Tuesday, March 19, 2019

contempt for self-righteousness, contemplation of trust

A self-portrait this might as well be, because I relate intimately with what I say here. But it’s not just about me.
In today’s world, there is far too much Pharisaic self-righteousness and posturing going on in plain view. Especially by ‘God’s strong/powerful/anointed/anything-else-pumped-up-full-of-pride-you-want-to-add leader’. Such a leader, though they may not see it, is becoming a dinosaur.
The Pharisee is self-righteous, claiming their truth is God’s truth, claiming their right to say it as it is, collateral damage be what it may, which is code for, “I’ve got every right to communicate what comes to my mind.” They will not be dissuaded. And anyone who’s had a modicum of success in their chosen field, and has remained successful for quite a time, is most susceptible to this gravest of flaws of self-deception.
You cannot rest on your past achievements in the postmodern world. Society will rip everything you ever had right out of your grasp the moment you’re seriously exposed.
Is this hard to hear or detestable to read? Possibly. Better this than the pit of fiery hell. Better look at something heinous as a possibility than look the other way and potentially miss some maleficence present.
Don’t worry. I’m there. I know it eventually when I travel down that lane. As I share my thoughts with my wife, about externals that rile me, whether there is a hint of right-thinking in it or not, it all comes out wrong. I am right in my own mind, yet unequivocally dangerous if unchecked. My wife adds no attention to it, and God speaks through a deafening silence: “Stop it, already… it’s not the issue anymore, it’s your attitude… I’ve got the issue, trust me to deal with it, but drop the attitude.” Everyone around us can stink the attitude but ourselves.
Why are we resting in our performance, what we’ve achieved, the books we’ve read or authored, the people we know or please, the possessions we control? These are all taken away in a flash. All they are is cheap jewellery, and none of it can be taken with us.
Here is the paradoxical dilemma: awareness of self-righteousness offers the opportunity of confession and repentance — the way of light and of life, through the purging of pride and conquest for the receipt of humility and wisdom. Whenever we’re unaware, or choose to remain unaware, our lack of insight will drive us down a path toward destruction of others and of ourselves.
Hear that? Self-righteousness is a road to ruin for others and ourselves. Nobody wins. Abuse occurs. And, possibly worst of all, dozens or droves are deceived into the bargain, as blind guide leads the blind into the path of self-righteousness that forges a calamitous path of destruction for all, without anyone ever knowing it.
See this acronym of T.R.U.S.T. to contemplate:
Trust is a matter of a total reliance on that which is always sovereignly true. We have nothing. God has everything. Let’s be honest.

Photo by Arthur Miranda on Unsplash

Monday, March 18, 2019

Which ‘spirit’ spoke that to my spirit?

“Stop writing, just stop it,” I felt a spirit say. I thought it was God’s Spirit, but later I have come to discern it to be another spirit, and every spirit other than God’s Spirit ought not get a second’s hearing.
But they do.
We ‘hear’ many a thing
and many a thing we act on,
without wondering if
the ‘voice’ is a benevolent one or not.
I wonder if God is about to say something. I wonder if in being so discouraged, so oppressed by this spirit, that I’d be prepared to lay down and go completely ‘off the grid.’ God has been saying to me, “Go gently.” He has been saying to me, “Keep repenting.” And I have heard God say, “Get prepared.”
But at no time has God been saying to stop writing. Why am I writing this?
Like usual, there is a flurry of salient thoughts circling through my mind. Any and all of which I could write on. But the biggest matter of discernment is what and how to write — to simply write is easy. Please forgive me for the many times I miss the mark when my discernment is a degree or three off.
What I write won’t be for everyone. There seems to be a narrow band of humanity that resonates with what I write. I’m on my own journey about this. It is much more important to me that I write what’s right than what tickles certain ears, but in saying that I’m often tempted to tickle ears. That said, I’m simply blessed to be allowed to write — that I haven’t been barred by now.
I am still getting to my point.
We all have the huge spiritual task of discerning what we say (or write), think, and do. Soul deception is part-and-parcel of being human. We’re all tempted to go those places within ourselves where angels flee. And we wouldn’t go there if we knew it were wrong or stupid. But we do find ourselves in situations where we instantly regret finding ourselves there.
I was reminded by a friend recently, in her study of Deuteronomy 28, that the blessings are written succinctly, but the curses are written in a long-winded fashion. We do find that our lives are enormously complicated for the times we ran, like Jonah, far from God. Yet, life is inordinately simpler (though not always ‘simple’) when we endeavour along God’s narrow path.
The world is amess with spiritual conflict. We too are like lambs before our slaughterer, but for the grace of God that has already gloriously accounted for us. In the meantime, before glory, there will be trial and temptation and tumult. We will discern wrongly. We will miss our way. We will do things that reveal to us our idolatry. We will stumble and we will occasionally fall. And yet we’re already saved. We’re already secure. We have nothing to fear other than a lack of awareness of our fear itself.
And yet we’re free as birds,
to cavort with God’s Spirit and Presence
as much as we trust.
As we listen within the context of our lives, discerning the best we can, our opportunity is to inquire, “Is that you, God, who is speaking to me… or is it some other spirit?”
I struggle to find a way of describing God’s benevolent voice, but I know an example of what the opposite spirit is like: it’s when we’re right-in-our-own-minds, convicted and convinced to the point we’re no longer able to dialogue, and when we’re set in our view, unable even for God to jar us open.
God loves a contrite spirit within us that is vulnerably courageous and open. Into such a spirit, God speaks, without a semblance of our soul’s resistance.
When our hearts battle pride, however, faith is seen to give way to fear, and another spirit may speak.
Stay soft even when life is hard,
and God’s Spirit will be your guard.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Don’t be troubled if you find yourself troubled

Television commentary and the conversation between a Newsagent and their customer summarised the consumption of our lives now. Only one thing bears talking about. We’re at a loss to make any sense of the tragedy.
We want to use our words, but they fail us. How can it be, with thousands of words at our command? But words are finite and pliable to the understanding. Words mean nothing if we cannot understand what happened.
We want to expend vitriol for vitriol, reminding ourselves, if we’re wise, to not even go there. There is such a term as a ‘troll’, and trolls don’t just attack to pierce the front guard; many attack by subtle mind-bending means, and others are just plain brutal in their pathological honesty.
We want people to stop saying silly things, but we also recognise that all of what this dredges up is complex. The more we plumb the depths of ethics, the more ethics comes back at us with conundrums we cannot reconcile.
We want these events out of our minds, but we just cannot seem to escape them. But likelier we’ve felt guilty for not wanting to bear an infinitely easier burden than those close to the scene or heart of the victims.
We want life to return to normal, but again we feel guilty for thinking this, and we somehow compensate by raising the tragedy to communicate, not least to ourselves, that we feel disgust, empathy, horror, ashamed, sorrowful, powerless, useless — and myriad form of other words to express emotion — all at the same or varying times.
We want people who stand for these atrocities to suffer — anything really to make it feel a bit righter. But there is no way we can even begin to right some wrongs. And these people who say such insensitive things (and that differs markedly, depending on where our sensibilities lie) make us incredulous.
We want some end to the suffering that humans bring on humans. We cannot stand it when preventable tragedies happen. Each of us wants it all to stop! “No more!” can be heard echoing as a bellow from deep within our souls.
One thing we can know is this. In being troubled in any number of ways, some of which we cannot even be conscious of, we must face that we’re being overwhelmed. We must become aware of this. We must wrest a semblance of control back. We must turn from rage and disgust and indignation, which are all understandable emotions. We must turn and run from these secondary emotions into the primary emotions of our fear, our sadness, being honest about how vulnerable we feel, and run to the only thing that can soothe us — love.
What we think about most, grows, as Dr Caroline Leaf says. As we venture backwardly, step by step, cautiously and trepidatiously, avoiding the precipice we were about to plunge over, may we hear the Echo of the Ages — “Come to me, child, and be comforted. I will heal your moment and each continuing overwhelming moment, as they each rise.”
Honesty and humility will take us inevitable to love. There are so many things we can never hope to control. 

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Impact of Stress on Relationships, Mental Health, Life

We’re usually unconscious of the impact of stress on our relationships, mental health, and our lives.
We simply do not reconcile the role of stress and how it affects our mind, body and soul.
We do not see how our thinking is compromised; how we become somewhat disabled cognitively, and no matter how much we normally bear chaos well, stress pushes us over the precipice. We feel overwhelmed, at a loss, out of control. We lose equilibrium. We panic. We stop trusting.
Think about the role of stress on relationships. Imagine if our thinking is burdened by a problem we just cannot solve; worse if it’s several. No matter how much we want to spend time with a loved one, we simply can’t be present with them. And then when the loved one seeks our opinion on something, we reveal ourselves as not being with it, because we cannot think about the matter. We don’t have the mental capacity. We cannot give ourselves to them and to the present moment.
They may instantly think we do not care,
hardly imagining the stress we bear is consuming us.
Even if they can understand, there must be resentment or sadness at the very least, that we are there in body, but we present as a shell. They think it must be about them. This annoys them or sends the message that we don’t love them. But, of course, we do.
This doesn’t just impact on them. It impacts on us as well. We, ourselves, are disappointed that we can’t be present in this important family situation, which causes our stress to compound. We feel guilty and ashamed for failing them. We are to be understood for getting angry. Even getting angry at our loved one, who we least want to be angry with, but it just happens to be they’re in the firing line, because they’re the ones we’re with.
We have a situation where both people are feeling hurt, and without the capacity to apologise, in being bravely and humbly honest, there is a recipe for entrenched conflict. All because of stress. And nothing because we didn’t love each other. Indeed, it’s because we love each other that we trusted each other with how we felt — and with stress, that’s messy!
The fact is stress impacts every single one of us. Nobody has full control over their life. In every single person there are buttons that can be pressed, no matter how composed others see that we are. We all have vulnerabilities.
Stress impacts on our mental health. It has a role in contorting our self-image, where we can come to doubt ourselves, and even come to a crisis of self. If we bear stress too long, it impacts on our mental health and sense of wellbeing. And many of us know what it’s like when we’ve been ‘too strong’ — in other words, stressed — for too long! It erodes us, like cancer to our bodies, stress seems to metastasise in our soul.
What can we do about stress? And can we manage it so that it doesn’t disrupt our relationships, and mental health, and other facets of our lives?
Awareness is key. Even as we keep tabs on how we are going mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, understanding the role of time and priorities within the context of our needs, we will benefit. We all need time to exercise and sleep. We all need to eat correctly. And we all need time to reconnect with ourselves and with God. We all have needs, and these that are mentioned are the tip of the iceberg.
I think stress is destined to keep us busy through circumambulation. What this means is it is a constant in our lives. We keep coming around to the same place. It’s as if God is trying to teach us how to correctly deal with stress. Just like, as a peacemaker, I believe that conflict is an opportunity, so too I believe stress is an opportunity; to observe in ourselves and others, to learn from, and to grow through, as a means to ultimately mature.
What could be the vision be in harmonising the stress in our lives?
That we would have the patience and the forbearance needed when we are stressed, to just back off ourselves a little. That we would anticipate the stress would arrive sooner or later, and not be so surprised and annoyed about it. That we might also understand the role the stress in others; bearing with them in their terse responses, and through kindness, give them gentle cause to reflect on their lack of grace, without ever coercing an apology out of them.
Remember that grace is undeserved favour, and just like we would like to be forgiven when we overstep the mark, we ought also to forgive others when they may do it.
For the stress we bear,
for any lack of care
or angst we share,
let’s receive what God gives,
knowing the person who receives lives,
because our Lord forgives.
So we ought to forgive
ourselves and others too.

Photo by Riccardo Mion on Unsplash

Monday, March 11, 2019

the only ‘Special’ Christians are Supposed to exemplify

As Christians, especially if we’re leaders in any capacity, we have a task — to exemplify a fundamental, biblical quality. We’re to be ‘special’ in only one regard — in how ardently we carry our cross as we follow Jesus.
There is nothing more unique
especially in this Twenty-First Century day
than a person who bears their cross.
This, we call holiness…
There is nothing more common
than a person, Christian or otherwise,
who falls for the common deception
of their own narcissistic specialness.
This, we call sin…
The problem can be this, especially in organisations with church in their name: that leaders and members and attenders see their church, their denomination, their movement as special. It’s a paradox.
This is because the only specialness they can bear, biblically speaking, is they would deny their specialness in favour of bearing their cross. Their denial of their specialness, their awareness and their rejection of it, in favour of preferring the specialness of Christ, is what marks them as special. Their behavioural response will be to bear their cross, which is an uncommon glee that is only possible through Christ.
The Problem with Specialness
“When a narcissist is exposed, their horror is about the damage
it will do TO THEM to be accused
and they believe that others are failing THEM
by getting in the way of their ability to live out their specialness.
— Diane Langberg, PhD
It’s this quality of narcissism. Far too many churches and church leaders see themselves as special; inwardly, within themselves, as more special than the church and church leader down the road. Far too many Christians are ‘fans’ of popular church leaders. And heaven help you if you cross someone trying to live out their specialness.
This devotedness to a particular church or church leader’s specialness is sickening. In glorifying the leader or the church or the message we fail to glorify God.
God does not get what God deserves,
and a human or human system
gets what they don’t deserve.
Beside this fact, such adulation is unhealthy
for the humans and the human system.
In glorifying a certain leader, we highlight their God-nurtured talent and God-given gifts, all too often without highlighting the Talent Nurturer and Gift Giver.
In glorifying a certain church, by making one entity ‘special’, we highlight what is ordinary and average and unbecoming in other churches.
All churches and all leaders
and all followers of Christ are equal before God,
not for what they do, but for whose they are!
The problem with specialness is we begin to read and believe in our own press. It gets the better of us, because we are all susceptible to pride. Any leader who has open reign for an extended period needs to be doubly aware, because they are especially susceptible. (Read the Old Testament lately? Nothing makes us any better than any of the sinful rulers of Israel. As they were human, so are we.)
The Specialness we’re Called to
We are special, but not for the reasons in the previous section. We will never get our heads around how special we are. But we do get close when we open our Bibles regularly. If we were to open up to Luke chapter 14, and read those impossible words of Jesus’ in verses 25-33, those words about what the Kingdom requires, we will soon learn the specialness that the Kingdom values most.
The specialness we are called to is
the specialness that highlights
to others their specialness.
How often do we succeed in attaining to the specialness that we are called to? I can tell you, personally speaking, not that often, which is a good thing. If I was constantly aware that I was succeeding, I might focus on how well the specialness of the Kingdom works through me — and that would breed only pride. See how tendentious and how precarious this is?
God knows we are all special. And what should be obvious to us is the fact that our specialness to our Lord is not a specialness we are to boast about. We are special because we are made in the image of God. Every single person. And this specialness is enhanced only by a behavioural specialness that sets us apart from the rest of the world — the fruit of faith and repentance that looks not to self, but to God and to others, elevating others for God’s glory.
Only as we live this life fully devoted to Christ can we bear the full weight of our cross: which is to live as if we have died, so that others may live basking in the glory of divine favour, and may simply ask, “How might I die to self in order that another might live?” — of a sense, using what has become a worldly concept, albeit uncommon, to pay their love forward.
Until we give up what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose, we will never truly understand the Christian life, and the abundance that has been set before us, with which we are to take hold.
How will we know we are living the true Christian life? We will know this when we are truly delighted in not getting our way.
In order to reach this halcyon way of life, we must attain awareness of those times and situations of our specialness apart from God. These truly separate us from God’s Presence.
Our Lord can only abide with those who no longer wrestle and wrangle for their own way.
The moment we fully jettison our sinful cravings,
is when God’s Presence fully joins us in the moment.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Thursday, March 7, 2019

When life gets you down, remember this

Last week’s sermon was the toughest of the 150 or so I’ve preached. I contrasted two experiences of forgiveness; one that was easy, and one that seems impossible. I am still confounded by the contrasts: one involved about as much hurt as a human could suffer, which was resolved miraculously by what can only be explained as God’s grace; the other is an enigma that still leaves me shaking my head, perplexed at the things that have happened, and how such things could happen to us, by such people, at our lowest ebb.
But I resolve that the good Lord has a purpose in these experiences and their paradoxical contrasts.
Allow me to share a little of the first experience. So compelling was the grace of God in my life at the time, I was not only gifted the ability to forgive the most hurtful thing that I or anyone could imagine, I was granted the ability to understand and to work with the new reality that had turned my life upside down.
Not only that, so rich was the presence of God that no matter what happened, most days nothing could extinguish my hope; not heat nor cold, nor 30-kilometre treks on day-long fasts. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — most days — I found myself sort of impenetrable. And I rode that wave, a personal renaissance, all the way to the beach, the approach of burnout, over a year later. Grief had won for me, grace. I was a transformed life.
At the hardest time of my life, when lament was a fixture, I also experienced an inner joy and a hope that propelled me forward. The only explanation I had was God. Only God could use the absolute worst experience to fundamentally break me down and build me back up into a far more authentic version of myself.
The second set of experiences, plural because they span several years, and because of the level and complexity of the issues, even years later, are the complete opposite. At times I struggle to see God in it, even if I can see God working out the plan we think we can see for our future; the meaning for our lives in what we have endured. It is not yet the time to say anything more at this point.
I say the following based out of both experiences.
Having been freshly confounded, the Spirit of God ushered the following words through me:
it’s all small stuff
all of it
The reason I saw the life upending challenges fifteen years ago as opportunities in the main was because I saw how small this world was, how small I was, and how big God and eternity’s plan were. Then I was able to see how anything and everything that happens to us is small in comparison to what is ahead.
“… we look not at what can be seen
but at what cannot be seen;
for what can be seen is temporary,
but what cannot be seen is eternal.

— 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NRSV)
God reminded me that ahead is where I’m to be focused as the plan of my life caters for what is behind.
God already has in hand what is behind me, even if I cannot see justice in it.
It is hard to let go of those things that were traumatic. Perhaps we are not being asked to let go of that which we cannot let go of, but maybe we are being called to move forward anyway, trusting that God will redeem it.
For us, those issues that hurt us seem so big — I can tell you, to me, they are! God wants us to see them differently, however. Our Lord knows how much they hurt us. God knows us through and through, in many ways deeper than we can ever know ourselves. If we trust this, we will trust God. And our Lord may move us onward in this trust to a place beyond our present stuckness.
I believe God gave me it’s all small stuff for a definitive reason… for every struggling season.
God needs me to move forward, even amid the days I’m confounded. God needs me to move forward, because it’s good for me to move forward. What’s good for me to this end is good for all those who love me.
Shall any present issue shipwreck our faith because we insist our truth be validated? This is a good desire that has become a demand. God won’t bless such an insistence.
Insistent wishes that become demands
become idols and they dominate and then torment us.
Our only hope is to ‘let go and let God’. It’s the only time I’ve seen God work. As parents we wouldn’t let our children get away with coercing us, would we?
Our big issues are big issues, and God knows it and we must trust that God does know it.
It’s a gift to be able to see that it’s all small stuff and not to sweat any of it — and even when we do, to return (repent) to the view that it’s all small stuff, again and again as much as it takes — for “fretting only causes evil.”[1]
It’s our only hope.

[1] See Psalm 37, especially verses 7-8.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

300 minutes to freedom

Two months of soul-searching and it all came down to this. Two men, alone in a loungeroom, to do the business of trust for transformation. Nothing kooky about it. Just two men trusting God. And to think I’ve done this many times over the interceding years with and for other people.
What I’m talking about is what people in the Twelve Step program call Step 5:
“Admitted to God,
to ourselves and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.”
The Twelve Step program is a program that leads us to true faith through repentance. There is no faith without it. And the faith involved in this Step is the risk we take to be condemned when we share all sorts of sordid secrets about ourselves with someone who could judge us but probably won’t.
Do you see the conundrum for the person about to spill their entire corpus of sin in the presence of another human being who may be disgusted?
Until you’ve been in a position where your back’s against the wall and recovery is your only option, you don’t know what guts that takes. To step into the cauldron, not knowing whether you’ll be fried or not. Sensing you should be safe, but having no assurance of such a thing.
For me, it was five hours (300-minutes) on a balmy Sunday night.
We started at 7pm and went through until I was finished at Midnight. Charlie, my sponsor from Kwinana, was marvellous, especially during those times when I struggled to share — for guilt and shame — and at the teary times as well. A man’s man, tattooed and bald, thickset with a jaw to match, his grin conveyed confidence that you wouldn’t mess with this man, who seemed to belong on a Harley Davidson.
Two months I’d been on an intensive reflective meditative exacting searching moral inventory — using the seven deadly sins — greed, anger, pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, lust.
Lust. Pride. Anger. Gluttony. Envy. Greed. Sloth.
A couple of those really stung. How do we even begin to utter words, even to another man, about how lust has been an issue. It reveals such shame. Pride. Phew. Anger… woah, more shame for my lack of self-control over my emotions.
As I shared, Charlie just listened. A labourer, he was a master counsellor — an AA sponsor (mentor). Occasionally he would interject to gain clarification or to encourage me to continue. But mostly, he just listened. And with his grin, he conveyed complete and utter unconditional positive regard. He never missed a trick. He listened to fifty or sixty vignettes that night, that conveyed the kinds of common depravity that I’d engaged in over my thirty-six years.
I learned a lot about counselling practice from this kind of encounter. I experienced such compassion when I so richly needed it.
300-minutes to freedom. The very next day I woke with an impenetrable purpose. Within days I was baptised in the Holy Spirit for the first time; with no human evoking it. Within weeks I was darkening the door of the church again. Within months I was leading a life of Christian discipleship. Within a year I was enrolling in theological seminary.
But freedom is a spiritual possession.
Those 300-minutes instilled in me the belief that I could be brutally honest with someone else, telling them my most shameful stuff, and, not only that, but that this sharing would liberate me.
No longer would the enemy have power over me because of my disclosures, and the life of disclosure that I learned wisely to maintain.
We must have space where we can share the worst parts of ourselves, and not be judged or condemned. We must have a place where the trauma we bear can be shared, such that the abuse we’ve suffered is heard and believed. We must have a place where weakness can become strength, no less through the courage to share what is most vulnerably ours. Most of all, we must have a safe place!

Words in above photo are mine.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A time to cry, a time to deny

A friend told me of a unique encounter within a familiar situation. Upon meeting a lady organising a work event, she discovered, that very moment, she had lost her best friend to cancer the day beforehand.
The encounter went like this:
LADY: “Oh, hello, I’m [her name] … oh, I’m really sorry, I need to take this, it’s a funeral director… [answering her phone]”
MY FRIEND: “Oh, that’s okay.”
LADY: [After the call] “I’m really sorry about that; unavoidable I suppose.”
MY FRIEND: “It’s really very understandable… some things just have to take precedence.”
LADY: “She was one of my best friends, and I have to deliver a eulogy at the funeral” [beginning to become teary by this stage]
MY FRIEND: [sensing the need to distract the lady to protect her dignity given it was a workplace situation] “So… would you like me to talk about something else?”
LADY: “Please, would you? We don’t even know each other; and we meet over these circumstances…”
MY FRIEND: “It’s okay… hey, this might seem like an odd question, but, what makes you laugh?”
LADY: [Somewhat stunned, a grin appearing through watery eyes] “Oh, that’s got my attention… now, let me think a minute… oh, of course, it’s actually my husband — he’s a laugh a minute; dry and very pathetic is his sense of humour, but I love it. He always has me in stitches… his goofiness… he said this the other day…” [two minutes later, the overflow of emotion in the lady had subsided]
MY FRIEND: “Thank you for sharing that. Your husband does sound funny. How are you feeling now?”
LADY: “Strangely, better. I think I’m okay now. Thank you.”
And there it was. A first-conversation interaction that took ten minutes.
Not all distractions are equal. Not all serve the moment well. But this one did.
There’s a time to cry. It’s not healthy nor wise to deny our grief. But there’s also a time to deny it in order to be distracted enough to get through an awkward moment, especially when we’re most vulnerable, and especially in very structured environments. Moments here and there. Amid grief we still hold down jobs, care for children, and run other activities in our lives. Times when we need to feel in control if we can muster it.
Whilst it’s wise to attend to our grief there are many moments during the grief process when we need distractions, so our lives don’t completely fall apart.
Distractions are not denials if they’re used strategically to keep us focused on what we need to do. Of course, there are days and moments when no amount of distraction helps; where we cannot deny our emotions, because they swarm and overwhelm us.
As we help people in their grief process, we’re wise and gracious to discern what their moment is as we help them. It’s always about them and what they need.
If there’s one thing a grieving person has, it’s a regular lack of control over their mental and emotional state. It’s good for a grieving person to have some control over when and how they choose to cry and deny.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Those who live as The Unforgiven

Something has bugged me for some time. Like a gnawing itch I couldn’t scratch. Now I know what it is. Thankfully.
God led me to a song. Not a Christian song. But a sociological song. It is The Unforgiven by Metallica. I’ve loved the song and the band for years, but now it speaks with relevance to a piqued mind.
The lyrics for the song would be for many, dark. But they’re real! Reading the lyrics, I get the sense that this is a man’s life that is all too typical in a world where serial existential trauma impacts all men and women.
Sure, many adapt and learn their resilience, which is inspiring to think, if that’s you, you’re a world-beater.
But too many we know live as the unforgiven.
Too many live out of reach of God, who may think they’ll never be worthy, who may be seething about this scourge of a world or a ‘god’ that never protected them, who genuinely feel lonelier than they think anyone else lives. Too many have never measured up in the lives of their dearest kin. Twenty percent of the population with scars from childhood loss, abuse and trauma. So many who never adjusted. There’s the man who has unresolved anger issues that spoil his relationships whenever there is a second or sixty-second chance given; who has given up. Or, the woman who cannot resolve unrelenting loneliness, whether she’s in a relationship or not; who quietly despises this ‘man’s world’. And we can too easily, and unjustly, rationalise these responses as ‘they weren’t resilient enough’, or many other categories of ‘worse’.
If we truly reflect, we who engage with some kind of growth journey do not adroitly understand the person who feels they don’t fit into society. You may read this and think, “Hey, that’s me!” or you might think, “I get you; it’s not me.” If you’re part of this latter group, you have people in your life who do not fit. It’s the ache in your heart that they would. And it may frustrate you that they may not share that desire.
If we take The Unforgiven as an anthem for those who are displaced — those who may never have felt placed in the first place — we can begin to open our hearts to the idea that they may not want we want for them. Perhaps there are other steps beforehand.
They may wish simply to be understood,
and not to be ‘healed’.
They may simply want to be believed. Maybe they would take much less from us than we really want to give them. Maybe our fears that they may take too much are utterly unfounded. Maybe they don’t want what we think they want. But maybe they truly want something that they have no idea about yet. Perhaps that thing we also have no idea about. Maybe we’re all about to learn something.
I can think of people within my own family who would, in an honest moment, say that they cannot understand this world. Many of your families would be the same. Some of this sentiment sits within me! Some days I can tell you, I do seriously wonder. It’s probably a big part of why I’m a person of faith. I cannot do this life without God’s help. It’s as simple as that.
Those who live as The Unforgiven
live as unforgiven for a reason.
It’s for us to seek to understand.
The healing of God’s Holy Spirit that we’re all after is for someone in real living skin to get close enough to us, and, without being a threat or being threatened, show enough curiosity to simply understand, validate, believe.
Compassion is as simple as endeavouring to understand the other person. That is nothing if not a willingness to understand. God’s got the rest.
Living as forgiven is as simple as accepting we’re forgiven. But that’s a journey for us all in acceptance that leads to freedom.

Photo by Heng Films on Unsplash