I usually hate to travel during this desert season but I could not resist the temptation to invite myself to the first assembly of 100 Living Waters members and leaders from four robust groups around Poland.
Under the strong leadership of Father Joseph and a national team of clergyman and lay persons, the Poles have taken up this work with an unprecedented focus and strategy. Joseph and tribe translated Living Waters, secured the theological blessing of the Polish bishops for the guidebook, mobilized male and female lay leaders to coordinate the groups, and enlisted Catholic priests—all admitted wounded healers— to work with them from the start. That means these healing groups will have the advocacy of the Church and Her sacramental worship.
Polish St. Faustina and St. John Paul ll must have smiled as I engaged with sinners of many kinds whom Jesus is transforming to take their places as part of His healing army. These sinner/saints embrace strugglers who often have given up on the Church until Jesus encounters them and urges them homeward.
My friend Jacek left the Church to pursue homosexuality and at the nadir of his sensational misery met Jesus in a ‘gay’ bar where Christ audibly asked him: ‘Do you want to belong to Me or not?’ He did, and began his re-engagement with Christ through the Living Waters community. After a history of sexual abuse, many male lovers, and a psychotic break, Karin could not overcome her depression until a friend invited her to the Living Waters pilot group in her city. She found the Man of her dreams who is freeing her from the darkness.
Part of my goal was to instruct all 100 to effectively share how Jesus through His community is satisfying their desires with good things. God confirmed our efforts at our Sunday Mass which featured St. John’s account of the Samaritan woman (JN 4). Jesus encountered one far from God and brought her near to Him through the water that cleanses and the blood that gives new life (‘living water’).
He did so by kindly revealing her false lovers. Jesus loved her thoroughly: exposing her poisoned well in order to satisfy her fully with Himself. Her response was to declare to all who would listen that this Man highlighted her shame in order to surpass it with His glorious love. So we departed Warsaw that weekend, refreshed in the mercy that empowers us to well up like a fountain for all who thirst.
‘To love a person means to see him as God created him to be.’ Dostoevsky
Kate led a home group where she befriended and cared for ‘Kevin’, a young adult actively involved in this large dynamic church. What Kate did not know was that ‘Kevin’ had been born Karen; for the last decade, Karen had assumed a masculine identity and was en route to ‘gender reassignment.’
Weeks before her final surgical effort to re-identify as male (her breasts already removed), Karen felt led by the Spirit to make her transition known to Kate, the spiritual leader whom she knew best and trusted most. No-one at the church had ever known Karen as anyone but Kevin. Karen asked Kate: ‘Is becoming ‘Kevin’ God’s best for me?’
Kate knew little about the complexity of persons who from the first few years of life nourish silently an alter ego of the opposite gender. But she was a woman of the Spirit and prayed intently for her pastoral charge. God simply gave her the words: ‘God did not make a mistake in creating Karen.’ Kate told ‘Kevin’ her counsel and pledged to support her in every way possible in that truth.
Karen came to us a few months later; we had just begun a Living Waters group in that church. It took an empowered, Spirit-filled and truthful village to help her make peace with her real self. She did, and became one of our best leaders.
Kate fulfilled what Joseph Pieper describes as the crucial link between wisdom and love as expressed in authentic friendship. Love always seeks the best for a friend based on wisdom. Pieper heralds the role of wise friends, who, operating out of divine love, counsel others according to ‘the truth of real things’ so that what is actual and good might become reality.
Nothing better defines how godly friendship operates. Remember how wisdom ‘forms right judgments concerning how one is to act in the here and now’ (Pieper)? No easy task, this getting of wisdom in an age of 50 plus gender ‘selves’! Operated wisely and in loving accord with ‘Kevin’s’ real self, Kate summoned the truth of Karen in that crucial juncture of her decision-making and counseled her to align herself with Reality. Godly friendship helped preserve Karen’s life.
‘Preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you…’ (PR 3: 21, 22)
Like you, I watch helplessly as divided men and women leave faith and family for another partnership, be it a younger lover, the actualizing of an ‘LGBT’ self, or just a ‘fresh’ start. Adultery takes on many forms in our world today. Especially painful is the mangling of many by the one who buys the lie that happiness lies in the illicit orgasm, the romantic rush, creaturely comforts that bypass the Creator. Solomon warns those who conceive adultery: ‘At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.’ (PR 4:11)
How relevant is the wisdom of Proverbs for our consumer-driven culture! The wise declare: ‘Yes I have hardships and disappointment, yet my happiness rests in the One who orders all things and makes a way for me in all my conflicts.’ Wisdom guides that life and safeguards all who surround it by what Joseph Pieper describes as ‘the perfected ability to make right decisions.’ (His definition of prudence, which I am describing here as wisdom, is laid out excellently in The Four Cardinal Virtues, Notre Dame Press.) On wisdom hinges all other virtues. How else can you understand ‘this root and guide of all good action’?
I rejoice in a host of husbands who have betrayed their wives (with porn and both genders) then repented and worked hard to restore family life. From them I have learned wisdom. Why? Wisdom guided their steps; they were willing to be trained by her, and their recovery highlights several facets of Pieper’s wisdom.
First, wisdom is rooted in the truth; truth is her standard, and wisdom insists that one love the truth and effort to actualize it. Wisdom is based both on an ideal—God only honors sexual love in marriage and my wife deserves that–but also on a real struggle to stay true to that ideal—I must work hard and find roots in a recovery community in order to win back her trust. Wisdom aligns with Reality. One aligns with the truth of God’s will and works hard to live out that truth.
Secondly, wisdom insists on an ‘energetic promptness’, an ability to swiftly decide for the good. That means clearing out any delusion related to ‘managing’ one’s own sin. Wisdom’s clear-sightedness frees him to refuse nostalgic rubbish. He remembers things as they were—demonic entrapments that destroyed life rather than enhanced it; he runs to the fountain of life to partake of the One whose friends hold him to his best. One friend said: ‘I recall daily the devastation of my wife and marriage but also the refuge of our love today. We’ve worked too hard to give that up for anything.’
Thirdly, wisdom is all about foresight, ‘a sure instinct for the future.’ My friends are preparing for a long life with good women and kids and grandkids. ‘I am making truthful decisions today for tomorrow’ is their credo. These former fools repented unto Almighty Mercy and became wise. Wisdom makes whole divided lives, and sets in motion a righteous future for thousands of others.
God gave everything for us at Calvary. He poured out His life, which is the best definition of love I know. We have all (I hope) known someone who sacrificed for us. But he or she did not give everything. God did. He died for us.
He died for us in order to gain us: He died to draw near to us, to be with us, to calm us with His Presence, to speak words we can hear, to nourish us with His body and blood. He ‘who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see’ (1T 6:16) humbled Himself in His Son and came closer to us than a mother or a lover ever could.
Love means God comes near to us in Jesus. We who are little and rebellious and unable to love Him back now have access to God through this Jesus. We are not alone anymore. Because of Him, we need not be destabilized by other lovers. All He asks is that we give everything to Him.
That seems like a lot. But it’s the only way we can live happy lives. To know Him but to serve other gods is torture, hell before hell. Discovering the secret of surrender opens to us the music of the spheres, the peace that surpasses understanding, unbounded joy. We die to worldly distractions in order to rest in holy love, to enjoy the fruit of His suffering–the Creator’s desire for intimate union with His human creation.
I want to rest in the arms of the One who fought for me. I want to know that sweetness in full. To do so, Oswald Chambers quotes St. Paul: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20); “These words mean the breaking of my independence with my own hand and surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus…it means breaking the husk of my individual independence of God, and the emancipating of my personality with Himself, not for my own ideas, but for absolute loyalty to Jesus.”
Lent then is an opportunity to let go of specific distractions so we can know Him more. It is simple: we give Him more space to love us; in gratitude, we love Him back. That rhythm sets in motion the ordering of our other loves, the people He calls us to love.
Immersed in His Spirit of love, we may hurt when we discover that we have loved others poorly, be it in needing another too much out of disordered desire or withholding love because one threatened us or did not give us what we wanted.
Our pain is good. Weep and rejoice in His mercy that renews our efforts to love others better. The Lord is faithful. He will not leave us alone in our human loves. He loves us and them too much! He converts us continuously with His self-giving until we love as He does. By the time we see Him face-to-face, we may well love others better than we do now.
The other night I beheld a demonic power in a dream; the blob-like entity had little form and was obscured by darkness. It made a variety of sounds as if it were feeding off something. Though I could not see its target, I realized the ‘thing’ was intent on foraging off a person, any person.
In the dream, I recalled a line from a movie in which the actor said wryly: ‘I sleep with all my friends.’ This entity was open to either gender, any person who would partner with it by indiscriminately engaging in sex of any kind. It was greedy and insatiable, as if its lust could not be satisfied. It gave the impression that it intended to devour its prey, to use the person up. I went from a mild intrigue to repulsion when I realized that the unclean spirit wanted the blood of embodied souls and would employ sexual immorality to get it. I rebuked the devouring thing in Jesus’ name and woke up.
I processed the dream with my wife and then the Desert Stream staff. We thought of a generation weaned on pornography and primed for ‘friendly’ sex with either gender; we admitted the doors to lust we had cracked in our own imaginations. And we considered how illicit sexuality counterfeits as completion yet actually fractures us. In truth, lust masks itself as love but has power to destroy persons (and marriages) who welcome it. We agreed that Lent is not long enough to contend with the battle for souls being waged today by predatory lusts.
We confessed our compromises and rebuked the devourer. We did both: repent and renounce. We are dealing not only with lusts of the flesh but with principalities which want our blood. We combat lust with Jesus’ blood and the authority He gives the faithful to pray for one another so we might be healed, ambassadors of freedom for a captive generation.
‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters are undergoing the same kinds of sufferings throughout the world.’ (1P 5:8, 9)