Princess

All posts in the Princess category

The Princess and the Audition

Published January 20, 2014 by joypatton

Audition Poster

L’Audition by Himitsuhana

“I’m not going to audition for the musical.”  My young friend looked me in the eye and said it.  I asked a few follow up questions, but all her answers made sense.  She didn’t want to deal with the drama of the drama people.  She didn’t want all the stress because she knew she had a good chance of getting a major role.  She wanted to get a job and make some money, so she could go out and have fun with her friends her senior year.  She knew she wasn’t going to pursue anything with theater after she graduated, so she just didn’t see the point.

A few days later my young friend and her mom showed up at my door.  “We need you to give us some advice.”  Even though I was reluctant to give advice (said with false humility and sarcasm), I agreed to listen.  “Mom wants me to audition, and I don’t want to.”  Once again I listened to her well-thought out reasons and justifications.  Then I turned and heard her mom’s sadness as she thought of her daughter’s high school experience ending without the lead role in the spring musical.  Her mother had watched her light up on stage for years.  She watched her daughter soar in many shows, and she quietly beamed inside with pride.  Her mom had a hard time imagining watching the spring production without her daughter on stage, and yet my young friend insisted she was at peace with not auditioning.

After I encouraged my good friend to let her daughter make her own decisions and bear the burden of the potential regret, I turned and asked a few questions to my young friend, a struggling Ice Queen like myself.  How much of this decision is based on your desire for control?   To control your destiny and not do what everyone expects you to do?  How much is based on your desire for shock value?  The fact that everyone would be shocked that she didn’t audition because they all knew the part was hers.  Trust me, I get shock value.  I get the rush of the Ice Queen when people are surprised.  Which choice requires more faith?  She knew the cost of time and energy of having a major part in a musical.  It would cost a lot, and she was afraid that it would cost too much with little return.  She preferred the more predictable choice of the job at the local chocolate shop where she got a paycheck at the end of the week and predictable hours.

The Ice Queen does what she wants, but the Princess does what the Father wants.  The Ice Queen won’t go anywhere she doesn’t want to go, especially when she can’t see the end.  The Princess goes where the Father asks her to go, even if she doesn’t see the point.  The Ice Queen carefully measures her own time and energy, but the Princess trusts the King to give her the time and energy to do what he has called her to do.  The Ice Queen has to make her own provisions.  The Princess trusts the Father to provide for all her needs.  The Ice Queen seeks her own glory and carefully strategizes her placement.  The Princess trusts the Father to place her where she needs to be to glorify him.   

When they left, I didn’t know what my young friend would decide.  A few days later she told me that she had auditioned.   “It was the best audition I had ever given.  I usually walk away not liking what I did, but this time, I knew it went really well.”  That’s what happens when a Princess walks into a room trusting God to be at work.  The pressure isn’t on her because she is just doing what God made her to do.  The Ice Queen only trusts herself and her own ability, which makes her incredibly nervous because she knows her weaknesses.

After the audition, my young friend got a call back to audition again for the lead roles.  At one point, she decided not to participate in another reading for a different part that she didn’t want.  However she heard God tell her that she needed to go do everything that was asked of her.  Like a true Princess, she went back into the audition on the arm of the King, entrusting herself to him.  Providentially she was able to read again for the part she really wanted, an opportunity she wouldn’t have had if she had left.

A few days later the cast list was posted.  She had the female lead, the part everyone knew she would get.  But more importantly she learned what it felt like to completely trust the Father.  To walk into a situation, knowing that it was all up to him.  To set aside what she wanted and to do what he wanted her to do.  Now that she knows what that feels like, she will also know what it feels like when the Ice Queen is pushing, driving and not trusting the King to be in charge.

“… but [Jesus] continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:23)

Maybe you don’t have an audition, but maybe he’s asking you to go into a job interview or on a date with that guy who keeps asking you. Maybe he’s asking you to make a phone call or write a letter, but you just don’t see the point.  No matter what the situation is, the question for the Princess still remains:  Will you entrust yourself to him?

The Door And The Barking Dog

Published September 3, 2013 by joypatton

20130902-221005.jpg

I stood at the door once again. I could hear the dog on the other side barking, and he didn’t sound as evil as everyone was making him out to be. I could even hear an occasional whimper as he begged me to open the door. Maybe this time it would be different, I told myself. Maybe this time, the dog and I could find a way to live in peace together. I heard the voices of my friends begging me not to do it again, and I remembered the pain I brought on myself and those around me the last time. But I just had to know if this dog and I could be friends. Maybe this time it wouldn’t be so bad; maybe this time it would be different. Surely, it couldn’t be as bad as before. So my hand reached for the door knob, and I opened the door.

The innocent whimper turned into a ferocious growl, and I felt the pain shooting up through my leg once again. I looked down to see this bulldog holding my leg in his teeth, trying in vain to take me down. I beat him off and chased him back out the door. I turned my attention to my leg and tried to get the throbbing to stop. I looked up at the sky and said, “You were right. It was really stupid to open the door. I’m sorry.”

So before you get too worried about my leg and start to question my sanity, the above story is a picture I heard Dr. Neil T. Anderson present in a message at New Hope Community Church in Nashville, TN. He was talking about the difference between confession and repentance.

Confession is agreeing with God that what we did was wrong. It was wrong for me to open the door to the barking dog who represents that nagging sin, behavior or addiction that just won’t go away and I can’t seem to stop. Repentance is changing my behavior and not opening the door. He talked about setting boundaries and changing behavior patterns so that we stayed out of situations that were tempting.

As he spoke, I knew exactly what my barking dog was. Her name was “jealousy.” I had tried to stop being jealous of other people and wanting what they had. I had confessed to my friends and to my husband whenever I felt jealous. And the question I wrote in my notes was “How do I stop opening the door to Jealousy?”

Sometimes when your barking dog is an addiction, it seems easier to identify what makes you open the door. It’s going to a certain corner to find your drug or staying out of certain places to keep you from drinking. It’s putting a filter on the computer or deleting a phone number from your phone. I thought Jealousy was a different kind of dog, but I discovered she wasn’t so different after all.

As I started journaling about why I kept opening the door, I realized that the root was a lack of contentment. I realized that when I pictured standing at the door, I was in a closet, a tiny, stuffy, going-nowhere, full of nothing closet. And I wanted something more. I thought that “something more” was just beyond the door, so I reached for the door knob. Sure, I might have to put up with some barking and some dog bites, but it would be worth it to get to “something more.” And I kept opening the door and kept being jealous.

Then God showed me what was true. I wasn’t standing in a closet. I was standing in a big open space with no limits. I was standing in “something more” already, and the dog Jealousy was locked in a closet. All I had to do was turn around and see the family, the friends, the house, the ministry that God had already given to me on my side of the door. When I was so focused on chasing “something more,” I forgot about all that God had already given. All I had to do was turn around and repent.

And so I prayed a Princess prayer to ask God to help me be content on my side the door. To be grateful for what I already had. I needed to trust that he was big enough and strong enough to bring whatever I needed to my side of the door. He didn’t even have to go through the door; he could have it helicopter lifted in if he wanted to. He could make it magically appear, even if I never opened the door with the barking dog on the other side.

So what do you need to trust him for on your side of the door? Can he bring you the husband, the love, the attention you desire? Can he heal your pain so that you don’t have to hurt anymore? Can he bring you peace and hope outside of the other things you run to when you feel depressed? Can he provide for your financial needs even if you don’t reach for the credit cards? Will you trust him to bring it to your side of the door and stop reaching for something more?

I can’t say that I’m not jealous any more, but I can say that it has been a long time, which is about the best that any addict can hope for. When I confessed that I was focusing on the wrong things and began to turn around and focus on other things, that barking dog wasn’t as loud as she was before. I’ve learned that the root of all our reaching is a desire for something more, whether we are reaching for love in an illegitimate relationship or reaching for happiness at the bottom of a bottle. This desire can only be satisfied in a relationship with Jesus. And that’s not a band-aid or a nice Christian phrase. It’s the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding truth.

Sacred Service

Published August 29, 2013 by joypatton

20130829-122154.jpg

I stood at the back of the room dressed in a tuxedo shirt and bow tie with black pants. The emotions caught me by surprise. As I looked around the room, I saw familiar faces. I looked at the person on stage. I used to be that person, the one standing on the stage in the front of the room giving the keynote address. I wanted to be that person again. But today I was standing in the back of the room wearing an apron and cleaning up dirty dishes. It was a painful reminder that I was not where I used to be.

To me, it felt like a giant demotion. Being there as part of the catering staff felt like a declaration of my failure. I guess the book thing didn’t work for her, so now the poor thing has to wait tables. The voice of the accuser haunted my ears. “See, you tried too hard, you went too fast, you pushed too hard and you ruined it. Now you will never have it because you messed it up. Everyone else knew you weren’t ready, that you were too young, but you didn’t listen. You kept pushing anyway.” All of his words confirmed to me that I was an Orphan, unworthy and abandoned…unloved.

But I kept serving and smiling. I texted my husband to ask him to pray. He knew what it felt like. He had friends show up at concerts where he was working security and not the green room. He reminded me that we were doing what we had to so that we could provide for our family. I hated that. I hated doing this to provide and not the things I loved doing, that I was gifted to do, that I was called to do. And then I became the Accuser. If God wanted to, he could have made it so. He could have made our efforts successful. But he didn’t. The proof was as plain as day… he must not love us after all.

And in my desperate prayer for help, I heard his voice. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. It makes no difference to me whether you are standing on a platform in the front of the room or standing with the catering staff in the back of the room. It’s all service. All of it is serving me and my purposes for my glory. I don’t care where you are standing; I care about your heart.”  I asked him to forgive me for putting him in the wrong.

He is lovingly teaching me what it means to serve. I’m learning to be content serving in the back. I’m finding joy in serving others and helping others’ dreams come true. God, in his amazing grace, has even given me friends to serve alongside. Last weekend some friends who were in Bible studies with me years ago came and worked at my catering job too. What fun it was to serve together again! So we weren’t planning a women’s retreat or doing a weekly women’s Bible study. But it was still sacred because we were doing what Jesus did when he took up the basin and the towel.

Recently I was filling out another job application, and it asked where I saw myself in five years. I used to be able to answer this question easily because I was very goal-oriented. However now I’m in a place I never planned to be, and my goals are completely worthless when matched against God’s sovereign plan.  I’ve learned that I am and will always be a follower of Jesus. And Jesus had no career goals or plans. He simply did whatever the Father asked him to do; he went wherever the Father asked him to go; he said whatever the Father asked him to say. And everything was overshadowed by two words: loving and serving.  By his example, Jesus made all service sacred.

I don’t know where my “career” is going, but I do know that wherever the Father asks me to go, I will be loving and serving others, hopefully just like Jesus did.   I serve at the pleasure of the King, and I will go wherever he asks me to go…to a tiny back room to make jewelry, to a marketing firm as a PR assistant, to my family at home or standing in the back of the room in a tuxedo shirt and apron.  Some day I may even stand on a platform again delivering a keynote address, but it will still be about loving and serving people, and it will be no greater or more significant or more important than where I am serving and loving today.  It’s all loving and serving people. It’s all pleasing to the Lord when my heart is the heart of a Princess.  Just like Jesus, I serve at the pleasure of the King.

 

The Princess and the Dress

Published April 25, 2013 by joypatton

20130425-140738.jpg

My friend called me with an urgent prayer request. “I have to go shopping with my daughter for a prom dress, and I just might kill her in the process.” It was that time of year and her oldest daughter’s first prom. Everyone knows the most important part of the evening is the dress. Her daughter had gone into Ice Queen mode, doing all the necessary research to find the perfect dress. Her friends said “The White Room” was the only place to go, and so mother and daughter headed to the store. “Maybe you should come as a buffer,” my friend said to me. Because I love to shop with other people’s money, I was very disappointed I couldn’t go. The trip was successful though without me. They found the perfect dress, one that her daughter LOVED. My friend worried that the dress might not be a good fit for her daughter’s body. But it was so beautiful and her heart was set on this dress. In Ice Queen shopping mode, no daughter listens to what her mother has to say anyway. Because the Orphan side of my friend wanted to please her daughter, she pushed aside her concerns and said yes. Even though the shop didn’t have her size in stock, they signed on the dotted line and ordered the dress. The seamstress assured them that with a few simple alterations, the dress would be perfect. The shop even noted which dress she bought so that they wouldn’t sell the same dress to anyone else at her school.

The week of the prom, I received another urgent call from my friend. She needed me to take her youngest daughter to rehearsal so that she could go pick up the dress from The White Room. The problem was that the seamstress was sick and none of the alterations had been made to the dress three days before prom. But my friend was sure that her mother, an experienced seamstress who had arrived in town the night before, could make the necessary alterations and everything would be fine once they had the dress.

Later that night I received an urgent text from my friend’s precious daughter. “Got the dress back from the alterations lady today, and it does not fit to the point that it is unwearable. Will you pray that I would trust Jesus in this? I’m so sad and feeling a lot of shame.” She was trying so hard to be a Princess about it all and trust Jesus. She also courageously acknowledged her feelings. But while the rest of her family attended her sister’s play, she stayed at home wrestling with the Orphan side of her. “You shouldn’t have been such an Ice Queen at the store. What an awful, ungrateful daughter you are! You should have listened to your mom and not your friends. What a fool! Now they have to buy another dress in less than 48 hours. That’s impossible! You should just stay home. You don’t really deserve to go anyway. You will never find a dress to fit your gross body.” And yet the Princess side of her battled back and she prayed and cried out to Jesus. He began to speak His truth to her. “I’m not surprised by this turn of events. You are beautiful just the way I made you. I have a husband for you some day that will love your body exactly the way it is. I love you, and I have made a provision for you. You can trust me.”

The next morning I called my friend. “What do you mean it’s unwearable? What’s the plan?” She told me that when Meme, her mom, looked at the alterations the seamstress was going to do, there was no way it was going to work with that dress. It had no back and simply wouldn’t look right. My friend asked if I could go shopping with her and her mom while her daughter was in school. This time I got to go because my morning was free. We agreed to meet at the mall and “pre-shop” for her daughter. Then she would get her from school and show her the things we picked out. So the Princess trusted that her grandmother, her mom and her mom’s friend would find the perfect dress for her. Three old ladies shopping for prom dresses made quite the team. We each brought something unique to the table. Meme knew what could realistically be altered. Her mom knew what styles and colors had already been rejected, no strapless, no white. I was the fashionista. The store clerks looked at us funny as we tried on dresses. But we were pleasantly surprised at the options we found and were sure that one would work for the Princess, who received many text message pictures from us.

She went to get her daughter, and I went to pick up my preschool daughter. We met back at the mall, and she tried on all our finds. Three generations of women united in a singular mission. I smiled at my daughter Faith and said that some day we would be shopping for her prom dress. I don’t think it meant as much to her as it did to me. Mission accomplished: we found a dress that she truly loved and looked beautiful in. A dress that fit her body perfectly.

The next day the vigorous beauty regimen for the prom kept my friend and her daughter occupied.  And yet even adorned in her new dress, the Princess doubted her worth.  She was ashamed that her foolishness had caused such turmoil.  Even a full-length ball gown and perfectly curled hair could not give her a Princess heart.  Her Princess heart came from repentance, from taking her feelings to Jesus, from receiving his lavish gifts.  The Orphan heart cannot accept these gifts, and the Ice Queen heart demands them in her pride. The Princess knows she is not worthy of such arraignments, yet she receives the love of the Father.   The Father sent all of us a beautiful gift by sending three other Princesses to shop for a dress.  All we do is accept the gifts He lavishes and live like His Princesses.

Lessons from the Wasteland: It’s not about the swag

Published March 4, 2013 by joypatton

Recently we had a conversation with my oldest son about the possibility of cutting back on some of his activities because of time and money.  As we talked about his involvement in his travel baseball team, a major factor for playing on this team became apparent…the swag.  We have a team parent who is awesome at getting sponsorship for the kids and they get some pretty nice stuff.  Baseball bags, jackets, pants, Under Armour shirts and hats.  This team looks good wherever they go.  Connor looked at us and said, “You wouldn’t buy me a baseball bag that nice.”  He’s right; we wouldn’t.  So he was willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money to get the swag.

The truth is I like swag too.  I’m willing to give up a lot as long as I get some swag out of it.  As a Christian, I’ve gotten used to getting “swag” from God.  I’ve got a nice house in a quiet town.  I’ve got four beautiful, healthy, smart, talented kids, and a great husband who works really hard to support our family.  He has his own artist management company, and every day he goes to a job he loves doing, helping Christian artists.  We’ve had opportunities to serve at our church and use our gifts in the kingdom.  We are in good health and physically capable of doing a lot of things.  I’ve had people who have affirmed my spiritual gifts and given me many places to use them.  I’ve had the luxury of pursuing dreams and investing in people.

But happens when God messes with my “swag?”  What happens when the perks of being on God’s team disappear?  Will I still want to play on his team?  Will I still trust him to be my coach?  Have I been playing the Christian game just to get the swag?

In John 6, Jesus fed 5,ooo people in one sitting.  If you’ve ever tried to cook for a large group of people, you know what a miracle this is.  Of course, immediately his Klout score went up and his Twitter page was overwhelmed.  I mean, he had a lot of followers who decided to keep following Jesus.  They followed him overnight all the way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  But soon the true motives for their dedication were revealed.  “You are seeking me not because saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)  They were following because they found a guy who could make bread, and they thought they would never have to work for bread again.  They wanted a bread machine, not true bread.  Later Jesus explains, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  I am the bread of life.” (John 6:33,35)

I must confess that I often want Jesus to be my bread machine and fill my belly and make my life comfortable and easy.  I don’t want the bread he has to offer.  I don’t want to do the hard faith work of trusting, resting, abiding and believing.  I just want him to give me the swag.  And when the wasteland comes and all the perks disappear, I don’t think it’s so cool to follow him.  In fact, I throw a temper tantrum and refuse to follow until he gives me what I want.

But following Jesus and being on his “team” is not about the swag.  It’s not about how cool you look or how great your life becomes when you obey all his commands.  I don’t follow him because of the blessings or the miracles.  I follow him because he is God, and I am not.  He can make bread from nothing, and I can’t.  I follow because God gave his one and only Son to show how much he loved me.  He paid a debt he didn’t owe, so I could have an eternal life I don’t deserve.  He owes me nothing, and I owe him everything.  It’s not about the swag; it’s about following one step at a time.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for throwing a fit when some of my blessings fade.  When life gets hard and I’m uncomfortable, forgive me for not believing that you are all I need.  Forgive me for wanting to make you my personal bread machine.  Help me to be satisfied with true bread from heaven.  Help me follow you more closely.  Forever grateful, Your Princess.

 

Greater in 2013

Published January 22, 2013 by joypatton

Toward the end of 2012, I was asking God all sorts of questions about where we had been.  I thought that I had listened to him.  I thought that I had been following him.  But at the end of the year, nothing looked the way I thought it should.  Is this really going to be worth it?  Have I missed You?  Did I take a wrong turn?  Have I ruined it?  Maybe I should have… I was so discouraged and began to believe that everything I had been doing was foolish and that nothing was going to change.  One dark day I consider stopping everything, including taking down this blog.

In late November I signed up for Melissa Taylor’s online Bible study of Greater by Steven Furtick.  In this book, God gave me sign posts to show where I had been.  He reminded me that I was not on a fool’s errand, but that everything that had happened had been intentional. The book used the story of Elisha to illustrate John 14:12 where Jesus that that anyone who has faith in me will do even greater things.  I wanted to share some of those signposts…mainly so that I won’t forget.

Burning the plows – Elisha was doing life behind a bunch of cows when Elijah chose him to be his apprentice.  Before Elisha left, he used his plows to build an alter on which he sacrificed the cows who had been pulling the plow.  Furtick talks about how this made it impossible for Elisha to go back to the former, lesser life he had been used to.

For the last six years I had been serving in women’s ministry at our church.  But this year I have stepped back.  I’m not teaching a study; I’m not leading a ministry.  This is a very strange place for me and doesn’t make sense for someone who feels called to minister to women and is trying to publish a Bible study for women.  As I have stepped back, I realized that far too much of my identity was wrapped up in what I was doing as a women’s Bible study teacher.  I have also felt a lot of freedom to just go where He asks me to go, to love and serve the women that he has put in front of me.  It has made me much more dependent on his plan than trying to forge my own.

Digging Ditches – An enemy army was pressing in on Israel and the king goes to Elisha for advice.  Elisha tells them to dig ditches because it is going to rain.  Even though there had been a famine in the land and no rain for a very long time, the army did what they were told.  Digging ditches didn’t seem like a good battle plan, but it was exactly the plan they needed.  The next day it rained and the battle was won.

Last year I had to dig some ditches.  I took a break from teaching a women’s Bible study at church.  I realized that I didn’t have time to write when I was teaching.  So I took a year off to write a Bible study of the book of Galatians.  God was asking me to write instead of speak.  It didn’t make sense on paper at all.  But by faith, I did what God was asking me to do.  In that year, I finished the book, took a pilot group and two other groups through the study and offered it online last fall.  None of that was possible without a finished book.  I dug the ditches, and God sent the rain…another signpost.

A Little Oil – Furtick recounts the story of the widow who had nothing left but a little oil.  God used that little bit of oil to save her family from starvation.  But the widow had to use what she already had in her house.

Last year finding the time to write a book was an overwhelming task with four children ranging from middle school down to preschool.  But God reminded me that I had all the time I needed.  Instead of using my kid-free time for grocery shopping and house keeping, I used the time to write.  I could take kids to the grocery store and pick up the house when they were home, but I needed my kid-free time to write without being interrupted.  I also realized that I could get my book to people in an electronic form without a big publishing deal or spending money on self-publishing.  God could use the material in any form.   It didn’t have to look the way I thought it should.  Last year I started using what I had in my house to do what God was calling me to do…another signpost for me.

Wasted Faith – The Shunammite women was miraculously blessed with a son.  When Elisha told her she was to have a son, she said, “No, my lord, do not mislead your servant!”  It’s a strange response to good news.  Years later when her young son dies, she falls at the feet of Elisha and says, “Did I ask for a son?  Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”  Elisha comes to her house and raises the son from the dead.

I have felt like that this year.  I thought we were going in a certain direction in women’s ministry and now I’m nowhere.  I remember telling a friend this summer that every dream I had was dead.  I was going to put my book on the shelf and go crawl in a hole and never teach again.  I felt like God had raised my hopes in meetings with publishers and agents only to have every door closed.  Not only were doors closed, but difficult things were happening for me personally.  A close friendship fell apart, I was not parenting my teenage well, and I felt rejected and misunderstood in other relationships.  This made for a difficult year with counseling sessions, many sobbing tears and gut-wrenching introspection.

Furtick said, “The faith of all the saints through the ages is not enough to eliminate the reality of suffering.  Because suffering is not a detour on the road to greater.  It’s a landmark.  Discouragement is often a marker, not of being on the wrong path but of being on the right one.”  This reminded me that all the closed doors, the death of dreams, the tears and the pain were part of the plan, not a detour from the plan.

Trust Fund Baby – Furtick argues that God doesn’t waste our faith.  We may not see the outcome we hoped for in a situation, but that doesn’t mean that believing for a job, for healing, for reconciliation is wasted.  It means that God is storing it up in a “trust fund.”  He’s teaching me how to trust him more.

Saving Captain Awesomesauce –  Naman came to Elisha to be healed of leprosy.  Elisha told him to go wash in the river Jordan seven times.  Naman didn’t want to humiliate himself by washing in that dirty river.  He wanted to go back home where the rivers were much cleaner.  But his servant said to him, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”  Furtick says, “Pride is the most difficult part of the lesser life to leave behind.  It’s the most intrinsic to us.  We have a curious habit of posturing ourselves higher than the people around us.”

Guilty as charged.  This past year has been very humbling as I have had to take a hard look at my own pride and see my own sin.  I look back and see how my Orphan and Ice Queen patterns tripped me up once again.  Furtick talked about the importance of immediate obedience in learning humility.  God reminded me of small obedient steps I had made.  This fall I offered my study online, even though I was doubtful about whether or not it would work.  I saw God bless it and multiply it in ways I could not foresee.  I also signed up and started attending a study on Ezkiel, one of my favorite books of the Bible, but I had to drop out because God told me he wanted me to study John instead.  I hate backing out of things, but I had to obey.

Furtick also recommends keeping yourself small through your daily interactions with people around you.  This one is really hard for me and I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like in my life.  Jesus was so secure in his identity as the Son of God that taking the lowest position in the room took nothing from him.  His status, his value, his identity remained secure.  As a Princess, I long for that kind of security.

Where did it fall? – In this chapter he talks about the story of Elisha making an ax head float in the river.  A young prophet lost it and cried out to Elisha for help.  Elisha asked the simple question, “Where did it fall?”  Furtick talks about losing your edge and going back to the place you lost it.  He reminded me that when I get to that place, it’s not up to me to fix it or try harder.  I simply cry out to God and ask for help.  With God’s help, I traced the seed of some of the struggles of this year back to a meeting where I did not honor my heart.  I was not in a good place going into the meeting and in the process hurt those around me.  People missed me because I missed myself.  I was not careful with my heart.  God has been teaching me this year how to honor my heart and how to be true.

Open My Eyes – Elisha stands with a young prophet on the wall of the city looking out at an approaching army.  The army was much greater than the army of the Israelites and the young man was afraid.  Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes and the young man saw chariots of fire from God’s army that far outnumbered the enemy.  Furtick challenges us to open our eyes and see who is sitting at our table.  Sometimes we let people in who hold us back from the greater things God is calling us to.

My circle of friends has been small this year and that is strange for me.  I haven’t been in a community group or a small group study.  I really don’t like it, but I know this is exactly where he has me.  My close friends have been there with me and have not let me put my book on the shelf or crawl in a hole and never come out.  They have kept me going when I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.  My friend prayed the perfect prayer for me last night.  She asked that God would open my eyes and that I would see the places and the people that I am teaching.  When I get discouraged, my eyes are closed to all the things that God has done this past year.  My husband especially won’t let me lie to myself and deny that any progress has been made on this journey.  This book was full of sign posts for me that I’m right where I need to be.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I would highly recommend this book.  I’m sneaking it into my husband’s reading pile tonight!

The Truth about my Dark Side

Published January 15, 2013 by joypatton

The other morning I was on the treadmill shuffling through songs on my iPod.  In Kelly Clarkson’s “Darkside,” she sings, “There’s a place I know; it’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.  If I show it to you now, will it make you run away?  Will you stay even if it hurts?  Even if I try to push you out, will you return?”

She also speaks truth when she says “Everybody’s got a dark side; nobody’s picture perfect.”  We all have parts of ourselves that we would rather leave in the dark.  Things that we live with in the dark, but know would be repulsive in the light.  Things that we work hard to hide so that no one ever sees how ugly we are.  The Bible actually calls it sin, missing the mark of perfection.  And we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect best (Romans 3:23).  Since Adam and Eve took their first bite of the forbidden fruit, everyone is born with a dark side.

The questions that Kelly asks in the song are the questions we all long to know the answers to: “Do you love me?  Will you love me even with my dark side?”  I’ve been in relationships where my sin has been exposed, and they have decided to walk away.  My dark side was too much.  I was too scary.  In any relationship, you run the risk of being hurt.  My dark side could come out and do some serious damage.  It has and it probably will again.  I want to know that I am worth the risk.

This is where pop culture and theology collide.  As I listened to Kelly sing these words I was reminded of something I had read in Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child.  “Only in a relationship of the deepest intimacy can we allow another person to know us as we truly are.  It is difficult enough for us to live with the awareness of our stinginess and shallowness, our anxieties and infidelities, but to disclose our dark secrets to another is intolerably risky…The greatest fear of all is that if I expose the imposter and lay bare my true self, I will be abandoned by my friends and ridiculed by my enemies…I cannot admit that I have done wrong, I cannot admit that I have made a huge mistake, except to someone who I know accepts me.  The person who cannot amidst that he is wrong is desperately insecure.  At root he does not feel accepted, and so he represses his guilt, he covers his tracks.”

What I’m learning is that the only way to experience true intimacy in a relationship is to let them see your dark side.  If you don’t, you are always questioning whether the other person just loves the pretty parts, the parts you know they will like and accept.  We are afraid to completely be ourselves because the dark side just might scare them away.  But when I know that someone loves me, that they will forgive me, that I am accepted and worth the risk, I am free to be completely myself.  Only when I bring my dark side to the light can it begin to heal.  There is no healing in the dark, only death.  In order to heal, it must be brought into the light.  In order to experience true, authentic love, it must be brought to the light.  In order to be fully known and fully loved, it must be brought to the light.  This is the path to the authentic relationships we all say we want.  This is the painful path that my husband and I have walked together.  He is Jesus “with skin on” to me.

Jesus came as the remedy for the dark side.  Without the work of the cross, my dark side keeps me from the presence of a holy and perfect God.  Darkness cannot dwell with the light.  What happened at the cross was that God made a way for my dark side to be forgiven, for all my sin to be paid for.  Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an innocent death, there was a way for my sin to be accounted for, so that I could dwell with God in the light of his love forever.  Jesus overcame the darkness when he overcame death.  Because he lives, I can live in the light.  Because I know that he accepts me, I can risk rejection in my human relationships as I learn to tell the truth.

Even if other people reject me, the truth is that Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He saw my dark side, and he didn’t run away.  He didn’t run, and so I don’t have to run away either.  I can bring my sin to him knowing that it has been forgiven and always will be.  I’m not too much for him; my dark side doesn’t scare him.  When I run toward him instead of away from him, he reminds me who I really am, a beloved daughter, a Princess.  He reminds me that I am uniquely designed for a specific purpose (Psalm 139:16); that I am not big enough or powerful enough to ruin his good and perfect plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11); that nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:39).  He reminds me that I can’t use up all of his grace and that I will always have a way back into his arms.  He promises to stay with me.  The only question is will I stay with him?  Or will I let shame, guilt and fear push me back into the dark?

“You know that we’re worth it. Don’t run away.  Promise you’ll stay.”

What would it take for you to share your “dark side”?

%d bloggers like this: