When I saw Jeff look over at the delicious homemade black bean dip on my plate, I immediately felt defensive. I braced myself for the inevitable question out of his mouth: “Hey, that looks good! Is there any more left?” For one quick second, I actually considered saying no, even though this was a flat-out lie. (Thank heavens I have enough fear of the Lord not to lie about bean dip, for goodness sake.) Although I managed to avoid sinning over black beans, my response to him—“Um…yeah, some…”— clearly conveyed the feeling in my heart: “Don’t you dare touch my bean dip.” Jeff never spoke another word as he got up and made himself a sandwich. Unfortunately, the slight relief I felt at having leftover dip for lunch tomorrow was overridden by a tsunami of guilt. I thought to myself, “What is wrong with you?” I couldn’t imagine what would cause me to feel so stingy when, generally, it’s my nature to want to share. Instead of willing myself to do better like I often do, I decided to investigate what was happening in my heart. As is often the case, what I saw surprised me.

Before I share what I learned about myself, let’s pause to consider why it’s important not to overlook thoughts/emotions/behaviors that aren’t in alignment with who God calls us to be: Battling guilt and willing ourselves to ‘do better’ does not lead to lifelong transformation. You may feel like you’re ‘better,’ but only until the next time there is only one scoop of your favorite ice cream left in the freezer, and your spouse says he feels like some dessert 🙄. Secretly willing him to head for the stash of chocolate instead of the freezer will not disguise the lack of generosity in your heart. Trust me on that one.

If we develop the habit of being curious about our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without judgment AND ask God to help us understand what is going on inside of us, we are in a much better position to be permanently transformed from the inside out. And to be clear, I am not just referring to stinginess here. Any thought or emotion that tempts us to behave in a way that doesn’t line up with the characteristics of Christ is fair game. Here are a few examples:

  • Feeling jealous when someone else is blessed
  • Consistently judging others
  • Regularly saying yes when you want to say no
  • Feeling guilty when you say no, set a boundary, or rest
  • Allowing fear to keep you from stepping out into new territory
  • Fill in the blank________

Once you have identified an “issue” that’s popped up in your heart, it’s important to fight the temptation to push the ugly thing back down or just say sorry and move on. While it’s necessary to ask God to forgive you (if indeed you sinned in response to your emotion), repentance alone doesn’t guarantee that the root of the issue has been taken care of. The emotion or thought goes underground until the next time we’re triggered by a request, circumstance, or event. (Or, God forbid, someone else wants to finish off the last of the bean dip.)

If we’re not ignoring the issue then, what does it look like to dig deeper? Although there are many ways to skin that cat, it all comes down to asking the Holy Spirit to show you what is going on inside of you. That is exactly what I did the morning after the bean dip incident. After doing my own little routine to prepare my heart (which includes kneeling in prayer beforehand), I opened my journal and asked God to show me what the heck was causing me to get defensive about bean dip. (I may or may not have thrown my hands up and uttered, “SHEESH,” after my prayer. I felt more than a little ridiculous to have to admit this issue to God.)

It turns out that God took my request seriously. In my mind’s eye, I could see a small, filthy character—think Oliver Twist-ish— wedged into the corner of what looked like a dark cave. Complete with a dirty face and driver’s cap, this character was grumbling about only ever getting potatoes and water. He—at least I think it was a male—was carefully guarding something, which I assumed to be some sort of food. (Perhaps it was a potato, but for all I know, it could have been bean dip). I tried to walk up to the little guy, but as I did, he showed me his fangs, which caused me to back off. “Oh my,” I thought. “This is evil.”

Because this character was from a different era, I instantly knew that the root of what came up in me was generational. (Yes, generational issues can impact us today.) My maternal ancestors are from Ireland, which fits with the potato comment. I sensed the Lord was showing me that this ancestor—because of his extreme poverty—didn’t believe that God would provide his daily bread. He believed there would never be enough unless he hoarded his food or—ahem—bean dip. I recognized that this scarcity mindset—some would call it a poverty spirit—had been passed down through the generations. Although this was NOT what I was expecting to see in my prayer time, it made sense. I really resonated with that little man grumbling in the corner; I felt the same sort of stinginess rise up in me when Jeff wanted to hone in on my bean dip. I immediately knew I needed to get rid of the gremlin in my heart to be set free.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

What happened next was not your typical deliverance, but I learned a long time ago that Jesus has his own way of doing things. (Remember, he’s the guy who spit on the ground, making mud to put on the blind man’s eyes to heal him. 🤷🏻‍♀️) After telling the Lord that I was sorry that I allowed this generational pattern to continue into my life, I asked him to come and set me free. I wanted the gremlin out.

I next saw a flash of light which felt like an explosion in that dark cave. Soon after, the little man was carried out on a stretcher. He apparently survived the explosion but I could see that he was changed. The fangs were gone and he was resting peacefully on the cot. I sensed God was showing me that the grip of the poverty spirit had been broken. This is what happens when we trust that Jesus really did defeat evil on the cross. Every chain that binds us—greed, fear, anger, lust—is broken. This early morning experience with Jesus and the gremlin transformed my head knowledge about the power of Christ into an experience that touched my heart. The same thing is possible for you. However, you first need to acknowledge that chains may be there.

You never know what you are going to find when you take the time to consider what is driving your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Sometimes, there is a wound—often from childhood—that is informing your responses. Wounds can cause us to believe lies about ourselves, God, or our circumstances. Those younger parts of our hearts can also drive patterns of behavior that act to protect the tender places that are vulnerable and scared. For example, if you find yourself quick to get angry—even at seemingly inconsequential things—your anger may be acting to protect your sensitive parts from being exposed. I have found when I take the time to be curious about times that anger unexpectedly pops up, I find hurt, loneliness or fear sitting under the anger. Once those parts of my heart are tended to, the anger response becomes less of an issue.

Admittedly, it takes time to learn how to work with God to understand what is happening inside of you. Sometimes we get stuck and need to ask a friend, pastor, or professional to help us identify and be healed from unhealthy ways of thinking or behaving. Even though it’s hard and can feel uncomfortable, I highly encourage you to start somewhere. It takes zero skill to tune into the things you are thinking or feeling. Get curious and then ask God about what you are observing. Sit quietly and pay attention to what you are seeing, sensing, or hearing inside your head. Write it down and then ask God about it. These are some questions you can ask him:

  • What do you want me to know about this situation?

  • Is there a lie I am believing about you?

  • Is there a lie I believe about myself or my circumstances?

  • Where did I learn that lie?

  • Is there someone I need to forgive?

  • Do I need to seek help for this problem?

If you are stuck or want to process what you are noticing with someone, I can help! Contact me at: jeanie.hosken@restorationcenter.life

As always, I’d love for you to share your comments below! Is there something you have noticed popping up in you that you intend to get curious about?

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