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does anyone really change?
Before you begin responding to the questions in this session, please read chapter 1 in the book Becoming Myself.
It's wise to begin each new day and certainly each new work with prayer. So before you dive into the study, please pray! Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you. I like to begin each day—even before I get out of bed—with a simple prayer: "Jesus, I consecrate my life to you." I am a woman who happily admits that I need all the help I can get!
So to start:
Jesus, I consecrate myself to you, this day to you, and this study to you. I pray for your guidance and your help. Please fill this time. Quicken my heart and my mind in response to the nudges of your Spirit. I give you permission to take me wherever you want me to go. I am yours. At least, I want to be yours. More and more. In Jesus's Name. Amen.
There. That was good. Now, do you have some time and space for this? Are you sitting at a red light, trying to find a few moments to fit this in, or do you have some room? If you're home, can you unplug or turn off your phone? Your relationship with Christ, your heart, your becoming yourself is worth time, space, effort, and attention. Breathe deeply. Okay. Ready? Let's begin.
1. What was stirred in you as you read this first chapter? Hope? Resignation? Passion? Nothing? Take a few moments to check in with your own heart. What has been your response to the thoughts presented?
2. As you look back at your life, what are some areas you have grown in? (For example, maybe you're less afraid to meet new people, able to kill spiders, less controlling of others ...)
3. You are most likely quite aware of the places in your life that you would like to be different. There are places you long to grow in and areas where you may feel bound to fail over and over again. What are those?
4. I wrote, "Many women feel like a failure as a woman. I know that oftentimes I do. A failure as a human being, really. It has affected just about everything I have done and everything I have been kept from doing" (Becoming Myself, page 14). Is this true for you? And if so, does it relate to the areas you long to change or to something else?
5. Can you remember a time when you were ashamed of who you were and of not being who you wanted to be? If so, what happened?
Invite Jesus into that memory. Just a simple prayer like this is really good: "Please, Jesus, come into this memory. Come into this place in my heart and minister to me here."
6. Have you ever used shame to motivate yourself? Are you still using it? How? (By shame, I am referring to an inner dialogue in which you berate yourself for not being or doing what you consider to be the right thing.)
7. How has shame worked out for you as a motivator? How is it working now?
8. What about discipline? Have you created lists for yourself regarding the ways you want to be living? Are you able to follow through with those lists? In what areas of your life is that more challenging for you?
A key truth in chapter 1 is this:
The very fact that we long for the change we do is a sign that we are meant to have it. Our very dissatisfaction with our weaknesses and struggles points to the reality that continuing to live in them is not our destiny. (Becoming Myself, page 15)
9. As you consider the possibility that this really is true, what does it evoke in your heart?
10. Near the end of chapter 1, I ask you to consider the possibility that becoming your truer self is less about your own effort and more about the process of allowing God to restore you. Do you think that is true? And if it's true, how does that make you feel? (Hopeful? Irritated that he seems to be taking so long? What?)
11. In what areas in your life would you love to experience God's deeper restoration of you?
Turning our attention to areas that we would like to change or grow in can often leave us feeling like a failure. That is why it is vitally important that in the same moments of acknowledging our desire for change, we also need to acknowledge this foundational truth: God loves you. Right here. Right now.
I wrote, "God is not going to love me any more or any differently when and if I finally lose this weight and become free from the stranglehold of food. Jesus's love for me, my Father's love for me, never changes. Yeah, okay, fellowship may be strained at times, but his heart toward me does not change. He is passionately in love with me. Even better, I think he likes me. And by the way, he's got a pretty huge thing for you, too. Yes, you" (Becoming Myself, page 20).
12. In the light of God's love, write out your prayer, asking Jesus to come and help you to rest in his love for you and also to bring about the change, the unveiling, that you long for. Thank him, by faith, that he is going to do just that.
Let's pray together:
Dear God, you know my story. You know my desires, and you know the places where I have begun to give up hope. Would you please come for me, Jesus? Would you please breathe life and hope into the places of my heart that need to be revived? I pray for your eyes on my life. I pray for the grace to believe more deeply that you love me completely right now, even before I have gained the victory and freedom I long for.
Jesus, I invite you to continue to reshape the way I feel about myself. Holy Spirit, fill me this day and awaken me more deeply to you. I want to let go of shame. I want to let go of striving. But I'm not sure how that intertwines with still trying. I want to cooperate with you. And I want to be free and true. Please unveil the truest me. I need your help. Thank you that you are restoring me, Jesus. I look to you. In Jesus's Name. Amen.
Yesterday morning, as I went for my daily walk/prayer time, the silliest thought went through my head. Thinking of the schedule for the many months ahead and what will be required, I actually said to myself, "If I were me, I'd hire a personal trainer." Hilarious, right? If I were me? Hmmmm. Guess what, girlfriend—you are you. I let my thoughts run a little rampant. Looking at my life from a safe distance, I asked myself, "What else would you do, if you were you?" Turns out there's a lot I would do.
It was an interesting exercise. What would I do if I were me but didn't have the responsibility to actually do the work? (I've always thought I could do a great job running other people's lives. Just not so great with my own.) But what would I do with my own life ... really? What would you do with yours?
Who is the woman you want to become? What is she like? Ask God to begin to breathe hope into your heart that you can actually become her.
By faith, we turn to him. By faith, we choose to believe that he hears our prayer. By faith, we believe he is good and is for us. By faith, we trust that though we may not see it or feel it, God is at work in us and for us. Because he says he is. (Becoming Myself, page 24)CHAPTER 2
looking back with mercy/the landscape of our lives
Before you begin responding to the questions in this session, please read chapters 2 and 3 in the book Becoming Myself.
You know that saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees"? It means that when you are very near to something, you are unable to see it clearly. Being in close proximity to anything—a situation, a relationship, or your own childhood—can hinder your ability to perceive it correctly. That's another reason why I love asking God how he sees things. The Scriptures say that his thoughts and ways are as far above our own as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isa. 55:8–9).
If anyone sees and understands things well, it's God. His view on our life is clear. His understanding of our history is perfect. He looks at our life and does not become exasperated as we might. God's mercy is new every morning (Lam. 3:22–23). He is rich in mercy, abounding in love (Eph. 2:4). We can ask for his view on our life and know that we don't need to brace ourselves for bearing the weight of eternal disappointment. His view is different from ours. We must ask for his eyes on our life. He is merciful to us. We can be merciful too.
Do you remember much about your childhood? What were you like? What did you like? What games did you enjoy? Were you enjoyed? Just take a few minutes here and ask God to help you remember. What was your childhood like? What do you remember even now? What did you love, dream of, play, feel, believe? Invite Jesus into your memory and into your perception of your youth.
Dear God, please prepare my heart to remember my childhood. I pray for the grace to remember honestly and the gift to see my life, to see myself, through your eyes. Holy Spirit, come into all my memories. Sanctify my memory. I need you. Come and fill this time. I consecrate it and myself to you. In Jesus's Name. Amen.
shaped by our childhood
1. How would you describe the soundtrack of your childhood? What sounds do you remember?
2. What were you like as a young girl? Take a few moments and remember. Describe yourself as a little girl. (Pretty, lively, lonely, scared ...)
3. What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
It's important to remember. But it's also very important to remember honestly.
My childhood was not idyllic. Since no one's was, I'm guessing it's a pretty safe bet yours wasn't either. But a deeper understanding of our stories leads to a deeper understanding of ourselves—who we are and who God has made us to be. Yes, there is sorrow there, but there is glory, too.
Memory makes it possible for us both to bless the past, even those parts of it that we have always felt cursed by, and also to be blessed by it.
—Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
The first ten years of a person's life pass all too quickly, but the effect of those years colors the rest of our life. Whether mostly good or mostly awful, most women's childhoods are a mixture of both. These formative years are the foundation of the women we are today.
4. Is it a new thought for you that your current struggles are rooted in your past? What are your current struggles?
5. When and where did your current struggles begin? Take a few minutes and ask God to help you remember.
6. Are there any people from your childhood whose impact on you was negative, people you need to forgive? Including you? Who are they? For what do they need forgiveness? As much as you are able, in this moment, spend time in prayer and ask God for the grace to forgive them and release them to him.
Part of our healing comes with forgiveness (of ourselves and others), and part of it comes with repentance. But first, we have to begin with how God sees us. How he sees you. Do you know?
7. Read Romans 8:38-39. How would you restate this in your own words?
8. Read Romans 8:1. According to this verse, how much condemnation is valid over your life? Why does that matter?
9. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. What does your Father see when he looks at you?
10. Read Hebrews 13:5. Are you now or will you ever be alone? How does thinking about that affect you? Do you take it in or push it away?
11. From the Scripture passages you've just looked at, how would you summarize the way God sees you?
12. We've pretty well established that I am a hungry woman. Since you are alive, I know that you are hungry too. Are you aware of your inner thirst or hunger? What do you want more of?
13. Take a moment now and pray, inviting Jesus into that hunger. Write out your prayer.
14. How has what you have struggled with drawn you to Jesus? How has it shaped you?
In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. (Ps. 118:5 NIV 1984)
Okay. I said it's good to remember our past and to remember honestly. Though there is pain in those memories, there is also goodness that some of us have not yet had the eyes to see. Why not ask God to bring to mind gifts from our past that we may not have yet recognized?
15. Ask Jesus to reveal to you places in your past where he was loving you, protecting you, and wooing you to himself. Were you there, God? Where? How?
Let God begin to rewrite your story. Invite him to show you your past through his eyes. Ask him to surface good memories you have forgotten. He would love to do it. There is healing to be had there. There is a replacing of regret with mercy.
Our pasts have helped shape us into the women we are today. Other forces are also at work both internally and externally.
the wonder of hormones
16. Think about the four seasons of a woman's life: preadolescence, menses, perimenopause, and menopause. Which season are you in? If you are in menses, the season of life when you have a period, which week are you in: week 1 (estrogen is released, energy and mood are highest), week 2 (which ends with ovulation), week 3 (estrogen and progesterone are dropping, mood may fall too), or week 4 (period begins)?
17. How are your hormones affecting you?
How crazy would it be to bless your hormones? I'm thinking that the crazier it seems, the better it would be. Our hormones are a gift to us, though one we may not yet have peace with, manage well, or bless. So let's go ahead and bless them!
I bless my body. I thank you, God, for making me a woman. I accept my body and my femininity as a gift. I bless every part of me, perfect or flawed, and these hormones inside me as well. I consecrate my feminine body to the Lord Jesus Christ; I consecrate my hormones to him.
Jesus, come and bring grace and healing here. Speak peace to the storm within me just as you calmed the sea. Come and bless my femininity, and teach me to understand how you have made me and how to live gracefully with the rhythms of my body. Amen.
And now we make a sharp left turn from blessing our femininity to exploring how it has been assaulted. This may be difficult, but stay with me. It's very important.
the hatred of women
misogyny: A hatred of women. From Greek misein "to hate" + gyne "woman."
18. What rose up in you when you read about the external landscape of your life?
19. Where in the story of your life have you experienced misogyny?
20. What do you believe Jesus feels about women? Why?
21. What is the source of hatred against women?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12)
22. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to show you where the Enemy has hurt you or had a heyday in your life. (Did you think it was you or God who was to blame?) Where and when?
23. What rose up in your heart as you read the last portion of chapter 3 regarding the important role women are meant to play?
24. Time to pray. We need to invite Jesus into every area of our lives. We need to repent where we need to repent and to obey James's command to submit to God and resist the Devil (James 4:7). Write out your prayer.
Dearest Lord Jesus, I come before you now in humility, seeking your strength and wisdom. Please shed your light on my world, my life, and my body. I do not want to be ignorant of the Devil's schemes nor blame you or anyone else for what he is doing.
I choose again to bless my body and to bless the fact that I am a woman. Jesus, please reveal to me where the Enemy has hurt me and kept me from living, loving, and offering in the ways I am meant to. I reject every lie of the Enemy.
I submit to you, God, as my Lord, and I resist the lies of Satan. In the Name of Jesus, I command the Enemy to flee from me and from my domain. Jesus, you reign, and you reign in me. I choose to believe the truth: you are God, you love me, and you have given me every spiritual weapon to defeat the schemes of the Enemy. I choose to love. I choose you. I choose to offer my unique feminine strength to my world. In Jesus's beautiful Name, I pray. Amen.
The fruit, dear one, is LIFE! For you. For many.
more to think about
"The degree to which you can tell your story is the degree to which you can heal." A friend spoke these words to me as he relayed the story of a young man who works with women rescued from sex trafficking. His words caught me. More, they stopped me. Because it's actually true. The degree to which you can tell your story is the degree to which you are no longer bound by shame.
Now, I am not suggesting that we tell everyone we know the intimate details of our lives. Our personal histories are marked by joy and sorrow and are holy ground. But there need to be one or two people with whom you are able to share your life's story. Perhaps a counselor. Perhaps your spouse. Perhaps a trusted friend.
Pray and ask God to provide this person to you and to prepare your heart to share. As a preparation, maybe you could spend time simply before God and his eyes of grace. Tell him your story. Tell him your sorrows. Ask him to comfort and heal you. Tell him your sins and your failures. Ask him to forgive you.
The story of your life is one worth telling. It is certainly one worth hearing, learning from, honoring, and paying close attention to.
Suggested Music: "You Know Me" by Bethel Music, featuring Steffany Frizzell
Suggested Reading: Lorraine Pintus, Jump Off the Hormone Swing; Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker
Excerpted from becoming myself study guide by Stasi Eldredge. Copyright © 2013 Stasi Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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