is it positive and uplifting or negative and full of darkness? Does it bring you momentary happiness that fades or does it fill your life with happiness that lasts? The truth is in your focus – what you choose to sow.
Reaping your own bullet
Once I fell into a depression. It lasted about a year and the cause was gossip. You see, I had spread gossip about someone which in turn hurt someone else. My personality didn’t allow grace for these kinds of mistakes, and this was a huge mistake! I had damaged a relationship between two people, and they weren’t even the subject of my gossip.
I was raised to believe that if you had gossip on someone, you had power over them. My mistake almost cost me my life. You see, at that time my children were the only thing that kept me from wishing I was gone. I was prescribed medication and started digging my way out of the darkness, but it eventually took a change of perspective and atmosphere as well. I’m sure you can relate – I couldn’t forgive myself. And I didn’t know what grace was, so I never even considered that God could forgive me. In fact, I really didn’t know God at the time so I really didn’t care…
For a while, I wallowed in it and couldn’t see a way out! And I sure couldn’t see how to find happiness. I was stuck; all I could see was the mistake. I surrounded myself with things, habits, and people that supported my view of myself. These things all confirmed my belief that I was worthless, nobody wanted me, and I wasn’t welcome. But these were LIES! The enemy wants you to believe that those lies are your reality. He is the author of deception, and he wants you to see no hope.
Grace is free – and frees others
Later, I met a man named Nick who taught me something. During his teaching on God’s grace, I sat in the back silently crying. I had never been taught that Jesus came to give grace and forgiveness. Deep down I knew that acceptance and salvation had nothing to do with rules, even though rules were what I’d been taught as a child. I was taught that to be loved, you had to be good; that salvation was hard and full of rules, and if you messed up you were no longer worthy of salvation!
What I learned is that the truth is that grace itself proves that we are all loved, and that we are all different by design! God made each of us unique – warts and all! Grace gives us permission to be who He meant us to be. Salvation isn’t about judgement, but about relationships! And grace gives us freedom!
Change first what you sow
So what does this mean? If you are struggling with your emotions, think back over the last couple of days. Have you sung praises to God, or wallowed in deep despair? Have you surrounded yourself with people and actions that lift you up or tear you down? Are you proud of how far you have come or still looking at how far you have to go?
My suggestion is to focus on the positive things, and on the positive people. Be proactive and bring the positive into your life! Be willing to do things that are out of character – go dance in the rain, find your inner child and do something you haven’t done in years – something that used to bring you joy! Start a gratitude journal. Find things to be thankful for every day. And then twice a day, and then every hour! You’ll begin to see the world differently – as God sees it! Take a step toward your dreams. It doesn’t matter how large or small. Take the time to sit and watch a sunrise, or take a friend to see God’s painting in the sky. Take the time to listen to the rain and notice its peace. Take the opportunity to watch God’s perfect timing. Give yourself Grace, forgive yourself; God already has! Know that God uses all things for good, and even your mess has a purpose; once you escape it, you’ll have a story of survival that will help others!
If you are surrounded with negativity, maybe a look in the mirror is required – a really good look! What energies are you sending out? How do you react to the small things? Are you proud of your accomplishments or a defeatist in the fact that you didn’t do more? Did you achieve your dreams or complain about how tired, sore, or time crunched you are? Do you have a mentality of scarcity or one of abundance? If you can’t see the positive in your life, ask someone who exhibits the positive traits you desire. And listen to what they have to say – really listen. Then, you’ll be a step closer to attaining the freedom you want!
Hundreds of people have found freedom through The Journey Training by letting themselves off the hook. Perhaps The Journey Training can help you begin a path of grace for yourself – and in turn set you on a course towards your dreams!