Valentine’s Day – what we can learn from athletes about facing relationships fears

I’ve heard several friends lately talk about fear in relationships, and the damage that lack of their resolution can cause. Fears from exes who kept secrets, fear of commitment, fear that God won’t bring them the type person they pray for. These hold so much power that they can lead to sabotage and keep people from the exact dream for which they’ve been longing. For most, that means marriage and family.

Then, the other morning while I was at the gym, I read an article in Oxygen magazine about Olympic athletes, and realized that the parallels between overcoming physical and emotional fears are vast.

Relationships and dealing with fear are some of the most common topics I hear with girlfriends. So, what can we learn from athletes about successful relationships on this Valentine’s Day which is taking place during the Olympic games??…..

I’ll use a few key points from writer Karla Dial and  in this article to guide us:

1. Keep the Faith

  • Multiple Olympic athletes have suffered devastating injuries, and come back from them. Their mental attitude to push past it, “is what separates winners from everyone else” (91). Athletes who have a goal in mind will recognize an injury for the delay and grief that it is, but stay determined to rehabilitate and come back. If their pain can be overcome, so can our emotional pain.
  • A broken engagement, divorce, lying significant other, etc, does not mean that every other relationship will bring the same experience. Still, the brokenness does need to fully heal and be given time to come back to full strength. A broken bone will not remain weak forever if it properly set and protected. Often, with time, it returns to good as new.
  • I believe God can heal our hearts in the same way if we’re willing to put in the time, rest, and intentionality to be restored so we can experience relationships in a fresh new way without an injury weakening the new person we become. In other words, no “new wine in old wine skins” (Mark 2:22).

2.Know Your Identity

The loss or lack of a relationship is not your identity.”Anytime there’s a traumatic event, the first thing that gets attacked is the sense of identity…for athletes it’s so tied to their physical being that it can threaten all their dreams” ( Howard Falco, 91).

  • Especially for women, a broken relationship or wounds from men can threaten our identities, just like an injury for athletes. When a person hurts someone out of what is probably their own pain and fears, it creates an identity of “I’m not good enough. Something’s wrong me with me. I’m not pretty or desirable. I’m never going to find someone who loves me.” I talked to a girlfriend recently who told me about a guy who, in his fear, began to speak things over  her about what she was not in a subconscious attempt to justify his fears. But because she has a solid identity in Christ and as a woman, she refused to let his words take any root.
  • We cannot get our identity from relationships, and must speak life about who we are and who God says we are. Like Olympians, “The time frame of healing is impacted by their outlook, their state of mind and their optimism” (Falco, 92). Determined to “compete again” and defy what even others say is “normal”? Healing comes more speedily with the right words and perception of what is possible.

3. Understand injury, harness fears, train to prevent, and adjust to do better than before.

  • “Instead of focusing on [re-injuring yourself], hone in on the present and what you’re doing to prevent that from happening” (Shaw Bronner, 92). I hear a lot of the same mistakes and hurts over and over in relationships. If there’s a pattern of the same type of guy or girl, or same reasons for break-ups or misunderstandings, maybe your “training method” is off. If there’s a fear that God will never bring the amazing guy you’ve dreamt of because all you meet are jerks, it may be time to focus on preventing on future injury by adjusting the training and honing your skills. 
  • Meaning, if you keep meeting guys in bars, getting physical right away, and then stop hearing from them, consider where you’re going to meet people, who you give your number to, and setting some physical boundaries. Or if you want a godly man, but only respond to eHarmony requests from guys who have not one word about a relationship with God on their profile, rethink even starting the conversation with them.

4. Watch and Learn from Others

  • I’d guess most athletes have motivational music, posters, videos of others who inspire and remind them of what’s possible.Observation is an important part of renewal because seeing the examples of correct and incorrect form assist in the re-education process” (Bronner, 95). When you’re not in a relationship is the perfect time to train and perfect your skills.  Most of the wisdom I’ve learned about relationships came from many, many years of being single and watching healthy marriages. If we want good relationships, it is smart to observe those in the position we hope to one day be in.
  • My boyfriend has some of the most amazing foresight and wisdom about how to approach and build a healthy relationship that will set up a good marriage. He’s learned from spending years with married couples, asking questions, and gleaning from their lessons and examples. While we’re waiting, we can ask those who are ahead of us how to plan, prepare, and what we may not even be thinking we need to do that could actually be hurting us or  could set us up for great success. Surround yourselves with others who have relationships that you admire.

5. The Power of the Mind

  • “When you are aligned with the truth and belief in that power, you’re in the strongest place possible” (Falco, 95). Yes ladies, there are men who don’t struggle with porn, who tell you your beautiful regularly, who want to protect your purity, and who can commit forever. Men, there are women who want your best, who want to support you, who won’t cheat, and who will respect you. But we have to align ourselves with that truth, and we have to fight for that alignment, it won’t come without practice and purposeful reminders.

Then, with all of this planning, observing, and truth, we can face our fears like Olympian Lindsey Vonn and say, “Don’t worry, guys, this is only a temporary set-back. Nothing will keep me from picking myself back up and continuing to fight for my dreams.”

No one ever said church has to happen within 4 walls

“What are you free from?”

“I’m free from homelessness, paranoia, meth, and inability to trust people.”

“What are you freed to? How have you changed?

“I can rest, love, I don’t think I’m being chased, and I can trust people now.”

Words from a testimony last night at a baptism in a parking lot on Santa Monica blvd in Hollywood last night at 9:30pm. One of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in my nearly 7 years being out on the street.

Just a few weeks go, the team met a young man with a grown man’s beard and baggy, dirty clothes named Robert. Homeless, addicted to meth, and estranged from his family and wife, he ran into the Broken Hearts team on the street. Helen and Raul, our most faithful couple who now help get others out of the life they too were saved from, got him into a transitional program. They still attend church there, and took Robert under their own wing.

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However, he didn’t last long in the program and was quickly back out on the streets. Yet in the process of reaching out to him in the middle of the night in a sketchy part of the city, Robert gave his life to God.

I got the change to meet him a few days later, still looking and living homeless, but ready to change. He’d been sober for a few days and joined us for ministry, and then a few days later at a fundraiser concert for our free monthly laundry service.

That night he asked Antquan how to “make this official”, meaning his surrender to Christ. Their conversation led to baptism, and Robert decided he wanted it to happen on the street, where he was saved, so he could be an example to others.

Last night, before laundry, we filled up a tub with water while he shared his testimony, holding a bible in his hand. With freshly cut hair and trimmed beard, and a nice white shirt and jeans, he looked like a new person. A perfect reflection of his inner change.

He shared how his paranoia that he was being chased by hundreds of people has turned into rest and peace. He’s once again talking to his wife and may be able to see his kids again. He said he wants help from our community in helping others. He shared his search for wisdom in the book of Proverbs, in addition to going through the books of Exodus and Matthew with Antquan’s guidance.

Truly, I have never seen such a rapid, genuine change on the street. Yet this is exactly what God has in mind – to seek out the broken hearted and bind up their wounds. To give them gladness instead of mourning, and make them repairers of ruined cities. Robert was a living example of the power of Christ to about 35 onlookers last night.

He told me afterward about the length of time he spent recently pondering one verse on wisdom, and the riches he’s discovering in the Word of God. He expressed his desire to help others change and be an example, and said that

IMAG0910-1-1his wife is more surprised about him becoming a Christian than getting off of meth. He told her, “You know how I don’t really have family, how they don’t talk to me? Well I have a new family now.”

“Yes you do,” I assured him. “That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. You’re not alone.”

 

 

How Do We Tell Others About God?

What is mission? Purpose? Bringing God’s Kingdom to Earth?

I’ve been pondering these questions lately, and what qualifies something as “evangelism”? Are we here solely to tell people about God, or also to simply enjoy him and be loved by him? Can we tell about him in the ways we live our daily lives, and reflect the Kingdom by the beauty we create?

My boyfriend and I talked about this at length recently after watching Saving Mr. Banks. Through the act of writing and storytelling, a redemptive world was created for not only the writer, but those who read her book and watched the movie inspired by it. The movie with a changed ending created a story of a good father and redeemed a past of pain. That fictional world. whether intended or not, gives its readers and viewers a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. It showed how the world ought to be, and stirs a longing for more.

What if God’s purpose in P.L. Travers was to gift her with the ability to write so that his glory may be put on display? What if Walt Disney’s purpose, who turned her book into a famous movie, was to create “the happiest place on earth” to give a glimpse into another kind of world. One so full of imagination, it reflects Heaven in its uniqueness and excessive joy?

Perhaps God did not create either of them to go out “on mission” and evangelize the world through their spoken words, but to reflect his pleasure in his children, and bring about healing in unusual ways.

These are just questions and ideas, not theological conclusions, so don’t get crazy with me. Yet it came to mind again because of a conversation I had this week on the street.

Every Thursday is street ministry with Broken Hearts, where we go out onto the streets of Hollywood in the middle of the night to love the overlooked and tell the marginalized about the hope of life in Jesus. In my paradigm, and many others, this is true evangelism. We build relationships and speak about ways of getting free from drugs, out of homelessness,  and redeemed from prostitution.

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking to a man who’s been homeless for years. This week, he was passionately discussing drug dealers, the world of cocaine addiction, and the countless ways he’s seen how destructive it is.

He’s been clean from drugs for 20 years. What struck me when he told me about deciding one day  to go cold turkey from crack was this: the catalyst for his change was sleeping on a bench and listening to a musical group (I don’t remember which one, some old school jazz or doo wop or something like that). The music inspired him so much in that moment that a desire to do something like them, and aspire to be a musician, changed his perspective. That instance of imagination and beauty, and a glimpse at what could be changed his life. He got off of drugs right then and there.

No one told him drugs were bad or suggested rehab. No one told him Jesus could heal him or offered him food. God used music (one of my personal favorite creations by God) to save his life.

John Piper, Desiring God, page 18: "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." (Design submitted by Jennifer Knight.)

On recent reflection, I too would say that some of my most life-changing moments have come through listening to worship music, reading a book, journaling, watching a movie, in church, and listening to people’s stories.

I observe that God is limitless in his imagination and anointing of creation to change lives. I’ve heard as many stories like the smell of a flower bringing someone back to faith in God as I have testimonies of being “evangelized”.

Consider the question I’m asking myself right now: Is it possible that some of our greatest gifts to spread the Kingdom of God and reflect Heaven are being squelched so that we can tell people about Jesus in the only way we’ve been taught is acceptable? Could we actually change the world more through our joys and passions than through our works? Might “the chief end of man to glorify God by enjoying Him” be what ignites a passion in others to do the same and surrender their lives to Christ?