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Category Archives: true self

A Beautiful Death

The fall has always been one of my favorite seasons of the year besides the summer. I like the way that the weather cools and the wardrobe change from shorts, tank tops and sandals to pants, long sleeve shirts, jackets and shoes. However, what I like the most about fall is probably the colors. Some of the most beautiful landscapes ever captured in a photo have been adorned with shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. Funny thing is that when I was a child the only thing I liked about the fall was Halloween because I was a candy fanatic. What I didn’t like was that I had the chore of raking up the leaves in the yard; definitely not fun for a nine and ten year old at the time.
But I would like to stay on the subject of the leaves. Every fall the leaves change colors creating their own artwork before they eventually fall off the tree. In other words, the process of them literally dying is visually spectacular. It’s a beautiful death. Well, I believe the same is true for us when we die to ourselves in order to become Christ-like. There is a scripture in the Bible that states He will give us beauty for ashes, and I believe that leaves changing colors before they die is a perfect representation of this truth.

fall

Without the dying process, we will never develop the character of Christ nor will we ever complete the individual purpose that He has assigned to each us. There is in fact a beauty in dying to self. There is something about humility and lowliness that Father God finds to be irresistible. There is a spiritual beauty that radiates from those who learn to love others more than themselves. Something magnificent seems to permeate the aura of those who are living for a purpose much greater than themselves. People who flee from self preservation are infectious and even alluring in a non-erotic way. They recognize that their lives are truly not their own because they have put all of their trust in the Father. They are a magnet because there is a hidden beauty that comes into view when people are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice because they can see the full panoramic view of destiny. This is a spiritual harvest of the highest order!

Dead leaves fall beautifully and decorate the ground, but then they decompose and make the soil more fertile. Once the spring comes along, the trees grow vibrant green leaves with the aid of new sunlight and rain. Plants, flowers and crops reveal themselves as new life coming from the old. It takes a death for new life to spring forth. I think about the times when someone’s death helped preserved the life of others. Sometimes it might have been organ donation to save someone’s life in the natural. Even more wonderful, it can be the death of someone who was sold out to the cause of Christ who made a lasting impact on those who are still living. Their lives ultimately either inspired others to come to a higher level spiritually or inspired them to commit their lives to Christ for the first time. These individuals are those colorful leaves that decorate the ground, preparing it for the next harvest…

spring

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2013

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Trusting God for Friendship

A few months ago I attended a gathering and ran into an old friend of mine. We hadn’t talked or seen each other in at least a year and a half or so. We shared a quick light hug and immediately I realized that this person wasn’t particularly elated to see me. I started a conversation in order to hopefully catch up with this person so we could share what‘s been happening in our lives. Well, let’s just say that I was the one that had to be responsible for keeping the conversation going. This was not a reunion. Then it dawned on me as I kept trying to keep the conversation alive that this person and I were no longer friends. As I drove home that night, I admit that it did sting a bit. A slight heaviness came over me and I reflected on our years in college and just the differences in our personalities and outlooks on life. By the next morning, I was more at peace. I realized that this person and I had simply grown into different people. My mind became a little more at ease as I understood that this person and I maybe didn’t have much in common anymore. Were there unresolved issues? Possibly… Who knows? We can’t read each other’s minds and it is just best to move on. This person and I certainly are not enemies, but this situation is evidence that relationships do change. I can rest and be okay with the fact that this person and I are now mere acquaintances.

A mentor friend at my church always says, “Life is a big bowl of relationships.” I believe he is right to a large degree. Relationships change over time for a variety of different reasons. There are those you just simply outgrow. This is not to suggest that you are better than them, but that people mature spiritually at different rates. Sometimes you and that person may not have anything in common anymore or that their lives become stagnant whiles yours is moving on; or vice versa. Other times, our lives simply go in different directions and the closeness or intimacy you once shared with someone diminishes. These situations can especially hurt when they involve your own family. I know all too well about that one… There are other times where things like physical distance can cause relationships to fizzle out, like a soda that has gone flat.

Sometimes there are expressed and even unspoken offenses in relationships. The nature of human frailty includes situations of jealousy, envy and simply ulterior motives for the “friendship” in the first place. This is why COMMUNICATION is key when it comes to relationships. I know that I have current relationships that have somewhat broken down because of misunderstanding, expressed and unexpressed offenses and lack of communication. When there are unhealed issues, wounds and offenses that have not been resolved, the relationship is likely to break down sooner or later. Unfortunately, it may even result in a blow-up or falling out. I’m sure we have all heard the saying that “Hurt people hurt others.” Well, I believe this plays out all the time in relationships. Just like a wound that goes untreated and develops an infection that can spread around the whole body, a relationship can become permanently broken due to festering situations and wounds.

I believe that friendship is an area of our lives where we don’t always allow Father God to be in control. (This is actually the main point of this post) Let’s face it; relying upon Him to choose our friends and place people in our lives isn’t exactly easy. He will not place people that you necessary deem to be pleasant or likeable in your path. He will not always link you up with people who are cool or even those that you might seem to have some things in common. He will likely link you up with folks to help shape your character. This includes individuals with whom your personality clashes. This also includes people who will hurt you.

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (NKJV)

We must remember that this is a journey that we are walking and if He is lord over our lives, He should get place whomever in your world He feels is necessary for your spiritual growth. He will place the people you NEED in your life; not always those you necessarily want. I’m learning that I have to be open to allowing God to place people in my life whom in the natural, I may never have formed a connection. I am learning to yield to Him so that my horizons can be broadened a bit. How many times have I or you ended relationships without God’s permission? Or how many times have we formed relationships with people when God was raising red flags for us to run the other direction? Hmmmm…. Ponder that.

Our connections with people are not just for our benefit, but for theirs as well. Every relationship is supposed to have a purpose.

friendship

So with that being said, we have to brace ourselves when God sometimes breaks up our relationships. He does this for a variety of reasons, such as codependency, lust, jealousy, distractions, causing brethren to stumble, etc. Heck, the Bible does say also that He is a jealous God. No man should come before Him, so don’t be surprised if He intervenes and causes a “sabbatical” from a relationship, or severs it altogether. If our affections for our friends exceed those towards Him, sometimes He will take some drastic measures to divert our attention back on to Himself. I have also come to realize that God is always protecting us. I think about the numerous times over the years where I would meet someone and we would seem to hit it off great in terms of fellowshipping. But for some reason, the connection would get lost almost immediately and somehow we could never get our schedules aligned or even talk over the phone much. These situations would get me down sometimes. However, in recent years, the Holy Spirit has shown me that in many of these situations, God was protecting me from that person, and vice versa… I also had to swallow my pride and admit that my neediness often caused me to cling to people and not go to Him in my times of need. Everything that appears good isn’t, especially if He is not a part of it…

So this is why we must trust God with our relationships. Wrong relationships will steer us off course from our destiny and take away our attention off of the Father. Wrong relationships will cause us walk in flesh and not the spirit. Right relationships will help form our character. Right relationships should draw us closer to Him. Let’s trust the Father and allow Him to pick and choose our relationships.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2013

 

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Embracing the True Self

I remember getting standing ovations in church as a young child on Easter Sundays because I would recite these speeches that were probably 3-4 times longer than the ones the other kids did. I remember winning writing contests year after year in my school and progressing very fast when I started taking piano lessons as a nine year old. A little boy with a colorful, vivid imagination who saw the world through his own set of unique, candy-coated glasses. But it wasn’t long before this artistic, creative side of me began to slowly fade into a hidden place…

I wanted to be like the other boys around me because early childhood experiences told me that I was too “different.” The enemy of my soul began to taunt me from an early age through the words and actions of others against me. I began to believe the LIE that I was a “sissy” and just for some reason didn’t quite have that “it” quality that the other little boys seemed to possess. I played video games, played with Legos and rode by BMX bike, but something was still “wrong.” Something was “off,” or so I made to believe. The pain of not being accepted by my peers was too much to bear so I had to do something about it! And so this began the formulation of my false self. This is really no different than what probably most other people experience, we just have different scripts. Our false selves are a defense mechanism to the lies we believe and the sins that are committed against us.

 

If I could go back in time, I would never have exchanged piano lessons for soccer, basketball and track and field. I would have at least stuck with the piano and even singing, but I had to play sports because that was what all of the normal boys did. I wasn’t blessed with the natural strength and physique of the other boys, but I could run fast! This became my way of being their “equal.” They couldn’t always make fun of me anymore because I was outshining them. I would get a rush whenever I would supposedly prove my “boyhood.” I would get the same rush when I would receive praise from my family for my doing well with academics, and while getting an education is obviously important, in my case it was more about ego and performance. The deep wounding that I had received in my childhood told me that achievement was synonymous with acceptance. Everything in life then became a competition to me and the enemy of my soul now had free reign to wreak havoc in my psyche.

James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (NKJV)

Fast forward into my teen years, the false self continued to play out in various forms. I had a very FRAGILE ego and was overly-driven. If I didn’t accomplish something or if someone out performed me in some way, my heart perceived this as rejection. I know many of you probably have some idea of what this is like. And so my artistic side would show up in different ways once in a great blue moon, but it still remained suppressed because of my need for acceptance and attention. My idolatry of sports had already become a major stronghold (with the help of ESPN and media hype), but I’m grateful that I grew up in a home with music ministers as parents. I still loved music, but even that became corrupted. My peers were listening to stuff like gangster rap that was littered with violence, sex and drugs, and so I had to follow suit so I could be more socially acceptable. At this time I was supposedly becoming “blacker” because I had been told so many times since I was a little boy that I acted “white.” So I quickly became influenced through BET (Black Entertainment TV), movies and what was considered to be “black culture.” This was just more of the false self being magnified. Fortunately, my mother kind of made me sing in the youth choir at church, so I didn’t completely lose my musical ability. Are you now beginning to see the COST of not embracing the true self?

Meanwhile, my true self was locked away in a prison of self-hatred. My false self ruled with an iron clad and only got worse during high school as I became a state finalist in track and field, three out of four years. Pride and ego took center stage, but soon life would start to play out against my hopes and dreams. The very things that fueled the false self seemed to have been taken almost overnight. I guess God had had enough… But I began to display many other destructive qualities as I entered college. My sense of self worth plummeted to all time lows, and I became the perfect punching bag for the enemy of my soul. The slightest word said in the wrong way could throw me into an emotional tailspin. College life was MISERABLE, for the most part. My false self eventually steered my life down a dark path and it would take years to begin repairing the damage. It’s sad how the enemy can derail us with his lies. Some never leave the path of destruction that was set up by the false self, and I thought I never would.

But God…

As I started my true journey with the Lord some years ago, the true self began to slowly emerge. His Word began to bathe me, methodically washing away the lies my heart had internalized over the years. Through the love of others, God began His surgery on me. He started to remove the cancer of self hatred and other vices that made me believe that even He hated me for all of those years. My ears began to hear His voice for the very first time as He whispered. His love began to peel away the layers to reveal the man that He imagined before time even existed. My artistic side began to bloom brightly like a field of sunflowers. My true self can begin to kill ego and reject performance, and can learn to forgive those who inflicted the deep wounds I suffered in my childhood. My true self can learn to not be so easily offended. I can choose to walk in the light, just like the brightness that hits after exiting a railroad tunnel.

I don’t like the phrase “work in progress” because I believe it gets misused. However, I will say that my true self is still emerging as I learn to get out of my own way. I’m embracing my God-given uniqueness. My true self has a marvelous destiny that awaits him. My true self is no longer afraid to take risks. Courage is being poured over my spirit man as I am beginning to recognize what it means to truly live. My true self is learning to bow down to the reality that the Heavenly Father knows me infinitely more than I know myself. I have imperfections and have to bear my cross just like the savior did. I have to be willing to embrace the narrow path the lord has laid out for me in order to find the life that I was always mean to live while on this earth. Each day that we awake, we must make the decision to keep the false self locked away until he is finally no more… My true self shall prevail. And so can yours, if you will allow it.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(NKJV)

Nathan Allen Copyright© 2013

 

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