Isolation: The Devil’s Playground

The more I age and mature as a woman, the more I see we remain the same. By that, I mean, we have some of the same insecurities as that of a 3rd grade girl who wants to feel included, wants to feel valued, wants to be invited to sit at the table for lunch but does not feel that anyone sees her.
Looking back over my life, in each transition, there have been times of loneliness, self-doubt, and glowing insecurities. Whether it was a day camp my parents sent me to as a 5th grader at Ridgecrest conference center, the first year of college where I felt I was my own personal marketer of who I really was (ie. “I’m Jennifer, I love Jesus, I can be fun, and please be my friend–I’m lost here”), the first few years out of college where I felt totally lost without a plan or spouse, marriage and the isolation in friendships that may bring, to crossing over from young adulthood to early mid-adulthood where we are in the in-between of not having children where everyone else does.
In my studies of others, do you know what is crazy? I think women tend to feel that isolation in every season and think they are the only ones. They may even be surrounded by “friends” but not connecting from the heart. They may feel they are playing a role, but do not even really know themselves. Most of the time, as women, they sit in silence with their imaginations raging–“I’m lonely–no one ever told me having a child is so hard and isolating.” “I thought I would have my answers met in marriage–I did not know how much I would long for connection with other women.” “Does my husband even care who I am?” “Everyone is leaving me behind, and they do not understand or care.” “I live alone. If I choked on a chicken bone, would anyone care or know?” (aka Liz Lemon from 30 Rock) “I think I am the only one who struggles with ______, am I even a Christian?”
God has blessed me with women around me who are real–who have shared those thoughts about marriage, about children, about eating disorders, about lust, about temptations, about sexual disfunction in marriage, about jealousy. He has in turn, blessed me with being able to share those thoughts out loud. Do you know what happens when you share them out loud and ask for help? Their power is shattered. Satan, The Accuser, cannot steal us from God’s hand if we are in Christ, but he can isolate and accuse us. We are meant to live in community, in a body, but this world today is all about isolation (Facebook, Blogs, email, texting, tv, internet shopping, small families, etc). My greatest fear is the age when I have teenagers who want to retreat into text messaging and pseudo realities instead of knowing how to live, walk and struggle in real relationships. A whole generation is in college right now on the cusp of adulthood, and they have grown up that way.
I long to be real and teach others to cling to Christ in the midst of pain, struggle, and questions. It is only in Him that we are made whole. He, in turn, brings us into a new community that we can be real and struggle with. When you say it aloud, you never know who will speak up and identify with exactly where you are walking. Two are better than one. Speaking up allows for light to shine in the darkness of that isolation…for truth to shatter the accusations…for love to cover over a multitude of sins. Speaking up allows for others to follow suit. Where are you isolated and need to speak today?

Am I going to throw up, nope, I just have to speak in front of people.

      Last night, I had the opportunity to stand before over 300 young women and talk with them about walking with God in the midst of the curse (of sin in Genesis 3).  My heart is still beating hard as I think back on it…

      At Crossroad, our city-wide college/young adult service at Fellowship Church in Knoxville, Greg is doing a series on the curse for girls only and for guys only.  He asked me in the middle of this week to share what it is to walk faithfully in the midst of the hardness of life (marriage, etc).  At first, I panicked thinking about the deep well of emotion that I have built up by walking through some of the hardships in my life.  I have been known to boo-hoo in front of crowds while sharing, so the fear of that drove me to cautiously say…” maybe.”  However, by the end of the week, I had thought about it and stepped out to do it.  

      The last 3 1/2 years of life have definitely been the hardest but the most fruitful…and a lot of those hardships have hit from the curse of sin–struggles in marriage (which is the consequence of sin), the death of my father (illness and death in itself is the consequence of sin), job direction (toil and unfufillment–consequence of sin), and the theme of infertility (pain in childbearing, having, rearing, etc is the consequence of sin).  I had so much I could have said, and, of course, I am probably my worst critic (unless I get a scalding email today from an equally harsh critic:)).  

     Though the curse is quite evident in everyday life, the good news is the gospel is more powerful and is the ultimate reality.  The gospel reminds me that I am God’s by the blood of Christ…I am forgiven and in relationship with the creator, sustainer, redeemer, and gardener of my soul (and this world).  God is at work in my heart and my husband’s heart to make us more like Him.  The kicker with the curse is that we women want to be in charge and not wait on God or our husbands.  Greg said something last night that is so true:  “Women are much more spiritually sensitive.”  Time and time again, I talk to my girlfriends or women that I meet with, and they say “I wish my husband would step up and lead–he is so passive.”  We all begin to make assumptions about the hearts of men around us, and then we begin to trust ourselves instead of God.  We think, “well, since nobody else is standing up to lead, I guess I will.  I mean, am I the only one astute enough to get it done?”  This feeds into the curse–we want to devour or rule over our husbands and ignore God’s ways.  The truth of the matter is that we want what we want and do not trust God.  The truth of the matter is that we forget the very heart and grace of God toward us through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

      A few practices I have learned in trusting God in the midst of living under the curse:

1)  His word changes my heart.  Being in His word–memorizing, reading, studying, meditating, turns my heart away from worshipping myself and my comfort to look into His life changing grace.  There are days when I want to tell Greg off or burrow in self-pity at whatever frustration or situation that I am in, and then, truth hits me in the heart and I am changed.  We cannot survive without His life-changing truth–and we certainly cannot grow without it!

2)  Prayer is essential.  I have learned that I do not change situations or hearts.  I used to think a poignant speech or manipulative actions would bring about change in someone, but that is not true.  The only changer of hearts is the Holy Spirit.  Also, it is tempting to pray merely for things for Greg or others that would change their actions or hearts to bring me comfort.  I think what that is termed is manipulation of God.  I’m pretty sure that is despicable.  The Spirit is always teaching me and correcting me to pray for the hearts of others–that they may repent and cling to Jesus, that they may stop striving by running after other things and trust God fully and know Him fully.  The reality is when others are changed in that way, I may not get my “way,” but the ultimate good and the ultimate fulfillment comes.   I also pray that I find everything in Jesus–resting in Him, trusting Him and being transformed by Him (1 Thessalonians 4:3–His will is for us to become more like Him–and He rested, trusted, loved and worshipped God with everything–John 15).   When I deal with people that I disciple or counsel, this is essential–prayer for their hearts and God’s work in them.  Otherwise, I am wasting my time and theirs.

3)  Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  There are times in my life that I just cannot keep my mouth shut.  I think I can solve things by telling people what to do.  I think, again, that I can manipulate.  And, I probably like the sound of my own voice:).  I have learned that even though I may be right that my motives may be far from right.  My heart may long to be served and worshipped by that other person (many times Greg) instead of bringing God love and glory.  There are definite times to push in and talk about issues, but more often than not, I need to drop to my knees and relinquish control to the One who is in control.

4)  Act in the Grace of the Gospel.  In remembering daily who I am in Christ, how can I hold things against Greg or others.  His grace toward me is unmerited favor, and His Spirit resides in me with power to walk in righteousness.  When I rest in that fact and see my own sin toward God and his abundant grace, I look at others differently.  Their offense towards me does not seem so monumental.  The fact that Greg ignored my needs or hurt my feelings or the fact that life seems overwhelmingly unfair, seems to fade in the light of the gospel.  In the truth of the gospel and the power of the Spirit, I learn to die to self and love others in grace and forgiveness.  This short paragraph makes it seems so neat and tied with a bow–but there is wrestling in my heart in this.  This is a choice that I have to make at every offense, and it is a choice that I ignore at times.

5)  Surround yourself with friends who sharpen and be a friend who sharpens.  We can all find friends who complain and who do not share truth, but look for the jewel and be the jewel that sharpens others toward the gospel, love and good deeds.

6)  Perservere!  Do not just fill up with these steps once…we need this daily!  Let not the things of this earth ever sway me–I’ll run til I finish the race by the grace of Jesus Christ.

A view into the Pinkner’s marriage…

  Here is a brief view into the marriage of your’s truly.  This was shown with the sermon last Sunday morning at our church.  I try to be as honest as possible with anyone going into marriage–the best and hardest things come from it.  You cannot imagine the hard that will come and the sin you will see in oneself as you grow, but there is great joy in depending on the Father to do what you cannot do. Greg and I have walked together in marriage for 6 1/2 years, and there will be many more hard and good times to come.  There is NO possible way we could have made it without the Holy Spirit’s conviction and grace.  On our wedding day I prayed that he was glorified and that is still my prayer today.