Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted: Here’s Hope You Can Cling to

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_

When I was an unmarried college student, I got a job working at a retail store in the local mall.

People that I knew would frequently come through, but I was surprised one day to see a good looking young man approach me. I recognized him as the brother of a boy I had known in my middle school days.

He smiled at me and struck up a conversation. As he continued talking to me for more than a few minutes, I found his attention flattering but began to wonder why he was lingering around me for so long. Right around the time that I began to assume that he was being flirtatious with me, these words came out of his mouth: “So, tell me about her. Does she have a boyfriend?”

I immediately paused in my shirt folding and looked to see where he was gesturing. My gaze fell on the beautiful young high school student that had just joined our staff. She had long, straight brown hair and a bubbly smile.

I felt a jolt of unpleasantness course through my veins. Though I had no interest in this young man and did not desire to “hook up” with him, I was flattered by the idea that he might be talking to me because he thought I was interesting or attractive. However, his comment underlined the real reason he was acting so friendly in my presence.

The idea made me freeze a little because I had observed flocks of guys around this particular girl on a regular basis, and it was hard not to be feel terribly plain and unnoticed working beside her.

“She has a boyfriend,” I said very evenly as I finished the last of the shirts in my pile.

His face fell and within seconds he mumbled his goodbyes and quickly exited the store. I stood there feeling slightly used and annoyed. Could he not just chat with me a few moments because I grew up near his family, and I had gone to school with his brother? Why was his only intent to use me to get to this other girl?

Although this irritated feeling in this particular incident was one I was able to shrug off within a matter of moments, I suppose that the reason the irritation was there to begin with was because of something deep within me that this situation touched on. A fear that perhaps I didn’t have what other girls had to offer.

A longing to be noticed and admired — even by somebody’s brother whom I wasn’t even interested in.

Leah from the Bible: A Woman Insecure and Unwanted

When I was a young girl, I was familiar with the story of Leah and Rachel, and here was my honest thought concerning God’s placement of it in the Bible: it reinforced my belief that it was important to be more like Rachel than Leah. Males loved Rachels.

I had a few Rachels in my immediate realm who proved this point. They were pretty, popular, sought after. Enough said.

But I never considered that the story in the Bible wasn’t to make insecure girls feel even more insecure. God’s intention in placing it there was most likely to show overlooked-feeling girls such as myself how to find confidence and belonging.

Let’s look at Leah’s story in Genesis 29. Leah was given to Jacob when Jacob didn’t even want her. Rather than the sister he thought he was getting on his wedding night, he got Leah. And when he discovered that his trickster father-in-law had made the switch, he was angry and demanded that he have Rachel. And there was nothing Leah could do to change the situation she found herself in.

She didn’t have a choice when her father, Laban, chose her to dupe Jacob, and she couldn’t get out of a marriage she was bound by covenant into, even though it meant sharing her husband with a sister that was the favored one, the one that Jacob loved.

So, as blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Lynn Cowell points out in a blog post, Leah did what any desperate woman would do, and she attempted to offer Jacob something that would make him love her. In her society, because a woman’s fertility was valued, she bore him sons. And with each son she birthed, the Bible says that Leah believed that the child would help Jacob feel attached to her. Three times, she did this!

It’s easy to look at poor Leah here and claim that we would never repeatedly engage in the same cycle of approval-seeking (when it clearly isn’t working), but that is exactly some of us have done a thousand times.

We continue to call the man who won’t commit to a serious relationship and make excuses when he never calls us. We continue to kill ourselves out-performing everyone at our job to prove to a hard-to-please male boss that we are a good employee. We think of ways we can dress better, do our hair differently, lose a few pounds to keep the affections of a husband who is distant and unaffectionate. And though our efforts don’t work, we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that if we just do [fill in the blank], we will finally win him.

Leah fell into this trap again and again. You can almost imagine her as she presented her newest newborn to her husband with eager expectation, but he did not waver in his love for Rachel. In fact, the irony is that Rachel was barren for many years when they were first married, but Jacob showed devotion and favoritism towards her even when she had difficulty conceiving.

Have you ever been there?

But as Cowell observes, there is a turning point in the story where Leah had a heart-change. She stopped looking to her husband, and she started looking to God for her love and fulfillment. In verse 35, after the birth of her fourth son, Leah said: “This time I will praise the Lord.” And then Leah stopped bearing children for a time.

Aren’t you just cheering for Leah here? She adjusted her focus to the One who created her.

However, her change of heart may have only been temporary. She began child-bearing again — it doesn’t expressly say that did this to try once again to gain her husband’s attention, but more out of competition with her sister.

Regardless of whether Leah changed her approval-seeking ways with her husband permanently or not, her heart-change (even if only temporary) did not change her circumstances. The Scriptures give no indication that her husband began to love her. In fact, it indicates that she remained unloved. When Jacob was afraid to meet his brother, Esau, later in the story, he sent Leah out in front. Rachel was safely positioned back with him.

But Leah’s best moment was when she found strength in a God who loved her and had a purpose for her when the world was unfair to her. It turns out that Leah was in the lineage of Jesus Christ! And, though the biblical account doesn’t tell us what happened between Jacob and Leah later in life, I’d like to think that perhaps Jacob grew to respect and perhaps even love this wife he initially didn’t want.

What we do know is that Leah outlived Rachel and was buried next to him (an honor not even Rachel had).

If You Feel Unwanted

I know if you are reading this and find yourself feeling left out and unloved like Leah, you might be wondering: Does this mean my circumstances will never change? I can’t answer that. I do know that God wants us to find meaningful connections in our relationships, and I believe that He can restore any relationship.

However, I also know that sometimes God doesn’t change our circumstances the way we want. Instead, He may change us.

The encouragement is that if we find ourselves in a challenging work situation or relationship, we can know that God has a purpose for us, and though we may not be able to change the people in our situation, we can change our own perspective and find contentment and belonging despite how people may view us.

For some of us, God may make it obvious that we do need to move on from the situation we’re in. But for others of us, God may have us stick out a stressful work environment, tough family situation we want to run from, or marriage that isn’t ideal.

The Real Lesson of the Story: You Can Be Loved For Being You

So the real lesson the story isn’t that I should try to be a Rachel if I’m not. The story reminds me not to find my sole value in the desires of a person because I may be sorely disappointed. God gave us male-female relationships for our enjoyment and fulfillment, yes, but if the male is our source, the one we look to for our sense of worth, we will find ourselves on shaky ground. We may find ourselves in an unhealthy cycle of striving, like Leah, to get him to notice us or try to make him love us.

God is the only One who can love you completely in the way that you need to be loved. And He finds delight in you, just the way you are! A better way to live is to be secure in who God made you to be. When we rest in the truth that God loves us, we find the strength and grace to navigate the relationships in our life in a healthy manner — whether the people in our closest realm see the value God sees in us — or not.

Carol’s note: Please understand that my intent in writing this article is not to encourage you to stay in an abusive situation. Please seek out the help of a Christian counselor or pastor if you are being physically or emotionally abused.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_ (2)

The teenage girl stands in front of the vending machine, a frown on her face. She scans the snack selections uncertainly. Several minutes tick by. She is unaware that anyone is behind her. I am a few feet back and notice her thin shoulders.

She has lost a bit of weight in the last year. She has a new boyfriend on her arm. He is not with her now, but even though she smiles when she is with him, I notice something worried in her expression. I see a bit of a desperation in the way she clings to his hand, attaches herself to him in her every spare moment.

She surveys the snacks carefully one last time and selects a bag of chips. I get the impression that she is choosing carefully — that perhaps this one item will be all she eats today. Although what I am thinking is merely conjecture — I see myself in this girl. No, not in the selection of Doritos or the rapid weight loss — but in the fear. The desire written all over her face to be loved. The fear that maybe he’ll find out she’s not enough.

And I know he will — not because she doesn’t have enough to offer — but because she doesn’t believe that she does.

Another Story of Broken Self-Worth

I think back to 18-year-old me. I am excited. Cheeks flushed. I am packing to go on a trip. A trip to see a boy that expressly asked for me. But as I pack, I am also worried. He hasn’t seen me in a few months. Does my hair look all right? Do I look too thin?

I have never flown across the country alone before. I combat my nerves for seven straight hours with each dip of the airplane. I have written dozens of letters to this person, but I have never met his family. I haven’t been alone with him for more than a handful of hours. I want this trip to be amazing. I want everything to be perfect.

When I get off the plane, I look around expectantly, but I don’t see him. After waiting for some time (this is pre-cell phone era, people), I notice that no one is standing around.

I walk in the direction of the other people. I don’t know where I am supposed to meet him. I am not even sure I remember what he looks like. At last, just when I am getting a little panicked, I see him standing by a wall in a sweater I would never pick out. I go up and hug him, but things feel awkward and off right away. He tells me that his mom bought him the sweater. I decide that I don’t like it. I keep my opinion to myself. Tacky sweater or no, this boy is the boy of my dreams. I figure that we just need a little time to warm up to each other again.

But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the whole visit, it feels like he drifts further and further away from me, and I can’t get through to him. He is distracted, busy. He tells me he is going hunting with his friends. He has a doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t want to walk outside in the snow even though I ask. He beats me in checkers every time and laughs at the way I try to lift weights. I feel stupid. Inadequate. In the way.

At the end, when it is time to say good-bye, he hands me a letter. There is no explanation in it — just a “sorry” that is vague. He tells me that he won’t be riding with me to the airport. He is going to sleep in.

I call him twice more — once when I get to the airport and once more when I get home. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk. What did I do wrong? I obsess. Was it the way I dressed? Talked? Acted? When he doesn’t call again, I let him confirm what I was afraid of all along.

Moving On: Finding Self-Worth in the Wrong Places

I start college with high hopes of stepping out as a new person — in leaving behind the past, but I am immediately pursued by a boy I don’t even like. Initially, I go out with him just because I don’t know how to thwart his advances, and I am flattered by his attention.

We enter into a relationship. But he, too, helps to dig my self-esteem further down. He is critical of me. One day when I don on shorts (I was already self-conscious about my skinny legs), he squints and tells me he notices some cellulite forming on my thighs. (I laugh now when I write this because I definitely had nothing like cellulite on my legs at the time. Now might be a different story!)

He flirts openly with other girls on campus, and he discusses different features of attractive girls in my presence. I feel insecure and plain in comparison. I put an end to the relationship. I make the decision right then and there that I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I just throw myself away.

Not too long after that, I meet a young marine. He pays attention to me. He is kind. He has money to pay for his bills. He doesn’t talk about other girls in my presence. He never makes fun of me, and I never worry that he wants someone else.

I am not ready for marriage. I am too young, but I say “yes” when he asks. He is going to have to travel a lot, and he wants to move to Georgia when he gets out. I think about how wonderful it would be to run away from my problems and be loved for the rest of my life.

But I quickly find that my problems follow me. After marriage, I find myself homesick and depressed. My husband’s love isn’t enough to convince me of my worth. I keep striving and seeking. I remember getting a break-through one day at the altar when I go forward for prayer. God tells me to forgive the boy who hurt me all those years ago (and I conclude later that that includes the others who have hurt me as well) — and He tells me something else: Carol, it wasn’t your fault.

The Question Every Woman Asks Concerning Her Worth

In Your Captivating Heart: Discover How God’s Love Can Free a Woman’s Soul, Stasi Eldredge asserts that women go through life asking this question: “Am I lovely?” The problem is that they take this question to the wrong people. I took my question to the boy in another state, the boyfriend in college — and I let them answer it for me. And the answer I got back was this: No, you are not. You are defective. You can’t hold a man’s love. Other women have something you don’t. As Eldredge notes:

You see, every girl is asking one fundamental Question, a question that is core to her heart. Little boys have a core Question too. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? All of that rough and tumble, all that daring and superhero dress-up, all of that is a boy seeking to prove that he does have what it takes … Little girls, on the other hand, want to know, Am I lovely? Do you see me? Am I worth fighting for? The twirling skirts, the dress-up, the longing to be pretty and seen — all of that is about seeking an answer to our Question.

What if, instead of taking our question to bosses or fathers or boyfriends, we take our question to God? What if we let Him answer it, and it is from that place of security that we are able to operate out of a stable identity?

Yes, I believe that God designed a woman to want to be noticed and pursued by a man, and it’s not wrong for us to want to be what Eldredge describes as “captivating” to that special person in our life. But what if we decide to see ourselves the way God sees us so it won’t completely derail us when someone doesn’t treat us the way we should be treated or offers an opinion about us that doesn’t line up with God’s?

As Eldredge asks in a book she co-wrote with her husband, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, what if the truly most unbeautiful parts of me or you aren’t the flaws others have pointed out in us or we have imagined in ourselves, but the belief in us that says we are not enough? What if the way we can be the most beautiful is to be us without trying to morph into a more polished, prettier, smarter version of us?

Because here’s the thing that I wish I had known as a young person, and I wish I could tell the girl at the vending machine and all of us desperate women unhappy with ourselves: that we have to risk sharing our beauty with others knowing that not everyone will affirm it or acknowledge it (Eldredge, Captivating).

But if we are firm in our identity and beauty because we are daughters of God, even if another person rejects us, they can’t convince us that we don’t possess beauty or worth. Because we are too convinced (based on the fact that One bigger and more important has already convinced us) — that we do.

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why We Shouldn’t Let Rejection Define Us

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (12)I was a classroom teacher in middle and high school for eleven years. A few years ago, I arrived early to my school’s faculty meeting. That was very unusual because while I enjoy being up in the morning, I’m usually not an on-time-in-the-morning kind of person. I was the very first one there, so I had my pick of a seat.

I sat down, and as people came in, I asked if they wanted to sit with me. The first group that I asked said, “I’m sure someone will sit with you.” Another pair of teachers came in, and I offered them seats as well. They replied that they were sitting with each other. Mind you, they could’ve sat with each other and with me. The seats all around me were literally wide open. I have not felt so rejected since probably middle school.

I texted my husband with tears in my eyes, careful not to let anyone see them. I told him the story, and he could not believe that I was dealing with adult mean girls. I have never been one to sit and have a public pity party, and so I went and sat down with another group of teachers in the front.

Is rejection a new thing? Is it just something women experience? The obvious answer is no. In Chapter 53, the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus was acquainted with our sorrows and that He was despised and rejected. He suffered the ultimate rejection when His own people that He came to save nailed Him to a cross. Then, beyond that, all his disciples, the ones He knew intimately and walked with and loved for three years, pretended they didn’t even know Him. Every single one ran away in His most desperate hour.

My story is of course a lot less dramatic than the story of our Savior being rejected. Besides the rejection story I shared here, I could tell you others from middle school or from adulthood, but they never would compare to what Jesus went through. But what I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t make us feel silly when our problems aren’t as big as His or as big as others’.

He simply cradles us and helps us overcome them. As I told my husband the other day, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my resilience, the ability to bounce back from rejection, but I don’t think it has to be that way. Let’s discuss some ways that you and I can overcome the pain of rejection and help others who are hurting as well.

Three Ways to Bounce Back from Rejection

1. We have to remember that in most cases of rejection, it’s not us the person is rejecting.

In my new job as a technology trainer, it is highly likely that the people that I’m training didn’t want to be trained to begin with. They are teachers who are overloaded, stressed, and trying to placate whoever is making the current demands. They may take that frustration out on me, but it’s not me they’re rejecting, and I have no right to take it personally. As a matter of fact, if I do, I’m only hurting myself.

John Bevere would call that opportunity to be offended “taking the bait,” in his book, The Bait of Satan. I have to make the same choice not to engage in offense when I’m rejected as a Christian. It’s really the message of Jesus that is being rejected, not me. I have to love people, as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44, even when they “despitefully use me.” Those are the people to keep on praying for the most, not hold a grudge against the most.

2. We have to realize that in most cases people don’t want to be the way they are.

They are rejecting us because they are rejecting themselves as well. If I lash out and I’m hateful to you, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t like in me. I will probably write more about this later, but when I was in college, I went through a major depression. I talked to my future husband Dusty in some ways that would have made any lesser man run in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t him I was angry at; it was myself, but because I kept repeating a sin cycle that caused my depression to persist, and felt powerless to escape, I “had” to vent somewhere, and he was the recipient of that venting. I know I’m not the only one who has exploded on others because of her own self-loathing.

Ladies, if you’re in that boat, there is hope. But while we’re getting that hope for ourselves, let’s extend it to others as well. They may be hurting and need someone who won’t run away, even when they behave badly and reject you.

3. It is inevitable that we will all continue to feel rejection, but we do have to be resilient.

If we are rejected and we hide from the possibility of being turned away, it will tempt us to build up walls that will prevent us from ever really loving people. We can’t love people if we won’t let them in, and we also can’t reject new people as a punishment for those who have rejected us in our pasts.

I love this Scripture: “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” These were the words of the disciple John, and he knew what it felt to love Jesus, God in the flesh, but he also knew what it was to be rejected and persecuted in the most intense ways for his faith. If John could be boiled in oil, alive, and then be exiled to a lonely island and still love the Lord, I think we can find it in ourselves to get out of rejection’s pit and love again.

The story of the faculty meeting will always stay with me. So will those times I was picked last in gym class (who lets kids pick teams anyway?) or the many times I’ve discipled people who later rejected the truth and turned the other way. But just because I remember those stories doesn’t mean I have to be haunted by them.

I can embrace the cross of Calvary, and in all my receiving of forgiveness, receive deliverance from the pain of rejection as well. Oh, and I can do my utmost never to make another woman feel the pain of rejection at my hands, because I know all too well how it feels.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (13)

Sweet Friend, are you feeling rejected? Have you been healed of rejection? The women on this site would love to hear from you and be encouraged or join you in prayer. Please leave a comment below or join us for a live Blab chat on rejection Monday, April 25, @ 9 or watch the replay.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar ‘Friend’

Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar 'Friend'

I’ve been frozen for almost eleven months now. Frozen in fear. It’s debilitating and it’s crippling and it’s exhausting. But, as sick as I am of it, I’m stuck. Or at least it seems that way.

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born two months ahead of schedule. I had severe preeclampsia, and an emergency C-section was performed to save both of our lives. I visited my little girl in the NICU every day for the longest month of my life.

She was so tiny, and to me, so fragile. She had to learn how to eat and breathe on her own, and I wasn’t familiar with how to care for a full-term baby, let alone one weighing 3 1/2 pounds. Her nurses assured me that she was one of the strongest preemies they had ever seen and that I had nothing to worry about, but I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time I didn’t see her strength.

I saw her feeding tube. I saw her IV and her blood pressure cuff. I saw her heart and oxygen monitors and I heard the jarring alarms when her heart rate dropped too low. All of it terrified me.

I knew she was a miracle. I knew that we were watching God form her before our eyes. I knew deep down that we were all going to be OK, but the spirit of fear that had seized me wasn’t loosening its grip anytime soon. When the day I had been praying for finally came and our little baby got discharged, I remember asking her doctor, “Are you sure she’s ready? Should she stay longer?”

The doors of the NICU were at long last opened wide for us to leave, but I’d become so comfortable there, enclosed in that small wing of the hospital, that I was scared to do the thing we were meant to do, the thing I had longed for — go home as a family.

Home we went, and our daughter was and is perfectly fine. She has excelled in every way, and now is virtually indistinguishable from a baby born at full-term. It’s me who’s not fine. I remember all too well the alarms, the monitors, the tubes and the lonely, sleepless nights without her.

I obsess about her health, my heart sinks when I hear her crying, and I fear getting the slightest thing “wrong” because if I screw up some awful thing might happen. Basically, I’m a mess, and when anyone asks me why, I point back to the NICU.

My paranoia understandably annoys those closest to me. Quite often, I find that I can’t enjoy time with or without my daughter because I’m too worried about her. This, naturally, creates tension for everyone around me. My family has been incredibly patient during my many meltdowns over the last year, but the thing about living in fear is that it not only paralyzes you, but everyone around you. My fear controls me, but my family experiences the bondage as well.

I’ll admit it — the traumatic events surrounding my daughter’s birth have become my go-to. The NICU has become my justification for agonizing over every detail of her life. It’s not right or healthy, and at some point I’m going to have to let it go, but I have no idea how to do that.

One of my favorite songs by Jason Gray says, “There’s no thief like fear.” And it’s true. Fear has stolen my joy, my peace, my sanity, my sleep, my health and my identity. Not only is fear a thief, but it’s deceiving. When you’re afraid for as long as I’ve been afraid, you swallow the lie that there is no other way to be. You cling to your fear. You justify it. You defend it.

I was in tears one afternoon at my parents’ house, trying to get up the nerve to leave my daughter with them for a while so that my husband and I could have some much needed alone time. I was listing all the reasons why I was scared to leave her, why I had no choice but to be afraid even though it was destroying my life.

My father, in growing frustration, was shooting down my pitiful excuses one by one. Finally, I said, “None of you … not one of you knows what it’s like to visit your baby in the hospital every single day for the first month of her life.”

My dad calmly said, “Well, you’re right. But it’s time to leave the hospital.”

It’s time to leave the hospital. My daughter had been given a clean bill of health and had been discharged for several months. And I had never left the hospital. Rather than allowing myself to experience the freedom we had waited for, I turned my nose up at the miracle in favor of the terror that something, anything might go wrong. That the other shoe would eventually drop.

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus, which is found in the Gospel of John. You may be familiar with it, but the long and short of it is that Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, fell sick and died. In fact, Jesus knew he was going to die, and allowed it anyway, so that God would be glorified (John 11:4). Jesus knew the outcome; He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, gaining all the glory from his suffering and that of his family.

And even though He knew the ending would be a happy one, Jesus still wept when He reached the gravesite, knowing and feeling the pain that His children experienced as part of God’s perfect plan. The Bible says that in a loud voice, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the grave, and out he came.

Here’s where I draw the comparison to my story. What if, when Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, the man had refused?

No, Lord. I’m too afraid! You don’t know what it’s been like. You don’t know how sick I was. I could get sick again. I could get hurt. I could die all over again. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to stay here. It’s too scary out there.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. But haven’t I done just that? The Lord had miraculously delivered me, in the nick of time, from a potentially fatal illness. He had gloriously rescued my daughter from my failing womb. And when she was strong enough and His timing was right, He had called her out of that hospital and home with us.

Only I had stayed behind. Physically, I’ve been home with her and my husband nearly 11 months now. In my mind, gripped by fear, I’ve been in that little rocking chair in the NICU, staring into that isolette at a baby much too small.

The reality is that God’s plan all along was perfect. My daughter was born early by our calendar, but not God’s. He saw, ahead of time, the sickness and the suffering, and He knew the purpose of it all. He allowed the pain and planned the miracle, knowing He would take the glory. And I, in so many ways, have refused the miracle in favor of the pain.

My dad’s words to me ring in my ears almost every day. It’s time to leave the hospital. Just like it was time for Lazarus to leave the tomb. Who am I to say no, to continue to live imprisoned when freedom Himself calls to me?

It’s time for me to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that is to obey the voice of Jesus rather than the voice of fear. The voice calling me to “Come out!” instead of the voice telling me it’s safer in the dark. So much has been waiting for me on the outside.

My little preemie, almost at her first year birthday, is about to take her first steps, and so am I.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Pregnancy Loss

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Shortly after I had a miscarriage last year, my father-in-law made this comment to me: “What you went through was a big deal, you know.”

His remark struck me as being of one of the kindest things anyone said to me after the incident. I could only nod. The loss of a child at any stage is a big deal, and it felt really good to have him acknowledge that and acknowledge me.

I had support from other people as well. A woman at church gave me a small gift on my first Sunday back. Another woman who had suffered a miscarriage earlier that year came up to me and asked me if I wanted to talk. We both shared our stories. Two friends brought me dinner and pretended not to be horrified by the fact that I hadn’t taken a shower in a few days or vacuumed my floor.

But there were other people who treated me like nothing happened. The people who couldn’t handle hearing any medical details. The people I needed help from that didn’t show up.

However, miscarriage is a big deal, and the worst part about it is that miscarriage sufferers usually suffer in silence. A woman who has had a pregnancy loss may feel ashamed. She may feel that her body is defective. She may feel like no one else understands. Miscarriage sufferers need support.

Even if you have never suffered a miscarriage, you probably know someone who has. And what they are going through or have gone through is monumental for them. Although their reactions may vary, they want to be acknowledged, noticed. Some may not be ready to talk about it, but my guess is that they still need to feel like people notice them and care.

Here are five things every woman should know about pregnancy loss (whether you are going through it or are helping someone who is):

1. Let yourself rest.

My first miscarriage occurred in my first pregnancy. It was an early miscarriage. I was probably around 7 or 8 weeks, but I still had excruciating cramping and pain and several weeks of “getting back to normal” after the miscarriage happened. Needless to say, I spent three solid days in bed. After being in bed for several days, all of the tissue passed, and the cramping stopped. However, the bleeding did not.

The recovery period was very similar to that which I experienced after my full-term pregnancies. I had light bleeding that occurred for several more weeks after the miscarriage, and then the bleeding stopped and normal monthly functions resumed another several weeks later. Even when I was able to resume my old activities and felt somewhat physically better, the grieving process was one that lasted for many more months.

I hadn’t told many people that I was pregnant, so I had the odd experience of returning back to church and work — and telling no one what had happened. While I pretended that everything was normal in my life, I felt very sad and depressed for some time. I eventually did tell some friends at work, and it felt really good to share what had happened. However, the recovery time, emotionally and physically, was more than I expected.

I have found this to be true of many women I have talked to: We as women are so used to being the caretakers of other people, we often don’t allow other people to take care of us. If we have always been in optimal health, we assume that miscarriage won’t take that much out of us.

I had a friend who began miscarrying at work on a Friday and continued throughout her day teaching. She kept popping Advil, left at her normal time to pick up her daughter — had the miscarriage that night — and then returned to work the following Monday. Suffice it to say, she was not able to make it through the day and was given stern orders by our department head to take some time off.

As she recounted this story to me, I was in utter shock! Her body and emotions needed time to heal, but we as women often don’t get the luxury of taking a break. When a miscarriage occurs, however, time is needed to let your body and soul recover.

2. Be your own health advocate.

As I mentioned before, I was extremely naïve about miscarriage. Had it not been for online forums and articles, I would not have known what to expect because no one had ever shared with me about miscarriage. I assumed it was something that would never happen to me.

While I was able to stay at home and pass everything on my own in my first miscarriage, I realize that it could have turned into a situation where I needed medical help. A nurse from my doctor’s office called to let me know that a miscarriage was inevitable based on my low hCG levels but did not really give me advice on what to do.

I never scheduled a follow-up visit or anything to see how I was doing health-wise after that miscarriage. However, in retrospect, I would advise anyone going through a miscarriage to view it as the big deal it is in terms of both your physical and emotional health. I would advise staying in contact with your doctor’s office — really watching and monitoring your symptoms — and throwing aside any qualms about going to the hospital if you are excessively bleeding or feel you need extra assistance.

With my second miscarriage, I was further along (11 1/2 weeks) and had so much bleeding immediately that I had no choice but to check into the hospital. I was a little embarrassed by what a mess I was when I checked in, and quite frankly, I didn’t really speak up for myself like I should have. I had one nurse check me in and then several more rotate through my room to care for me.

I was also scurried off to an ultrasound room and then another room for an examination. No one person was keeping tabs on how much blood loss I was experiencing. Although the doctor mentioned to me that I had an extremely low red blood cell count, I didn’t think to say how many trips I had made to the bathroom or how much tissue and blood I had lost.

At one point, I even had a nurse scold me for passing out, and I was too dumbfounded and weak to even counter.

Shortly after that, I was wheeled into an operating room for surgery, and I thought that my ordeal would be over. However, that was not the case. After the procedure, I was released even though I needed a blood transfusion. I did not realize this until I returned home and began to have problems with dizziness and a racing heartbeat.

Even at this point, I called my doctor’s office because I thought something felt wrong, but they assured me that I was most likely experiencing side effects from drugs they had given me in the operating room. I deferred to their judgment even though something didn’t feel right in my body.

I figured I would get better in a few days. However, when we went to pizza on my birthday, and I nearly collapsed walking across the parking lot, I knew something was up. I went to the follow-up at my doctor’s and laid out my symptoms. It was then that they did a blood test and discovered that my hemoglobin levels were at a 7.1 (a 7.0 is blood transfusion level).

Moral of the story: If something doesn’t feel right, speak up about it! With medical personnel all around us and professional doctors in crisp coats, we assume that they will just know what is going on.

However, I found out that while doctors can tell a lot from certain tests and procedures, you can greatly help them by letting them know about your symptoms, your health history, how much blood you are losing, etc., so that they can truly help you.

3. Ask for and accept help.

My second miscarriage was different than my first because I accepted help. I didn’t try to be the stoic survivor I was after my first miscarriage. I was very open with people that I had a pregnancy loss, and I gratefully accepted the assistance. I know the fear in telling people is that it will be worse to get over or they will act awkwardly around you, but I actually found that not to be the case at all.

Yes, there will be some who say the wrong things that hurt more than help (we will get to that in a minute), but overwhelmingly, there will also be those people who genuinely want to help and can if you let them.

At the start of my most recent miscarriage, I told my husband that morning I needed him not to go to work that day. At first, he just assumed I was experiencing a little spotting, and it was normal. He figured I could just drive myself to the doctor later that day. But I insisted that he stay with me because my mama intuition was telling me that this was bad — I did not want to be left alone with my young children in the state I was in.

Once we ascertained the situation was such that we needed to just go straight to the emergency room rather than the doctor’s office, my father-in-law came to pick up the kids and take care of them. My brother-in-law came to sit with my husband while I was in surgery. We needed help.

And when we came home and I realized that I was not doing well at all in the recovery process, I asked my husband to stay home from work for the next few days. The booster club of his team set up a meal train for us. In the weeks following, I arranged care a few mornings a week for my son (with family members and a babysitter). I was in no position to take care of my kids or my household until my health got better, and I gladly accepted the assistance.

I found people were really relieved to be able to do something for us. People generally want to assist you, but you just have to tell them how they can best be of help.

4. Know that anger is part of the grief process.

People expect to be sad after a traumatic event. They expect to cry and be depressed — but another part of the grief cycle is anger. After my second miscarriage, a good friend of mine gave me a pregnancy loss study to go through. The authors devoted an entire section of the study to dealing with anger after a miscarriage.

When I read it, a lightbulb went off in my head because I realized that I was carrying around some anger, and I needed to deal with it because my unresolved anger was making me act in wrong ways to some people. If the truth be told, the person I was angry at was God, and the other people were just getting the brunt of that.

I could not believe that God would let me go through pregnancy loss two times. I felt absolutely humiliated the second time because I had been so confident that my miscarriage tragedy was in the past. Anger in and of itself isn’t sin — but anger that isn’t dealt with can turn into bitterness and resentment.

I was able to get rid of the anger when I poured out my feelings to God. I also had some trusted friends that I talked with. I told them everything I was thinking and feeling. Being open about my anger and grief helped to get the negative emotions out.

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5. Expect that not everyone will understand.

If you choose to share your tragedy (which I recommend because I believe it leads to a speedier recovery), there will be some people who can’t handle it or won’t know how to comfort you. With my most recent miscarriage, some people did not even acknowledge that I had gone through anything when I re-emerged into the public.

The mistaken assumption people have is that they will hurt you by bringing it up, but I found that it was worse to be ignored. Then there were other situations where I thought I would get support from individuals, but I found them to be too busy or too horrified by my tragedy to help.

In those instances, do not dwell on those hurts. Think back to the times that you failed someone or avoided someone because it was awkward and you didn’t know what to say. For as many people who don’t acknowledge you, there will be those who do, so expect both and know that some people don’t know how to help a person in crisis (especially if they haven’t been through that particular crisis themselves).

You can make it easier for others by just bringing up the topic yourself and showing others that you are in a place to talk about it. And, if you are the supporting friend, a simple “How are you?” after a miscarriage will put your friend who has suffered the loss at ease and open up the conversation to go in the direction the person is most comfortable with.

We as women are used to being the nurturers of others. It is hard for us to accept assistance or allow others to take care of us. However, pregnancy loss is a time when you need to give yourself permission to slow down, ask for what you need from the people around you, and allow yourself to heal.

If you yourself have not gone through a pregnancy loss, I believe that you can still serve as a valuable support to a friend or another woman in your community who has. You can serve her best by checking up on her, listening to her, and being there for her when she most needs support.

As a survivor of two miscarriages, I don’t relish what I went through. However, I did survive — and survive well, with God’s help. He is the binder of all wounds, and He knows just how to take care of you, whatever your loss. You need only let Him. His help may come through the many hands of the people around you.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Leave a comment below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Breaking Negative Soul Ties: Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage

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My senior pastor once told a story of a third world country he knew of where families lived in and among mountainous piles of trash.

In preparing to write this post, I remembered his story as well as a mission trip I went on as a 16-year-old with my youth group. We went to Mexico City where we helped in a school and clinic on the outskirts of the city. I still remember crowding into vans and making the drive outside the city where pavement ended and rolling hills of dirt, trash, and cardboard boxes collided. Driving on the steep, muddy, pot-holed roads, I observed whole families living in slums.

These families did not appear particularly sad or disturbed. In fact, I wondered if they knew what it was like to have clean floors, running water, and plumbing. I wondered if they knew what they were missing.

When I first heard my senior pastor tell the story of the trash piles, he did so to illustrate the point that many of us in first world countries are living in garbage of our own. We may have sparkling kitchens, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing, but (sometimes unknowingly) we live in trash piles just the same.

Our trash piles exist in our own relationships and families.

I remember my insides churning during that particular service. I remember walking down with a trembling stomach and asking for prayer. My entire family had come out for a visit, and they watched me make that long, solitary walk from the balcony down to the altar. But I couldn’t do anything but walk away from my pew because of the tears I was sure they would see in my eyes.

Although I did feel some of the emotional burden lift from me that day at the altar, it was not until a few years later that I would receive a full healing from the emotional baggage in my past. Ironically, it was at a time when I wasn’t even thinking about getting healed or expecting it.

Since then, I have discovered that I had so much emotional baggage in my life because I had allowed myself to be connected to others with negative soul ties. When Jesus walked me through personal healing, He had me break the negative soul ties in my life and get free of the relationships I had never been able to let go of.

What is a Soul Tie?

A soul tie is a close emotional bond or a knitting together with another person’s spirit. According to the Great Bible Study site, the Bible does not use the term “soul tie” but does refer to being “knit together” with another person both in friendship and in marriage. A key example of a positive soul tie in the Bible is in the friendship of Jonathan and David. In 1 Samuel 18:1, it says that Jonathan became “one in spirit” with David and “loved him as himself.” Another time that the Bible speaks of a positive emotional tie with another person that exists on the soul level is in marriage. Ephesians 5:31 speaks of a “man leaving his father and mother” and becoming “one flesh” with his wife.

Negative soul ties are those that can form in many ways, but for the purposes of this article I will just be focusing on those that form through sex before marriage or through idolatry of a person. (Soul ties can also form through vows and commitments, rituals, accepting gifts from those involved in witchcraft, etc.)

Idolatry of a person means allowing a person to take almost a god-like status in your mind and constantly thinking of ways to meet his or her expectations — even if it means changing yourself or going against what you believe.

How I Formed Negative Soul Ties

I realize in looking back at my past that I did have some sexual sin, and I engaged in the idolatry of certain individuals. I had both friendships and romantic relationships where I idolized the other person and an unhealthy attachment formed, or I allowed myself to be idolized.

These relationships developed because of my own low self-esteem. I was constantly looking for love and validation from other people. I allowed relationships in my life to define me. I clung onto persons I felt elevated me by allowing me into their presence. I allowed myself to engage in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior because I wanted the acceptance and love. I made individuals in my life into Saviors.

And even when I tried to move on from these relationships, I still felt tied to certain persons. There was a brokenness on the inside that I couldn’t get rid of. Even after prayer and confession of my wrong in these relationships to God, I still felt defined by and connected to these unhealthy relationships.

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Although He didn’t tell me what He was doing at first, Jesus had me go back to these friends and relationships and break negative emotional ties. Here’s how He had me break them: The first thing I did is talk with a Hope minister at my church about my past, sharing it for the first time. Then I went back to some of the individuals and apologized for my part in the sexual sin and told them what Jesus was doing in me.

I also apologized for any bitterness I had held against them for the bad way the relationship had ended or the ways I had felt they had let me down. I also was honest with the person if he or she had hurt me and spoke about that to the person for the first time. In some cases, I wrote a letter or sent an email. In other cases, I talked directly with the person.

I realize that not everyone may agree with my action of returning to these individuals. Certainly, not everyone agreed with this action when I was doing it. I was seeing a Hope minister at my church prior to my decision to make the contact with these individuals. When our sessions were coming to a close, I began to get a few people in mind that I needed to go back to. She assured me this was completely unnecessary, but I felt Jesus telling me to do it.

What It Felt Like to Break Free of My Negative Soul Ties

The process of making contacts to a handful of people from my past was the most excruciating one I have ever undertaken. I was alone. I had no support for my endeavor, and I underestimated the emotional toll it would have on me. What no one told me beforehand is that going back to the past dredges up old feelings. I felt, in many of those cases, not like a mature 35-year-old woman. I felt like a 14-year-old again. A 16-year-old. All of the fears and insecurities I had experienced in those moments so long ago raced back as I was doing it.

However, I felt Jesus nudging me on. How could He be so mean? So pushy? How could He make me relive all the awful again? I know why now. I had never handled those relationships properly during the time or ended them properly, so I had been left with a great amount of baggage. Soul ties to people I didn’t want to be tied to anymore. He wanted me to do it so that I could get free.

Additionally, I believe that God had me go to these individuals to not only break the emotional ties but also to help me overcome my shame over my wrong choices. I didn’t realize that by hiding what I had done from others, I was being held in bondage by shame and guilt. But as embarrassing as it was for me to talk with these individuals and share with others about my past — I ended up feeling really clean and peaceful inside afterwards.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you are reading this and you know you have a lot of baggage from your past, start with God. One thing I was amazed to discover is that He did not condemn me for my wrong choices — He helped me get past them. The condemnation I felt for a long time was actually coming from Satan. Facing the people in my past that had hurt me or I had given too much power to for far too long was very freeing.

Ask God to reveal to you where you might have negative soul ties with another person (either in your past or now) because of sexual sin or idolatry. If you haven’t already, I would ask God to forgive you for your part in sexual sin with the other person. Or, if there was not a sexual relationship but you know that the relationship was unhealthy for other reasons, ask God to forgive you for idolizing that person or putting that relationship above your relationship with Him.

Then ask God if there is another step you need to take. I would also highly recommend sitting down with a Christian counselor or a pastor versed in counseling. With that being said, go with what God is telling you above all else. Like I mentioned, I had a difference of opinion with my Hope minister about whether it was necessary to revisit the past.

I sought God very carefully on the issue over a several month period and received several confirmations about what He wanted me to do.

If you feel that God is nudging you to contact a person, but that person was a controller or abuser in the past, or you are concerned that a physical or emotional attraction remains, keep contact minimal — a letter. An email. And tell someone else what you are doing so he or she can hold you accountable. If the person or the person’s family can’t be reached, write a letter to the person to get the negative emotions out and then trust that God has healed you because of your step of faith.

God doesn’t intend for us to have sexual relationships outside of marriage or have negative soul ties with other people. He created boundaries to protect us. However, He doesn’t condemn you if you have made unwise choices. He wants to help you get healed.

However, just like He asked the crippled man at the pool at Bethesda, He wants to know: Do you want to be healed?

He wants to help, but there may be a step you have to take to receive that healing.

Author’s note: I wrote about soul ties in regards to consensual relationships, but soul ties can also form in sexually abusive, non-consensual relationships. If you were a victim of rape or sexual abuse, I would urge you to seek out the help of a Christian professional. You do not need to apologize for the wrong another person did to you. Your path to healing may look different than mine. I would also urge you not to be in contact with anyone who has physically harmed you — or put yourself in danger in any way.

If you are reading through this and feel that you may have negative soul ties in a friendship or relationship, please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will pray for you. If you would like to keep your name confidential, or have more questions about my experience, you are welcome to write to me through the Contact page, and I would love to help you on your journey to freedom.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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4 Gifts I Gained After My Miscarriage

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One year ago, I went to the hospital and lost a baby.

It wasn’t the first baby I had lost. It was the second one that never made it past the first trimester. And because I had already carried two healthy babies to full-term, I figured that God would give me some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card — a pass on suffering during the rest of my pregnancies.

I was so confident that I would be fine in this pregnancy, I barely blinked an eye when the nurse told me I was anemic and needed to get on iron supplements. I called in the prescription and decided to pick up the pills after my vacation to Seattle. I was only going to be gone for 9 days. I would eat iron-rich foods and get on iron pills when I got back.

I was more worried about flying and getting sick on the flight than my hemoglobin levels, but I discussed it with my doctor, and I felt great on the flight and during the trip. No morning sickness. No nausea. I felt more tired than I had ever felt in my life, but I figured that pregnant women with two small children should feel tired.

And then a week after I got home, I found myself on a hospital bed looking at a stomach that I knew it was way too flat to house any life. I knew my pregnancy was over.

What I didn’t know is that I wouldn’t bounce back. I wouldn’t get up a few days later and resume my life. I would have to climb out of a hell-hole of suffering.

I remember feeling so betrayed by God when it happened. How could He let it happen to me two times? Wasn’t one baby loss enough? And to add insult to injury, this second miscarriage confined me to a bed for weeks and weeks.

But it was out of that place of sadness and solitude in my bedroom that I began to write. And though I wanted to birth my Addison Grace at 40 weeks, God birthed in me instead a greater compassion and empathy for others and a call to minister to other women. I share this journey with you here on my blog with every post I write — and it is from that place of remembering and reflection that I write a guest post for Forget-Me-Not, Oh Lord! this week. I talk about how my view of what happened is different now than it was then. I talk about how I have been finding “beauty for ashes” in a life event I would not describe with any words less than “horrific” and “shocking.” I would love for you to click the link and join me there.

I hope you will find encouragement from the post if you are in the middle of something hard. Dorothy Valcárcel, author of the devotional “Transformation Garden: Where Every Woman Blooms,” includes some lovely lines in her most recent July 23 and July 24 devotions:

“There are some lives that seem to be utterly destroyed by some great and sore trial, but beyond the sorrow they move on again in calmer, fuller strength, not destroyed, not a particle of their real life wasted… Their character shines out in richer luster and rarer splendor than ever in the days when their hearts were fullest of joy and gladness.” — J.R. Miller

“(Jesus) has been where we are, and He walks with us and weeps with us. And with your tears He can water the seeds of character planted by pain.” — Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton

“God has a bottle and a book for His (children’s) tears. What was sown as a tear will come up as a pearl.” — Matthew Henry

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Forgive Yourself

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I watched a “Dateline” episode recently where a woman had previously had an affair with the man convicted of killing his own wife. The wife was the woman’s friend. Though she had been cleared of any involvement in the crime, she still felt immense guilt for her involvement with her friend’s husband.

She had this to say: “I will never forgive myself for what I’ve done.”

At one time I would have thought her statement noble. Why should a person forgive herself for getting involved with a friend’s spouse? Like the woman in the “Dateline” episode, I, too, used to hold the belief that I should punish myself for wrongdoing when I didn’t measure up to my own standards. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being angry at myself. I thought Jesus would want me to be mad at myself when I did something wrong.

But that is actually not what Jesus wants from me or the woman in the “Dateline” episode. Although Scripture talks about a godly sorrow that can lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) — this is not a continual unhealthy beating up of oneself over wrongdoing.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even realized I had a problem with unforgiveness of self. I was sitting in a counselor’s office, and she had me write a list of everyone I was angry at that I needed to forgive.

It turns out, I was on my own list. And I was surprised to discover that Jesus wants me to forgive myself. He advocates that I do — and for several important reasons:

1. Because not forgiving yourself rejects Jesus’ work on the cross.

A verse that has become my favorite is Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though Jesus is clear that we shouldn’t live in sin, and we need to resist sin and temptation, Jesus never expected us to punish ourselves for our sin. He is very clear in Romans that we are under no condemnation for our deeds.

Earlier, in Romans 7, Paul explains that grace doesn’t give us free license to sin — however, when we do fall short and make mistakes, God tells us in His Word that we don’t have to condemn ourselves.

Condemning ourselves rejects Jesus’ work on the cross. He became a sacrifice for our sins. We can brush ourselves off when we fall, ask Jesus to forgive us (and ask forgiveness from others if we need to) and keep going. To continually think about what wrong we’ve done or the mistakes we’ve made and beat ourselves up for them isn’t biblical.

2. Unforgiveness of self leads to relationship problems.

Not being in right relationship with ourselves affects our relationships with others. Unfortunately, when we choose not to forgive ourselves and carry around this idea that we are “too bad” to forgive, we are not able to embrace or like ourselves. We see ourselves only through the filter of what we’ve done. This affects not only our relationship with self but our relationships with others as well.

Someone who can’t let go of a past wrong may feel inferior to others and feel “too bad” to be liked by another person. Satan can get his way in and convince us we are so unworthy of relationships that we become isolated — all because we won’t accept what Jesus has done for us. Sadly, not only may we begin to feel not good enough for others, we may convince ourselves that God doesn’t want us either.

However, the idea that we’re not good enough to be loved is a lie that Satan spins to get us out of relationship with others and out of a relationship with God. God is clear that He loves us in spite of what we do! He wants us no matter what we’ve done.

 3. Unforgiveness of self can cause health problems.

In a book I reference often in my posts, A More Excellent Way, Henry W. Wright details three ways that we can open the door to what he calls “spiritually rooted disease” — disease that has a root in a relationship breach with God, ourselves or others. Not forgiving ourselves can lead to feelings of shame, self-hatred and low self-worth. Even if we have made a really bad choice and there are earthly consequences for that choice, God wants us to repent and forgive ourselves.

According to Wright, continual negative emotions towards ourselves — rehearsing words of guilt or unforgiveness or shame — can lead to health problems such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

Also, not forgiving one’s self can lead to mental torment — emotional instability, depression, anxiety, and negative thinking. As I was preparing to do this article, I felt that this term “mental torment” kept coming to mind as something I needed to include. The Bible is clear that anger that is not dealt with can give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27), and we will be handed over to tormenting spirits if we choose not to forgive (Matthew 18:23-35).

One reason we may not want to forgive ourselves is because we are so angry at ourselves for what we have done. We may not even have sinned. We may have made a careless mistake that caused great damage, and we can’t get over what happened.

I remember after a significant breakup with another person the feelings of anger I held not only towards the other person but towards myself. I felt like what happened was my fault. I kept replaying scenarios in my mind of what I could have done differently to keep the relationship. I spiraled into a dark depression that lasted for several years — and only when I let go of my unresolved anger and forgave the person and myself did I begin to feel free from the dark thoughts that had tormented me about that situation.

4. Because the Bible says to do it.

One of the reasons I haven’t really known about self-forgiveness until recently is because I didn’t know that this mandate was in the Bible. I had read all of the verses about forgiving others, but I didn’t realize that this instruction about forgiving others also extended to one’s self. Recently, I read an article on a deliverance ministry site I have frequented before, and the author pointed out that the “one another” referred to in Colossians 3:13 in the Greek also can be a reference back to one’s self. The verse is as follows:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

I had skipped over this because I generally don’t make it a habit to study the Greek translation of words — however, “allélón” (the “one another” used in the verse) is a reciprocal pronoun that refers not only to others but yourself.

God knew that we would make mistakes and mess up. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Often, unforgiveness of self makes us feel like we’re the only ones with a problem or broken behavior. The truth is all have fallen short. Because we can’t achieve perfection, God made a plan for us, so that we can be made a new creation, by accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

We shouldn’t abuse that gift by doing whatever we want, excusing bad behavior with, “It’s OK, Jesus will forgive me.” But when we fall into sin, we can call out to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We were not meant to carry the burden of our guilt or shame. We can give it over to Jesus, knowing that He doesn’t expect us to self-punish or hold unforgiveness against ourselves.

He wants us to confess our sin, accept His forgiveness, forgive ourselves — and move on.

Suggested prayer for self-unforgiveness: Jesus, forgive me for the sin of unforgiveness. I forgive myself for ______________________. Help me to see myself as you see me and not hold my mistakes against myself any longer. Help me to walk freely in the freedom that I am under no condemnation for my sins because of your work on the cross. Amen.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How I Overcame My Tendency to Self-Sabotage in Relationships

Butterfly-on-flower

My name is Adriana Howard. I’m twenty-seven years old with a husband of five years, and I am a recovering self-saboteur. This may or may not be the time when you all respond with, “Hi, Adriana,” and I nod back awkwardly as I try to avoid your eyes. However, as we are currently interacting with another over a blog post, we’ll skip over the pleasantries and dive into the good stuff. Sabotage is deliberate damage or destruction of a thing so that it doesn’t work properly. Self-sabotage is when we do that to ourselves.

I have spent a good portion of my adult life hindering myself from cultivating authentic relationships with other women. And while I may not have always been conscious of my efforts, they were certainly intentional. I did a marvelous job of convincing myself that I was fine without other women in my life to depend on, or women who cared enough to depend on me, that I hardly noticed how much I needed them.

But it wasn’t until last year that I really began to see and suffer the consequences of my behavior. I didn’t feel the confines of the hole I had dug myself into until I was faced with things like hurts and fears and years old secrets with no one to tell them to. And it wasn’t easy to come to this realization. It’d be more fun to wear a shirt that says “I Must Be a Freak” on it. At least then, I would have a new shirt.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have friends, family, a handsome genius for a husband. Above everything, I have my Jesus. He is immeasurably good to me though my heart is quick to wander. But even with His abounding love and kindness, there was this void in me that wasn’t being filled. I’m not saying there are holes in me that God can’t fix. But I do think that there are holes that God allows because His plans for me include being vulnerable with others. He’s a good Father in that way — leaving me to my hurts so that I might learn and run towards the things He has for me.

Unfortunately, I tend to run away from — not towards — things that make me uncomfortable. And sadly, meaningful, vulnerable, weather-the-storms kind of relationships with women make me uncomfortable.

Over this past few years, I feel like God and I have been on a journey together. I’ve rediscovered beautiful truths about Him. He is my generous father. He is my gracious friend. I’ve relearned what His voice sounds like when He speaks promise to my heart. But I’ve also discovered truths about myself that I wasn’t in a rush to confront. The truths were these: I don’t know how to trust. I don’t think that I’m enough. I’m terrified of being forgotten. And the more that I thought about these things, the more I realized how deep the dirty waters ran.

The Seeds and Scars of Childhood

I grew up the oldest child of three. Independence and leadership qualities have always been natural components of my make-up. I’m sure that is a truth shared by many oldest siblings. But as a result of my family’s situation, I’ve not only been the big sister — I was the adult in the family well before my time. Sin and substance abuse has plagued my family for a long time, and while God has delivered us through some very trying times, we carried a lot of scars.

My siblings and I have been left by both of our parents at one point or another, and although God did a big restorative work in my mom and dad, there were seeds in mistrust sown in my heart. For a long time afterwards, every relationship — familial, romantic, platonic, whatever — looked like a risk to me. In my limited understanding, if my parents could so easily dismiss me, then surely others would too, and that was especially true where other women were concerned.

Then I got married. And I wasn’t the big sister anymore. Instead, I went from being the responsible, mature, swoop-in-and-save-the-day big sister to being stuck somewhere in the middle. And the only thing worse than being stuck in the middle is being stuck in the middle of two sisters-in-law who, coincidentally, were also the oldest siblings in their households. They were also swoop-in-and-save-the-day kind of women. But they were also beautiful, talented, and more outgoing than I was. And as hard as I tried to muddle through friendships with them, I couldn’t force authenticity, and I couldn’t fake my affections. And if they saw how broken and strange I was, they would surely run away.

God Begins to Make Me New

I was unwilling to be vulnerable. I didn’t know how to trust them. I felt unbelievable pressure to conform to aspects of them. I wasn’t as settled or as typically feminine as they were, so my knee-jerk reaction was to feel inadequate. I didn’t dress like they did, or think like they did. I wasn’t charming like they were. I so wanted to be liked by them, but I had no idea how to connect. From there came whispers of lies in the dark. I was easy to forget. I was easy to overlook. Simply put, I was afraid because all of those things had happened before.

I had been forgotten, overlooked, left behind. When I began to really pursue the Lord, friends moved on. When more exciting relationships came along, friends left me in the waiting place. In some ways, I’m still waiting. I said that sabotage meant to deliberately damage a thing to the point that it wouldn’t work correctly. Without realizing it, I had sabotaged my chances for friendships that had the potential to be beautiful, and I did so to the point that I wasn’t working correctly anymore. And from my vantage point, trusting others had proven more to me about the ugliness in people than it had the good in them. And I couldn’t trust my heart with ugly people — especially not when I was just as ugly as they were.

But the ugliness in my heart went much deeper than I suspected, and when the realization that I kept God at strict arm’s lengths hit me, I was undone. As He worked to surgically extract chunks of darkness from within me, it became more and more apparent that my issues with faith and trust and vulnerability weren’t just with people. I had kept God at bay by allowing Him the safest minimal access to me. And there I was — cut open, nerves exposed, no clue how to scream for help. But in a way that is His alone, God took extraordinary measures to speak to me a truth that screamed above the lies I had succumbed to.

Are you ready for it? It’s a good one. In fact, it ruined me in all of the best ways.

Who I AM is of little importance when compared to who HE IS.

With that in mind, breaking down the walls that I had painstakingly constructed became a task worth chasing after. I wasn’t good enough for Him. I’m still not. For all of my pitiful efforts, I never will be. But the best parts of me are found in Him anyway, and because of that, while I am not enough, I do have something to offer — to Him and to others. I’m practicing vulnerability. I’m pursuing accountability.

More importantly, I’m putting away ridiculous notions that the only value that comes from friendships is what I get out of them, and I’m learning how to avail myself and serve. With that divine sense of worth renewed in me, it’s not only become easier to open up, but it’s become a joy as well. And as for my sisters-in-law, these days they are my sisters in every sense of the word. I’ve confided in them from deep places, and they have yet to turn and run.

Recently, I came across this verse, and it shook me, not because it was theologically deep, but because it was for me. I hope that it speaks to your soul as well: “Unless the Lord had been my help, My soul would soon have settled into silence.”  (Psalm 94:17)

Had it not been for the Lord, I would have faded away into quiet nothing. But I am His, and so I am not overlooked. I have not been forgotten. And because the Lord is my shepherd, I am allowing vulnerability and trust to produce something whole within me. My name is Adriana Howard. I’m twenty seven years old with a husband of five years, and I am a recovering self-saboteur. Without the Lord, I would have settled into silence. And instead, I am being made new.

 

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard describes herself as "sort of a mess in pursuit of a great story." Adriana spent a year teaching high school English, and currently, she is teaching theater after school at a local elementary school. She also serves with her husband as a youth pastor at her church. One day, Adriana hopes to be a published author. For the time being, she wants to travel the world, adopt children, learn how to really love people, maintain a garden, go back to India, and work alongside her husband in ministry. Other passions of Adriana's include love war films, cooking, bulky typewriters, crowded airports, winter’s first snow, Elizabeth I, and books of all shapes and sizes. Last but certainly not least, Adriana has a passionate love for Jesus. You can connect with Adriana on her blog where she dabbles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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How Past Wounds Turned Me Into a Fearful Control Freak

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I sit in the dim room with other women. As the video starts for the new Bible study, panic rises inside me like fast-moving mercury in a barometer on a hot July day. The speaker, Ann Voskamp, tells about the death of her sister. As she describes the delivery truck pulling up the drive, the screams of her mother, I grow uncomfortable. Tears surface, a softball-size lump forms in my throat. I rehearse in my mind, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.”

I try to think of something funny. Like one of my daughter’s jokes that has no punchline. And it’s hilarious because she thinks it is. And she laughs like it is possibly the world’s best joke. When actually it may be the world’s worst one. Thinking about this helps me remain calm, though I am hysterical on the inside.

Why am I having such a hard time listening to Voskamp’s story? Why does it upset me so much that I want to leave the room?

It is not until a few months later that I realize why I had the reaction I did to Voskamp’s story. I reacted the way I did because I have control issues. I have been there in her story — crushed beneath delivery truck moments I didn’t see coming. And because of those occasions, I have had problems with trust and problems in relationships.

How I Became a Control Freak

I didn’t always have the need to anticipate things, the fear of the unexpected to the extent that I would try to micromanage my circumstances. But out of my childhood was birthed the need to be able to have a say, to be able to have some decision over the outcome.

I didn’t get to pick the fact that I lived in a house that I was ashamed of. I didn’t get to choose the fact that I didn’t have any clothes to wear in high school. I didn’t get to have a say when my father came home angry and yelled at us. Which happened a lot. I wasn’t asked when a person in a significant relationship chose to break up with me and leave me outside his house with nothing but a letter. So, I made the decision as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again. (As if I could realistically manipulate every element in my environment.)

That choice probably didn’t appear pivotal, but it was. Because of that resolution, I put myself in the unrealistic position as one who can control what happens to me. And I really can’t. I can’t anticipate the actions of others and manipulate the people around me so that I can avoid feeling a certain way. But that’s what I’ve tried to do.

And although my struggles stemmed mainly from failed male relationships — my father who ignored me and the boyfriends who left me — this pain translated into destructive tendencies in all my relationships, particularly friendships with women. I asked God why this was, and He told me: I’ve been chasing after power. Because if you’ve ever felt voiceless, then you know that you never want to feel that way again.

When I Let Fear Turn Me into a Mean Girl

Underneath that need to control has been something larger: fear. When I find myself in situations where I don’t like how events are turning out, I get afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. And it’s in that place of fear that I act in ways I shouldn’t.

I circumvent circumstances or hurt people before they can hurt me.

Some time ago, after losing a baby, I felt like I had sufficiently healed from the wound. I felt that I was at peace with what had happened. There was another woman I knew who was pregnant at the same time as me. A woman whose belly kept expanding even as mine was shrinking. A woman who got to go through all the milestones that I would never get to go through with the baby I lost.

I was really struggling with the fact that we had gotten pregnant around the same time. I was angry that God would bless her and allow her to continue on with her pregnancy — and not me. But I knew I needed to do the right thing, so I called her up and told her that I was happy for her, and I wished her well with her pregnancy.

But weeks later, when we attended an event together, I struggled knowing she would be there — reminding me of a loss I didn’t want to be reminded of. Knowing that she would be looking very pregnant, I dressed in a form-fitting dress. If I couldn’t be pregnant, I wanted to out-do her in some way, knowing that she would be weary of her swollen ankles and protruding stomach.

After the event, I knew I had acted in the wrong way. I felt like God wanted me to admit to her that I was having a hard time with the fact that she had her baby, and I couldn’t have mine. So I apologized to her.

Flaunting my skinny body in front of her was about trying to get the upper hand in a situation where I felt helpless. My problem really wasn’t with her. It was about fighting with everything I had against the perceived injustice of a situation.

You see, that “harmless” vow I made as a young person to never allow a person to hurt me made me feel I had to manipulate that situation.

Giving up Fear and My Need to Control

Jesus knew a few women in His time who had difficulties with relationships. A few women who probably felt like me — that life handed them circumstances they didn’t ask for.

In John 4:4, Jesus initiates a conversation with one such woman at a well. She had had five marriages and was living with a man she wasn’t married to, though we aren’t told whether her previous marriages ended because she had committed adultery or her husbands sent her away. Whatever the case, she had no husband when Jesus found her. Maybe she had decided that she had had enough of marriage and had decided to live outside the boundaries of matrimony to preserve her heart.

Maybe like me, she felt that if she could just control x, y and z, she could prevent another heartbreak. Another catastrophe.

Jesus does two really important things when He talks to her. He tells her that He knows all about her past string of husbands and the man she is living with now — establishing Himself as the one who knows her secrets. And then, He gives her a solution when He brings up a conversation with her about “living water” (v. 10).

The solution He offers the woman at the well and offers to you and me is Himself. The ultimate power source. She doesn’t have to hope for a better situation or figure out how to make that happen, Jesus shows a better way — which is not to try to change those around her, but be changed herself. To allow His eternal wellspring of life to live in her.

When we recognize Him as the one in control, we don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves “drawing water” from our own wells that will eventually run dry. We have in Him a never ending source of contentment, peace, satisfaction and belonging that fills all those places of neediness where we were never loved or noticed by the people we counted on the most.

The woman at the well drops her water jar and runs to tell the village about Jesus, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). By leaving her jar behind, we see that she is leaving behind her old methods of satisfying her thirst and embracing Jesus.

As commentator Alexander McLaren notes, the interesting thing about this exchange between Jesus and the woman is that she has no idea who He really is at first, and the truth gradually dawns on her. So it is when we walk with Jesus. We don’t really understand Him or His ways until we get to know Him better.

Not only does the truth of who He is dawn on her, the truth about herself dawns on her as well.

My need to control has not really been a problem with control — it’s been about a problem with trust. I didn’t know that I could trust God in my situation with the pregnant woman. Even though it would appear that I was acting out against her, I was shaking my fist at a God who I felt didn’t notice or care.

But I don’t have to be Carol control freak. Carol walking around with past wounds. He says, “Come to me. I have all you have been looking for. You will find it nowhere else but in me. And your desire for stability, knowing what outcomes in situations will be — I know it all. I can help you better than anyone because I know the end before you know the beginning.”

Those delivery truck moments — we can’t avoid them. They will come. We can’t waste time worrying and trying to avoid pain. We need to rest in the knowledge that Jesus will walk us through those trials.

What I can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is that instead of controlling out of fear, I can trust.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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