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Losing Confidence in Our Abilities


#1

“Without that growing sense of futility in the old creation, none of us would ever look beyond what we can do on our own. Losing confidence in our human effort is a big step on this journey.”

One of the greatest gifts God has given me on this journey is the loss of confidence in my own abilities to do what only he can do. I have spent most of my life planning strategies, designing programs, and pushing people to fulfill them, thinking this was how the church is built. I never expected that in my learning to live loved and hungering for what’s real, I began to discover that my best-intentioned, human efforts always fell short of my hungers. As Paul writes in Philippians 3, I also discovered rather unintentionally not to put “any confidence in the flesh.”

I’m not talking here about the discouragement of feeling like a failure, but a rising hope that God’s ways were way better than mine. So instead of plotting and planning, I became more intentional about following those nudges to connect with others without agendas or plans. That’s where community became real for me.

Are you discovering this, too? How?


#2

Love is an amazing change agent.

Ruby from Calmar, Alberta


#3

It is so true that we have had to come to “losing confidence in our human effort.” We are kept in bondage when we believe that we have something to add to the completeness of what God did in Christ on the cross. There is nothing I can add to his finished work. And that knowledge is what propelled me forward in this freedom. However, I have to admit that I am having a hard time finding the community of like minded believers (beyond this site.) The circle I am in is religious performance to the extreme (old friends from church and the homeschool community we are in.) I want so much for those people to know freedom in Christ. I feel like I want to proclaim the good news, but I am met with a look of “you’ve lost your mind…” and…“why would we take you seriously?..you don’t even attend church any more…” So I find myself saying very little to avoid that and find myself wanting to shout on the inside but I sit and feel alone in it except for the fact that God is with me. However, I am so thankful that God has opened my veiled eyes, and pray the same for my friends. In the meantime, I await the community God will connect me to…Has anyone else experienced this?


#4

Well I agree with these words wholeheartedly. I took a break from church a couple years ago and struggled with that decision because in the back of my mind I was hearing the old religion say your falling away. I was so burned out with church. It was a good time as well because I read a lot and just took each day as it came. I wasn’t able to fully rest in that break because I didn’t want to “fall away.” Those words hounded me all the time. I even told God I know He wants me in church, and I will go back as soon as I can. Well there was a church that combined with another church that was right around the corner. I thought this is a sign from God. He has brought this church to my back door so He must want me there. So I went for a few Sundays. Right away there were problems. The first series of messages were titled “I Love Sundays.” Here it came. The pastor was saying that when you show up on Sundays your week goes better. Seriously? My mom died on a Sunday morning in a horrible way. I didn’t have a great week and I did go to church that Sunday and the previous Sunday. I felt all the crap of religious performance falling upon me again except for this time I had a different reaction. No. God is not wrapped around my attendance. I have always told my kids that their behavior Monday to Saturday is what really matters. Not legalistically just how you carry yourself. Everyone looks pretty on Sundays. I felt like this pastor was setting everyone up for failure. He has talked about his own father who was a pastor and how you never missed church in that family. As if it’s a badge of honor. I heard him talk about how busy his father was but the father would be there on Sundays. As if one day a week really fulfills the needs of the family and children. This pastor is a very kind man and I will say that of all the pastors in my town he has the most characteristics of shepherding the people. Granted he is way seeped in religious performance, but he is always at Starbucks or all over talking to people. He doesn’t sit on a gilded chair. When my heart was in shatters from a previous church horror he was kind and in a town where being right trumps love and compassion I am deeply grateful that there is at least one pastor who seems to have a heart.
Having said all that I realized I couldn’t go to this church. I didn’t want to do a system. I want relationships and community. I am frustrated that community isn’t really available here. I live in a type of cult town. I asked a friend of mine who moved away if this town was weird or am I just crazy. She has lived all over the place and said that of all the experiences she has had this town really was difficult and abnormal. It’s hard to describe unless you live here. Basically there is a prominent pastor who has a church in the valley and the college is in this town. He wrote a study Bible and commentaries for every book in the bible. So what you have is everyone carrying his study bible around town and reading his commentaries. The only way they really read anything else is to prove how wrong everything else is in light of what this pastor has said. You see why this is nutville? I believe this pastor is the fourth member of the Trinity because people will listen to what he says over what God might be saying.
I have felt somewhat foolish to think God brought this other church to my door then I realize I cannot jump in again. Was I putting on God what I thought He would want? Is it normal that after sitting there for a few Sundays I realized something fundamentally had changed?


#5

I could have written this as well. That is exactly how I am feeling. I just want to yell. I don’t share because I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to take these zealots on. I do not exaggerate when I use zealot. I don’t know if this will help Joan, but i would like to share with you something that grips my soul which God has revealed to me. I want validation. I am not the type of person that seeks attention. I am pretty content to join what others are doing. I don’t walk into situations wanting to boss everyone around and make them do it my way. Just a little background on who I am. This validation comes from the time I was a young girl to now.
I had a very abusive father who degraded and shamed me in the most horrible of ways. When I entered public school I was bullied for five years straight. If I had a random day of quiet from my classmates it was a good day. Being called Medusa and ugly and many other things takes a toll on the soul. I have never felt accepted. I wasn’t suicidal in high school but I feel like I was close. I felt that I was a mistake. I felt hated and loathed and I believed deep down what people said about me. They must know something I don’t know. Thankfully I became a Christian when I was 15 and it did turn me around inside and out. God loved me. I had believed in Him just didn’t know He cared that personally. For about two years I was ok spiritually. Then a doctrine that I finally understood set in and I realized that I didn’t agree with it yet I felt despair because if I really was a follower I would accept these beliefs. This doctrine destroyed the love of God and has messed me up for a couple of decades. Remember I live in a very cult like town and you can’t escape this doctrine anywhere.
So my mom dies when I was a newer believer but I pressed on and trusted God with my life. I get married and have children. What followed was another series of rejections. My daughter was a strong willed child which led to many parents not wanting us around because “what could possibly be going on in our home if our child behaves this way.” My daughter was not setting fires or murdering people. She had a mouth and used it. She was mean to other kids. You could ask her now and she would tell you she was a bully. She has since apologized to the many she hurt and truly is a different person. Anyway, I wasn’t included in a whole lot. I made the mistake of sharing some of the horrible things that have happened to me. You should see peoples faces. I don’t fit in the pretty Christian box. Along with the rejection of fellow parents came the additional nightmare of an evil father-in-law who almost succeeded in ruining my marriage. Massive trauma with his life choices. He never liked me. Even though logically I don’t need or want his approval it still communicates another rejection.
Then we attended a church where two of the leaders were in a 13 year affair. We knew something was wrong but we didn’t have evidence. When we decided not to attend a Christmas party with our small group because of the above people they proceeded to do the Matthew 25 confront one another stuff. I know. You ask really? Over a Christmas party? Yes. We did’t say why because what if we had been wrong and nothing was going on? We didn’t want to falsely accuse anyone. So we decided to leave. Of course no one talked to us anymore. Two years later it came out that the affair was true. It was still another huge rejection. Even though leaving was good it still hurt.
The final blow happened at the church we had fallen in love with for 10 years. Our marriage was healed here by an exceptional pastor for our particular nightmare situation. Basically a new pastor came in and with the dexterity of our sleezy politicians, won the congregations trust, hard lined everything to a horrible doctrine that I mentioned above, and basically kicked out the Junior High pastor and family because this youth pastor didn’t hold to said doctrine. That was pretty much a kick in my gut. I still remember when my daughter texted me that he was leaving and before I knew any facts I for some reason immediately knew it was because of this doctrine. No one really met with this family to hear their side. I’m saying the majority. Like maybe a few families did, if that. This really was the shattering of everything I was and could do. I realized I could not attend a church that held this doctrine and kicked people out for not agreeing. Plus the pastor really was going nutty with God’s character and creating an evil world because in said world God gets the most glory. Yuck and goodbye. I was mentally strained and in tears for months. No one from our church class had anything more to do with us. We were never invited to anything else. Another rejection.
I forgot to mention above that I grew up next to a worldwide cult from the 80’s and my parents were excommunicated because they went to the elders and showed them some serious doctrinal errors. It led to the eventual suicide of my father and my mother and I were pretty much shunned by anyone from that organization. Everyone was under orders to flee us.
Homeschooling people haven’t been any better. They are the same people in these crazy churches rating crazy children. Both my kids have had fellow friends come at them with why don’t you believe in Calvinism? It’s what the Bible says. Blah blah blah. My kids hold their own. Better than I would. I don’t want to freak out on someone and I do pray that God would hold my emotions in check.
I feel the emptiness of no community. But did we really ever have it? No we didn’t. As long as we did what was expected of us we were accepted. When we said no more people said goodbye. I don’t miss or long for any of them. I long for the people who have an understanding of what we all talk about here. Sorry to ramble on but your words struck me and I just felt like I wanted to share the thing about validation. Like I just want people to say you know Gadiela, your not crazy and we hope you find a wonderful relationship with God. It’s stupid because that’s not the answer. I am currently praying that God would remove my need to be validated. I’m tired of rejection because it totally transfers to God and I fear His rejection as well. Clearly I’m not through the woods but I am happy to be sharing this community with you all.


#6

Maybe it just happened to be there, and wasn’t for you at all. But God took advantage of that to show you just how much he is shifting in you. Rooting for you, Gadiela,


#7

You know what, Gadiela, (every time I type your name my computer changes it to Gladiola), you are a delightful sister who is not crazy and I’m excited about the journey you are one. I know were not all that close, but you can have community with us. Like you say, I know that doesn’t fix what ails you at this point, but you are on a path that leads to life. Soon you won’t want or need the validation of others because you’ll know you have HIS, and that will be way more than you need. Then you won’t have to feel the night to fight all the religious folks in your life, because what they think will not matter and then you’ll find yourself freer to love them, knowing how lost they are in their version of “truth.” This is a marvelous journey. You are on it, regardless of what your circumstances might scream. I’m excited to see how you’ll bloom into a wonderful reflection of God in the desolate land you’re in.

Wayne in Thousand Oaks, CA


#8

Joan, I’m sorry for how your friends respond to you. But I suspect there are people all around you who need the very love you’re looking for as well. Go ahead and take an interest in two or three people around you (ask God who), and you’ll see that community you hunger for


#9

This has been challenging for me. After a couple of years not being involved in programs and functioning as if I was following a step by step treatment plan, I have gone from being a person who seemed to be “together” to the Father lovingly and gently showing me how toxic I am. It is taking a lot of time for him to unravel my self reliance and all the unhealthy ways I have attempted to have my needs met. My self righteousness and pride has been the most difficult to identify and deal with. I know he is with me though and seeing me through. I just keep talking with him, asking him to show me more of his love. I do the best I can to quiet my mind and my heart trusting that he is leading me. I remain observant to the nudges. It is a life that is unfamiliar in many ways. At times I feel guilty that I am not “fellowship- ing”. See…that’s not even a real word! All I know is I get into bed each night and thank him for all he has given me. And I know that is real. I wake up in the morning looking forward to my day with him anticipating what he may show me. Sometimes I giggle, sometimes I cry, I talk things through with him. I trust him and I trust what I am learning here. My smile is genuine today. I don’t find myself experiencing tension that my face is going to crack due to a false image of myself. The false image leaks out at times, but he is showing me and healing the shame.

I run into people that I know from various congregations. I stay in my own lane. Interacting and extending friendship has been easier than I expected. Probably because I usually keep my mouth shut unless they ask me a direct question. God has softened and shortened my responses. I goof up, talk with him ask him to show me. All I know is that when I was in a congregation going gun ho I was convinced that is what God wanted. They are probably doing the very same. It was love and compassion that led me to wider space. If God nudges me to extend that to others even in what I think are small and insignificant ways That brings me joy.


#10

I would definitely appreciate community in your neck of the woods. Getting out of town to your neck of the woods is like going on vacation for us. I know what not to do. I really need to see what TO do. What does something different look like. Experiencing something not just reading about it.


#11

Hi Gadiela,
Thanks for your reply and sharing so much with me. I’m sorry there has been so much rejection and hurt. What joy to know that we are totally accepted in Christ! We were accepted, loved and forgiven before we ever sought it. I pray that we would grow in this knowledge and as we do that we will find that community of like minded friends…
joan


#12

Gadiela,
You’re not crazy, just more honest than most , and deeply loved by God. I’m glad you’re a part of this community.


#13

I kind of found out a few years ago, that I could have no confidence in my flesh, and I love to talk with others that understand this about them-self as well. I have one friend that is an hour away that understands, but I don’t know of anyone else in my local area.

I have another friend nearby that I talk to, but I sense that I can’t be too open about what I believe because he grew up in traditional churches, but he left them due to the corruption he saw. I gave him a couple of good books about this kind of stuff, but I don’t think he is reading them. He recognizes that there is something different about me.

Unfortunately meeting others is difficult since I live in a rural farming area, and it is rare that I speak to anyone about this sort of thing since I usually get verbally assaulted for talking about it.

I have recently had urges to go to the local grocery store to see if I can find some casual conversations, and to talk to people in a kind and friendly manner. Sometimes I don’t say much of anything, but sometimes there is a little bit of conversation, or some opportunities to show kindness to others.

On other occasions I have good conversations with some of the guys I work with. Most of them are from the rough side of town. I try to give them more kindness, respect, and dignity then what they get from most other people… and I think they recognize it.

Lenny
Bailey, NC


#14

Amen, Ruby! Love is so much nicer, and effective, than shame, guilt and condemnation.


#15

Gadiela
Dearheart- I wish I could reach you now and just hug you and cry with you until both our noses are Totally stuffed up and our eyes are red and puffy and we look so bad we start laughing about it. You aren’t crazy sweet girl. You are resilliant and stronger than you know. All those Years of calvinist indoctrination and brainwashing and you didn’t cave!
I spent a lot of years wondering what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t just Sit. Down. And. Shut. Up. and be a good little girl. These days, I can thank God for this personality and the stubborn streak that goes with it. I truly believe this temperment that caused me SOOO much trouble for Sooo many years is a gift from Him, because it Kept my mind from drowning in that cesspool I grew up in. Crazy is contagious, and it sounds like you were trying to survive in an Ocean of it. But survive you did and here you are. And it sounds like you raised healthy kids too.
Hang in there kiddo. We have an eternity to live and love and learn together. This community right here is a pretty good place to begin.


#16

Exactly!!! Me, too. It’s extra hard when you’re married to the pastor and you’re SUPPOSED to be good!

And Gadiela, you aren’t alone. It’s really crazy out there. I believe you.