With the best of intentions

I weathered another round of what I assumed to be food poisoning. Tired of hanging out in the bathroom, I put on a brave face to hostess visitors, babysit, teach an English class, and drop by the neighbor’s with a plate of crepes.

But when holes were poked in my food poisoning theory, suddenly my bright shades of resiliency and selflessness took on a contaminated hue.

I had been so sure I could trace it back to those fried sardines…

I took a too-late day of quarantine to keep me from infecting the rest of the world. The next morning I dropped by the post office and the grocery store. On the way home, I noticed I was being dogged by the persistent admirer who, after a clarifying encounter months earlier, had vanished from my life. Until now. And there he was, looking bigger, older, and maybe even a little more unhinged than the last time I had seen him.

My intention to weave myself into this community’s tapestry put me in his way. Or maybe he put himself in my way. Or maybe we’re simply two clashing fibers woven side by side, which is bound to happen now and then in every community. Just wishing him away rather than confronting him probably was never the answer.

Why do best intentions sometimes sour?

My recent decision in the best interest of all turned out to be in the best interest of none… and involved a fair amount of straightening out.

I suppose it’s fanciful to believe that sacrifice can validate decisions. Still, why do some of the decisions we make, even at our own expense, turn out to be the wrong ones?

Maybe it’s because we don’t understand the big picture. Or because our decisions are not the only decisions affecting lives.

When we take a spill on our good intention bicycle, the true measure of resiliency and selflessness may be found in our ability to stand up, gently brush the gravel from the crevices of our knees and continue on our way.

And be grateful when others forgive our mistakes and miscalculations.

And thank God for the neighborly shopkeeper who is standing in his doorway to watch us safely home.


Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium on Unsplash

Among wolves

Children trickled home from school, their voices wafting up three stories to where I had curled up in my bed, attempting to steal a half hour nap. But more than to sleep, I curled up to drown out the dizzying voices in my head.

Advice too helpful.

Less invasive, but still overwhelming suggestions.

Pressure from friends to fill their emotional needs.

Dramatic stories that sucked me in (even kicking and screaming).

Stop! I buried my face in my pillow with the sting of fresh tears. 

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (Jn. 10:3) We had just read that verse at Thursday night prayer meeting.

“Jesus, where is your voice?!” I gasped.

The voices dispersed. There was silence. “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (Jn. 10:4)

Every day, someone invites me into their story. Sometimes it’s angry drama, sometimes it’s deep hurt or deep joy, sometimes it’s just a friend who cares. 

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10b). What is abundant life? I know what it is not, but that isn’t helpful.

Abundant life is the life that gives life life. It is Jesus Himself (Col. 3:4).

And abundant life is ours even when we are sent out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16). Why? Because our Good Shepherd will not leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). He is with us, God with us, Immanuel, even among the wolves.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (Jn. 10:14).

Following the voice of my Shepherd doesn’t make me deaf to the other voices. I may follow advice and reach out to the hurting, but I won’t be enslaved as long as I follow Him in and out of the fold.


Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 2

Last week, I wrote about my struggle with people-pleasing. And I’m still learning how to deal with this fear of man. (By waiting a week, I was hoping to be so much wiser!)

On my journey, I’m learning how much my thought life affects my everyday life. My thoughts aren’t as private as I think. Jesus was right, of course, when He taught that sin begins on the inside.

I know how critical and dark thoughts can be because I think them all too often. But when others think those thoughts about me, I am panic-stricken. Could I be the object of disdain rather than admiration or affection?

My negative thought patterns subtly place others as the wrong doers and me as the victim. (As if!)

How do I get out of this negative rut? Pep talks? Surrounding myself with positive friends? Hardly.

By asking God to redeem my thought life.

Notice I said “redeem” rather than “distract.” When I catch myself slipping into my “nobody loves me, everybody hates me” rut, I confess and surrender that thought. But rather than leave my mind as a gaping hole (which is impossible for women, by the way), I work to fill that hole with worthy thoughts and praise.

One day, I specifically asked God to help me take every thought captive. While dwelling on a wrong thought, I suddenly jabbed my hip into a doorknob (and Spanish doorknobs are sharp!). In pain, I managed to laugh and thank God for the not-so-gentle reminder. Other days, I, in essence, tell God to go away and leave me alone to think my negative thoughts.

Sometimes, we write off negativity as discernment. But they’re not the same. Negativity eats at your soul. Discernment can see and analyze the negative aspects of a situation without being controlled by them.

When your thought life is redeemed, you can be discerning without being negative. People may still sling unrealistic expectations at you or think mean things about you, but when you don’t dwell on it, it can’t control you. 

See, whether or not someone means offense in a comment, you can leave it. You can walk away because when you do, that comment–whether intentional or unintentional–is between that person and God. When you take offense, suddenly the the relationship is much more complicated. Suddenly, the comment is between them and God, you and them, and you and God. And that takes a lot of clarification, repentance, and forgiveness. 

But when you re-calibrate your focus– take it off of whoever you are allowing to control you, and place it on God– your world begins to bloom. You can hear advice without letting it dictate each decision. You can hear criticism without being in the depths of despair. You can love those who think little of you, even if their opinion never changes. And you can hear praise without feeling like it is watering the thirsty soil of your starving soul. Affirmation becomes a blessing rather than a necessity. 

And you– I should say “we”– can be content in our identity in Christ rather than our identity in the eyes of others. 

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 1

I was sweating under my blanket and it wasn’t because of the leftover summer heat. 

How could I have made the situation different? How could I have walked away without leaving a bad taste in their mouths? What should have I done to make them like me?

The night hours ticked away as I fought a bloody battle with my thoughts.

If you haven’t caught on by now: I have an overwhelming fear of man. I want people to love me and delight in me. I want to be the desired friend, the confidant, the one to diffuse tension in a situation. 

But that night, my heart was pounding so hard that I could feel the bed shaking along with it. And all because of a negative reaction that felt like a personal attack.

More hours passed before I was able to stop “problem-solving” and surrender. My heart, now guarded by God’s peace, relaxed until I could no longer feel the oppressive beating. And I fell asleep.

Not every wave of people-pleasing is like this for me. Sometimes, I feel invincible to others’ opinions because I’m too tired or too stubborn to bend anymore. Other times, I never surrender and spend days or weeks in agony, enslaved to another’s opinion and trying to think up ways to wriggle myself back into their good graces.

Can you identify? Are you a people-pleaser too?

I don’t have a once-and-done solution for us. Or even five easy steps to follow.

Recently, in talking with a friend, I realized that this area of my life is slowly changing. It may always be a struggle for me, but by God’s grace, it will no longer be my prison.

Next week, I’ll tell you a bit of my ongoing journey. And maybe you can tell me a little of yours too.