Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Thing About Cages and Courage

"Courage is about refusing to build cages." -Chris Guillebeau
"Faith is how you see." -Paul Manwaring

He was not a very special guy. But he was completely in love with my beautiful best friend. He would follow her around like a puppy. And it bugged the crazies out of me. Not because he was annoying, no, but because I couldn't understand and couldn't accept that my friend should have so many devotees grovelling at her feet (for so it seemed) while I was stuck being boring and unalluring. IT—WAS—JUST—NOT—FAIR. I was in high school, and on one of those summer nights at youth group, on which Floyd was again pursuing my blithe bombshell friend who cared nothing for him, I sat under the fluoresent lights of the church youth room and CRIED.  Other friends were even trying to comfort me; it was embarrassing. I had a boyfriend, for crying outloud! "Isn't it better to have one who loves just you, and whom you love, than to have a hundred pursuing you that you don't care about?" Yes, yes, I agreed in theory. But then—why was this eating away at me like poison? It was a matter of constructing cages, and a matter of being a prisoner inside my own negative vision of the world. I had built a cage around myself: multiple cages: insecurity, measuring myself against others, labeling myself negatively, "I will never have...," and the cages were being built up in my mind against others too: Bitterness against my friend, who seemed to find life so effortless, and who was endowed with a natural beauty I craved. Segregating "others" into the cages where they belonged, because I didn't want those people or need them anyways: The Beautiful. The Successful. The Savvy. The Multi-talented. The Courageous. Yes, I even had a cage for them. 

People, I am here to say that Jesus has liberated us of cages. When I was constructing cages for people as a self-protective mechanism (and let's face it, I sometimes still do), I was really building myself into a stronger and stronger cage. It was how I saw myself. Unable. Unblessed. And always, always poor. And since God wanted this for me, had made me this way, as a good Christian I'd better find a way to resign myself to my humble state, make the best of my cold cell, and try to be grateful He allowed me to live at all. It was really a hate crime against God. Though I didn't realize it, of course. The God of the Universe, who created me to shine and wanted nothing more than to see me sparkly, prosperous, happy, and free. Who had special and exciting adventures ahead just for my particular taste and excitement, and who was there to shower blessings on me if I would turn my cup up to receive them.You can't be truly thankful for the water in your prison cell unless you also have hope for experiencing streams of water in lush meadows, outside the prison walls.

More than ever, I am seeing that the thinking that shuts us up in cages of impotence is begun to be woven into us by Satan in early childhood, and as parents we need to be vigilant against the enemy in this area, and practice with our families true, powerful, and positive thinking, as God calls us to do in Philippians 4:8.

     Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is 
     pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if 
    anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

If I had only gotten into the habit of Philippians 4:8 as a young child, much grief could have been avoided. But I won't dwell on that for too long either, because as the song says, "It's never too late, it's not too late, it's not too late for you." Now is the time for courageous and freedom-based thinking. To promote others with a hearty yes and a good will, without the reserved little scrooge voice in there that would say, "but what if it hinders me in some way?" No. Now is the time to have the heart of Jesus for the good of every person. How could I have a goodwill toward others when I felt that God's will for me was not good, that it was something dreary and hard that I had to find acceptance for?  It starts with believing God is good, and that His goodness is not hard to define. It is not reverse psychology. It starts with knowing He is good toward you. This is why God says the greatest thing is love. Because love is the most freeing thing of all and will unlock our hearts toward the life of abundance that God wants us to experience, in this life and the next. 

 So, courage this week for me has meant taking a leap and stepping outside of the safe zone of knowing where our physical provisions are going to come from. It was between living extraordinarily, and taking action on our true calling, or... staying in the safe zone and knowing we would have enough for rent and food and Christmas presents for the little ones, staying in a safe life that was yet killing me with fatigue and meaninglessness. Does any of this sound familiar to you? ...What does courage mean for you?

I have started to unravel the normal life and begun (what is to me) a crazy journey of faith with my family. Doubters be silenced, because it is happening. It is happening because of love, and God's continually pursuing me (and my husband) (and us ALL) with thousands of hints of the greatness of His affection toward us, like Hosea, with love for a Gomer who would not believe that she was worthy of good, and therefore kept rejecting it and weaving her own heartache. We are on the road to home-based careers doing things that God has put into our hearts to do, things we love to do, things that are of value to others and will make a difference in people. We are changing our vision, and our entire framework of speech and thinking, and are called to help people change theirs. We are to become a spring in the wilderness, and not just continue to beg for a ration of rain like ever-parched desert ground. We have followed. Now it is time to lead.  

What is your vision? What is your passion? What do courage and faith mean for you? What cages do you need to step out of? Because I have a feeling you've been given all the keys, and that God is just waiting on you now, dreamer. 

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