Psalm 26:2 (AMP) Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my heart and my mind.
If we are intentional of looking for it, God will always provide an epiphany – A Golden Takeaway from any significant experience in our life.
When that happens, it leads to a new set of options, choices that we can utilize in the future to grow and achieve greater levels of peace, wholeness, and connectedness to others, ourselves and God.
It is through a new awareness that we gain new perspectives.
When our patterns of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors start to make sense we can then choose to change (or more accurately surrender our dependence on) the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that no longer serve us well.
What follows is the way in which I “work things out”.
It is how I attempt to discern “what is God trying to tell me here” and “what I am supposed to do with it”.
So what do you say, you interested? Great, let’s do this!
The Process of Processing
- What happened (the situation)?
- What were my motivations, emotions, and spiritual condition (called States)?
- What does God want to reveal (post-reflection)
- How have my new perspectives and awarenesses changed (take-away)
- What can I do differently next time (action plan)
What follows is an example of how that exact process plays out for me. This is a very real situation that just slammed into me within the last 48 hours.
It is a compare and contrast from two similar events in my life that had polar opposites driving forces and outcomes, and the emerging awareness has the potential to be life-changing for me.
And who knows, maybe for someone else?
There is a ton of backstory and details to these events and my mindsets, emotions and spiritual state in each are complex, but my new goal is this:
LESS IS MORE – NO MORE 6000 WORD BLOGS!!! (you’re welcome)
Let’s see how I do with that. (I’m already at 300 ugh!.
I guess you could say you know you are a writer when you have to limit the number of words you type instead of struggling to reach a goal. Totally off-topic there, this isn’t helping!
CASE STUDY – THE TWO TRIPS
STEP ONE – What Happened
This all revolves around 2 separate road trips that I’ve taken in the last year. I’ll call them Trip #1 and Trip #2 (creative eh)
This took place soon after I first got sick when I was forced into a medical leave of absence over a year ago.
I first drove to meet a friend and we camped for a few days but instead of turning south from the campground to go back home, I ended up turning north on an impulse to just “see where it leads”.
It was a spectacular 10-day journey of prayer, journaling, sight-seeing and soul-searching throughout the coastal areas and mountains of Central and Northern California, complete with an endless stream of Divine Coincidences.
This happened yesterday, nearly a year after the first trip; and although the original intent (on some level) was similar to trip #1, the outcomes couldn’t have been more radically different in every aspect.
This trip started out as me just wanting to clear my head (similar to trip #1).
But what manifested as was an 860-mile round-trip from Los Angeles to Cedar City Utah in a 22-hour waking nightmare.
Same person, same car, same intent/desire, but insanely different experiences.
Why did they turn so different?
Gratefully God can work with those kinds of questions!
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [my emphasis]
STEP TWO – What Were My Mental, Emotional, Spiritual & Physical States
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have found it critically important when trying to discern why things go right and why things go wrong, what part of it was “up to me?”
It comes down to self-awareness which is never intuitive. And it is likely the most critical life-skill that is never taught.
95% of our thoughts, feeling and actions are driven subconsciously from our mind/body past experiences.
It’s an auto-pilot and without recognizing the survival forces at work (fight or flight response) can drive us to live reactionary lives. We say, do and feel things not based on current realities but largely on past “take-aways”.
So I always start by asking myself: What were my “states” before and during the encounter?
Mental – I believe I was clear-headed. I had a sense of adventure, of wanting to explore. I was feeling like I was a free spirit who could do whatever I wanted (which is not normal for me).
Emotional – I was in a pretty good place. I was apprehensive about the impulsiveness of the decision but I was expecting a really neat experience, even though I had no idea what to expect.
Physical – My health condition was a serious consideration, but I theorized that laying in a hammock on the beach watching a beautiful fire-red sunset was better than laying in bed at home. So I was alert to my physical limitations and believed this was a reasonable act self-care.
Spiritual – Here is the secret sauce. Every step of the way from the second I turned my car north away from the direction of home, I took a stance of nearly excited faith. “This is crazy Lord, but I trust you”.
I won’t share all of the DIVINE MIRACLES that took place on trip #1 but the very first one will blow your mind, at least it still does mine.
Were there Divine Appointments?
I drove north wanting to go to Big Sur campground along Highway 1 in Central California. It is the exact place where I gave my life to Christ some 8 years before then and being that I wanted “get with God” on this trip, where better to go?
The problem is, Limekiln Campground is a small-ish campground in one of the most spectacular regions of the California Coastline, and reservations are made a year in advance. You NEVER just drive up there expecting a spot. And this place is remote, if camping isn’t available here you might be homeless. No cell service, and no services for many miles.
What I was doing was CRAZY. Yet this was a different kind of crazy in this trip versus trip #2 as you will soon see.
So what happened? I went there on faith. And long story short, not only was I ultimately able to get a spot in Limekiln Campground, the ONLY spot available was the EXACT SPOT that I gave my life to Christ at 7 years earlier.
That is an impossible outcome, but easy for God. And the entire trip went that way.
Every campground was “impossible to get into” yet by some miracle, I got in… for 10 days straight hopping from campground to campground I was met with miracle after miracle.
Mental – The premise of this trip was a trainwreck from the beginning. If you’ve been following my blog in the last week or so you know my counselor has been uncorking some childhood trauma stuff. I haven’t wanted to go there but I also believe God said: “you are ready”. So I’ve gone fearfully but willingly.
On this day I was having a really rough time, I was stuck ruminating on past events, and as they say, what you feed grows. And this was feeding my emotions.
Emotional – Again, trainwreck. What was uncovered was long deep and buried shame, self-hatred, and rage toward people who have treated me terribly throughout my life and I just “let them do it”. I’ve been passive, insecure and fearful all my life but most of the vile of poison what outside of my awareness in the 95% subconscious fight-or-flight regions of my brain. Fight or flight was alive and well this day!
Physical – I was not healthy. I hadn’t been sleeping well the last few nights and with the emotional exhaustion, my body was not doing well. But I was also filled with fight-or-flight chemical flood as the pain and anger escalated throughout the day. I was worn, and my bed would have been the safest place for me, but I had to run.
Spiritual – Here is where I believe the takeaways are going to come from. I’m somewhat processing this live right now as I type this so this is an organic exercise. So I was in prayer all day, but the emotional state and ruminating thoughts seemed stuck. My motivation on this trip was not “I’m moving towards God”, it was “I’m running from this house”.
Were there Divine Appointments?
I believe there were Divine Appointments on this trip also, but many different kinds. I left at 5pm physically worn and drove with no direction from God, instead just “where do I feel like going”. I drove to the mountains and didn’t “feel” better so I drove to the desert and didn’t “feel” better so I drove to Las Vegas and still didn’t “feel” better so I kept driving east until 2am, complete exhausted and nearly hallucinating on the road.
Again, what I was doing was CRAZY, but this time truly cray-cray!!
One of the reasons I kept driving, there were no hotels available for hundreds of miles!
And when I finally stopped driving out of necessity? Still no hotels! I ended up sleeping near a dumpster behind a restaurant in my car in 37-degree temperature for only 3.5 hours. When I woke up I had the (rational) thought, “what the hell am I doing here” and pointed home and started driving.
I believe the Divine Appointment was that there were no Divine Appointments. This was all about me and my feelings and God wasn’t going to bless this trip. He kept me alive, but my entire experience was miserable.
STEP THREE – What Does God Want to Reveal?
I could have just had the thought, the first trip was great and the second trip sucked and leave it at that.
I’m very intentional in my prayer life, and I know and expect that when I go to God with feelings of hurt and confusion that He wants to give me peace and rest through the types of comfort and revelation that only He can provide.
So when I asked God “what the hell was that about?” (yeah, we have a pretty casual dialect, He gets me) He was quick to respond.
Clearly, the Divine Appointments were off the charts different. In the first, I met with blue skies and blessings beyond measure. But trip 2 was dark and met with resistance and tension the entire time.
This was my Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde struggle that I battle with, and they each took their own version of their perfect trip.
Obviously, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, I was not the same person on both trips.
God was reminding me that my battle is not with “unfair or difficult circumstances”, it is always within myself.
STEP FOUR – The Perspective Shift
So what is my take-away?
Before making any decisions in life I have to make sure that The Four States are in order first. If any is not in balance, then getting them there becomes my highest priority at that exact moment. It will overshadow everything I do if I don’t.
And if all four are out at the same time, I’m at grave risk of making decisions that can physically or emotionally harm myself or others. It is not a rational place!
In the case of mental or physical illness (depression, chronic illness, etc…) I do not need to make excuses or feel guilty when saying “I can’t”.
If people don’t understand that I am doing what I have to do for me and are disappointed and take it personally, then that’s on them and not on me.
It comes down to self-care. What were my states?
Trip #1 – clarity of thoughts, emotionally stable, physically aware of self-care boundaries and spiritually consulting and trusting God with every risk-filled decision. This trip took place during the daytime – in the Light
Trip #2 – ruminating thoughts, emotionally unstable, physically exhausted and spiritually disconnected from God (and therefore susceptible to Satan’s influence on my decision-making processes). This trip was overnight – in the Darkness
If I had been more SELF-AWARE (and especially God aware) I would have realized that my desire to re-experience last year’s trip, albeit good, was entirely impossible in my current condition.
Not just one, but all four States were extremely out of balance and I should not have been on the road in the first place. Saved by Grace for sure!!
STEP FIVE – The New Action Plan
- SELF CARE MUST TAKE PRIORITY
- I should not tackle any activity or make a critical decision if all 4 states aren’t well balanced.
- I shouldn’t feel guilty or compelled to meet other’s expectations if my 4 states aren’t well balanced.
- IF I AM STUCK IN ANY STATE – ASK FOR HELP!
- Spiritual – find someone to pray with me
- Physical – find someone to help me
- Emotional – find someone who cares enough to sit with me in it
- Mental – find someone to process with me
As obvious as those may seem, I don’t do them well, and I don’t do them consistently.
In fact, this whole exercise has given me a greater perspective of how when I let my emotions guide me I will almost always make bad choices.
I’ve been led by my emotions (mostly fear and pride) my entire life, and driven by a sense of shame and obligation in selecting the things I will do in life.
In many cases, they may have “looked like” love, but they were in fact just manipulations so I “looked good” to others so I could hopefully “feel good” about myself. (hard to admit that)
I believe this is what God talks about when He talks about the condition of our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Well, what do you think?
2600 words are better than 6,000. But I still feel like I need to find a way to get to the point in smaller bites. I’ll keep trying 🙂
The problem is, there is a lot packed in there today. The beauty of this is, it’s nothing more than trying to explain the process of Sanctification, which is a combination of our willingness and God’s timetable.
So in essence, we are always right where we are supposed to be in our unique journey of redemption!
My message seems to be about revealing the places of darkness where the enemy of our souls has tricked us into believing things about ourselves, others and God that don’t serve, us, Him or others well.
Through greater self-awareness, we can become stewards of our own inner and outer selves and thereby serve God and others with a pure heart where everyone wins.
For those of us who have experienced childhood trauma or neglect, the process of self-care is not intuitive. In fact, the road ahead is hard.
But both God and Science agree: we can be transformed by the renewal of our mind!