That Festering Wound

Cracked Doll Face FREE

THAT FESTERING WOUND

   When I was a kid, I had a habit of skinning my knees, after which the same routine would follow: I would cry, mom would wash the wound, smother it in mercurochrome and put a bandage on it. But then somehow the bandage would come off (I have no idea how). From there, you guessed it—I would get the wound dirty and it would get infected and fester.

   Did you know that can happen to our souls?

   If we become wounded and that gash is not properly dealt with, it can become infected and fester, leading to bitterness. And bitterness is a cancer that can lead to the destruction of our souls (mind, will and emotions). But hang on—there is a fix…

Causes of Wounds

   But before we can talk about the remedy for an infection in our souls, we need to define a couple of things. First, what would cause the kinds of wounds that can lead to bitterness? Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world, there are many. The following is a list of the most common, but it is by no means comprehensive.

  •  Abuse—mental, physical, and/or emotional. Abuse includes domestic situations, bullying in school or on social media, and chronic fear caused by any number of situations. Wounds caused by abuse of any kind can, of course, run the gamut from occasional and/or relatively mild to frequent and/or severe. Regardless, the primary wound abuse causes is shame, which is huge. Self-doubt/hatred, fear and chronic mistrust are also possible consequences.
  • Betrayal. To be betrayed means that someone we trusted has misused that trust and consequently, relationship has been broken. And whether betrayal occurs between people in a marriage, a family, a friendship, a business, or a church (to name a few), it causes a deep and excruciating pain. This pain includes feelings of grief combined with anger and sadness. Betrayal is a tough pill to swallow because the injured party is often powerless to change the situation or to heal the relationship. That power is all in the hands of the betrayer.
  • Feelings of Inferiority. Notice I said “feelings” of inferiority. Our feelings of not “measuring up” are not the reality; rather they are caused by the expectations we or others impose upon us. If we compare ourselves to others in terms of looks, opportunity, social standing, income, family or any other thing, we’re always going to find those who have it better and that’s where the infection happens. Two of the ten commandments say not to covet your neighbor’s anything—spouse, house, job—you name it. That’s because jealousy, envy, and covetousness all cause feelings of inferiority. “What’s wrong with me that I don’t have that?” And you’d better bet that mindset portends bitterness.  
Symptoms

   There are many symptoms of bitterness but these several are particularly destructive: chronic and/or explosive anger, resentment, chronic complaining, blaming others, refusal to forgive, and an attitude of entitlement. I could take a fair amount of words explaining these but I don’t need to.

Bitterness boils down to two core beliefs: Someone else is responsible for my pain, and I’m entitled to reparations for my pain.

In other words, whether or not you’re responsible for what caused my pain, you’re going to have to make amends, pay damages, or make restitution for it. Bitterness very often expects innocent people to compensate for our hard times and if they don’t, well then, they’re just unfair and insensitive.

   I once heard someone say that their ex-spouse had failed to provide them with something in the previous marriage that they’d had to have. As a result, that person swore that in their next marriage, that deficit would be made up. That declaration left me with two questions: Will their new spouse be expected to compensate for a wound from a previous marriage? And will the new spouse have any say in that demand?

   A dangerous attitude of entitlement sounds like this: What I didn’t get before, someone else owes me now.

The Fix

   So is there a treatment for bitterness? Yes, but it’s probably not a quick fix and I’m not going to lie and say it’ll be easy. But if you’re fed up with the pain of bitterness, then you have two choices: deal with the temporary pain of the healing process or continue to live with the excruciating pain to yourself and others of not dealing with your bitterness. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but the truth will set you free. So…

  • You must forgive. If you refuse, then you won’t be free of the fruits of your festering wound: anger, resentment, blame, entitlement, etc. As some wise soul once remarked—refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Won’t happen. However, don’t confuse forgiveness with trust. If a person is not trustworthy, you can disengage and forgive from a distance. Forgiveness does not mean you have to trust them again. It does mean you have to be willing to say to the Lord, “Please don’t punish them on my account.” If you can say that, you’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s an act of the will. Don’t wait for a gooey emotion as proof that your forgiveness was sincere. Just mean what you say to God and you’ve accomplished forgiveness.
  • Stop complaining. Maybe you did get the short end of the stick. Maybe others do have it better than you. However, two things are true: Complaining will never be rewarded by God nor will it get you anything. Thanksgiving will. That’s why gratitude for what you have is so precious to the Lord—especially in the midst of hard times—because you’re focused on what He has already done for you, not what someone else has done to you. That’s why it’s called “a sacrifice of praise”—because it’s hard. Still, God deserves our gratitude, no matter what.
  • Stop criticizing. Sometimes bitterness causes us to have a critical spirit. This means that we don’t see the good that people do but rather we’re always critiquing them for their faults, errors, and misjudgments. We need to stop it. Look for the good in people and if you really can’t see any, pray for them. And pray for yourself, that you will be able to see it.   Everyone suffers wounds but sometimes we play the “my pain is worse than your pain” game. That’s bitterness. What difference does it make? And if we really think our pain is worse than that of others, do we really want other people to experience the suffering that we have? Here’s a fact: That won’t heal your wound.
End Game.

   I said that being healed of a festering wound would not be easy but it’s well worth the work. Who wouldn’t want to be free of bitterness and pain? And once we are, nothing will be able to stand in the way of fulfilling the destiny to which we’ve been called.

   Don’t let a festering wound end your game. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Orphan Spirit Mask

Mask IV

THE ORPHAN SPIRIT MASK

   I used to work with a woman I’ll call Shana. She was one of those teachers who loved  kids and would slave over lesson plans to educate them to the best of her ability. She was a truly fabulous teacher. The tragedy was, she didn’t believe that. Not when she received stellar evaluations, not when she got rave reviews from students and parents, not even when her students did well on standardized state tests—which is no small feat. But still, she doubted herself. And why? Because Hannah exhibited many of the symptoms of an “orphan spirit.”

What’s an “Orphan Spirit”?

   An orphan, by simple definition, is someone who is parentless. Therefore, anyone—man or woman—with an orphan spirit is a person who, though they might have parents, was never properly nurtured by a father (or a mother, although an absent or uninvolved father is more common). And while it’s often possible for one parent to offer the nurture and encouragement necessary to fill that gap, other times it’s not enough. (I say this as a single mom so I’m not disrespecting single parents.) But a missing or emotionally-absent parent is not the only situation which can result in an orphan spirit; it’s possible to grow up in a family with a mom and a dad and still have an orphan spirit.

   How is that possible?

   An orphan spirit is caused by a lack of intimacy with a father figure (or mother). However, we often discuss an orphan spirit in terms of a missing or distant father because that scenario is, sadly, too common in our society. For the sake of simplicity in this article, I’ll refer primarily to fathers but these circumstances would also apply to mothers. I’ve seen people whose mother was not functioning as a nurturer so they feel like orphans as well.

   So how does a person know whether they’re suffering from an orphan spirit? There are many symptoms and while it’s possible to exhibit any one of these and not have an orphan spirit, a majority of symptoms might invite a closer look…

Symptom #1: Relating to Dad

   Since the root cause is a lack of real intimacy with a dad, one of the indicators of that  would be an inability or lack of desire to address or refer to one’s father in intimate terms like “dad,” “daddy” or “papa.” “Father,” which is less intimate, might be the only acknowledgement or reference it feels appropriate to make—or even that one can bring themselves to say. This inability to really feel as though a father is a “dad” or “daddy” might then make it very difficult for a person with an orphan spirit to address God as “Abba.” If a person feels distant from their own father, it might be that they feel a distance between themselves and God as well.

   This is a problem if an orphan spirit can only feel a limited level of intimacy with God and everyone else they know is talking about their wonderful, amazing, fulfilling relationship with Him. This discrepancy can make that person feel as though God is rejecting them because they’re just “not feeling” it. And this can lead to all kinds of problems, including a deep-seated fear of condemnation. One with an orphan spirit may even need constant reassurance that he or she is really “saved.” Because they can’t “get there” in terms of intimacy with God, they may feel like they’re lost.

   If that’s you, you are not lost and God loves you—whether you can feel it or not.

   The first step in healing this symptom is simply to say to God, “I believe you love me whether I can feel it or not, and I’m trusting you to help me get there.” Recognize that God understands that one with an orphan spirit has been hurt by someone else—and that may well be a generational thing—so be assured: it’s not your fault and The Lord is not going to punish you for it.

Symptom #2: A Continuous Need for Reassurance

   People with an orphan spirit who did not receive encouragement from a parent will feel a need to find it elsewhere. We all need encouragement. But because a person with that spirit never received it and therefore lacks confidence, they may feel that they don’t measure up and so they need someone to reassure them that they do.

   Let’s be clear: People with orphan spirits inhabit all walks of life, including the very successful. It’s not that people with these insecurities never achieve; they often do. But it’s because they’re often driven to succeed, hoping that success will make them finally feel whole. By “whole,” I mean accepted and “normal.”

   Feeling “normal” is a struggle for folks with an orphan spirit. Especially in churches where often families are intact and the constant message is that a nuclear family is the only “normal” kind of family. So let’s be clear about something else: while a nuclear family is optimal for all of the reasons we’re discussing, one is not abnormal because they didn’t grow up in one, big, happy family. Period.

Symptom #3: Shyness or Isolation?

   Another painful symptom of an orphan spirit is shyness. This usually occurs because orphan spirits, often unconsciously, simply do not believe that people will like or accept them. As a result, they can feel that they don’t belong and they wait for others to reach out and prove to them that they do. The problem is that sometimes (many times?) others simply don’t realize that the person is suffering from a feeling of “not belonging” because those longing for relationship never reach out to be included in various activities.

   I remember once having a conversation with one of my sons who is very outgoing and makes friends easily and that day it hit me why. I said to him, “You just expect that people are going to like you, don’t you?” He looked at me like I had two heads and said, “Well, yeah.”

   Now, I’m not saying that everyone who’s shy has an orphan spirit but it is a symptom for those who do. As someone who is somewhat reticent by nature, it was a real revelation to me that it was okay to have the viewpoint that my son has. It’s okay to reach out to others and seek to be included. In fact, that’s the key to removing the orphan spirit mask.

Is There Hope?

   There’s always hope. And for those with an orphan spirit, sometimes it simply helps to diagnose the problem and know that you’re “normal” and that you’re “feelings” are not the reality of the situation. People do want to get to know you and you do have gifts and talents, whether others recognize you for them or not. And the most important thing is this: it doesn’t matter how you “feel.”

   You are loved.

What’s In the Box?

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

WHAT’S IN THE BOX??

   Ever watch a kid take a shiny new toy out of a box, toss it aside and then proceed to play with the box? We laugh hysterically and then try to convince the kidlet to play with the toy instead. Why? Because we know that the toy really is so much better than the box—especially if we’ve spent precious time and hard-earned money to make that toy happen. So why can’t the kid simply see that the toy is much more valuable than a lump of cardboard that eventually rips, tears, and wears out?

   Why can’t we see that?

The Hard Truth

   We “play with the box” all the time. We would never admit it but we often don’t see what’s on the inside of a person—their heart—but rather we focus on the shiny box that the person comes in. For example, who would make the better pastor? The slick, well-educated, well-dressed guy who knows all the big vocab words and can preach in fluent Greek? Or the unassuming guy who’s never been to Bible college, prefers Levis to Ralph Lauren, and occasionally even splits an infinitive or two while preaching? It could be either one because here’s the issue—it’s the heart, not the packaging, that matters.

   BoxDisclaimer: Now I am not, not, NOT saying that the well-dressed, put-together person doesn’t have a heart of gold or that he average, not-outwardly-sparkly person automatically has a heart like David. The fact is, God has nothing against nice packaging; David was a pretty good-looking guy if I’m reading the right translation. What I am saying is that the heart is the crux of the matter, and the “box” doesn’t always tell the whole story—one way or the other.

Want Proof?

   Take Einstein, for example. We’ve all seen pics of him. So who would think, at first glance, that the guy with the wild, unkempt hair, rumpled clothes, and messy office would turn out to be one of the most brilliant minds in all of human history? (And no, despite what Ancient Aliens’ scientists say, Einstein was not an extraterrestrial from another planet.)

   But go back even further. When Einstein was just a kid in grammar school, the package wasn’t looking so good then, either. In school, his teachers didn’t think he’d ever amount to anything other than a failure. He couldn’t do simple math nor could he even make change from a dollar bill. But it turns out that what was “in the box” was so much more intelligent than the average humanoid that Einstein couldn’t comprehend our infant math.

   Who knew?

Those who took the time to look inside the box. They knew.

Other Boxes…

   So… how else do we honor the “box” more than its contents? Let us count the ways…   Assuming both candidates are equally qualified, who gets the job after the interview? Is it the smiley person with the most polished briefcase or the shy one with the biggest heart? Given that it takes a little more time than an interview to discern an inward thing like a heart, the outward package might win the day.

   Or which politicians get the vote? I’d love to be able to say that everyone educates themselves on candidates’ positions, but I’d be lying. There’s a reason politicians get stylists and makeovers and public-speaking coaches—because so many people vote for the “box”—the appearance of the candidate—rather than the character and ideas inside the box.

   Who gets the date? Enough said.

   Who gets the picture? The point is that the next time we judge the character or the capability of a person by focusing solely on the box he or she comes in, we should back up and take another run at it. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché that makes the point entirely: without a shiny cover, no one even picks up the book anymore. But what are they missing?

   Boxes wear out eventually. What’s in them only grows more precious with time.

Gold—Or Dust?

Gold Glitter

GOLD—OR DUST?  

    In 2014, Paige, a single mom of three in Colorado, fought to keep the upscale house and six acres she’d been awarded after a divorce but it wasn’t easy for her. Most times Paige worked two and three jobs to make ends meet. Still, those didn’t generate enough cash to pay the pricy $6000-per-month mortgage so she tried several small businesses from home, including a daycare center. Even so—you guessed it—still not enough $.

   Finally, Paige decided she had to do something different to make the money she needed and so, quietly, without confiding in family or friends, she adopted the name “Carrie” and opened an escort agency featuring services like dancing and stripping. In college, Carrie had earned over $400,000 a year while “dancing” so she knew there was a lucrative market for an escort service. And lucrative it was because at last Carrie was able to earn the kind of money she needed in order to maintain the home and lifestyle she and her children wanted to have. Sadly, however, after about a year of living this double life, Carrie disappeared without a trace.

   The night Carrie didn’t return home, her nanny assumed that she had been working late again as she so often did, but when she didn’t return at all, police were notified and a search begun. Eventually, Carrie’s abandoned vehicle was found but she was not—for five years. But in the course of the investigation into her disappearance, her computer revealed the secret which Carrie had taken such pains to conceal: When police began to track the large sums of money she was suddenly earning, they discovered Carrie’s escort agency.

   Carrie had found a way to make money—lots of money—but the pursuit of it had cost her everything—even her life.

Chasing the Dream

   Every day, myriads of people pursue their dream of making money, lots of money. And they do. They become rich and successful—which is not a bad thing—unless there is no end game in sight. In other words, at what point is the money goal realized? How much money is enough? Enough to pay the bills? To retire comfortably? More? A million? Ten? A hundred? More?

   Then what?

   That’s the question we all come to: After fulfilling our monetary goals, then what do we do? Chase more? And for what purpose? To make even more?

   Why?

   Is amassing money with no end in sight a goal in itself? If so, is there a point to that? The Bible warns that we “‘cannot serve God and money at the same time’” (emphasis mine).

   Often we think that we control our money but the hard fact of the matter is that money can control us. And that means that we literally become servants to our money.

   We think we “rule” over money but the Bible says that if we choose money over God, we “serve” money—which means money is our master, it is not our servant. And if that’s the case, then money calls the shots and we will do whatever money requires us to do. As did Carrie.

The Cost

   And that’s not all. Service to anyone or thing requires a cost, and that means that whatever we’re serving, we’re sacrificing for. We all know that serving God requires sacrifice; God is straight up about that and tells us to count the cost. However, serving $ requires sacrifice as well—and who thinks to count the cost of that? Did Carrie? I daresay she did not. Or maybe she did. Maybe she considered the possibility that running an escort service might entail a risk, but evidently she calculated it a risk worth taking. Still, danger wasn’t her only gamble. Carrie made other sacrifices for money as well. And so do we.

   What else are we willing to sacrifice for the love of money? Our time? The pursuit of bucks will cost us that. Our families and relationships? That’s an old story. We all know it happens—to other people. And that’s the big lie that we tell ourselves: “Those things won’t happen to me; I’m smarter than that.” What that really means is that we think we’re too intelligent to “allow” the love and pursuit of $ to suck us dry. We’re aware of the risks but we’ll avoid them. Really? How do we do that? Do we set limits on how long we’ll spend pursuing money—or does time evaporate and before we know it, decades have slipped into oblivion? Do we set limits on the amount of money we’re chasing—or does every new tax bracket require more dollars to keep up the lifestyle required to earn the next tax bracket? Expanding the business, the house, the car? How much money fulfills the dream?

   And then what?

The End Game

   After half a lifetime of watching folks on the hamster wheel chasing the dollars day after day, year after year, I have one question: Are we chasing money for eternal purposes—or just chasing it?

   The older I get, the more aware I am of one thing: Some future day we all will stand before God, each one of us, and offer to him whatever “crown” we’ve managed to achieve, accomplish or amass—and what will it be? Will it be something of eternal value, of “gold” and “precious stone”? Souls won, misery relieved, the Gospel financed? Or will it be what the Bible calls “stubble” and “rust”? Maybe billions of dollars, sitting in the bank, waiting to be used—for what? To build theme parks or office buildings or restaurants? Or perhaps we achieve fame and a worldwide platform to proclaim—what? The latest fashion trend or blockbuster movie or money-making scheme?

   When it’s all said and done, what will be our crown? A crumbling roller coaster on a rotting boardwalk or a thousand souls fed and then won because they were fed? Where are we investing the treasure we’ve been given? Or are we?

   “‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’.” Where is our treasure? Where is our heart?

   Whatever has our heart, has us.