Grappling with Oneness

It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.

I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.

I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.

Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.

Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.

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Facing our Behavior

It isn’t easy to face the truth about ourselves and our behavior, yet failing to do so can cause our situation to grow from bad to worse. David, in Psalm 25, found that the more he resisted change the more his problems multiplied. He had to face the truth about his actions and behavior and be willing to seek God’s forgiveness if ever he were to move forward to live a life of purpose.

The more we sit with whatever negative behavior or thoughts we have; the more likely we are to continue to repeat our negative behavior. The more we stay where we are and refuse to “face the music” for our action, the more likely we are to add on in an attempt to cover up or to justify our conduct. Sooner or later these things will become unbearable. God will let us sit in our mess until we are ready to acknowledge our actions and the pain leads us to seek forgiveness and transformation. Forgiveness, however, is not enough unless we also commit to changing our lives.

I know on my journey out of the darkness it took reminders from people close to me that what I was doing was self-destructive. I needed friends to speak the truth into the situation, even when I did not want to hear what they had to say. Several bouts of broken hearts and depression finally led me to hear what they were saying and to seek professional help. As part of that professional help I found that God was walking with me and standing with open arms to accept me, to forgive me, and to transform my life. It took many years and much anguish, but today I can say that God has released the bonds that trapped me and I have been rescued from a devastating life style.

Have you found yourself stuck in a behavior or activity that is causing you anguish and keeping you from the things you should be doing with your life? It could be something as simple as using your credit cards to pay for things you want rather than paying off your bills and finding financial freedom. Maybe you are holding a grudge against someone and it colors not only your reaction to the person you think slighted you, but it also colors how you interact with other people. You may build walls to protect yourself and you may be missing a greater blessing. It could be as serious as needing to seek professional help with an addictive behavior—be it drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. Maybe you did something that was unethical and haven’t owned up to it yet, so you live in fear of being found out. Freedom comes with speaking truth and sharing.

Whatever is keeping you on the darker path, remember that God will not abandon us. He may let us suffer in our mess longer than we like, but when we reach out, he will be there. I learned for myself that the longer I stayed in destructive relationships, the sadder I became and the more I removed myself from relationships with my friends. Today I am humbled and blessed to be able to share with others just how God inspired me to change by letting me hurt so that I would ask for help. I hope today you will be motivated to seek help to change your life too.

© maggiemarcum.com

“My problems go from bad to worse. Oh save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins.” Psalm 25: 17-18 New Living Translation

Stuck

There are days when the mud seems to rise too high for us to fight it back. Maybe we have become entangled in a net and can’t get loose. Stuck, trapped, snared, and unable to move. We have forgotten what light looks like anymore and we fear we may never see it again; if we ever really saw the light in the first place. It is a hard place to be and even harder to explain it to another.

I can remember those times all too well in my life. I would lie curled up in my bed and ask myself: “how on earth did I ever get into this mess?” Sometimes I knew it was because of the decisions I had made, other times I wasn’t as sure. You know that feeling: your stomach churns and the tears flow and you hide from your family and friends because you don’t want to be a burden? Those are the days when we don’t even want to see our counselor or hit a meeting because we are so sure that even they would never get it.

What if you could see just a sliver of light? Would you be willing to take advantage of that sliver of light and believe that maybe, just maybe there was more where that came from? For me it started with a prayer. Oh, I couldn’t pray it. I had to ask someone else to pray it until I could. Yes, that meant I actually had to answer the phone or the text!!

I needed a rescue. No one I knew could give it to me; however, there were people who would help me to find it. I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling forever and the only way out was to send a distress signal out to a friend. That friend needed to be someone I could trust and someone who I knew would send up prayers on my behalf. I knew my eyes needed to be on God to get out of the mess, but I just didn’t have it in me.

Slowly, I was able to look forward because looking back did no good. I couldn’t change what had happened but I could change the present and thus the future. Those prayers eventually became my prayer. Psalm 25 became my strength. I couldn’t read it all but I kept asking God to show me what to do next, even if next was only getting up and going to work. Hours became days became weeks became months became years.

My ability to stand up and let go of the pain did not come overnight. It came by having someone else help me cut the net from my feet and pull me out of the mud. And once out, it took my commitment and motivation to change. It is a daily struggle, because life is a daily struggle. Today I get out of the mud a lot faster. I tell others quicker. I pray before I slip into the mud bath and I don’t get tangled up like I used to.

Please, please; reach out today if this is your story. If there is no one you know, look up a church with a prayer line and call them. Just tell them you hurt and you need prayer. Get up and find a counselor whose name you like and give them a try. Go to a Celebrate Recovery meeting or other 12 step and meet people who have walked where you have walked. Look up. God is there and you will find his love and his strength until you have your own.

“My eyes are always looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies.” Psalm 25: 15

I Can See Clearly Now

It takes a deliberate effort, and probably a fair amount of time, to see the truth in our lives. We may hear it and know it, but in our hearts, we just don’t want to believe it. Denial. That’s what counselors and 12 steppers call it. I call it: the lies we tell ourselves because it is easier than facing that a painful change may be coming. In Psalm 25, David asks God to “lead me by your truth” (NLT). David, of all people, knew how hard it would be to face the truth and to turn his life in a new direction. But he was willing to listen to a wise man speak the truth and he was forever motivated to alter his lifestyle.

One of the most difficult areas for us to hear the truth is in our relationships—be they romantic, friendship, or work. There are times when we need to stop and evaluate where these relationships are taking us and determine if they are right for us or not. I walked away from a very lucrative job with great potential—not once but twice—because I came to understand that I was not the right fit. Many people thought I was, but in my heart I knew it was time to move on. I let go of the love of my life because our values were different. He was, and is, a good man, but I need a man to share my faith commitment and the lifestyle I am living today. I had to let go of family that I love dearly because there was no way to resolve our conflict. Rather than continue to hurt each other, we have moved on with our lives, without each other. I walked away from living a life of pretend to a more simple life without the stress of keeping up with the DC or LA crowd.

Each time God inspired me to change, I fought back. There was a fog over my life and I had become comfortable with it. The fog kept me from seeing my true potential and the purpose for my life. When I began to ask God to show me the truth, the fog began to lift. I saw my real calling—my new job if you will. I saw how loved I am by those closest to me and I am no longer on the hunt for that great love. I have done my best to love and pray for my family and God has repaired some relationships. I have a new family in my church. I am surrounded by good people who motivate me every day on my new journey.

I can see clearly now. There is hope for my future. There is peace in my heart. There is joy in my life. Ask yourself some questions about whatever is keeping the fog in your life:

• How is this relationship impacting my relationship with God?
• How are these friendships supporting me on a right path with my faith?
• Am I hiding something so others won’t be hurt?
• How is this job affecting my joy and my dreams?
• Am I happy where I am and do I see myself happy in 5, 10, 15 years from now?
• How is this lifestyle effecting my financial situation?
• How is this situation affecting my emotional well-being?

Prayerfully consider your answers to these questions. Write down your answers and share them with someone who will objectively listen and ask you more questions. Be honest with yourself. Bring light into the fog. If you begin to see the need to change, start the process by making one small change. Think what that change should be and then do it. Do it for you. Do it because you deserve to live the life God has in mind for you.

“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 New Living Translation

Coming Home

Shortly after I graduated from high school I moved to Los Angeles and began to live a life far different from the belief system I had growing up. Like most young people, I wanted to get as far away from my parents as possible. I also wanted to make decisions for myself, because at 17, I was oh so wise!

My week-long visit to California turned into years and my journey to “find myself” led me to change my religious commitment. I became enthralled with Scientology and grew to be a new recruit and staff member. I began a journey into what I would later learn was an occult-like cult. I had already opened the door with my Ouija board experience in high school. Scientology simply pulled me further away from the faith I had known all my life. I won’t go into detail now, but suffice it to say, Scientology took control of my life in a way my church never did. I was happy for quite a while living in this community; getting to know celebrities, and throwing my new life in the face of my parents.

Scientology told me I could still be a Christian and believe in God. They even bastardized the crucifix for their symbol to convince believers like myself. And then they told me all the problems I was having in the present were the result of the past. If only I would reach back into the past I could be set free. Of course their past was many past lives, which they manipulated me to believe I had lived. They promised I would be happy beyond belief and have some special supernatural abilities. At that point in my life, I needed to be something more than just the lost invisible child with no future. Anything was better than where I was.

Fortunately, I had praying parents who knew that was all they could do to convince me to come home. During a trip back to Virginia I caught up with some old friends and began to see outside the fog of Scientology. My friends helped convince me not to return to LA and little by little the grip Scientology had on my life was released. As much as Scientology tried to pull me back, I found a supernatural peace sitting in the pews of my church. Although I was back in church most Sunday’s, I worried that others would find out I had strayed and judge me for the disobedience to my faith. I kept a barrier between me and God, just in case this didn’t work out for me either.

Finally, many years later I would be led by our pastor to acknowledge the occult hold Scientology and the Ouija board had on my life. I prayed with others and asked Jesus to be lord of my life instead. I invited the Holy Spirit to be my guide and set me on a new path. I prayed for a purpose that I never had. I discovered that even though I had walked away and broken my relationship with God, he remained faithful and forgiving. On my knees that morning, I discovered the freedom of a loving God and started on the long road of redemption to where I am today.

If something is keeping you from walking back into church, let it go. God already knows all about it and he is waiting for you to come home. No matter how far you have wondered, the door is always open. Sneak in the back if you have to. Sit quietly and wait for that still quiet voice to tell you “welcome home.” Believe that once you cross the threshold into his house, you will feel like you never left. Ask a friend to go with you if it is too hard. Just take a baby step toward God and he will do the rest.

“The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his degree.” Psalm 25:10

Seeing the Right Path

I think we all have times in our lives when no matter what we do we just can’t seem to find the right fit or we think we are stuck in some life situation and we will never find our way out. Fear sets in. Despair takes over. A dark cloud seems to be our only friend. No matter what we do; we just can’t find the right direction to head and all we do seems for naught. We may see the future but something seems to be in the way of getting to it.

Finding the way out can be difficult. We hear that God is “fair and just” and “does what is right” for us, yet we struggle to believe those words apply to us. And yet, if we can take the first step forward, we might come to believe that God will lead us step-by-step in a new direction and place us back on the path of success.

It is helpful if we can develop an attitude of moving toward something rather than away from something. Ask yourself what it is that you love to do and what makes you smile when you think about it. Develop an image of what you would look like if all the pieces fell in place and you were where you would like to be. Now walk back from that ideal situation and ask yourself how you got to that place. Write the story of your success all the way back to where you are today. What steps did it take to reach your goal? Which people did you need to stop listening to? Did you need to go to school? Did you need to network with others in the field? Did you need to stop doing something so you had time to focus on your goal? What did you need to do first?

This method may seem unrealistic to you, but if you have a dream that you have been holding in your heart and not acting on, it may be that God placed that dream in your heart and is waiting for you to take the first step on the path. You may need to take a risk and step forward in a way you have never done before. I am doing that today. I know where God wants me—I have seen the end goal—and today I am taking the first step by writing this blog and getting a new degree to support me.

There is a path for you. God is with you. He will lead you there if you spend some time in prayer with him. Ask someone you trust to help you sort out your journey. Find a spiritual guide or a coach that can help you learn how to see God’s plan for you. Start today by taking one small step, even if that step is just getting out of bed or turning the TV off!!

“The Lord is god and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them his way.”
Psalm 25: 8-9

Forgiven with Love and Compassion

It took me a long time to accept that this Jesus whom I claimed to believe in would actually forgive me for the things I had done, and would do, in my life. Yet Jesus gave us the prayer in which he directs us to ask for forgiveness—and to forgive others (Matthew 6:9-15). He tells the paralyzed man that he, “the Son of Man have the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). He even forgave those that crucified him, and yet, I couldn’t believe that he would forgive me and my sins or acts of bad behavior.

I didn’t know about “unfailing love” or “compassion” growing up. There were expectations and measurements for good and bad behavior and I believed I usually fell far below any set standards. I was usually told that I didn’t measure up and would never measure up at the rate I was going. Even after committing my life to Christ in my 30’s, I still felt judged in my churches and less than worthy to be there. I may have been judged by some, but mostly I was judging myself and comparing myself against other people—who were most likely hiding their own shortcomings and failures behind a mask of service and pasted on smiles. I constructed my own roadblock to accepting the love that I read about and believed was only given to the really good people surrounding me on Sunday. I heard stories of change and mercy given but I didn’t think that was meant for me.

And then, sitting in the chairs at a prayer service one night, I finally gave in. I laid down on the floor facing the cross and I said “I’m sorry for what I did.” I cried and began to let go of the things I was holding on to. I began to walk through my youth and my brokenness and to ask God to forgive me for those things. One-by-one, he brought to mind those times I hurt others or hurt myself by my behavior. And one-by-one I felt the burden of carrying that shame lifted from my life. Little by little, I came to believe that God loved me, ME personally, just as much as the nice person sitting next to me on Sunday. Little by little I came to know his mercy and layer by layer he changed my life. I started to laugh again. I could hold my head up. I could smile at someone and reach a hand out and tell them God was there, I was there, and we would make it out of the dark together. Just as I learned to see how God sees me, I am learning to see others as he does, with “unfailing love and compassion.” May you too come to know that peace—it is a prayer away.

“Remember, O Lord, your unfailing love and compassion, which you have shown from long ages past. Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth; look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.”
Psalm 25:6-7 New Living Translations