When hard things happen in our lives, we have a choice. We can allow them to rob us of the abundant life God designed for us to live in the midst of the pain we are not spared from in a broken world. Or, we can choose to not be reduced by them.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”– Maya Angelou
Choosing the Abundant, Unreduced Life
We can bring to our loving Father our pain, pour out our hearts, and offer the hurt to Him as an offering. We can see Him collect our tears and stow our pain close to His heart. And we can receive more of Him, more of His healing, more of His comfort, more of His presence- More of whatever aspect of Himself He knows we need most. And He shows us a joy in the abundant life in Him that doesn’t depart, even when we are sitting with the Lord feeling pain or grief together. In this way, we allow Him to knit our story together with all the parts courageously integrated. This is the wholehearted life.
The other option is far less creative and courageous. Steve Jobs believed:
“Creativity is just connecting things”-Steve Jobs in Brene Brown’s Rising Strong (p.42)
Choosing To Be Reduced
When we choose to not face and feel our hard feelings, losses, hurts, and failures, we choose to live unintegrated. We choose to redact our stories, renounce parts of our lives, and reduce ourselves as people.
“…you’d be surprised how many of us never recognize our emotions or feelings – we off-load instead. Rather than saying ‘I failed and it feels so crappy,’ we move to ‘I am a failure.’ We act out and shut down rather than reaching out.”Brene Brown Rising Strong (p. 47)
We can offload by:
- dismissing, diminishing, and otherwise devaluing our feelings, never recognizing the value and purpose of the message they communicate.
- overreacting, especially with those we have power or authority over. Brown calls this Chandeliering.
- numbing our pain with work, food, alcohol, perfecting, drugs, caretaking, gaming, porn, relationships, gambling, shopping, planning, social media, and seeking constant change. The problem is “no matter what we use, we can’t selectively numb emotions – when we numb the dark, we numb the light” Brene Brown, Rising Strong, p62.
- not let the hurt in by seeing life through a shame-based fear of the ordinary that causes us to live like we are always right and better than, perfecting, outperforming, proving, and competing our way through our day at the expense of everyone around us.
- bounce the pain through blame, anger, fault finding, making excuses, lashing out, paying back and other forms of self-protection.
- adopting a pose of indifference, saying “I don’t care,” instead of the truthful, “I’m hurt.”
- stockpiling the hurt. The body is designed to step in here so send the message: “shut down the stockpiling or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time” (Brown p64).
- get stuck in the floodgates of our emotions unable to move forward.
- (For more on these, see Rising Strong chapter 4.)
Choose Life. Life to the Full
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.-Jesus. John 10:10
If you have walked with me through the last few years, you know it has been anything but easy. The enemy sought to destroy that which mattered most in my life on many levels. But I feel fuller, more alive, and more joyful than ever now. This is because I’ve seen the Lord hide my pain in His heart, carry me through, heal me in many ways, do miracles, and overall help me know Him better and walk with Him.
God is good. He offers us this life- this abundant life, even in a world where we won’t be spared from pain. It requires us to feel our pain, bring it to Him, believe He is good, and receive from Him all that we need, including effervescent joy that bubbles deep inside no matter what we are facing. It requires us to recognize that even if we feel like we are sitting in the dark, we have One who loves us deeply, knows us perfectly, and is working for our good sitting right there with us, feeling our hurt with us, and ready to bear our pain and offer us more of Himself. He is Life. In receiving more of Him, we breath in Life more abundant than we can fathom.
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