Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Circle

Picture a hula hoop. Any color you like. (Mine's red and sparkly. Like my MiniPod.)

Now imagine you're standing. (Because I know you're sitting down right now. Who goes online while they're standing up? Well, I guess...maybe iPhone people.)

Now put your imaginary arms over your imaginary head. Your imaginary hula hoop will now drop out of the sky, travel down your imaginary standing self, and fall imaginarily to the ground around your imaginary feet.

Got it?

Okay. That's your circle.

(If this is beginning to sound familiar, that's because I alluded to it in an earlier post. Or because you're wiser than me.)

Now. Here are the rules of your circle.

1) You can never get out of it. It goes wherever you go. Like the bottom wire of your hoop skirt. Or like personal space, only less tangible.

2) No one else can ever get into it. They're in their own circles.

3) The things inside your circle are your responsibility.

4) The things outside your circle are not your responsibility.

5) God put the circle around you.

Understand the rules?


Now. Here's the next part of the concept.

You have a relationship with all the stuff inside your circle and all the stuff outside your circle. You have to DO something with all of your circle stuff. What you do with your circle stuff is determined by whether or not the stuff in question is inside your circle or outside of it.

Your job, with the stuff inside your circle, is to faithfully obey.

Your job, with the stuff outside your circle, is to faithfully entrust it to God.

If you try to do the stuff outside your circle, you're trying to do God's job.

If you don't do the stuff inside your circle, you're trying to get God to do your job.

Trying to do God's job is pride-based. ("I can do this better than You can, God.")

Trying to get God to do your job is also pride-based. ("I'm too important to obey You, God.")

Clear as mud?

Let met give you a few examples:

Becky reveals painful details of past mistakes to husband. Becky expects husband to say, "I love you and I forgive you." Instead, husband says, "Looks like you sure made some bad choices." Becky feels crushed and wounded. Becky's husband feels misunderstood and frustrated. Becky goes away and pouts, then returns and rails against husband for having wrong response. Husband gets defensive, claiming Becky is loved and cherished, which he feels is a given. Becky claims she needed to hear it again. (And again.) Fight escalates.

Then Becky remembers her circle. She acknowledges that husband's response is outside her circle. She entrusts husband (and his *&%^ responses!) to God and stops trying to control husband. Becky apologizes for having iron-clad "Response Expectations". Husband apologizes for thoughtless response. Becky and husband kiss and make out up. (Ahem.)

Here's another example:

Son speaks harshly to other son. Becky intervenes and tries to lovingly help harsh son's heart soften. Harsh son's heart remains harsh. Becky exits encounter discouraged by son's harsh heart. Becky feels like parenting failure.

Then Becky remembers her circle. She acknowledges that she is responsible to guide and direct her son. That's inside her circle. She is then heartbreakingly forced to acknowledge that son's response to her guidance and direction is outside her circle. Becky painstakingly entrusts son and his harsh heart to God, who covers Becky with His peace and reminds her that He is parenting with her, and that her son's heart is not outside of *His* circle. Whew!

And another example:

Becky feels guilty for living cushy American life removed from worldwide persecution, famine, pestilence, etc. Becky feels so overcome by world's problems that she can't sleep, and her body shakes uncontrollably (in a fibro-ish kind of way). Becky views her life as ethereal, utopian, unrealistic, meaningless.

Then Becky remembers her circle. (Actually, if you read my earlier post, you know this is the point at which the circle was first introduced, by our beloved Velma.) Becky examines her life and what tasks God has given her to do. She accepts those tasks and strives to faithfully obey God for the stuff inside her circle. Becky acknowledges that worldwide persecution, famine and pestilence are outside her circle. She entrusts those things to God. She also begins praying for four specific groups of people, as advised by the wise Velma. She now prays regularly for a friend's ministry in Tanzania, a friend's ministry in Florida, the migrant workers within a five-mile radius of her house, and the next-door neighbors. Velma reminds Becky that prayer makes a difference, and Becky sees there actually *is* an aspect of world trauma inside her circle. The praying-for-them aspect.

Are you getting the picture? I have more examples. Here's one:

Becky feels overwhelmed and discouraged and scrunched because house is cluttered, dishes are moldy and laundry is rotting. Becky wishes she had a maid. But she doesn't. Becky acknowledges that her home is inside her circle. So she cleans it. Becky no longer feels overwhelmed, discouraged and scrunched.

And here's another example:

Becky's friend loses job because of employer's financial difficulties. Becky's friend says, "God made me, God loves me, God has a plan for me." She then proceeds to shine like a beacon for Christ like a blushing bride, overwhelmed by the joy of trusting God. Becky asks, "Who are they going to get to take over your responsibilities?"

Friend says, in bubbly, laughing voice, "You know what? The funny thing is...I don't actually care! God has released me from that." It's outside her circle.

And another example:

Friend asks Becky for honest opinion. Becky tells friend the truth. The truth hurts friend. Friend is angry with Becky. Very angry. Becky is scared of losing friend, so considers falling back on old pattern of saying whatever friend might want to hear.

Then Becky remembers her circle. Becky acknowledges that she forgot the "in love" part (again). Becky apologizes for her harsh words. Friend does not forgive her. Becky examines her circle. She sees she has been faithful to apologize to friend with true remorse and concern for friend. That's inside her circle. Becky leaves friend's unforgiving spirit in God's hands. That's outside her circle. (And Becky asks God to please, please, please help her to remember the "in love" part next time.)

And finally, the last example:

Becky's friend communicates false information to her. Becky believes friend. Becky discovers information is false. Becky feels hurt. Really hurt. Friend takes no responsibility for miscommunication. Friend never apologizes. Friend tells her she is delusional. Friend shows no concern for her feelings. Friend is defensive and self-focused. Friend turns out to be fear-driven, perpetual victim incapable of being a true friend at all.

Then Becky remembers her circle. She acknowledges that every single thing concerning friend and friend's behavior are outside her circle. Except one thing. Forgiveness. Becky is responsible to forgive friend. Forgiving is inside her circle. Friend's behavior is not. Becky argues with God for many moons, questioning His methods of dealing with friend. Becky tries to tell God how to do His job. God is immovable. (Shocking, I know. I can't *believe* He didn't want to do it *my* way.) Becky reexamines her circle. She chooses to faithfully obey God for the part inside her circle. By God's unsurpassed grace, Becky forgives friend, lets go of desire for vengeance, and entrusts friend's sin, repentance, punishment, healing and restoration to Almighty, Trustworthy God. Becky is free.

So. Does your circle make sense to you? I hope it does. I hope you get it and love it. It will totally set you free.

I can't tell you how many times in the past eleven days (since I learned about The Circle) I've realized with a relieved, joyous smile, "That's outside my circle!" and gone merrily on my way, focusing on the things regarding which I am to faithfully obey. Like writing this blog post.

But let me make one point very clear. I could never leave anything at all outside my circle if it weren't being deposited into the hands of the Creator of the Universe, the Eternal King, the Master of my heart, the Lover of my soul, the Lord of ALL, the Savior of the world, my Provider, Healer, Strength, Shield, Confidence, Deliverer, Sustainer and Friend.

All the stuff outside my circle is being taken care of by my good Abba Father...and yours.