You might consider this post to be a third post in an unexpected series. It began with seeing four ways people are redeemed in Psalm 107. Then, God led me to the book Battlefield of the Mind and showed me how many of my thought processes were bound up in Green Pastures.
Since that time, I’ve been astounded, quite frankly, with how different my thoughts have been. Instead of always expecting the worst, feeling negative about myself or my circumstances, I’m finding myself feeling secure in God’s promises, positive about the changes he’s making and content with where has me.
I wanted to share two areas in particular that I truly feel freed from as a result of these thought process changes. I share them not in an attempt to overshare or boast in the changes, but to share that God has done much work. And, if you find yourself in a similar situation, that you might reach out to God for the same.
In surprise to no one, God brought me two more books to shed light on these areas. The first is Brene Brown’s bestseller, Daring Greatly. Daring Greatly has been read widely and I’m likely the last of my reading friends to check it out, but like many books do, it came at just the right time.
Daring Greatly is about shame and vulnerability. It’s impossible to do the whole book justice, but let me try to share a few concepts. First, Brene suggests that whole, healthy people allow themselves to be vulnerable. They allow themselves to be who they really are and connect with others. People who are not whole often feel shame in some capacity and do not feel like they deserve to connect. In order to protect themselves from this vulnerability, they wear armor.
Brene describes three main types of armor that people use to protect themselves: foreboding joy, perfectionism and numbing.
To explain foreboding joy, Brene says, “In a culture of deep scarcity—of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough—joy can feel like a setup. We wake up in the morning and think, Work is going well. Everyone in the family is healthy. No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. I’m working out and feeling good. Oh, shit. This is bad. This is really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner.” (Excuse the language)
I need to share that quote because that’s how I’ve lived a lot of my life. It was ok to be happy, but only for a few moments. I’d be staring at my newborn and thinking how beautiful she was and how blessed I was and then immediately think, she’ll probably die in a car accident tomorrow. It pains me to admit that and I want to weep for my younger self. My joy was so great, but I had to tamper it down so I wouldn’t get hurt.
Connecting this back to what Joyce talked about in Battlefield of the Mind, this relates to the wondering, anxious thoughts I knew I had.
I’ve done this with many things, but one of those is my job. In addition, I wrapped a sense of foreboding joy about my husband’s job and some perfectionism I felt around my job and I was a mess.
For those who have read here for years, you might know I have spent years wishing I was home. I felt like I needed to be a stay at home mom to be a real mom (although I never judged any other mother that worked). I never really expected to fully enjoy my job. Surely God was going to send me home soon. I was good at it and loved my coworkers but the “perfect” mom would be at home with her kids. And I worried what all those people thought about me being a working mom.
Plus, I had foreboding joy with Scott. I love him so much and I never, ever worry about him going to work as a highway patrolman, but I am seeing now I have tampered the joy with a deep, inner sense of foreboding about what might happen to him. I felt like I needed to do everything in order to keep our family running just in case. I felt an extreme burden to do it all and do it well because Amy, one day you might have to.
Just in the last few weeks God has opened my eyes to this destructive thinking and it’s been amazing the results.
And I don’t doubt for one second his timing. At work, I was given a new and difficult project just as I started this book. The weight of it two months ago would have put me into a depression. Even though it is difficult, I now approach it with joy. Somewhere along the way I have felt a chain broken about my job. I’ve been fighting God for so many years, but I have come to peace that God really does want me in my job. And it’s ok to like it too.
He has shown me that I don’t have to shoulder everything in our family. It’s ok to let Scott help and fill in my gaps. God put us together because we need each other. I don’t find it an accident at all that Scott has a schedule that allows him to pick the girls up when I’m at work or that he doesn’t mind fixing dinner when I’m away because his dad did the exact same thing for his family. If God does ever separate us, then he will provide, but I cannot live my life with that assumption.
Brene says the solution to foreboding joy is gratitude—seeing the small moments for the wonderful moments they are. The solution to perfectionism is to find beauty in the cracks—we need to come to the point where we believe we are enough. We aren’t everything, but we are enough.
So, with my family and with my job, which are very intertwined for me, I am learning to do both of those things. I need to be grateful for those people, for my job, for a meeting well-led and a project much-enjoyed or for dinner cooked by my husband. I have to believe I’m enough even though I am not everything.
I am so thankful for the work God has done. In Christian circles we talk a lot about God delivering us and giving us freedom. Many equate that to situations or addictions or behaviors, but the more I follow Christ, the more I see that it is in the heart and mind where we most need freedom. I think that’s why Jesus was always more concerned about our heart rather than our actions. True joy is found with a free mind, no matter your circumstances.
There is another area in which I have been finding freedom in the past weeks, but I believe I’ll save that for another 1,000 words tomorrow. Come back?