Sexuality has something to do with directing us out of our aloneness and into creative communion with others. God made it that way. However challenging that ‘gift-giving’ is today, it remains the way that we honor our parents, grow in appreciation of our gender and that of the other, and become parents ourselves. The Scripture says it best: how wondrous that God did not create us to be alone (Gen. 2:18)! (Special thanks to Theologian Dr. Mary McCarthy for this insight.)
How clever of the evil one to introduce the idea that real freedom comes from foregoing the aim of one’s maleness or femaleness and exploring any number of gendered selves (60+ and counting). As I engaged with many twenty-somethings who came to our Living Waters Training last week, I could see their battle to forego onramps to alternative identities so they might proceed on the one true highway to wholeness. A route defined by becoming the awesome man or woman, son or daughter of the Most High!
Think about this battle. ‘Tim’ has certain feelings for his own best male friend and comes out as ‘gay.’ Immediately he foregoes the intended good of his masculinity by offering it to a non-creative source (The friend’s mouth or anus.) Immediately, his parents are put in a weird position: they conceived him, after all, and want him to grow in that openness to life. Instead, he insists that they embrace his identity or else. ‘Or else’ probably means he rejects them for telling their truth. Tim’s new way imposes a prison of aloneness: alienation from his family and the purpose of sexuality. All he gets is a friend with benefits, and that won’t last long. Tim is alone. Satan has his way.
We forsake the enemy by entering into the great waves of mercy flowing from Jesus. We immersed ourselves in those waters last week. Repentance to Him and a process of gender reconciliation unites us with the Father’s love for us and the advocacy of His people. Surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, one begins to belong to his or her gender peer. One begins to appreciate the other. One begins to sorrow over the breakdown with parents and begins to access mercy for the damage done. Jesus becomes the conduit of ‘living water’ that liberates a community that (s)he has never known.
When we as the Church become what Jesus always called us to be—a tender almighty, consistent and trustworthy love that dissolves walls and reveals our naked longing for communion—the enemy will slink away like the defeated tyrant he is. Alienated children will discover their true home. This is a home where we live the truth together: ‘It is not good that we be alone.’
The rainbow protesters came as planned to our 6th annual Restored Hope Network Conference in San Diego last Friday, and as usual, barked more than they bit. (‘We’re queer, we’re here’; yeah, we know.) An activist warned RHN Director Anne Paulk: ‘You’re bigots, you’re hateful…we’ve taught our kids to love everyone.’ Huh. Apparently love applies to everyone but persons who take seriously the gender of their birth and who by God’s grace refuse to allow abuse, self-hatred, and LGBT fantasies to conceal their true selves. Speaker Janet Mefferd cited the ‘weirdly judgmental judgmentalism’ of the progressive set.
One could not stay mad for long. Guys in dresses and tutus marched alongside surly Black Lives Matter (?!) activists who threatened for a moment to block the church parking lot. The moment passed, the BLM folk left, and the motley crew ranted unfounded charges from wounded hearts for a couple of days.
We loved having them. Gender rebels came to Church! Where else will they hear how their Creator and Redeemer can love them into wholeness? Each speaker spoke beautifully about profound suffering, fruitful surrender to Jesus, and careful tending by His members. No hint of the Church imposing life-defying burdens on fractured persons: here God searches out lost ones, binds up wounds in a bond of love, and restores dignity by mobilizing these ones as part of His healing army. Formerly transgendered Linda Seiler and Daniel Delgado articulated brilliantly the sacredness of gender, no matter how tough that can be for a young twisted soul.
Jesus took the hit; He became that complex stronghold of sin (2Cor. 5:21) for Linda and Daniel. For us all. He assumed upon His chaste shoulders all our rants and filth and confusion; in dying for us, He broke the slow death pervading our lives. He now lives to give us new lives, and to make them matter for others. The joy, the humility, and the gratitude we embody have power to endure.
We endure to take the hits. Joined to our Head and to one another, we are privileged to be the targets of darkened hearts. They misunderstand Jesus; they misunderstand us. They transfer their torment onto God and His people. No servant is greater than his Master. ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated Me first’ (JN 15:18). We are privileged to shine like stars as we reflect His glory to a broken generation (Phil. 1:15).
PLEASE NOTE: Andrew will be on vacation from everything including blogging until late July.
Words fail to express the suffering endured by persons who resist identification with their biological gender. Left-leaning analysts would attribute that suffering to external sources–the rejection a tough girl or soft boy incurs from peers.
The problem runs deeper still. To refuse acceptance of oneself as male or female conveys a wound and a deception at the most basic level of being. Researchers who chart the uniformly poor adjustment these persons make in the whole of life point to a fault-line in the soul that is not healed by our agreement that the confused person is imprisoned in the wrong body. In solidarity with our friends who live with an internal divide that defies our empathy, we cry out for the courage to connect this one with the Author and Finisher of his or her true self.
Our common enemy knows that a war against one’s gender poisons the soul with hatred and wreaks havoc with one’s spirituality. Why? To disassociate from one’s gender and to create an alternate reality, a fantasy self, separates one from God. Our Creator may love His confused children but cannot connect with an illusory self. The enemy dwells in the murkiness of our flights from reality; he loves to devalue our gender selves and empowers efforts to re-create ourselves in an image that seems safe and powerful, valuable in our own eyes.
Many craft such a self in order to escape a losing battle to ascribe value to one’s gendered self. Years of secret fantasy—a defense against the reality of one’s own body—form a powerful stronghold against the truth. Some gender vulnerabilities are obvious: a good friend of mine was regularly abused by her father and would steel herself against his blows by imagining herself to be a male soldier who could endure anything. Young boys whose fathers fail to help them unite their creative drives with masculinity too readily identify with ‘fabulous’ women, and increasingly seek refuge in these fantasies as peers reject their alternate ‘selves.’
Creative personalities seem especially adept at forming alternate gender realities. What began as a wound, a de-valuation, an authentic cry for confirmation at the level God created us all to receive becomes a defense against reality. In the absence of a biological base for these conflicts, we must be compassionate about the depth of the wound. But pain does not give one a pass. The wound has now become a stronghold—a fortress of rebellion against oneself and one’s God—which bars this one from dignity on all fronts. The most wounded can become the most rebellious, tender-hearted sons and daughters now hard in their self-pre-occupation and disregard for what is holy. We should not snicker about this or quietly concede to one’s ‘choice.’
We must pray that God would empower His Church, His community of healing, with a love more splendid than the passive acceptance we extend. As Leanne Payne loved to say, we are comfortable when Jesus says ‘judge not’ (LK 6:37), referring to hypocritical judgments, but refuse His command to see through mere appearance and ‘make righteous judgments’ (JN 7:24). More than ever, we need a fresh wave of Pentecost to burn up the Tower of (gender) Babel and give us fresh tongues with which to declare the truth, with signs and wonders following. Without an emboldened Church, we will lose souls to our common enemy.
‘Come, Holy Spirit of fire; we are desperate for You-through-us to rout the enemy and set captives free.’
Please join us in San Diego on June 16th and 17th for the sixth annual RHN Hope 2017 Conference as hundreds gather to celebrate how Jesus has set them free from gender identity distortions. Preview with us the first full-length documentary film ever made–Tranzfomed–on how Jesus restores the transgendered. Register here today!
Easter invites us to rise with Christ and to offer our lives to those who have lost hope in His mercy. We arise in hope and become messengers of hope. Our clarity is founded on the hard fact that every other security has failed us. Resurrection demands that we admit ‘all our positions on life’s battlefield are lost and we must vacate them’ (Karl Barth). We stand in Christ alone. He shines gloriously upon us who are reduced to one thought and one prayer: ‘Jesus.’
My joy lies in partnering with persons who, aware of their brokenness, allow Jesus to become their wholeness and who live that truth in love for all who seek Him. One such person is Miguel Ramos from Puerto Rico with whom we partner in Living Waters. I just returned from his island in order to immerse myself in the healing community Miguel has established there through God’s mercy. Wow. Let me tell you about Miguel’s rising out of surrender to Jesus.
I met Miguel 4 years ago at our first Living Waters Training in Mexico. He was a well-known actor—handsome and confident– on his island of 4 million yet also reduced to Jesus in his homosexual struggle. He cried most of the training. Unable to fix himself, He entrusted himself to the One who could bring good out of his suffering. He wanted to serve others but knew he had to be reduced from the larger-than-life persona he had cultivated. He needed to get saved from himself, to come down to size in order to manifest Jesus.
God is good at that. Miguel returned annually to the training in Mexico with fresh need for healing and encouragement. He confessed church trouble and woman trouble and how God seemed to honor his efforts only to frustrate them. Miguel persevered. He knocked on new church doors and poured out ‘living water’ on any who were thirsty. Relational tensions rose and fell away until he landed in a church family that asked of him only that he become small and serve. He began to run our groups there and found deep common ground with the pastors and a vision of integrity: the express goal of that church is to impart wholeness to the inner man in order to reach the world with Jesus’ transforming power. Miguel found ‘home’ where he is helping others to come home.
We visited Miguel last weekend in his church where we taught and healed. His people testified mightily of the hope they have found in Jesus’ mercy. And Miguel found there a beautiful woman—Ruth– with whom he is partnering in love and service. The high point of our time together? In the unexpected absence of a worship leader, Ruth picked up the microphone and began to lead us in a beautiful worship set; she was soon joined by Miguel who joined her in the most sumptuous of harmonies. Together, the two took us to heaven. Hail the fruit of surrender. Jesus opposes the proud but raises the humble (James 3:6). Gloriously.
‘I will send you the prophet…who will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers’ (Mal. 4:5, 6).
The late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi popularized the ideal of a ‘salient’ father who embodies both tenderness and strength. His point? Children who grow up respecting such a dad while welcoming his kindness proceed successfully into adulthood and are less likely than detached children to spin out into sexual and relational brokenness.
I had the privilege of honoring Joe at his memorial service last week in California and recalled him as a prophet who never lost focus on repairing the wound–the gap in connection between fathers and children that render us vulnerable to seeking sexualized mothers and fathers. In sunny immoralist Southern California, Joe stood as a prophet who insisted that restoring breaches in father/child relating could redirect the wandering of pleasure-seeking orphans.
He was and still is demonized by the professional community he represents for coining the term ‘reparative therapy’, which simply means that same-sex attraction is a symptom of an early attachment wound and sound psychotherapy can begin to heal it. Joe made a way for us to name the wound and access real mercy—‘my feelings are not my fault’—and at the same time to challenge us to resume the journey to gender wholeness. Joe was salient: equal parts tenderness and strength. The host of spiritual sons and daughters who honored him last week—mostly psychotherapists who trained under him at The Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic he founded in 1980—bore witness of his fruitfulness as a spiritual and clinical father.
The most moving part of the memorial was Joseph Jr.’s tribute to his dad. I witnessed a grateful son grieving for a father he loved and respected who was taken away too soon, without warning. Salient Joe imparted the whole of his life to his only child who proceeded on to become a devout Christian and psychologist and who now heads the Aquinas Center. Joseph Jr. spoke eloquently and honestly—equal parts tears and joy—of the adventures he shared with his father. The elder passed on to the younger a vocation of fathering vulnerable ones into wholeness. All the while, salient Joe loved his son well. His final witness lies in the fact that the ideals he taught he also lived. Bravo, salient Joe.