Affected By Truth: Valuing What Matters Most

THE VALUE OF PERSPECTIVE

As I’ve gotten older (now in my early 30s), I’ve witnessed the value of what matters most to me change over time. What’s more, I’ve noticed what changed those values for me was the cost of loss during those times.

For instance, I remember distinctly how, for years during my adolescence, spirituality meant nothing to me at all; I had other interests that were far more important to me than the idea of an invisible God who allowed suffering to exist in my life (Notice the acute selfishness of my plight: My loss was, circumstantially, more significant to me than recognizing and acknowledging that I was not the only person suffering in the world!). That was my unapologetic perspective at a pubescent time when I was experiencing ineffable emotional pain and extreme loss. In hindsight, what actually shaped my personal concept of God was an amalgam of variables: the Catholic school I was a part of but didn’t feel received at, the music I listened to and embraced, which boundaries I did or didn’t have, the religious but not-so-spiritual people I was surrounded by—and my personal translation of all of those variables (and more) through a rigid, hurt, and docile mind and heart. It wasn’t until years later, after losing more of what I didn’t realize I had, that I began to value what it was that I did.

INTROSPECTION ON TRUTH

One valuable lesson I’ve learned through some experience and maturation is that with perspective comes Truth: the Truth of what matters most. I’ve learned what matters most sometimes isn’t what we think it is in the moment, and that what we think Truth is in the moment we’re in is based upon where our heart and spirit posture is.

What I want to explore in this article is how our Truth impacts the manner in which we live our lives, and how Truth changes the way we view our lives as a part of (or apart from) others’ journey in life together. I believe the Truth behind this matter can drastically influence how we live in every moment.

GOD’S GRACE LIFTS US UP—THE ENEMY’S LIES TEAR US DOWN

I identify myself as a Christian. While I believe in God’s grace through Christ, I understand—though I have a considerably hard time believingthat I am a masterpiece in His eyes through Jesus’s blood on the cross (Ephesians 2:10). As imperfect and flawed as I am, it requires consistently surrendering to God for humility to embrace and recognize I fail, constantly, to put Jesus first in my heart, mind, and decisions. One could easily condemn me for how frequently forgetful I am, or for how many areas I have yet to mature in, such as in my self-forgiveness, criticism, and working through frustrations. However, we are not the judge, and the Judge who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth has grace for the humble (James 4:6).

If God, the Judge of all, has grace on me even after all of my fallouts and misguided actions, what could man think of me that matters more? One valuable lesson as a Christian who is hyper-aware of his shortcomings is to understand that the most powerful Being in existence wants what is best for me in spite of my sin, wrongdoings, and failures. For me, that message—that Truth—is empowering and encouraging, uplifting and invigorating. Do we take the time to thank God for His grace, for seeing us as white as snow because of Jesus (Isaiah 1:18)? Do we slow ourselves to appreciate His goodness in spite of our shortcomings?

If we do not, then we are listening to the manipulative, fruitless voice of the enemy in our heads more than the bold, whispering promises of God in our hearts.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD’S PROMISE TO RESTORE US

One of my favorite past times is reading a great book and soaking up some fresh knowledge to appreciate understanding something new. The books I would read were written by people about their own experiences, or about experiences shared by friends or clients, and the message/lesson would be powerful and moving; transforming and introspective. I found value in understanding how the perspectives of the people involved were shaped either by pain (I.e. Disappointment and failure) or fulfillment (I.e. Success story/overcoming “impossible odds”). The point wasn’t that the stories had a happy ending or that things always go well, the lesson was that even when life is arduous and challenging, there is something valuable to be taken away from the pain/suffering involved. That wasn’t and still isn’t always easily digestible information, but its inspirational truth has the potential to renew a person’s inner perspective.

These same elements are found in the Bible as well, but they are much more complex because, not only are they as relatable as they are historical, they are also infused with God’s incorrigible Truth: the Bible is so spiritually transformative that, even written two millenniums ago by witnesses who experienced God so intrinsically—it is still helping people to follow Christ today.

I love when Jesus enters the story (in the flesh), and not only because He is the main character, but because of the promises and the hope He brings. I love how every person He comes across is impacted in some fundamental way; no one meets Him without some inner ripple effect taking place: He heals, He forgives, He influences; He offends, He loves, and He serves. Jesus as God in the flesh never leaves someone the same once He has introduced Himself, and the Bible tells this story.

Do we take enough time to relate to the people who lived and told the story of how God influenced their lives? Do we embrace and receive, fully, the magnitude of the Good News Jesus brings, and the restorative power of His promises to raise us up as new?

If we don’t, then we are putting the weight of our purpose and existence into the flawed, empty promises of this world through the flesh, rather than the freeing, fulfilling hope and joy that comes with receiving the Truth of God through Christ in the spirit.

INFLUENCES OF THIS WORLD vs EFFECTS OF CHRIST-FOLLOWING

Previously, I would watch more horror films and listen more to darker rock music with aggressive, explicit lyrics because that was what I was drawn to, and that is what I sought out. What changed is that later on (in my late twenties), I began seeking more peace in my life and in my spirit. During this transition, I found a very practical way to find peace was to reallocate my mind and heart’s energy to more fitting, realistic sources.

In the midst of my pursuit for peace, I discovered that by not watching as many horror films, I no longer carried a heavy sense of darkness in my heart about the world, and I experienced less violent imagery floating around in my mind from what I’d watched. Also, by listening to more uplifting, light-hearted music, I came to feel more upbeat and relaxed; less anxious, frustrated, or bitter towards people and the world around me.

Even further yet, joining a warm, inviting community with authentic Christ-followers brought me to experience others in this world who believe in a loving, provisional God in Jesus Christ, and that their love for Him inspired them to live their lives in a different manner. When I joined the community, I found myself feeling less isolated from the world and more fulfilled in my desire to be a part of something meaningful.

Where do we spend most of our mental/spiritual/physical energy? Do we give ourselves to the plight of this world; to pain and vindication for being wronged by other hurting, boundary-less individuals? Do we consider turning to a different Source for grace, strength, acceptance, peace, and unconditional love?

If not, then we dull our spirits by exhausting ourselves on the yolk of heavy sin, rather than on the light and easy yoke of the spirit who wants to give us rest, comfort, peace, and passion for what matters most.

INEVITABILITY OF THE EFFECTS OF OUR TRUTH

How we define our Truth will dramatically alter the way we live our lives, the way we do or don’t express an appropriate and unconditional love towards others, as well as the way we view our purpose in the lives of others around us. Our Truth is that by which we see the reason we are who we are, the reason why who we are matters, and how who we are impacts the choices we make, effecting the people around us. When our truth is based on the promises of this world (I.e. money, sex, power, etc.), it is prone to be more selfish, narcissistic, cynical, envious, and boundary-less. In turn, the way we live our lives may be isolated, condemning, clandestine, conditional, and non-transformative. Whether we want to or not, our actions, whether good or bad, impact the other people in our lives; whether someone close, or a complete stranger. The importance of understanding the significance of the way Truth impacts our lives is the difference between how we love others (or how we barely even love ourselves) and how we deviate others from experiencing God.

If our truth is that Jesus is not Lord, and that loving others depends on certain parts of a person rather than accepting a person as different than ourselves (in a general but boundary-loving manner), then our truth is limiting us from experiencing God more fully, and limiting others from experiencing Him through us. When we can learn to realize, accept, and embrace that the manner in which we see our lives and the others in it is largely significant and therefore impossible to bypass, we will also grasp the pertinent nature of the selflessness in choosing to intentionally impact others in a positive way, because we will understand the ways we are also impacted by others‘ choices and their Truth.

THE WALLS OF SHAME: BLOCKED FROM GOD’S GRACE

How are we living our lives? How is our Truth shaping the manner in which we live? How can we be more intentional with people in order to unveil in ourselves the empathy and compassion necessary to impact them with unconditional love?

Though God is constantly extending His grace, we aren’t always ready to receive it, and therefore we aren’t always living in gratefulness for it. Instead, we sometimes fall prey to living under the umbrella of shame. As a result, the shame of our flaws ends up stalling or stopping us from extending God’s gift of grace for us onto others, and in turn, how others end up receiving us is the way we live and act through our feeling shame rather than how we act through feeling thankfulness and joy. This backwards spiral keeps us from experiencing Jesus in full, and consequently, this limitation prevents us from displaying to others the love we are freely and unconditionally given in Christ, which is given regardless of our shame and sinful nature.

Our shame is a lie of the enemy, not a Truth from God; God convicts, only the enemy condemns. The difference is that condemnation points out our sin, the problem, whereas conviction reveals the answer to the problem, and the path towards changing our ways according to God’s love and Truth. God’s unconditional love is more powerful than the enemy’s condemnation; only a person who refuses God’s love out of self-deprecation and shame will be less likely to comprehend the unlimited nature of God’s love, nor the immeasurable depth of His grace, to consequently act and speak out of love towards others in response to these blessings. This person needs to let go of past hurts that have convinced him he is deserving of such condemnation and worthlessness, which do not come from God—and to turn his heart towards God, living from the heart posture of gratitude.

HANDCRAFTED MASTERPIECE

What is God’s Truth for you right now? In what area do you feel God calling you to turn from the lies of the enemy? Which lies are you believing, and how can you learn to live in the Truth of God’s grace so you will not only receive His love, but extend it to others? I invite you to open your heart, drop to your knees, and humbly give yourself in surrender to God’s will for you and your heart. You are never a prisoner to God, but a masterpiece handcrafted to serve His kingdom with love, grace, forgiveness, the surrender of your spirit, and your obedience to His will. There is no other truth like the Truth of Jesus’ abiding love and perfect desire for us to be in relationship with Him.

What is your Truth?

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The Blessing Of Perspective After the Horror Of Trauma

“How might it have been?” 

Oh boy. This question could haunt us until the day we die. Or… it could just be static background ambience to a life we accept as is. How do you approach this question?

My parents divorced, many, many years ago—but I don’t often give the memory itself the time of day anymore. I’m aware of its reality in my life, but I hardly think about it. Their divorce is a reference in passing of a reality that I’m used to. The ramifications of divorce are my “normal”, you could say. The question, “how might it have been?” just ends up pressing on old wounds that are scars now. 

The only one who knows how life could go in all directions is God, since He is omniscient, or all-knowing. This could either be relief, or it could be nerve-wrecking, because some of the wounds in our lives are so traumatic, we just want to know what “might have been” in an alternative of this reality. “What might life be like if my best friend hadn’t died when I was so little?” or “What might have happened to me if I had applied for that job as soon as it was posted, instead of waiting all this time?” These questions haunt us because we see how life turned out, and we feel convinced our life could have been improved upon in some way if that event just hadn’t taken place. But how do we know? When we try to play God, we end up ruining the present by wishing it away. The present is all we have; there is no other life we could have lived, and no other memory we’ll ever make—other than the one we’re in now. 

I think for me, the biggest “might have been” would be my parents divorce, because the ripples extended far and wide throughout the years. There are many telling factors about my life, some which are too personal for me to share here, which make it very obvious to me that the divorce shook the entire universe of my life. To help you understand where I’m coming from, I’ll will say this: all that has happened to me after the divorce–every job I’ve applied for, every relationship I’ve tried and failed at, every state I’ve lived in, every person I’ve met, on and on the list goes– everything was impacted by my response to life after the trauma of experiencing my parents’ divorce.

The way I thought about myself after their divorce changed. The way I viewed relationships, and the promise of their future, changed. My perspective of theology and religion changed. My trust in people, and my expectation of friendships, changed. Everything I looked at and received into my soul changed because I lost something inside. There was a breach that occurred during the divorce that never left me; if anything, it left me damaged permanently. When my parents divorced, my heart became something I didn’t understand, couldn’t quite accept, and no longer recognized. The pain was very deep, extremely convoluted, and excruciating in more ways than I could explain. Not a hand touched me, but my heart was crushed. And what happened following all of that was my response to life became something like that of a guess: I was guessing my way through life, using the identity of someone I didn’t quite know how to be. Does this sound familiar to you? 

How might it have been? could be a holiday for me because of the alternatives that I could fantasize about. Do you know how many alternatives I have fantasized about–how many ways I’ve imagined how things could have been better? But ultimately, what good are they? They’re not real. Those fantasies aren’t my actual memories, those conversations and those experiences never occurred—they aren’t my history today. How much more remorse do we put in ourselves when we conflate the moment we’re in with better-case-scenarios? That only confuses us with a fallacious prescription of hope and permeates life with disappointment because, eventually, you see–we will blink, and the heart-shattering reality we live in comes flooding back. What, then, is best way to live on?

What I would suggest, as I’ve come to experience through my own life, is we embrace the blessing of perspective. What I mean by that is, we accept the the truth of our trauma, its impact on our hearts and lives, we admit that the pain we feel is real, and that we have been impacted by something severe. After that, we choose to see alternative realities as something we can write on paper, like journalism; seeing those stories as just that—stories—because to try to embrace alternative realities is to choose not to live in the only one we have. The one thing more painful than experiencing trauma is to make believe they don’t really exist, forcing into our minds that something else happened instead. The convoluted lies of such a sorrow-based reality plays only one role, and that is to plant the seed of depression. 

To overcome trauma, we must embrace the ripples of our trauma and come to see the life following the horrors of the event as a world that can heal. Coming to see the world in this way took over 10 years of my life to find, so, readers, this is something I’m writing to you because I hope whatever trauma you’re going through right now, that you might come out of your pain sooner–if possible, without rushing your healing time–than I came out of mine. After 10 years (but 22 years where God was just a word and not a relationship), my eyes were opened to Jesus, and, years more after that, my heart opened to Him as well.

Trauma is no stranger to Jesus, who was nailed to a cross to die. When I talk to Jesus now, I don’t feel the way I used to feel, which seemed more like a conversation with myself and a wall than a dialogue. But those prayers were prayed like reading words off of a page; it’s not that God wasn’t listening or responding, it’s that I didn’t have the faith to communicate with Him, and I didn’t quite have it in my heart to fully believe what I was praying for was possible through Him. I do now, and that’s what’s changed the way I pray, and, furthermore–the way I can hear Him responding.

Bringing up the pain and trauma of my parents’ divorce is to help you see that I am just like you: I’ve experienced something excruciating enough to want to make believe it never happened. But it did. There’s no going around it, and what’s unfortunate is how adamant I was about resisting that truth. But let me make it clear–I’m not justifying or suggesting we cling to our traumas or live in pain. NO. I’m suggesting we embrace the truth that the pain hurts, and then choose to allow what we’re experiencing to be our reality; pain as only the first step, healing and restoration as the last. 

Like I said, I found Jesus 10 years after my parents’ divorce, and my faith is what has reshaped the perspective of my life for the better. I believe my purpose on Earth is to help others see Jesus by being a light to them through my faith in action. In writing this blog, for example, I hope to bring others who have experienced real horror in their life to the loving embrace of Jesus. That’s where the most promising safety is. Nothing on Earth, below it or above it could ever stop the love of Jesus. That is why I want others to come running for this—because the promise is real, it is eternal, and it is free. Whatever pain you’re going through, whatever Hell you’ve experienced, Jesus understands. You don’t have to live in that place by yourself. Your darkness can find the light just like any other; mine certainly did, even if it took ten years and counting. Some people find hope after decades of running through life trying to escape the pain of their memories–never realizing that their entire world is one microcosm of pain fabricated as the reality of their present moment; like some fictitious middle-ground world where they can’t really live, but where they aren’t really dead, either. But thankfully, that world isn’t real, it just feels real because our minds are trying to cope with our hearts’ experience of deep and horrible pain. When we are ready, we can take a step back and see a bigger picture: the Truth that Jesus loves us no matter what pain we’re experiencing, and that His light is stronger than our darkness.

If you are experiencing trauma, my hope is that you won’t live in the “might have been” thoughts, which squander all of the best moments you could be having instead. Embrace the pain by seeing it through the perspective that it is only the first step in a process, and that the last steps are of healing and restoration. Pain is the repercussion of sin; restoration is the gift of faith in Jesus as Lord. Seeing the world through the perspective of Jesus as Lord and Savior is to see grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, and acceptance as made possible through His sacrifice for us on the cross. After we receive His gift of love through that act, our lives change, knowing this isn’t the end.

We don’t have to live in misery; we can live in the hope of tomorrow, knowing Jesus will come back for us, and we will live forever in peace, joy, and happiness. Pain on Earth is temporary, but emotional pain feels like a lifetime. Our minds experience time differently here, and so the trauma we feel can seem like a nightmare we never wake from. But invite Jesus into your nightmare, and watch Him light up your world with the hope of what’s to come. You are loved, perfectly and unconditionally, so please do not let your past be your present. Live for Christ, receiving His love for you. Embrace the traumas of your life as only temporary, and find the peace in receiving the hope of Christ. You don’t have to live in this bubble of misery. You can have joy, right now. Do you know Jesus Christ? It’s time you are introduced. He was a carpenter, He was God Incarnate, and He loved others, directing all the mystery and loving nature about Himself back to our God in Heaven, teaching that through Him, we can be made anew. That means that in receiving Christ, our hearts will be remade with the hope of having relationship with Jesus; our best friend, Messiah, and Lord. 

Trauma can fade away, and joy can be put in its place. Ask God to meet you where you are, and be transformed with His perfect love for you. Nothing and no one could ever take you away from this gift of love, and no other love is more powerful and fulfilling than the love of Christ. 

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Be lifted high, in Jesus name!

Faded