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Perfectionism

As a young Christian I worked diligently to be the perfect Christian. I tried my hardest to walk the narrow line. I work diligently to follow the Bible. Some of this perfectionism came from being a gymnast but most of it came from the desire for my family to see Christ in me. When I made a mistake it was often thrown in my face that I had sinned but my dad did not sin. The phrase “you say you are a Christian but you did xyz and I do not do xyz was thrown in my face on several occasions.” The result is I had extreme panic and fear about messing up. For if I made a mistake, if I sinned, then I was a hippocrite and I feared that this would result in others not seeing Christ in me. I had endless anxiety, panic attacks and sleepless nights as a result. I learned to compensate by being as perfect as possible and hiding when I was not. The hiding of my imperfections brought shame, guilt and worthlessness. I then developed unhealthy habits to deal with all these negative emotions.

When I got older and encountered other people I encountered the opposite problem. Others thought I was to perfect. They would make comments like lighten up, have a little fun, don’t be so self righteous, why don’t you live a little. One of my favorite comments of my brother is “you just have a stick up your ass.” I did not fit in. I was not accepted. My perfectionism was seen in a negative light. This made me feel confused, unwanted and alone. I was shattering from the inside.

It has taken years of therapy to get me to a place where I could come to terms with all of this past baggage and find resolution with God regarding how I should view perfectionism, sin and my inner self. I have had to work diligently. I still have work to do. I would not call myself a perfectionist, I would say I am more an artist. But how does God view perfectionism?

“You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Wow Jesus tells us to be perfect like our Heavenly Father. That is a tall order. What I have come to terms with is that I am to work towards perfection. I am to work towards not sinning. I am to work toward being liking Jesus but I have to also realize I will always fall short. When I fall short I should realize I have grace. I should not let my imperfections cause anxiety, fear, panic or sleepless nights but I should also never stop working towards perfection. If people telling me I have a stick up my ass, who cares because there saying this just proves they are blind. It is not a reflection of me but them.

We will never be perfect like Jesus in this life time but this does not mean we stop trying. Perfectionism is a goal we may never achieve but it is a goal we should always be striving for. Amen.

Retraining Your Mind and Behavior

Gymnastics like most sports has 2 main components. There is the physical side but there is also the mental side. The mental side of gymnastics is what gets many people. When I was a gymnast I sometime ran into road blocks for the physical side. Sometime I was not strong enough or powerful enough to perform a skill but most of my battles were mental. I did not struggle with my physical ability I struggled with my mental ability. I think that this is a reflection of me as a person for even to this day I do not struggle with ability as much as mental issues. But God has given us a wonderful gift. For there are people trained in this very thing. They are experts in retaining the brain and helping people overcome mental road blocks. In most cases the brain can be retrained. Of course there are exception for people with neurological limitations

For instance my neurologically abnormal dog seems completely untrainable. She just does what she does and any attempt to train her is a waste of time. Maybe if I spent more time I would eventually be able to retrain her but it would take a lot of time and effort. But my other dog, he is normal. He can be trained and retrained. He actually picks up things very quickly.

Psychotherapy which is a term used in counseling refers to a set of techniques used to help people retrain the brain to think in a different way. It teaches people how to overcome bad behaviors and thinking so that you can better navigate this world.

We all pick up bad habits. Whether it be from how we were raised, to other influence in our lives or just our not so positive side of our innate personality. No person is perfect and we often learn to compensate for our weaknesses and imperfections in negative ways. Psychotherapy helps retain people to think differently and change behaviors so that we are more healthy.

When I was younger and very uneducated in the ways of mental health treatment I thought of counselors as these scary people who worked with crazy people. I was not crazy so why would I go to a counselor. Well maybe I am a tad bit crazy but aren’t we all. I had heard stories of counselors, seen things on TV and heard people in my life talk about counseling sessions in a not so good light. This made the thought of seeking treatment scary. I was scared of the unknown but also scared of the stigma.

People do not look down upon going to the dentist so why do people look down upon going to a counselor? I am reminded how the Holy Spirit which is given to us by God to be our helper, our wonderful counselor. For it is the Holy Spirit inside us that often reveals to us God’s truth, convicts us of sin, leads us, molds us, changes us, sanctifies us and acts as our companion in this life. When I think of what human counselors do, they are not perfect like the Holy Spirit, but they act to do a lot of these same things. Could it be God has gifted us counseling services as a manifestation of him to bring about healing for people? If so why do we see it in such a negative light. Why are we resistant to counseling? Why are we not all going to a counselor as a preventive measure like seeing the dentist for teeth cleaning rather than waiting for our lives to implode before seeking treatment?

Understanding

The other day my husband decided to try to surprise me. He prepared all of the things, spent money, time, effort to build this surprise for me. He came to surprise me and I was already in bed. I was half asleep. He tried to get me up to offer his surprise but I was not having it. I did not feel well and I did not need a surprise. I needed him to come rest and snuggle with me. My husbands intention was to do something nice for me but he did not realize what I needed was not a surprise but quite the opposite. This is a common occurrence in our early marriage. After many many failed attempts to surprise me he stopped planning anything. For I always ruined his plans so why plan. Unfortunately this is one of the effects of my condition that I cannot control. My husband has had to learn to work around my moods and health rather than me working around his plans. This has been frustrating for the both of us but it also humbling. For we are in control of few things but God is control of it all.

It would be easy for my husband to be angry at me for ruining all his hard work. It would be easy for him to just think I do not care. Or say that I must not love him since I seem uninterested a lot of the time. Similarly it would be easy for me to be angry at him for him pushing me. For not realizing what he was doing was causing me harm when that was not the intention. We all experience this in life. My husband and I maybe more than most couples but we all run into similar situations.

What someone meant as good ends up bad. As a doctor I have seen this with patients. We sometime think we are giving the best treatment but then it makes things worse. We are human. We make mistakes. Sometimes something that was meant for good turns out bad. It is easy to become angry, resentful and frustrated. It is human nature to have this reaction. In most cases this is the result. Something I learned from being a doctor is how to admit to patients you made a mistake.

They have actually done studies looking at which doctors get sued and which do not. For all doctors make mistakes. The doctors that do not get sued are the ones that meet with the patient, explain what happened and apologize. This type of meeting, explanation and apology does more than just prevent the doctor from being sued. It gives the patient an opportunity to work through there anger, frustration and find closure to the mistake. It allows the patient to accept what has happen with a greater understanding of why what happened happened. It allows closure.

This is true of all relationships in our life. No relationship is perfect. But the one true sign of a healthy relationship is one where people admit mistakes. They talk about things. They apologize. They make amends. This is what is beautiful about relationships. They make us better people. They prepare our hearts for meeting Christ. They sanctify us and purify us. But in order for this process to occur people have to be open, honest and willing to listen. Willing to show forgiveness and compassion. Otherwise people never experience healing.

The Heart of A Person

No one can tell the heart of a person other than God. It just is not possible. We can try to judge the heart of a person based on what they tell us, the actions we see, and what other people tell us about them. You can tell a lot about a person by watching them when they think no one is watching but ultimately only God know the heart.

We all wear masks. We put in roles in order to accomplish certain tasks. We act in certain ways because of how we have been trained or taught. We learn behaviors from those around us. But these are not what define the heart. The heart is something no man can see.

In the past and still I struggled with interacting with certain people. It is a result of my past abuse and what the medical doctors call hypervigilantance. Due to this symptom I started praying the prayer, “God would you show me their heart.” For I could look at the exterior, I could judge there actions but this would not tell me whether they were a safe person. Only there heart would tell me whether they were safe.

I do not think God ever gave me eyes to see peoples heart but I do think he changed my heart through the process. Instead of seeing others as a threats or dangerous, I started seeing them as human being with faults just like me. I started to identify with others. I started to have more grace for others. I started to learn to work with others even though I did not trust them completely. I started to notice things about people no one else noticed. This allowed me to love people better. It has made me a better friend.

My hyperawareness and constant alertness has side effects. Furthermore is not really something I can control but God has shown me how to use it for his glory. Do you have something about yourself that doctors, society or culture would say was abnormal? Have you ever asked God if he made you this way on purpose? Have you ever thought that “abnormal” thing could be used for good even though others may not see it that way? God often does not see things they way we see them.

Who Are You?

Recently my husband, I and another friend went to the zoo. I had not been to a zoo for the past 15 years. At one point we asked each other the question, “if you were an animal what animal would you be?” It is very telling to see how people answer. We all have labels that we use to identify ourselves. I am a doctor, a wife, a female, a daughter, an artist, etc. All these labels I use to describe a part of my personality and role in this world. But are these things really my identity or just a part of myself?

In Christian circles there is talk about our identity being in Christ. That as a born again Christian we adopt another identity which is in Jesus. It is easy to say my identity is in Christ but what does this actually mean? Or is it just another label. I am a Christian just like I am an artist or a doctor. What does it mean for our identity to be in Christ?

When I first became a Christian I did not give much thought to my identity. What 12 years spends time doing this. I just knew I believed in Jesus. Through the years I have felt like I went through a kind of process where God has slowly been opening up parts of my inner being and taking what was a gigantic mass of destruction, cleaning it out and then putting it back together. Room by room he has been doing this process. With each room I feel like there is a part of me that becomes more aware of who I was created to be. The person that should have been from the being but was corrupted by sin. With this cleaning up and restoration I come to understand more of who I am and what god created me to do on this earth.

This process allows me to understand who I am in Christ. I do not always have a clear idea or picture of who this is but through God’s work of my inner temple I get a glimpse of who I was created to be. For who am I in Christ? Only God knows and I trust he will reveal who I am each step of the way.

To me my identity is in Christ means that he is my destination. Me following him is my role. I am a Christ follower before anything else in this world. It means that I follow Christ in all aspects of my life. I am not a Christ follower when I go to church then a self follower when I go to me job. I am a Christ follower in every single aspect God chooses to place me. I will share Christ with others in all aspects of my life in whatever capacity I am able. I will lay all I am at the feet of the cross and say Heavenly Father I am your slave. I willing choose to be your slave for you alone are my salvation from this brokenness. For apart from who I am in Christ I am nothing. I have seen the destruction inside myself and without Christ I am literally nothing. I am death. I am darkness. I am broken. But with Christ I am absolutely gorgeous. I am his. He is my good Shepard. I follow Jesus.

Roles, Labels and Stereotypes

In medicine there is a name for every symptom and every illness under the sun. We put fancy names to everything. One of the challenging things about medical school is it is like learning a new language. Labeling allows doctors to communicate more effectively with one another and think through patient problems in more logical ways. It gives doctors a frame work to think through a patient and come up with a plan of action. First you have to determine the diagnosis. Based on the diagnosis you form a plan of treatment that is based on scientific evidence and experience. This way of thinking allows doctors to compartmentalize things. It allows for them to separate the emotional side of themselves so that they can more clearly make decisions based on the best interest of the patient rather than emotions. It allows doctors to see a patient who is suffering, look past that suffering to take the most appropriate action.

Working as a doctor is hard work. Furthermore you have to make decisions quickly. Sometimes these decisions have big consequences. The framework that doctors are trained to think is the best solution for dealing with peoples lives in sometimes life or death situations.

But there is a problems with this thinking. It causes the brain to think only in terms of labels, stereotypes and makes you see people as science projects. It takes the emotions out of things but this also takes the imagination out of things. God’s work on this earth. His plan for our lives. The way he makes things work. How he uses our brokenness for his glory. All of this is often counter to all the roles, labels and stereotypes we like to use in medicine. For God does not follow the medical text book. Few people fit into the labels we have created for them. Yet we like to put a label regardless because it helps our brains make sense of our world.

But what if we just decided to throw the book of labels and stereotypes out the window. Stop trying to compartmentalize things and just see people as God masterpiece. What if we took this masterpiece and worked to create a home and ministry that is perfectly suited to how God has designed them. Instead of trying to change the person, we come along side God’s work and build something new. Something that glorifies God and builds his kingdom but maybe does not follow any of the rule books. Maybe there is a special blueprint for each person that is God’s design and we should embrace the creativity rather than forcing what our world says should be. For God does not follow the guidelines our world and culture sets. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the creator of all things. He is sovereign over all things when we ask him to be the director of our lives and he promises his will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s not limit God. No let’s ask him to be the director of our lives.

Following

Broken Girl Series Release #18

The broken girl has stopped the tug a war dance with her Shepard dog but she never stops praying. The Shepard dog has to walk through deep waters, mud and snow. At first the Broken Girl helps him but eventually she gets to weak to continue. She cannot keep up. But they cannot stop for they do not have a place of refuge. They have to make it through the mountains and the Shepard dog cannot leave the broken girl behind. The Shepard dog will have to carry the broken girl as he goes through the rough terrain. The broken girl decides to take advantage of this time with him. While she is being carried on his back she starts to teach him lessons about the Good Shepard. They both enjoy this time of learning and conversation. One day they decide to talk about what it looks like to follow the Good Shepard. The broken girl says that it means we accept any path he gives us. The Shepard dog does not like this. He is only willing to take certain paths he deems worthy. The broken girl is not ok with this thinking for this is the route of all sin. For several days they argue back and forth. Finally on the 3rd day the Shepard dog stops walking. He tells the Broken Girl he wants to accept God’s plan and path for their lives but he does not know how. They decide to pray. They kneel down together and heads bowed he starts to pray to the Good Shepard. They feel his presence and the Shepard dog is set free. They continue there walking. Each day the Shepard dog works on his submission to the Good Shepard and the broken girl continue to teach him while he carries her.