Reflections...

A friend of mine recently posted on her own blog about an experience that was very personal and very near her heart. An experience she struggled with internally and externally, one that led to many months of discussions between her husband and herself and eventually led her to seek the advice of a very trusted and dear friend. She mentioned in her post that she also struggled with writing about this experience, but was ultimately persuaded by her husband when he said:
"Hopefully every woman that reads it can be helped in some way. Because don’t ALL of you have to deal with this?"
The topic? Mean Girls... You can read Caryn's entire post here.

We've all had experiences with women/girls we label as "mean girls." And, to be totally honest, I'm positive at some point (maybe many points) in my life, I myself have been labeled as such, by somebody. I would like to think that those times are more few and far between as I age, as I become an adult... and I know at the end of the day, I can tell you each and every person whose feelings I've hurt along the way of this path I call my life. I try, very hard... to apologize for my actions when I know they've been hurtful. Sometimes, it can take me months or years to acknowledge my part in the situation. I may hold on to the thought, for a long time, that I was an innocent bystander in the problem - but after weeks and months of reflection and inflection, I can usually figure out my exact contribution.

I am by NO means a perfect person. Also, I am by NO means a perfect Christian. And I don't live my life in a way that alludes I may be either of those. To me, the admittance that I'm neither of those is the first step to living my life in a more reflective, religious and positive way.

Caryn also makes a very important and resounding comment in her post about Christians:
"I have come to dislike the term “Christians” anyway. Too often it is easier to find a “Christian” who is a bold-faced embarrassment to Christ than someone who strives to honor him. I choose to use the term “Christ-like”. Christ-like is what “Christian” means but seems to be a more potent description."
I found this comment really sat with me, long after I read the post. It was something I laid awake and pondered last night and still more today as I contemplated this post of my own. I often find weaknesses in my faith, and I'm by no means devout. In the past years, mainly my married years, I've found a much more comfortable zone in my faith and I do aspire to live a more Godly life. I find the more I learn about Christ and my religion, the less I question it. And, truthfully, the older Reagan gets, the more I strive to teach her that life should be a path in harmony with a much higher power - a walk in faith with our Father. I do struggle internally with many of the characteristics Caryn listed as Mean Girl qualities, or shall I say, flaws... gossip, insecurity, self-seeking, jealous... and no doubt many a family member would call me a drama queen! But, I have come to think the most important thing you can do, when you see these qualities in your own life, is to admit your faults to yourself, to those you cast your faults upon and most importantly to open your heart to God and allow Him further into your life that He may move your heart past these attributes.

I can say, that I try hard - very hard - not to cast my own insecurities onto others. There have been two situations in my life where I really tried to restrain and DID restrain, only to be fully blamed for the problem at hand - and you wanna talk about pain?! When you've really been cast in the worst light and taken a fall for those you deeply care about... that hurt is almost unbearable. When you hold your tongue in the hopes that it may better serve others and are still pointed out as the "mean girl" in the situation... it's just a desperate feeling of betrayal, heart break and a million second guesses. You begin to wonder if your silence is really helping you or hurting you. If you got out there and told your side of the story - would you been seen as more of a gossip or would people see the light of what happened? And if they did "see the light" would they be any better for it? Would they not then be partaking in "mean girl" characteristics themselves (along with me) of gossip and slander in my quest to shed white light? So, holding your tongue is your ONLY option, no matter what may come, because in the end you know that you are straight with yourself, with your heart and with the Lord. I must add in both these situations, my heart was opened and lifted to the Lord and knowledge truly came to light. All parties have forgiven and been forgiven and I am stronger and happier from the outcome of all circumstances. And in my case, I've earned back and given back a deeper and more profound friendship than I knew beforehand. And Caryn also notes this portion of the experience, when she says:
"So instead you must leave your innate defensiveness on the sidelines, check your heart and ask God to show you if you’ve said or done something wrong. If you haven’t, it might be best not to ask the MG. Attention seekers thrive on this sort of thing. Just leave it alone. Stay away. Know your true friends. Don’t waste time, energy or tears on someone who is baselessly hurtful. If you are truly faultless, your character can withstand the test of time as you wait for your reputation to be restored in the eyes of those who listened to the MG. When they see that you do not exhibit any of the characteristics they’ve been told then your silence on the issue and lack of negativity about others will speak volumes."
I think Caryn hit the nail on the head. At the end of the day, when the behavior is not repeated by you, or is repeated by the other, true colors come flying through.

Caryn's faith is at such a high level, one that I would like to achieve in my life - along with her husband and mutual friends of ours. I truly believe that she holds her heart up for the Lord each and every day and allows Him to direct her heart and mind in a most intimate and devoted way. I pray that I can let the Lord into my heart more and more everyday, that I can devote more time to prayer and more of my thoughts to God. I pray that I may know the full effects of His presence in my life sooner rather than later. Every time I respond in a way that I know is not Christ-like, I open myself largely to Him in the hopes that I can find peace with my actions, that I may make restitution for the hurts I cause and that I may be a bigger and more faithful person in the wake of my missteps.

What I take most from Caryn's post is the knowledge that I'm not the only one affected by Mean Girls, but also the total admittance that in my life I have played that part, and hurt somebody, like Caryn hurt. I'm not sure that you can reverse the actions you've displayed, but I do know that if you are truly sorry, seek forgiveness and strive to not display those qualities that forgiveness will be given where forgiveness is due - and that forgiveness by Him will not be given if it is not due.

As Lutherans, Kyle and I were required (for lack of a better word) to fulfill a certain amount of hours of learning and relationship searching with the Pastor that married us. A large difference in the Lutheran and Catholic faiths is the atonement of sins. Catholics must go to confession, confess before the Priest and God what they've sinned and are then given instructions for the path of forgiveness. Lutherans are asked to reflect internally and during service our sins are absolved jointly. One would assume that by merely attending service your sins are atoned, but I do not believe this to be true. While working with Pastor Thomas, he made a very important statement that has stuck with me to this day. When you sin, you mustn't just reveal your sin to the Lord, for He already knows... you must first reveal your sin to those whom you've sinned against and then... and only then... can your sins be atoned. He also made the point, that this doesn't mean you can sin against man just to admit your sins and then also be atoned, over and over. There must be more than admittance... there must also be learning and growing.

Caryn, you've reminded me and set my heart back on a path I fear I've wavered from. I thank you deeply for that and admire you not only for your willingness to share your personal feelings and experiences but for showing a sinner a truer path on which to walk... one that is more Christ-like. Your words will sit with me a LONG time.

There aren't many Sundays on which we sing this song, but there are many days in which I sing this song, today is one of those days:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Acts 3:19