Dealing With Dementors

If you’re a human, (and you no doubt are, since you’re reading and I don’t think otherworldly creatures read my blog), you probably often wonder “what if?” What if you hadn’t chosen this or that, what if you’d never decided to go out that day, what if you’d had a different family, or a different life entirely? I wonder that sometimes. Sometimes I just like to imagine things and sometimes, and other times, I look back and my regrets and I wish I could take them back. All those days, months, years, that didn’t go the way I would have written. I wouldn’t have written my story that way.

I really think life is much like a story, if you’re a writer (especially of fiction) you will understand what I mean. Writers pen things from their own imagination, the situation, the setting, all of these dynamic characteristics that make a story. When I write, I pick out the initial idea and the characters, but then everything just happens. My characters rarely do what I want them too. Maybe some writers control their characters, I’m sure Charles Dickens did (I really don’t like him or his writing, I doubt he was very artistic, I’m sure he was quite krumedgy). I often find my characters are writing their own stories. Not the ones I would have liked for them. They make all kinds of mistakes and they say things I really wished they hadn’t.

Characters are a lot like us. God has a story for us and sometimes we do things we shouldn’t, that aren’t part of the story. I think I’ll touch base with that some other time. But what a character does has a profound effect on a scene. We really have quite a lot to do with telling our story. There are a lot of things that we don’t control, and have no control over, things that happen to us. How we respond to them though, that’s a different thought entirely.

When I look back on my life, the grand struggles, those are things that I can pin point and say “that made me stronger.” It’s the daily parts that I regret the most. I wish I’d have handled things differently. I believe in times of grief, we have to express that emotion, but it’s when I held onto it past it’s time that I look back with regret. I really think there are a lot of things that are in our control. Like our attitude.

Emotions are not really things we can control, but we can control our attitude. We make the choice, whether we want to sit and think about all the what ifs, which will make us bitter, or if we want to change what we can change, and change our attitude. Regardless of how we got where we are, we have a specific set of circumstances, unique to us, and we can choose how we handle it. If I could change one thing about my past, I wouldn’t change what happened, but I would change my attitude.

Philippians 4:8 reads “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If happiness is key to life, why do we spend so much time thinking about what we DON’T have, and what we CAN’T change, and what ISN’T how we would have it? We can choose to think about the good. We can choose to smile. We can choose these things. As Christians Joy is at our finger tips, and yes there are times that are so heart-breaking we cannot smile, or laugh, or do anything at all besides cry and grieve, but I know we hold onto grief much longer than intended. I also know that we make our lives unhappy during times in which they could be very happy. Part of being human is that grief process, that process that we just drag with us, but if we could change it… wouldn’t we be happy?

People constantly say, “IF… THEN I would be happy” “IF… THEN my life wouldn’t suck” and I really think we can decide to what degree we are happy and how much our life sucks. Think about what is good. My Great-Aunt repeated this verse in a Sunday School lesson about worry. “Think about what is good. Don’t think about what ifs.”

I recently read a book called “The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio” a true story about a poor woman and her family of ten children in the 50s. Her husband had a drinking problem, and in some cases he was quite abusive. He didn’t make hardly any money. She raised her children winning writing contests for commercial products. She never said hardly one bad word about her husband. He told her “You’re too darned happy.” There was very little she could change about her life, with ten children and no real social protection at the time, she raised her kids with a smile on her face. Her attitude was inspiring. She never thought about a divorce. She loved her husband despite all the issues, she didn’t walk out on him or her 10 children. How many people would do that today?

Don’t think I’m saying we need to stay in abusive situations, that’s not true. But there are many times in our lives when we choose to bail, physically, mentally, spiritually, we go into this dark little corner of our souls and we think about everything that is wrong in our lives.

Of course things are wrong. This is the world. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. It isn’t a happy place. But we have hope. Eternal hope. Hope that is more true than the world and we can grab onto that.

We let little annoyances become huge problems in our lives. Let me ask another what if: what if we decided to NOT let those bother us? What if we chose that? What if we decided we were not going to sulk over things we couldn’t change, especially the small things. It takes strength and courage. So let’s build up to being joyful. Let’s start with thinking about whatever is good. There is always a bright side.

I know I’m an optimist. I wish I would have held onto that through the hardest times, that I hadn’t thought the worst about things. There was a time in my life that lasted a span of a few years, where I let my circumstances control me and darkness took over. I was paranoid, I lied, and it just sunk me. Don’t let yourself be sucked into the black hole.

I realize a lot of Christians would never reference Harry Potter in devotional, but I will. The Harry Potter books contain these creatures called Dementors. The Dementors are these black ghostish things, and they attack by pulling out all of the happiness in the situation, they feel dark and cold. To protect yourself against them you have to think of the happiest moments in your life. The happy things protect you.

“Dementor” attacks can be those what ifs, they drop you to rock bottom, they fill you with bitterness because of what you don’t have, regret of all the what-ifs, fear of the future, and just darkness.

Do not let your soul be torn apart by dementors. Don’t let the holes in your life outweigh what you have. Do not let the darkness of bitterness, poverty (in any kind), worry, or great paralyze you. You have to fight to be happy. Do it with the same kind of effort you would to save yourself from the “Dementor’s Kiss” muster up what it takes, to say in the face of your dementor “Expecto Patronum!” and think about whatever is righteous and lovely and pure.

We’re so unwilling to take our circumstances and make the best of them, regardless of what they are. We are where we are, and maybe we can’t change that. But we can change how we act. If we smile. If we will slink back to our emo corner of what-ifs or if we will live vivaciously with what we actually have.

It’s about being grateful for what we have instead of dwelling on what we don’t have. A song by Nicole Nordeman (gratitude) asks God for circumstances to change and then says: “Maybe not, not today maybe you’ll provide in other ways, and if that’s the case we’ll give thanks to you with gratitude.”

With gratitude we remember everything we do have: God. Have we forgotten, all of the sudden, in the face of our daily trials, what we have been given? Have we forgotten God is in control? Have we forgotten that He loves us? Have we forgotten not to store our treasure on earth but store it in Heaven? We are rich because we are heirs of God and what we have is eternal. Don’t be swayed from what is pure because you’re tempted by what isn’t. Don’t let the small things ruin your attitude towards joy.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”-Philippians 4:8

Don’t Look Back

If you keep looking back you will fail to notice what is before you.

In Genesis 19 the Lord is destroying the city of Sodom for their impurity, and Lot’s family is fleeing the city. The angels of the Lord told the family to flee, but in their haste Lot’s wife looked back to Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. Scholars speculate as to why she looked back. Perhaps she was afraid of what was ahead, perhaps she was too worried about her future, perhaps that is where her heart was. Regardless of why she looked back, she shriveled up into salt, like the rest of the godless city.

How many times do we sink into our own pasts? We relive times of struggle and also of prosper, and somehow grieve them so much that we are paralyzed. We become unable to see what is ahead of us, though we can’t go back. God is calling us out of a place that we don’t belong in.

A Song by Sara Groves says:

“I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt,

I’m leaving out what it lacks

the future feels so hard

I want to go back

But the places that used to fit me

Cannot hold the things I’ve learned

Those roads were closed off to me

While my back was turned.”

A family that believed in God, whom Abraham had fought for, did not belong in a city condemned for unbelief. We are not meant to become salt.

God is constantly calling us out of one moment and into the next. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time both looking back, and even dreading the months to come and I’ve been pretty unhappy with this particular moment. Suddenly I became extremely stir crazy. I felt so trapped and I didn’t know why. But the truth is, I’d come to make do in a place in my life, instead of being in Christ. I’ve been so locked in on what I don’t have and where I’m not, that my heart hasn’t been open. When you’re heart isn’t open, you can’t move forward, you become a pillar of salt. It’s like your heart dries up completely and leaves you motionless and discontent and feeling trapped.

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Everything else will fall away, it will crumble back into dust. We belong in Him, not in the ruins of a destroyed city or the remnants of the past. Today is alive and today is new.

Then Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know I love you.”

“Feed my lambs . . . Do you love me?”

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

“Take care of my sheep. . . Do you love me?”

“Lord you know all things! You know I love you!”

“. . .  Follow me!” (John 21. A conversation between Simon Peter and Jesus.)

Don’t look back. Not because you will be punished because you do, but because you won’t be able to move forward. Keep your heart open and your eyes on him. Follow him, and don’t look back, because you’re not going to want to miss this.

(Written December 2010).