Over the last few months, and indeed if I look back further over the last couple of years, there has been assault. On every front of my life, there has been an assault of one kind or another. It has been ramping up in intensity, diversity and tenacity. It has hit me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In fact, the last twelve months have been the hardest I can recall in my life because it hit on each of these fronts continuously and relentlessly.
Many of us will attest to experiencing great assault when we are gaining ground, about to have a break-through or when we are about to take that next level of trust or faith. Virtually everyone I have every listened to on a platform – from a motivational speaker to simply a preacher – has spoken on this, from mantras like ‘no pain, no gain’ to ‘new level, new devil’ and so many others.
For me, over the last couple of years, the assaults started small. It was a comment here or a comment there; something meant to be divisive. An opinion from someone, for instance. I would ignore, turning the other cheek so to speak and let it go. Gaining a bit of ground within myself, the assaults started coming stronger. On some fronts they were addressed to put an end to them. On others they were ignored because it wasn’t worth the battle to confront them, and I would simply just walk away. Neither way seemed to put an end to them. It seemed like I either let the cancer grow by ignoring it or I chopped off a leg because of it.
I’ve seen people from all walks of life and beliefs throwing opinion and interpretation at the other. We all seem to see things through the lens of our perspective. And as my husband would say, one’s perspective is their reality. I am no different. I have lived a life of division, of longing to belong, of craving that real unconditional love. My perspective is seen through the lens of my experiences. My spirit is sensitive to the things that have happened to me, of where I have come from and the things I have yet to overcome.
I have stood back and watched the world. I have stood back and watched the church. I have stood back and watched my friends. Wave after wave of assault has come over my spirit and my mind. I sit here and say Whoa! What is going on here? That’s not right! That’s not just! That’s not fair! And it really doesn’t matter which side I’m on, because as soon as I think that I’m ‘a side’, I get a wave of ‘oh no you’re not’ run through me, and a whole bunch of reasons why that isn’t true based on my past, my experience, what I have or haven’t done, etc. I’m either on a side because of that or I’m reminded of why I can’t be on that side because of it. And it goes for both sides.
We shout chants of love, yet hate our neighbor. We say we want inclusion, then exclude. We believe we are one way and then find out through our actions that we are another. We people-please to keep people happy but end up losing ourselves in doing so.
So where did I end up standing? Confused. Distracted. Even lost to a point. Because both are right and both are wrong. And I cannot stand in the middle because the middle isn’t right either. The middle is lukewarm and in Revelation 3:16 it says that if we are lukewarm we will be vomited out of His mouth.
Now what?! If we are driven by opinion, if we are driven by our experiences, if we are driven by our perceptions, where exactly are we driving to?
I don’t have any magic solution for the world. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I have this:
My one-word for 2014 was Faithful, 2015 was Grateful and 2016 was Joy. And with 2017 being Focus, I am going to focus on the past three. Where I put my focus is going to change things. But it starts inside of me. It starts in my thoughts and in my words. My focus needs to be intentional.
If I am not walking towards that which I desire – belonging, love, forgiveness, peace – then I am nothing but a Pharisee because I am not practicing what I am preaching or hoping for.
One of the most vivid lessons for me in the recent past was when I prayed for God to show me how He saw someone that I was having a LOT of trouble remotely appreciating in my life and I was given Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The person I prayed that about at that time then became my husband.
When I shifted my focus off of him to who Jesus saw him as, I got a new perspective.
In the place, where that prayer was spoken, we were in no way loving to each other and we were not even a couple. I think I’m safe in saying that neither of us ever expected to be a couple or end up married to each other. But that prayer and that scripture changed my perspective of another human being, someone that Jesus died for even though he, at the time, did not know Jesus very well.
I’ve discovered this: it really isn’t about being right, it isn’t about my opinion, and it isn’t even about your opinion. It’s about my focus. It’s about where I place my focus and how badly I really want the things I say I believe in. It’s about grace. It’s about mercy. It’s about love. And it’s about love being able to change my perspective. Because love has the capacity and ability to bring understanding, and through understanding connection, and through connection love.
So, I am going to focus. I am going to focus on being faithful to my God and my family. I am going to focus on being grateful – being grateful for you whether we have issues or not, whether you like me or not, whether you agree with me or not; I will be grateful that you are either cheering me on or teaching me something about me that I need to know for tomorrow to happen. I am going to focus on being joyful – because in everything I know that God loves me enough not to leave me where I am or as I am. I am going to focus on those three things and through that, my world – the world inside me and the world outside of me – is going to be better place.
When I look at all that is distracting me, all the assaults, I need to ask what it is distracting me from. And I need to focus.