Real Talk With Doc
Real Talk With Doc
An ongoing series of inspiring stories to help you overcome your own adversity
An ongoing series of inspiring stories to help you overcome your own adversity
Firm and Secure
Firm and Secure
June 17, 2022
Because our practice is rooted in the Greek word of "Asphalizo," which corresponds to the Strong's Concordance number of "805" (Hence, "805 Counseling Services" - get it?), I thought it appropriate to offer a little bible study on the word in case anyone is wondering. I had a supervisor once who, although a delightful man, ridiculed me for my choice of business name. He had a natural propensity toward dry cynicism and often provided me with unsolicited critique on a number of matters, but somehow our personalities were a fantastic fit and I thoroughly enjoyed working for him even when he picked all of my decisions apart. "What does the 805 even mean?" he asked me one day with only minimal genuine interest and predetermined intent to criticize whatever response I gave. "It's the Greek word for 'asphalizo' which means to 'make firm and secure', and it's what I hope to help every person I work with find. I want to help them become firm and secure in their life purpose, relationships, and future!" I replied enthusiastically. After a brief eye roll and shake of his head, he informed me how annoying it was to him on a personal level when therapists or counselors or any business owners named their organizations after something so strange and cryptic. Undeterred and un-offended, I responded with a smile and reciprocal shake of my head at his lack of shared zeal for my cause. "I wanted the name to mean something deeper," is what I replied. I think the conversation concluded with a few more eye rolls, him telling me how silly and idealistic I was, and us sharing a good laugh at our vast differences.
The truth is, I did want the name of my company to mean something deeper than just "Dr. Heather Flores Counseling," or any other business banner to advertise who I am, what I do, and how I operate. I wanted something that somehow pointed not to me, but back to God, and one day in 2020, the number "805" just came to me. I knew nothing of it's Greek numerical assignment in the Bible, and I'd never even heard of the word "asphalizo" before. I barely speak Spanish, much less Greek, so my research into its origins began and 805 Counseling Services was formed. So, here's the historical undercurrent of it all.
If you don't know how to study the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, then let me briefly tell you that it's a daunting, but fascinating experience. The word, "asphalizo," that corresponds to it's numerical counterpart, "805," occurs only four times throughout the Bible. Specifically, Matthew 27:64, Matthew 27:65, Matthew 27:66, and Acts 16:24. The interesting and similar nature of all of these verses is that each one puts on wretched display, man's human effort to make things "firm and secure." In the Matthew verses, the death of Jesus has occurred, but not the Resurrection, and in striving to stop rumors of such, the chief priests and Pharisees petition Pilate to "secure" the tomb so that no one can get in or out. The fear among the religious leaders of the day is that followers of Jesus would go into the tomb, move his body, and claim a false resurrection. 2,000 plus years later, we already know what happened, but in that moment, they did not. They simply knew that they had to stop any movement in or out of the tomb, so they secured it as best the could and positioned a guard outside. Similarly, in Acts 16:24, man once again tries to make something firm and secure. Paul and Silas were imprisoned at the time and a guard fastened their feet in stocks so that they couldn't escape. Firm and secure by man's standards for sure.
In each of the aforementioned passages above, however, the only thing "firm and secure" in the outcome of the situations is the power of Jesus to break chains and remove stones. In Matthew 28, Jesus rose, despite man's best effort to keep Him firmly and securely behind a stone, and in Acts 16:26, the same Jesus poured out His glory to remove the prison chains from Paul and Silas. Unstoppable, impenetrable, and invincible, He is the One to Whom we defer all of our work and plans, and in Him, we stand firm and stay secure.
It's not an easy path, and I would caution you to trust anyone who says it is. Becoming firm and securely rooted in life, love, truth, and healing takes work, commitment, and a sprinkle of faith to believe.
"With man, it's impossible, but with God, all things are possible!"
What Are You Looking For
What Are You Looking For
April 10, 2022
Let me ask you a question today - what are you looking for? Have you been betrayed by your loved one? Has your wife been unfaithful? What about your husband? Have you discovered a secret fascination with pornography or sexually explicit interest that doesn't even involve you? Did you find the pictures on his phone or the text messages from her co-worker on hers? Has she suddenly started changing her style or appearance before leaving for the office each day? Friend, what have you discovered that left you breathless and hurting? The pain of betrayal by a partner or spouse is some of the most excruciating to experience and it's enough to break up the seemingly most solid unions.
So, let's get candid, shall we?
How long ago did the unfaithfulness occur? Was it last week? Two years ago? Maybe it was 15 years ago and you still feel the sting of the emotional syringe that overflows with the toxins of infidelity. The poison to your soul still swims in your thoughts and creeps up in your intimate moments. Most of the time you're okay, but then it happens. A text message sounds from the other room on his phone and you momentarily wonder if it's evidence of a new misstep on his part. Did he succumb to the temptation again? Or, she comes home from work and is in a different set of clothes than when she left. The gym clothes she now sports are explained by her reported stop by the fitness center on her way home. You wonder if she stopped for a rendezvous somewhere. Did she reconnect with the flame of her past?
He goes to the shower and you aren't able to resist the urge to check his phone, despite your best efforts to trust and not doubt. As you scroll through his browsing history and incoming text messages, you scold yourself for not trusting him more before you swing full throttle in the other direction and curse him for ever having made you wonder. Finally, though, you exhale. You found nothing. Your heart rate slows and you inhale the return of peace that follows findings of his faithfulness. You didn't get hurt again. Not today. You bask in the relief that settles into your stomach. The knots loosen and you promise yourself you'll stop checking his electronics.
She leaves for work and promises she never talks to him anymore. You want to believe her, but the revelation of her emotional affair with him just a year ago causes the skin on the back of your neck to stand as your thoughts imagine the worst. You see her with him in the coffee break room. Talking. Smiling at him the way she used to smile at you. You see her laughing at his jokes and your face starts to get flushed. The nausea builds and you wonder how long you can keep offering trust when you know he still loves her. Wants her. Does she really mean it when she says she chooses you. Chooses your marriage over all other men?
So, again, I ask - what are you looking for?
First, let me validate the pain you've endured at the hands of the person you love who promised to never injure your heart. Friend, it can leave you reeling for days, weeks, months, and even years after you've sustained an emotional injury by the one who vowed to love you, cherish you, and honor you. The pain is real and the healing arduous. If you're here reading this, give yourself some credit and love because you're obviously looking for answers. For help. For guidance.
In the days to come, ask yourself what you're actually looking for when you find yourself in scenarios like the ones I've painted above. Are you looking for evidence that will validate your fears? Or, are you looking for the proof that supports all the reasons you decided to stay? Or, are you looking for something else?
What are you looking for?
January 2, 2022
Have you ever been in a place in your life where everything felt hard and nothing made sense..where everyday feels like a terrifying walk through a minefield? You get to a patch of safety and then BOOM! The next step threatens to take off your left foot, right ankle, and maybe a hand too. By the time you get to the end of the warzone of each day, you're lookin so ragged and pitiful that the vultures are circling in hopes of their next feast. Well, I'd love to tell you that your life has been marked for exemption from hard times and treacherous terrain, but the reality is, none of us have that X on our forehead. Jesus promised us quite the opposite in John 16:33 when He said "in this world you will have trouble.." Great. That's just great. Thanks Jesus. 😩 Not gonna lie, I've been pretty annoyed with the whole trials and tribulations season of life lately and more than once, I have yelled at my Maker. Fortunately, my fist shaking and tantrum throwing don't last too long before I cry it out in repentance and petitions for help, but man oh man, I can definitely throw a grown woman size fit! If I had to use one word to sum up my life at present, it would be "UNTITLED." I understand precious little about the Lord's purpose and plan in this moment (I guess about it a lot though), but here's what I know - sometimes, the "untitled" seasons of life turn out to contain the most growth and the deepest blessings. So, if you're in that space and navigating the minefields with me, trust that this is the place of your victory. This is the place of your testimony of overcoming. This is the place where your identity in Christ Jesus gets revealed. This is the place of your process of becoming. Your process of winning. Keep going, your title is coming.
So what if you look like a bloody and black-eyed Rocky Balboa when your title comes, right? I get it. I do. I've felt like Rocky a few times in the last few weeks, and the beating life can throw hurts. Badly. But to get the title he holds in his hands in this picture, he had to go through the fight, the beating, the pain. The title didn't precede the obstacles, it followed them. My husband and I have taken turns being the voice of faith for each other in recent weeks, but it's still hard. The storms God has asked us to walk through have felt unfair and hurtful, but here's the deal friends - take a look at your roots (Colossians 2:6-7). You can't believe in the goodness of God only when He gives you every blessing you want. If He's good during those times, then why is He all of a sudden a bully who's mad at you when the lightening strikes and the ground shakes? Romans 8:28 says that "all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purposes..." so it's time we stop (I'm the first to raise my hand here!) doubting God's love and goodness when it rains and the umbrella breaks. God didn't cause the umbrella to break, but if He allowed it, maybe it's because you needed to wash your hair and this was the only way. Or, if the bank account drops to a 0 balance (been there), maybe there's a lesson in it to stop trusting so much in your money (1 Timothy 6:10) and start relying on the God who gives it to you every paycheck. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, God isn't mad at you. Maybe He's keeping you from some harm down the road. Or, maybe you're a terrible driver and He's protecting all the other people on the road. Who knows, but if you try to understand God only through the lens of circumstances that change with the wind, then you'll never know Him. He will be good when you're getting what you want and bad when you're not. Your faith is rooted in the circumstance, not the God who oversaw it. Get to know God for God (Hint: Read your bible) aside from the circumstances. Your kids probably don't think you're always good, but even when you're reprimanding them or punishing them for wrong behavior, I bet they still know you love them, right? Why? It's because they know your nature toward them. They may not like the circumstances, but they trust your heart. It's time we trust God's heart, even in our difficult situations. His nature doesn't change, my friend (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, Numbers 23:19). He is always good. Jeremiah 33:3 says "Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." So, don't wait. Let this untitled, minefield season of your life lead you to the Cross. Your title is coming. Have you ever been in a place in your life where everything felt hard and nothing made sense..where everyday feels like a terrifying walk through a minefield? You get to a patch of safety and then BOOM! The next step threatens to take off your left foot, right ankle, and maybe a hand too. By the time you get to the end of the warzone of each day, you're lookin so ragged and pitiful that the vultures are circling in hopes of their next feast. Well, I'd love to tell you that your life has been marked for exemption from hard times and treacherous terrain, but the reality is, none of us have that X on our forehead. Jesus promised us quite the opposite in John 16:33 when He said "in this world you will have trouble.." Great. That's just great. Thanks Jesus. 😩 Not gonna lie, I've been pretty annoyed with the whole trials and tribulations season of life lately and more than once, I have yelled at my Maker. Fortunately, my fist shaking and tantrum throwing don't last too long before I cry it out in repentance and petitions for help, but man oh man, I can definitely throw a grown woman size fit! If I had to use one word to sum up my life at present, it would be "UNTITLED." I understand precious little about the Lord's purpose and plan in this moment (I guess about it a lot though), but here's what I know - sometimes, the "untitled" seasons of life turn out to contain the most growth and the deepest blessings. So, if you're in that space and navigating the minefields with me, trust that this is the place of your victory. This is the place of your testimony of overcoming. This is the place where your identity in Christ Jesus gets revealed. This is the place of your process of becoming. Your process of winning. Keep going, your title is coming.
Crash Into Me
Crash Into Me
April 1, 2021
In November of 2020, I drove at moderate speed on a nearby highway as I followed behind my husband back to our home. He weaved in and out of traffic ahead of me on his motorcycle (pictured on the left), and I smiled as I drove behind in our car. I've never liked his door-less seat with wheels, but the passion he has for it won me over and I opted to be supportive of his heart for it. I knew as I trailed behind him that afternoon that he was enjoying the wind against his body and the thrill of the open road, so his pleasure was also, by extension, mine. Plus, with me following close behind, I somehow felt he was protected - like I was keeping him safe in a way through the gaze of my eyes. But then it happened. In an instant, I went from quietly grinning as I drove to fearfully yelling the name "Jesus" as I watched him slide off his motorcycle and onto the pavement in front of me. All at once I took in the visual horror of oncoming traffic, the car in front of him that had stopped suddenly, his motorcycle flying across the road, and his body rolling across the blacktop before me. Without stopping to think, I slammed on my brakes, swerved to the right of the yellow line, and jumped out of the car to run to his side. My eyes hot with tears that I forbid to fall, I knelt down next to him with an unspoken, but visible, desperation to see signs of motion and life. The world around me became blurry as I knelt on the road that afternoon. In a matter of seconds, the crash in front of me became the crash into me.
I don't know whether or not you've ever witnessed the vehicular accident of someone you love, but I assure you, it's a horrifying scene when you watch your spouse roll across the pavement and your car is on one side of the traffic headed straight towards him. While he survived the accident, our lives have been different since and only just now resuming a new normal. Certain injuries he sustained have yet to heal, but the symbolism of the crash has extended into other areas of my life as well. As I survey the various metaphorical collisions of 2020 - the crushing impact of my marriage onto the sandy shorelines of my career, various unsupportive family who ridiculed him for marrying me even though they didn't - and still don't - know me, the painful wreckage of a custody battle between my daughter's father and I, and the pileup of others' judgments and accusations into the wellspring of my heart and his- the impingements of it all against the gates of my life were severe. But out of the destruction has come new life. New vision. New plans. God hasn't been blind to my hardships and He isn't oblivious or unconcerned about yours either. 1 Peter 4:12 says "don't be surprised by the fiery ordeal that is taking place to test you as though something strange or unusual were happening to you," and true to His nature, God always has a new beginning in store (Isaiah 43:19). What is yours?
If you needed a sign that this is the time to traverse a new path, here it is. If you've been praying for confirmation about a certain unfamiliar direction you feel led to walk in, look no further. You are meant to leave a mark on the world around you, and God is not limited to where you've been or what you've lost or given up. He is at work in your life to blaze a new trail of blessing, elevation, and promotion. Isaiah 43:19 says "Behold, I am doing a new thing, NOW it springs up, don't you perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and springs of water in the desert." I understand the uncertainty and confusion well. I'm in the midst of carving out my own new path, but trust me, sweet friend, God has got you. Take the risk. Jump. Do what makes you feel alive and so what if you fall? Or, worse yet, fail. Failure is only an indication that you tried something new and discovered a deeper depth of insight into your life mission and calling. I once tried to go to nursing school. Hightailed it out of there the first time I had to care for a real patient. The dummies in lab were one thing, but insert a catheter into a REAL man? No thank you. I looked into his terrified eyes and he looked into mine and we both knew I wasn't the gal for the task. I left in the middle of clinicals that night and never looked back. Do you know, I did that man and myself a favor by calling in the student nurse who truly WAS gifted, anointed, and called by God to do the job? It was a defining moment of heightened awareness, ongoing discovery, and a new life trajectory. Instead of becoming the nurse I thought I wanted to be, I got to become a doctor of psychology, known in my professional circle as "Dr. Flores." I've been blessed to treat numerous patients and clients struggling with a variety of psychological distress. The crash of nursing school led to the birth of my career as a therapist. The moment of knowing was then in that hospital room and I owned it. Nursing wasn't my calling although I desperately wanted it to be. But it wasn't. However, I'll never regret stepping out to find out. In order to authentically discover yourself, there will be times when you must first learn who you're not. It's not a failure to uncover those truths, it's an awakening that those who never step out of the boat miss out on.
My husband's crash, though momentarily terrifying, taught me that when the wind gets knocked out of us and re-routes us temporarily, there is much to be learned and deeply abiding love to be discovered. There is power in the pain. Success in the failure. Rising from the fall. Try, my friend. Learn. Fail. Try again. This is your moment. When life has crashed into you and you don't know what to do, crash back into life with passion and dreams and prayer. Crash into you with the new.
You only need to take the next step...
But it Didn't...
But it Didn't...
March 29, 2021
Directly in front of me as I write is a house that burned almost to the ground some time ago, but let me back up. Since my husband's motorcycle accident in November of 2020 (see Crash Into Me), he finally had corrective surgery on his shoulder a few weeks ago. As a result, I am now tasked with driving him to each of his construction job sites. As a Superintendent for a construction restoration company, he has to travel to multiple projects throughout the day, an impossible feat when the operating surgeon has medically forbid him to get behind the wheel. We're now in our third week of me serving as chauffer, and I can tell you this - nothing tests the heart and soul and love of a marriage more than driving your spouse to and fro five days a week. Adultery? Deception? Poor money management? Shoooooot. Those valleys seem like potholes right now as Alex's passenger seat driving voice rings in my ears. I woke up at 3 a.m. today to the sound of "turn left," "stop speeding," "watch out, you almost hit that trash can!" and "honey, what are you doing, the light was red?" I rubbed my eyes in a haze of wonder, looked to my right, and saw him sleeping peacefully in the bed next to me. It was a dream. Whew. I rubbed my head and lay back down, wondering if Jesus would be disappointed in me if I kicked him as an act of catharsis. He was asleep after all. I could always just say I was tossing and turning and accidently threw my leg into his. Nah....I snuggled up next to him instead and breathed in the gratitude of having him by my side. The driving I now do while he heals from his injuries is the result of a terrible accident that could have taken his life. Could have robbed me of the deepest love I've ever known with a man. Could have destroyed my world in a matter of seconds. Could have... but it didn't.
What is your perspective on your own life struggles? Are you focused on the hardship or the blessing inherent in the battle? James 1:2-4 says to "consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..." Not gonna lie, I have a love/hate relationship with that verse. First of all, what saint of 2021 does James think He's talking to when He commands me to "consider it pure joy" when I face trials and hardships and suffering? Uhh...you go right ahead James and consider your suffering joyful, I'm gonna be right over here in my world corner sulking, pouting, and throwing a Superwoman sized tantrum, thank you very much. It's what we do, isn't it? Winds of adversity blow our way and we stomp our feet and shake our fist at God. Been there. In fact, I was there yesterday. Okay, last week too. Alright, a couple of days lately, I've thrown a healthy (fine, an utterly unhealthy fit) fit at what hasn't gone my way. My anger at various injustices on my life terrain met with hot tears recently as I told Alex I was done with God. I'm giving up on the Lord, I told him hastily and through pain-fueled sobs. I couldn't handle another setback, and yet there I stood as one more crushing obstacle broke through my door. Fortunately, he knows how much I love God, so he sat patiently while I vented. He waited to speak until I couldn't yell or cry anymore, and then like he always does, he just loved me in my mess. The spiritual flames were hot, and could have burned me...but they didn't.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. - Isaiah 43:2
If our lives are like a house, mine in 2020 and into 2021 resembles the one that sits before me now at this construction site. Almost burned to the ground, but not quite. The structure remains, but through the broken glass I can see nothing beyond the black charred walls, ash covered appliances, and torched memories of whomever lived there. At the same time, however, through the rubble, I perceive a new beginning, a depth of the promise of beauty to come (Isaiah 61:3). As I sat watching my husband direct the team on where to go and what to do to renovate, restore, and renew, I felt a strange connection to the burned home. I watched in June of last year as my career went up in flames and I can still smell the smoke from the painful separation that has taken place between my daughter and me. I've seen the face of evil and contrary to what most of society believes, it doesn't look how you might think. I've felt the sting of disdain from new family members who have chosen to judge me without knowing me. Like the house before me, I too am in the process of being rebuilt. Restored. Renewed. The number of times I've wanted to give up, run away, or get back what I've lost is too high to count. But I don't. The enemy of my soul who wants only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) every facet of my life (and yours too), has fought a good fight and he played to win...but he didn't.
"the one who is in you is greater than the one (the devil) who is in the world."- 1 John 4:4
The struggle of your present may threaten to overtake you, but it won't. Your flesh may beg you to bid farewell to the God who loves you, but you won't. Your hardships may threaten to crush you, but they wont. And when you find yourself standing on the other side (and you will) of the obstacles, suffering, and hardship, you'll be able to proclaim to someone else - the storm threatened to break you....but it didn't.
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31
The Promise is in the Pain
The Promise is in the Pain
March 20, 2021
A few days ago on my walk, I stopped by a small body of water. It was enclosed by
black and gray rock and reminded me of Psalm 91:2 that says God is our "refuge and fortress." Next to the water was a bench where I sat to take this picture, and it was as if the Lord strategically placed it there just for me to rest my weary feet (Matthew 11:28) and meet with Him in prayer. I sat down to pray and seek His guidance on a number of issues, and as I began to commune with my Father, the fountain gently sprayed tiny droplets of water on me with each brush of wind. I closed my eyes and smiled. I was reminded of Ezekiel 36:25 that says I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you of all your impurities...a refreshing recollection of the gentleness of God. When the world rains down hurricanes of hatred and tornadoes of intolerance, God ever so gently sprinkles His cleansing waters on us. I needed that reminder in those moments on the bench as I recalled the venomous verbal assaults hurled my way in recent months. Buckets of bitter waters had been poured on my head by former friends, family, and strangers. Some days my spiritual umbrella seemed to break, but while the judgments of others can drench our mind, the sprinkling waters of Jesus strengthen and revitalize our soul. I sat silently praying to the God who knows me most and loves me best. I was deeply hurting because of certain circumstances in my present that release an ongoing and consistent flow of pain. Sometimes, if I close my eyes tightly enough, the sting of the situation pierces my heart a little less, but for the most part, it just aches. Until the matter can be adjudicated, I remain in a spiritual fetal position on the Lord's altar of grace, mercy, and hope, while calling to remembrance the words His Spirit spoke to my heart that day - the promise is in the pain. What promises are you waiting on God to deliver in accordance to your faith (Hebrews 11:6)? I used to struggle with daily anxiety attacks. They were crippling. People who are familiar with my story know that this was an incredibly dark time in my life. During those years, I tirelessly read Psalm 34:4 that says I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears, but the promise of peace was in the pain of panic. The promise of deliverance was in the pain of bondage. I was so tightly chained inside the demonic dungeon of fear that the promises of peace (John 14:27) and faith (Ephesians 2:8) and trust (Proverbs 3:5) seemed distant and unrealistic. Over time and with much prayer (James 5:16), however, the promise became present. My reality shifted, but to get to the promise I had to go through the pain. If you've experienced healing from any sickness or disease, then you know the pain that preceded God's promise of healing (Psalm 103:3). The promise of God's provision (Philippians 4:19) comes from the pain of knowing lack and poverty. Jeremiah 31:3 says that God loves us with an "everlasting love," but we often don't understand the depth of His love unless we have first experienced the pain of hatred, indifference, or rejection. Similarly, the promise of God's presence with us (Matthew 28:20) is found in the pain of feeling His absence. The promise of strength comes through the pain of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The promise of freedom comes through the pain of imprisonment (Isaiah 42:7). The list goes on, but I wonder what valley of pain you find yourself in today. When your pillow is moist from the tears that fall as you cry yourself to sleep...when the emotional cut is so jagged that you feel the bleeding will never stop...when the weight of despair is so heavy on your shoulders you can't get out of bed in the morning...look for God's promise sweet friend...it's in the pain. "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’" - Jeremiah 33:3
Pride, Love, and the Other
Pride, Love, and the Other
April 25, 2021
I love the humbling process God brings into our lives....said no one ever. If given the choice, I do believe I'd rather sit in a cushy chair atop the mountain (with some organic coffee bean and some bon bons, please) rather than drudge through the mud of the valley below. No saint who has experienced the trench of humility enters it willingly, at least not when it follows a season of hidden pride. The corporate exec who rises to the elusive "top" and falls in love with the money of his success rarely begs the Holy Spirit to remove it all in a day. His years of tireless toil afforded him a status and wealth that elevates him above the poor. Though he once started out as a man with a righteous mission, his profit and gain turned to avarice and self-promotion. Now, when he walks past the homeless beggar, he scoffs at the lowly man's plight rather than buy him a loaf of bread. Within a day, however, his life meets an untimely end and he stands before his Maker. Suddenly, the money, fame, and success mean precious little as his eternal life begins. Was it a life worth living? Did he accomplish his God-given mission or his own agenda? We read of a similar story in Luke 12:13-21. The rich man in Jesus's parable stored up treasures, but forsook his true love and calling. At the end, what did it matter? His legacy is now merely relayed as a parable of foolish pride. Let that not be our own testimony. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that every successful and wealthy person is prideful and foolish. On the contrary, some of the most God-fearing individuals have attained great wealth and status and still maintain a depth of genuine humility. Pride is no respecter of persons. The rich young ruler and poverty stricken panhandler are equally susceptible. I, too, have walked in it, fallen by it, and stood back up to conquer it time and time again. What about you? Do you take pride in your own abilities or the God who gave them to you?
In recent months, I've been forced to examine my own position of arrogance and pride as I pursue God's direction for my life, and it is with bittersweet reflection that I share the details. The beauty of a humble spirit is often visible only after the dagger of self-righteousness has pierced the soul. For much of 2020, I preached various lessons about loving as God loves, showing grace as He does, and looking at others with a depth of mercy only possible by the power of His Spirit. While the messages I shouted from the rooftops were on point and valuable for anyone seeking to understand the width, depth, and breadth of God's mysterious and lavish love (Ephesians 3:17-19), I was quick in identifying the hatred and ego in others, yet entirely too slow to look upon my own. This matters on any scale, but especially so for the one preaching on God's love, and it wasn't until earlier this year that I clearly saw my own sins of anger turned hatred.
I lost much in 2020, and while I still stand by the choices that preceded the losses, the subsequent fallout with one person in particular was the match that lit a fire of hatred in my own heart. Gradually, my open rebuke of others for their inability and unwillingness to love like Jesus (John15:13) became an unknowing sermon of hypocrisy. Ever so slowly, God began to show me that I was acting no differently than those I called out. The magnifying glass I had placed on the hearts of others for their failure to love without limits turned inward and became a mirror in the hand of God (Matthew 7:3). Love as God loves, I preached. Yet, inside, my own hatred for one man began to grow. The message I proclaimed was increasingly incongruent with the meditations of my heart, and it was a deception I couldn't even see until the Lord showed me. Psalm 19:14 says "let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord," but if the meditations of our hearts are bubbling over with hatred for another person while the words of our mouths speak love, then mass deception has occurred and hypocrisy reigns. 1 John 4:20 leaves no room for debate: "whoever claims to love God but hates a brother or a sister is a liar." And there it was...the mirror that shattered my own false image of superiority in matters of loving the unlovable. I prided myself on how I loved as Jesus loves, yet I forgot to love the enemy whose very existence caused disdain to rise within me. Luke 6:32 - 36 says this: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that...but love your enemies. Do good to them...be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Allow me to break the news to you - you can be in a room full of a hundred people and love 99, but if you hate one, you're still doing it wrong. It's an ugly feeling, friend, and it cannot be hidden. It will surface in your demeanor, it will drip from your words, and it will overtake your core if you don't check it and chunk it. In my situation, I grew in hatred for this particular man for a number of reasons, but I promise you none of those reasons were acceptable to the God who made him. He's no more or less of a sinner than anyone else, so I'm tasked with looking at him through the lens of Christ. I may never like him or even want to be around him, but by the grace of God, I am commanded to love him. Likewise, you also must love..not just the lovable, but also the other.
We are all works in progress, so let's allow one another to be where we are on the journey to where we're going. When we miss the mark and fall down, let's extend our hand to help one another up. I see you, and you're doing better than you think. Keep going, friend, keep going.