Thursday, 14 December 2017

C Columns

Consider This: Belong, believe, become: fit in

By Dan Woodworth

November and December are known as the holidays or holiday season in the United States. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the peak days.

How do most of us feel during the holidays? If you are like me, I spent many years feeling awkward. Let me explain. Because of not feeling like I fit in, I really did not enjoy the Thanksgiving and Christmas times. I felt like there were unrealistic expectations and pressure to perform to be accepted. Many times we feel guilt or shame because everything is supposed to be perfect.

As I have been praying, meditating in the Word of God and memorizing the verses where Jesus healed people in the Gospels and the disciples healed people in the book of Acts, I noticed something.

The truth I kept seeing and hearing was the people that Jesus healed by Himself and through His disciples felt like they did not fit in. In fact, those people would make most of us feel extremely uncomfortable being around them before they were healed.

Can you imagine a leper or someone who had a contagious disease coming to a church meeting? How about a blind person or a mentally tormented person? Or any other person who was healed in the New Testament?

None of the people that Jesus healed fit in. How many of us feel like we don’t fit  in?

In the Gospels, the only people who felt like they fit in were the ones who opposed Jesus.

Let’s look at His Resurrection Words in Matthew 9:9-13 in The Message:

Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him. Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keepingthis kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

On September 27 I received an email from a friend I had not heard from for 40 years. He saw my article in the September/October issue of Christian Living. He was asking if he knew me and that my name rang a bell in his memory. I wrote him back that day and said I was the first person sent to seminary from a newly formed church in Boise about 40 years ago.

During the afternoon of October 1, we got caught up by talking for two and a half hours on the phone. Both of us had similar experiences in the pastoral ministry. Both of us told each other that we never felt like we fit in.

Near the end of our conversation I prayed for him and he prayed for me. When he was praying for me, he started crying. Then I started crying. That spiritual and emotional connection we experienced was a very deep healing for both of us.

I sent him another email on October 2. Below you can see some of the content:

Thank You so much for allowing me to share my whole heart with you and for sharing your whole heart with me.

I feel like a boy in kindergarten who is learning and loving the alphabet and having fun at recess with a new friend. FREEDOM!

Since we moved back to Boise in January of 2004, I have had to stand alone “covering” My Most Beautiful Beloved Bride, Irene.

Now I feel “covered” by you. Your love, grace, mercy, compassion, peace and joy havebrought real safety and security to me.

I feel like I can relax with you as Faithful Friend. You have my back.

He emailed me back on October 3 and wrote:

You leave me speechless, edified, exhorted, and comforted.

Those simple words brought deep healing to my spirit and emotions.

I felt like I Belong. I felt like I Believe. I felt like I can Become.

I believe with my whole heart that He wants you to experience the same thing!

My spiritual mentor and pastor for 26 years, Ann Wright, went to heaven on May 5, 2003. About a week before she was called home, she told her daughter that I was strong enough and she did not need to cover me anymore.

From that point 14½  years ago until I received the email I previously described, I havegrown by standing in the love and grace of our Lord. He has empowered me to stand in the victory of His crucifixion and resurrection. Many times I have had to stand alone. So have many of you.

When my Faithful Friend started praying for me after we reconnected in the first email on September 27, I finally realized why I have felt like I have not fit in. Our Overcoming Living Lord revealed to me that He created me not to fit in. I saw that I can be who He created me to be. If my values don’t fit with a person or group, I am betraying myself by trying to fit in.

Most of us have attempted to fit in. We can choose not to spend our time or energy doing that stress anymore. We can let our Living Lord help us find people who can earn our trust and respect our values.

Dr. Brene’ Brown, a research professor of social work from the University of Houston, is an expert in the areas of courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame. She has the God-given ability to express in clear, concise and compelling words what I have felt in my heart for years.

I believe she is a prophetess to the world and the Church. She has proven through research and her own personal healing journey that we have tried to perform to please people so we can be accepted.  

In her newest book, “Braving the Wilderness,” she proclaims powerfully that:

True belonging is a spiritual practice and it’s about ability to find sacredness in both being a part of something, but also the courage to stand alone.

If you need me to be someone different than who I am, it’s not gonna be successful.

Our worth and our belonging are not negotiated with other people. We carry those inside our hearts.

Choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast and easy.

There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone somewhere will say, Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness. This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, I am the wilderness. People are afraid of the wilderness, but when you get out there you’ll find some people like us out there and it’s so free.

The reason I shared those quotes from Brene’ Brown is because I believe vulnerability is a critical aspect of life that we need to explore in the Church. Courage requires vulnerability. Shame is driven out through vulnerability.

So many believers are trapped in shame because of fear. We are afraid to let people know how we really feel because we feel they will reject us.

Perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

Jesus gave us a new commandment that supersedes all of the others. Listen to His Loving Wonderful Words in John 13:34-35 in The Message:

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.

How does Jesus love us? He loves us as we are! Then He transforms us as we experience His perfect love.

If we love each other the way He loves us, we don’t have to fit in! We can BE!

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does notdemand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It doesnot rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLB)

This Thanksgiving and Christmas let the Holy Spirit lead you to the right people at the right place in His healing transforming time to fulfill His perfect plan!

Let Him, and safe people He has chosen for you, love you and heal you. Then do the same for someone who feels like they don’t fit in.

We can choose to embrace Thanksgiving and Christmas as a celebration of His love forus, in us and through us!

Belong – Believe – Become!

Dr. Dan Woodworth earned his Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree from the King's University in Los Angeles in 2009. His passion is to encourage and empower people withthe transforming power of hope and healing to become all they are created to be. He and his beautiful bride, Irene, have planted three churches. They are in the process of creating a cross/cultural, cross/generational healing community solving pressing problems in Boise and beyond. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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