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When I started this series looking at the isolation in my life and indeed it’s possible causes I did so acknowledging a few things from the very beginning…

I acknowledged that I was and am isolated.

I acknowledged that this was not a healthy state of affairs.

I acknowledged that some of the fault or at least the responsibility for this has to lie with me.

I acknowledged the need for change.

I acknowledged that my faith as a Christian would be an important consideration in this series.

Whilst I had given the series and its subsequent posts some consideration (certainly enough to come up with an appropriate title) before putting fingers to keyboard I had not really anticipated where this series would take me, or what I would learn from it.

Now that I have reached the end of the series I had anticipated, I find that whilst I have realized some things as a result of it, I am still not entirely sure just where to go from here.  But I do at least have a start and interestingly and appropriately that start is a bible verse that was running through my mind when I awoke.

The Vine and the Branches

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. [John 15:1-8 NIV]

It is, in fact, a passage of scripture that I have always had a particular fondness for and one that is particularly relevant to the thorns in my life but also to the walls and towers that I have looked at in this series.

In respect of thorns and roses a basic truth is that a rose cannot possibly bud where a thorn is already grown.  The two just cannot occupy the same space and thus the thorns whilst offering defense and protection do, whether deliberately or not, also in some ways limit the potential for roses to grow.

Bringing this more in line with the analogy used in the scripture above my thorns, my walls and my towers inhibit and even block the growth of that fruit that is spoken of.  This is of course a concern to me as a Christian – it is never healthy or advisable for any Christian to place obstacles in God’s way.

The plain simple fact of the matter is that the very existence of those thorns, walls and towers prove that I have either willfully placed those obstacles in the way or at best allowed them to develop in the way and for this I am sincerely sorry and regretful.

But there is of course hope.  The fact of the matter is that I know they are there and that they should not be there.  Additionally I have the assurance and encouragement of scriptures to motivate their removal from my life.  So, as some of the comments have already asked, how do I do this?

Well, I guess the first thing I need to recognize is that I don’t as a Christian have to do this alone. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. HE cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit; whilst every branch that does bear fruit HE prunes so that it becomes more fruitful.”

Of course that doesn’t remove my own responsibilities in this and doesn’t mean that He isn’t already working on that very thing or hasn’t already placed people and resources in my life to do just that.

Why am I even looking at this whole subject?  Isn’t it possible that God has brought me to this place?

So since I do have responsibilities in this what are those responsibilities?  How can I help bring about the changes that are obviously needed?

Regardless of the legitimacy of the presence of those thorns, walls or towers when constructed or adopted, I accept that I perceived a need for them at that time and responded accordingly.  But I do so in full understanding that 1) this may not have been the best course of action even then and 2) that I am not the same person I was then and 3) my circumstances, life and situation are not the same now as they were then.

Because of this I recognize and acknowledge that a) even if legitimate then they may not be and are probably not now, and  b) that their continued presence is probably not the healthiest option for me and thus a newer, healthier and more appropriate approach is called for.

Therefore in response to that acknowledgment and recognition I will therefore re-assess where I am today, whether those thorns, walls and towers are still necessary and helpful and to make every effort to remove or replace them with healthier and more appropriate choices and coping techniques.  Doing so by following these steps…

Step 1.  Enlist the help of someone (or more than one if possible) you trust and respect.  If possible someone you are very close to and spend a lot of time with. Remember thorns grow outward, the rose doesn’t notice the pain they cause since the rose isn’t at the pointed ed.

Step 2.  Has to be, in my opinion, to identify the thorns, walls or towers that exist in your life.

Step 3.  Is to then try to identify their source, what made you have them, grown them, adopt them or construct them.

Step 4.  Assess their legitimacy – both originally and now. (As a Christian God’s will is an essential consideration in this.)

Step 5.  Assess their current need.  You are not the person you were then and your life is not the same now.

Step 6.  Assess their benefit versus their cost.  The worth of something is often evaluated by comparing cost to benefit.

Step 7.  Assess how and when they are employed or present – what triggers them?  Having recognized this look out for them and also try to establish better responses.

Step 8.  Consider healthier more productive and less harmful or detrimental coping techniques OR other ways of addressing the needs that motivated these thorns, walls or towers in the first place.

Step 9.  Establish a way of healthily and positively being accountable in your actions, decisions and efforts in order to bring about the changes you want. (this should include regular and frequent reviews.

Step 10.  Make a definite decision/commitment and start removing or replacing them with the more healthier or less detrimental coping techniques.

So I think I have the basis for change in my life.  Of course I recognize that a great deal of what I have listed above is fairly general but that is in many ways quite deliberate.  Are there specific things in my life that need to change in order for there to be an improvement in my levels of isolation?  Yes of course and in respect of some these are things that I myself can change, in respect of others it really depends on others and their responses and in respect of yet others I can see no immediate way of bringing about change.  But that is not to say that I can’t still work on these.

There is an old prayer more commonly known as the Serenity Prayer and it goes like this…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

Surely if there was one prayer that was so appropriate to trying to remove or demolish the thorns, walls and towers that we have built up over the years it would be this one.

But as I said before the rose doesn’t always notice the thorns because it is not on the pointed end.  Likewise we don’t often notice the walls that we build as we are not the ones they are designed to block and not the one often left banging our head against them and as for the towers that we construct well they are by design comfortable to us as we are on the inside looking out not on the outside trying to get in.

So let me offer this rose, walls and towers, version of the same prayer…

“God, grant me they eyes and will and resources to remove the thorns, demolish walls and open up the towers that I have built and others the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to challenge and motivate and encourage me to change the things I can, and both of us the wisdom to know the difference.”

And to all those who I have hurt at the end of my thorns, blocked by my walls and kept out by my towers, please accept my apologies, and my regret and please know that I understand that all too often you suffered as a result of the actions of others and for this I am truly remorseful.

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