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A Year Later…

August 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Mark Halvorsen reminded me this morning what a crazy year it has been for me. He’s right. I forget about it sometimes. It made me feel known having someone come up to me and express compassion for all I’ve been through in the last 12 months. Coincidentally, I also looked at my timehop today. This is an app which shows what you did exactly 1 year, 2 years, 3, etc on social media and messaging apps and the like. On it was a conversation with my mother which gave me a time reference.

Yesterday was exactly one year ago when I confronted my father about the many Craigslist emails on his phone where he was soliciting women and I gave him 24 hours to tell his wife about it. Today is a year from the day she found out. Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of the day he drove off to Kansas to be with another woman and her family. Whew, right?

Also this year, there was a massive church divide, controversy, blow up… not sure what you want to call it… that I was very close to. It was really difficult for everyone involved. It was especially difficult for me (not saying more difficult than for others or anything like that, but I’m trying to communicate how it was hard for me in a unique way) because there were a lot of sides in the conflict. For those who know me, you know I often have a hard time taking standard sides in most binary oppositions because I disagree with everyone equally in different ways.

So, I agreed with a lot of the message of one particular side of the church breakup. I also think some of the ways the people handled it on the side were sometimes simply out of fear, were mean-spirited, misrepresentative, destructive, and I think some people just jumped on board because it seemed like the opposing group was right without thinking through it themselves. Still, I found myself agreeing with many criticisms this particular group had, but I was afraid of associating myself with them because of their methodology and what I think is an over reaction, or at least the wrong reaction. I found myself wanting to side with the people I perceived to be victims only to find that, from my perspective, some had turned into perpetrators and demonizers of their fellow human beings. Additionally, I have a closeness to and love for many people on the multiple sides of this particular issue. So I never know how much to say, how to insert my perspective into the conversation, or whether doing so is even the right thing. I’m not the best person to evaluate the situation as I haven’t been directly involved in the church for a long time anyway, but still had some pretty strong thoughts about most things. At any rate, I felt like I couldn’t take any side and the whole situation made me feel lonely and heartbroken. I’m holding back tears right now as I ramble through this.

In addition, my Grandma on my mother’s side died. This was a sad event, moreso in the middle of everything else. Dealing with the added sorrow and honestly, feelings of guilt on my part for feeling like I mishandled her final years was hard. I didn’t know how to handle them well, so I didn’t do near as much as I could have. I didn’t do enough to pursue relationship with her in the twilight of her life. Grateful for my family members who did.

Anyway, long year. I also had normal life stuff which carries with it its own frustrations and difficulties. I’ve had to deal with home issues, friend issues, other family issues, church issues, wife issues, money issues, job issues, etc. Most importantly, I still live with the same struggle with sin everyone else does, with a heart that needs to die daily to sin and experience repeated rebirth in Christ through the loving forgiveness of grace and the empowering transformation of the Spirit.

So, what’s the purpose of this post? Scattered thoughts. 🙂

I believe this will be my last post in this series about dealing with the dissolution of my family. Not because I don’t have more to deal with or because more things won’t keep happening regarding it. I’m sure they will. I’m not sure what else to say about them. It’s a lot of the same stuff over and over. Sadness. Pain. Frustration. Anger. Followed by: Forgiveness. Grace. Love.Pity. Not just for the past stuff, but also for the ways he continues to wrong through attempts at manipulation of those I love and his attempts at deceiving those around him (that I have heard of, though I cannot confirm firsthand, so if I am speaking something falsely here I am sorry and open to correction). But nothing new is happening. Just my heart continuing to heal and hopefully continuing to be shaped into the image of Christ.

Also, in case you don’t know, life is weird. If last year you would have told me all the things which were going to happen to me this year, I would have wondered how I would endure it. But I did. One day at time. Sometimes on my knees. Sometimes on my feet. Some days doing a poor job of dealing with things and cowardly ignoring God and my life and everything important because it felt like too much to handle. But here I am and I feel okay. I feel really good some days. I feel really bad other days. To be perfectly honest, my overall mood and the pattern of feeling good and bad are not all that different now than it was before everything that happened in the last year.

Not only has God blessed me with endurance, but he is helping me do things on his behalf in the meantime. In September, it will be one year since I told my friend Perry I think I should do the teaching at church once a month. Despite my own theological flaws and holes in my ability to communicate, God has used me to bless people in that way. Although I’m quite confident my appeal is still to a narrow audience, I think God has helped me grow in this area. God has also blessed me with a large number of people expressing their gratitude and thankfulness and telling me the things God said to them through me as I stepped out in an area I have always perceived myself to be poorly suited for.

I’ve been writing questions for and leading/coordinating the 9 AM bible study at my church for a while. God has also used this to bless others through my questions and my participation in the discussion. He has blessed us collectively by, I believe, guiding us through the book of John together in some beautiful ways. I have also been blessed by getting to hear so many people’s perspective on scripture who respect God’s words, who are willing to challenge each other, and who are willing to disagree assertively one week, and still show up the next to engage in relationship. It’s beautiful to be a part of.

I also started a podcast. I’ve committed myself to three different things this year I’ve never committed myself to before, two of which are well outside my comfort zone and outside of my perceived zone of capability. All of which are important to my heart. All of which have blessed me. All these things I have done in the middle of an incredibly difficult and painful year. They have all helped bring me closer to God and thus my own heart and soul. God has used them to help heal me and has been wonderful about preventing me from using them as a tool to escape from myself.

Time has a way of creating a new normal. I spent the first 29 years of my life seeing my father very regularly. Now, I haven’t seen his face in a year. It’s been so long, it feels normal. Oddly, this is a helpful and hopeful reminder for me. People get used to things. We can endure a lot. And there can be bad circumstances in our lives which remain forever that don’t make our life bad forever. We can still have joy and be happy. We can still do good things. The bad things can be present and life can still be good.

God’s the best. I’m so relieved and grateful to have had my brother Jesus introduce me to his dad long before Mitch abandoned me. I’ve already been adopted into a new family. I’ve already become the son of a different Father, a son of the one who never stops loving me and who has permanently made a way for me to be in relationship with him no matter what I’ve done, as long as I turn back toward him. He’s always been my true Father anyway. Here’s something crazy: At no point in this whole ordeal have I ever felt unloved. I’ve felt unloved by Greg, but not unloved by my Father. Not generally unloved. Of course love from people in my life I have loved matters. Of course it is painful when they no longer love me. Of course it is painful when they choose their own selfish desires over you. But there is a love far more powerful and more constant which has made itself available to me, the love of God put on display most clearly in Christ Jesus. The more I embrace it, the more wonderful my life becomes even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Father’s Day

June 22, 2015 5 comments

Today is Sunday, June 21, 2015. It’s Father’s Day. I have a lot of mixed emotions.

My dad still hasn’t reached out to me to try to talk to me, repent, reconcile, explain, or anything of the sort. He did send me a birthday gift recently. I suppose technically it is an act of communication. But it’s not one that feels very good. It’s not an act of communication which opens up the door to further conversation or relationship. To be honest, given how he has treated me and the rest of my family and many of his friends, I don’t see the sending of the gift as an act of love. I see it as him trying to feel better about himself as a father.

I didn’t reach out to him to wish him a happy father’s day. I thought about it, because it is weird after 29 years of having a relationship with one’s father to suddenly not and suddenly on father’s day for him to be absent by his own choice. It would also be disingenuous. I don’t want him to have a happy father’s day. I hope he has a miserable father’s day.

Believe it or not, I don’t wish this upon him because of some quest for vengeance. Some days I want revenge upon him for what he has done. But not today. Not most days. Thank God for the grace and mercy He has given to me so I might be equipped through His love to extend it to others. I do not hope he has a bad father’s day because I want him to suffer miserably. I think having a bad father’s day is what would be best for him.

Really. Imagine you abandon your kids and your wife to go sleep with other women and spend time with them and their kids. Imagine you treat your kids so horribly and then a day comes around which is purposed to celebrate you for the love you have for your kids. Of course you should feel terrible on this day. You should be thinking about the way you broke your relationships with your children. You should be feeling the pain of not having relationships with them. You should be full of regret.

If, in these circumstances, you have a happy and wonderful Father’s Day, then you’re a sociopath. You have no regard for others or willingness to experience the pain of the actions you caused. At least if he has a bad Father’s day, he is experiencing the pain his sinful actions have caused him. Perhaps his heart will become more tender because of the pain and he will be closer to repentance and turning his life back toward God.

Even though I am not too keen on Mitch at present, I don’t throw out the parent with the bathwater. There are a lot of character traits Greg exhibited in the past I am grateful to have experienced. He worked hard. He spent many mornings of my childhood up early reading the Bible and praying. He was willing to help people who needed it, sometimes even over and over after they kept screwing up. He helped out at church a lot, filling whatever roles he thought needed to be filled. All of the qualities are worth imitating, remembering fondly, and being grateful for.

However, when it comes to relationships, the present means a lot more than the past. You can’t have a relationship with memories. Positive memories don’t undo mistreatment of the present. They can’t fix the divide.

Sometimes I wonder on days like today what would I do if Mitch repented? What would I do if he actually was sincere about wanting to follow Jesus and therefore wanting to do whatever he could in his own power to set things right with his kids? What if he was open, honest, and seeking reconciliation? How would I respond?

I still don’t know. While certainly I would offer forgiveness and would be open to a conversation, one on my terms, I don’t know if I would be open to having a relationship with him or not. He is a person who has treated not just me, but those I am close to, love, and care for, with great disregard… that’s a nice word… with great evil. He blew up a family and left everyone else to deal with the consequences of his actions.

He left a young child alone and confused with a mother who was also alone and confused. He left his wife and church family in the middle of a dysfunctional time in the church’s life which he was well aware of. Rather than do something good, like working with his family and friends to bring positive changes to the church (among whom there were very many who would have worked with him side by side to do so), or to bring his family to one of the many other welcoming churches in the Chippewa Valley, he left everyone to deal with the mess they were in and added to it a whole other mess which was even more difficult and painful. He abandoned his wife and kids to run off with someone else, even though he knew they were in a precarious situation. He was well-placed in a position to bring about positive change in his church community on behalf of his family or to protect his family from potential harm by going elsewhere. Instead of this he abandoned his post, his wife, his kids, and his friends and ran off to sin without being held back and restrained by the relationships of those who loved him.

I’m not sure I would want a person who has been so heartlessly mean to those I love in my life even if he did regret his actions and want to change. I’m not sure I could trust someone who did those things. I’m not sure if he would be a safe person to be around, for me or for those close to me. Certainly if I had kids I would feel quite protective of them ever knowing him given his track record. It’s a difficult thing to think about and to know what is right, especially in the realm of the hypothetical.

If the pattern of the last 11 months is any indicator, I may never have to worry about it.

Sin and Separation

October 17, 2014 2 comments

As I continue on in my emotional processing, some more details are relevant.

After I confronted my father about some stuff I found out about him, he talked around it and downplayed everything. I kept trying to bring him back to what was actually going on, and he kept sidestepping. He said a lot of things that were designed to avoid the issue. He was even saying things about wanting to help single mothers because they are kind of like orphans and widows in distress. He was committing adultery and trying to put a positive spin on it. He looked like a deer in the headlights that didn’t know which way to run, so he ran in circles.

I was looking for some emotion of sorrow. I was looking for regret. I was looking for a contrite heart. I continued to try to bring him back to his sin so he would see it for what it was. He didn’t. He just ran in circles.

A deer in the headlights is understandably frightened because it is probably going to be hit by a car. He was a deer in the headlights, but my car wasn’t moving. I had already hit the brakes. He did not need to fear the headlights or the car behind them. The headlights were an invitation for him to come to me, exposed by the light, and hop into the car with me.

He didn’t. He wouldn’t come toward me. After running in circles, he ran off into the woods.

A couple of days after I confronted him, he sent me a few texts. I sent him a few texts back. He never responded. I found out that he had ran off hundreds of miles away. I sent him more texts over the coming weeks. I called a few times too. I even drove and spent a day and a half looking for him and waiting for him. I never saw him. He never responded. I think that was a couple of months ago. I still haven’t heard anything.

Sin separates us from God. It also separates us from others. There are lot of reasons this might happen. Sometimes when you sin against someone they don’t want to be around you. Sometimes when you sin against someone you don’t want to be around them because you feel guilty about how you wronged them. Sometimes people feel ashamed and guilty about their sin, so they want to distance themselves from everyone because they feel ashamed being around people who might expose their shame.

There is another way sin distances us from God and others. When we sin, we are acting in a way we were never designed to be. We are acting in a way that is contrary to who we actually are. When we are acting in a way that is incongruent with who God made us to be, we are not really being ourselves. When we are not really ourselves, people can only connect with the false self we put forth.

Sin creates an internal divide between who we really are and how are we are behaving. The internal divide sin creates disconnects us from ourselves. When we are disconnected from ourselves we can’t connect to others. When we can’t connect to others, we are apart from them, even when we are in the same room. A life of sin, a life devoted to sin, leads to a life of distance from other people, full of false representations and fake conversations. Sin separates us from God, ourselves, and others.

This separation does not have to be permanent. Repentance, changing our ways and what we are devoted to, changes our circumstances. Turning from our sin and toward Jesus immediately reunites us with God, which progressively unites us with ourselves, which enables us to be united with others by connecting to them with our true selves. If you want real relationship, if you want real intimacy, run away from the sin which causes you to run away, and fall into the embrace of a gracious God.

Categories: Family Disruption Tags: , , ,

Simply Church: Sin

January 6, 2012 1 comment

Admittedly, this aspect of church is kind of a weird one to talk about. We all know that people we are in Jesus community with have sin in their lives, but it doesn’t seem like we should be sinful. There is a difficult tension in our churches: sin should not be present in the lives of those who have been saved from sin by Jesus Messiah and sin is present in the lives of those who have been saved from sin by Jesus Messiah. This tension has always existed in our churches.

James, when writing to believers, says, “we all stumble in many ways” (3.2).

John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1.8)

Peter, writing to those who are already Jesus followers, exhorts them to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Pt 2.1). Peter implies that these things are present and need to be put away.

Hebrews tells believers to “lay aside… sin which clings so closely” (12.1).

Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

That is a small sampling from a number of different Biblical letter writings who are writing to different groups of believers. The New Testament descriptions of the churches and instructions to the churches are full of evidence that even under the New Covenant, everyone sins. Because of this and constant admonition to flee from sin, I think that the presence of sin in our churches needs to be both unsurprising and unacceptable. However, in this family the sinner who knows his need is always received with grace.

Accepting that sin is present in the community of believers (while also making sure it isn’t welcome there) has a number of implications for our relationships with one another. It shouldn’t be surprising when a brother or sister hurts us or sins against us. Siblings hurt each other. It’s terrible. It’s sad. It’s unacceptable. It’s going to happen. We’re going to hurt each other. Even without knowing it sometimes, it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, then we’re probably not being open with one another. The hope is this, that our sin against one another will be an opportunity to be more like our father, in whom, despite our sin against Him, grace always abounds and, even as the one sinned against, he is the first actor in our reconciliation. His grace is enough to restore any relationship.

With the acknowledgement of the presence of sin should come also an understanding of different perspectives. We can’t even do the good we want to do all the time or stop doing what we hate to do. How is it that we expect to know the complete truth about things far beyond our understanding? I believe in discussions over disagreements. I believe in trying to get things right about Scripture. But let’s not have deep familial divisions because of differing thoughts on baptism, women in leadership, the mechanism God used to create, and the like. It does make sense to spend more time with siblings whose perspective is most similar to yours, but no more telling people they don’t belong in the family because they don’t think the same way that you do on some trivial issue.

I think that a group acknowledgement that sin is present in the community at large, in specific brothers and sisters, and in our own lives helps us to deal with it. One of our primary goals together is to help each other become more like dad. A good starting place for this can be to talk to each other about the things in our life that look the opposite of dad and helping each other change that. Accepting that sin is present in us and in others is the first step to an open dialogue about this. Let’s not be on of those families that pretends to love each other because they pretend that nothing is wrong in the family. Rather, let’s be a family of open people who share what is wrong with us and, just like dad, let our first act in response to sin confession be to extend grace to our siblings.

Simply Church: Family

January 4, 2012 1 comment

One of the things the New Covenant under Jesus does is to expand and change what it means to be family. I don’t know that he completely revolutionizes it, but I find the way Jesus in the gospels talks about it to be compelling. The way that the letter writers who were a part of the body of Jesus talk about people in the gathering of believers. The main relational indicators used by all the epistles are those used to describe a family.

In Mark 3, Jesus’ mother and brothers are trying to reach him when he is in the middle of a crowd in a house, teaching people. The context from a few verses prior to this event seems to indicate that they might be trying to get to Jesus in order to quiet him down because sometimes he talks crazy and makes life inconvenient with big crowds. Jesus’ response is that his mothers and brothers and sisters are all who do the will of God.

Among other things, this sets the stage for being a family being about far more than being blood related. Jesus implies that those present who are seeking to listen to Jesus in order to learn to do the will of God are the family members of Jesus. It has nothing to do with who their parents were. Given Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 about setting families against eachother, I think it is a safe inference from these passages, as well as others, that the family of believers is more central to the life of a believer than their blood families.* I think Paul picks up on some of this, making the point that under Jesus Messiah being blood related to Abraham is not the same as true descendence from him.

Jesus later talks a little bit about the nature of this familial relationship. After describing how the scribes and Pharisees seek out glory, honor, fame, and power over others, Jesus says this to his disciples and to the crowds:

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mt 23:8-11).

I love this. First Jesus affirms this family relationship that we are to have with one another, then he describes the nature of this relationship.

Jesus wants us to treat eachother like siblings. Jesus is very clear that one person being the teacher and the rest being his followers isn’t what he’s looking for. Jesus is very clear that he doesn’t want us trying to be a father to someone or looking to someone as a father figure other than the Father in heaven. I believe the aspect of the father relationship Jesus does not want us to have is a hierarchical one.** I’m glad Jesus said this to more than just his disciples, he said it also to the crowds. As the disciples become the first with the Holy Spirit’s power and those who become spiritual fathers by spreading seed that grows, it would be tempting to use those things to gain a position of superiority. Jesus makes sure his disciples know that, even though people have different roles***, they are to be brothers and sisters to eachother.

Disciples of Jesus will be recognized by their love for one another. Our familial love for one another. YHWH is our Father; Jesus is our older brother. Belonging to this family is an essential element of the good news of Jesus. It defines us. The gospel without the invitation into a new covenant family marked by love is only a partial gospel.

This invitation is a beautiful one because this family is a beautiful one. In this family, we forget the sins of someone’s past because our dad forgets them. We have the ability to see daddy in everyone and that similarity makes everyone worth loving. We believe everyone is redeemable, because we’ve been redeemed. The central purpose of our family is to help one another to become like our Father: thinking like he thinks, feeling like he feels, doing what he does, and loving like he loves. Our older brother is teaching us, helping us, empowering us. He is the spitting image of His father. We hopefully and actively await the day when all of our family is reunited in the home our dad has is fixing up for us. Everyone finds love in this home. Everyone finds hope here. Everyone belongs here.

We’re not quite like our dad yet. We fight. We argue. We get angry. We get bitter. We hurt each other. We fail at loving each other. We run away from home. We gossip about each other. We criticize one another. But we’re a family. We can’t choose our family, but we can always choose to love them. When dad comes home and finishes the work we’ve been doing on our home, let’s make sure we have stories of love to tell Him and not try to get him to settle our disputes.

* I want to make sure I say that immediate relatives don’t become an insignificant category when we are in the covenant family of YHWH, just relatively less significant than being in a family with Jesus. There still are multiple places in the New Testament where we are taught about the importance of roles in one’s blood or earthly (for lack of a better term) family.

** I’m not saying that by using the term “Father,” the Catholic church is disobeying Jesus. Paul describes his relationship in different places as a father to a son. He is describing roles, not position. He is not exalting himself over others, but talking about being their spiritual progenitor or how intimate he is with a particular person and using metaphors to describe how meaningful their relationship is.

*** Different roles in the family are divested with different amounts of authority, but these callings do not obviate the sibling relationship.

**** These asterisks are just for fun. You’re welcome.

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