I Bounce Back Like a Ton of Bricks

The Lord has helped me become more even-tempered lately, with these verses coming to mind quite often:

[a]What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? [b]Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask [c]with wrong motives, so that you may spend it [d]on your pleasures.  James 4:1-3

Keeping that truth in mind helps me not get to the point where others’ words or actions bother me to the point of that I plunge into the quicksand of my emotions.

That’s how it’s been going lately.

That is not at all how it went today.

When I woke up, I looked at my email on my phone.  (I should have had prayer time before checking my phone, but that’s not what happened.)   The first email I saw was an unnecessarily condescending work email.  An innocent bystander would not view the words in the email as condescending. The innocent bystander is also not aware of the subtext.

After reading the email, my heart immediately started beating quickly.  I was mad.  For the rest of the morning, I did not stop thinking about that email.  Instead, I chose to stew on it and nurture my anger at the person who sent it.

At work, the same person had a conversation with me – about a different topic – that was much more condescending than the email from this morning.  The tone of voice was actually on the pleasant side, but again, subtext ruled.  There was nothing I could do, except meekly acknowledge that I was in the wrong.  (I wasn’t, but it’s often best to just go with it.)

Just writing about today’s happenings brought on a much-needed cry.  It was more of a half-cry, because I got distracted.

This evening, the bulk of my mental space was used on crying out to the Lord that I hate this person.  Again, probably not the best thing to do; but I figure it’s better than saying it to the person or talking behind their back.  The rest of my mental space was used on crying out to the Lord to help me not to hate the person.

19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Romans 7:19

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from [r]the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25 

This is what makes being an HSP so frustrating to me. There is absolutely no reason why I should still be upset about the email or the conversation.  These incidents are just par for the course, and are not a true reflection on me as a worker or as a human being, in general.  Yet, they still cut so deeply when they do happen. It is a longstanding battle for me not to sin in my anger or self-pity at the toxicity of this situation.

PS: I have changed the settings, so that work emails don’t come through on my phone anymore.

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First Blog Swap – Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

I’m excited and honored to participate in my very first blog swap with Michelle Lesley, a Christian author whose writing is encouraging, and more importantly, theologically sound.  Up until now, I haven’t written much about theology.  Let’s say that I try to exercise great caution when I recommend someone’s teaching to others.  Michelle’s writing has encouraged me and challenged me; and I hope you will have a similar experience!

christ-is-enough

Michelle’s post, Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering, really spoke to me, as an Highly Sensitive Person.  It serves as a wonderful reminder of the hope we have in Christ, even in the midst of deep pain – especially when we seem to feel this pain with greater frequency and intensity than most.

Be blessed by Michelle’s post, and be sure to follow her!

I Haven’t Been Trusting the Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

26 Look at the birds of the [p]air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26-27

I have been a Christian for 12 1/2 years.  I’ve known and understood the gospel message for most of my life, but it’s only been since about 2002 that I would consider myself to have been born again.  These past 12 1/2 years have seen me go through many ups and many downs.  

Growth, setback, doubting…trust…

Trust.

I thought I had been trusting the Lord.  I thought I had been leaning not on my own understanding and allowing him to make my paths straight.   I also thought I had been considering the birds in the air and the lilies in the field.  I thought I was seeking first God’s kingdom, and allowing other things to be added unto me.

I was wrong.

In some ways, I have trusted God. I’ve trusted God with my finances.  I’ve trusted Him with job situations.  I’ve trusted Him with difficult friendships.

But there has been one major area in which I’d been holding out.

Marriage.

I desire very much to be married.  I am nearing an age that some think it is too late for marriage.  Maybe not so much in these times, but certainly 30 or more years ago, I’d probably be considered an old maid by now.

I do not believe that I have put my life on hold while waiting for a man to rescue me.  Well-meaning people often warn against this.  It’s not the case for me.  I do have friends.  I go out when I have time.  I volunteer and am active in church.  My life is very full and quite blessed – in spite of any difficulties.

Still, the fact that I am still unmarried, while people half my age are getting married left and right, then having children (not always in that order), is a source of disappointment for me.  When will I meet the man I will marry?  Will it be before I am no longer able to have children of my own? The questions go on and on, as does the pain.

Obviously, this is something I think about quite a bit.  And therein lies my problem.  There is where the lack of trust comes in.

Do I trust the Lord to know and be concerned about the desires of my heart? Yes.

Do I know that he wants what is the very best for my sanctification and growth?  Of course.

Do I believe that He will give me a fulfilling life, whether single or married?  Definitely.

But…

Do I believe that the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy Lord of all creation will remember that I desire to be married, if I don’t worry about it constantly and remind Him about it every 30 minutes or so?

Well, no.

I haven’t been believing that.  So, I’ve been reminding him fairly regularly.  Lest the One who is the Alpha and Omega, who knows precisely how many hairs are on top of my head (and how many are white vs. how many are brown)…lest He forget that I’m still hoping for an earthly husband…I must remind him.  Often.  If I fail to do this, he might think I changed my mind and will completely alter his plans for my future.

When put like that, it seems pretty ridiculous, huh?  Yeah.  It does.

I am actually ashamed at what a low view I must have of my God, to think that he needs me to leave him Post-It Notes all over the place.  I repent in sackcloth and ashes.  Maybe not, but with a broken and contrite heart, I ask forgiveness for grossly underestimating God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and trustworthiness.

Attempting to act as God’s self-appointed, personal assistant is actually pretty tiring and burdensome.  What a relief to realize He doesn’t actually need me to act in that capacity!

So, hopefully, from here on out, I’ll trust and “allow” God to do His work.  I’ll stop trying to micromanage Him.  If, in fact, He does intend for me to be married in the future, I trust that he will continue orchestrating my life and the man’s life, in order for that to take place.

I will relinquish the personal assistant position and set about the work that He has called me to do:  To love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength and to love my neighbor as myself.

31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But [s]seek first [t]His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:31-34

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and[a]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Matthew 22:36-40

Down the Twisty Slide – and Up Again

Yesterday was a highly emotionally charged day.  I like to say that I had what I call an “HSP flare-up” yesterday.  It began the night before, with someone telling me what a group of people whom I serve in ministry thought of me.  I admit, I did solicit this information. The answer was what I had expected, but not at all what I actually wanted to hear. *steps onto the spiral slide*

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling miserable; questioning my whole reason for being.  I resolved that I wanted nothing more to do with this people group.  Ever.  *sits down on the spiral slide* This would be a tall order, considering that I have been involved with this group for seven years.  They are my community.  Cultural differences and misunderstandings abound.  But they are my community, and I love them.  And I can’t stand them at times.

I spent the morning questioning the Lord:

  Why did you put me with them? 

        Or did I really put myself with them, and you didn’t want me with them in the first place?  

        Have I wasted my time with them?  Learning their language? 

        If I’m not working with them, what purpose will I have in my life? 

    Is there anyone is this community whom I can still trust? 

        Where will I find community?  

        Who? What? Why? When? Where? How!?!!! 

Suffice it to say…this is not an exhaustive list of questions and thoughts racing through my mind.

*pushes off and begins descent down the spiral slide*

There was a catch to all of this:  A woman from this particular people group had invited me over for my favorite meal from their country.  I’d have to put my resolve on pause long enough for me to enjoy the delicious lunch.  (Don’t judge me!)

When I got to my friend’s home, a woman whom I (most likely unfairly) suspected of being one of my “most-(un)wanted” list was also there.  She spoke to me in their language, and I informed her that I would only be speaking English on that day.  I never have English-only days, even if I’m alone all day! In any case, seeing her started priming the pump on my tear ducts and got my heart all twisted up in knots. Fortunately, she left after just a few minutes.

Really, friends, if you saw this woman, you would never-ever-ever believe that she was on the list.  I don’t even believe it myself.  

The meal itself was straight out of an HSP food nightmare for me.  You see, there are two ways of making this soup.  The kind I like is the clear broth. This one had a generous amount of rice flour, which added a creamy, slippery feel to the noodles in the soup.  In textural anguish, I ate half of the bowl.  The hostess was very understanding, a fact of which I am very grateful.

She could see that I was not okay, so while making all efforts not to bawl in front of her, I explained what had triggered my emotional state.  I didn’t go into the spiraling details, though.  She was understanding and attempted to offer some insight.  Earlier, I’d received some other helpful insight, but I was still upset.

At this point, the “most (un)wanted” lady returned.  Since I had least allowed a few tear droplets to escape, I managed to act somewhat normally with her for the rest of my quick visit.  She actually needed me to help with something; and I was able to suggest to her next steps to take in solving the issue.  *pause mid-spiral*

Feeling a little better, but not completely cathartically satisfied (yes, I just made that up) and definitely gastronomically dissatisfied, I rushed off to work; with no time remaining to grab something a bit palatable on the way.  In the parking lot, I hastily dashed out yesterday’s post on my phone app.  Then, I read some of the blogs I follow.  One of the blogs had a particularly touching post, which I could not even read all the way through for fear of, ummm, catharting (made that up, too) too much right before work.  *resume sliding*

On the way into the building, I got stopped in my tracks by an intriguing – but dead – group of flower blossoms.  This resulted in an impromptu pre-work photo session.  *pause again*

During work, I usually listen to Christian songs in the (un)wanted language.  Yesterday was not an exception, and I continued to listen on my drive back home.  As I approached my neighborhood, I started singing one of the songs that I’ve sung in church before.  The next song is a song about looking back on the mistakes one has made, in the interest of building friendships.  Then, it implores God to lead back onto the straight path.  This song perfectly fit the situation that had me so upset.  I envisioned myself singing the song and giving a testimony in church – sort of a confession and an apology. *sliding mode: on*

Singing this song with all of my heart, I pulled into my driveway.  And the dam was broken.  The tears flowed.  All of the pain that had been imprisoned in my heart all day finally made its escape.   *destination end of spiral:  reached*

Following this much-needed catharsis, I somewhat expected to retreat into a state of self-pity on the sofa.  I did.  And I finally also did what I had needed to do from the very beginning of this awful day:  I took some time with the Lord.  I read from the Bible study I’m doing now.  Ironically, we’re going through the book of Job right now.

In a complete contrast to yesterday, I felt a renewed sense of joy and purpose today – even with regards to that community.  Yesterday’s despair hardly seems reasonable, or even real, anymore.  How does this happen?  How could I spend a night and an entire day in complete mental torment, and then have it dissolve the next day?

To be clear:  I much prefer this renewed state.  I prefer to be at the top of the slide, but not even planning to go step onto it.

How can I stay here?  And if I happen to start down, how can I prevent myself from reaching the bottom?

That remains to be seen.  I want to learn how to, at least, shorten these rides.  While I’m in the midst of them, I can’t even conceive of there being any other way to look at the world.  Afterward, I have no idea how I possible allowed myself to sink so low – even if only for one day.

The Lord.

The Lord is with me.

The Lord knows that I am an HSP.

The Lord is unchanging, even though I am ever-changing.

The Lord is faithful, and He always does the following:

 

      3He restores my soul;
       He guides me in the paths of righteousness
            For His name’s sake.

      4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
            I fear no evil, for You are with me;
            Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:3-4

Torn: Highly Sensitive and Highly Self-Centered

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

 Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter: ‘What are you making?’ Isaiah 45:9

While reading and learning more about HSP, I have noticed that it is considered to be a gift to be grateful for.  After all, the Lord made us this way. Just days into starting this blog, however, I composed an entry in which I expressed doubt that there could possibly be anything positive about being an HSP.  The only use I could see for this trait was to make me cry or become very angry and tense at what would appear to be inopportune moments.

Much of the literature I’ve read on Highly Sensitive Persons mentions that HSPs are very in tune with other people’s feelings and thoughts.    Intuition and insight into others’ feelings and thoughts are part of the gift.  This is why HSPs often find themselves in helping/human services, I’d imagine.

In all my reading about HSP, my life has basically been flashing before my eyes.  So many aspects of my life started to make sense through the lens of my Highly Sensitive Personality.  Hurts, heartaches, mistakes, embarrassments…

There was a glaring exception, though:

The bits about being sensitive to what others felt and needed did not resonate with me.  At all.

How could this be possible?!  I am a model HSP in so many ways!  How on earth did I miss out the empathy part?

Then, it came to me.  My greatest downfall in life has been self-focus, or self-centeredness.  Let me be clear:  I never, ever had the thought, “I’m more important than everyone around me.  Therefore, I will put all my needs first and expect them to do the same.”  That may have seemed to be the case, but it simply is not true.

Looking back at my childhood, I can see some ways in which I could have become this way.  Though I am not an only child, I was one for several years before my mother had a second child.  As an only child, and after my brother was born, I was given most of what I wanted.  I was taught to think highly of myself from a very early age, with regard to physical appearance and intellect.

(side note:  if I ever have an academically gifted child, this child will not be made aware of high standardized test scores and percentiles.)

These circumstances are a breeding ground for conceit and self-centeredness.  Let’s also not forget that every, single person living on the planet is a sinful human being who, to some extent, is inherently selfish.  It’s just that some of those humans grow up in situations that teach them to think more highly of the needs of others.

I didn’t.

But can God redeem that time?  Of course, he can!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten….”  Joel 2:25

In hindsight, I only remember very few situations in which I was very open to sense another person’s feelings.  Mostly, I remember being so wrapped up in my feelings and needs that I (unknowingly) built a wall between myself and the other person.  This wall prevented me from recognizing their needs and/or intentions on deeper levels, and possibly prevented me from being able to speak life to a person who may have needed encouragement.

Again, God can and does redeem our lost time!  Even before I began to learn about HSP, I’d been working to be less self-centered and to focus more on others.  It is a work in progress, let me tell you!  Still, God has been changing me step-by-dying-to-self-step.

How can I make the most of this part of my HSP “gift”? And if you also experience the sensitive/self-centered dichotomy, how can you? 

I’ve actually composed a list in answer to that question, but I’m going to take my own advice and pray before posting it.  It just doesn’t read right; and I want to step back and think it over.  Maybe even rewrite.  Let’s see.

 

Loving One’s Enemy: HSP Style

This is what the Bible has to say about loving one’s enemy:

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”d says the Lord. 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”e 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21

The Lord is very clear in his Word about how He expects us to respond to those who would try to harm us, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  As someone who is – by the strength of the Holy Spirit – trying to conform my life to the Word of God, I do not see this passage as an area of exception.  I know that this instruction is one that I must follow, and thus, want to follow.

A few months ago, I was uninvited to an event, at which my presence had previously been expected.  There were two guests of honor; and one of them did not want me there.  End of story.  I got crossed off the list.

When the friend who wanted me there broke the news, I actually cried a little.  I felt hurt, humiliated, bitter, angry…lots of negative.  Truth be told, I did not feel very close to the other guest of honor, but being there for my other friend was important enough to me to be able to put that aside for a day.

I very much wanted to complain about this to anyone who would listen.  I did not keep this slight all to myself, but I was delicate in my discussion of it.  Tried to be, anyway.  However, I’m also trying to do a better job of following the Bible’s commands about gossip.

In the months leading up to the event, I grew more and more angry, all the while knowing that the right thing to do would be to forgive and move on.  This would be especially difficult, given the fact that we all have very similar social circles.

In spite of my anger and hurt, I did not want to address the situation until after the fact, because I didn’t want to spoil the happy mood of the event.  A few weeks following the event, I decided that enough time had passed, and our paths had crossed enough times.  It was now time to make my feelings known and somehow clear the air.

So, I contacted the person who had revoked my invitation.  I told them how I felt, and that I didn’t think it was necessarily fair to exclude me.  As a guest of honor, it is that person’s prerogative to invite or un-invite whomever; but it didn’t seem that the decision was well-grounded this time.

This person responded to me in a way that might not have been intended as condescending, but it definitely came across in that way.

“Angry” doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt.  “Hatred.”  That’s a more accurate, if not entirely biblical, word to use here.  My current job can be done without a great deal of thought.  This is a blessing and a curse.  It’s great when I need to obsess over process something that has happened.  I can just do my work and stew over my emotions.  It’s awful, well, for the very same reason:  too much time to think.

The day I got the response, while at work, I (inwardly) yelled out to God about how much I hate this person.  I know that God can handle my emotions and my honesty.  Between my mental yells, I was repenting and begging Him to help me not react so strongly.

Here would be a good moment to note that this episode was one of the catalysts that caused me to learn more about HSP.  

I still knew that I had to forgive.  I also knew that the time would come when we would be in the same setting, and that I’d have to be cordial, kind, and friendly.  Just the thought made my eyes start to fill with tears.  This seemed like an impossibility!!

Learning more about Highly Sensitive Personality has helped me feel less horrified by the intensity of my reactions in uncomfortable or harmful situations.

The problem is that this awareness does not actually diminish the intensity.

Though I’ve started to really heal from the hurt of that situation, something remains:

There will always be something that hurts me or makes me feel uncomfortable.

And my body will produce tears, which will roll down my face.

Whether I like it or not.

  (For the record, I don’t like it.)

Just yesterday evening, I was thinking of a change of scenery that I may need to make.  While there will be some positives associated with this change, there are still some unsettling, upsetting aspects.

Again, with the involuntary, unnecessary tears at the mere thought of putting myself in that situation, which would actually be quite innocuous…

Guess what, people? The shaky voice and tears streaming down your face do not do much in the way of winning friends and influencing people.  Actually, that’s only halfway accurate:  people are influenced – to stay away from you!

In moments where I feel uncomfortable, angry, lonely, unwanted (whether rationally or irrationally), the slightest “hello, how are you?” from a well-meaning person will bring on the tears.  This has happened many a time.

Trust and believe:  these tears are not a plea for attention, nor sympathy.  I now understand better that they are borne out of having a nervous system that’s cranked up a few notches higher, even on a normal day.

So, back to the original issue:  how can I love my enemy, when standing there with tears running down my face?  I guess the answer is just that:

Love my enemy while the tears are running down my face.

This is a terrifying prospect. Absolutely terrifying, particular for a person whose sun rises and sets according to what others think of her.  And people who are crying for no apparent reason don’t get held in very high esteem, it seems.

But back to God’s Word:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

He made me this way, though I cannot imagine why.  Therefore, He also knows that I can somehow honor and obey him, even with this unusual chemistry that He has built into me.

Will it be tough?  Yes.

Will it be embarrassing?  Definitely!!

But “His power is made perfect in my weakness.”

“Wounded Puppy” post script

As I was composing my previous post, I came to a disappointing realization about myself.  Even with all of my “preaching” on the topic of avoiding troubled men, guess what I did this very evening?!

That’s right.  I went straight on down to the check out a new puppy.  This is one that I’ve actually known for a few years.  I’d rarely seen him sober until recently.  And even when he was, he barely spoke two words to me at a time.  And those words were coaxed out by me. I was never interested in him.  In fact, I kind of had a lot of disdain for him.

Anyway, he was at the same event that I was at this evening.  He spoke more words to me – and more kindly – than he has in the whole time I’ve known him.  It was basically small talk about his job, going back to school, things like that.

Because he was being personable, I ventured to ask him whether he still smokes.  He said he doesn’t.  Okay, then…let’s take this a step further.  I asked whether he still drinks.  Also, stopped.  Why?  Because God doesn’t approve.  He said he’d stopped both five months ago.  He pointed out that he’d lost weight, as a result.  True enough.  He had.  And I do hope that he was being honest with me about the reason.

So, assuming that he was telling me the truth, he has been making efforts to be obedient to the Lord and seek healing.  That’s good.  Still, that doesn’t mean that I need to be all open-hearted-y and stuff toward him, does it?!

Of course it doesn’t!!!

Does that stop my heart from being opened-y?

Of course it doesn’t!!!

My heart is on its own schedule.  Occasionally, it checks in with me to make sure that I’m still there, but then it goes off and does its own will.  (I should start calling my heart “Old Testament Israel.”)

It is incomprehensible to me that I could be writing warnings against something, and at the same time be feeling the very things I’m warning against.

 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25

I am pleased to see the change in this man.  Truly, I hope and pray that he was being honest with me.  For his own sake.  However, I know my heart.  I have little control over my heart, but I know it.  It’s doing that thing.  You know, that thing.  It’s that thing that’s telling me that I need to keep a safe distance from this guy until I know I can handle it.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of guys with whom I can relate without “that thing.”  However, when I recognize it, I know it’s time to take shelter.

Easier said than done.  Easier said than done, my friends.

I think what got me going tonight was that this is the first time I saw him as a person with an actual heart.  As I said, he never really talked to me before – and certainly not politely.  So, that was the entry point for me.  That was the point of “now I know you have a heart, let me know all about it!”  Fortunately, I maintained a semblance of self-control as far as trying to steer the conversation and ask him a ton of questions about where he is now, spiritually speaking.  No matter what the situation, with males or females, I tend to steamroll people who express to me the very slightest bit of interest in the things of God.  I did ask him a couple of questions, but I don’t think I went too far, nor did I become too preachy.  (that’s a bad habit of mine.)

So, back to the point: as aware as I am, I see how I can still be taken down fairly easily.  Maybe that’s why the Lord chose this very evening for me to finally write that last post.  He wanted me to see my conversation with this guy under the glaring light of what I already know to be true.