22/04/2017 - 2 Corinthians 5:17 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Do we really change? I wrote about our Achilles heel in our last Insight. Do we ever completely overcome it or do we simply learn to cope? What do you think? If our struggle is with anxiety, will it always be there? If we are up one day and down the next, will we always be subject to volatile emotions?
Our position on this will profoundly affect the way we live our lives. For anyone who has read these Insights on a regular basis, you will be aware that we are not talking about how successful the extrovert can be at stepping in and attempting to compensate for what is going on in the introvert. Nor are we talking about finding a spiritual bolt-hole in which we can hide from the harsh realities of life. No, we are asking if actual, measurable, and permanent, change can take place and if it does, what does it look like and feel like?
We considered Peter in our last Insight. He fell flat on his face and did the same again a while later. Perhaps he picked himself up quicker the second time round? Is that how it works? Yes, but is that all there is to it? Perhaps our weak area never really goes away, we just get better at handling it? Or is there something else to consider?
Paradoxically, the part of us that gives us our biggest struggles is also the part that, correctly understood and handled, can prove to be our strongest point. It was Peter’s tenderness that made him collapse in the face of the young maid’s challenge, and that made him compromise when the ‘hardliners’ arrived from the strict Jewish party. But it was that tenderness that would give him the ability to ‘take care of my sheep’ and ‘feed my lambs’ (John 21:15-19). His biggest contribution to the kingdom of God was precisely in the area that was most vulnerable to giving him problems.
So, we never lose the capacity to collapse; we just discover that it is difficult to take care of sheep if you are in the middle of a melt-down. The lambs will starve to death if you only feed them when you feel like it. In other words, our love for our Master means that the best parts of us are no longer available for negative purposes but for the constructive building up of others. That is why Thomas was rebuked for his unwillingness to believe without seeing. It wasn’t that he was any more of a doubter than the rest of the disciples, it was that he went in on himself, became unavailable and therefore wasn’t present for the greatest moment in human history when the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples. He allowed himself to be blinded by what he felt. Faithfulness should have overridden feeling sorry for himself.
Yes, we can change. We change how we use who we are until those changes transform into a deep and settled pattern in which the old ways become a thing of the past. ‘The old has gone, the new is here!’ That is something to celebrate!
On 22/04/2017 Tim wrote: A very useful insight. Very relevant to a conversation I had with someone this week, along the lines of moving into a better place.
On 23/04/2017 Julie wrote: My answer to John's question is 'yes'. I was driving back from Southwold with Merle this week and she commented that when she first met me, 10 years ago, I had been diagnosed with ME, struggled to walk and had been told that I would always be limited by the condition. Today I am well, I swim and cycle and am about to undertake a 1* canoe course. I've just bought a house and am looking forward to decorating and working in the garden! More importantly, I'm at peace within myself and no longer live with the constant tensions and conflict within, which caused the symptoms of ME. It hasn't happened overnight, it's been a slow process with many ups and downs. However, because the change is taking place deep within my introvert temperament, rather than my extrovert compensating for what is going on within, the changes are deep and lasting. On 24/4/2017 Phil wrote: Wonderful - this goes to the heart of the Christian challenge today for so many of us. What difference does this life with / in Christ really make? The world looks on and sees little difference with the Christian next door to the atheist 2 doors down, the Christian on tv, those Christians at the local church etc. If this difference is going to be seen this change, at depth, heart, introvert level needs to take place. We need to be transformed My own journey of real change began when I sincerely said to the Lord, I want to change - I heard sermons of joy, freedom, security, love and felt anything but most of the time. I desperately wanted these things, things that were said were part of a relationship with the risen Lord. Since then God has taken me on a journey of understanding the things that were in my way, blocking the freedom Christ died for. Understanding what and why they were there. Then, a journey of learning how to break these strangleholds, led by an incredible church and pastor who take you gently by the hand and lead you along the path of freedom of u want to walk it - this is what God does, Gods work but, as with so much of what he does, he wants his people to do the work with him. I wouldn't have moved along this journey without this guidance - from a church - a group of people. I firmly believe this is how God wants it / does it - through the body, his people, with him at the centre as the conductor This change is possible and needs to be our focus.
On 28/04/2017 Loraine wrote: There is so much great "material" in this Insight and last Sunday's talk, thank you. I have a tendency to "beat myself up" a lot over the things in me that I would like to change, but I also know that it's such hard work if I try to do it myself. This I remind myself of: the Lord loves me so much and accepts me totally, just where I'm at and when His time is right, he gently and lovingly leads me down a path and helps me to change the things that He points at. Then I'm happy, because I know I'm safe in His hands. That doesn't mean though that He's OK with me dwelling on those areas I feel are weak, I have to make a choice to surrender those things to Him and sometimes that in itself is a big battle. He made me in His image, He doesn't make mistakes and He can use every part of us for His glory, often in ways we don't expect. He loves all of me, whilst at the same time transforming me to be more and more like Jesus. I often get frustrated at the time "wasted" in the process of these changes happening, but He reminded me recently of the need to rest and be still in Him, that He can accomplish more in one click of my fingers than I can ever ask or imagine. I am so limited by my concept of the length of my lifespan and what I think needs to be accomplished in that time, but it's His time that counts. After all, He transformed someone close to me from a stated unbeliever (by his own admission) to a committed disciple of His, in literally a split second a year ago. When I am confronted by miracles like that I have nowhere to go with my own "inadequacies" and the solution thereto(!) I am also reminded of a former (Christian) boss in the workplace, who told me not to be too quick to try to change the very thing I saw as a big weakness in myself as he saw it as one of my strengths. One of my current battles is a struggle with fear about medical interventions that seem to be (potentially) necessary on an ongoing basis. So it seems to come down to a lack of trust in Him. I know He only lets us deal with as much as we can cope with, but it is a constant battle. Although I look for opportunities to serve Him in it all and I pray He will be glorified (and I have seen some of that), I still look for the miraculous, when it might just be a simple walk of faith, hope and childlike trust that He's looking for. But while waiting for treatment, the fear can be quite intense....so I know its not easy. I have seen quite profound changes in me over time, mostly when I've come to the point where I realise I don't want "the thing" to "control" me anymore because I want God in control. Then it's a case of a battle to surrender it and letting God (do what He wants with it) and refusing to dwell on it. Life is such a gift and the most wonderful adventure and journey that the Lord takes us on. I (will) choose to be content to walk with Him on it, wherever that takes me, for His glory. And I know that will involve me being transformed (!) After all, I'm a work-in-progress......
9/04/2017 - Ephesians 6:13 'Put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.’
We all have our Achilles heel. That area of vulnerability that appears time and again. That thread of weakness that repeats itself with tiresome regularity. The apostle Peter had his. He thought he was big, brave and strong but he had a soft underbelly. He had a good heart, but he winged it most of the time because he sensed his weakness within. Jesus knew Peter’s heart – and his weakness.
Do you know your weakness? Is it that you have to get everything right or you are not acceptable? Does your stomach turn with guilt when you think back to something you did or said? Does anxiety stalk you because you don’t really know who you are? Whatever it is, it is a psychological loophole that the Enemy uses as a walk-in entrance to our lives. He knows how to push the right button to bring down all our best intentions in a huge cloud of dust. That is what happened to Peter when he denied his best friend.
You would have thought Peter would have learnt his lesson. So spectacular and so painful was his downfall that surely he would never need to be reminded of such a traumatic experience. But he did. Some time later, God gave Peter a vision which made it clear that he was welcoming non-Jews into his family (Acts 10:9-48). Peter happily took the good news to the Gentiles and shared their meals and treated them on an equal footing. He was at one such meal in Antioch when some strict Jews arrived, and Peter panicked (as he did in the courtyard) and withdrew from the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11–14). Paul was present and ‘opposed him to his face’. This was cowardice and compromise. I wonder how he felt. That horrible echo from his past – even after Pentecost, even after being so used by God – here he was again, flat on his face and in front of a large group of onlookers.
He could go one of two ways: give himself a good beating for not learning his lesson first time around or recognising that this business of life is about growing and, by definition, must be a process. At least, because that first fall was so comprehensive, he could quickly recognise the issues when he failed again, and could, therefore, pick himself up that bit quicker. That is the key. That is how we get stronger. Railing against yourself only slows the process down. Collapsing or licking your wounds makes others pay. What is your Achilles heel? Expect it to be tested. A good coach makes you ‘train your weaknesses and play to your strengths.’ Next time you run into a test, close the door on the weakness and stand tall.
Comments: On 15/04/2017 Peter wrote: I very often lie to feel better about myself. I call it embellishing the truth but it's just lying. I add little bits to my life story here and there for whatever end (normally in the hope that the cumulative effect of these lies will be for a person to like me more than they would have done otherwise) and then I feel so so guilty about what I have done, because I want people to like me but now I push people away because if they find out the truth then they won't like me at all because they will know I haven't told the truth. It's a loop and it prevents me from connecting with the people I meet, I've got better at understanding why I do it and as I grow into my Meloncholic I've become better at being content with who I am right now, but it's still a problem that I have to tackle and not just wallow in misery and guilty each time I do it.
On 21/04/2017 John replied: Thank you for those honest comments, Peter. You seem to understand yourself well and at least you are beginning to feel better about yourself. Keep focusing on seeing your true value and you will feel less of a need to embellish the story. You are acceptable as you are.
1/04/2017 - Revelation 1:5(b) 'To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ...'
In the last two weeks, I have been reminded many times of how important it is to understand and value our introvert. How we treat that inner part of who we are largely determines how we live our lives. So many people are struggling with symptoms, feeling that life is so complicated, confused by a multitude of contradictory thoughts and feelings. Understanding our introvert allows us to avoid wasting time with the symptoms and deal with the root. Rather than moving the potatoes around the saucepan to stop them from going to pulp, let’s try turning off the gas.
How do we do that? The answer is to let the truth that so many of us know so well, percolate through to our introvert. The problem is, most people I talk to don’t like that inner part of who they are. That is the part that embarrassed them when they tried to express themselves as a child. That is why they got bullied or laughed at. They didn’t feel safe to show their sensitivity or tenderness. As we saw in our last Insight, that is the place where we buried the pain and hurt. So, the truth never reaches it. We can read the wonderful truth in our verse – that we are loved and free – but do we feel those things in the depths of our hearts? How can we make that happen?
Look at what you really feel. Did that situation, or person, cause you to feel pain, or anger, or fear? Allow yourself to feel it. The Bible is full of people who were not afraid to express what they felt. God likes that. He loves reality. He can do something with that. It is not unspiritual to allow yourself to be human. In fact, just as Jesus was fully human and fully divine, so the more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more human we become. If you close your emotions down, you close yourself down, and the truth can’t touch you.
Be real with what you feel, express what you feel, and you create space for what God feels to find its way into the inner recesses of your heart. If you tell God you are angry about that awful thing that happened to you then, even as you do so, he can give you his perspective. If you allow your extrovert to step in and smooth things over, then you will never know God’s deep healing and peace.
Be patient with yourself. The patterns within were formed over many years. You will never bully your introvert into believing. Soak your introvert in the bath of God’s truth. Surround it constantly with God’s perspective. Mix with people who love the truth and love you enough to share it with you. The background to our Bible verse is the Exodus. By God’s power, the Israelites were delivered from Egypt. It was a new beginning. After 200 years of bondage, they were free. We are loved, and we are free. Let’s live there.
Comments: On 1/04/2017 Kathryn wrote: It isn't easy to allow the truth to sink down & penetrate my introvert, but it gets easier with practice. I didn't know in the past that I was rubbishing myself - I thought that the awful things I thought about me were the truth. God's truth wasn't allowed in 'there', where I knew the truth about what an awful person I was. Once I knew the theory about temperaments I started putting it into practice & catching those negative thoughts & assumptions about myself. It has been gradual progress over many years, but now I can look at myself in the mirror & gaze through the prism of God's unfailing love, & know that I am good. I can look inside myself & know that I am good because the Lord says so. This doesn't mean that I don't have faults - far from it! But rather than putting all my focus on them, I am able to get them in their right perspective, and if I'm struggling to do that then there are good, kind, Godly people around me that I can ask to help me to re-evaluate using the Lord's true perspective, rather than my own flawed one.
On 1/04/2017 Lyn wrote: Ouch! New and struggling but thank you!
On 3/04/2017 Cathy wrote: Yes thank you, I had an experience the other day that illustrated the need to 'go to the root' and also Tim's talk this Sunday concerning God's hand upon us, hemming us in, behind and before. I was sitting amongst church friends, having a hot drink after a walk along the beach. I looked across at the row of faces opposite and felt more than in any other way, these folks are real, but in fact I'm not. I'm actually very small, whereas these folks are the right size. It was a strange almost physical sensation, but nevertheless very real. Fortunately I was able to talk about the feeling today and learnt that this was an accurate picture of how I feel about myself. This came as a bit of a shock, I've generally felt capable of knowing how I was feeling moment by moment, but to be faced with how I felt about myself was a new experience. The good news is, its not true ! I'm the same size as everyone else ! As has already been mentioned it takes time to get hold of this truth, but I'm looking forward to living in the truth of who I really am !
On 4/04/2017 John replied: Thank you Kathryn and Cathy for those comments from your own experience. The more I talk to people the more I am reminded of the importance of this simple principle. Keep pushing on until the introvert is able to step forward and take the lead!
Thank you Lyn for your comment. Stick with it and your confidence will grow.