Shame on Us

I have plenty of things I am ashamed of.  I have plenty of things I regret.  They just keep stacking up in my closet of remembrances.  It seems like each year that goes by, there’s something new I can add to that stack.  You’re going to have to forgive my mental noodling which I now foist upon the internet, but I’ve been struggling with the statement my pastor made that “shame has no place in the Christian walk.”  It’s so natural to think of shame as a proper response to a situation.  When our actions lead to people hurt, trusts betrayed, the acts themselves being destructive, shame seems like the appropriate, entirely proper, human response.  Yet, it’s also a counterfeit response.

Shame is “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous.” Shame is feeling bad for who you are, and is expressed as, “I’m not what I should be… I’m bad!”  Shame is the perceived loss of place with others, a loss of being, of who we are.  Shame is the experience of being exposed and feeling somehow “ugly”, “bad”, and “deficient” what for is exposed.  Shame makes you think of yourself as uniquely damaged and so we create personas which hides our true selves.  And because we don’t share it, we think we’re the only ones

We keep how we feel about ourselves a secret.  We don’t share our deepest fears, insecurities, confusion because the world is unsafe.  We live in a fallen world full of pains and hurts.  Sometimes even your church becomes an unsafe place.  We don’t want to be seen as pathetic, weak, or vulnerable so we hide it from other people.  In not wanting to be hurt, we have no freedom to be truly ourselves.  Since the experience of shame it too toxic for us to remain in, we hide.  And all of us have favorite ways of self-protection:  performing, people pleasing, withdrawing, fighting, isolation, anger, humor, silence … whatever it takes to not be hurt.  A lot of people settle for not wanting to be known.  Our secret fear in being open with others is the reaction of “I’ve seen who you are and you are wanting”.

Sin, such as the sin of shame, is a like a disease, a communal virus we pass along to one another and leads to sudden rupture in relationships.  Even with good intentions, we love each other poorly and hurt one another, so we operate out of fear.  This sense of shame infects our spiritual lives and even how we view God.  It’s like we come to believe that we have to do something to make God love us, as if His love is conditional.  Our gospel message becomes that we don’t measure up and He had to send Christ to die for us because we’re so screwed up.  But if we behaved a certain way, He would accept us.  Or we feel like we’re not forgiven because we can’t overcome one area of struggle in our life.  We may secretly believe that God can’t accept us is we can’t overcome our addiction, as if we have to get right in order to get right with him.  We’re left feeling that while God may “love” us, He might not “like” us very much, reducing our spiritual journeys to explorations of and exercises in guilt.

Shame becomes a counterfeit to conviction of guilt.  When you instead internalize the shame, it becomes guilt.  Guilt focuses on self and never frees us.  Usually it leads to a kind of boomerang effect as we adopt a “try harder” mentality.  And it wears on us physically.  Our face and eyes turned down, slumped over under the weight of letting people down or doing something unacceptable.  And we end up wallowing in it as if the act of swimming in shame and guilt is somehow “redemptive”.

Both guilt and shame are different than Godly sorrow and repentance.  Dr. Les Parrott in his book, Love’s Unseen Enemy, compares godly sorrow and guilt.  Godly sorrow focuses on the other person while guilt focuses on the self.  Godly sorrow recognizes pain as part of the healing process while self-absorbed guilt refuses to go through the pain required to heal a relationship.  Godly sorrow looks forward to the future while guilt moans about the past.  Godly sorrow is motivated by our desire to change and grow while guilt causes us to get bogged down and robs us of the energy to move forward and change.  Godly sorrow knows a change in our life is a choice for something better while guilt forces you to make a change to earn favor again.  Godly sorrow relies on God’s mercy and thus is free while guilt relies on self.  Godly sorrow gives us a positive attitude and results in real and lasting change while guild gives us a negative attitude and can bring change but only temporarily.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes God’s love baffles me.  As many times that we feel shame, it’s because we’ve foolishly put our trust in something we weren’t meant to.  We’ve made an idol out of a relationship, church, self-protection, addiction, ourselves, the approval of others or some other seemingly benign thing.  Our shame comes when that idol we put our trust in fails us.  So we begin by renouncing that idolatry, though that realization may not come until we have an “end of self” moment.  We put our faith where it’s supposed to be and take on our true identity.

We so often hear about God’s divine love and acceptance, how nothing can separate us from His love, but do we believe that?  Most times, we really don’t.  To think that God knows me in the deepest possible way, loves me unconditionally, celebrates who I am, and wants me to grow into who I am, that’s the kind of love we can hardly fathom.

And He identifies with our humanity.  Christ’s example on the cross left him exposed for everyone to see.  Naked for people to mock, spit upon, and pour their own self-contempt on Him.  Yet Jesus willingly embraced it and came through the other side.  His wounded place exposes shame for what it is.  Exposed, trusting and with boldness, we’re free and ready to love others in our weakness.  To live out of that reality of His example.

I’m still not sure I buy all of that, though I suspect that I should.  I’ve bought into the idea of shame for so long, it’s tough letting go and embracing a new identity.

God’s Failed Ambassadors

Or Don’t Trip … He Ain’t Through With You Yet

While I was thinking through what I was going to say about “The Story of (My) Christianity”, I was left with a bunch of issues that I struggled with. It’s the whole idea of God sending us to be His ambassadors and then seemingly not being able to equip us adequately for the job. I see it in my church. I see it in my life. I see it in my heart. Shouldn’t there be a more demonstrable difference between “us” and “them”? Why are we still so broken?

A friend of mine put it this way: “If God is to be the all powerful diety he is, why does he not do more to change us when we confess his Lordship over our lives? Yeah, yeah, free will and all that, but still what are we saying when we are calling him “Lord”? Isn’t part of that an invitation for Him to change us? Sure, it takes work on our part, but I could use some help and, if you believe the surveys, so does everyone else. When I look at the Christian community, I see epic fail and it’s really hard for me to just say that it’s all our fault. If we are to be representing Him, and if we are calling Him the Lord of our lives, then I would think we would get more help…and if He isn’t then how can we say the blame is all on us?

We were created in the image of God and declared “good”. Good. We forget that part of things, that as image-bearers, we have inherent worth. We don’t always live up to that potential, what we were created to be. We could look at our place in the greater scheme of things as a matter of us not being able to save ourselves, but that’s not the whole story. We’re invited into a way of life, a life of transformation. We don’t have to remain as we are, mired in the mess of our lives. We can seek a path of wholeness, become humans to be restored in all the dimensions of humanity.

Probably points more to our misunderstanding of God and our relationship with him. We don’t have to be perfect to be dispensers of God’s grace. Martin Luther spoke of Christians as being simultaneously saints and sinners. It has taken me quite a while to understand that God’s not interested in fixed vessels. We have it in our heads that we need to be perfect, have our act together, be the “best” representatives that we can be because how else can we be used by God.

This idea of perfection has crippled my spiritual walk. The Bible seems to not only demand perfection, but it seems to imply that perfection is attainable now. Then someone pointed out to me that I had a screwed up view of “perfection.” When we read the word “perfection” through our modern mindset, we see the Greek ideal of perfection. We can’t attain that. Yet for most of my spiritual life, I was tormented by the guilt of failure because I couldn’t reach this goal of perfection. My life was littered with seemingly endless failures. But when you read perfection more through the eyes of the original audience, you find the Hebrew idea of wholeness. Being complete is something that we can attain.

We are no more immune to sin and temptation than our neighbor, as much as I (and many in the churches) would like to believe otherwise. We’re sick and we need resurrection, divine healing. He calls us to join with Him, to be set free of the lives we’re imprisoned in into a new world, a new way of living. In our imperfection, in our brokenness, we know each other’s pain and weakness—without room for judgment—and can best be there for one another. We can be the consoling arms of God for one another.

Our actions define our eternity. The strongest, most impactful message you can have about your faith is the one we speak with our lives. If we aren’t living it out, it invalidates anything we have to say on the subject. If what we say and how we live don’t match, we’ve probably already lost the battle. There’s the heart of my struggle. I’ve tried to follow Jesus and it’s hard. There’s nothing simple about it. It’s paradoxical. It’s counter-intuitive. Often I feel as if I know the truth, but have no experience of its reality or fail to fully live it out.

God is engaged in a gentle dance with us, wooing us to Him not wanting to force Himself on us, but rather wanting us to freely choose to love Him; to join with His redemptive mission for each other and for creation. He chooses to work through a failed people for reasons we may never understand. We are cracked vessels, works in progress. God doesn’t give up on us … we give up on ourselves. We aren’t defined by our failings and stumbling. We’re defined by how we get back up, bruised knees and all, dust ourselves off, and keep on our journey.

Ambassadors of Love

Many people call themselves Christian and we often refer to ourselves as a Christian nation. Have you ever wondered how some people can call themselves that? Or rather, how some folks can do some of the things they do and cloak themselves in religion or the Word of God?

On the flip side, there are a lot of folks who cloak themselves in the veil of religion to simply justify their biases. In other words, they have a belief/predisposition then seek to undergird said belief with Bible verses; bringing their vision to their faith and creating dogma around it.

Which is why I don’t tend to dump on Christianity when a “Christian” does something kooky or Islam when a “Muslim” does something contrary to their tenets. There are folks who call themselves Christian, Muslim, Wiccan or what have you whose actions clearly run contrary to the beliefs of those faiths.

We’re all eikons, image-bearers of God, created to relate to God, to relate to others, and to govern the world as such. Christians, in particular, ought to be ambassadors of God. Take that seriously, to reflect God, His love, His holiness.

Too often we run around as if we have diplomatic immunity, a get out of hell free card, that places us above everyone else. Instead, we ought to be the first servants. I think that’s what being missional boils down to for me (and how my faith makes sense to me).

If there’s a “fear” to my faith that I keep coming back to it’s that I take very seriously Christ’s words when He talks about people doing things in His name and when they finally come to meet Him, He tells them that He never knew them. Cloaking myself in His name and missing the point of my religion … that’s not the kind of Christian I want to be.

What defines how you see yourself in your faith?

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Learning as a Christian Lifestyle

Christianity was mean to be a lifestyle, one that was meant to distinguish us from the world. Some of our elite few have figured out how this is supposed to look: protesting Disney, boycotting laundry soap, not going to movies or watching television. Thus we become known for who we are against rather than who we are for. Interestingly, what you focus on tends to be what you become (think about that all you gay protestors).

One aspect of a “Christian” lifestyle is the posture that we are all learners, even those of us who function as teachers. We’re all God’s students. Now, information download isn’t the point and a lot of our churches have become great for making folks knowledgeable. It leads to dilemmas where you find yourself having conversations solely with other Christians who know as much as you.

Learning is a function of discipleship. Think of discipleship as a kind of spiritual apprenticeship. Where teachers share their learning but with a mindset difference: not one of a person above handing down knowledge to those who don’t know but rather more like people working alongside others, sharing what they’ve learned and challenging others to work out meaning in their lives. If nothing else, it would certainly dispel the misperceptions of “positions” in the faith.

Robert Caldwell at BreakDividingWalls.org has challenged me in a few areas, among them being the idea of the lifestyle of discipleship. He puts it this way “This lifestyle, while governed by some common ‘essential’ characteristics, should be as unique and varied as our respective gifting, affinities and lives. In other words, my lifestyle for cultivating discipleship relationships will most probably be different than yours because my gifts, affinities and life circumstance are different than yours. And your context will most probably be different than that of a person you disciple for the very same reasons. However what should be common is that we have all been intentional about establishing the rhythms and activities of our lives to allow us to easily share life (Koinonia) with other disciples.”

So examine the rhythm of your life. See how you can best open your life to share it with other people or if there are areas of your life that you can change to help do this better. We’re all in this together.

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Courtesy Flush for Jesus (Or, On Being a Stepford Christian)

One of the things that made me absolutely miserable about my Christian walk was the guilt of it all. It was like the church body I was a part of had this singular idea of how a Christian life should be led and any deviation from it and you were made to feel like you were a bad Christian. It was a whole culture of thought and deed. Life was to be lived according to a rigid set of rules, clear cut dos and don’ts (heavy on the don’ts because the don’ts were what separated us from “the world”). Books weren’t to be trusted unless they were written by MacArthur, Piper, or a few select mini-popes. Music, movies, any entertainment really, had better have been purchased at a local Christian book store (CHRISTIAN bookstore, not one of those Catholic ones).

Forget the idea of trying to be genuine, there was a set of rules you had to live by, all within the greater context of a culture and mindset. You had to get up and do “devotions” (which meant 30 minutes of Bible reading and prayer). Lord help you if you didn’t “get your day started right.” It got to be so that folks made each other guilty and miserable, robbing each other of the joy of their spiritual journey, by making each other feel like you were not loving God if you weren’t spending that critical 30 minutes in study. I know folks who’d end up reading the Bible during their “morning sit down” in order to squeeze in their time while getting ready for work, calling in their spouses to discuss applicable verses. (Thus the lament for a courtesy flush for Jesus.)

If you were a woman, you were expected to be a wife (sorry, no single Christian women allowed; you could only be fulfilled as a Christian as a wife. Technically you had to be a wife AND mother to fully be in the club). You were expected to homeschool, because what right thinking Christian would dare allow their kids into the public school system. And, since you weren’t expected to hold a job, you had to otherwise make the most of your time, I don’t know, threshing wheat or something.

It was a game of keeping up with the spiritual Jones’ enforced by the mega church mafia.

It got to the point where I felt like I had to put on a show, rather than be real with other Christians. Mind you, it’s not the discipline of Bible study and prayer that I’m down on. It’s the guilt-laden coercion into it. Basically, folks were being made into Stepford Christians, or other people’s idea of what a Christian should be. It is ironic that in Christ we’ve become free from the law and sin, only to become slaves to one another. To quote Michael Yaconelli in his book, Messy Spirituality:

“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. it is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are NOW in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we LET GO is seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Christian spirituality should be about encountering the person of Christ, and then a living out of that interactive relationship in every moment of life. It’s about knowing God, not knowing about God. We don’t need hyper-regimented, guilt-filled lives to call ourselves spiritual. God sees you. He knows you. You might as well be honest, authentic, and interact with Him in the midst of how you are … not how others think you ought to be. Each relationship is different. There shouldn’t be any Stepford Christians.

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Forbearing One Another (or, This Discipline Sucks)

Once again I’m trying to figure out an aspect of my faith, in this case wrestling with what is supposed to be a simple command: “Forbear one another”. So I’m trying to ask myself a few simple questions:

What does it mean to forbear (bear with or give slack to) one another and what does it look like in your life?

What does it mean to give people room and space to be who they are?

What does it mean to give people room and space to become who they are?

What does it mean to give people room and space to contribute and belong despite imperfections?

Who are you called to bear with?

It’s easy to like people who like you or are like you. The true test of your faith comes in loving your enemies. The annoying. The “extra grace people”. And think of how good God is at forgiving, putting up with, looking past the mistakes of, and loving people … and how we’re called to reciprocate it by forbearing one another.

So I’m stuck with this simple prayer: “Lord, teach me to love.”

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Church Eats Its Own Part II: No Room for Sinners Here

People fall.

I don’t even think of it as falling any more. We screw up, it’s what we do. The measure of our faithfulness isn’t in how many times we fall down (or how creatively, because believe me, some days it feels like I have an entire Research & Development wing devoted to finding new ways for me to screw up), but in our ability to get up, dust ourselves off, and keep going.

Yet too often, the Church eats its own. It’s like we make a sport of trampling over the fallen as if that’s part of their punishment and our holy duty to do so. We assume the authority to judge whether another is doing ministry the way God wants, living lifestyles in line with how “Christians should act” (because there’s only one mold apparently), and being spiritual the way we should (again, back to that one mold).

No wonder so many niche ministries have such a defensive posture when talking to their brethren. They recognize that it’s easier to think ill of our neighbor, that they don’t do ministry right, rather than credit them with not only wanting to do ministry, but appreciating their ability to do things you can’t and reach people you couldn’t. There’s lots of room to be the body of Christ, yet too many folks want everyone to be a toe. Listen to how different church people treat each other when they disagree. We can’t have a generous orthodoxy, where one party doesn’t have the sole key to how things are interpreted, but rather we not only slander but dehumanize our brothers and sisters.

Heaven help you if you actually sin. Again, love and forgiveness should be our calling cards, but we can be a murderously intolerant lot. I’d daresay there is a hatred in how we treat folks sometimes, especially those we’ve deemed fallen/sinners. The thing about fallen folks is that now their façade is gone. There’s no longer that need for pretense, you are what you are, it’s been revealed to all (and in truth, it now makes you … no different than the rest of us). Our treatment of “the fallen” should be where we shine most, being a hospital for the sick, demonstrating the grace, the redemption, the inclusion, and the power to transform and heal as a community comes along side them.

Basically people, I know I’m going to “fall” (we’ll just my regular lifestyle hiccups as mere stumbles). I know I’m going to let people down. I know that I will struggle. And when I do, I want a community to come alongside me, allow me to be broken, and then help restore me in love and grace. That’s what I’d like to see out of a spiritual community.

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Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom is a gift, but it’s a gift that comes with certain responsibilities. It requires us to be accountable for ourselves. On the one hand, we don’t want anything to get in the way of our freedoms, but on the other hand, some folks can’t handle their freedom. In America, we want the right (and have the dream) to work and supply for ourselves, without government not as supervening mommy. Leave me alone and let me make my own decisions. Yet already we’re seeing breathalyzers built into cell phones to prevent drunk-dialing or cars to prevent drunk driving. We’ve seen the demise of super sizes because McDonald’s made us fat. Not us. We didn’t drink too much or eat too much. Other people were responsible for that.

It’s a vicious cycle: we want options, freedoms, choices; but when things go wrong, we blame others, be they government, church, or our circle of friends. In the larger scheme of things, society tends to over react and, as a consequence limit (or at least encroach on our) freedoms in order to protect the few that can’t handle their choices. We have this fear of ourselves, of others, of community, of government, religion, and of the unknown. We definitely have a fear of taking chances, making mistakes, and being held accountable.

Truth be told, too many people want to be told what to do; that’s why there is such a comfort to rules, that’s the draw of becoming legalistic or fundamentalist. They want the black and white picture of reality and hate (or at least distrust) anything that smacks of gray. And they don’t mind the encroachment of their freedoms in order to secure their vision of safety.

The price of true freedom is personal accountability. Freedom goes against our sense of control, and ultimately, that’s what the extra rules that make up our walk boil down to. Freedom means challenging yourself and exploring new ideas, not sealing yourself away from everything that you might consider an evil influences. No amount of rules or intervention by the government in the name of safety and security is going to keep everyone from abusing the freedom that they have been given. Or being abused by it. There are simply consequences to our choices. With great freedom comes great responsibility.

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Growing Through Disillusionment*

The other night a group of us were out together: Maurice Broaddus Rob Rolfingsmeyer, Rich Vincent, and Lauren David. We hate to shatter any illusions, but during the course of our discussion we came to the startling conclusion that we can be asses (except for Lauren). It’s not like any of us set out to be the Dr. House of the theological set, it’s more of a resignation to the facts. We’re not going out of our way to be an ass, we simply know we can be asses. And yet the question comes up “do we have any business attempting to model what the church should be about, much less the love of Christ?”

We have a certain idea of what a saint is and are too quick to label people saints without considering what we mean by the term. After all, even the best of people are but flawed vessels, yet flawed vessels are the only kind of person God works through. To quote Miroslav Volf, “I am not a Christian because of the church, but because of the gospel. However, it was only through the broken church that I received the gospel. Because of the gospel, I participate in the church.” Think of some of the greats. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was known for her temper and how mean she could be. Francis of Assisi hated lepers despite talking about how much we should love everyone. Yet God manages to continue His work through us.

It’s easy to fall into cynicism. A cynic is a frustrated idealist, with the emptiness they so often experience being a symptom of their inability to let go of their idealism. Most people are idealists at first but there must come a time in everyone’s lives when your ideals and your dreams must be measured against reality; where “what could be” and “what ought to be” is measured against “what is.” The false facades begin to crumble and those things which had been so solid and so true are not able to withstand the crush of practicality. What do we do when this happens? How do we handle our disappointment with the truth of life itself? It’s what we do with these questions that end up fundamentally shaping our mature selves. Do we hide in a corner and deny those things that seem to be crushing defeats? Do we toss up our hands in frustrated resignation and give up on whatever it is that we’d dreamed of for so long?

Such profound disillusion is often wrestled with the transition from childhood to adulthood (and thus probably a contributing factor to the condition of being a spiritual teenager). Starting with your parents and moving onto the institutions you want to hold dear (school, the government, etc.), it becomes a struggle to survive nothing, and no one, being as you thought they were.

There is an option that allows for growth and maturity in our lives. From its very foundation it is frightening and tends to take a lot of work (some of which may call for sacrifices which you’d never imagined). Fusing your ideals with the reality you have to work with. Hunting down those parts of your ideals that are able to be sacrificed without losing the whole and learning to integrate new ideas and new thoughts which previously seemed foreign and even counter to what you held so dear. Sometimes it calls for a delicate shifting of boundaries without sacrificing the core of your beliefs. Sometimes even the core must be discarded.

It’s not so easy to make the changes in our lives necessary to balance reality with ideals. It’s an uncertain time fraught with error and simply speaking, those mistakes must be made. If there is to be any room for growth you need to be unashamed of your own fallibility. Your mistakes are what mold and shape you if you learn from them. The lessons rarely come easy and at times can be quite frustrating.

We have faults and we make mistakes, so we’re going to need your grace as we journey together. We keep in mind the words of a friend of ours: “Instead of talking about what horrible people we are, why don’t you go out and try to be the people you wish we were? If we do such a horrific job at loving people, why don’t you go show us how it’s done? If we are incapable of meeting hard to like people where they are at, why don’t you go meet them where they are at?”

*A Maurice and Rob tag-team blog effort. With Lauren as the cheerleader.

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Negative Testimonies

We have a natural sense of God as our protector and desire to seek His protection. We want His protection, especially in light of the fact that we can’t protect one another. When bad things happen, it’s like we long for God to step in, in a more direct way, and control things. We don’t ask such things when things are going “okay” (or as we’re making our own bad decisions). It’s like we want a “sovereign” God when it’s convenient.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of what it would be like to give a “negative” testimony about God. We’ve all heard the “God gets the glory” testimonies when things go well for us, when circumstances work out in the end. But what if we don’t get “the end” – what if we can only see the darkness and all we have to offer is the “where was God when … ?”

How do we go about sitting the blame at His doorstep? In learning how to live in tune with God, how do we deal with the negative things that happen to us? I know Christians who have no idea what it means to be with Him. Just as I know many self-proclaimed atheists who have a greater sense of how Christ lived with a sense of His grace, love, peace, and desire for social justice. Who understand a time to grieve, a time for lament, better than many who claim to follow Christ.

Maybe it boils down to our fairly flawed concepts of God. Sometimes it’s like we have to prove He even exists, or we believe that during our dark times, He always seems to be busy elsewhere. On the one hand, He’s pretty unrelatable, beyond anything our minds can even comprehend. Even the idea of trying to have a relationship with Him, of loving Him, or Him loving us, often staggers our imagination. On the other hand, we tend to “humanize” God, make Him relatable. To a degree, we have to in order to attempt to understand Him. But it’s like we have forgotten that Jesus was fully human, someone we can relate to and more importantly, someone who can relate to us.

We see God as outside of everything, picking and choosing at random when He chooses to intervene. Saying that He’s sovereign, but not knowing what that means. We may have the idea that all things are under His ultimate control, but hate when He has to let some things play out to not run roughshod over our free will. It’s like what we have to sometimes do as parents: we have to let out kids make their bad decisions and live by the consequences of them in order to let them be formed into the people we want them to be. Other times, we’re seemingly powerless, and have to watch our children go through unfortunate or tragic circumstances, with our children not always realizing how we grieve with them.

There does seem to be a great mystery in when God chooses, or can, to intervene; and when He doesn’t in order to fulfill His greater scheme of love. Sometimes we simply want to be shown how things are, all around us, written in us; we sense when things aren’t how they should be and long for how things were meant to be. In the mean times, in the darkness, there may be nothing good in the situation, but we still believe. We want to trust in the belief that God grieves with us, alongside us. In the frustration of not being able to protect the ones you love, the situation still sucks. So sometimes I have to honestly cry out:

I’m still angry. I’m still hurting. I don’t know what good you’re going to bring out of this. I don’t know what lessons you’re trying to teach through all of this. It’s not fair, but it’s not like my sense of fairness is greater than Yours. It’s not like I have a greater desire for justice than You. I don’t love my people more than You do. Help me to have the faith to believe that you are good. That you are in control.

May all of your expectations be frustrated,
May all of your plans be thwarted,
May all of your desires be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child
And can sing and dance in the love of God,
Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

• The Benediction by Brennan Manning

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