After she finished detailing the progress she’s made on her latest work endeavor I asked her, “do you feel like God is working with you?” This is a question I’ve asked myself lately. It’s an important question that all people of faith should ask themselves.
Life is full of battles, and when you’re in one wouldn’t you want God fighting with you. Although He is close and with us at all times, He’s not necessarily fighting all our battles with us. He chooses carefully, and so should we.
This week’s attribute is all about picking the right battles and how standing up for yourself and others is the right thing to do. And as far as God fighting with us is concerned, we can be assured that He is always fighting with us when we choose the way that requires virtue and courage, because those paths are aligned with who God is. Yes, like the warm air slowly churning outside my door informs me of what I can see on the radar about the impending hurricane coming my way, God is always present. However, He is not always picking up the battles we choose.
In both my daily reading today, by today I am referring to the day that I am crafting this piece to you in cyberspace, and on the verse of the day from the Bible app these same words are before me;
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV
If you want to feel God working with you then you better start fighting battles that require faith. It takes courage to have faith.
We’re told in scripture that faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the substance of what is unseen. I hope you didn’t miss that. Unseen.
If you want to see the invisible God step into your life and begin to fight your battles with you; then you need to choose the battles He would choose. He always chooses the battles that require courage. The one’s that require virtue.
Be strong and courageous in your choosing my friend,
We had already talked for hours, and sometimes that’s what it takes, hours. Hours to get to the heart of a matter. We’d shared our stories, bruised and battered as they were, yet on the mend. The conversation unboxed some old dusty memories of the “me” I used to be, broken. Broken in so many ways.
Emotionally broken, mentally broken, and spiritually broken. Recently these types of conversations have unearthed some old narratives that I used to allow to replay and control my life, set on repeat like tracks on a broken record. These narratives defined who I was by others, and who I saw myself to be. I’ve spent years rewriting these narratives, inserting more and more truth, adding objectivity and grace.
And yet with all that work I still find there are old silent narratives that live inside of me just waiting to be discovered in conversations like these. But now they serve a different purpose. Where they once bound me to a life of pain and abuse, they can now be used to unlock cell doors for others. While I had longed for someone to fight my battles for me, the real growth was learning to stand up for myself. I needed to endure the process of learning to set protective boundaries. It takes courage to set boundaries.
Its hard to loving yourself and trust yourself in the places where you have a dent in your courage. A beat up spot that keeps you from wholeness, health, and freedom. This is a place of self doubt. I had almost forgotten how far I’d come until my conversation today. The journey has been long and hard, but worth it. After waiting in this place for years, just hoping someone might secretly come and save me, I’m glad I finally got tired of waiting.
If you live on a pendulum that swings from the poles of discouragement to encouragement on a regular basis, you need to take the leap yourself. Disrupt the cycle. The decision to stop waiting is a leap, the action that follows is a step. Feeling your way to a middle ground begins by taking a small step that requires courage. We all have different battles to fight, but they all require the same thing – just a little bit of courage.
Will you take a small step today?
I hope so, you can do it, you are strong and courageous,
We’ve been knocking heads more than usual these days. As a mom of teen people transitioning into young adults, I’ve been anticipating some friction. I was sorry, however, for the timing. In the middle of putting out some surrounding fires I became short with her. I’ve coached my kids to set me up for a “yes” whenever possible, that’s my heart as a parent.
I’d prefer avoiding dishing out a “no” whenever I can. Occasionally, we need to find a middle ground when I’m not comfortable with the “ask.” That day much to her dismay, I was tired. A quick “no” was easy to dispense. Putting out the fires of everyday life can be exhausting, and I was ready to scream, “Calgon take me away.” That’s when she approached me with her request.
It wasn’t altogether unreasonable, yet as she pushed against my boundaries of comfort, I pushed back. “Push back” is that a term in your home? I laugh sometimes when people share their stories of “sass” from their kids. My typical response is… “have you met my 6’5″ son? I’m a pro at push back.” Preschoolers have no chance against me. Usually, I’m the one getting the “push back” this was my rare occasion to dish it out.
She was handling it well. There was a game of tug of war being played which required her to be assertive. I’ve coached my kids to be assertive. It takes courage to be assertive.
I want them to “ask.” I don’t want them to be held back by fear. They’ve just got to be ready to handle a “no.” This is hard for many adults. Myself included. Often times I think we can misappropriate a “no” and add it to our “rejection” list. It’s hard not to personalize everything in life. A “no” can simply be that…”no.” It can have nothing to do with you. A “no” can be birthed in a variety of ways; the timing’s not right, the need doesn’t fit, or it’s just flat out not comfortable to give a “yes.”
I used to tell my kids that when I checked out of the hospital when they were each born, that with them I also received 1 million “nos.” “No” is the word we use to create boundaries. Boundaries with ourselves (no ice cream Melissa.) Boundaries with others (no thank you…salesperson.) “Push back” on the other hand can help us find a “yes” when “no” seems wrong.
Like I said, I didn’t want to say “no,” I just wasn’t comfortable with saying “yes.” Ultimately, through “pushing back” on her request, forcing her to edit her request until we could both be satisfied with the solution, she presented an option that yielded a “yes.”
I’m seeing both of my teen people grow in this area lately, and it makes me smile. They are about to leave the comfy confines of our family nest and I want them prepared. The world is tough. I’ve spent countless hours trying to mold and shape them with thoughts about leadership, purpose, and choice. This sadly, has not been the case for the vast majority of their contemporaries. In order to live the life they desire, they will need to lead up, down, and from side to side – create their own territory, navigate their own way. I’m not ashamed to have trained them to stand up for themselves in a chaotic world. Who knows maybe they’ll even show others the way. I want them to be strong and courageous, these are the kind of humans we need more than ever.
Be strong and courageous – and assertive this week my friend.
You would think since we now live in the same neighborhood that we would be spending more time together, sadly it hasn’t turned out that way. Last week there were close encounters as we played tag via text, and another day as I was rounding the street to return home from my walk I caught a glimpse of her jogging the other way. Friend-ships in the night I guess. We finally accepted our lot and settled for a phone call while we tried to multitask some of our routine responsibilities.
We never quite get through our list of “life stuff to discuss with _______” I think we both keep a running mental account with one another’s names included.
We were gracious and allowed each other a fair share of the talk time to catch up and cover most of our agendas before she interjected “new business” to our meeting.
Question, have you ever felt like you had investigated something thoroughly and are ready to pull the trigger on the decision, only to discover, just after you were certain, “Houston, we have a problem?”
Well, that’s exactly where she found herself. This can be unnerving. How can we be so certain we are moving forward in the right direction only to realize that we’ve hit a headwind straight into a danger.
After she neatly unpacked all the details of her quandary, we began to analyze.
Of course we were both able to take our seats up in the clouds, as we pulled apart the situation attempting to see it all from God’s point of view, no judgement of course. I can honestly say that we were fair and kind, even though we did not agree with the actions that had transpired. However, there would still be danger ahead for my friend so I advised she launch some preemptive counter measures.
“Call her back” I said.
She had just given a verbal “yes” to a year long commitment. However, with this new information now in play she was dismayed. “It took courage for me to go in and tell her I would commit in the first place” she said, “now I have to call her and bring up these issues.” She knew she had to do it.
It takes courage to seek the truth.
Whether we like it or not, all of our perspectives are building toward a future reality. What if our realities collide? Some of us will like the new reality and some of us won’t. Seeking the truth of someone else’s perspective can help us know which battles are worth fighting.
I’m betting that if someone else’s perspective is going to impact my future reality, that I better fight for my perspective to be considered.
Isn’t that how most conflict occurs anyway – opposing perspectives?
She’s one of us. She’s full of courage. I have no doubt that the next pocket of time we have to debrief on life, I’ll get the rest of the story.
The subject line of his email read “People are messy.” Now that’s a a piece of bait almost everyone can relate to. And as I clicked through to see the rest of his content I almost laughed out loud 😆 his video message was entitled, CONFLICT.
Oh how I wish we were all seated on my living room sofa together, cozied up and sharing our war stories of conflict. Why is conflict so especially difficult for women? Whether it’s in your family sphere, your professional sphere, or dare I even say in your friendship sphere – can we all relate that if we had a choice we would never, yes I said never, engage in conflict?
This is the attribute that I have had to work through the most. It’s the attribute that has broken me down and built me up as a person. The attribute that calls me to stick up for myself and others has forced me to learn how to pick my battles and fight right.
And what I’ve learned is, knowing how to fight gives you courage.
Sometimes when I’m on my morning jog I fantasize that I have one of those totally ripped P90X bodies and the kung fu fighting skills to go with it. I think I’ve created an alter ego. She is the physical embodiment of my inner convictions. She emerges when I’m faced with battling the things and people that are wrong and unjust in my life. She belongs in every Marvel movie sticking up for what’s right and fiercely upholds the truth. She is everything I aspire to be.
Alas, when my jog is finished and the endorphins subside, she is gone, and I am left to do the fighting on my own.
I have a deep need to see all things GOOD, RIGHT, and JUST prevail in every way and my fight girl goes into battle mode when I’m faced with these conflicts. However, her superpowers are fiction and the real me, the “please God don’t make me engage in conflict” me is left to strive and sweat for the GOOD, RIGHT, and JUST on her behalf. I’m learning this is the hardest of all the ATTRIBUTES for me to develop. This post is for me.
Here are a few tidbits I’ve gleaned from my battle scars.
#1 – YOU HAVE PERMISSION. I needed permission. If you’re a rule follower like me sometimes you just need permission. You have permission. It’s always OK to stick up for yourself and others.
#2 – KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES. This one takes time. Decide what you will and won’t tolerate for yourself and others in your care. (which might include strangers at times!) If you can, make a list about words and actions you will and won’t allow in your presence. You need to know your own boundaries before you can protect them.
#3 – PROTECT YOUR BOUNDARIES. This step is where courage needs to kick in. We all operate with a different code of conduct so expect that people will violate your boundaries. You need to decide how to give a “warning” and when you need to load your weapon.
#4 – USE YOUR WORDS. Your words are your ammunition. You need to know how to carefully and confidently address a boundary violation. Most people know how to manipulate, avoid, and use their words in a destructive manner, few know how to fight right.
I’ve learned in most cases you will be leading yourself and the other human through this process. It’s hard. Humans are wired with the fight or flight instinct – learning how to fight in a way that makes someone else feel like flight isn’t their only option is a life skill – a relationship skill.
As I said before, this has been the hardest ATTRIBUTE for me to develop. I’ve got battle stories with both positive and negative endings. Mostly, the relationship has at least ended in mutual respect. Sometimes there wasn’t a need to either deepen or continue the relationship and the discomfort of the conflict just sent each party on their way. No outcome is ever guaranteed that’s why we have to decide early what battles are worth fighting.
The point is this, we don’t know our future and it might just be that the greatest work we are ever led to do will require us to have the courage to fight. The world needs skilled fighters, courageous leaders, and P90X kung fu girls with hearts full of conviction. What about you… do you have an alter ego?
ATTRIBUTE # 5
PICK YOUR BATTLES
If you’ve got tips in this area I’d love for you to share them with the rest of us.