This is but a recap of my journey over the past year. This has culminated at the appointed time God has made, nearly a year to the day. I had deep truths to learn, internalize, and systematically apply. As presented below, the messages are disjointed. It is more a string of conclusions that call me – personally – to action and to a certain way of being. Each of these was a hard fought lesson (and continues to be) that I hope to fully flesh out and teach you via this blog, bringing you to a greater depth of understanding. As I continue to grow spiritually, I mature and these lessons become reminders of where I’ve been, and how I now walk more in the spirit, the ultimate destination.
Chapter 1 – The Fall, Commitment to Remaking in Divine Purity
The Fortress fell. I succumbed to the weight of critical emotional stress. I felt I gave up, though I was trying to be compassionate amidst the suffering. I couldn’t handle my old ways anymore. It wasn’t working. And so I turned to a new source of truth and a new way of life, in hope of a new way of thinking. I was convicted by Matthew 5:27-30. I discovered God’s intention for intimacy and purity. I dare say, that it is here I met and developed a personal relationship with God to lift me from brokenness to wholeness in Him. I took Andy Stanley’s challenge for 1 year of purity, no dating, and a renewing of the mind. I did so gladly as I read Matthew 13:44. For the Kingdom of Heaven and for God’s promises I would joyfully reconfigure all that I knew and become a true man of God.
As I meditated on 1 Corinthians 13, I saw even deeper my sins of how I treated those I loved. I never understood it like this. I saw others in a new light. I loved in a deeper way that had escaped me before. I came to love others in my heart for their forbearance with me. For the first time I felt grateful for them as they are, not for what they could offer me. And yet this sounded my defeat. My inner world was shattered. Had everything I perceived and had every instinct of control and desire been wrong? If what I was perceiving was wrong, then what could I believe? I needed to stop my perception and evaluation process to build in brand new meanings. I knew nothing. To renew my mind it had to first be stopped – halted. I had to unlearn everything. I had to see the pieces of the world individually and recognize truth from lie. I had to rebuild with God’s truth. I needed to begin a more intentional walk with God, even with my limited understanding. There is no easy switch to change and remap all of perception, mindsets, and emotional processes.
I felt I had to first know who I was. Personality tests. INTJ. This is the framework of how I interacted with the world: Introspection, inner meanings, powerful mind, systematic frameworks, analytical and strategic thinking, contingency planning and exploration of theoretical options. With this, I had to find my way in the darkness. I began to heavily introspect by searching for answers to how I am, how I was wrong, how to now live, how to be different. The introspection was dark and painful. I felt like I was drilling into the core of my being and only finding darkness. Was this what spirituality was? There I discovered the true nature of my inner world – a sea of emotion that requires objectivity to set a course lest I be adrift forever. Fortunately a guide found me in my wandering. Chip Ingram first explained the life-giving boundaries to me of this new journey. This laid the foundation for the hundreds of teachings I would hear from him over the course of the coming year, and more importantly, became the foundations for my spiritual walk toward maturity. Introspection is not in itself spiritual, and in fact it can hamper our ability to fully lose ourselves in Christ. True spirituality is a different way than introspection. True spirituality is our mind on God and acting through the spirit.
Chapter 2 – Principles
I was weak. I needed help to change and get healthy. I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be. I wasn’t a light of the world. I wasn’t whole. I gave up too easy under feelings of despair and loss. I was in part, a slave (habitually) to my emotions, introspection, and condemnation of all that I was. I had limited awareness of myself and ways to truly gain traction, momentum, and purpose in my life. And so I began a process of renewal that needed to be seen through. I started to know better than my former ways, but I could not yet wield this new truth because it was not yet integrated as a new self. Rather, the new Way was just an external cloud of ideas and principles to live under, rather than an internalized, personal operating system. This would take time and perseverance and submersing myself in the Word and beginning a walk toward maturity with God. God makes weak men strong; I am not strong in my own strength, but rather by His image in me and my hope in Him, and my love for Him. I can always turn around from sins that lead me further away from God. To do so, I had to stop and yield to something other than myself.
To start gaining control, I pre-decided to adhere to principles and strategies; I believed that I could change if I dedicated myself wholly to the process of renewing my mind. And so I had to stop living by my perceptions and habits. I had to stop living life in marginal decision making based on what feels right. At the margin, we fail; pre-decision makes obedience easy with minimal regret. We can move forward and make progress. Outwardly and inwardly we begin to wield our resolve and willpower and that is a change. But the ultimate purpose of resolve and willpower is to bring us to a place where we can truly change. Truly transform. Not just muster our strength and will. Relationship is the only medium for true transformation; rules may work on the surface, but underneath the heart isn’t properly aligned.
And so I began to live by new principles and personal standards and disciplines. Chip Ingram and my church had relevant things to say about how to begin anew. But living a new life isn’t anything without a new energy and power source from which to draw the strength, purity, and love by which to live. I had to learn to prioritize the Sabbath, for it is made for man to flourish and to align us with God. This upward focus allows us to live above our circumstances by being intentional; attitude and feelings will follow this peace and power; this is the true order of the world. I had to learn spiritual disciplines and spiritual realities of this new order.
The process of learning and experiencing this new life is mired with difficulty because we are torn between our old selves and new. We are not yet separate. We are not yet mature. This struggle is a battle, but part of the process and a sign that we are fighting in our humanity toward something greater, something more whole. But there is something better than fighting. There is the spirit of God and the conviction that comes along with it. Truly start to receive God’s life into the depths of your own spirit by meditating on truth to transform knowledge into heart knowledge. You then can begin pushing back the dark with your inner light and what is happening inside of you; do not cower in fear, others need the strength you already have, no matter how you feel about yourself or your situation. Learn to speak life into this process and your faith and conviction will grow.
So how does one handle feelings that are between our fleshly and spiritual natures? In times of stress, begin to understand what your anger, frustration, temptations, and desires are telling you; those simply point to something deeper inside of you that is not to be acted upon, but realized and aligned with God. Don’t react; anger and struggle is a friend for inner resolution toward wholeness, not a weapon to be wielded or a foe to be suppressed. Choose your response to the temptations! Choose your attitude toward learning and healing! Don’t lament at the struggle and pain! Choose how to be, not simply choose how to behave.
Chapter 3 – Character
Persevering in this process and struggle, character will develop as we become firmer and more resolute. The character of a man or a women should be the true measure and foundation of trust, not our own interests. A component of character is also the willingness to learn no matter the cost. Can we step into something that we know we are going to fail at? Can we hold ourselves up when there is nothing around us that affirms us? Can we live in the space of failure? Do we have a strong self concept? Only if we learn to eliminate fixed mindsets and focus on growth through failure and fear. A person who is not willing to give up something, can change nothing. In personal failure, fight for resolution and see yourself not as the only solution, but able to facilitate a solution amidst the bigger picture. Build strength by overcoming resistance, not by going around it. Nothing is a failure unless you allow it to stop your growth – at that point, YOU have failed. Own it. Take responsibility for it. When facing adversity, ask what God wants you to learn about yourself in the struggle; lamentation and condemnation serves no one. Confess evil and bring it into the light so that you can be made clean and renewed! Don’t be buried in guilt! Confess! Repent! Without repentance and confession, your soul rots inside. Don’t let emotions overrun you; in stress you often amplify all emotions in your imagination and project that onto reality. Amidst your struggle, focus on where you are and what you can do. Looking upon your wrongs will cause you to despair and make you self-conscious about action. Take a breath. Put the past behind you. This was the hardest thing for me to learn since I felt I had to learn from the past through suffering. It’s a new day! The old is gone! All can move forward anew! Even from the prior second. The present is a blank page. Stand on faith. Start with who you are; you can only change yourself, but this is the foundation of security. Let your passions overflow into other areas of your life. Start to live in joy and confidence by being above fear and being above anxiety. But remember, even in emotion, love is a choice; encouragement is a choice; neither of these are the default response of humanity, so we need to choose to act accordingly, not follow our feelings for they will not adequately supply love and encouragement. And we need to fuel that choice from a healthy place, one not based on dependency or insecurity. Finally, learn to see yourself objectively and others subjectively. This can only come through awareness. One element of character is our level of self-control. However, it is much more empowering to truly know thy self!
Chapter 4 – Awareness
Character is no substitute for awareness. Awareness of self. Awareness of others. Awareness of perspective. And an awareness to separate all of these and choose how to relate in a new way. Awareness of your relative wholeness and the behaviors you use to try and complete or placate the missing pieces. Discover the depths of your soul by studying the Enneagram. I am a Type 4 sexual subtype. I am truly an INFJ. I thought I was a “T – Thinker” because I intellectualize life to a highly analytical degree. But rather, I’m an “F”, an NF ‘Idealist’ temperament, with a J attribute that provides the systematic structure. This explains, well, everything. My wandering. My self-absorption. My symbolic creativity. My idealism and intensely romantic view of life. My desires to connect as a soul mate with another person. My crutch of fantasy. My search for self and identity. My magnified emotions. My introspection. And my ever-present feeling of despair; I feel that I have a slipping connection to an identity; my greatest fear is that it will all slip away; melancholy.
I am prone to sorrow! I can let it bury me. And yet this very emotion that is my enemy can teach healing if I follow it without fear to its genesis. Avoiding it or fighting it is our natural response and so we constantly live in the tension of having to hold ourselves up or falling down. This is no way to live! This isn’t freedom! Emotions are INFORMATION! Emotions can reveal real needs and dependencies that can be resolved or weaned; they don’t always need to be gratified; we are not our emotions. Often the source of those needs stems from the core motivations and fears of our being. At other times, these needs stem from our immature ego. Learning to differentiate the source can help you know which needs are real and which are perceived. It is determining this reality that we start to become free because we are no longer enslaved by perception. Do you know your needs? Your values? Without such awareness, you can never efficiently find satisfaction. Without such awareness, you will continuously react to reality as if it should gratify your needs. Even so, this reaction doesn’t wholly point us to our needs. We need to understand that our perception of reality is often in response to the core fear or the ego. Once we are aware of this, we can begin to heal by separating ourselves from reaction and giving us a chance to choose our life. For me, against despair, I must wield thanksgiving as my weapon. Gratitude is the antithesis of despair, even in adversity. This lays the foundation for confidence to be built.
With proper awareness, you can begin to meet your needs more efficiently, freeing up time and resources to move on to more advanced things. Additionally, once your core fear is no longer an enemy, but a teacher, you can begin to turn your ego into a friend by having it show you its own fears which are more social in nature; let not your ego run your life by reaction to those fears. Learn to respond independently of your ego and enter a realm of new spirituality. Become aware of yourself and of others through self-awareness beyond the ego. Grow in confidence as you master yourself and your very perception of reality. But do not get caught in the trap of simply watching yourself in this heightened awareness or trying to suppress it. Move beyond this self-consciousness by transcending the desire to always feel connected to the present self and manage its emotional reactions and gratifications. Forget the self and be truly humble. Truly be selfless by forgetting about the self. Forgetting the self only comes through wholeness. Striving to forget the self locks us in self consciousness. First, learn to just be and enjoy the dance with the real world. Furthermore, teach the ego to focus away from its natural desires and to see other things. Say kindly, “The more I focus on X, the less I can focus and learn about Y,” where Y is the better variable that has lasting value. This will help train yourself through love rather than rules and condemnation. Once at this stage, continually renew your mind with Truth and refine your character through denying immediate gratification of the ego and working toward long-term gratification, which is the foundation of happiness in reality.
In the Enneagram, move along your Path of Integration to true wholeness and spirituality. This will take time and is best done in step with God who is the only one who we are truly made for. As a Type 4, I need to truly sense the physical world around myself rather than my mental perception of it, which can be an idealized visualization. That is the beginning of reconnection. The idealization of the real world is actually a means of emotional self-gratification, which counteracts a more healthy long-term focus and curbs willpower and ambition. I need to learn to see and accept things for how they really are, not for how I want them to be, which positions the world revolving around me. I need to live above my emotions, despite my desire to deeply connect all states of my being to another. I need to work toward a path of principles and self-discipline in tandem with reigned passion, instead of gratified passion. There truly is life outside of emotional yearnings, so stop focusing on the void as an irresistible pull and focus on God. Remember, says James in Chapter 4 (NIV),
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
Live in the fear of the Lord. This is the beginning of all understanding, Proverbs 9:10. Detox your soul. Purify your heart. Do it with God’s strength and God’s Word. Layer upon layer, remove the filth upon your heart and upon your sight. Develop a clean conscience!
Chapter 5 – Love
God is Love. This transcends all self-awareness, for if we have all things, but do not have Love, then we have nothing, 1 Corinthians 13. In the process of trying to love, we will begin to understand. Love is understanding. Love is everything. Learn to love God. Learn to be captivated by God. Then you will start to truly know yourself as something in the image of God, and in service of God. Once you embrace this truth and feel it in your heart, you are beyond the self and and you can truly teach how to love for you have learned to have compassion on yourself with self acceptance and in delight of God instead of fear.
Soften your heart. This is instrumental in relationships. Even more, begin to understand others subjectively and love them for who they are. We can use awareness with love to learn how others think and react to their own core fears. Help guide them. Help lead them to security. This requires a new perception of others and the ability to not focus on your own natural reactions to that perception; be outside yourself. Stop judging! Judging creates barriers of the heart! Judging cements our concepts of others and hardens our heart toward them. Become aware of their true inner nature and better understand what they are trying to convey. Think not of others’ failures but their need for growth. And don’t try and work with another person on their emptiness. Filling something that is bottomless is impossible. Instead, work from areas of life and let it grow to fill the void. This opens a world of new emotional depth and love.
Chapter 6 – Purpose
At the end of this journey, “How could the world go back to the way it was when there’s so much bad that had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.” The light will shine all the brighter as it emerges. The is a new beginning, not the end. My purpose is to live life on this new path and to guide others through this transformation. It has not all been in vain. My mind has slowly been renewed. A wandering sheep can now be the shepherd. The darkness can be made into light. My heart has been changed; I simply need to walk in the Light and faith lest I fall back into darkness. Maintain wholeness. Praise be to God, the Almighty! God has taken my spiritual lessons of the past year that I have meditated and struggled through ceaselessly and given me a foundation to live, think, act, love, and respond in ways that are different to where I was a year ago. God’s journey is transformational. Let’s continue to walk and banish fear.
Not all who wander are lost.