Extended family-time over the holiday can invite a whole host of emotions. From blessed to stressed, it can leave me thankful and happy to disappointed and frustrated. I can too easily give into the feelings of hurt or discouragement. I so want them to make me feel valued, loved and appreciated. When I don’t feel this way, should I escape, pretend, or be passive aggressive (You know, pretending like I am fine, but also having an edge)? I am convinced that God gives us each a deep need for connection; and time with family or others close to us often validates this. When I do feel connected with others, I feel filled up. When I feel the lack, I experience a hole that needs to be filled. Even the best of relationships can fall short in delivering this to me. Yet often, when I feel disconnected with others I can wonder, “Am I valued? Loved? Liked?” What do I do when I don’t feel connected with those important to me? As I walk away from holiday family-time and into the New Year, this is what I want to take into my relationships: to live in relationships as one who is already deeply wanted, loved and secure.
Comfort for the Disconnected
One morning over the holidays I was feeling especially disappointed and down (I am so glad I have a great husband and sis who I can talk through these things with). There are certain things I want to be different. I want to feel different. I want to know that I am deeply wanted, loved and secure. I also want to “feel” deeply wanted, loved and secure. I can begin to wonder, “What is wrong with me? What should I change?” “I” need to be different so that I “feel” wanted, loved and secure. As I doubt, I begin to feel like my self-worth comes from relationships. If I am feeling connected then I feel good. If I do not feel connected then I don’t feel so good. All of a sudden that morning I was stuck with a clear and specific truth. Even though I wasn’t reading it at the time, three things from the book of Ephesians comforted my mind and heart:
1. I am adopted. Adoption indicates that I am wanted, have been chosen. I am special, unique and noticed. That is why my good friend went to great lengths to adopt her daughter from Armenia. She wanted her and chose her. In the same way, my heavenly Father wants to be with me and wants me to be a part of His family. I love being wanted and chosen!
2. I am loved. I could tell myself over and over about the immeasurable love of God lavished upon me, and never really fathom it. God doesn’t only choose me, he wants to be with me. He created me uniquely, yet in His image. He knows me inside and out, and He still loves me. He promises to be with me forever. I think He likes me. This love gives joy to my heart!
3. I am secure. He will not forget me, walk away or let go of me. He will give me what I need and will take care of me. I can trust that He wants my very best. He also has provided a future for me with an inheritance. He is my Father who knows my needs and gives good gifts. I rejoice and take comfort in the future!
So why do I forget?
These three things I know to be true. I know the scriptures and have encouraged others with these truths. Yet, I still find I need to remind myself who I am: wanted, loved and secure.
1. Trusting in my Feelings
I forget because I believe my feelings to be more real than the truth. Sometimes I can begin to dwell on the lack of connection with people and I then I begin to feel like one who has no connection. Dwelling only encourages my feelings, which often betray me. This is not my compass for connection. My feelings are more interested in protecting myself or in finding relief immediately than persevering in the truth.
2. Looking to other things
There are so many things I go to to fill the hole or need for connection and affirmation. Some of these things are good things like:
Living in “community” is good, but it is not the answer to everything. People so desperately need and want connection that community can be the solution for struggles, for feeling lonely, or disconnected. But what if I do have community, and maturing in my faith and I still feel disconnected? What if my community doesn’t ask what I need, listen, or applaud? Do I move on in search of a better community? Better relationships? I know that community (and family) is an instrument, but not the thing that meets my deepest need for connection– my need to be wanted, loved and secure.
Having a clear mission can also fill some gaps and holes we may feel. We might think, “Maybe if I am a part of a purpose or a mission, then I will feel significant and valued.” But what if there is no visible fruit from our work or others don’t notice my effort? Do I give up and look for significance elsewhere?
I hear to remember the gospel each day. But what if I am still not measuring up, not as holy as I want to be, and keep messing up? Does that mean I have forgoten the gospel or am not preaching the gospel enough to myself? Are my ears not open? Did I forget it?
Remembering and Recalling
What is your situation? As I reflect on these things I think about my friend trying to discern how to love her alcoholic dad, another who is estranged from her family, a mom who enables dysfunction in the home, or a student’s roommate who distances herself and says hurtful things. This is when it can hurt the most– when the people on “our side” don’t seem to care, respond, or affirm. We must remember these three things and not forget. And even in the best of families and relationships we need to recall and start with God– and remember His abundant grace, mercy, justice, and love.
1. Instead of dwelling, I stop myself and remember: I am wanted
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
2. As I am maturing in my faith, I remind myself: I am loved completely
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, n Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5,7-8)
3. When I fail, I recall: I am secure
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:10-14)
This is what I want to walk in and remember in this new year. I am very thankful for my husband and boys. But no matter what kind of family or relationships I have, these three things are true of me. God my Father reminds me in His word once again where I stand. All other things may fail, but He does not. He fills my deep need for connection. I start and stand with HIm and in Him. I keep coming back to this.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
There are a few books I recommend for walking by faith and not in our feelings. One is called “Faith in not a Feeling,” by Ney Bailey. I will soon post this in my “Favorite Reads.”