"But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified."
Galatians 5:22-23 MSG
In our work as counselors we often encounter individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, anger and a host of other symptoms of what is in fact an unconscious misguided focus on what they believe they need to be fulfilled, validated, loved etc. These dear people are focused on attempting to control circumstances and people and even God in a desperate attempt to arrange for life on their own terms, or what is referred to in one of the ONE80 Life models as the fulfillment of the perceived desires of their heart.
“It’s just wrong, John!" my client Betty exclaimed.
"Doesn’t Daddy know he should have never married that drunken witch Lucille! He dumped Mama and left us struggling just to make ends meet. Mama was the one who shouldered the burden of putting him through accounting school, sacrificing her own happiness to help him become successful and how does he thank her? Divorce! I know he broke her heart and caused her early death, I just know it! Now that horrible drunken, no class wife of his is going to get Daddy’s money – and me and my children, his grandchildren, won’t see a dime! All Mama went through, all her family did for him, all the pain and rejection I’ve endured. Well, I just can’t handle it anymore. It’s so evil, I hope he burns in hell for what he’s done! It’s been 40 years since he left Mama but it might as well be yesterday. I know I’m supposed to forgive but every time I’m around them I just get so angry! It’s not fair!”
Betty was stuck. Although sincere and dedicated in her study of the Bible, she could not find a way to actually change the way she felt toward her father and what to her were circumstances that upon his death would rob her of the only thing that would validate that she actually mattered to him– his money. Betty needed to see that her heart and mind were fixated on the perceived desire to be validated by her father and his money, not the true desires that God had already given her. The focus on her perceived desire created so much emotional, spiritual, physiological and psychological distress that she could not see the actual source of the validation of her worth, namely the surrendering of the perceived and the embracing of the true desires of her heart. The frustrating of her perceived desire had been causing her to feel extreme resentment, biting judgment, and severe anxiety for decades!
I simply explained to her that her perceived desire for financial validation was robbing her of the ability to tap into the true riches of peace and joy and freedom from resentment that come from making loving God, others, and her already worthy self the focus. Once she realized that the years of grasping and resentment over her father’s money had wrought such personal misery, she was finally able to place everything she thought she absolutely had to have in God’s hands in exchange for the power and the peace that can only come through love. Instead of grasping for what she perceived she needed from her earthly father, she could now gift others with the love God had already given her in Christ – talk about a One80!
Betty not only became unstuck that day, she now had the answer to the question – how am I supposed to be around Daddy and Lucille and not be angry all the time?
When love for God, self and others is what matters most to us, we finally find ourselves living the life we’ve always wanted and we can trust that God will provide whatever we need. This is the message that our clients most need and we are blessed to be able to share with them!
The ONE80 Life perspective emphasizes Jesus’ greatest commandments to love God and others out of the growing realization of who we truly are and how God has designed us to live – our authentic, true self.
To help Betty align her heart with Jesus commandments, I asked her if the grasping for the well intended (she wanted her mother and her children to be honored and validated as well) perceived desire of her heart had brought life and peace and freedom to her. She had to say no, it brought only sorrow and anger. I explained that this was the case because the pursuit of connection to things as the source of our worth is not how God has designed us and only the pursuit of connection to God, the true self and others releases God’s life within us. This is not only because we were created by God only to experience real life when our focus is connection to God, true self, and others, but because psychologically, grasping for that which is beyond our power to control leaves us angry, resentful and exhausted. She realized she could only experience the life of God within if she surrendered what she was grasping for and release these things to God. Betty is working on the processing of her painful memories of her father’s abandonment and learning more about her true self. Four decades of judgment, resentment, and avoidance are being replaced by compassion and grace.
Using the ONE80 Life Lens to help our clients find true life will require that we help them focus on:
Connection to God requires that we show our clients how the “God substitutes” of money, acceptance, prestige, and things is blocking them from knowing Him in an authentically intimate way as the very source of life.
Connection to Others in Healthy Ways requires that we show our clients that serving and caring and showing compassion for others, not expecting or demanding that others care for us, is the direction of one’s life that paradoxically releases the flow of God’s life into us. The world has this tragically backwards and the results are obvious.
Connection to True (Authentic) Self requires that we help our clients understand how their painful past experiences have created a survival self that is highly reactive (fight, flight, or freeze) when triggered and that sabotages the discovery of the self God created before fear and shame distorted our identity. We must help them resolve these experiences and learn to replace their maladaptive survival strategies with godly, healthy responses to life’s challenges.