I can’t expect any other person to be my soul oxygen.
I can’t live as if my next breath depends on whether or not they give me enough air for my lungs not to be screaming in pain. Because here’s the thing. People don’t mind doing CPR on a crisis victim, but no person is equipped to be the constant lifeline to another.
We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.
After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves.
No, it’s not wrong to need people. But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet. That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need. Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise. It’s saying, “My needs and desires deserve to tap into or possibly even deplete yours.” This will never set a relationship up for success.
Here’s the secret shift we must make:
Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look for ways to bless others?
Do I walk into situations empty and dependent on others to look for ways to bless me?
People prepared with the fullness of God in them are not superpeople with pixie dust sparkles of confidence oozing from the pores from which normal people simply sweat. They aren’t the ones who walk into a room with the boisterous, “Hey, hey, hey! The party can start now, because I have arrived!” And they certainly aren’t the ones who circle the room, making sure their agenda is the agenda of every conversation.
No, the fullness of God is tucked into the sacred places within them. The full taking in of God is their soul oxygen. It’s not that they don’t need people. They do. God created them for community. But the way they love is from a full place, not from an empty desperation. They are living loved.
But living loved isn’t just their mind-set; it is a choice they make daily. It isn’t just a possible thing they should try. It’s the only solution that actually works. We have to tell our minds to live loved. But then we must also tell our flesh no.
The more we fill ourselves from His life-giving love, the less we will be dictated by the grabby-ness of the flesh.
I want this. And I suspect you do too. Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. On the other hand, the more full of the flesh we are, the more we grab at anyone and anything to fill that ache for love and acceptance.
I don’t like to ache. In any way. One of my aches is from my deep Italian fondness for anything pasta. I mean for real, I love pasta, but it does not love me back. So, I have to make the choice not to risk the temporary pleasure of my taste buds for what will surely be hours of rebellion in my stomach. My flesh begs me to believe that short-term happiness is worth the long-term misery.
But I’ve discovered something about defeating the flesh. If I fill my stomach with healthy foods before being tempted with the pasta, I can say no. It’s so much easier to turn away a dish of pasta if you’re completely full already. But if you are desperately hungry, a dish of just about anything is hard to turn away. Our souls and our stomachs are alike in this way.
One of the most beautiful descriptions of the fullness of God is found in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:14–19
My favorite part of Paul’s prayer is him asking that we have the power to grasp the fullness of the love of Christ… for then we will be filled with the fullness of God. It is impossible to grasp the fullness of God without grasping the fullness of the love of Christ.
At the core of who we are, we crave the acceptance that comes from being loved. To satisfy this longing we will either be graspers of God’s love or grabbers for people’s love.
If we grasp the full love of Christ, we won’t grab at other things to fill us. Or if we do, we’ll sense it. We’ll feel a prick in our spirit when our flesh makes frenzied swipes at happiness, compromising clutches for attention, paranoid assumptions with no facts, joyless attempts to one-up another, and small-minded statements of pride. We’ll sense these things, and we’ll be disgusted enough to at least pause. In this pause lies the greatest daily choice we can make. Am I willing to tell my flesh no, so that I can say yes to the fullness of God in this situation? Here’s where I get in trouble. And here’s where I bet you get tripped up as well.
I grasp the love of Christ.
I sense when I’m making choices that don’t reflect God’s love.
I’m disgusted by those choices.
I am willing to tell my flesh no.
I’m just not sure how to tell my flesh no.
When past rejections make me so prone to satisfying or at least numbing the flesh to avoid more pain, it’s hard to resist.
When you’re lonely and you see your ex-boyfriend post a picture with a new girl, laughing, holding hands, and looking like the happiest they’ve ever been, your flesh will want to grab at something. It’s hard not to comfort yourself by texting another guy to grab a little attention and make yourself feel better.
When you’re listening to other moms talking about all the progress their children are making in reading and your child can’t even identify letters yet, your flesh will want to grab at something. It’s hard not to throw out a statement to one-up the bragging moms in an area where your child is excelling.
When your husband isn’t answering his cell so you call his workplace only to learn he left early for the day, your flesh will want to grab at something. Paranoia seizes you, and by the time he walks in the door you all but accuse him of having an affair.
All these things we’re tempted to grab at? They won’t fill us the way we think they will. In the end, they only make us feel emptier and more rejected.
Yes, the concept of telling our flesh no can sound so good on paper, but in the midst of rejection’s painful pricks, we can often feel so very powerless. That’s where we have to know we aren’t expected to just put on a brave face and hope for the best. We have the power through Christ, who is over every power, including the pull of the flesh and the sting of rejection. When we have Christ, we are full — fully loved and accepted and empowered to say no.
This is true on the days we feel it and still true when we don’t feel Jesus’ love at all. If we live rooted and established in His love, we don’t just have knowledge of His love in our minds, but it becomes a reality that anchors us. Though winds of hurt and rejection blow, they cannot uproot us and rip us apart. His love holds us. His love grounds us. His love is a glorious weight preventing the harsh words and hurtful situations from being a destructive force. We feel the wind but aren’t destroyed by it. This is the “fullness of God” mentioned in the verses from Ephesians 3 that we just read.
There is power in really knowing this. This isn’t dependent on what you’ve accomplished. Or on another person loving you or accepting you. Nor is it because you always feel full.
You are full, because Christ brought the fullness to you.
Yes, I am fully loved, fully accepted, and fully empowered to say no to my flesh. Speak that truth in the power He’s given you. Believe that truth in the power He’s given you. Live that truth in the power He’s given you. That’s how you tell your flesh no. That’s how you live fully prepared in the fullness of God.
Excerpted with permission from Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, copyright Lysa Terkeurst.
* * *
You are fully loved and fully accepted. Are you full of His love for you? Fully satisfied by Him? Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. Today, let’s stop and receive His love as our soul oxygen so that we are better able love others from that full place. Come join the conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you!
Normal Price: $17.99
FaithGateway Price: $10.00
Uninvited Study Guide
Normal Price: $12.99
FaithGateway Price: $7.79
Uninvited Video Study
Normal Price: $29.99
FaithGateway Price: $16.99
NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition
Craig S. Keener
Normal Price: $49.99
FaithGateway Price: $29.99