Before Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he spent 40 days in the wilderness. Before those 40 days he was baptized in the Jordan River. Water dripping off of Him, God the father spoke providing Christ with his true identity. "This is my son. I love him. I am pleased with Him." (Di's version) Then boom, the Holy Spirit lead him into the desert and he suffered temptation from Satan. Those temptations were for stuff (bread), fame (cast yourself off the building and let the angels save you), and power (rule the earth).
This is what I heard in church this morning. What follows is what I thought.
At 9 I was baptized. I didn't really understand, try as I did, what grace really meant but I knew it was important. A few months later, bam, I found the pornography that caused me to pull away from my human father. This left a huge painfully confused gap in my soul. I no longer had someone to speak my identity as a child's father should.
At 14, a college student shared his recent encounter with Jesus and this time I understood. I gave Him my heart and experienced the love of Christ within. A few months later, my cousin told me of her abuse at the hands of her brother in law but instead of running the other way, I ran to him, hungering for the attention.
At 17, I was engulfed by the Holy Spirit after crying for weeks to God that there must be more to this Christian walk. Within the month, Bob arrived on the scene as my new youth pastor and I chose his affirmation of my feminine self over what the Lord had to give me. For the next 4 years, hell reigned on and off in my life. And, for all these years since, I have battled against shame and the hunger for attention and affirmation from those in authority - whether it be church or school or work.
Three major steps in my life followed by three major temptations - all that I failed to conquer. Thank goodness Jesus did not fail, for in my failing, there is now the mercy and grace of God to hold on to.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
I have been reading Philip Yancey's book, What Good Is God? For several years prior to my beginning this blog, as well as the first year or so of writing it, I questioned God's existence. Reading anything faith based caused such enormous anxiety that I avoided it in order to survive each day. Then my sister-in-law mentioned, in passing, her love of Philip Yancey's writings. I bought her a book she asked for and simultaneously purchased The Jesus I Never Knew for myself. Later I bought What is So Amazing About Grace.
These two books were the only faith based writings I could read without experiencing panic. Yancey asks the hard questions honestly and without wincing. In reading his books I found company. I was not alone in my questions.
During this season, my faith was literally reduced to the cross. I discarded much, questioned all, but when faced with the gift of Himself for me I knew I still believed. The cross was too radical to be fiction.
An agnostic I worked with once mentioned the ridiculousness of a God who would sacrifice himself. In response, and to my own shock, I responded: "That is exactly why I believe. No one would EVER make up something so ridiculously illogical." In all the other religions, god's are demanding not giving. This one element, grace, became the only sure truth for me.
During this season I sought the answer to why? "Why did this happen to ME? Why, TWICE in my life, did a pastor sexually exploit me?" From this question came terrible conflict. I saw only two possible answers - either something was wrong with me or something was wrong with God. Either I deserved the abuse or God did not love me. I vascillated between my anger at myself and my anger at God. Shame was the ultimate result.
Through the struggle, I found a third option - free will. God granted the human race free will. God is love. Love means relationship. Relationship can only occur in the presence of free will. I got to choose. Bob got to choose. Minton got to choose. The church got to choose. Sin resulted in pain. Pain I have lived with for 40 years.
However, not only have I experienced the pain but Jesus has felt every ounce of it - at least this is my belief. He feels my pain. What sacrifice.... Jesus gave up the distance between the throne and the world's pain. He knows within his consciousness our pain. This leads to a different "Why?" with the only logical answer being relationship. God so desires relationship with us that He is willing to give us choice and accept our sin and pain.
Without free will there is no love. Without the freedom to choose, my husband's love for me is empty. If I do not have the freedom to leave, then my love for him is robotic. Only in free will can we love each other.
In the end, the question as to "Why did this happen to me?" is no different from why did 9/11 occur or why did the holocaust happen? The answer is in relationship. God so longs to relate with me, his creation, that He cried as abuse occured but by letting go, something all parents must do, He gave me Himself.
In that gift of Himself there is no place for blame. Abuse did not happen because He did not love me enough. Abuse did not happen because I deserved it. Abuse happened because God and Jesus love me so much they would not take free will from me or the rest of their creation. In that reality, I suffered but I did not suffer alone.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Over the past two years my heart has longed for a church that allows the lay people the opportunity to pray for others and to minister healing through that prayer. Two months ago, my husband and I began visiting around for the place God wants us during this season of our lives. The day we walked into CCC we both knew this was it. The Spirit was sweet and the people loving. More importantly, the church was being the church. Sure you could spot one of the pastors because he had the microphone on, but without that you would be hard pressed to figure out who were paid ministers and who weren't. I had given up hope of finding such a place where lay people are being equipped to express their gifts.
The excitement has given way to fear. The gifts of God bubble up inside of me only to be snuffed out by what seems an irrational and unfounded fear of being rejected and unwanted.
I attended a crisis recovery group last week sponsored and staffed by the church. I was so nervous my heart started palpitating. Here is the opportunity to share. Here is the chance to give instead of take - though I fully expect to receive plenty. Here is what I have longed for.
Instead of running into the Lord's calling, I could not go tonight. To share with someone else, my addictions and shame (it too surfaced again) is too frightening. Just when I thought I had my identity firmly outside of the past, the past rears itself to cover me once again in the shame. Will I ever break free of this monster?
One scripture has helped. "Jesus endured the cross, despising (refusing, rejecting, ignoring) the shame...... Jesus refused to embrace the shame of being crucified. He endured the most shameful experience of his day, but he did not allow it to define him. I may feel like the one thrown out of the church, the one shunned, the one forgotten, but by HIS mercy I can turn my eyes to the truth. Not once has God forgotten me. Not for one nanosecond has Jesus discarded me. Never has He shunned me.
Jesus, son of God, savior, have mercy on me, a sinner! Help me not to turn to men's approval again but to yours. Set me free, Lord.
Posted by di at 9:24 PM