I’ve got a lovely (pun intended) post for you today–an uplifting post about how love changes us, always for the better. This was a sweet post to write and revise, and I hope it will bring some brightness to your day as well. 🙂
Pop culture, in my experience, seems to define God very differently from how the Bible depicts Him. What do you think? Is this diagram fairly accurate?
Graph made with the help of GraphJam FlashBuilder.
I am generally happy with the course of my life thus far, though I might not seem like it in most of my Tuesday on the Soapbox posts.
Dealing with The Negatives
By most people’s standards, my life is definitely not perfect. I’m overweight, and I don’t have a lot of friends I routinely visit, nor too much nightlife going on. I don’t have a paying job, and my parents and I all suffer crippling ill health–arthritis, severe headaches, and old, unhealed injuries run rampant, forcing us all to be more bedridden than we should be. This leaves our house in a shameful state most of the time. (There are rooms in my house which I haven’t been able to walk into in literal years. Yes. OCD hoarding + family illness = housekeeping? What’s that?)
Celebrating the Positives
But I do have a lot to be thankful for. Quite a lot, in fact. I have a stable roof over my head and enough food to eat every day. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive boyfriend of several years; he and his family are awesome. Both my parents are still living–I can depend on them for advice and love, and I can also reciprocate the care for them that they lavished on me in my growing-up years. I have a great church family that accepts and loves me, and has helped me to grow more spiritually in the last 4 years than I did in the first 23. Plus, I have the free time to do a lot of creative projects, like this blog, that help others, even if I’m not getting paid for any of it. There’s a great emotional benefit to doing something that others enjoy, and while it’s not a paycheck, it fulfills a creative need in me.
Perfect Lives =/= Happiness
Many times we get wrapped up in how terrible our lives are when we start looking at the negatives of our lives, all the things that shouldn’t be happening to us but are, all the illness and emotional garbage, all the family and friend drama, not to mention workplace drama and unfairness. We get all torn up about our lives’ quality, wishing for the financial, romantic, and familial perfection we see pictured in movies and television.
I am not immune to that, any more than anybody else. I will say, personally, that it’s very easy, especially in the darkness of the wee hours of morning, to get depressed over the circumstances of my life, homebound and job-frustrated as I am.
But I am CONTENT. I am not living a perfect life, an ideal life. There are conditions I’m dealing with that I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I could walk without pain, and I wish I had a job, for instance. But I am blessed to have the talents I have, and the amount of love that pours into my life from others helps to drown these relatively small pains. There are people in the world who would covet my life as it is now; the best thing I can do is to praise God for all the blessings He’s shown me, and give others an opportunity for similar blessings through outreach work and giving as I am able.
Though there’s a lot of junk in my life, literally and figuratively, the positives of my life balance the negatives. I am not living an idealized life, but I am much better off than I could be. Realizing that I am much more blessed than I even imagine can, in itself, lift me up. Knowing that I can help others because I am blessed lifts me up, too.
A Challenge for You
I challenge my readers (all 10 of you, lol) to think of three areas of your life which are going well. For me, my church life, my relationships, and my creative life are all going very well. The areas of your life can be big or small, but think of three. Write them down so you remember them, and look back at the list when you are feeling terrible.
Trust me, it works: even when all else seems to be failing in another area (like health, for me), I can look to my successes in three other areas and think, “Well, things could be much worse for me–I am blessed to have what I have.” We all need some practice at feeling content with our imperfect lives…this is one way to do it.
I say this often and about the most random things. Someone just got through a terrible traffic jam without getting hit? WOOT! I just found out one of my Sunday School class is out of the hospital and resting well at home? WOOT!
Some might think it’s weird for me to holler “Woot!” about small things like this. After all, the saying “WOOT” supposedly came from gamers saying “We Own the Other Team” (which I highly doubt because “Woot” is clearly a celebratory noise). But I use it like I think it means–a sound of joy, celebration, happiness restored. And I’m not shy about using it, even though I’ve had people tell me I need to be quiet or I need to stop using it because it sounds stupid or childish.
My opinion is, if we don’t celebrate the small things, praise God about all the little things He’s done for us, then we won’t be used to praising Him when the big miracles come our way. “Woot” is simply my way of praising with joy and abandon. If we forget how to be happy and instead practice complaining, soon there won’t be much for us to “woot” about in our whole lives. Being more childlike, being willing to shout for joy rather than clamming up just because it’s “not proper” to hoot and holler, is how I’d prefer to live.
I’m willing to look a little stupid in front of others, if it means I praise God, Who has done the wonderful thing I’m shouting “woot!” about. Sure, in that moment I don’t sound like a woman in her late twenties who “oughta know better.” But maybe I don’t have to “know better.” Maybe I’m perfectly okay allowing myself to celebrate even small victories. …And maybe we’d all feel a little better if we let out a “woot” or two about our own small wins.
The “love” of which I speak in this article can be romantic love, the love of friendship, or the love of God, but its power does not get diluted in the slightest by its different denominations. Love is a powerful force is in our lives, and I have personally witnessed and experienced what a profound effect it can have on us–I believe love can change us when everyone and everything else cannot.
(This post, admittedly, is my attempt to speak of what I don’t quite grasp yet, so it might be a little out there. But it’s been a rare uplifting topic on my mind for a few weeks, so I decided to write about it.)
Romantic Love: A Motivator for Personal Change
For years, I hated myself. Absolutely, definitively, hated myself. Imperfection was the big concern for me–I wasn’t mistake-free, of course, and I got picked on in school for every mistake I made, mostly because I made such a big deal about it. I even began to self-mutilate because of my perfectionism, ranging from beating my own head with my fist to biting the first phalange of my right index finger. I wanted to be perfect, and when I couldn’t be, I had to punish myself. Disturbed logic as it was, it made sense to me in the moment. I didn’t consider myself worthy of love because of my imperfection.
Though I am not completely free of self-mutilation today, I do it a lot less frequently (and with less vigor) than I used to. That, I can credit almost completely to the supportive, healing love my longtime boyfriend has offered me. He doesn’t yell at me or deride me when I begin to bite my finger (as is my wont when life is generally not going my way). He instead sits with me and talks to me, literally “talking me down” from hurting myself any worse. He’s told me several times that seeing me hurt myself frightens him and makes him sad, and that he would rather that I hurt him than hurt myself. (Of course, I would never hurt anybody else–that’s one reason I turn my anger on myself rather than hit somebody who might deserve a good punch in the face. XD)
Over the years we have been together, I have watched my need to self-mutilate shrink to an occasional thing rather than an everyday thing, and I find myself sharing my little successes with him, telling him that it’s been four days since I last bit, or maybe even a week and a half since I last bit. One day at a time? Indeed. It is a daily process, but his support and his love make it possible for me to let the dark crescents of bite marks on my fingers heal, and for me to stop needing to inflict more. This healing relationship has helped me to transform, in a way I never imagined I could be any different.
The Love of God: An Amazing Changing Force
In the mid-2000s, I knew a lady in her early thirties who was a friend of a friend’s family. She stayed with them a few weeks at a time, when she was between houses and between jobs; I soon grew to understand why she was often between houses and between jobs, since her drug use and drinking were a major part of her life, as well as abusive men who stole from her and tried to control her. She spoke often of being so strung out she didn’t know where she was, and on late nights my friend and I would hear her begin to cry, only to fall asleep in the middle of her tears. I didn’t really know what to say to her, how to talk to her so that maybe I could help her–it seemed like she was already an old woman in a young woman’s body, with medical problems and addictions that thinned her brown hair and shrunk her face so much that she looked like a faded portrait of herself.
She moved out of my friend’s house for the last time in 2007, and we lost contact with her afterwards. I worried that she was in prison or in a homeless shelter somewhere; I hoped maybe she had found a place to live somewhere else, away from all the bad memories. The last place I expected to see her again was my church in March of 2011, coming down the aisle to talk to the preacher about moving her membership there.
As I stood in the choir loft that morning, singing the verses of the invitation hymn that called anyone who wanted a few moments to pray at the altar to come down, I saw a trim but healthy-looking woman stand up from one of the back pews and walk down the center aisle toward the front of the church. Her hair, wavy and thick, was highlighted, warm blonde atop light brown, and she wore a smile and a glow that spoke of being whole at long last; she wore a simple blouse and skirt, looking put-together and professional. I did not know her, I was sure–and yet, as she clasped hands with the minister and began to speak to him quietly, I felt that somehow, I did know her. It was not until she turned and glanced at me, and her eyes brightened with recognition, that it finally clicked; she was the friend of a friend’s family from so long ago. She was so utterly changed, inside and out, that the memory I had of her didn’t match at all.
After church services were over, I came down from the choir loft and went to speak to her. There was a radiance about her that almost made me disbelieve she was the same woman I had known before–gone was the frail old-young woman who was sometimes too strung out to answer the door, and in her place was a woman with a new grace and stability. I didn’t get to speak to her long, but I walked away knowing that the love of God had transformed yet another soul, one I never would have guessed could have been reached. The completeness I sensed was so touching and poignant that I found myself weeping. Just as God had transformed my life through the love of a good man, so had He done hers through time and spiritual rediscovery.
I Don’t Know How It Works, But I’m Glad It Does!
I don’t know exactly how these transformations take place. All I know is that it’s hard for me to look back at the way I was before I met my boyfriend and feel the self-hatred thrumming through my memories, because I am quite different now. Yes, the hate does come back on occasion, when I’ve missed a turn on the road for the fifth time, or when I just can’t solve that last puzzle that will make a website work. But it’s a lot less often now. The love God brought into my life changed that for me, just as He changed the woman I once knew from helpless and broken to complete and joyful. Love, in all its forms, can indeed transform us as no other force can on earth.