Arrested Development and Discovering Your Other “Self”

Do you know who you are? Do you know which “you” it is that you live from each day? You may be saying, “What are you talking about? There is only one me. It’s not like I have a split personality or anything.” Are you sure about that? If you are like most people, you may not be running your daily affairs like you think you are after all. Chances are, at least some of the time, it’s another “you” who’s calling the shots. You just might have yourself – your true self – confused with someone who isn’t you. Let me explain…

I’ve been there too.  It wasn’t until it was pointed out to me recently, and really dug into, that I’ve been able to separate from this “false me” and begin living from my true self – who is “hidden with Christ in God.”

Arrested Development…our own personal sitcom?

Have you heard of the term “arrested development?” No, I’m not actually talking about the comedy sitcom on TV. This is a psychological/emotional phenomenon when a part of one’s “self” is held back at some younger age, usually due to a traumatic experience.  Anneli Rufus writes, in an article on psychologytoday.com, “We are stuck in the past not usually by choice but because, like dud popcorn kernels or bonsai trees, we failed to grow. The ones who were supposed to show us how to grow did not. They did not know or were not there. Or traumas he’d us in their grip. Portals inscribed with mystical initiation-signs glimmered, awaiting us, but no: we wandered back the other way or balked.”

I believe most everyone deals with arrested development to some degree. This is one of the contributing factors that make up the “womb” from which the “false self” is born.

(By the way, if this sounds like “psychobabble” to you – I promise it’s not! This is very relevant to our journeys with God and with others, and just for being human to begin with!)

The false self lives in the future and the past – never in the present tense – and always lives in fear, crippling fear. This “self” is the very product of fear. The false self can also be referred to as the ego. We cling to the trauma or joys of the past, and fear that the bad will repeat and the good will never come again. This fear is the root of many unhealthy coping mechanisms, and the birthplace of “sinful” behavior – that which causes harm to ourselves and others, and which violates Love.

The false self develops as a way to cope with hurt, harm, and other ways life doesn’t “work well” for us. We might learn to manipulate, or present ourselves in a certain way. Some become victims of their circumstances, while others are driven to “succeed” or “measure up” through performance. Regardless of what “shape” our false self takes, it is still not the real us.

Your true self is the very image, likeness, and expression of God. The real you is the one who was “birthed” in the thoughts of God in eternity past, out of perfect love, lacking nothing, and immune to fear, offense and shame. Your true self exists in the present tense, is fully capable and aware, and exists in perfect “tune” and oneness with God and others. In the core of your being, you are always your true self, even through you might not be “awake” to this in your conscious mind. If you’re anything like I was, the only “self” you think you know might not be you at all – but the false self that developed so you could deal with the pressures of life.

I have some great news for you. Even though we may not have been given the help we needed along the way to fully grow, or we experienced trauma that has held us back, we are not victims. We are not doomed to live from the false self. We do not have to live from fear of failure, or loneliness, or lack. We do not have to live from fear at all. We have the power to discover and unveil our true self, free from unhealthy coping mechanisms and behavior, and live from the fullness of who we were created to be.

In my next post, I’ll tell you a bit about my journey of (true)self-discovery so far, and share some of what I’ve learned about loving and even “parenting” our false selves so we can grow into freedom.

Looking Back On 2016


Here we are again at the close of another year.  I haven’t written much at all this year.   2016 has been quite a ride for me.   Sometimes, our journeys take us into the wilderness for a while.  I’m still there, but I believe I’m winding my way out.   I am not the same as I was at the start of the year, or even since my last post in May.  Like a caterpillar encased in a chrysalis, I have spent much of the year in virtual solitude, and I’ve been being transformed.   I have been in a gradual process of awakening – to the stunning reality of my identity, my purpose, my worth and what lies at the core of my being – and that of all of humanity.  I say stunning because it is so far beyond what I have perceived and believed all my life.  I am seeing both God and humanity with new eyes.  I am seeing Jesus everywhere.

This transformation has been very costly.   The events of this year have been some of the most painful and challenging of my life.  I have faced terrible complications from chronic illness, leading to job loss (and continued unemployment).   Having lost my income, I moved in with family in a very rural area, and my car immediately broke down beyond repair.   My beloved, beautiful dog passed away, who had been my loyal companion for 13 years.   Several dear friends fell away, perhaps due to life changes or the fact that I moved too far from them.   (That said, one amazing friend in particular has given unwavering support, wisdom and encouragement this year – regardless of hour or geography between us.  You know who you are. Thank you for being such an incredible expression of God in my life. Love you!)  This year has been marked by isolation, pain and loss – but that’s not all.   This is, after all, a season of transformation.

Struggling to survive has become the noble struggle to thrive.  Loneliness has matured into solitude.  (Though I still have my moments!)   Uncontrolled sickness has moved toward wellness by way of loving my body through healing and healthy foods.   Stress, fear and anxiety are being replaced with quiet and peace.   Brokenness has fused into greater wholeness.   Any remnants of outward religious striving have become an inward journey to find The Kingdom of God that is within.   Though some friends have faded away, I have also had the joy of seeing other precious friendships thrive and new ones come into being.  It has been a wild and fruitful year, and the journey of transformation continues.

Earlier this year, I changed the name of my blog to Image and Likeness.   This theme has become the bedrock of my journey.   Humanity is the image and likeness of God.   We were produced after God’s kind just as birds and fish have reproduced after their kind.   Other living things inherit the nature of their parents.   God is the original Parent of humanity, and we have inherited the very nature of God.  It is this that I desire to explore here on the blog – what it means to be the image and likeness of God – and how this plays out in our lives, our relationships, and in creation.

Recently, in one of his daily email meditations, Richard Rohr wrote speaking of the presence of God within us, or the Holy Spirit:

“Some saints and mystics have described this presence as ‘closer to me than I am to myself’ or ‘more me than I am myself.’   This is what Thomas Merton called the True Self.  It is inherent in all of us, but it must be awakened and chosen…One who totally receives this Presence and draws life from it is what we mean by a saint.

That is how ‘image’ becomes ‘likeness’ (Genesis 1:26).  We all have the indwelling but we surrender to the likeness in varying degrees and stages.”

I don’t mean to invoke religious language – saints, sinners, receiving the Holy Spirit, etc – as I don’t believe this process has anything at all to do with religion.   Being transformed from just the image to the very likeness of God is just as much about believing in who we are as who God is.  What I believe we each must receive is our true identity, hidden with God in the center of our being.  Jesus is the one who shows us this, as he is the example of us – humanity living, moving and having being in oneness with God just as we are meant to.  May the incarnation of this likeness continue for all of us!

So please stay tuned, and follow along in the New Year to discover what we can about the incredible realities of being humans expressing the likeness of God.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

Amanda

The (Not So) Secret Sin of Women

image

Today, I would like to address my female readers specifically, but gentlemen, you may appreciate this post as well.  There is an area in which women have wronged men in a big way, especially in “church” circles, and that is the topic of today’s post.

I listened to an interview the other day that has me shaken to the core.  If one would use religious terms, I am strongly “convicted” about what was said.  I am deeply affected by what I heard, and the bigger picture I am now seeing as a result.  I learned that I have been a participant in a campaign of hatred, division, dishonor and even violence.  I have bought into lies.  I have chosen sides, and made enemies of a large portion of humanity.  If you are reading this, and you’re a woman, I’m quite certain you have too.  Let me explain…

Women, as a whole – as a ‘camp’ – treat men like dirt.  Really, I mean it.  We’re ruthless.

I do not deny that women have seen a great deal of abuse and mistreatment at the hands of men, but we are just as guilty.  We women have pitted ourselves against men as sworn enemies.  As much as we may love individual men – friends, spouses, or family members – our loyalty is not fully extended to them, and so our love is incomplete.  It is not the caliber of love with which Jesus instructed us to care for one another.  We also stand against men as a group, treating them as the enemy ‘camp.’  We betray the men in our lives constantly.  Where some men might mistreat women using strength, intimidation or physical violence, our violence toward men, even the ones we are close to, is by way of our mouths.  Our tongues are our weapons, and most of us, perhaps all of us, are participants.

Gossip and slander kill relationship.

Gossip is a plague among women, and is especially common in Christian/Church culture.  In the interview I listened to, which was between two men, the interviewee said the following, and it broke my heart.

“If you and I get together, and have some conversation, and talk about life, there is a reasonable expectation that that conversation was between you and me, and it’s part of our relationship.  But, if I were to do the same thing with a woman, I have a pretty reasonable expectation that [the same] sort of confidence won’t be kept.”

This man is absolutely right.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is monumental.

The moment I heard this, I was compelled to pause the podcast and sit with that statement.  It grieved and unsettled me.  A “bigger picture” started forming in my mind.  My inner Anthropologist kicked in, and I started to see the patterns in female ‘culture’ that point to what had been said.  I was also struck by my own participation in this hatred toward men.  My heart remains heavy over this realization.  It seems little is sacred in our relationships with the men in our lives.  This is especially true when it comes to romantic interests, but it’s not limited to those kinds of relationships.  Let’s be honest ladies, is there much that happens in our individual relationships with men that doesn’t get back to our camp?  The amount of gossip is shocking.  We might hold things in confidence for another woman, but do we honor the men in our lives the same way?

Perhaps there is a combination of competition with our peers and the attempt to fill longings by living vicariously through others that further spurs this gossip on.  It goes back to grade school, when girls would huddle together, dying to hear about our friends’ interactions with the other camp.  It’s a push-pull, love-hate dynamic.  It is almost innate.  It’s a compulsion.  We need and desire to have men in our lives, but we are in league against them.  We harbor a collective resentment, distrust, and yes, even hatred…and most of us have no idea.  It is so normal, we women pretty much think it’s our right to share anything about our cross-gender relationships amongst ourselves.  It is pure selfishness, and that is not love.

Gossip is betrayal.  It doesn’t matter if a woman feels the need to “process” her emotions (about a man/relationship) and share what is private with a female friend.  True love is others-centered.  It honors the relationship and the heart of the other in it.  If we are focused on getting our needs met, thus acting out of fear of lack, we are not acting in love.  Gossip violates the sacredness of the relationship, and dishonors the other participant.

Sadly, things don’t stop there.  Not only do we gossip about men, but we also slander, make assumptions, exaggerate, smear, and complain.  A good deal of the talk among women about the men in their lives is negative.  How many wives get together and complain about their spouses?  How many mothers complain to their daughter about her father?  It seems women are always trying to keep each other’s loyalty in the camp using negative talk about men.  It is hugely prevalent in popular culture.  “All men are pigs.”  “The only thing men ever think about is sex.”  It even goes back to elementary school.  “Girls rule and boys drool!”  That last one might sound funny, but it’s not.  The enmity and negativity toward men is that deeply ingrained and encouraged among women and girls.

Are you getting my drift ladies?  This needs to stop.  It violates Love.  We cannot love as Christ has loved us while carrying on in this way.  Gossip and slander commit violence against the hearts of the men in our lives, and bring destruction to those relationships.  We do not have a right to just talk with each other about anyone we want.  Just because someone doesn’t say something is ‘just between the two of you” does not mean it isn’t.  Just assume it is.

Oh, and by the way ladies, men are not our enemies.  There is only one ‘camp’ and it is called Humanity.  We are all one in Christ.  When we learn to love one another “AS ourselves” just as Jesus instructed, the enmity ceases.  We cannot be divided against our own selves.  Our personhood extends beyond us to those we walk with in relationship, women and men alike.

What I’m saying here today is just as much for myself as for you, dear reader.  I have work to do in this area.  I have fallen into the trap.  Now that my eyes are open, I will do everything I can never to go back.  I choose to walk in Love instead.  May we all feel the weight of this truth.

 

(I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the interview I mentioned above. It is the second half of a 2-part interview. Part 1 isn’t absolutely necessary for the discussion about gossip, but it is helpful in regard to relationship between men and women, particularly in Christian culture.)

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

image

Did you know that you’re a superhero?  Seriously, I’m not kidding! 

You, dear human, have a very potent superpower at your disposal.  It is mightier than super-strength, and more piercing than laser-vision.  It is even better than the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Your superpower is Love.

Love is a superpower because it originates in God.  It is God’s very essence.  You, mighty human, are the expression of God on the Earth, and Love is at the core of who you are as well.  There is no limit to your superpower.  The supply is as infinite as the One from whom it flows.

Our superpower is especially  effective in the midst of relationship.  The effects of the love we posess are deep and far-reaching.  We have the ability and authority to help release those we love from the oppression of lies, to heal, and to impart life.

In the last couple of years, I personally have had the way cleared for a great deal of healing, breakthrough, discovery and freedom from the love imparted by people in my life through relationship.  I have received Christ Himself in incredible measure from these precious human superheroes and superheroines.

Very recently, in fact, a superhero that’s new in my life unknowingly initiated a process of healing by the Lord with laser precision.  It dealt with painful things I had been trying for years to forget.  I had no idea I was still carrying a great deal of shame.  What this new friend introduced is so precise to my situation, it absolutely shocked me.  It was a violent awakening, and just what the Great Physician ordered to clear out this “infection” once and for all.  Wonderfully, a second trusted superhero friend also entered into this healing with me, providing encouragement and affirmation, and helping to remove the garbage that had been affecting my heart and identity for so long.

While I have no doubt that powerful things can happen through the Lord’s “corporate” expression in community, there is a powerful current of His nature that flows through true love in relationship.   Such relationships are ideally the building material for community and spiritual family to start with.

So, mighty humans, start seeking out the Lord’s heart regarding your incredible superpower.  Dive into the glorious mystery of Love’s instruction to “love one another as I have loved you.”

Then break out your cape and see just how much this Love can change everything!

For a wealth of insight about how true love can be expressed in all relationships, check out the new book Free to Love by author and real-life superhero Jamal Jivanjee. 🙂

If you enjoy novels, also check out The Shack, Cross Roads and Eve by Wm. Paul Young.

Identity, Dominion, and the Emotional State of Yogurt

img_5150
Last week, I received a wonderful gift – a visit from a dear friend. It was a time of rich conversation and connection, which multiplied when two other friends (new friends to me) rolled in with their RV and joined in for part of the visit. It was an incredible delight encountering Jesus in unique ways in each of these three treasured people. What an incredible few days!

While my friend was in town, we watched a great documentary that he was eager to share with me. The film is called I Am, and is from Tom Shadyac, the director of Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor. (It is a real documentary though!). The film impacted me in a deep way, and I’m excited to share some of what struck me about it.

Identity and Dominion

As I said in my last post, I’m in a season of exploration into our true identity as partakers of the divine nature. I’m fascinated with what being human is really all about. One of the glorious parts of our human identity is that we are the bearers of God’s image and likeness. Think about that for a moment…like-ness. We are like God! Our creative nature is a big part of that like-ness. We have also been given a great amount of dominion, or authority, by the One(s) who lovingly created us. So where am I going with this, and what does it have to do with the film I Am?

As the ones who bear God’s like-ness, we have been given incredible authority to create, to choose and shape the reality we live in. We can choose to live from Love (Christ) within us, or to judge and condemn others. We can choose to live in varying degrees of oneness with those we walk through life with, or we can choose and create division. We can build, nurture and encourage, or we can choose the destructiveness of separation. I believe this creative dominion is most expressed in relationship.

Reality isn’t an IT…it only takes form when relationship happens. – I Am

We have the ability to affect one another, and other living things, by the way we choose to feel. In the film, scientific researchers explained that “human emotionality does create a very real [electromagnetic] field that radiates out from us, [and] other living systems attune to those energetic fields.” This is where the yogurt comes in…

The “Emotional State” of Yogurt

In the film, researchers showed how they tested their theory about the emotionally charged electromagnetic fields that we generate. They used yogurt, as the living bacteria in yogurt does not think for itself or have emotions of its own. Electrodes were placed in the yogurt to read the energy given off by the bacteria. The yogurt was placed on a table, several feet from a person. If the person’s emotions were neutral, no spike in energy was detected from the bacteria, but if that person was asked to recall people or events that caused either strong positive or negative emotions, the bacteria would immediately respond, creating electrical energy!

I find this absolutely fascinating! We have an incredible authority to affect our world, particularly in relationship. I believe we have the ability to help renew and restore those around us, especially those we walk with in close relationship. This same authority gives us the potential to do harm to one another. The film asks the question whether true human nature is to cooperate (love), or to compete (create separation and destruction). I believe it is in our DNA to love. We are like God, who is the infinite source of Love, and Love itself. This infinite source lives in oneness with us, as we are Love’s very offspring.

So what will you choose to project toward others today? You have the authority to shape that part of your world. It is your dominion, gifted to you by your divine Parents.

I’m going to choose what gives life. I choose to live from the limitless Love in me today. I hope you will too.

 

image

(I Am is currently available on Netflix. Though I don’t agree with everything in the film, there is much that resonated deeply. The research in the film ranges from psychology, and anthropology, to quantum physics, and those interviewed are fascinating people! I highly recommend it!)