Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fantasy VS Reality

This is going to be a very raw and personal blog over something that has dominated my life - yet I have struggled to understand it for a very long time until recently.

Throughout my life I have struggled greatly with any kind of difficulty in my circumstances or in relationships. The slightest hiccup in any of these categories has often sent me into a tailspin where my perception of reality has become clouded by a whirlwind of complicated, mixed emotions. I have only been able to get back to sense of balance and tranquility by taking active steps to make things better - usually by becoming a peacekeeper in situations and circumstances where I really didn't need to (and in some cases shouldn't have) but I did so anyway just for the sake of harmony. Keeping the peace is not a bad thing, by any means - but my motive for doing it has not been for the sake of relationships or anything else - it has been to spare myself of the chaotic whirlwind of emotions any sort of distress or discomfort creates in my inner being.

It has become increasingly more obvious to me that something has been seriously wrong with my thinking regarding real life and real circumstances. Getting upset and distressed at things that go wrong is a natural response but I have seemed to take it to a whole different level. I have been asking God for answers and I felt that He spoke to me regarding what the real problem has been in my life through one, simple yet extremely powerful word - "Fantasy."

This word floored me as I realized just how much sense it really made for me and my way of thinking. I began to realize that I have been living in a world of make-believe. Yes I have operated in the real world - but most of the time my heart and soul was never really there and never really prepared to face the facts of what was around me and what I was truly facing and dealing with. I began to see a pattern emerging in my life of being faced with very real circumstances and very real issues that I had been living in and facing yet instead of doing something to address it or at the very least speaking out about it, I have simply retreated into a world of make believe where I simply pretended the problem away and acted as if it didn't exist. For example - I was once in a situation with an organization where I saw a tremendous amount of backstabbing, gossip, criticism and negativity coming from the leadership and directed towards nearly everyone in the organization behind their backs - no doubt it included me as well once my back was turned. These things ate away at me but I continued to just ignore them because living in my little fantasy kingdom where I ruled everything and kept the peace all the time so I didn't have to face reality was more important than telling the truth and listening to what my heart was telling me. Though I did speak up in the end it took a long time and a lot of wasted energy lying to myself and ignoring the facts.

I realized that the primary way that this wrong thinking has shaped my life has been regarding my circumstances and my outlook on life. I have lived in a fantasy world where I have been at the center of the universe and therefore in charge of everything, where things happened the way that I wanted them to and I could control the future by controlling the present. I lived in a bubble of self preservation and all of my energy and effort went into protecting the bubble that I lived in rather than dealing with the real life circumstances and situations around me. Through prayer and further insight I began to see that this had been a problem my entire life - even when I was a child I used to constantly pretend and imagine that I was somebody else completely different to who I was. Imagination and fantasy among children is very common, granted - but I began to realize that for me it was based on a wrong foundation and from a young age in childhood it had become an obsession.

I began to realize that this fantasy world I had created was all rooted in the spiritual forces I had carried around with me since conception (many of these are explained in my book, No Way Out But Through). I realized that the darkness and pain in my soul was so great I had to basically create an alternative universe to live in where these things didn't exist and I could be who I wanted to be, where I could be in charge and where I oversaw everything including the future. This need for a fantasy world, borne from the need to escape the reality of what I was carrying around with me had consumed my entire life and made me into someone I really wasn't - not to mention it meant I was having very little genuine interaction with other people as most of the time they were not seeing me but rather a mask of illusion I had created over my personality in order to fit in with the circumstances I was facing and keep my fantasy universe bubble intact.

However - you cannot live like this forever. One thing that the last few years has taught me is that God is the master of popping bubbles of illusion in people's lives. What started the transformation from fantasy to reality for me is that I began to realize that I was never really that happy where I was and always wanted to be somewhere else. Even once I got something that I was longing for - such as a good job and financial security - my mind would automatically be wandering to the next thing, wanting for something else on the horizon. Then, of course, once I got that next thing, I would find a way to be dissatisfied with that too and would be longing for something else yet again. I became unable to enjoy anything - even the good things that God has blessed me with because I was always wanting something more, something different.

The main eye opener regarding this whole revelation came from actually receiving things that I had always wanted and then having to see that there were downsides to these things as well. I remember a while back once I had started working again, I became dissatisfied about something and began to question whether or not I was meant to still be at the job I was doing. God spoke to me and in a rather frustrated tone He said "You got what you wanted." I remember seeing a meme on the internet that said "Don't despise where you are because at one time this was exactly where you wanted to be." This helped me to realize that once I had gotten what I wanted, if I was not happy with this fact it was more to do with me and my thinking than it was to do with the circumstance itself. I began to realize that if I wanted to be happy where I was - this place I had wanted to be before I actually arrived there - that it was ME that needed to change and not my circumstances. I began to foresee that if I had continued living my life in a bubble of fantasy that I would have missed out on so many different things - such as the opportunity to speak into people's lives which is something that I enjoy being able to do. I realized I would have come to the end of my life and looked back on it to realize that I had never really lived at all, but just existed, drifting from place to place, working so hard to keep up an illusion while ignoring reality and real life responsibilities.

My reason for sharing this very personal story is because I believe that this way of thinking - fantasy and the constant need to maintain that fantasy - are very prevalent in today's society and contribute a great deal to unrest, dissatisfaction, relationships breaking up that really shouldn't have and people actively seeking to change circumstances when the true nature of the problem actually sits with them and them alone. I want to issue a challenge to each one of you out there - where are you living? Are you really living your life, in the now, in the moment, in the reality of your circumstances and where you are, or are you living like I was, in a zone of fantasy, looking at your real life and saying "I'm not really here - my body is here but my heart and soul are elsewhere." I'm not saying you can't live like this forever. Some people seemingly can. But how much destruction will you leave behind you if you choose to live this way? How many people and circumstances will you overlook and ignore because rather than being concerned with them and their reality your concern is made up with keeping your own little fantasy universe intact by controlling things around you to stop people from piercing your bubble? And, if you continue to live like this - are you really living at all, or are you simply existing, waiting for a point of happiness in the future that will never arrive?

Take care.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What makes a TRUE follower?

I have been thinking a lot recently about what it truly means to really follow Jesus. It's easy to call ourselves "Christians" but at the end of the day - what does that term really mean?

To be a Christian means to follow Christ - which means to go where He goes, follow in His footsteps and to obey His leading in all things. It is a life that is often sacrificial, a life that is not truly your own but a life lived under the command of Jesus to carry out His will and plans for your life.

Throughout the course of my Christian walk I have been lead by God into some frustrating, upsetting and often deeply hurtful circumstances. I have seen jobs that have been a huge blessing one day literally turn into a total nightmare the following day - and remain that way until I resigned. I have been lead into situations and called by God to do things that no one has understood and resulted in alienation and the loss of a lot of friendships. There has been times when I have been called to speak words of knowledge into people's lives (who claim to be Christians themselves) advising them to change their behaviour or suffer severe consequences yet I have witnessed them ignore the warnings and continue with their behaviour with seemingly little or no consequences despite the warning that I was called to give them.

I've seen myself living a life reduced to having very little, being unsure where I am going to live just a few weeks before I had to move out of my current location while I had my entire emotional psyche turned upside down, pulled apart and examined from head to foot while I've seen others who claim to be Christians living a life of ease where everything just couldn't go more smoothly for them if it tried, despite the fact that I've been called by God to speak truth into their lives and advise them that things need to change.

This has frustrated, hurt and upset me and has lead me to ask the question - "That person is doing wrong in God's eyes - I know as I was clearly called to warn them about their actions - yet they just keep doing it and nothing ever happens to them. I have absolutely no doubt that if I was in their shoes, I would see my entire world collapse in an instant for refusing to obey the spoken word of God over my life. So howcome there are consequences for me for ignoring God's word when I have done so in the past, and not for them?"

I asked this of God and I felt that this was His reply - "Graham, I can't bring about consequences in the lives of those you were called to warn because I do not have the power and the authority to do so, as they haven't given that to me. The reason consequences would happen to you if you tried to stray off the path is because you call Me Lord of your life - and you mean it. Therefore - I have authority to take control of your life and circumstances because that's what you've given to me and allowed me to do. I will not go against free will and I can only guide people when I am truly on the throne in their lives."

God's response helped me to realize that it is because I truly follow Him that He has the authority to lead me where I am meant to go in life and that He has the power to open and close doors regarding my circumstances because I have given him that authority. I have put Him on the throne in my life and those who have heard the spoken word of God to them, knew that it was God and chose to ignore it because it didn't suit them do not put Christ on the throne in their lives. Where He leads - they refuse to go because it doesn't line up with what they want.

Truly following God is not pretty, nor is it for the faint of heart. I was called into a season of financial famine where I was called to live with next to nothing in the bank. Every time it looked like I was about to get ahead financially something would happen to take the finances away - such as being called to go and study or to finance my book. I have been called to take huge risks I never would have otherwise taken - such as moving to a country for 3 months where my only contacts were people I had met on the internet. And I have been pushed over, above and beyond my limits emotionally and spiritually - sometimes even physically. Following God has been far from pretty in my life - and far from easy.

So why do it then? What are the rewards? For the answer to this question I often choose to look at the lives of some rich, famous people who seemingly have it all yet inside they have nothing. Look at Robin Williams for example. All of his fame and wealth yet he chose to end his life. Material possessions and fame could not cure the darkness in his heart. The only cure for that darkness is a powerful, honest relationship with God where Jesus is on the throne of one's life - where He belongs. My life has not been easy. But over the years of hardship and having my emotional and spiritual life almost constantly upheaved - I have steadily been building a foundation of peace and truth which has replaced the lies I have carried in my heart. I know now that my life from this point forwards will be built on a strong foundation which has been built by years of relentlessly pursuing after God - and paying the price for doing so. Anything built on a foundation of darkness and untruth will not last, and the higher it has been built, the more damage it will do when it falls. Not to mention a foundation of darkness will seep through and pollute even the most glorious life built on top of it.

What happens to those who claim to be Christians that God calls to follow Him in order to face the parts of themselves that they need to face in order to build a strong foundation - but they refuse to follow because it doesn't suit them? The most terrifying aspect of this is that for all of God's children - He wants to be on the throne in their lives. If there are idols occupying that throne - be they friends, relationships, pride, fear - God will relentlessly pursue those idols. If His people reject His pursuit of those idols in their lives then in time, they will reap a bitter harvest. Even if they do seemingly "have everything" and get to keep it, it's based on a wrong foundation so they will never really appreciate it anyway. And over time, others around them will begin to see the undeniable truth about who they really are - because the truth cannot be contained and buried under lies forever. God will go after them and will go after the idols in their lives. But if people continually reject Him - they are in grave danger of putting out the Spirit's fire in their lives, and seeing themselves walk into a place of continual wilderness where everything is just constantly difficult - an endless uphill battle. When we follow God into the wilderness - He is with us, so we are safe. When we lead ourselves in there due to our negligence and refusal to honour the spoken word of God in our lives - we put ourselves in mortal danger and even if things do go seemingly well for a time - that undercurrent of darkness God wants to address will rot away at everything they build from the inside out, meaning that even the shiniest, most perfectly happy looking life will be rendered meaningless.

In conclusion - it is worth it to follow God. We are not in danger when we seek after Him and when He leads us through immense hardship. We are in far more danger when we ignore His spoken word in our lives and therefore refuse to follow Him - thus putting someone or something else on the throne. A life following God is often not glamorous. But it builds a foundation that will last, and that alone is worth all of the hardship one can face.

Take care and God bless.