Tag Archives: sociopath

The Blank Canvas

Does God have a plan for your life?  Are you one of the special ones for whom He has set out a purpose?  Or are you just wandering through life, a background person in the lives of those who are special and called of God? 

My pastor tells us often that God has given each of us a “vocation” – a sense of calling that pushes us to do things because we’re made to carry out a certain mission, even when those things don’t make sense to others.  Writers may not ever make any money or have stability, but they must write their thoughts down.  It’s in their bones and they can’t exist any other way.  An engineer must figure out how to make things run better.  It’s just the way it is.  But I talk to many people who don’t feel a sense of calling, who don’t feel there’s something they simply must do. 

When I went to seminary, the leaders of my school realized that if we didn’t know ourselves, we could never know others.  Since pastors primarily work with people, they required us to get to know ourselves.  We took assessments and went through steps and read books.  We learned our personality and temperament, our work style, the role we most often play in a group, our strengths and weaknesses, and more.  I learned a lot about who God has created me to be while I was there.  I learned that it’s more valuable to improve our areas of strength and be the best (an expert) in one thing, than it is to be a well-rounded person who can do most things decently.

When I meet people who don’t feel they have a sense of calling, my assumption has been that they don’t know themselves well enough.  They haven’t submitted themselves to the battery of tests, to self-assessment, and to significant prayer time on the matter.  (I spent years in prayer and regular fasting before God finally told me to go to seminary and then it took three years until it was actually time to go.  But I didn’t give up.  I just kept asking Him what to do and where to go until He finally answered me.) 

But last week I went to hear Donald Miller, a popular author, speak and he said something that stunned me.  He said he doesn’t believe God has a specific plan for most people’s lives.  He said it isn’t a biblical concept.  He said God has a specific plan for some people’s lives, but it’s a small percentage of people.  He said he believes that when we’re born, we have a big, blank canvas in front of us with lots of colors to choose from and we make our own design on it.  That’s God’s gift to us – our free will – and our lives are our own to shape and design. 

That is a hard thing to hear for someone who has submitted herself to total obedience and is waiting for God to give me direction on the next steps in my life.  I believe God does have a specific path I am to walk and that my success in the Kingdom of God depends on my obedience.  I believe I can live a life of frustration and fear, as I have in the past when I wasn’t obeying God in all things, or a life of victory and joy through total obedience.  But if God doesn’t have a specific plan for my life, then who am I obeying?  Is it possible that I am painting my own canvas and obeying my own desires? 

My mind has been whirling with these thoughts.  As I went back over my life, I realized that there are a few times when I have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has spoken to me clearly regarding the direction of my life.  At times I obeyed right away and other times I allowed misery to overtake my life before I submitted.  I can look at the results of those times to convince myself, if no one else, that I had heard from God.

  1. God told me to move to Nashville, TN.  I obeyed and am very thankful.
  2. God told me not to date the sociopath, but I didn’t know why He was telling me that because the guy seemed great, so I ignored Him for a year, which led to misery.
  3. God told me to go to Regent University to seminary.  It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
  4. God told me to wait for a ministry position after I graduated and to turn down the secular jobs offered to me.  I obeyed and am thankful.

When I look at those things, those very specific things, it’s hard for me to imagine that God doesn’t have SOME kind of plan for my life.  All of them were hard.  At the time, they were all much bigger things than I could do on my own, or even wanted to do.  I know they are things I didn’t make up on my own. 

Once I got to Nashville, I didn’t feel any specific calling about where to work or go to church.  I think it’s possible that it didn’t really matter and God could work with whatever I decided.  Or it’s possible that He was guiding my every step and didn’t need to give me a thundering word of direction because I was stumbling upon His will without it.  I can think of many times in my life where that’s been the case.  I made the best decision I could make, given the information I had, and God has used it. 

I suppose it’s possible that I am one of the few people (in Donald Miller’s concept) who God does have a specific plan for.  But that seems like a terribly arrogant thought.  I don’t really buy into the concept that I’m special.  I think it’s narcissistic.  It seems much more reasonable to me that God does have a plan for everyone’s lives and we have to learn to listen and obey. 

I’m really struggling with this issue and would love to know what you think.  Here are a few Scriptures I found to support my point of view.  Is your opinion different?  Please post your comments below. 

Proverbs 19:21 (Amplified Bible)
Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.

Psalm 33:10
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught; He makes the thoughts and plans of the peoples of no effect.

Isaiah 46:10-11
1
Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose, calling a ravenous bird from the east–the man [Cyrus] who executes My counsel from a far country. Yes, I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, and I will do it.

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Lie to Me

He told me he loved me, but I kept noticing what he said didn’t add up.  I wasn’t trying to catch him in a lie, but I noticed one person told me one thing about him and another said something different.  They didn’t know they were contradicting each other.  I quietly observed his behavior, made mental notes, and compared stories.  I asked questions of others.  I discovered that he said whatever he thought I wanted to hear, then told someone else what he thought they wanted to hear.  He lied and schemed his way through life.  He lied to get our church to give him money.  He angrily accused me of all kinds of terrible things when I asked him questions.  He tried to convince me I was just stupid.  It ended in a big blow up with him shaking me in frustration, eyes bulging from his head, and screaming that I knew him and couldn’t actually think he was the monster I accused him of being.  (No.  Perfectly sane gentlemen shake their girlfriends and scream at them.  Really.) 

I threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave.  And when he finally left, I laid with my face in the carpet and cried for hours.  I wanted to call him back and tell him it was all a mistake and surely he wasn’t a monster.  It took me months to shake myself free from him, but I finally did it.  He was like kudzu, creeping in and taking over everything, looking pretty from afar, but full of poison. 

I met him soon after moving to Nashville.  I was 22 years old, ready to meet the man of my dreams and get married, and very, very lonely.  He was strikingly handsome – extremely tall with jet black hair and aqua blue eyes.  People regularly stopped us while we were out to tell us how good we looked together.  He adored me, pampered me, and made me feel like a queen.  We had fun together, seemed to have everything in common and complemented one another well.  Yet I felt constantly suspicious of him.  I knew I couldn’t trust him, but had no reason to suspect anything until we’d been dating for nine months.  I made it three more months with him, trying to work it out, unable to believe the truth. 

I was dating a sociopath. 

After this experience, I find myself very sensitive about lying.  I cannot stand to feel like someone is trying to manipulate me.  And yet, it still happens.  It happens because I am trying to be the sweet, kind, forgiving, gentle young woman who is gracious to all and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause discomfort to anyone else. 

Many times in the past I’ve been guilty of glossing over someone’s lie and hoping for the best.  I’ve quietly resented the person who hurts me, rather than speaking up and getting to the bottom of things.  I use the word “guilty” here because the right thing to do is to go to the person and discuss the situation with them as soon as possible. 

It is possible I’ve misunderstood or don’t have all the facts.  In that case, what does it hurt to ask questions?  Rather than silently watch them to confirm my suspicion, I can go to them immediately and give them a chance to set the record straight.  That does two good things.  First, it allows them to explain their reasons for the behavior in question.  If there is wrongdoing, we then have an opportunity to work on the problem together, apologize, and move on.  If there is no wrongdoing, it clears the air. 

If there is a problem and the person confronted refuses to admit it, then at least it lets them know I’m aware of what’s going on and might prevent the problem from getting bigger.  Secondly, it makes our relationship more real, more open.  It makes it a real relationship, rather than an acquaintance. 

When I don’t confront a situation immediately, hurt builds on top of hurt until there’s an explosion.  The explosion doesn’t have to be loud, and the other person doesn’t even have to know it has happened, but once it happens there’s often no going back. 

The problem is that confrontation is hard.  How do you look someone in the eye and tell them you think, for example, they lied to you or they are trying to control you through anger?  I want people to like me.  I don’t want to cause offense.  It hurts me to hurt someone else. 

Confrontation also opens you up to accusation.  When a person feels defensive, they often come back fighting.  They may throw wild accusations your way, and then their accusations might not be that wild.  They may know exactly what to say to hit the sensitive underbelly, the thing you work so hard on and don’t want to fail in.  That is NOT fun.

I write that the truth hurts because it really does.  It’s easier to just walk away.  It’s not so easy to say the hard thing, ask the tough question, and handle the anger or hurt that comes your way.  But if hurt, confusion, or pain isn’t discussed, something inside the person who has been wronged dies.  Maybe it’s the love they once felt.  Maybe it’s the respect or their self-respect that dies. 

You’ve seen them – the couples eating their dinner in silence, scowling at one another and looking around the room for anything more interesting to focus on.  They look like they’ve been married forever and would be happy if their spouse disappeared for good.  They try to talk, but they just end up fighting, so they sit in silence.  What happened?  Were they ever in love?  What happened probably wasn’t one big thing, but hundreds of little things over the years that they didn’t think they needed to discuss so they could keep the peace for today.  Then one day they woke up and despised one another.  They can’t point to one specific thing, but it’s there.  Years of resentment and anger and hurt, and if they try to talk about it now it just turns into an all-out war full of acid words and no understanding.  They are cowards who couldn’t talk about the little irritations, so when the big problems came they had no skills to deal with them either. 

Silence kills.

If I had stayed silent and continued dating the beautiful man with the luxurious lifestyle and black heart, what would have become of me?  I might have married him.  I might have had children with him.  And something inside of me would have died.

What’s your story?  Have you experienced anything like this?  I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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