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Healing Notes > Deal with your stuff-Pt. 1

25 Aug 2014

In our past conversations we’ve talked about how God is a God of wholeness and how He has called us to be whole, just as he is whole (Matt. 5:47). We’ve demonstrated that scripture clearly substantiates this notion. In our last discussion we talked about the first step on our journey to wholeness. The initial step we identified and expounded upon is the need to be totally sold out to God. This means absolute total commitment to His call to wholeness, holiness, and personal transformation.

The second step in our journey to wholeness is what we call “dealing with your stuff.” The word “stuff” means many different things depending on the source. One source defines “stuff” as inward characters, qualities, or capabilities, while another identifies it as unspecified qualities required to do or be something. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “stuff” as the material out of which something is made or formed.

The defeat of God’s people at Ai helps shed even more light as to the nature of “stuff.” In the Biblical record Joshua cried out to the Lord because God’s people had gotten whipped by the armies of Ai. Answering Joshua, God declared that their defeat was because one Israelite had transgressed His covenant. He identified the man as Achan, who had taken some of the accursed things. God said he had both stolen and deceived, and he had put it among “his own stuff” (Josh. 7:4-11).

Here, in the original language the word “stuff” means something prepared or any apparatus. RHK Webster’s College Dictionary defines apparatus as the means by which a system functions. A second source defines it as any complex instrument or mechanism for a particular purpose. Collins English Dictionary defines apparatus as the means by which something operates.

First, putting the various definitions together we could say that “stuff” is the inward unspecified material that forms certain qualities or characters of an individual’s personal psychological make-up.
Then, drawing upon the biblical definition, we could also identify “stuff” as a complex system or mechanism that functions or operates for a particular purpose.

Thus, we could identify “stuff” as the internal spiritual, emotional, and psychological energies that emerge and manifest through one’s personal attitudes, choices, behavior, and lifestyle. We could also say that “stuff” refers to the psychological apparatus or mechanisms that individuals develop to keep themselves from dealing with the fears, pains, or challenges of reality. Therefore, I would say “stuff” pertains to any perception, belief, emotion, or psychological or spiritual obstruction that keeps us from the fullness of God’s call to wholeness.

In Galatians, Paul presents a list of behaviors which we cannot categorize as “stuff,” but rather are outward indicators of that “stuff” does exist in the deeper regions of the human mind. He calls these behavioral indicators works of the flesh:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

So there is an association between what Paul calls the flesh and what we are calling “stuff.” The flesh refers to the self-centered and psychologically needy core that all of humanity has inherited from Adam, which was activated at the fall. When an individual embraces the salvation of the Lord this core is still full of the unhealthy and defiled stuff we’ve accumulated since the time of our conception up to, and even sometimes beyond our initial salvation.

Some of this “stuff” is inherited, some is transferred from others, and much is embraced as we attempt, in our neediness, to cover, hide, or defend our spiritual, emotional, and psychological vulnerabilities. Usually we are not aware of this thing called “stuff” because it resides at an unconscious level and initiates its influence and operations from this hidden place.

Considering this, we can see that the behaviors Paul speaks of are just a manifestation of the spiritual, emotional, or psychological dynamics that lie below our conscious level of thought. It is this potent unconscious energy that we are speaking of when we make reference to “stuff.”

For example, an individual’s sexually promiscuous behavior is usually the manifestation of a deeply rooted wound or violation that occurred during childhood. The shame, fear, or emotional pain associated with the incident usually causes the victim to bury the reality of what occurred deep within the recesses of their unconscious mind.

Or, say you have a person with control issues. This person may cause strife and division because they are always striving to control individuals, situations, or personal agendas. In this case the controlling behavior is a surface manifestation of a deep inner need to never be hurt, manipulated, or to feel vulnerable again. Again the source of the behavior is most probably linked to some childhood violation, wound, or a deep unmet need.

Therefore, “dealing with our stuff” goes beyond looking at the outward appearance, and instead involves gathering the clues and evidence that helps us to identify the root cause of the problem behavior. It involves identifying the psychological apparatus or mechanism that holds the undesirable behavior in place. It requires a willingness to take the time, effort, and energy to identify, defuse, or dismantle the psychological mechanisms or systems that keep an individual from advancing toward wholeness. This is what we would call “dealing with your stuff.”

One of the major problems in “dealing with our stuff” is that we are all born as totally insecure and vulnerable creatures that are dependent upon those that surround us. We count on them to give us positive reflective feedback. In this early state we are intensely hungry for messages that affirm and confirm our legitimacy as valid human beings. Any positive reflective feedback we receive in our needy state is immediately used to reinforce our personal sense of value and to enhance our self-esteem.

However, if the feedback we receive diminishes, damages, wounds, or undermines our personal sense of value, then, we create strategies we assume will produce a form of feedback that confirms our personal value and worth. The strategies we develop manifest themselves as attitudes or behaviors that we’re convinced will get us the positive affirmations needed to establish our sense of personal legitimacy. It is our innermost perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and values that join together to become the strategies that we implement in our efforts to attain the spiritual and emotional fulfillment that only God can provide.

Unfortunately, in convincing ourselves, we actually deceive ourselves into thinking our self-manufactured strategies will work and that we, on our own, can help ourselves to achieve spiritual and mental health and wholeness. But, as we’ve noted before, it is only through the salvation in Jesus Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit that we can even begin to move toward legitimate wholeness.

Now that we better understand what the phrase “dealing with your stuff” means, we can turn to reviewing and discussing several God-given strategies that will help us carry out God’s mandate to be whole as He is whole. That will be the focus in our next section as we seek to answer God’s call to wholeness. 

Ivan Doxtator