Why does it take the pits to remind you of how incredible your life is? And why is it I know I’m headed for the pits so often of my own volition and take every small step knowing what I’m doing? A tremendous man by the name of Francis de Sales wrote something that hit me like a brick between the eyes, because it’s so true. Writing about devotion to God, he says, “Since little faults committed in the beginning of a project grow infinitely greater in its course and finally are almost irreparable, above all else you must know what the virtue of devotion is…” The funny thing about his quote is that I already knew it, and I say the same thing nearly every week when I meet with a lady from my church struggling to gain a sense that she is loved. We talk often about the small steps we can take each day to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ and seek a deeper relationship with him…which she struggles with because of the darkness she lives with on a daily basis. Walking with her is at once deeply painful and beautiful as I’ve seen her inner healing take place one conversation and prayer at a time. And the funny thing is, she thinks I never could go through this, even though I remind her every time that the reality of my life is no fun cakewalk all the time, (nor that of any Christian anywhere, for that matter).
On top of de Sales, I’m reading a book by an amazing fellow named Erwin Raphael McManus, who leads an innovative, really wonderful community of followers of Christ in LA called Mosaic. In one of his books, he writes about atrophy…the deadly disease afflicting many churches and Christians today; the one where we settle into maintenance mode and protect what we have while forsaking our mission to change the world with the message of freedom; all the while not realizing that we’re rotting from the inside out. Atrophy. A nasty word, with a nasty meaning.
You know, the funny thing is, it takes a convergence of four to five different influences to show me the obvious thing I already know…for the past few months I’ve been in maintenance mode while showing a good front to others I know…my spiritual life is in full atrophy. The most important and lifechanging influence came tonight, when I signed on to try to write out the numbness I live with right now, randomly searched the name of one of my friends, and happened upon a blog that reduced me immediately to tears. Now, given, I know this woman…but I also went to college with her, and even though we weren’t much more than light acquaintances, she reminded me again of what life means…of the significance of what the world considers to be one small personal decision…heck, why should I tell you about it? Read it for yourself…http://www.livejournal.com/users/rmille68/4800.html
New life is beautiful…it seems the routine that often follows this massive shift in one’s life ends up denying what that new life represents. Very deadly. I hate the front Christians (including me) put up that everything is perfect and “sin-free” because they’re afraid to let others in on deep wounds they carry…rebecca was real about her struggles, and I’m sure she’ll have more. Her honesty cut through the wall I’ve set up to separate myself from God here recently. In reality, I carry significant issues that I struggle with on a daily basis; some that are parts of me that don’t want to die from earlier in my life, and others have arisen over the course of the past couple years. And those issues are important enough that they wound me deeply…and I’m so afraid to share them with others because a)I’m a guy, and we struggle with that, b)I’m the de facto pastor at my church, and c)this is a recurring, habitual issue. There’s guys in my life who know what I’m going through, but I’m afraid to share with them because it shows my glaring, refuses-to-die weakness I carry. So I’ve ignored it, ran from it, as a result ran from God, refused to share deeply recently with anyone, and have found myself bitterly cynical over the past two weeks. Spiritual platitudes and false fronts work out in the public arena, but my self-respect and inner life are (I should say “were”) dying on the vine. Rebecca’s story woke me up again…immediately placed me back in the reality of my actions (which hurt bad…the purity and intensity of this feeling was ironically a tremendous step for me), and reminded me of my calling.
I had a conversation with a guy at seminary the other day, and he said, “Most Christians don’t recognize the reality of what their life means and how their actions ripple in eternity…but we’re called to be shepherds of our congregations, and we are held to an even higher accountability because we are leading others: how important our life, our decisions, and our leadership is!” I agreed, was blown away by this truth, and immediately after this moment of epiphany, I jumped on my computer and destroyed my heightened awareness of the impact of my decisions. After all this (if you read this far), you may have thought I was skirting around the issue…like any self-respecting Christian would, right? I struggle deeply with maintaining a healthy approach to women. Women were created by God beautiful, complementary to men, tremendous examples of the diversity of God’s creation, and wonderful partners to walk through life with; especially in marriage, the ultimate and most amazing creation of God…that a man and a woman could make a covenant to share life together and walk together through the ups and downs of life, could become one sexually in God incredible design that merges not only the spouses’ physical bodies, but carries emotional and spiritual union as well. This is God’s creation. Women are created by God as amazing examples of his intimate meticulous care in his creation. But the world has twisted the way we view women, and the nature of sexuality. We have substituted the beauty of sexuality expressed through marriage for impulsive one-night stands or a long line of relationships…we have taken the beauty of women and turned it into a commodity, into an industry in pornography that destroys a wholistic understanding of who women are and reduces them to flesh; in short, a vagina and a pair of breasts. I am at once sickened by this and still deeply caught in the cycle that started for me in the tenth grade…given, the time that passes between my falling into viewing women in this fashion is much fewer and far between, but still deeply hurts the same nonetheless. I am a king of rationalizing my decisions away, somehow proving to myself that what I am doing is ok, while knowing that what I’m doing is perpetuating the cycle all along. In the words of Paul, “What I want to do I do not do, and what I do not want to do, I do…what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
I continue to be confounded with what seems to be the slow and painful death of the priorities and aspects of my life before Christ…at times I continue to be so caught up in my struggle that it seems to be futile. “Little faults committed in the beginning of a project grow infinitely greater in its course and finally are almost irreparable.” I’m on the slow, arduous, painful journey away from a life consumed with my selfishness and twisted desires to the truth of what it means to be a disciple of Christ…I’d be fooling myself if I thought this would ever change. I know we are called to live with joy and freedom in this journey, but I’m also aware that there is a season for everything, and this dark night is the reality I exist in right now. It’s funny how no one really knows this…but yet some random person from the web will happen upon what I can’t tell to those closest to me because I’m paralyzed by my fear that I will be judged. How screwed up is that?
Thank you, Rebecca, for showing me how beautiful the light is. You know, it’s weird…I feel like the light’s just around the next turn, and I know that the only thing that will make that light a reality is my willingness to fall down at the feet of my Creator and truly repent…maybe I should stay there for awhile, instead of mumbling my apology and turning around and doing the exact same thing again.