1/12/18 Morning Musing: We Damage His Name…

After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.

I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.

We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.

We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.

We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.

We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)

We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)

We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.

We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.

We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.

We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.

We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.

We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”

We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.

We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.

I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.

How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?

My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.

Much love friends,

Beks

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4/7/15 Morning Musing: Choosing Pain

As I write this, I’m still not sure if I am going to post it or not.  A recent interaction with someone has me thinking about the many times in life I have been angry and also about the many times in life I have been hurt.  In the situations involving anger, I had a target for my anger:  a bully who had hurt my little boy, the man who poisoned my family, the guy in college who had broken up with me before I could break up with him, the woman who was taking my name and character and dragging it through the mud.  These people were easy for me to villainize (is that even a word?) in my head.  I could make them the enemy with no redeeming qualities in the story that was unfolding in my mind.

In the situations that hurt me, there was no target outside of myself to focus anger on so, instead, I found that I just…ached…for a long time:  empathy for a friend whose child was not behaving in a way that reflected their family’s values (on top of all the other problems she was facing at the time), knowledge (and identifying with) about how someone had violated their own conscience and was having to live with the fallout from that (it sucks to realize that you are the antagonist in someone’s story), the emptiness of a broken relationship that left me feeling like strangers with someone I used to be so very close to,  and the sadness and helplessness that comes from knowing someone is being lied to and can not hear the truth.

After you get past me depressing you so early in the morning, you will realize that the four situations I described being angry about are the same four situations that I described being hurt about.  So what the heck is my point?  Well, there are several points actually but I think they all support one theory that I have:  It is easier to be angry than it is to be hurt, but most of the time, hurt is more productive.  When I am angry, I tend to have a “bad guy”…antagonist…boogey man…enemy…someone to blame.  I can’t speak for you…but for me, when I have someone to blame, the feelings exist on the outside of me and I tend to quit looking for what virtue I should be learning more about.  I quit assessing my contribution to the situation and I tie a beautiful little bow around the neatly-packaged idea that this person is bad and that is why this situation occurred.  That makes it easier to break with that person and close off my feelings.  When I am hurt, however, I can’t tie a bow and dismiss the person/ situation because it’s in me…Inside…and the only person who can address those feelings is me.  Oh, I’ve tried covering them up, distracting myself from the feelings, and numbing them…but none of those work long-term and, inevitably, I end up having to deal with the feelings anyway.

So, again you ask, “What is the point?”  I think we learn from pain.  I think pain confronts us and demands (eventually) that we pay attention.  Why do people go the doctor?  Because some pain that they have is consuming their attention and needs to be dealt with.  If it was painless, it would be a more insidious illness…like leprosy (science geek-out alert:  leprosy causes severe nerve damage that allows the person to incur injury and not feel it.  This is dangerous because pain requires that we stop the damage from continuing.  Think about a hot stove burner:  If your arm brushes up against it, you jump away from the source of burning before you have time to think about it.  If you don’t experience pain though, you will stay in contact with the burner until some other symptom occurs (creation of smoke or sensing a burning smell.)  So, our pain is really a safety mechanism that is built-in to us to bring our attention to the situation and induce a change in our behaviors or actions.)  Anger, on the other hand, tends to be focused on someone else’s behavior.  It doesn’t require real investment or investigation…it doesn’t necessarily call for a change in our behavior or way of thinking…it’s more like a hand-grenade…it can be thrown at someone and then walked away from…and I think that ability to walk away from it is the attractive part…because it feels like power…it can be mis-interpreted as strength…but strength is not found in taking the easy road…it is found in a struggle.  Think about it:  how much strength does it require to have things always go your way?  How much strength do you have to develop in order to float through life?

So how are you doing with this?  Are you angry a lot?  Is it possible that you are angry because you are avoiding thinking about something?  Is God trying to tell you something that you don’t want to hear?  Think about the times in your life that you have experienced the most growth…what did you feel during those times?  What did you learn?  Now, think about the people you hold closest to you and reflect on whether it is they (those people that you love) or your enemies that have the most access to injuring you.  Anger allows us to distance ourselves from hurt…but in the absence of that hurt, we are also distancing ourselves from people, lessons that we could learn, and virtues that we could develop.

My prayer today is that we would slow down and evaluate some things:  if we are mad at someone, is that anger even legitimate or are we in denial about something?  What has God been impressing on us that we need to be working on?  Who around us is in pain and needs us to come alongside them and walk through it with them so that they don’t run away from the pain and become angry?  Friends, I am praying that you will find a way to get comfortable sitting in the pain and discomfort and that you will find truth and peace in it.  Much love friends,

Beks