I could see clear as day two weeds that had grown into my butterfly bush. My child could not. So, I take that weed by the root and it slides right out. Her eyes were big as saucers. Cue the lesson. When we don't deal with the weeds (sin patterns) in our life they grow into us and become an integral part of our identity, a mistaken identity. Even though you don't see it, and you thought it was part of the plant, it didn't change the fact that it was a weed. This turned into a teachable moment for us and one that I was able to use later for my class.
During separate conversations with different people this parable came to mind. The message was loud and clear – when we don't deal with the "weeds" of our life, they become our mistaken identity.
A specific example of this is "same-sex attraction." The general consensus seems to be either “applauding” or “throwing rocks” at it. In the meanwhile, all I see is just one ginormous distraction from the actual issue. The issue being a person's unbelief; and that, dear friends, is a much bigger concern. Back to that teachable moment: When we don't tend to our garden (rooting out sins), we allow the weeds to become our [mistaken] identity.
When discussing worldview, we talk about how the Christian story unfolds. In general we tell it in three [or four] categories: Creation - Fall - Redemption - [Restoration]
In Creation, we talk about being created in God's image and how we see ourselves and others. When we discuss the Fall, we talk about how sin is parasitical to humans; how it dehumanizes us (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings). You don't take a person who has the flu and discard the entire person; you deal with the bacteria, the actual virus, the weed. Are you with me? In Redemption, we discuss how we must repent. Admitting we are wrong is very different from owning the fact that we (in our sin) are (were) enemies of God. In order to be free from the bondage of our sin, we must repent; and the fact that we would reduce it to a shrug of “admitting” our failures puts us in the bleachers with the Pharisees and Sadducees, not at the table breaking bread with the Jesus.
Then comes Restoration. Jesus said flee from sin, not from sinners. If you saw someone about to get hit by a car would you keep walking? I would hope not! Likewise, when people are entangled in sin we don’t run in the opposite direction. We don’t jump into traffic either. Instead, we redirect them away from it. If they choose to stay in the lane then it is their choice. We gave it our best effort, but I doubt that you’d stand by and wait to get hit by traffic yourself. Bear with me; I promise I’m building up to a point.
In order to embrace a mistaken identity, we are telling the Master Gardener that we don’t want Him tending to us anymore. STOP!...We need to realize that there is a conversation to be had here. What would lead anyone down the path of unbelief? Everyone has a journey and I am interested in having that conversation. While conversion is between them and God, I want the person to know that I am able and willing to have the conversation. However, more often than not, what I find that really troubles me is the "Christian applause." Because we don’t have sound theology and we are not grounded in our Biblical worldview, what we are left with is but to be a clanging cymbal and “approve” of the weed that has grown into their person.
We’re typically uncomfortable discussing these issues because when we do it's usually with condemnation and our fingers pointed at each other. We either become "isolationist," in the name of Truth, you know the ones that are quick to condemn you to eternal fire; or we become "accomodationist," in the name of "love." We become the "Yay! Love is love; it’s your bedroom, your business; you only live once, live as you please no one can judge you" crowd. NEITHER is a healthy option.
We have lost the ability to be theologically educated. We are no longer teaching theology and doctrine in our churches. We are not allowing the Word of God to pierce our souls. We are not training the body of Christ to seek the Word in every area of our lives. When we don’t bring our Sunday into our weekday, we are unable to take every thought captive.
Back to the book of Mark. In chapter 9, after Jesus heals a young boy the father cries out, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!"
If we are going to honest, we have all struggled with unbelief. I know when my mom got cancer, I struggled. I watched her get healed only to watch her die. I can't tell you the number of times I cried out, "Lord help me with my unbelief!!" We are afraid of confessing it as if Jesus can't handle it. I think it's primarily due to the fact that we [the Body of Christ] are really lousy at responding to someone who is struggling with unbelief. We give them the standard "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" verses; and yes, while that is theologically accurate, sometimes people just need you to bake them a pot roast, cry or even scream with them! We think we have to be armchair theologians and provide the right verse for the particular issue and we don't. Really, we don't.
I've had friends call me to just vent. During their venting, I simply pray. If God wants me to say something, let Him give me the words. Otherwise, I break bread with them and offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. I commit to pray for their unbelief; I will not celebrate it.
True story, in my past life I received more emotional buy-in [support] from my postmodernist thinking friends than I had ever received from a Christian. They certainly helped me with my unbelief; they helped it get stuck in neutral (more like throwing it into overdrive); and as a result, I turned my "unbelief of Christ" to a belief in ME!
Know this, Satan has simply repackaged the sin of pride, just like he did in Genesis. Same sin; different packaging. He is still selling the line, "You know better than God; it's all about you;" and when a crisis hits, the culture says, "Do what makes you happy. We are proud of you and we will support you." However, I realized that when I asked God (not man) to help me with my unbelief, He did. He brought people in my life that simply loved me well. They were His hands and feet. These people spoke Truth into my life in a most loving way. Praise God for these people that had the courage to love me with Truth. Unfortunately, I also had a peanut gallery encouraging me on to do what was right in my own eyes. I, too, had a Cortez moment: should I burn the ships and commit my life totally to God and His Word; or should I walk away, knowing that if I did I was in fact rejecting the Truth for my man-made version of it?
Here I am, pot of coffee in hand as I face the many challenges of this Christian life, and I'll be honest it is with a heavy heart that I blog today. As I survey the culture, I feel like retrieving to my hobbit house and throwing in the towel. People are hurting. I won't throw out trite answers, nor will I spew out the latest in Christian pop-psychology trends as an antidote for their pain. I won't seek a scapegoat because there isn't one. I will simply weep with them and bear their burden as best as I know how, and as the Lord directs. I also find myself praying that when (not if) the storms of life come that my children are surrounded by friends and adults that will speak Truth to them.
I ask that the Lord keep at a distance the "Pontius Pilates." In John 18, when Jesus was asked who He was and why he had come, He stated that He came to the world to bear witness to the Truth. Do you see it? Truth and Love. He is the Truth and He showed us the greatest love of all (and no it is not loving yourself) at the Cross. Read it for yourself [John 18]. Well ol' Pontius Pilate retorted just like the culture does today, "What is truth?” As if to say, “Who cares? Okay people, if you want to kill the Truth, here He is."
While I've periodically prayed for the Lord to surround my children with friends and adults who love Him, the recent events of our life demand a more specific prayer. I pray for protection from Christians who hand out "cheap Grace," as well as those who mishandle His Truth in a harsh and critical manner. Surround them, Lord, with people who love You too much to mishandle Your Word. Should they lack wisdom, may they ask You, Lord, who gives it generously.
May we, the body of Christ, never place ourselves in a position where we applaud sin. Just like we would not applaud a person who says they are addicted to porn, they had an affair, or that they have an anger problem. All of our sin requires repentance. It is imperative that the Church body understand and lives the inconvenient, uncomfortable and life-saving Truth of the Gospel.
Lastly, let's not shy away from challenging topics. We don't have to have all the answers, that's what God is for. If you are in a season of unbelief, scream if necessary but call out to the One with the answers. If someone trusts you with their unbelief, speak life-giving Truth to them. Get out the crock-pot make a pot roast and break bread together as you feast at His table.
To be fair, I didn't realize any of that until I became pregnant with my first daughter. During my pregnancy I panicked as I had learned from Scripture that sins of the father visit the future generations. As God would have it, He surrounded me with wise counsel and a Christian Counselor walked with me through the Scriptures as we talked about un-confessed sin. We spent much time in prayer; and, as a result, I felt I had overcome this hurdle. Then my daughter was born. I couldn't believe I could love a little human so much that my heart would burst.
During my second pregnancy I experienced this sort of brain-fog mixed with nausea mixed with yuck. I felt like I would vommit on a daily basis, but I never did. At 11 weeks, I thought I had miscarried. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it was evident that a loss had in fact occurred. While at the hospital waiting for the doctor, the staff takes me to get an ultrasound so that I could obtain closure prior. I was ASTOUNDED! There on the screen in front of us was my little girl, dancing and leaping with joy! My emotions were all over the place. One thing is for sure, I began to wrestle with the silence.
I found myself face-to-face with my child at 11 weeks. Elated that she - not it, not a glob of tissue - but that my baby, a little person, was ALIVE and I would meet her soon. It was at this same age of development, just 19 years prior, that I took the life of my other child; you know the one I referred to as "choice;" the one society had convinced me was just a "glob of tissue." For the first time that realization weighed heavy on my heart. How had I become so comfortably numb? Didn't I confess this sin? What happened? Just then I realized that the culture still had a stronghold not just on me, but on the church. I had been sitting in the pews of denial along with all my other brethren…silenced.
After losing one of my babies and coming face-to-face with LIFE in the womb, something changed. I had no idea what it was, but I knew parts of me were awakened. During this time, I did do one thing right, I prayed dangerous prayers. I think God loves it when we struggle and ask those questions that we're so afraid to ask. Only then can He take us on the journey we've been reluctant to take. God really shows off when we pray those kind of prayers!
I (erroneously) thought that Christians had to have it all together and far be it from me to stick out as one that didn't. I went from being in bondage to my sin to being in bondage to “looking good” so that I would be accepted. I am eager to report that I am free from both.
I grew up in your standard Catholic Hispanic household. My mother, being disenchanted with the the Church, left it for a cult that promised to not only teach but also research the Bible so that you would know without a shadow of a doubt that you were finally free in Christ...or so they said. Among the many errors that I was taught in the name of "research and teaching" was that a child wasn't alive until it took its first breath at childbirth. In the meanwhile, when I would travel to visit my grandparents in Puerto Rico, my grandmother, short of dunking me in the baptismal font, would work diligently to catechize me in the doctrines of the Catholic Church. I made it through three sacraments, but that didn't stop me from having an abortion at the age of 17.
It should have come as little surprise to anyone that the culture was the most successful influence on my thinking. Descartes' would be proud because as a result of my "research" I had fashioned a god after my own thinking. I regarded all things of a religious nature to be oppressive and I was eager to be free of them. I wasn't an atheist; I couldn't even pass for a good agnostic. At best I was apathetic. I found myself in the throws of the modern culture trying to be a "good girl," but when your compass points to all things you, it's a recipe for disaster.
Let's fast forward through years of bad choices. I was at a crossroads and before I could make the commitment to atheism I had to, as Nietzsche put it in The Parable of a Mad Man, 'kill god' in order to legitimately move on with my life. God is not mocked - especially not by a self-professed intellectual like myself. During the process of ridding myself of all things religious, I realized I didn't have enough faith to be an atheist. I surrendered; but more importantly, I repented.
Soon after I surrendered all, I remember sharing my story with a Christian girl I worked with. The very next day she requested to change departments; she wouldn't even look at me. I remember thinking, THIS is what you saved me from and to?!? Really?!? I was wounded by her rejection, but I knew I couldn't turn back to who I used to be. It muffled (shamed) me into a corner. I decided to keep myself looking and smelling good just so I could stay "in community." God had wiped me clean, but His followers had decided I wasn't "clean enough." The end result: I went from apathy to sitting in the pews of denial with the rest of my brethren.
It would take me several years to realize that I wasn't the only one that had been "silenced." No matter what people had said, when a person like me openly lamented their sin, the people couldn't handle it. They would immediately rush to judgement and/or the internal comparison game of "Whoa! She was bad!"
Eventually God called me to share, but I would only do so in one-on-one situations. A couple more years later, a pastor I deeply respect told me it was time for me to share my story to a wider audience. He carved time out of his hectic schedule to minister to my heart and my fears, letting me know that it was no longer "my story," it belonged to God and I needed to be available to how God would use me. Shaking and trembling, I spoke at his church. I thought that was it and I could now go back to my "hobbit hole," but God said, "Not so fast."
The next step was to "formally" equip me. I trained with "spiritual giants" and I was in awe of their kindness. They loved me with the Truth and I was able to connect the dots of my past to the present. God has proceeded to place me in situations where I would be asked to speak. I speak, even when my voice shakes; and trust me, it shakes.
My calling is to love people with the Truth of God's Word in a winsome manner; to remain steadfast in His love; and pray for God to do His work in both my life and that of the brethren. As I survey the landscape of the Church, I hear the silence, LOUD and CLEAR. I see more clearly than ever those who have been muffled into a corner and those whose busyness is their idol. I see people who forgot, or even worse, never learned how to lament. The end result is a weak Church with either pointy fingers or bleeding hearts because they fear the rejection of the crowds. Maybe it's both. I've lived it. I get it. I am free. I am no longer silenced.