Sunday, August 28, 2011

Death - a natural part of life

Please excuse the rather morbid title. I am not talking about death in the physical sense with this blog - but rather allowing things in our lives to die that are no longer beneficial for us and need to pass out of our lives so that we can move forwards.

Things die all of the time. People come and go out of our lives, seasons change, circumstances change. My belief is that God gives us grace for certain time periods in our lives while He works whatever He wants to into our lives. Once that time is done, and we have taken what we need to out of that circumstance, the grace that is given to us by God runs out, which more often than not is an indication that the time has come to move on from where we were and allow the circumstance the grace has run out for to die.

I have been thinking on this subject a lot recently as I am right in the midst of a very intense "dying to self" time in my life. I have no distractions to cover up the things I have been running from subconsciously. It is a time of allowing things in my life to die off that are hindering me and stopping me from moving forwards.

Throughout all of this I have had to come face to face with an iron-clad determination I have had in my life - an almost unconquerable will to live at all costs despite the odds. A strength forged in molten steel, telling me to keep on pushing forwards on my own, never ask for help, never let anyone else truly in, never rely on anyone else, and find peace through relentless control of my life and circumstances. Though in a way it has been my greatest strength - it has also been an achilles heel in a lot of ways, and has held me back from developing some of the character I need in order to face life the way I am meant to.

This is what I am having to allow to die in my life - my own relentless will to live. I am being deconstructed from the inside out. I can no longer rely just on myself and my own ability to work my life out the way I want to. As I have realized, that is a very hollow existence and one that cannot be sustained forever. My entire life has recently collapsed on me and I have realized that I need to allow a lot of things to die that have been hindering me. I believe that God is in all of this and that this "dying to self" process is a part of His will for me. It is right for me to have lost my income and it is right for me to not be in a strong enough place in myself to handle work at the moment. My circumstances have collapsed - died, if you will - but it's not a bad thing, it's the right thing for me right now.

I have realized just how much this will to live at all costs has been affecting me and why I am being asked to let this will to live die and just let myself rest. I have found it nearly impossible to rest over the years and I have battled relentlessly with my circumstances in order to get them to line up the way that I want them to. I have not been able to just "let go and let God" so to speak. The reason for this is because I refused to let that part of myself die. I wanted it to live forever. I remember a friend spoke over my life years ago, saying to me that "when you end, God begins." I realize now I've never really been able to let God begin because I have never really been able to let myself end.

Wanting to live is not a bad thing by any means and hanging onto things can definitely be the right thing for us as well - but there are times when we allow our own issues to cloud our judgment which means we end up hanging onto things far longer than what we are meant to. I am hopeless when it comes to this. Sometimes I just cannot read the obvious signs saying that "The grace is coming to an end, this person or circumstance needs to be let go of now" and will continue to cling on for dear life in order to salvage something that basically wants to die. I've spent so much time flogging dead horses, trying to get them to run it's not funny. Even though I know in my heart of hearts that they are dead, I've somehow thought in my own strength that if I can keep on flogging them, somehow, eventually they might get up and run away. But it never happens and is just a waste of time.

I guess my message in all of this is to learn to be alert to the changes in your life and circumstances when they come in. Let things die if they need to because it is a part of life and a necessary part of moving forward. Don't try to hang onto things after they have gone and use unresolved issues to drive you into not letting go of things that are holding you back. Death is a part of life that we need to learn to be comfortable with - so learn to let go and let God.

Peace out, all.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's your drug of choice?

I shared about a week and a half ago with the local youth group about identity the other week and how the things in life that mean the most to you can become an addiction and a security blanket to cover up other issues.

My story regarding this was my journey with my music. I was always that awkward, gangly kid in primary school who never quite fit in anywhere and was just, well, awkward. There were all these little cliques - the surfies, the skaters, the sports fans, and I just didn't fit in with any of them.

Until I turned 16, and I learned how to play the guitar. As soon as that happened, my identity was forged immediately - I was Graham the guitarist, Graham the rockstar. I grew my hair long, wore Metallica t-shirts and torn jeans and would pepper nearly every conversation I had with anyone with talk about music, jamming, guitars or something somehow related to them.

When I was 21, God asked me to give up playing the guitar for a time. To me, this was like being told you had to cut your own arm off. It was devastating, but I knew I had to give it up, although I didn't realize why. I grudgingly put down the guitar and began to wonder what on earth I would fill my time with now and more importantly, who I was now that my identity had been stripped from me.

However, I eventually began to realize why I had to give it up. Music had consumed me. It had literally become like a drug. I realized that I was using it as medication for unresolved emotional issues in my life and that whenever I felt the familiar pangs of fear, anxiety or depression, my immediate response was to pick up a guitar if one was around or to start thinking about music, being in a band or writing songs if there wasn't one available. I needed to learn to function as a person without using music as a crutch before I could truly learn to appreciate it for what it was.

After this experience, I began to see the world with different eyes. I came to a realization that most people are using drugs on a daily basis. Not the kind you can find over the counter or pick up from a hooded stranger in the parking lot of Pak N Save - but all kinds of things. Television. Shopping. Work. Hobbies. Money. All of these things can basically be turned into heroin if we allow them to consume us and start expecting those things to resolve our internal issues so that we don't have to face them.

The problem with drugs - and addictions of any kind - is that they are never satisfied. You can have a problem with anxiety and choose to medicate it with playing guitar, such as I did. I could have learned every solo, leadbreak, riff and chord known to man - and ultimately, at the end of the day I would still have the same problem. Though I would no doubt have achieved a lot through this relentless running - my success would have been hollow as I would not have been able to truly enjoy it as I would know deep in my own heart that my issues I was running from were still not resolved.

I can certainly see the attraction in living a life based on nothing but surface living. That's why I wanted to be a rockstar. Just travel the world, never stay in one place too long, spend your evenings on stage wallowing in self glorification and come off stage to a few slugs of bourbon and mindless banter with fellow band mates before retreating to my hotel room to practice guitar for another 6 hours and no doubt annoying the occupants for the neighboring rooms before finally falling asleep and departing for pastures new the following day.

At the end of the day, although it sounds fun, that is a deeply hollow existence and using distractions to run from ourselves is only an exercise in exhaustion. It will catch up with us eventually. And you know when this lifestyle catches up with us the most? when we are forced to rest.

Those who do not examine their hearts and lives and do not seek to resolve their issues but medicate them with relationships, booze, guitar playing, shopping etc etc are often very restless people. I could not sit still and just quieten my mind when fully enveloped in this frame of operating. My thoughts would always run somewhere - usually to music - so that I wouldn't have to begin to face the ugly truth about who I really was. You can use all kinds of distractions to run from your own heart.

As I write this post, I am currently in a place of unemployment. God has put me here. I am being forced to rest. And it is hard. Resting is something I have struggled with my entire life because it is when I am resting that my issues begin to surface. I want to keep working on my book, but it hasn't come back from the editor yet. I know that this is because I am meant to rest and in that rest I am meant to face what is going on in the depths of my own heart and mind. Working on my book, although therapeutic in a sense, could easily just become another drug right now. I am being forced to go cold turkey.

But it's good for me. I am learning to rest and to learn to be ok with stillness. I believe that once I get through this period of stillness I will be more whole and complete as a person than ever before and not only will I not have the need for drugs to block things out, but I will be able to appreciate what I do have - and what is coming to me - in a way that I never could before.

Peace out and rest up!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't pollute your promised land

This is a subject I've been thinking on quite a bit recently. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt, He could have just taken them straight to their inheritance, the promised land. Instead, He lead them into the desert for 40 years, even though it was only an 11 day journey from Egypt to the promised land.

Howcome? Why didn't God just take them straight there?

I believe that although the Israelites had come out of Egypt, God provided the 40 years in the wilderness in order to take Egypt out of them. Egypt was a land of slavery for the Israelite people, where they were oppressed and mistreated - however it was still a land of plenty. Many of the Israelites were often heard complaining about the wilderness and how they had things far better back in Egypt - despite the fact that it was a land of slavery. They were yearning to go back to an oppressive land in order to fulfill their own desires.

Though their location had changed - the land of slavery was now behind them - their hearts had been corrupted by that environment, and the corruption in their hearts was exactly why God lead them through the wilderness. So that they would come face to face with the darkness within themselves and rid themselves of it, so that they could enjoy the promised land to its fullest potential when they were ready to take it. Most of the Israelites failed miserably in this regard and did not approach their time in the wilderness as God wanted them to - which meant that out of the millions that left Egypt, only two of them entered the promised land. Two!!

This piece of scripture is incredibly relevant to mankind nowadays. Think about it - what drives us forward each day? We are all searching for our own individual promised land, those dreams which we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts, our hopes for the future. The promised land can look different to each of us - for some, it may be a relationship, others a dream job, etc etc.

So the question must be asked - what are we doing to prepare ourselves for the dreams we wish to have fulfilled in our lives?

I believe God did not allow most of the Israelites into the promised land because they still carried Egypt within them. If He had allowed them in, they would have polluted the land which they wished for so much with their own darkness, and that which was meant to be a blessing would have become a curse and a burden to them, all because of their own doing. They would have once again started searching for the promised land - even though they were already there and only wanted out because of something they could not face within themselves.

It is much the same with us. If we refuse to take the road less travelled through the wilderness and refuse to face the darkest depths of ourselves in those hard times of preparation, once we do eventually reach our promised land, it will become nothing but another Egypt to us. The guy who waited his whole life to get married and refused to deal with his issues to prepare himself for it? His dream will become a nightmare. Because he did not prepare himself properly and spent his time in the wilderness complaining about not being back in Egypt, or not being at the promised land yet, rather than approaching the wilderness the way God intends us to - facing ourselves and working out our darkest issues.

If you are facing the wilderness in your life today, instead of placing all your hopes on the promised land, perhaps ask God and yourself what you can be dealing with and changing in your life to prepare yourself properly for what it is that you are hoping for. Don't be afraid to face the darkest parts of yourself - for if you don't, they will lurk under the surface and ruin your promised land for you once it does arrive.

Take care and God bless.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Everything's changed, everything is different..."

Well, it’s been a while since I fired one of these up, I also just figured out how to connect Blogspot with Facebook, so I figure I may get a few more views now!

I am writing this post at a very interesting time in my life. A few months back I opened up my e:mail in the morning when I got to work and I read The Word For Today that had been emailed to me saying that “God Will Surprise You”. It spoke about how God brings changes into people’s lives and how the change can be sudden, and unexpected, and can often come out of discomfort.

I now sit here writing this blog post a mere few weeks later, except all of a sudden, that word came very true and everything has changed for me at the drop of a hat – due to unforeseen personal circumstances I am currently unemployed. I still have rent to pay and a vehicle to run, and besides a final pay out from work and a benefit which will start soon, I have no income. However, for the first time ever, I am not worried.

For those of you who know me well, you will know that I am a very plan orientated person. I like things to be ordered and to have structure and I find my safety and security in things that I have built or organized myself as I know the work that has gone into them, therefore I feel that I can trust them. However, God has been changing me from the inside out over the past few years, and has been helping me to deconstruct my prideful desires to control and organize things, and help me to learn to rely more upon Him rather than my own meticulous planning.

I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favourite ever movies, Terminator 2:Judgment Day. Sarah Connor has a voice over section in one part of the movie and she says the following:

“The future, always so clear to me, had become like a black highway at night. We were in uncharted territory now, making up history as we went along”.

That’s exactly how I feel. I’m staring into the future with no employment in sight, making up history as I go along. However, I know that God is riding this black highway with me, and that He knows what He’s doing, even if I don’t know. Being an avid motorcycle enthusiast and former rider, I am very used to piloting a motorcycle on my own and therefore being solely responsible for where it goes. My spiritual walk has been rather similar, admittedly. However, for the first time, God has taken over from me on the pilot’s seat, and I am riding pillion with Him, on the back of the bike, having no idea where we are going. At times it feels like He takes corners a bit too fast for my liking, and seems to go charging ahead when I would prefer to just hang back and play it safe. But, I guess it’s all part of the adventure, something I will have to get used to.

That word came true, alright. God has surprised me. I never expected the changes to come into my life that have arrived. But it’s ok. He’s teaching me to be a good pillion and learn to trust Him with the throttle.