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Self-loathers don’t know what love is (Pt 1)

I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.~ 1 John 2:26-27

A friendship of two decades is in its final death-throes.

The friend has most likely been holding on due to my potential as a donor for regular emergencies. I was holding on because I hoped she would walk out of her self-imposed doom-and-gloom prison and begin enjoying something of life.

For the vast majority of the time, I have known her, since her break-up with her ex-boyfriend, she is the one person who has been able to suck all of my light-infused energy from my being and inject her angst and unsettledness into me, creating instant exhaustion.

Nearly a decade ago, I began consciously not speaking to her while at home. I would take her calls while walking about town or sitting outdoors. The darkness coming from her during these conversations was too much to sit in while in my own space. Prior to this practice, I had been telling her for a few years that I had no place to go with her emotional dumps. Her bitterness and anger were too great for me to mediate. Add to that her stubbornness and a willfulness not to listen, and we have a toxic one-sided relationship that’s over-due for a curtain call.

She claims to be a seeker of Christ, but there is no light in her. She claims to live according to God’s law, but she has no understanding or expression of love. She has studied the Bible for years but only focuses on text supporting her worldview – any passage on hate and condemnation to shore up her belief in a vengeful God who only loves vengeful children.

Early on I was cast in the role of countering her fire and brimstone biblical interpretations with more rounded interpretations that take into account God providing His own sacrifice for our sins and transgressions. But after nearly two decades of trying to balance a dark-hearted view with light and joy, I’m done.

Today, this woman told me I am not a good or supportive friend because I don’t hate the people she hates or ignore the people she ignores.

She knows I don’t hate the people I used to want to hate. She knows my faith journey has been all about forgiving, releasing and growing forward. She has been around as I’ve confronted and vanquished demons attacking my life. Yet and still her ultimatum today was, if you want to be friendly/greet/reach out to people I’m not talking to then you can’t be part of my circle; count me out.

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” ~ 1 John 4:16-21

My reply was that I was not seeking relationships with the people she’s angry with. I greeted one, her sister, when we saw her at a restaurant yesterday. She chose not to acknowledge her sister and only said “things are awkward” between them and I should “read between the lines.” I reached out to the other, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her children, through their oldest, my godson, who lives with him, to ask for contacts and guidance for contractors after closing on my first investment property. My asking for help from her ex is apparently what set her on a warpath. He’s been in construction and auxiliary services for about twenty-five years. I’m new to the industry. It made practical sense to me to reach out to those I know are connected to the business. I had also reached out to another friend to see if her husband could help or offer guidance. He provided a list of contractors that got me started. And my cousin’s husband was my first helper. None of this seemed outrageous to me.

After dumping her anger on that, this friend attacked my creative works. Her continual dumping about her contentious relationship with her ex was featured in My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey, a book I published in 2009. She brought that up today as an example of my poor performance as a friend. Quite honestly, I don’t remember what I wrote about her and her ex or the lessons I learned from them, but I am disturbed by the fact that she’s only now expressing how deeply impacted she felt about me sharing my interactions with her in my book. This tells me she hasn’t been genuine at all in the last twelve years. How could she be if she’s been resenting me all this time?

Several portraits I took of her in 2018 are featured in I AM WOMAN: Expressions of Black Womanhood. She doesn’t like the way she looks. She said, “ I only see my pain when I look at these pictures.” Mind you when the photos were taken, it was for this project. Shortly after, she asked me to delete my work. I considered it, but I was angered at the thought of deleting my creative work simply because she couldn’t stand looking at herself. That being said, one of those images had been selected for two gallery shows in New York City. After the first show, she signed a photo release for the second. There was no complaint about having her image in a gallery, but I’m a horrible friend for putting that image and others in my book?

She has a four image spread that compliments a letter to Michelle Obama, as well as speeches by Michelle and Kamala Harris. In a book that explores the bondage and silencing of Black Women, she was paired with our two proudest historical accomplishments. But all she saw was her pain. She didn’t see how her story is so many others story. She didn’t see that we’re all overcoming everyday. She doesn’t see that in her attempt to hide and control her portion of the narrative she’s impacting and distorting the larger collective narrative.

It wasn’t until she unleashed about her images being in my book – images that she doesn’t like – that I realized that all the hatred I thought was directed outward was actually ricocheting from the inside. She’s been in the throws of self-loathing for many years and I didn’t identify it as such. However, I did begin to understand she truly doesn’t know how to love when she rejected her son a couple of years ago for choices he made in his life. Her whole life has been wrapped up in smothering her children while hating their father. Despite her confusion with the Word, she has kept her children in the Bible. When she cited her belief in God as the reason she rejected her son, I began stepping back. That’s when I acknowledged I was no match for her destructive reaction to people living their lives on their own terms.

I have assured her I will remove her images from I AM WOMAN as well as references to her story in future publications of My God and Me. I had debated including her images because I didn’t want the negative energy attached to her to infuse my project. I should have heeded my gut. Lesson learned.

My hope that she will wake up and present a version of herself that isn’t bitter, hateful, manipulative or controlling is put to rest. I throw in the towel. If someone doesn’t know the difference between an honorable tribute and a hateful act then I’m really out of words.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” ~ John 3:17-21

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Virtual Bible Study: Marriage & Relationship

This is a follow-up to You’re Invited: Virtual Bible Study. The first discussion has been scheduled. Yay! It will be a recorded Zoom call on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 9:00am Central Time. The topic is Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles.

  • Text: Book of Ruth: Naomi, Ruth and Boaz
  • Text: Genesis 29-31: Jacob, Rachel and Leah

Zoom details:

Please note the call will be recorded and shared.
Time: Oct 20, 2020 09:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/72581560853?pwd=Vm0yK1p0Yk5rUWIrVEtnbVJ3dklyUT09
Meeting ID: 725 8156 0853
Passcode: CSV2T2

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People who hide themselves are impossible to know.

A long-term friend is coming for her first visit to New York City next week. I really didn’t think the visit would happen (it still may not) because she’s never made the effort to do anything really in our friendship. Even when I lived in the same city, she visited my home maybe one time. When I visited her from NYC over the last thirteen years, she has never wanted to leave her home. I’ve a l ways had to see her in her space.

We began as work friends. We met nearly twenty years ago in Milwaukee, WI when I was an intern at a company she was temping at. There were two other women on the floor we bonded with during our time at that company. Of the four, she and I have remained in contact.

When I think back on the tenure of this relationship, I see how I was willing to be a friend, comforter and aid for many years. I openly shared my own growing pains, failures, successes and hopes. I overshared, actually. For the past twelve years, she has only shared her bitterness, anger and resentment – fruit from a broken relationship. About ten years ago, I told her I couldn’t take any of it anymore. I was her dumping ground for everything negative in her life. Most interactions with her have drained me of energy. So we spoke less and less. Her anger towards her ex is always simmering at an explosive level below the surface. Nearly every conversation has circled back, involved or alluded to him for the last twelve years. To be fair, however, she can be the best hype person. Geeking me up when I shared good news or was uncertain of a decision I had to make usually gave her unchallenged space to introduce her unchanging gripes about her ex’s activities.

All this to say, all I know about my friend of nearly twenty years is her anger, bitterness, resentment and lack of gratitude.

I’ve been chasing her all week for a list of things she would love/like/hope to see/do on her first visit to New York City which is to celebrate her 50th birthday.

It took her three days to text a generic list that reads like the top ten free things to do in a NYC google search. I worked on researching and mapping out an agenda for her visit based on this list for a whole afternoon before I realized that if I allow her to not show up for herself, we would both be wasting our time and I’ll be wasting my money since I’m hosting.

So I texted her and told her I needed her true preferences, not a generic top ten. To which she responded, “I trust you. Anything would be great.” Her short, dishonest text, triggered this post.

She can’t trust me to know what she likes because she has never shared any of her likes, loves or joys with me. At least not in recent memory. She has hidden herself away in anger and hatefulness for so long, no one can see anything else. It’s very sad to realize I’m unsure of how to celebrate someone I’ve “known” for so long for a milestone birthday. Should I spurge on Broadway tickets? If so, to what type of show? Does she really want to visit a church during her Thursday-Saturday trip or was that on the list for my benefit? New York City literally has something for everyone at all income levels, including free. All I’m asking for is a general direction to go in. She can’t give me that. She refuses to give herself that.

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord . They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord . They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. ~ Jeremiah 17:5-10

Imagine. I want to celebrate her. I want to show her a good time. I want to bless her. Yet she refuses to do her part which is simply to open enough to receive.

She says she believes in God and she tries to live a solid Christian life, but her hardheartedness gives to lie to her belief. You can’t hold on to God and trust Him with your life when you’re wholeheartedly holding on to anger, bitterness, and resentment.

I’ve been telling her for years that the Word of God is hard for her to digest because she doesn’t listen. Everything has to be her way. She has to be in control. And she absolutely hates the fact that she has no control over the household of her ex, the father of her children. I hang on because her children are my Godchildren. They have long brought me joy and I can’t comprehend how she isn’t overflowing with joy, gratitude and a gracious, forgiving heart for the gifts she received in the form of her two children.

The bigger picture here is that God wants to bless her. Indeed, He already has. Not just with her children but in so many countless ways over the years. I’ve seen it. People show up in her life in so many capacities, I have to tamp down a bit on jealousy every once in a while. She says she’s grateful for the blessings, when she’s willing to acknowledge them. But she doesn’t act like she’s grateful. Her behavior doesn’t change. Her countenance doesn’t lift. Her anger doesn’t dissipate. Her attacks on her ex continue.

Those who believe in Him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” ~ John 3:18-21

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Devotional: Love as He Loves

Love as He Loves:  John 15:1-17

 

Read

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9-17)

Reflect

When things are going well, we feel elated. When hardships come, we sink into depression. But true joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the vine, and God is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them fruitful (John 15:1-2). The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. When our lives are intertwined with his, he will help us walk through adversity without sinking into debilitating lows and manage prosperity without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily will keep us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances. Because Jesus Christ is Lord and master, he could call us servants; instead, he calls us friends. How comforting and reassuring to be chosen as a friend of Jesus. Because he is Lord and master, we owe him our unqualified obedience. Yet Jesus asks us to obey him because we love him.

Respond

We are to love each other as Jesus loved us. You may never have to die for someone, but there are other ways you can practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Prayerfully consider someone who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then try to give a little more.

Source: Life Application Devotional, October 24, 2016

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