Friday, October 10, 2014

Temptation Triggers

Life is a pendulum. Our spiritual life is a pendulum, too. I have rough times when it feels like God is absent or maybe He's busy with other things and not that into me right now. If you know Christ, you know that's a lie. I KNOW that's a lie. 

Sometimes, I feel as barren as this picture and I can miss the beauty that is still there.

Lots of people blame "the enemy" for all their woes and ills and are often heard saying "They just don't feel close to God right now."  I can relate. I get that. But, God's also been calling me to pay attention. Look closely at what is going on my own life when I feel that way because God is ALWAYS close. He is ALWAYS available and His love, goodness, kindness and mercy don't alter or change or waver. 

If my relationship with Him is off, I'm the one that flipped the switch to that position. Period. As a matter of fact, the more attention I pay to these times in my life, the more God is teaching me about triggers that not only bring those feelings to the forefront but what I'm doing that exacerbates those feelings once they begin. (Note: Feelings are often lies. Everything you "feel" isn't truth and every truth doesn't have to produce a "feeling" to still be absolute truth.)

The last two months have been one of the times in my life that my faith didn't make me feel peaceful or draw me closer to the Lord.  I've been itchy and restless and, truthfully, a little scared about some decisions that my husband and I have made for our family. I didn't sleep well a few nights and I've been more flighty than usual. (that's bad, for y'all that don't know me personally) I prayed and heard nothing. I prayed about specific things, non-specific things and things that have nothing to do with why I feel yucky. Nothing.  Still itchy and restless. 

For me, that feeling is very much like those days when you're hungry you eat a little of everything in the pantry. Your belly is totally full but you still want that particular something to eat and your pantry obviously does NOT have it and you have no idea what it is even if your pantry did happen to have it but you know it doesn't because you've sampled EVERYTHING available. Twice. And you STILL want...something.  Know what I mean? 

My spiritual hunger is the same way. Sometimes, I want some fullness in my spirit that I can't find. I'm empty and restless and edgy, but no matter what devotional I do or how much I pray or how much quiet time I have in the morning, I'm still a little (or a lot) empty. Often, I find myself trying to fill that space with other things. Most of the time, it's not bad things or even things that I "shouldn't" be doing as a follower of Christ.  But sometimes, they're things that give me immediate pleasure, but no long term joy or satisfaction.  I call these my temptation triggers. 

Some of my temptation triggers are just basic things that elongate that feeling of emptiness (why do we do that?!). What they REALLY do is make sure that I absolutely do NOT have to wait for the Lord or have my spirit be quiet and let Him come, in HIS time, to bring me quiet and peace and assurance. These triggers make sure I do NOT have to wait for Him to come (and He WILL come) and fill me up.  

Here's a few of my temptation triggers that I've noticed the last few months:

1.  Questionable music.  I LOVE to dance. (and y'all I can bust a move, too)  But, I can dance to LaCrae and TobyMac in these times just like I can listen to other tunes.  Now, I'm not saying ALL secular music is bad (some of it is, but NOT all of it.). I'm saying that when I'm feeling funky, that is NOT a good time to pull out some dance music and go at it. It often leads me to other music that makes my feet move but that also makes my head full of junk that doesn't need to be there. 

2.  Questionable reading material.  I love to read. If it's in writing, I'll read it. You ready? One time, I was out of books and it was too late to go to the library, so I read the dictionary.  I read it and read it and read it and I was happy.  But, when I'm in a spiritual funk, and my devotionals aren't cutting it, why not pick up a good Dean Koontz book?  Here again, don't get me wrong. When I'm in peaceful place, I don't think there's a thing wrong with Dean Koontz and I like his work, especially his later work.  BUT, when I'm in a place where I KNOW something is going on spiritually, it's a bad time to move from the Word, even if I'm being too stubborn to let it sink into my heart. I've learned that it's better to find some quiet time and do the writing MYSELF than pick up a book that causes me to drown out that still small voice (I'm not saying that's EVER good, but I tend to actively do this when I'm restless). It's easier to escape with a sensational brain dead book, but it's not easier to find my peace with that book in my hand and my spirit tends to be in turmoil longer if I do this.

3.  Pinterest   Yes, THAT Pinterest.  Here again, there's zero wrong with Pinterest. I love it. I love scrapbooking and a virtual scrapbook that I can just click on is fabulous, people. BUT! When I'm spiritually restless, something about Pinterest in particular prolongs that feeling and makes it last and last and last.  I know one reason for that, but not all of them.  That one reason is this:  I look at all those photoshopped homes and rooms and professionally shot clothing pins and I WANT THAT.  I want that RIGHT NOW.  And little inside voice who is not all that nice to begin with says to me (say this in a voice like nails on a chalkboard if you want to know what my inside voice sounds like): "And your house will look like that sometime around the year 2486 A.D....if you're lucky. And you aren't lucky. Ever. You're the opposite of lucky."

 And when my spirit is in an upheaval, I believe that mean, inner voice that says those things.  And you guessed it:  It prolongs the spiritual dryness that I'm feeling. It makes me feel less than and like I may not be worthy of God's love and affection and that IS A LIE.  Christ made sure that's a lie. Christ covered all that unworthiness and made me worthy. Jesus is enough. Period. (take THAT you screechy, inside voice!!!)

4.  My house   This one is the hardest for me to admit because frankly, it just sounds pathetic. I have a great house. I like my house. It's older and it's not perfect, but it's a wonderful home and I'm blessed to call it mine. But, when I'm feeling spiritually bereft, I walk through my home and every bump, scrape and nick is a massive catastrophe and it's a wonder the place isn't falling down around us (in my head, not for real). This leads me to think about money: How little we have or how much we have or how much we can spend to fix this catastrophic sticks and bricks we live in because for real, that doorjamb with all the pieces of wood missing could be a direct reflection on my soul and IT. MUST. BE. FIXED. Today. Now.  And guess what happens?  I am diverted from having to wait and sit quietly in the loving presence of God because my attention is fully engaged in the very 1st world problem of having a nicked up doorjamb in my 4 bedroom home. (Told you it was pathetic, y'all)  

God is teaching me about my temptation triggers. I think He is very intentionally teaching me about the triggers that I tend to downplay as being unimportant, too. Here's the deal:  ANYTHING that causes you to ignore your spirit and your relationship with the Lord is important. It's not a little thing. It's the things that keep us from pushing through and finding our way through the valley and up the mountain to stand in his presence and feel peaceful and loved and I'm beginning to believe that the "little" things are the ones we excuse and ignore most often, even though those are the ones doing the most long term damage as we wait on the Lord. 

Even if your temptation triggers don't look a thing like mine, don't ignore them. They keep us from the peace and grace that God longs to give.  Without the love, grace and peace that are ours as children of God, we're often unable to pour into others and love them in a way that pleases God.  Without the peace and assurance of love that feeling close to God brings, we're unable to show kindness and love to others in the way that the world so desperately needs. We're unable to share Christ with others when we ignore these triggers because we're focused on covering up OUR dryness so we miss how many around us are lost in a world of hurt. That's not who I want to be.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Romans 12:2

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