I feel conflicted about how I fit into religion. I’m searching for the balance between embracing God and not becoming too religious. I love my church family and I’ve always been a member of a Christian congregation… But, sometimes church feels like an exclusive club where not everyone is welcome.
I qualify being “too religious” as that point when we get so wrapped up in the ritual and appearance of faith that it creates a wall of judgement between ourselves and others. Church should be a place where everyone– and I mean everyone– can come as they are. I hope it will be someday. I hope churches become places where everyone feels welcomed and safe.
The only thing I know about faith is that I feel God’s grace covering every area of my life. His grace covers every flaw, past mistake, and misunderstanding. I love being in relationship with God because He’s the most faithful friend I’ve ever had. He lives with me and within me– He never leaves. I’m not afraid to get angry with Him because I don’t think He cares if I’m angry, as long as I stay close to Him. He just wants to be with me– in joy and in sorrow.
Maybe we get so caught up in the framework of religion that we miss the point. God is love. Maybe He doesn’t care how many Bible verses we can quote or how many church services we attend. Maybe He just wants us to open our doors and open our arms to everyone. Maybe we’re just supposed to maintain hearts that give and receive love. Maybe He just wants us to love Him, love each other, and love ourselves.
I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who want to be like someone else. I’ve had times when I wished I was like someone else. We’re all under so much pressure to be something. We want to be beautiful. We want to be successful. We want to be accepted. But, in this charade of trying to change into something else, we forget that we have light and dark within us and those shades are uniquely beautiful. And if you can’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else?
The more I learn, the more I realize how much I will never be able to comprehend. All I know is the sum of what I’ve learned so far: Love God. Love others. Love yourself. Maybe that’s all I need to know.
I had a difficult day at work last week. Someone asked my plans for the weekend and I responded with my usual, “church and volunteering at the hospital.” My answer spurred a full-blown critique from the people in my office. Everything from my outfit, to my faith, to my character was criticized. I held it together all day and cried as soon as I reached the safety of my apartment that night.
This recent occurrence made me realize that I can learn a lot by receiving criticism from others. In fact, I think criticism can foster compassion if we choose to respond in a loving way.
5 Ways to Turn Criticism into Compassion
1. Grow in Humility
Receiving criticism from others can reveal areas where we’re lacking. These areas can be revealed by seeds of truth in someone’s words or by the way we respond to false accusations. Pay attention to the responses you have toward others that lack integrity, love, compassion, forgiveness, and/or acceptance.
2. Practice Forgiveness
I get wonderful life advice from my 72 year-old friend, Lois. A couple of weeks ago at church we discussed forgiveness. I told Lois that I was struggling to completely forgive someone. Every time I thought I was done with the issue, it came back. Lois looked at me and said, “Jaclyn, honey, sometimes you have to forgive someone every single day. Just keep giving it to God.” My point? We should seize every opportunity to practice forgiveness because we’ll never stop needing to give and receive it.
3. Actively Listen and Respond
I believe that people are inherently good and hurt feelings usually result from miscommunication. Active listening is a dying skill that need not be. Instead of inwardly fuming or developing a rebuttal while someone is speaking, try listening. Being a good listener and having an ability see things from another perspective will help you in every aspect of life.
4. Choose Empathy Over Anger
We’re all on different paths but we feel the same emotions. You and I both have bad days. You and I both say things that we regret later. You and I have both hurt others and been hurt by others. The next time you start feeling angry with someone, try to remember that they feel things just like you. Maybe they just need someone to extend kindness and love to them today.
5. Receive Feedback Without Losing Confidence
As much as we need to have compassion for others, we also need to have compassion for ourselves. Even the most kind, generous, and loving people will be attacked at some point– it comes with being human. Showing compassion to yourself means that you can admit to having flaws but not lose confidence when people call you out on them. Instead, you listen, consider their advice, and move forward without loss of faith in yourself. You’re becoming the person that you love and doing your best to help others along the way. And, darling, that’s what counts.
A man who is a follower of Christ.
A man who will encourage me to keep pursuing God.
A man who shows compassion for others.
A man who is comfortable praying with me.
A man who cares about social justice and “the least of these.”
A man who loves children.
A man who has control of his temper.
A man who is faithful and reliable.
A man who is forgiving and able to admit when he’s wrong.
A man who has a positive outlook on life.
I’m doing my best to be the kind of woman who deserves this man.
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us– and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace.
If you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, & alone is okay.
This is the longest I’ve been single in 6 years and sometimes it’s lonely. At times, I worry that I’m missing out, or passing up too many people, or that I’ll end up alone forever. I can’t compare myself to other people’s relationships or even my past relationships anymore though… I’m on a different path.
My Previous Formula for Relationships:
1. Find the right person
2. Fall in love. Determine everything by how I feel.
3. Put all my hopes and dreams on that person
4. When it doesn’t work, assume I have the wrong person and start the process over with someone else.
My New Formula for Relationships:
1. Focus on becoming the right person
2. Walk in love and compassion for everyone.
3. Set my hopes and dreams on God, knowing that human relationships can’t fulfill me or make me whole. Only God can.
4. If that doesn’t work, start again at step 1– becoming the kind of woman God wants me to be. I know that He will make me into the perfect match for my future husband.
I’m clinging to hope and trying to keep my heart open to possibilities. I’m fighting the fear and doubt that try to take residence in the corner of my mind. Someday, I’ll give my heart to someone who wants the same things I do. Someday, I’ll know that all this waiting was worth it. Someday, I’ll get this right.
I’m learning to actively take a personal inventory of my heart. By that, I just mean that I’m intentional about setting aside time with God to figure out the areas of my life that need transformation.
I never used to do personal inventories because I was scared that I would find something. I realize how backwards that reasoning sounds, but I think we apply it to many areas of our lives. It’s like people who think they have a medical problem but avoid seeing a doctor because they’re scared of the results. Denial doesn’t make illness go away, it just prolongs the pain.
I think too many of us live this way. We realize a problem with our attitude or heart but, instead of taking it to God, we choose to ignore it. I spent years doing this. I recognized broken parts of my heart that put strain on my relationships, but I ignored it until I ran out of options. As traumatic as that was, it taught me a lot about myself and God.
God won’t expose you in front of others if you ask for help. Instead, He’ll draw you closer and teach you about true healing. I don’t think we realize how much we need Jesus until we look introspectively. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
My pastor gave us this acronym as a guideline for personal inventory:
Posture: Put yourself in a position of being receptive.
Reflect: Ask God to show you the good, bad, & ugly parts of your day. (James 1:5)
Assess: What’s the next step?
Your response: Thank Him for your progress and ask Him for continued guidance.
Setting aside this time with God can be as simple as taking 5 minutes before you go to sleep every night to “check in” with Him. Some nights I don’t even know where to begin. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or disheartened, I say, God, I can’t change yesterday so I’m just going to worship you now. Then I close my eyes, go to sleep, and try to carry that worship into tomorrow.