Two Principles That Will Change Your Life

My son Jon suspiciously scooted his way toward me while we were playing the card game “Go Fish.” I observed his slight, smooth movements knowing exactly what was happening.

Removing the Mask
photo credit: DSC01540 via photopin (license)

Slowly, he began to lean in. So I looked into his sly eyes and asked, “Jon, is there something I can help you with?”

With a sneaky, smirky smile he said, “Mom, I REALLY want to cheat right now because you have more pairs than me, and I want to win!” We both laughed hysterically; it is a statement our family uses to this day because it is so honest.

What Is This Really About?

Before jumping to conclusions about my stance on cheating or parenting practices, please read on. Our laughter was not about cheating, which is never funny. It was about being absolutely honest and authentic; he said exactly what he was thinking.

Tragically, appropriate truthfulness is missing in most churches today. It seems there is a “Sunday smile,” hiding the reality that life may be more than you can bear.

Like actors, most Christians put on an “I’m-fine” mask, which appears to come with a list of acceptable church behaviors.

Moreover, hang on if you step out of bounds, where the air can be thick with shame, judgment, and rejection . . . and where the gossip mill rolls full steam.

In our greatest moments of pain, whether caused by disability, addiction, divorce, depression, doubting, unwed motherhood, or even simply being lost, we should be able to seek help from the church—where suffering people are supposed to be welcome.

But instead, many people encounter such a damaging reception that they refuse to return. How grieved I am if you have endured such treatment.

Remembering

Scripture contains many who would be on the “unacceptable” list. Check this out.

  • Joshua 2 tells us a prostitute was involved in God’s plan to help Joshua accomplish his call to courage and strength.
  • Luke 19 mentions Christ requesting a personal lunch with a hated, cheating tax collector named Zaccheus.
  • If we’re going to use labels, Moses was a murderer, David an adulterer, Paul a tormentor, Elijah and Jeremiah sufferers of depression, and Peter a big ol’ bully (if cutting off someone’s ear is considered bullying these days).

Would such people be welcomed in your church or asked out for lunch? Sadly, there was a time in my life when I would have never entertained the thought.

Time for Change

For 18 years now, I have been learning transforming truths from my honest, real, “what you see is what you get” son with disabilities. Here are two foundational principles that can change your life:

  1. It’s time to take off your mask and toss out your list—judgment will always push people away.
  2. It’s time to open your arms and welcome those in need—grace will always draw people to Christ.

Let Me Hear from You

I would love to hear your comments on this one question: In what areas of your life are you choosing to toss out your lists, take off a mask, and accept your circumstances with grace?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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14 thoughts on “Two Principles That Will Change Your Life

  1. I am learning to accept I have been divorced against my will… that while I have done things wrong that I have confessed to, there is sometimes nothing I can do to stop someone from justifying divorce or believing they have an out.

    I am learning to say, I am just as confused as many people who believe Christians don’t get divorced — and that I still don’t know what being divorced means for my future – knowing I desperately wanted to be reconciled to my husband.

    I am learning to admit that divorce has produced more unanswered questions than I ever had in my single or married life before. I am learning to say I am confused as to all the different views within the church. There are so many views in the church on forgiveness and reconciliation. There are so many views on separation, divorce, and the possibility of remarriage. Some Christians believe you can forgive but don’t have to reconcile. What does it mean for me if reconciliation was withheld by a man who is a Christian? What does it mean if I believe God’s word is the ultimate authority and that he only had one thing in mind when he spoke about marriage and divorce — but there are so many views within the church today? What does all this mean if I believe God’s word isn’t relative — it’s an absolute?

    And what does God truly want for me now? What does it look like to be faithful to God in my situation? Since we are capable of deceiving ourselves, Can that ever truly be answered? Can I ever move forward if the answers aren’t crystal clear to me?

    I guess the most painful part of being divorced against my will is that it threatens my thinking every day. It’s difficult to believe I am loved unconditionally by God because I feel like I am still on the unaccepted list with my earthly husband and my repentance has been rejected. Living without reconciliation feels like I am accepted with limitations… therefore, not truly accepted nor forgiven. And I am not ready to accept that I may never be accepted or forgiven.

  2. Oh, Colleen! I love you! Yes, that we could all learn to live from love and compassion than fear and judgement. We have been taught with emphasis that we are sinners in need of a savior, but more importantly, we have not been taught enough about forgiveness and grace and mercy and compassion. Because we feel accused, we tend to accuse others. Oh for the day that we realize who and Whose we really are and the love and mercy that have been given us, then we will be free to love others unconditionally. In my years of ministry, the most beautiful moment is when it dawns on people that the prison door has been open all along. They don’t have to find the key. They don’t have to plead their case. They don’t have to finish “doing time.” All they have to do is walk through those doors opened by Jesus. And when you’ve done that, you realize the futility of trying to hold others in prison with hate and judgment.

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us today. I agree with what you said and sadly we end up working so hard to please the crowd that Jesus gets left out. It’s hard for God to bring healing with falsehood reigns in our lives.

  4. This message is a blessing because in this world that’s filled with fake Christian doctrines, too many people don’t know what it’s like to suffer with these kinds of challenges and yet be free in the Lord. Being a Christian is about Christ, and not about what we can get from Him, but how we can live in Him. You are living, Colleen, and I can see it in your smile and I can read it in your words! God bless you.

  5. My husband and I serve full-time in a ministry to families. Several years ago we were in a horrific car accident. A man fell asleep at the wheel of his car and pushed us over a guard rail when he hit us. Our van overturned three times, and although I was wearing a seat-belt, I was thrown from the vehicle. I suffered massive injuries, including a broken neck and crushed spine. I had 23 hemorrhages in my brain, and my family was told I would be a vegetable the rest of my life. During my 3 months in the hospital, I woke up one morning and knew who I was. Tests showed my brain was completely healed! I now know what a miracle truly is.

    However, I must wear three braces to walk and use a walker, as I cannot stand without holding on to something. I sleep in the living room as there is not a place to put an elevator or lift in our home and I can’t go upstairs. I suffer constant pain from a nerve injury that will never heal on its own. God chose to heal my brain, but He did not choose to heal much of the brokenness in my body. I now understand when He says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28), God means for our eternal good, not our earthly good. Having limited mobility and devastating pain is for my eternal good and I accept that.

    When Christians ask my why God allowed this to happen to us, I tell them that He didn’t allow it, He planned it. We were on that specific highway while driving home from teaching at a family camp at that specific time because it was part of God’s plan for us.

    Then I ask them, “Why not us?” The Bible clearly states Christians will go through tests and suffering (James 1:2-4), and that when do we are to count it as joy. Why do Christians think we should be immune to it? And why do Christians think God is cursing them when we are told to count it as joy?

    When people ask me how I can be so positive when I face the difficulties I live with every day, I ask them if I should lie in bed and moan and groan all day, or would it be better if I get up, put a smile on my face and do what God is asking of me that day? There is nothing in our lives we cannot do with excellence of character. In all things we are to reflect the glory of God , including sweeping the kitchen floor while sitting in a wheelchair.

    When people ask me if it is hard not to be able to do the things I could do before the accident, I tell them that I choose to focus on what I have and what I can do, not on what I no longer have and on what I can’t do.

    When people ask me if it bothers me I have gained weight since the accident, I tell them that I would be a whole lot more bothered if I stopped taking the medications that are causing the weight gain.

    When Christian ask me what un-confessed sin I have in my life which God is punishing me for, I let them know I am so relieved their lives are in a constant state of confessed sin or they should be afraid to get in their cars and drive home. I tell them God looks at the heart and my heart is not disabled.
    People do not understand what it is like to live life differently than most, and I remind myself of this all the time. This is why I have tried to be honest in my communication to them. They have needs and I have needs. Our needs look different, but they are still needs. People have pain and I have pain. Our pain feels different, but it is still pain.

    Thank you for your ministry to families. If you so desire, you can find out more about us at our parenting ministry website http://www.parentingmadepractical.com and at the Facebook page of the same name. My husband, Joey and I are the authors of the book, “Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave?”

    • Dear Joey and Carla,
      This is one of the most incredible comments I’ve received…what a testimony! I know you never intended or expected life to unfold as it has and I cannot imagine the pain you endure; yet through every word, the light of Christ shines in brilliant colors! On at least five occasions, you mentioned “when people or Christians ask”… questions that reveal how much our world is in need of knowing the TRUTH…of knowing Christ as Savior, Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of everything. How vital it is that TRUTH be communicated…that we examine our beliefs and cling to what is right and true from God’s word. Your story reveals so much about pain…the choices we have to accept or reject, to surrender or resent, to fall into God’s promised strength or attempt to make it on our own…and so much more. In every decision, God shows Himself faithful; how evident that is as your words are full of joy, freedom, purified faith, and expressions of eternal hope. When we live by truth as you mentioned …God’s work is for our eternal good, our lives are planned by God for a reason and we are NOT immune to the sorrows of this earth, and the pain or sorrow we endure may have nothing at all to do with unconfessed sin…it changes everything. Our perspectives become clear and our hope becomes steadfast when we are rested on what is right. Oh Carla and Joey, for all the hurtful things you have been told, I’m so very sorry…for the assumptions and misconceptions you have had to endure, I am so sorry. On those days when it has been moment by moment and something hurtful has been said or done, it has been God’s grace and mercy holding you in His Almighty arms. You know of God’s refuge and strength life few I have ever encountered; what an honor it is to exchange words here. Thank you so much for passing along your page and information; I hope many are encouraged by your comment and ministry. I pray that the Lord will continue to fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit and that in every way, your lives will be abundantly blessed as you walk with Him. Thank you again for connecting…you just made my day! And, I pray your words reach so many others as well. In His grace, truth, mercy, and peace, Colleen

      • I asked the Lord for a special word of encouragement today and He sent me you! Wow! Your words touched my heart in a profound way, such an incredible blessing. Thank you.
        FYI – I have a special ministry friend, Bev Linder, who writes blogs on parenting children with special needs. Two of her own children are living with Jesus now. Her book,” A Never-Give-Up Heart” is full of wisdom and encouragement to special parents. Her blogs can be found at http://www.special-heart.com. I thought you might want to add her to your list of resources. Her articles are articulate, insightful and full of encouragement and challenge. I rarely read one that doesn’t apply to all parents, but she has a way of bringing the topic around meet the needs of especially unique parents.

        • Joey and Carla,
          What a wonderful note to read! Who would have thought that our exchanges would be part of God’s grand purpose, perfectly planned according to His good will? The book of Deuteronomy is one of my favorites because throughout its pages, there is a call to remember God’s unchanging attributes…His faithfulness, goodness, justice, love, guidance, provision, and sovereign deliverance (to name a few). Your note represents God’s good and consistent work in our lives…encouraging us to remain faithful in the midst of our trials. When I am tempted to toss in the towel as they say…when the difficulties seem too overwhelming, I recall these moments…a note received, a call from a friend, an act of kindness which could have only come from the Lord’s leading. I am so thankful you wrote and let me know…what encouragement to us all…to remember the faithfulness of God and His intimate touch He has on each of our lives. Finally, thank you for passing along your friend’s page. I bet it will be an encouragement to many who find it. Have a great day. Colleen

  6. You really sort of said it all when you had to preface most of it with a request that others not jump to judgement over the first few words.

    • Kathryn,
      Isn’t that so very true. As I began writing it, I thought of a story I once heard where a preacher was speaking on grace and purposefully used a word we would find off color near the beginning of his talk. In closing, he said the sad part of the message is that most had probably missed his points because their focus was stuck on one word. We get so stuck on the small stuff and miss what is of most value…how I long for us all-me included-to remember the bigger picture in life each day. It’s great to hear from you here! You share such valuable, wise thoughts on our Face Book page…I hope you will share here again. Have a super day, Kathryn. Colleen

    • Missy,
      Oh my gosh, what a delight to hear from you here too! Yes, it is rare to find such authenticity but when it is found, it’s wonderful. Thanks for sending your note here. I enjoy our interactions so much! Hope you are doing well today. Colleen

    • Wayne,
      What a great question…while I have been changed and refreshed by it, I’ve not considered the ‘why’ part which really speaks to ones motivations. It seems after a family adjusts and the dust settles, the child brings strengths to the family that may not have been of value before. Earthly values diminish because our children are not capable of living up to some earthly standard. When a family embraces the process, their whole perspective on life changes and it’s an amazing freedom to enjoy…really, that’s why our children are gifts. They reveal…or bring to us what is of most value…one’s character, inner strength, the ability to endure earthly rejection, to persevere on things most take for granted, a non-competitive spirit, forgiveness and acceptance of others…thus, I think that is where the honesty rests. The motivation to be something other than who and what they are is absent and because of their differences, being created in the image of Christ and fully loved is plenty. If only we all found that such substance in character provided plenty of happiness, contentment, and … honesty. You may have not been looking for a long answer but your question caused me to ponder…I would love to hear your feedback should you have other thoughts. Thanks so much for your comment. Colleen