Scripture: John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
There is a phrase I have heard many times over the years that has so many meanings for so many people. But hearing it a few weeks ago took on a whole new meaning for me. That phrase is ‘the best defense, is an offense’.
Some see that phrase as being one step ahead of an opponent by thinking and being smarter, others have seen it as a game of beat your opponent to the punch before they punch you. I found a new meaning. 'Be for me, not against others’.
I have experienced a large portion of my adult life fighting the battle of shedding off the past, so it doesn't impact my present or future. Being exposed to domestic violence, parental abandonment, sexual abuse and emotional neglect all before my teen years left many scars. It also left a heart and mind full of anger, resentment, and a pile of other unfriendly feelings that caused me to make choices in my life that were not a benefit to me (and even others). I felt that life was meant to just survive while waiting for the next situation that would add to the repertoire of hurts and pain. I know that I am not alone in that subconscious thinking. Our world is full of others just like me.
Over the years I have experienced incredible growth and even some miraculous physical, emotional and psychological healing. But yet, I still find that some random things can trigger feelings that bring me right back to the pain of the original experience.
A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany that rocked my world and massively changed how I see things. The funny thing is that this epiphany was so slight it was hard to wrap my head around it much less put it to words. So, I will try my best here.
I know that God wants more than anything to bring us back to His original design - before the abuse. Before the hurts and betrayals. Before the disappointments and abandonments. To be free to thrive and live abundantly in this life, and not to just survive. I think I finally understand what that means.
After several instances that built on one another to release this epiphany, I found myself really pondering that phrase, "the best defense is an offense”. Then Romans 8:31, logged in my memories, became a rattling mantra - "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
I sat in that thought - If God is for ME, who can be against me? Then it occurred to me that the answer has been, ME!
I realized that to be in the offensive (not confused with offending) means to look forward to the positive, to that which I am grateful for. To be in the defensive, means to look backward - to remember the past, to feel it and to watch out for the illustrious ‘it’ to reappear around a dark corner or in a present relationship. I also became acutely aware that to focus on surviving and protecting myself from hurt, I had been always looking over my shoulder at what had happened and defending against the same or things like it from hurting me or recurring again. As a result, I haven’t been able live offensively - living FOR me.
As a child, one of the abusive situations I experienced was being excluded from anything the family was doing. My never-ending job was to do the dishes - washing and drying by hand. Now that may not sound abusive, but think of washing every dish, pot, pan, Tupperware container, lid and every utensil in the house as a punishment if a dirty dish was found. I felt like I lived in the kitchen while life went on around me. It was one of the most painful seasons in my life. It left a permanent stain of always feeling left out and unwanted by my family. (I found out 20 yrs ago my brother thought it funny at the time to plant dirty dishes…brothers!).
As a result of that repeated experience, I spent a great deal of my life isolated, watching family relationships from the sidelines. As an adult, subconsciously every time I did the dishes, it was like I was still being punished and left out. To survive those feelings from overtaking me, I took up a defensive posture. I would put off doing the dishes as long as I possibly could stand it. But here is how that affected me inside - I hated a dirty sink! So I would beat myself up for being lazy or messy… (anyone see a pattern of stinkin’ thinkin’?)
This new epiphany caused me to realize that by me ‘not doing the dishes’ I somehow felt I was removing the sense of powerlessness by acting in ‘defense’ against that original experience. In essence I was acting against the ‘others’ and the experience from my past instead of for ME in the present – A clean sink is a happy Michele!
One small shift in thinking, changes how we see everything! It reminded me of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). For most of his life he saw Christians as the enemy. He was against them and as a defense, tried to destroy them and keep them from spreading the news of Jesus. Then he had an encounter with Jesus that opened his eyes to see things differently. He was no longer against Jesus and all He stood for but found himself now living offensively forward and positive to further the gospel. He went from surviving against Christianity and protecting the laws he had known all his life to thriving for God and for who he was really created to be. As a result, Paul experienced a life beyond what he could imagine. It was a life of joy in the midst of circumstances. A heart of grace, compassion, mercy and a passion for His God - and God worked the unimaginable in and through him - one being the words that for centuries, help to transform lives from his life embodied in God’s Word.
Pauls words in Philippians 1:20 "as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” reflect a life that is thriving, not surviving.
As I began to really think on the verse, 'If God is for me, who can be against me’ I found myself adding, ‘if I AM for me, who can be against me’? It was here that God brought the full clarity that freed me and removed the scales from my eyes - If I am FOR ME and GOD is FOR ME, then I no longer need to be against others or the experiences associated with them...past or present, in order to survive. I am now free to thrive. To do things that are FOR me.
The slightest shift from not doing dishes to defend against the painful memories are now me offensively doing the dishes because I like a clean sink! What a difference a simple shift can make to move us from surviving to thriving.
Further reading: Luke 24, the Road to Emmaus
Heavenly Father, we pray that today, you remove the scales from our eyes that have kept us from thriving and living the abundant life you desire for us here in this life. To help us to see our todays through your eyes and lifting up our yesterdays for you to heal and restore all that the locusts have taken.(Joel 2:25-32) We pray for revelation in even the seemingly mundane things so we might see you in all things. Open us up for healing. Help us shift our thinking that has been against our peace and true-ness of who we are, to that which is for our joy and fullness of living abundantly. Thank you that you never leave us to sit in the muck and mire of past experiences, but that you are always there with outstretched hands to lift us up and put a new song in our mouths. (Psalm 40)