Posts Tagged ‘Love’

A Personal Reflection On A Creative Project

November 9, 2017 Leave a comment

A little over two years ago, on the day I turned 30 years old, I released the first episode of a podcast entitled, “Christian Anarchy.” It is essentially a podcast devoted to explaining to followers of Jesus that they should not support the violent treatment of peaceful people, alerting Jesus followers to the reality that all Nation-States exist through the violent treatment of peaceful people, and thus followers of Jesus should not support the existence of Nation-States. I was embarrassed to release my first episode.

I’m still a little embarrassed to bring it back up. I do not find the subject matter embarrassing and I’m more confident than ever in the essential message of the podcast. I was embarrassed because at the time, I was a well below average speaker. I knew the podcast would be full of flaws, yet I believed the truth of the ideas themselves would add enough value to listeners that many could overlook my lack of ability. In order to communicate the message in this format, I had to put my weakness in full view of others.

This project resulted in a lot of personal growth. I learned a lot about magic internet stuff and more than I knew existed about audio production. The extent of my previous knowledge of audio recording was: 1. Press record on cassette player. 2. Fart into mic. 3. Rewind. 4. Press play. 5. Giggle. Now I can record, edit, and mix audio and make it sound professional… like a really cheap professional who is bad at his job, but still.

Learning a few new concrete skills in my elderly condition was good for my aging brain. Moreso than this, I became better at things I’ve often thought I could not do. Creating a podcast episode every week was an essential element in working my way up to becoming a mediocre public communicator. I took debate class in high school to avoid speech. I sprinted through every verbal presentation in college. I’ve always avoided monologues. I never thought these forms of public speaking were a skillset I could have. With a lot of practice, and putting myself in vulnerable positions, I’m now a passably decent sermonizer and I crush best man speeches. It turns out you can become better at things you suck when you do it a lot.

Perhaps the most important skill I strengthened is consistent, self-motivated follow through. I have a tendency to be motivated by external factors. Yes, I’ll show up at the event I said I would show up at because others are directly involved. I’ll finish the homework I signed up to finish. I will do the tasks I need to in order to make money. I’ll do what I said I would because others are depending on me. Releasing a podcast every week is different. No one is depending on me, I won’t make money, I have no external obligations. I simply put the work in (sometimes it was a lot) to make it happen consistently because I desired to. My internal motivation was enough.

Despite the near unending list of criticisms I could level at this creative project, it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever produced. I don’t know of any ideas more important and less discussed in our world. Nothing I’ve done has had anywhere near the reach of the podcast. Never have I received so much gratitude and compliments than in email after email people sent me from all over the world in response.

The positive reaction of so many who listened to me talk for 35 hours was disarming. I had to put down the weapons I would normally use against myself because it would have been irrational to use them. Many negative things are true about the show. It suffers from my lack of monologuing ability. It is too dry. It’s too dense for the audio format at many points. The show is redundant in others. It’s boring. My jokes are idiotic. My understanding and knowledge is sometimes very shallow. These things are true, but I cannot use them to shame myself or convince myself I wasted my time. Too many people, too many individuals who are among the most reasonable, open minded, intellectually honest, and compassionate I know, were so happy and grateful I could not take up arms against myself.

One lesson I am in a frequent state of learning is that I should always live disarmed of my own judgment. I do not mean absent of honest self-evaluation, but absent a judgmental mindset which can so easily accompany such self-evaluation. There is little to be gained by self-shame. Nothing to be gained by shaming one’s own creative work. And there is great freedom in being able to create things without fear of what anyone will think about it, including oneself. Shamelessness also creates an inner peace which allows for the kind of honest self-perspective out of which self-improvement can flourish.

In case you are reading this and happen to be interested in glancing at the podcast I’ve been discussing, here: Christianarchy



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.

God Wouldn’t Plan Something Like This

January 11, 2015 1 comment

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the story, a few months ago my father had an affair and then abandoned his wife and kids. It’s been pretty brutal. It has been painful and sad and frustrating and confusing. The whole situation feels pretty evil. In my experiencing of this, I’ve had a lot of unanswered questions.

In a circumstance like mine it is common for people to blame God for what happened or ask questions such as, “Why God? Why did you do this? Why did you let this happen?” I think the urge to either blame God or to wonder to God about why he would allow something to occur as if God is responsible come from a misunderstanding about God.

Some people view God as a cosmic Lego Master and us as the lego men and women. God constructs the world that we live in and controls everything that happens within it. Nothing can happen without His willing it to happen. Humans are the lifeless lego guys, who cannot so much as move an arm without God desiring the arm to move and acting to make it move. God is the Lego Master who decides exactly the way the world will be and exactly what he wants his toys to do, they have no real volition of their own.

If this is the case, then God really is to blame for my father’s affair and abandonment. In the God as Lego Master scenario, my father’s affair was all a part of God’s cosmic plan. My pain then becomes just an execution of God’s will. If God is actively controlling everything, then it makes perfect sense for me to blame Him. It is His fault.

Another understanding of God that is different on the surface but similar in practice. This understanding of God assumes 3 things: 1. God created everything. 2. Before God created everything, He knew the future. 3. The future already exists as a set of inevitabilities that just haven’t happened yet. In this scenario, God is not actively controlling His lego set to make sure His cosmic plan is executed perfectly, but God creates the world knowing all of the inevitabilities of the future and thus sets into motion His cosmic plan without having to actively control it because everything that occurs was inevitable anyway.

With these assumptions, God is more like a watcher of a movie he has already seen and memorized. God’s creation of the world is like He picked out a movie he knew by heart and pushed play. The movie was already recorded before God put it in, and so God was the ultimate cause of everything that occurred on the screen because God picked that particular movie. God could have picked out a different prerecorded film and watched that film and so caused a different set of scenes to play out on screen.

In the same way, when God created the earth in the way He did, knowing what the prerecorded future was, He becomes the ultimate cause of everything that occurred. He chose to create the earth in such a way as to cause this set of circumstances to occur. Of course God could have created the earth differently so that a different set of circumstances would occur. Because God chose ahead of time exactly what would occur from the beginning to the end, God is responsible for everything that occurs.

If this is true about God, if God knew ahead of time that making the world the way He chose to would inevitably lead to my father’s affair and abandonment, then God is still to blame. Even if God isn’t actively controlling the actions of my father, God is still the cause. He could have created the world differently so that my Father didn’t have an affair. He didn’t. He chose to create things in such a way that my father’s actions were going to happen. In this scenario, it was God’s will and desire that my father would do what he did because that’s what God chose for him to do. The decisions my father made were just inevitabilities caused by God since the creation of the world

But God is not like this. God wouldn’t orchestrate the world in such a way so that my father has an affair. God would never want something like that to occur. God wouldn’t will something like that to occur. God’s didn’t plan for my father to abandon his wife and kids. A God who, through whatever means, would cause my father to treat his family the way he did is not a good God.

But He is a good God. When God created the world, He did not create a bunch of lego guys for whom he would control their every action and movement. He did not create a world where He chose ahead of time for humanity what their every action and movement would be. God created a world of choice. Immediately after God created humanity He set before them choices to make. He gave them choices where there was no moral component, where there was no right vs. wrong, like, “you decide what to name the animals.” God also gave them moral choices like, “don’t eat from this tree.”

God gave humanity choices. He gave people the ability to accept Him, trust Him, be in relationship with Him, and follow Him. He even gave people the ability to reject him. Why would God give people the choice to accept Him or to reject Him? Because God is love and love cannot be coerced. If God has already determined what we will and won’t do, then we can’t love because our entire lives are just a series of inevitabilities that God forced us to do. Love cannot be forced. Love is only possible if it is voluntary. God created a world of love, and thereby, a world where people have the ability choose. By creating a world of free beings who can make a multitude of different choices, God made a world of possibilities.

One of these possibilities was that my father would have an affair and abandon his children, his friends, and his life. One of these possibilities is that my father would have humbled himself before God, taken every thought captive, and submitted even his most minor lustful thought underneath the reign of Jesus and in so doing, would never have even considered engaging in the behavior he did. The former is what he chose, but he could have chosen the latter. God is responsible for creating a world of choice where love is possible, but Mitch is responsible for rejecting God and choosing selfishness over love. God is not to blame for my situation, my father is.

Of course God wasn’t caught off guard by the choices of my father. God never wanted him to make those decisions, but God knows all the possible decisions he could have made. God would never plan for Mitch to do what he did, but God does have a plan to bring good out of what my father did. God knows all the possibilities and He is equally prepared to bring good out of all of them. God is not to blame. God is the one to cling to when things don’t go the way we wanted them to or the way He wanted them to. God is not the one to blame. God, with us, also wishes this never happened.

Categories: Family Disruption Tags: ,

Reinterpreting the Past

October 25, 2014 1 comment

A few months prior to my father’s infidelity, he reached out to me more than he had in the past few years. He started texting more. He offered help. He frequently invited me to spend time with him at the cabin. He asked me out for coffee. He would engage with me in conversations about things we disagreed with and remain in the conversation.

He invited me to do a book study with him. I was not very excited about the book, it just was not the type of book I usually enjoy. Still, with all his reaching out, this was one of the ways I was going to reach out to him. I thought that meeting weekly would be good for us and, even if I didn’t like the book, it provided us some spiritual material to talk about.

It was a good time. We had a lot of really good conversations and I felt he understood more about my view of God and how that shapes the say I see the world. He also shared a lot more of his frustrations with me about other people. From my perspective at the time, he was not sharing his frustrations in a gossipy way, but in a personalized manner about the way things that happened in his relationships with others affected him.*

I also reached out to him. I invited myself on a men’s retreat, even though I wasn’t a part of the church and deliberately engaged with not just him, but also his community. I was enjoying our time together. I think we were legitimately having more fun together than ever before. He was learning to interact with me more like the peer I have been treating him as since 15. I was reaching out to him and he was reaching out to me. I actually enjoyed being with him. I hoped that at some point we might connect at a substantive level.

We were spending more time together and being more deliberate with each other, something felt off. There were times when he was sharing things that were at least somewhat intimate and I was sharing intimate things, but it felt like we were absent from each other. All the appearances of the conversation were that we were connect, but it didn’t feel like we were connecting. It was as if we both reached out our hands to touch each other, and I could see our hands touching, but I could not feel the sensation of our hands touching. Something was not quite right.

The weekend I discovered what was going on I was actually hoping to find out what was going on. I did not think I would discover what I did. I had a few suspicions, but none of them were quite as substantial and heartbreaking as what was actually happening. I did not expect to find what I did. Of course, when I did find out, some of our inability to connect made sense.

But then, I had this problem. He had been reaching out to me. He had been asking me real questions about my life. He had been spending time with me and kind to me and affectionate with me. And then I find out he was trying to cheat on his. And then he abandons me. And later I find out he had been growing distant from most other intimate relationships in his life.

I’m having trouble figuring out how to explain the problem. It’s an emotionally confusing one. I felt good about the way he was reaching out to me and about our conversations and hopeful about our future relationship, but then… all of this. So, my problem is: how do I interpret his past reaching out to me?

Was it that, despite everything that was going on inside of him, he really wanted relationship with me? Did he really care about me? Did he really value me, my thoughts, my desires, my feelings? Was he reaching out to me because he loved me? Or was he putting on a show to hide his heart and behavior? Was he trying to do something good with his relationships so he didn’t feel so bad about his past actions? Was he feeling lonely because he was growing distant from his other relationships because of his sin and so he attached himself more to me as somewhat of an outsider to his daily existence? Did he use me so he didn’t feel so lonely? Was he telling me his frustrations with his life and with others because no one else would listen because they knew better? Did he see the breaking of relationship with others that was coming and was trying to get me on his side before everything came out?

I don’t know. I don’t know why he reached out to me. I don’t know how I should feel about his pursuing a relationship with me. Should I look back and remember fondly the time when he sought after me or should I look back and remember with sorrow the time when he used me? I don’t know. I don’t even think he knows why he did what he did. It’s probably a complex combination of many reasons and motivations.

Life is just like that sometimes. We are often left wondering what happened, what caused it, why it occurred, and how we should feel about it. We don’t always get the answers we seek. I’m sure I could look back at what happened and come up with a few different explanations as to what occurred and why in order to make sense of the whole situation to myself. But, even if I did that, I still wouldn’t know for sure. I might be able to make sense of the situation, but just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a real answer.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to have things remain unresolved. It’s okay to not know all the answers to the “why”s. I’m okay looking back and saying, “I just don’t know” because of where I am in the present. I’m okay. I’m good. Because I am not alone. I am not unloved. I am not undesired. I am not unwanted. I am as close to my true Father as I have ever been, and He will never leave me, never stop loving me, and never stop pursuing me.

*In case you are reading this and suspect you might be one of the people who he was expressing frustrations about, I want to make a few things clear. First, when people are expressing negative things about other people to me, I usually consider it to be people venting their frustration and putting words to what was frustrating to them about a situation. I don’t really trust their perspective on the circumstances or others. I do not then proceed to think poorly about the person they are talking about. If you were talked poorly about, I think no differently about you than I did before you were discussed.

Second, I very frequently make suggestions on how the person venting can see it from the perspective of those they have a problem with. I nearly always suggest they express their feelings and frustrations to that person directly in a loving manner. I regularly defend those who are being talked poorly about, but are not there to defend themselves, even if I have never met the person (ask my wife, sometimes it drives her crazy :). If you think you might have been talked poorly about, I probably defended you, I most likely provided a way of seeing things from your perspective, and I assuredly suggested he speak to you directly.

Categories: Family Disruption Tags: , , ,

Jeremiah Was A Dragon-Man: You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself!

August 25, 2012 1 comment

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
When there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
They did not know how to bush,
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the Lord.

Jeremiah 6:14-15

The priests and the prophets of Jerusalem are trying to fix the problem of Judah by proclaiming “peace.” They are teaching the people they message that they want to hear: “Don’t worry, the wound is light and is over now, everything will be fine. You are at peace with God and therefore the Land will be at peace.” The problem is that this message is a total lie and a part of the continuous cover-up of Israel’s sin and God’s impending judgment that the people and rulers of Israel continue to ignore or declare false. This cover up is one of Israel’s biggest and most incessant issues.

Repeatedly, we read that Judah is returning only in pretense, they aren’t acknowledging their guilt, they refuse to own up to their own sin and turn from it, and here we read that they aren’t even ashamed when they are doing what is very shameful. Jeremiah mentions this idea that Israel should feel shameful about the sin they have committed a few times (at least in chapter 3 and 8). Israel is guilty of shameful behavior, which causes their judgment, and part of their judgment is to be put to shame and having their shame revealed (7:19, 8:9, 13:26).*

The shame of Israel is something horrendous and destructive, and that which could lead to their salvation. The people of Judah are reproached and condemned for their sinful and shameful past, but their main problem is not idolatry, but a refusal to acknowledge its shamefulness, take responsibility for their guilt, and turn to God whose heart’s desire it is to prosper them. What YHWH describes through Jeremiah is a shame that is present whether or not the people of Judah feel or admit the shame. Because they won’t admit their shame, they can only come before God pretentiously and proudly. Therefore, the guilt and shame of Judah remain, and “they shall fall among those who fall.”

Although Scripture speaks against it, the idea that the people of God should be, at times, ashamed is anathema among many Christians. They talk about how shame destroys our souls, breeds lies in our minds, and gets our hearts caught up in a shame cycle. I’ve heard one pastor say, “There is no place for shame in the kingdom of God.”** I think a lot of people try to deal with shame by condemning shame (ironically often feeling ashamed about being ashamed) or ignoring and covering up the shame they feel. Maybe the best way to deal with shame isn’t to ignore it or say it doesn’t belong, but to concede this: sin is shameful.

A line I’ve used with some frequency goes something like this, “Shame after sin is a wonderful place to be, and a terrible place to stay.” The more we understand the horrors of sin, the clearer we see the Love of the cross. If sin is shameful, then when we sin we should feel ashamed. The shame is there, whether we condemn it, ignore it, hide it, or accept it. It’s best to deal with what is, rather than pretend it isn’t. If the shame is there, then be ashamed. Blush when you do something which deserves blushing. Feel guilty about your guilt. Allow the weight of your sin to be on your shoulders. See the heinousness of your actions.

And then… let Love take them from you. Turn from shame, toward the one who will restore You, and walk. He took all the shame, all the guilt, all the heinousness, and all the weight of your sin. All those shameful things you did to Him, He absorbed. He deigned Himself to be shamed by us, took everything we could throw at him, and killed our sin. He destroyed the cause of our shame. Nothing is left to cause us shame. You and I, we are free.

*Many more.

**In one sense, this is completely true. In another, it is completely false. Double incongruent absolutes!

Jeremiah Was A Dragon-Man: Faithless Marriages Don’t Work

June 8, 2012 1 comment

One of the most powerful and common metaphors in Scripture that God uses to describe his relationship with us is a marriage metaphor. YHWH is the bridegroom and His people are His bride. I believe this helps us understand not only the depth of God’s love for us, but also what sin does to our relationship. Our sin is an act of adultery. Jeremiah 3 uses the metaphor extensively:

“Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this, she will return to me,’ but she did not return.” 3:6-7*

When I imagine myself in these circumstances, with my wife going out and whoring herself to man after man everywhere she can find them, my heart and soul break. God’s response to His bride prostituting herself is far different than my response would be. My anger and brokenness would not let me take her back, but YHWH is not concerned about vengeance or brokenness or finding another bride who would not be so faithless. He just hopes that when His bride realizes there is no life outside of His fountain of living water, she will come back to Him.

Judah also went out and played the whore, and came back to Him, but it was a farce.

“Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” 3:10

A pretentious return to YHWH is like a wife saying to her husband that she wants to be married to him and have a relationship with him while she continues in unceasing adultery. Faithless marriages are sham marriages. Judah wanted the benefits of being married to their God while keeping up her adulterous ways with other gods. It doesn’t work.**

Beautiful, loving YHWH is still not deterred by the incessant whoring of His wives and their pretense toward Him. He is deeply concerned about, angered by, and hurt by their breaking of the marriage covenant, but He is continuing His relentless pursuit of them. YHWH just wants them to admit their wrong and come back to Him, for He will remain faithful even when they are not. His love will not be stopped even when it is rejected.

In the middle of Israel and Judah’s whoring, YHWH, although He is the last one who deserves to be treated like this, is willing to endure all of the shame their actions cause Him if it means there is still a chance for the restoration of relationship. This God, our God, has always been willing to take the shame of our sin upon Himself and rid us of it through forgiveness, restoration, and the new life of His cleansing waters. The shame Jesus endured on the cross is the epitomic example of what God has been doing for us all along. No one has a more humble and powerful love than our God.

So, you and I, we’ve played the whore. We’ve followed other gods. We’ve pursued life elsewhere. We’ve broken the terms of the marriage covenant with our bridegroom. Our sin is not okay, it’s horrible and disgusting, but it is made okay by God’s love if we would only return and receive His new life. He doesn’t ask us to get better and return, but merely to acknowledge what we’ve done and return with our whole hearts. No longer is there any need to worry about our shame, for our God, as He as always done, has taken our shame upon Himself and eliminated it. Do not fear, with a husband who loves like this, it is always safe to come home and find hope and life and love beyond comprehension in His embrace. May we never leave His arms.

*When I write these, I’m hoping that you’ll be reading the whole chapter along with it. Chapter 3 comes highly recommended by Jeremiah.
** The desire to have both God and other gods is discussed more extensively here.

Unlikely Teachers of Spirituality: Bars

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

A lot of things happen at bars which destroy spirituality, are antithetical to the gospel, break people, and perpetuate evil. With that said, I believe we, as the church, can learn from bar communities.

Bars are full of hope. A large percentage of people who go to a bar go there because they are hoping for something. Some people go to the bar because they are hoping for a little relaxation after a long day. Some go because they are hoping to fill their felt needs for intimacy and attention from the opposite sex (and others from the same sex). Some go out of a hope for a sports team. Some go because they hope to find some alleviation of their despair. Some go because they hope to be where they can see our troubles are all the same, they want to go where everyone knows their name. There’s a lot of hope in bar communities.

Bars provide a largely nonjudgmental community.* Part of the reason bars are such an attractive community is their provision of a sense of universal acceptance. It doesn’t matter what your character flaws are, what sins are in your life, how you dress, or what words you use, you’re welcome to be there. The lack of a fear of social condemnation (surely in conjunction with alcohol), creates an environment where people feel more free to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.** The nonjudgmental nature of the bar community also helps people to be themselves and talk about aspects of their life and character that they may not talk about in any other circumstances. Others feel more free to respond honestly because they trust that even if they come across negative, they will still be accepted.

My experiences at and interpretations of bars resulted in questions about church. Certainly some people come to church because they have hope, but a lot of people also attend church because they feel guilty, socially compelled, morally obligated, and the like. How does the Jesus-centered community be a beacon of hope that outshines the alcohol-centered community? When life is stressful, the future looks bleak, people are lonely, or people are broken, why are they so much more likely to consider going to a bar than going to a church? Why does it sometimes feel like there is more hope there than where the presence of God dwells?

I don’t think it is as simple as saying that those people don’t want to change or they don’t believe in God. I think people are very willing to change if they had hope for healing. I believe the majority of people, whether or not they claim any deity as Lord, believe there is hope in God, Jesus, or a higher spiritual power. The most repellant aspect of church is the fear of judgment and rejection. The outsider fears condemnation, being looked down on for sin, and being unaccepted or accepted as a lesser member of the community.

There are many cases where the inside member of the church community feels the same. Despite best intentions, church environments are frequently still places where people are conscious about what they’re wearing, concerned about screwing up or admitting to screwing up, fearful of doing something out of the ordinary and being condemned for it, and worried about someone else seeing their character flaws. The perception of church environments is not that they are nonjudgmental communities centered around Jesus, but that they are condemnatory communities where people come together to show each other how nice their facades look. I believe for church to shine to the world, it is vital that we find areas where our communities are creating an environment of fear rather than love and replace the fear with unconditional acceptance.
*I have been criticized on a few occasions for my aberrant bar behavior. Talking about Jesus usually is just dandy, but not always.

** Admittedly, many times what people do in bars that they wouldn’t normally do elsewhere is spiritually counterproductive.

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