Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
Though shame is more pertinent in some cultures than others, it plays a role in the formation and state-of-being of all of us.
It occurs, for example, when people who love us notice when we’re not getting a fair run. They make a fuss, insisting on justice in these situations, particularly if it relates to a relationship. And whenever we justify unfairness as it occurs to us, making concessions for others, perhaps a partner who’s neglectful, we give expression to our shame. We don’t like it when such issues are exposed. Of course, we feel shame when we’re rejected by others, particularly loved ones, too. These are universal responses.
This is common to our human condition; to feel shame in the presence of inadequacy we can do nothing about.
Owning Up Is The Only Way
That which we cannot bear we will only be able to bear when we own it; and the earlier the better.
We’re never beyond this; the state-of-being that cobbles us in our pride. And these characteristics of pride are not overtly sinful—we are, after all, only providing for the dominion that God has given us. We rightly, and necessarily, defend that dominion. God has made us these ways.
But we must also honour the truth. Feelings of shame, common to everybody, are vanquished as we learn to courageously and truthfully challenge such onerous feelings.
These feelings are just a clue. God uses them to pique our awareness. It’s a prompt to honour the truth, at least before the Lord.
Honouring The Negative As A Platform To The Positive
Is this not the way God works? We’re tested by the truncheon of truth. We’re honed in the habitation of humility. And we’re moulded from the melting pot of mercy for ourselves and others.
The truth about life is the negative—in so many manners of fashion—is the very reason generating the positive. We wouldn’t stand to win if we weren’t put into the pit of competition for losing. And whether we’re winning or losing is inconsequential; tomorrow we may win—that’s the point; not losing.
Redressing our origins of shame, our negative states-of-being, requires that we negate the negative by being honestly positive; it’s being truthful, at least with God, about how we feel, remembering that our feelings are never intentional. Feelings are those things we feel. We don’t invent them, and we would surely change many of them if we could.
Instead of denying them, and feeling ashamed of them, we own them.
Power for living, looking life in the face, even surviving, is made easier when we redress our origins of shame. Everyone has them. When we present an honest response in the face of our shame, that shame begins to melt away.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Shrill is the spirit’s groan as it recognises the inner signs of panic—“How am I able to hold on in this circumstance... where is the escape route should my spirit demand it?” When we need to escape we should—no ifs, no buts. Escape is the moment’s solace, executed just in time.
Yet, there are times, also, where our intellectual selves allow us to hold on despite tremor extant on another level. Times such as these there’s another level of conscious ‘us’ superintending our mood, overseeing action, directing the intelligent flow of personal life. If it works, at such a time, so be it. Don’t criticise this level of functioning; just assist if it feels okay, whilst somehow supervising it.
Then there’s time, again, where our spirits have decided, in advance of us, that to bow out is right, just now, and we creatively accede. It’s important we sense the direction of our inner selves because, whilst some challenge to it is okay, we’re to be ever gentle.
Holding on, when necessary, is an art form of conscious tenacity, as wisdom is in letting go.
Each for its determined moment—there should be no pre-scripting; just allowance for the in-flow of critical psychological information pertaining to our status. A person in touch with their mind is an awesome creature; even better is the mind in sync with its heart; empathising with the mind, does the heart, and advising the heart, does the mind.
The Criticality Of Decisiveness
Desperate times are not the place for onerous demands for either decisiveness or fluidity.
Instead of “How do I hold on?” it could be “How do I let go?” or, equally, “How do I respond?” What is right for the time and circumstance—it pays, now, to be gently decisive; in other words, without emotion for regret.
Within patterns of decisiveness there is consequent panic; that because of the pressure to make decisions, and for the momentary consequences of those decisions. This can be too much pressure to bear.
We need to restore the moment’s objective balance; we problem solve only for now, whilst planning ahead if we can. We resolve to keep things poignantly simple. We enjoy our latest breath.
The pressure of deciding is half of the stress. If we simply hold on or let go, not keeping a foot indecisively in both camps, we will regain strength and peace.
There is a season to hold on; a season exists, also, to let go. Peace is in prayerful consideration, then courageous but gentle decisiveness.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
This is how the world normally works: your stuff; my stuff. Or, it could be, your tasks; my tasks. And never the twain, ordinarily, shall meet.
Life can seem, or degenerate to being, very competitive.
On the surface this sounds perfectly fair—an eye for an eye. Keeping people to account for the things they’ve agree to, or to those things we expect from them, should be enough to maintain reasonable and sufficiently tight boundaries. What sounds reasonable, however, is actually quite ridiculous. It was designed to work in a child’s world, where children expect fairness.
Our world is not a fair place.
Whilst there are godly constructs that require fairness, and in good case, the intent of the legal world—to establish and maintain the order of justice—so many things in this world escape that due process. When we expect fairness it’s an important clue that we’ve sunken into our child-state.
The Paradoxical Nature Of Our Adulthood
The reason we’re innately competitive is we’re broken, childish people, at least at certain times. The following can be confronting, but it’s nonetheless true:
Notice the child before you... the one appearing, physically, as adult... (and not just them—we’re all back to our child-state when we become emotional)... we can ‘enjoy’ the fact that no single person is spared their competitive nature. No one is more or less perfect than we are. Imperfection abounds, as does unfairness.
The paradoxical nature of our adulthood is we slip back into this child-state oh so easily. Otherwise the sinful nature, we’re condemned to it whenever we insist on having our own way.
Only One Remedy
If we want the best result for ourselves, we must shoot for the best result for the other person. This, too, is a paradox. Nobody getting their own way truly gets their own way. Not for long. Selfishness is never satisfied. It’s like an itch that insists on being scratched, again and again. This is proven in the pleasure principle. The more pleasure we get the more we want.
There’s only one remedy. When we know we can only win when all parties win, simultaneously, as best that can be managed, we shoot for results with the collective mindset at the forefront of our motivation.
In a world such as ours, where sin reigns, but against the structure for unity that God set up beforehand, there’s only one way it can work. The Gospel not only saves lives, eternally speaking, it saves lives now, today, from undue frustration by events rooted in harmony. The more we want for others, the more God gives us.
We live in a world where collective thinking is blessed and selfish thinking is cursed. Only when we ensure that all parties are looked after do we get sight of success.
Relationship success is an exclusive club, and its members qualify for membership by looking after one another as good as their own person. All good relationships rise above competitive selfishness. Only when all parties are catered for is there true joy.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
When things are hard,
And you’re trying a lot,
Drop your guard,
It’ll stop the rot.
Sometimes I get the impression, no matter how hard I try to establish intimacy in certain situations, it just won’t happen. There’s one or more of at least six relationship factors that prove awry, and nothing we can do, sometimes, will bring a peaceful rapport to bear.
The strangest reality comes in direct competition to this lack of intimacy: this occurs in the closest of our relationships from time to time.
Intimacy Can Never Be Taken For Granted
Intimacy is always a blessing, and blessing we must be eternally grateful for. Such blessing is never a given.
Relationships are always work. And the payoff is the blessing of intimacy. And though there may seem no direct link between the work we put in and payoff we enjoy, there is some tacit link.
We ought to truly enjoy times of trusting intimacy, the closeness of bonds, because our times won’t always be this enjoyable. All relationships ebb and flow, as all relationships feature intimacy and aloneness.
Re-Railing Situations Featuring A Lack Of Intimacy
Some situations we’ll need to accept; a lack of intimacy, the matter is not ‘clicking’ for some reason, may be beyond redress. The time doesn’t afford another opportunity, or the other person isn’t open enough to entertain disparity. It may be us. Perhaps we don’t wish to venture the effort.
Whatever it is, sometimes we need to accept relational distance is what it is. We may pray for another opportunity; one not too far off.
Sometimes we’ll be bold enough to seek a better result, in the moment of the present opportunity. We engage the other person honestly, freely, courageously. We choose to drop our guard. We encourage their trust by issuing our trust. We commence a conversation. We give good attention to grace. We take the pressure off ourselves when we take the pressure of others; we come to the situation without any expectation, and we are ready to be surprised.
Creating such intimacy is a risk. We need to risk something of ourselves, without thought of being hurt, so that the other person may see how serious we are in our love for them.
The best of love is a risk. We put ourselves out there; for potential hurt. Knowingly we trust others with our heart—those we’re reasonably sure will love us back. When we risk for love, toward the objective of intimacy, we are somehow prepared for rejection. Somehow God blesses us with the knowledge that at least we tried.
With intimacy we need to be straight. When we drop our guard, being the real us before others, we invite others to be the real them in response. Trust becomes intimacy.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
We get deluded so much in life regarding the product of conflict. We are hurt too easily and we, correspondingly, hurt others without the full sense of compassion we would have if it was us on the receiving end. We are very fallible creatures—human beings.
But, on the other hand, our time here is too valuable to leave horrible relational circumstances as they are. It’s never too late to correct them while we can. Indeed, it’s never too late to straighten many things we’ve done—to make things better.
Our Time’s Too Valuable For Unresolved Conflict
Many people, as they approach the end of their lives, rue former circumstances; they see things more as they truly are. They see their conflicts with others more as a result of their unresolved inner fears, and they view these others with more grace. They find that, just as time passes quickly, from the view of retrospect, certain things are meaningful and certain others just aren’t.
If they’re wise they’ll forgive themselves for messing some of their relationships up.
They’ll also see that some relationships were beyond repair. Acceptance becomes their mood.
We’re bound to make many mistakes in the field of relations with other people. The quicker we can resolve within our own minds that time is too valuable to waste in leaving conflict dangling, and emotions stewing, even dormant, the better our lives and their lives will be. This is as far as it depends on us.
Our Time Here Is Too Valuable To Miss Other Things
Notwithstanding conflict, there’s a raft of other things we can condition ourselves to do, now, so as to enhance the time we have—for time is eternally precious.
Our time here is too valuable for distraction, unless distraction is our objective; sometimes rest requires that we be distracted from life. From such a viewpoint, distraction is urgently good. Sometimes a virulent escape is called for. Otherwise, distraction leads us away from actualising ourselves in achievement.
We shouldn’t waste time focusing on minutia; sweating the small stuff is, though, something we tend to do. Nothing in life is important enough to get intentionally upset over. The real upsets will upset us beyond our will—this is when God engages with us through suffering and grief. Why do we purposely upset ourselves?
Life’s too valuable to miss vital truths. So many of these truths encircle and correspond to our relationships. Looking after one another is the wisest thing we could do.
And time’s too valuable to circumvent grace; to break the rules of life for a self-absorbed, short-sighted end. Whenever we establish injunctions on people, without cause, the egg inevitably lands on our faces, yet everyone is shamed.
Our time here is too valuable to waste. Every day we should pray for wisdom, so we would hurt and be hurt less. Our time is too short to leave things in conflict; we resolve them today, whilst we have the chance, as far as it depends on us. Then we feel at peace.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Friday, February 24, 2012
In what’s found in an extraordinary number of quotes and song titles, there’s the feature of truth within it. We find ‘love’ where we find it. Poignantly when talking about the intensity, and fractured nature, of the love within her relationship with Bobby Brown:
“Love is where you find it.”
~Whitney Houston (1963-2012)
People’s experience of love is as they find it. They may not know love until they do. Yet, so much ‘love’ is not really love at all—only a fabrication, a pretentious form of the divine nature of a thing so goodly special.
Is There Such A Thing As Bad Love?
There has perhaps never been a more relevant question. In sowing into life, as we all do, we all seek for love. The majority of us pine for romantic love; or the inkling finds us. And every single one of us needs, as a basis for our relationships, the love of acceptance beyond the betrayal of rejection. Such love is importantly, trust.
Love is such a broad concept, so far beyond romantic notions, that it pervades through all facets of life.
There is much bad love in this world, causative of sin, resplendent in selfishness and based in hang-ups and hurt. Bad love sweeps through individual relationships, whole families, even, in some instances, entire communities.
Bad love is a thing without love portraying itself as love. It is a hoax—the worst kind; because hopelessness and relational death occur as a result.
Wherever abuse and neglect prevail bad love has had its say. And if this love is what we found, not good love, we will have known of many forms of destruction. Indeed, we may have borne witness. There’s so much bad love to be seen, especially in this media age. It shreds the heart of God.
Again, bad love is not really love at all—it just offers itself as love.
You Give Good Love
Love of the purest quality, unabashed in its simplicity, and passionately seeking for another, is what we should all hope to find.
Still, so many do not know to look for this real, ‘good’ love. Their reference points are in other forms of reward: attention, praise, necessity, and security, for instance. Not having been blessed by experience, it’s perhaps all they know. Bad love may be better than no love at all—again, a bad reference point for love.
Good love is present in all good relationships; situations of relating within the equality, harmony, and the actualisation of true need. Safety is implicit. So, too, trust and respect. Integrity sits on both sides. Each party to the relationship wants the very best for the other person as much as for itself. It epitomises Jesus’ Golden Rule: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
If this sort of love has found us we should not pat ourselves on the back too eagerly; we should, otherwise, be eternally grateful to God that our positive experience spoke into our lives and determined our love would be that which love truly is—as far as its humanly possible to achieve (in its frailty).
Love tends to be where we find it. If we found bad love it caused destruction for us. If, on the other hand, we found good love—God’s pure love of harmony and goodness for others—we have been blessed. This is a day to praise God for that. God gives good love.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Through our disappointments, the Source of Life—God—is communicating something important: things relatively unimportant—those selfsame disappointments, for instance—are threatening to subsume our focus, our alacrity, our joy, our purpose.
There is something deeper that our disappointments highlight.
In our greed to maximise and covet everything we take small things at the expense of throwing larger things to the dogs. This is true of human nature. We want everything we can see. If we’re not praying, “Lord, deliver me from the temptation of this covetousness,” the Lord cannot heal our blindness to the eternal things according to our mindfulness not to want everything we can see. We need to be aware of what to reject hand over fist.
Seeing Beyond Disappointment
Disappointments are tests of our allegiance. Do we get stymied in the mud of the disappointment or do we see the test for what it is—a test to be simply thwarted—and so to go up-flow, along and with the river?
Surviving tests is living beyond them, ever mindful of them, but looking over the top of them—seeing them for what they are; a trick designed to take our minds off our real purpose.
Our real purpose is to keep floating, buoyantly as possible, so we can flow with and along the river of life.
Another metaphor that works for many people is the game metaphor; especially if we view life competitively, as many of us do.
Seeing Life As A Game
Allowing ourselves the privilege and audacious freedom to see life as a game—even a sporting game; perhaps a ballgame—we see disappointments as turnovers. We don’t hang our heads in the instant reminiscence of a turnover, when the other side have possession of the ball; no, we chase. We chase not our opponent, but the ball.
Disappointments are nothing to lament about—they’re more just to learn from, and get better at. We have everything to gain by chasing after the ball again; there are goals to score, after all. Possession of the ball is the name of the game and we can’t recover through sulking.
The competitive edge regarding disappointments is our key. Disappointments should make us more determined than ever—there are goals in life to score!
Disappointments are not the end of the story. They may even punctuate our stories. There is a deeper lesson to be learned in taking disappointments positively. If such tests won’t keep us down, what can? The best of life remains.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Noukka Signe.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The harder we try the worse it gets.
That which is a golden life truth we’re destined to have to learn, again and again. We cannot interact with our worlds, enjoyably so, without the soundness of freedom within our expression; the calmness of precious little pretentiousness.
We may be able to fool others—we cannot fool ourselves.
Additionally, ill-health and stress, and scores of other things, interrupt the precision of calmness that informs, and releases, our libido. Yes, we talk about sex; but it’s more. Libido must be the basis of all play; of all joy.
Issues surrounding our libido involve complex dynamics—ourselves with ourselves, ourselves with others, and even that of others in conjunction with our general world, and every bit of information in between. All this is the seedbed of self-discovery. This sense for self-discovery is the opening of a pristine gate into the soul of our real selves.
As we approach self-discovery, we find the bases for many mysteries solidifying to the point where more things begin to make sense. The chaotic paradigm has made way for a flow.
Such a flow takes the path of least resistance, because there is verily no resistance left.
The feature of plain, uninterrupted flow is the breezy faith that almost doesn’t care; it can no longer stand in the way of itself. But it has wisdom. Acceptance, and the remittance of tribal joy, means that whether we’re alone, or with friends, or with our partners, we can be ourselves. Maybe for the first time.
The beauty of such a state is not only what is happening to us, but the sheer personal enormity of approaching self-discovery. The heights of blessing, to this end, cannot ever be scaled. Tremendous is this thought.
The Effect Of Such Freedom On Others
Imagining the very best of our performing selves, our minds are tight but our bodies are loose. There is elasticity about our interaction because we exude freedom. We have survived the stresses; we have recovered our health; now is the time to reap the long hoped-for results—physically, and ever more practically, we stand for blessing.
Perhaps we’re not there yet. But reading the above, there is hope.
When we feel free within ourselves, calm even without reason, such a freedom rubs off on others. They stand to be blessed, too.
The connection between the body, mind and soul is brilliant. There are many ways to resolve the tension that lowers libido. Calmness is our ally. To the extent we value and can achieve calmness is the extent to which we’ll recover our zest for life. Patience is our key. So, too, is the courage to take the time and action to restore calm.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
“Can fire be carried in the bosom
without burning one’s clothes?”
~Proverbs 6:27 (NRSV)
Scarcely has one single person—male or female—who’s in a marital relationship, or in the position to contemplate same, not considered what it would be like to have an affair, leave a marriage, or take up a different life. The thought is common place for all.
Continuing the theme initiated in the previous chapter is the repetitiveness known to the Proverbs’ Wisdom approach. Indeed, this theme will continue into Proverbs 7 and it’ll occasionally recur throughout the book. Clearly we’re slow learners, and particularly with such important issues as these nothing’s to be left to chance!
The Lust of the Eye – Our Snare
One of the ever present dangers of enjoying relationships with others is the fleeting attractions that capture our attention. How else are most of us to come close enough for sexual temptation?
We’ll generally know the person who we’re perhaps to become later ‘entangled’ with.
Even though Proverbs 6:20-35 centres on ‘the prostitute’ it’s clear that when two people accede to the want of a fling or an ongoing affair that both ‘prostitute’ themselves away from the partners of their youth (Proverbs 5:18); those they’ve chosen for life.
After all, one has given cause for affection and the other’s given way to it.
Neither person recognises the inherent danger and consummate folly of such activity; even if they do, they choose blindness for a fleeting tremor of ecstasy. But, oh how hearts will burn for this ‘little’ misdemeanour! Both, and indeed others, will be burned. The aggrieved partner(s) will not be assuaged; their anger will revile the situation (verses 34-35).
If only those who were party to the infidelity knew how these interactions would turn out!
Going Beneath the Deed of Infidelity
Often times our hearts hinder our progress; beneath our awareness they devise schemes that would quake us, let alone the partner or anyone else who knew our thoughts.
The heart belongs to the mind as the mind belongs to the heart. Both reinforce what’s seen in the attraction. But in these we’re persuaded and broken down over time. Suddenly what was once mere suggestion has grown with our imaginations and now before us stands the opportunity we perhaps dreamt of.
This is as insidious as it is inflammatory. No wonder we’re chided to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and renew our minds (Romans 12:2)!
Two Varieties of Sin
Condemned not is the person who steals bread to feed their family—yet, they’ll pay sevenfold, even to bankruptcy (verses 30-31).
Still again lower, on a completely different scale, is the pathological sin of serious contemplation and wilful disobedience to the laws of life. Not only has the sin been pre-meditated it was flaunted in full view of the birds (Proverbs 1:17). It invites destruction (verse 32).
Neither sin will go unpunished, but the latter one will also attract condemnation. Only the Lord can forgive this of a person; and only then with genuine repentance—which is often more than people are willing to pay.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: This is an excerpt from my e-book, Grow In GOD, a devotional, chapter-by-chapter commentary on Proverbs, published in March, 2011. All author proceeds from this e-book go to Compassion Australia to assist some of the world’s poorest children and families.