One night I had a life changing dream. There I was in the bathroom of a hotel room. It was my future honeymoon and I looked in the mirror to see that everything about me was frozen except for my eyes. All I could do was look out. Somehow I knew this was God talking to me. Emotionally I knew what the dream meant though I couldn’t put words to it for a long time.
I had lost myself trying to be whatever that man wanted me to me. In that process I became numb. It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t ask me to change myself so he could like me more. It wasn’t 100% my fault either. Somewhere along the way I had learned to be a pleaser. I could blame some of it on my mom or my culture if I wanted to because they subliminally taught me to be likeable and fit in. But from that point on I could not blame it on anyone else but me. It was time to be me to become me.
When I went to art school there was a clash in cultures. Throughout my life I had an identity as the kid who was good at art but I found out in college that I was the least of the best. My identity toppled and I didn’t know who I was.
So there I was and I was simply nothing. I was away from the cousins that I grew up with. This was good because even though they were wholesome to grow up with, they weren’t helpful for my future.
In art school I had to completely change my mindset. In order to develop my style, I had to learn to discover my own tastes and figure out what I did best. This was actually a painful process. I discarded that relationship with the guy who I had planned to marry and became a femi-nazi for a while. This did not go well with my family or even my church, but I knew there was something better out there. I don’t mean a man. I mean a better life as a whole.
The church I grew up with had a ‘group’ aspect of the Spirit life that I wanted but not the ‘personal’ aspect I was yearning for deep in my heart. I knew something more intimate was out there.
I was in an art department that appeared mostly to value realism. One of my art friends was in the top life drawer league. Her name was Kim Lee and she was a foreign exchange student from Korea. It was so hard to be her friend because she was clearly a master and I seriously struggled. I wondered why she even wanted to hang around me because I got C’s in life drawing. Then one day she said to me, “I wish I could draw like you.” Confusion overtook my mind. She said, “You can draw from you imagination but I can only draw from life.” Up until that point, my thoughts were the exact inverse. I thought the real skill was to draw from life. That was the first clue to my natural bent.
Little by little I grew in skill and style. Finally I arrived at a level of respect from those around me but something was missing. It didn’t feel as great as I thought it would. After a series of other life failures and a crisis that led to my born again experience, I entered life a third time struggling with my identity. But this time it was my spiritual identity and that process never ends.
In time I learned that the spirit life is a process of being born again and again and again. It is about letting go of old mind patterns and seeing things afresh. Discarding the things that your family or culture or church or school taught you in order to become more alive. All of this is so that you can feel more or feel again.
Recently I had a fun visit to the hospital (sarcasm). When I got out of surgery, they didn’t give me enough pain killers. So, I kept still so I would not feel pain. In the morning they gave me a narcotic but the problem was that I had absolutely no feeling. Life was blah. I wanted to get off of the drugs as soon as I could. Feelings, as bad as they can be at times, are better than not feeling anything.
Why is it so important to feel again? As an artist, if you can’t feel than you don’t get inspired to do work. Strong emotions lead to powerful expression. The problem with feeling is that you can get hurt. The only way to become more vulnerable is to press into God and allow Him to be your protection. That is the only way an artist can be themselves fully. Business men can get away with not having a heart but not an artist because it really shows and flows.
But then there is the people component. As I came out of the closet as my true self, there was not so much rejection but being labeled as weird. I wanted to be thought of as unique. There was jealousy from other women who didn’t allow themselves to be their true selves and could see I had tapped into that stream. The biggest problem was that I stood out amongst women and that doesn’t work in a religious or worldly ‘women culture’ because everyone is supposed to be equal.
The great thing is, for the most part, the ‘divine nature’ church doesn’t have that problem. Not the ones focused on their new identity. Only in the true church can a women use her ‘mean girl edge’ – I mean warrior side – to take it out on the enemy. She can say, “I have a mouth and in this arena I have a right to use I it like a weapon.” When a woman learns to direct her angry energy in that direction she can be powerful.
Most times women are just told not to be angry - ever. After all, that’s the only emotion that men are allowed to express in this world. But it is not healthy to have a limited range of emotions for how will a wise woman bring out her nurturing side out to minister to the church and the lost? Some get lost and washed out in the middle section of emotional expression.
Then there is the beauty piece that women get confused about. What messes up a whole ton of women is that many times a gal seeks this affirmation from a mere man. As I have been known to say, “A man’s thoughts about a woman are like extra frosting on a cupcake. While I don’t mind a little more frosting; there already is enough frosting. Affirmation on beauty comes from the Lord.” Sophia Loren said it best, “Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.” All it takes is God saying you are beautiful.
In this born-again life, we have to learn to figure out what God is teaching us in the season we are in. It may not be the theme of what your pastor is teaching or what your small group is moving in. God has designs on us. He has tailored specific motifs to our training and development. That’s why it’s important to think like an artist. You must ask the Lord, “How are you fashioning me in this season?” Some people may be learning to love while others may be learning to fight.
Many are called but few are chosen. The chosen, as in His daughters and sons, are moving toward fullness. Many times this looks like the very opposite of what it is. It often feels like going backwards. That’s why Godly discernment is the only way to find out what is going on because so much of what people will tell you may be wisdom from a lower season or simply their season. Since many don’t know what the higher levels of the upgraded life looks like, it is hard to judge in the natural.
New mentors appear. They can be online or in person. This can be new preachers or new music or new places. These new voices could not speak into your life before but now they come out of the woodwork. It’s important to remember this so when you share your story you can realize that not everyone can receive it. It is okay to let go of some of those former fruitful relationships so that you don’t stay stuck.
God always has new doors and people to move with you in your new phases. One key is to let go of that ‘loyalty’ that you needed to have at one time. Then grasp on to the new lifestyle. Some doors will lock automatically and never open again. Other doors we need to latch shut ourselves. Some door will open without effort and others need to be knocked on.
Sharper, keener, and finer discernment is needed. That blunt axe used to work for you but now you need a surgeon’s scalpel. More dependence, greater simplicity, and more of a childlike quality will take you to the Promised Land though you didn’t know that up until now.
You may try to take people with you who aren’t ready for that trip and that’s not a good idea. They can’t join you. You can tell because they don’t have the grace nor the passion and mostly, they don’t have a passport. They may even call you a spiritual snob or something worse. It doesn’t matter, keep moving. It’s a clever distraction from the enemy for low level Christians to pull you into their nonsense.
Move into a less encumbered lifestyle. Move into more of the Kingdom. Say “yes” quicker. For you have become a pioneer and the only one who has it all mapped out is God. So trust Him in this unchartered territory. Do the next new thing and do it well.
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