Sunday, March 05, 2006

Breaking strongholds from the past

God has really been working on me for a while now. I'd been going around the same mountain of emotional drama time and time again for years. I kept asking "Why?" but I didn't want to hear God's reply. So the cycle of emotional pain, stress, broken relationships and chronic illnesses continued until I couldn't bear it any longer.

When I finally reached the end of myself, God was there to tell me again what He'd be telling me all along... that in my brokenness, I've been searching for healing in all the wrong places. I spent years pursuing a fast-paced, high-stakes career, adopting and raising a baby, marrying, divorcing and re-marrying (more times than I care to admit), moving from one state to another, making and leaving friendships, the list goes on. Each time I got what I thought I wanted, I realized that the emptiness inside still didn't go away, and with each problem that my new situation solved, it created many more. All I really needed was right there all along, if only I'd had the faith to believe that.

My natural tendency would be to lament the many miserable years that I "wasted", making one poor choice after another, blaming others for the predicaments I found myself in, and crying about the unfair hand I'd been dealt in life. But this time, I've chosen a different response. I've chosen to believe that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, and that even in my mistakes, valuable life lessons were learned. I have confessed and by His grace, God has forgiven me. Now, I'm learning to forgive myself.

There is a song that's been on my heart for the last several days, "The God of a Second Chance". It fills my heart with unspeakable relief and comfort to know that the God I serve offers each of us a second chance, a second second chance, and as many chances as we need to get it right. I've tried the second chance thing before, but without much success. Although I did what I thought I needed to do on the surface to "re-invent myself", I was missing the two most important things. First, no matter how smart, analytical or self-disciplined I may think I am, I cannot live the life God has planned for me without His help and His guidance, every step of the way. Although it's not easy, I have to remind myself constantly that no problem, no worry, no fear is too big or too little for God. He wants to help each and every one of us, each and every moment of our lives, but only if we'll let Him.

The second, and equally important lesson I've learned is that in order to move forward, sometimes it's necessary to let go of the past. I cannot open my hands to receive God's blessings if they are balled up tightly clutching all of the old hurts, injustices and shames of the past. I can not even begin to see myself as God sees me until I am willing to let go of the lies about myself that I've believed all my life. From the kids at school who said cruel things about my thick glasses or my flat chest, to the boys in high school who always overlooked me for my more extroverted and curvacious girlfriends, to the ex-husbands who made me feel I was unlovable, and yes, even the family members who wanted me to be someone that I'm not.

Letting go of my past has not been easy. Not because it's a past that I'm proud of but because those dysfunctional habits are the only ones I've known. Change can be exciting, but it can also be scary and can feel overwhelming. That's where God comes in. Knowing that moving forward into the future He has for me will be so much more fulfilling than the past I'm choosing to leave behind makes change so much easier. Having faith that He will be holding my hand every step of the way gives me a courage and a comfort that was sorely lacking before.

So I've said a lot of good-byes lately... to old friends who drag me down rather than life me up, to old thought patterns that left me feeling worthless and depressed, to anger at the people who have hurt me, to my unrealistic expectations of myself and others. In the past year alone, I've moved, separated from my husband, forced my rebellious teen to make some difficult life-choices that are challenging her to learn to fly on her own at last, thrown or given away boxes and bags full of clothing, books, papers, momentos from my past life that no longer fit the person I have become, and lastly and perhaps most symbolically for me, I have legally changed my name. I have announced to God, to myself and to the world that I am literally a new creature in Him, and that because He is the God of a second chance, I have chosen to take it.

This afternoon, I sat in my prayer room knitting a prayer shawl and listening to a wonderful tape called "Breaking Strongholds from the Past" by Joyce Meyer. If you are tired of the life you've been living and if you are fearful of spending the rest of your life with more of the same, I strongly encourage you to listen to this inspiring message. It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So, as Joyce puts it, if you're tired of living under a generational curse, bound by a dysfunctional past, make a generational choice to make a change. Today is a good day to start... Let go and let God.

Are you struggling to break strongholds from your past? Have you already succeeded in breaking free to live the life God has for you? I'd love to hear your stories. Feel free to post here.

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