Books and Bombs

I like to read. And I like to write. IMG_7565So when I was offered an opportunity to read and review Elisa Pulliam’s soon to be released book, Meet the New You, I jumped on board expectantly and wholeheartedly.

But this is not a review. I actually haven’t started it yet…at least not on a page one, left to right continuum like a compliant, conformist reader. I did, however, skim the chapter titles, speed read the planner, and glance over pertinent quotes.

By ” pertinent quotes” I actually mean words that pierced the heart, stung the conscience, opened the eyes, and fell in my face like a cold, drenching rain. Why did I read those particular words on that specific day at the precise hard place I had just found myself sitting in anger and frustration? I don’t believe in coincidence, happenstance, or luck. I choose to see “coincidences” as divine appointments, purposeful encounters, connecting crossroads, or meaningful words and events in due season.

“Forgiveness Frees Us from the Chains of Pain”   -Elisa Pulliam

That was the first quotation from the book that jumped off the page and into my conscience. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about forgiveness…about turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. Back then it was merely a little obstacle, a tiny bump in the road, but the struggle this week had been chain2very different: deeper, more hurtful, less easily released. Okay…not released at all, but held firmly between fingers clinched so tightly, for so long, that I couldn’t remember how to open them. Just as old friends, old songs, and old photos often bring back the warmest feelings and happiest memories, old hurts and offenses are often embedded in the deepest, darkest places and forge the most pain, anger, and confusion. They inflict invisible wounds to the heart and soul.

This isn’t about confession. Or scandal. Or grungy details of sin or hurt or loss or betrayal. It’s just about humanity. About feeling. About living, loving, hating, and believing. It’s about guilt and regret and confusion and trying and succeeding and failing. About falling down and getting back up. It’s about emotion and expression and repression…and sometimes even a little regression. At its core, it’s about struggle and chains and wires and bombs…and freedom.

“Unforgiveness wires our soul to the past yet causes explosions in the present.”    -Elisa Pulliam

That was it! That one sentence explained the pressure that had been building in my mind and body until I thought I might explode. It was linked and wired and crisscrossed like a complex circuit board. Or maybe it was more like a pile of dynamite. I’ve heard that one potential sign of harboring unhealed hurts or unforgiveness is having an unusally tender spot that we hide and cover and push people away from. I’ve also heard it compared to a thorn that we adapt to, wrap scar tissue around, and sometimes forget it’s there…until someone or something touches it and then we recoil in pain, confusion, or shame. So…unforgiveness may manifest as a tender, unhealed wound? Makes sense. But a bomb?

This really isn’t all about me. I talk to lots of people. It’s what I do and I love it. But I frequently witness the consequences of unhealed hurts, repressed feelings, and unforgiveness. I counsel people who are confused about seemingly unexplainable anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, tension, and lashing out: “I just snap.” “I can’t control it.” “Something just comes over me.” Sometimes there really is no obvious present-day trigger. Sometimes it’s not situational or chemical or hormonal. Sometimes it seems as if a hidden remote control or detonator button is pushed and they have very little control.

But what is about me is this: I had a bad day. I snapped IMG_7563at someone for no legitimate reason. Snapped? Okay…I exploded all over someone. Not just any someone, but someone I have a long, deep, hard history with. I said very hurtful things…words and expressions and tones that I didn’t like and don’t typically use. It was hurtful. It was hateful. There was no love, no grace, no mercy. Truthfully, the worst was not even said to the person directly, but to the four walls of the room I retreated to as a private sanctuary…an asylum. But I heard my tone, my words, my intent, my heart. Who walked away with the greatest pain and regret? I have no doubt that I did. I was the bomb. Unresolved conflict was the detonator. Unforgiveness was the catalyst. Explosion was inevitable.

“It is only through forgiving others that we become unchained and able to really move on.”    -Elisa Pulliam

Does knowing that there’s a distant, remote trigger for what we say, do, or feel today make all the hurt, struggle, and guilt disappear? Probably not, but it does give IMG_7561more focus, direction and new weapons to engage in the battle. It’s difficult to fight an unknown, unnamed enemy. What will you call it? Anger? Hurt? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? By naming it, we see the potential battle lines, mine fields, and obstacles and will be better equipped to grab hold of a live wire and trace it back its point of origin and unplug it. Diffuse it. Disconnect it. Purposefully. Prayerfully. Vigilantly. Is it easy? No, but we walk it out one step, one breath at a time. Pray for wisdom, patience, guidance, discernment, and willingness. Pray, cry, talk to someone, learn and speak truth. Fall and then get back up. And be willing. Willing to love, willing to share, willing to forgive or at least willing to be willing to forgive. And then forgive. And forgive. And forgive. Forgive those who hurt you and forgive yourself. In doing these things, we snuff out one fuse, one fire at a time; and we snip one link in the chain….and then another, and another, until the chain snaps and falls and we are finally loosed.


“Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Forgiving is about remembering and releasing.”   -Elisa Pulliam

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  -Jesus, John 8:36

For more information and encouragement, please visit  #theNEWyou

When Heroes Fail

We’ve all had them: people in our lives who seemed bigger than life, infallible, on a pedestal, almost perfect. Maybe we looked up to them, wanted to be like them, modeled our speech, our walk, our dress, or our very lives after them: A mother, a father, a pastor, a mentor, a friend, an athlete, a celebrity. Who have you tried to emulate? It isn’t always a bad thing. We learn from example, pattern, and repetition; but, being needy, imperfect people, sometimes we step outside the design of simple instruction. Sometimes we find ourselves in search of, and overly dependent on, a person, a potion, or a possession to satisfy an inner craving or fill an empty void. What happens when we make our “heroes” too big, too perfect, or too infallible…and then they fail? At least.. they fail and are not perfect by our standards? By our expectations? For our needs?brokenchurch

When I was a baby Christian, I attended a small, rather legalistic church. Looking back, it was a God-given provision, much needed at that particular time in my life: rigid rules and stringent boundaries. But I found myself very dependent on the pastor. If he believed it, it must be right because he was amazing. He was my hero. I had no real belief system- no roots, no free thinking, no discernment. Of course, I was only seventeen. Do many seventeen year olds actually think?  🙂

The world says “The bigger they are the harder they fall.”
Proverbs 16:18 says  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
He fell hard. But this isn’t really about his fall. It’s about me putting him where he didn’t belong. Maybe this is more like it:
 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Rom 3:23
So many injured souls who may have once been someone’s hero: The pastor caught in adultery? The raging, angry parent? The stubborn, unreasonable friend? The withdrawn, inattentive spouse? The wayward, prodigal child? The heartless abuser? The hopeless addict? The treacherous deceiver? The embittered, unforgiving soul? How many do you know? How many have you been?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Rom 8:1

This is not meant to accuse, to judge, or to cast stones. This is an opportunity to take inventory and test our visual acuity. There is only one infallible model. One example. One path. One place to fix our eyes.

For King And Country has a song titled “Fix My Eyes.”
Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
We are broken, needy people who often look for answers or fulfillment in the wrong places or in people who are also broken and unable to meet our expectations, fulfill our deepest longings, and touch our empty places deep inside. There will be inevitable hurt, confusion, and disappointment. We may blame others, ourselves, or God as we hide beneath the weight of all the hurt, unmet needs, accusations, and expectations. We may continue to struggle with distorted relationships and hindered spiritual growth. Even knowing this and having walked through it in the past, I still sometimes find myself looking at people, especially mature Christians, and expecting a certain performance or perfection. Not only is it impossible, but it isn’t biblical and it isn’t in their job description or on their Christian to-do list! Expecting fulfillment or perfect performance from others only creates disillusionment and hurts relationships. It doesn’t speak negatively about them, it just reinforces my continued need for growth, maturity, and change of expectation.
Maybe this week, I’ve been someone’s failed “hero” in need of correction or, even better, mercy. Yes, I’ve said things I didn’t mean and I even lost my temper in traffic while my teenager was in the car. Maybe I was a little less patient at work. Maybe I even rolled my eyes a few times. But there is grace. There is mercy. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required. I have fallen, have failed, and will fail again. But I find solace in this:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8