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.
‘Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.’ (LK 9:60)
Resurrection flies in the face of the sorrows we nurture and the Jesus we tend to conform to the image of our sorrows.
Jesus on the other hand broke the back of grief by assuming it at Calvary. If the Gospel accounts of His rising are true, He does not tolerate for long our weeping at His Cross and tomb. He simply has too much for us to do. He conquered death and wants us to join in the dance of new life, something strange and unsettling for us who are more acquainted with grief than glory. We who mope need the marvel of Easter.
Take Mary Magdalene. Her whole life was bound up in Jesus, in an intimate bond of love with the One who delivered her then died. Her grief over His departure kept her glued to the tomb; sadness slowed her down, and compelled her to wait there. Even then, she could not recognize Him when He, raised and radiant, appeared to her (JN 20: 10-18).
When she did recognize Him, her tendency may have been to grasp. We like Mary tend to make Jesus in our own image, according to the old vision and version of how things were. Mary wept for what used to be with Jesus; when He appeared to her post-crucifixion, everything had changed. That requires a deft hand and heart to all who welcome His resurrection. ‘Don’t hold onto Me, Mary!’ were Jesus’ comforting words (v.17).
We need to hear those words as well. Life is full of disappointments that can become big as tombs unless we fix our eyes on the One who lives and yet who is never quite within our grasp, always free to show us the Life waiting to emerge from our little deaths. That means letting go of the past, especially the past now made perfect in our deceptive memories as an antidote for today’s uncertainty. We need to let go of the past in order to hear Jesus now.
Our certainty is Christ Resurrected. He rents our veil of tears over and over until joy supersedes sorrow and enables us to face hardship with expectancy. Easter’s marvel? Jesus makes us more alive than before through every strange twist and turn. Death is not the end. The end is Life.