Spiritual Monsters

My biggest fear has always been clowns. I don’t mean the ones that are made to look really creepy, although I don’t like those either. I’m talking about clowns that you book for children’s parties.

It’s usually hard to explain this fear to people who don’t share it, but the truth is that it’s the makeup. The high eyebrows, the crazy hair, the huge and constant smile all create the look of someone who’s insane (and might murder you) and would look happy doing anything (like murdering you).

I now know many people who share this fear, but when I was little, I didn’t know a single real person who was terrified of clowns like me. In addition, people never told me they understood or that I wasn’t crazy. In fact, they often laughed at me or brushed it off like it was silly and no big deal. So for years, I felt irrational and alone.

Some people avoid haunted houses at Halloween because of monsters like ghouls or zombies or axe-murderers. I avoid them because of clowns. (And it’s worth stating that I also avoid some McDonald’s commercials for the very same reason.)

We all have our monsters, and we all have our spiritual monsters.

When I was in AP English, we read Lord of the Flies, and we had to write an essay on a theme from the book once we were done. The paper that our teacher handed out that told all of the themes had over 30 different ones on there. I chose to write on fear of the unknown. I can’t recall how long the essay had to be, but it seemed like an impossible task when it was assigned. But I soon discovered that I had more than enough material to work with to write my essay because fear of the unknown is a big theme in that book.

Likewise, Fear of the Unknown can be a big theme and a big monster in our own lives. If we’re uncertain about many things or even one thing, it can keep us from accepting a calling or reaching out to someone or leaving something or someone detrimental to our relationship with God. It stops us from moving forward.

Another monster is Unequipped. We think we don’t have what it takes to do whatever it takes to move forward. If we need to pray more, we may struggle because we don’t have the time. If we feel like we need to donate, we may not have the money or the means to do so. We feel like we’re not enough or that we don’t have enough.

Moses felt that way; he stuttered. So did Jeremiah because he was very young. Peter denied Jesus three times after he told Jesus he would never dream of doing such a thing. Paul called himself “the chief of sinners,” and he didn’t have to campaign very hard given all of his deeds from his old life.

They thought their issues meant they weren’t right for the job. They thought they didn’t have what it took, but when they finally moved forward despite what they thought, great things happened.

Maybe your monster is Temptation or Waiting or Worry or Apathy or something else altogether.

Maybe your monster seems small to someone else, but to you, it’s big and horrifying and leaves you with nothing but dread. Regardless of what the monster might be, it’s stopping you from going further in your relationship with God.

And our monsters are no match for God.

When we deal with our monsters by ourselves, we’ll always lose, but when we join up with God, we’re unstoppable. And He’s not going to send you to face your monster without wanting to go with you.

Whenever we try to face our monsters by ourselves, we forget our biggest ally. To go further with God, we must do so with Him, and we have to rely on Him to get us past whatever’s standing in our way because what’s a monster to us is nothing to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

Living With Limits

One of the great things about writing is being in total control.

You create people. The way they look, their sense of humor, their favorite colors, what kind of company they keep – everything is up to you.

You are in charge of what happens to them. Don’t like someone? You can have them stub their toe, burn their popcorn, or fall off the side of a mountain. If there’s a particular character you love, you can make everyone else fall in love with them too, make them achieve all their dreams, or have the time of their lives.

You can control the plot, the style, the setting, every last bit of it.

I remember talking to my best friend about a story I was struggling with in one of my creative writing classes in college. I was talking about making a character do something, and she said, “That’s so cool! It’s like you’re God.”

It is like playing God because you’re limitless. But in truth, no matter how much we may enjoy playing God, we aren’t actually God.

Shocking, I know. You weren’t the one who spoke the universe you’re living in into existence. You aren’t the beginning and ending of absolutely everything. You don’t actually have control over everything. Neither do I. None of us do. None of us are God.

God has no limits whatsoever, unlike us. “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5, NRSV).  He has the power to do anything and everything.

Maybe you’ve seen that before in your life. You could’ve passed a class that you honestly shouldn’t have. Perhaps there was a time or two when you found more money in your paycheck or bank account than should’ve been there. Maybe you narrowly avoided a car accident. There are so many ways that God can act in our lives that leave us with no explanation other than it being an act of God.

But there’s another side to that. Life’s not always so good. Sometimes you have to take a hard road. And maybe you’ve had to take a hard road more often than not. Loved ones die. People change. Relationships crumble. Opportunities are denied. Goals aren’t reached. Life continuously seems to rub how unfair it really is in our faces. Why would God let that happen?

Let’s go back and visit that scripture again, this time focusing on the last part. “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Yes, life’s unfair; sometimes so much that it legitimately hurts. And yeah, it may seem completely pointless to us a lot of the time, but that doesn’t actually mean that it is pointless. Just because we don’t understand what’s happening in our lives doesn’t mean that God doesn’t understand it or that He’s just letting it happen. As Alan said on Sunday, “I may be struggling more than I’m thriving, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t see it coming.” It’s something only He gets, and He has a purpose for it.

You remember when we were talking about writing a story? Any good writer knows that good things aren’t reserved solely for good characters, and bad things don’t only happen to bad characters. That would be the most boring story. No one would want to read it. It wouldn’t make any bestseller list, and you would never hear anyone say it’s their favorite book. People like stories that evoke emotions. I like a few books that have made me very upset. Why? The writing was good enough to make me feel so strongly about something. Had everything happened “the way it should’ve” or “the way I’d hoped,” that book would’ve been forgettable. That’s not to say that I don’t love some books or stories where I was happy with how it all happened or turned out. It’s just that every story worth its while has to have some good and some bad. Personally, and I know God would agree, I think your story is completely worthwhile. It’s worthy of listening to or reading about. It’s worthy of existing, as are you. It also shows that you’re important enough to God to grow the relationship between you and Him. And I think that’s worth a few bad times.

We have to accept that good people are going to have some horrible things happen to them, and we have to accept that bad people are going to have some incredible things happen to them. (We would probably do well to remember that no one falls entirely into one category and not the other.)

When talking about us not being God, we come to the conclusion that we are very limited. There’s only so much we can do. We can’t help the way other people think or act or believe.

“But Carrie, that would be so rad if we could.”

Stop right there because no, it wouldn’t. First of all, if I could do it to someone else, they could easily do it to me, which I find terrifying. Second, that would result in me always getting my way and the world would be mine, and I think you guys know me well enough by now to see the problems with that.

Now, there are days when I wish I could control people. I would love to make people who are being stupid realize that they’re being stupid. I would love to be able to make everyone see how beautiful they are. Or to make wars stop. Or to make people realize the awful things that they’re doing to each other. There are plenty of times when I would like to control everyone so that the world could live in perfect harmony (or at least my version of harmony).

But that would make me God, and I think we can all agree that it’s a really good thing I’m not God.

People have this little gift called freewill. It’s the reason Eve ate the fruit in the garden, and it’s the reason people make a lot of questionable decisions. It’s also why Christ chose to go to the cross, and it’s why people are capable of making the best decisions of their lives. It goes both ways. And honestly, it hurts God more often than it hurts us, yet we’re the ones who haven’t made our peace with it yet.

Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Carrie, I’ve reached my limit. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t think there’s anything else I can do, and I feel miserable.”

Let me tell you what I thought was one of the most encouraging parts of the sermon this past Sunday: It is okay that you’ve reached your limit, and it’s not a bad thing.

A weird statement, I know. I personally don’t like feeling miserable in addition to feeling helpless, so how can that be good?

The reason it’s encouraging is because it comes back to God being limitless. God can reach us where we’re stopped at. It’s like we’re on one side of a gap and our goals are on the other side. Maybe the gap is huge and leaves us wondering why we ever started this journey, how we got here in the first place. Then again, it could be tiny and just taunting us, yet try as we might, we cannot go a bit further.

God is the only way to bridge that gap. He’s the only one with the power to do so. Whether He carries you across or pushes the two sides closer together or acts as an actual bridge, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that it’s not going to happen without God, the only being without parameters.

So place your trust in Him. Keep looking to Him for advice and for help. And remember that He’s not going to let anything happen to you that you can’t deal with because He’ll be with you. And there’s nothing that limits Him. You’re in the most powerful and the most loving hands.

By Carrie Prevette

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