Wired for Compliance

Is it okay to question the things you have been taught your entire life?  The things you have accepted about yourself and the way you have structured your life around that perception?  I heard from the Lord last fall that 2020 was to be a sabbatical year for me.  I had no way of knowing that we would be in a pandemic and socially isolated, but that has made it easier to dig into this process, to read, to study, to just sit and listen for anything the Holy Spirit might want to say.  

My journey began before this year, my search for who God made me to be, the focus of my blog.  But this year, I have entered into a Spirit-led process of “deconstruction.”  I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but this is from a model often used in business called construction-deconstruction-reconstruction that can be applied to many phases of life.  I didn’t realize the deep issues of my heart that I would wrestle with as I started down this path.

I learned about spiritual seasons from a wonderful book by Alice Smith, Spiritual Intimacy with God.  In the springtime, you are hearing from God and coming to life in new ways.  In summer, you are grounded in these new revelations, and you are passionate and effective in living it out.  But then fall arrives, and you are confused that things aren’t working as well.  God is pruning so that you will bear greater fruit.  Next comes winter, and that’s when real discouragement sets in.  God is working in you at the root level, even though you may not be aware of it.  And when that work is accomplished, spring will come again.

Deconstruction is like the fall and winter seasons on steroids. I have been questioning, searching, trying to make sense of how I have responded to my world over my entire life.  And at my age, that’s a lot of years to process!  In a conversation recently, Mark pointed out to me that I was “wired for compliance.”  Being a peaceful phlegmatic personality type, that is true.  I’m wired to want peace and avoid confrontation.  

I was raised in a very strict home where I tiptoed on eggshells around my stepfather, trying to be very good so that attention was never drawn to me.  I was in a long marriage where I was often in the same mode of walking on eggshells, wanting peace at all costs.  I worked for 25 years in a career that was chosen for me.  And in every church where I have been a member, I truly tried to adhere to their doctrine, no questions asked, and felt guilty when I couldn’t.

Mark’s words “wired for compliance” shed more light on this journey to find out who I am.  I began to ask the questions, what does my heart really want?  What do I really love?  What do I really think?  And most of all, do I know the sound of my own voice?  I’m convinced that this deconstruction process I’m in is what the Lord meant when he gave me the vision that I wrote about in my post Merry-Go-Round, where the stones are removed so the vineyard can be planted. 

This is a painful process for my personality type.  Certainly, there are times and situations where complying is exactly the right thing to do.  But sometimes compliance is nothing but a form of self-protection.  It may be easier to forget myself rather than to be who I am, assuming I know who I am. I have included Mark’s words in the following paragraph because he described so well this deconstruction process.

“Being wired for compliance means that the things which you have agreed with are deeply rooted within you. Finding peace with your world through compliance creates at best a false sense of security, and at worst, a false identity. Uprooting those beliefs means a painful and sometimes confusing process of searching for a more honest sense of self. New growth can come only after previous roots of emotional security are torn down, deconstructed. Only then can you reconstruct with your truth according to what God is showing you to be truly yours.”

Yes, I am all in.  If you are at this place also, take heart!  Give yourself permission to journey through the “unknown.”  Jesus wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, the much-loved ones He created and uniquely designed.  Each person’s uniqueness is a part of His glory. He wants that to blossom, and for that to happen, we can’t define ourselves by compliance to others. It is always worth the struggle when Jesus is leading us to greater truth.

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice—
though the whole house began to tremble 
and you felt the old tug at your ankles, 
“Mend my life!” each voice cried.  But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night, 
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do,
determined to save the only life that you could save.

The Journey, Mary Oliver

A Lesson from Baby Birds

There are baby birds on the feeder outside my window, the momma right below on the ground.  Yesterday I saw a momma robin hopping along with a worm in her mouth.  I’m seeing a picture, a metaphor.  When the baby birds are still helpless in the nest, momma bird brings them food and drops it into their gaping mouths.  Then when they are able, they venture out to find food on their own.  Two things stand out—when they are in the nest, they must have their mouths wide open in order to receive the nourishment that they need to grow.  And when they are strong enough, they must venture out to seek their own food or they will die. 

The Word tells us to seek God, that we will find him when we seek him with all of our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).  Before we receive Christ, we are also in a helpless state.  Once we have found him and receive him into our hearts, we have to continue seeking him if we want to grow.  Jesus speaks in the parables of searching for him as treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44).  In every situation of life that I find myself in, I should ask, “Where can I find you in this moment, Lord, and how can I connect with you here?”  

In these uneasy days when we’re experiencing a global pandemic and racial unrest across the country because of the horror of a white police officer restraining a black man until he died, all caught on video for the world to see, it’s hard to know how to respond, to know what to do.  But it all begins with our intimacy with the Lord, for even Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).  We can talk about it and fret about it and even join protests, but without God, nothing will truly change.

I’m asking the question now, “Where are you in this and how do I align with you, Lord?”  What does “Christ in me” look like here?  Maybe the world is changed one life at a time.  “Change me, Lord, in how I think about this.  What do I need to know about myself in this situation in order to receive what I need from you?”  And ultimately, “What does love look like here?”

The Word says, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).  It all starts with God.  Just like the baby bird will never be able to fly on its own unless it receives what it needs from its momma, we won’t be the light of the world unless we’re willing to humble ourselves and receive from the Lord.  Jesus is our model.  After he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:8-9).  First comes humility, then comes power. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that will change us.

Jesus, rescue me from my frenetic thoughts and my anxiety and help me to breathe.  I want to be changed.  I want to connect with you intimately in the sanctuary of your Holy Spirit, where you dwell, “Christ in me.”  Teach me your ways.  Help me to love as you love.  Amen.