Since our arrival in Virginia, I feel as though our life theme has been one of purging. Not just to get rid of “stuff” we don’t use anymore, but purging in order to begin a fresh start. One by one, each item my hands touch leaves a feeling or thought that either proverbially turns my attention to my past with sadness and regret or beckons me forward with a call to adventure and newness.
Interesting. How have I never noticed this before? Have I been so wrapped up in the “doings” of life that I take no notice of what may hold me hostage? Or do I cling to things for the sake of “having”? In truth, the answer is most likely “both.”
It all began when I started packing to leave Texas. Let’s face it. When it comes to moving, who wants to take everything? I’d rather just pack what we need. However, when we finally arrived at our destination, there were certain items that felt as though they weighed me down with memories of heartache and regret –as though “residue” of life’s circumstances soaked through or etched its way into my memory, and these items served as triggers. Every time I’d slipped a certain t-shirt over my head or slid on a certain pair of jeans, memories flooded my head, awakening emotions that reminded me of clinging to false comfort during a time of seemingly unending conflict or when the weight of life felt too heavy to bear. In place of a favorite soft, comfy t-shirt I wore over and over, I felt crushed under the weight of a loss. Or my favorite jacket triggered memories as painful words spoken over me hung heavy on my shoulders.
And it wasn’t just me. It was Neil, too. Certain pieces of furniture brought old thought patterns to the surface reminding us of who we once were and how we struggled. Nothing wrong with the furniture itself. But every time we’d sit or lie down on our bed, overwhelming thoughts of “escape” from our daily rig-a-ma-role ensued. Once we realized television provided our escape, we decided to not have a T.V. in our bedroom. In fact, none of the bedrooms have flat panels anymore. We even took it a step further. Neil and I decided to replace “tube-time” with one-on-one time in the evenings. We’ve enjoyed connecting and spending time together so much that we rarely watch T.V. anymore.
As we’ve purged outwardly, God was purging us inwardly. As we got rid of anything that tied us to old habits and old ways of thinking, we asked God to give us new perspectives. And He did. For me, He showed me lies I believed about myself. He showed me areas full of pride. I know it sounds silly, but I felt like He was telling me to get rid of my favorite pair of red boots. I couldn’t believe how attached to those boots I was and how hard it was to give them away! This ended up being the case for many of my clothes. Those red boots made me feel sexy and confident, and I always received compliments when I wore them wherever I went. Receiving compliments isn’t necessarily bad, but when my confidence begins to come from what I wear and how others perceive me, it’s time to make a few adjustments.
Changing thought patterns and habits is a big deal. It changes how you think. Not easy. I never realized how much things held me hostage because of my dependance on them to provide feelings of security and well-being. Even little things like a jacket or a pair of boots. I’m learning to re-find my identity in the character of Jesus Christ. How does that work? By applying and speaking truth into every situation. For example, I used to crave people telling me that I looked fabulous, and I dressed to hear those compliments in order to make me feel better about myself. Let me be clear, it’s not wrong to enjoy compliments, and , believe me, I do! But to thrive on what others think about the way I look… that kind of thinking can take a person’s reasoning hostage.
What do I mean “take a person hostage”?
Let’s use fear as an example. Since we’ve been here, I’ve gained fifteen pounds. I hate it for a lot of different reasons, but one reason I hate it is because I don’t feel pretty. I feel fat and ugly. Fifteen pounds ago, doctors told me I was obese. So, now what am I? Super obese? Yeeesh. Ok, I do know this: the doctors saying I’m obese is a little off. They want me to be 135 pounds, and that wouldn’t be very healthy for my build. I don’t want to be 135, but I do want to be fifteen pounds lighter than now. That said, their words still play in my head like a video loop. If I lost fifteen pounds, at least I’d feel more comfortable with my weight. BUT what’s my reason for the loss of weight? Just to feel better? Sadly, no. I want to feel like I look good to other people so I will have more of a chance of people thinking well of me. Fear of people not liking me because there’s fifteen pounds more of me to love is kind of silly, eh?
But that fear can hold me hostage if I let it. It wraps its boney fingers around my brain and relentlessly reminds me how ugly I am with a few more pounds and a little voice says, “who’s going to love you for who you are if you don’t look great?”
Who’s going to love me for who I am? Who am I if I don’t feel like I look fantastic? Maybe no one. Then I obsess. And I sit and spin in all-consuming thoughts about how I need to look in order to be accepted. Pretty crazy. But let’s face it. We all have fears to which we need to speak truth. What are yours?
So, God’s been doing some purging of His own in my life. He’s been addressing thought patterns grounded in fear; habits built on lies and deception; and behaviors based on anything but truth. As Neil and I notice these areas in our lives and our marriage, we’ve been doing away with anything that brings us back to those strongholds.
As God purges our hearts and minds to reflect Him and we get rid of possessions that keep us bound to lies and false thinking, we are finding more freedom in simplicity of living. We have more clarity and capacity mentally and emotionally. For me, learning to speak the truth of God’s Word has released me from being held hostage by fear, guilt, shame, and unhealthy obsessing.
I’m free to give Him my heart and my song. I can sing with all my might and dance into each new day ready to testify of what God has done and continues to do daily.