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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Fearing Love Saved My Life

“Hurricanes evolve through a life cycle of stages from birth to death. A tropical disturbance in time can grow to a more intense stage by attaining a specified sustained wind speed.” The progression of tropical disturbances can be seen in the three images below.

While studying storms, I realized many of my life’s “hurricane” situations started out as a tropical depression. I never took the time to recall each of the small wind gusts that ultimately became the hurricane problem I was currently in.

One of my life’s hurricanes, in particular, was realizing I had a fear of love. It sounds absurd to fear love. What makes love ‘‘scary’’? I don’t know. What I do know is that the concept of someone liking everything about me and wanting to be with me forever secretly terrified me. At the time, I was convinced if anyone ever knew me that well, they surely wouldn’t want to stay with me that long. The love concept made sense for everyone else, just not me. I was completely content with feeling this way until my stance was challenged, and I was forced to deal with an issue I didn’t even know I had. The process of discovering my fear was emotionally traumatic. During a time in my life, where I knew who I was, and was totally comfortable with that person, this fear reared its ugly head, and made me lose all sense of self-identity.

Looking back over the storm, I believe my tropical depression started with storms of disappointment, rejection, and what Bishop T. D. Jakes calls “internal streams of critical commentary.” I recollect many instances where 1) I felt disappointed that someone I expected to show up or listen did not, 2) someone I wanted to be with rejected me, and 3) I often criticized everything, including myself. My work was never good enough; there was always more to do. Productivity was my measure of self-worth. These repeated occurrences led to a great deal of anxiety. To avoid disappointment and rejection I tried to control life by evading hurt. Control was my coping mechanism, but over time, it only built distrust, low-self esteem, and false perceptions of myself.

The prolonged tropical depression left me in a state rife with anxiety, confusion, and emotional instability. Each day brought a new emotion: resentment, bitterness, loneliness, hopelessness, irritability, anger, and depression. As the storm intensified, I doubted if an end was within reach. I settled that this hurricane would be the death of me emotionally and spiritually.

Recognizing death before me, and nothing behind me, in desperation, I finally turned my complaints into a prayer:

“Lord God, you are Mighty to Save! Free me from the casket of confusion suffocating my heart and mind. I want out of this storm Oh God! I want out of this storm Oh God. Only you can deliver me and make me whole! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
It was in this place that the eye of the storm passed over. The uniqueness of a hurricane lies in the presence of an eye in the center. The eye is the focus of the hurricane, the point around which the rest of the storm rotates. Within the eye, the winds become very light—sometimes even calm. At the center of my storm, the eye was God’s grace. 

The years of hell: distrust, low self-esteem, negativity, and false perceptions distorted my view of love from man and God. I created a false sense of inner peace, where completely trusting people and self-acceptance were not apart. Prior to the hurricane, I was convinced that neither trust nor self-acceptance was truly needed to be happy and successful.

In the midst of my spiritual death and drowning in depression, I started to hope for more. I hoped for the opposite of every emotion I was feeling. Hope opened my eyes to the notion that I needed to feel God’s love to understand and accept love fully. His grace would love me in spite of everything I ever did. Forgive me, restore me, and challenge me. A love that required me to trust that He couldn’t lie (Numbers 23:19) that He’d never disappoint me, and would fairly judge me (Psalm 11:7). A love—I had to trust and believe—actually existed. Initially, the thought of this love gave me more anxiety, but was ultimately worth accepting in comparison to dying in confusion. A love that said I was valuable (Psalm 139:13-15), important, chosen (John 15:16), and not forgotten (Hebrews 13:5). A love that rebuilds the devastation of life’s storms and makes one new (Isaiah 43:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:17). A love that always trusts, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, and believes all things (1 Corinthians 13: 4-6). A love I could no longer afford to fear.

At the edge of hopelessness and in the midst of a hurricane, I chose to take a step. I stepped into the roaring wind and pouring rain of my fear and believed God’s grace was enough. His grace was sufficient to not only restore me, but also allow me to love others as I truly wanted to be loved.  

Love Lifted Me - Candy Staton

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I. 

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!

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What's your saving storm? #mysavingstorm

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