Tag Archives: Shame

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Wounds and Walls

As we continue our 40-days of prayer for loved ones, we bump up against some thick walls, or defenses, that surround their sexually immoral decisions. We wonder why: (s)he is not by nature a defensive person. How did this fence get electrified?

It may be helpful to remember that preceding immoral choices are significant wounds of which we are not aware. Sexually brokenness usually results from a series of disempowering messages and experiences in childhood that a sensitive soul agrees with and internalizes. What results is a pervasive belief that one is flawed in his/her adequacy as a gendered person and disqualified from normal love. The enemy of his/her dignity stokes shame and self-hatred to a degree that perhaps we have never experienced.

When this exquisite soul, now in darkness and dangerously turned against itself, experiences illicit love from a similarly wounded soul, (s)he feels like she has come into the light. ‘Someone understands me and pays me attention and thinks I am wonderful!’ Add the sensual bond (sensational and habit-forming) and you have a stronghold that is mightily defensive. A starving person now eats and will fight for his/her freedom to self-nourish.

We know these ‘eating’ habits are disordered and thus doomed to fail. But such awareness is rational; the wound and the wall arose out of chaos, irrationally, and are not immediately subject to reason. We have a deeply spiritual problem. Our common enemy who seeks to destroy these souls employs psychological wounds and defenses to wall them off from unfailing Love.

So we pray, and ask the Father of all-living to make known His kindness to loved ones. And He sensitizes us as to make us answers to our own prayers: more aware of what may well drive their defenses, more inclined to listen to His voice than ours, turning from fear and strife and toward compassion for the loved one’s well-being. We ask God to burn off our shame and to make us fearless in love for the other’s best.

Yet the sword is in our hearts, not our hands. May He turn our zealous efforts to ‘set this one straight’ into tears for the wounds they bear. Only water brings down such walls. Let us embody the brokenness that invites our loved ones into His.

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How Love Absorbs Shame

‘Shame can only be absorbed by true love-a love which affirms the value of the person and seeks the greatest good for him or her with all its strength.’

Ever since I first read these words by Karol Wojtyla (before he became John Paul ll), I have pondered this truth. And witnessed it in action: holy love evaporates the veil of shame around us until we actually live in the light of that love.

We approach Lent next Wednesday. We have over 40 days to reflect upon the face of holy love in Christ Jesus. As He exposes new layers of sin in order to purify love in us, we do well to allow Him to absorb our shame. That feeling of exposure, the nakedness we experience when He reveals our mixed motives, can tempt us like the original pair to turn away from love. Stay near Him. Stay near persons who love Him and who uphold you in holy love. Love will conquer shame and protect your vulnerable heart.

Let me give you a few examples. We had a marvelous training in the Philippines with a mostly Asian team. We had all been through a lot of hard changes and came expectant yet tempted by some fear. For me, the whole international scene had become a shameful thing due to a series of negative experiences with former colleagues. And we all knew we faced big challenges in welcoming Roman Catholics amid a context that tended to be evangelical and reactive to Catholics.

Jesus prepared the team by giving us great drafts of love for each other. Whenever we met, it seemed like the water levels of our mutual respect and affection rose. It was earthy, holy love, deeply human yet divine. I articulated the shame I felt; the face of Jesus in my colleagues burned off the haze and freed me to mobilize for the mission. Even when certain ones complained about my Catholic views, I did not return to the darkness. Love freed me to bear inevitable conflicts without buckling. Love conquered shame.

I just finished a wonderful conference in Los Angeles. While there, I met with three men who have meant much to me over the last three decades: Vineyard Pastors Don Scortino, Bill Dwyer and Brad Bailey. Having now faced many leaders who will no longer support Living Waters and the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction, I felt a little fear and shame. Am I still welcomed there? Their unqualified advocacy flowed like water on dry ground. Their love absorbed shame and created protected space for me to thrive.

During the conference itself, many gathered from around the Southland. Dried out from harsh winds of heresy, these persons sought Real Presence–the oil of anointing and merciful waters in order to thrive in their commitment to sexual wholeness. Pilar, a lovely woman and Living Waters leader who Jesus gently restored from the impact of a lesbian affair, said it best: ‘Jesus is bringing me into a season of intimacy that I would never have known had I not offered my brokenness to Him.’ Real intimacy absorbs the shame of false lovers.

This Lent, let us allow holy intimacy to absorb the shame we still bear. Each week, I will be writing on one of the 7 deadly sins. As we ask the Light of the world to expose the nuances of these sins in us, I urge you to welcome Love in your brokenness. Exposed, seek cover in the Crucified. Let Him shine on your intrinsic value; let that value grow and rout out the sin that still besets us. Holy love absorbs shame.

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Fighting fire with Fire

‘For you did not receive a spirit that enslaves you to fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’(Rom. 8: 15)

Have you ever consider the truth that many persons who face intense same-gender longings are actually motivated by fear: original experiences of rejection for personal and gender inadequacy–the threat that their offering to parents or peers may be rebuffed? Fear intermingles with shame, goes underground, then resurfaces in a kind of homosexual entrancement in which the rejected one plays out a kind of sensual reconciliation with his own gender.

The futility of this effort is obvious: the fearful one is compensating for a trauma, not complementing another person as a valuable counterpart. But bonds forged in fear and lust can be more binding and blinding than those conceived in wholeness. My friends and I agreed that our efforts at gay love only distorted what could have been good friendships with bright, searching guys.

We resonated at a recent seminar with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi as he described the early experiences of sensitive souls who in the face of early shaming experiences faced a ‘dropping, sinking and collapsing’ of body and spirit then retreated for years into a kind of ‘no man’s land’ until same-sex feelings emerged and became another reason for self-hatred.

Gay fantasy, identity, and relationships assuage the fear and shame and self-hatred temporarily but cannot dissolve the truth that something more basic is happening: an effort to resolve a wound that no amount of civil liberties can heal. Even therapy has its limits here. Through undoubtedly helpful, it cannot wholly answer the cry of body and spirit.

Only Jesus can unlock the dungeon of self-rejection and hatred. Only He can enter into our darkest memories and current temptations and grant us a way of escape (1COR 10:13). His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (1 JN 4:18) and gives us, perhaps for the first time, the fight we need to arise in our original dignity and resume the journey to wholeness.

After the seminar, I encountered a bulky guy to whom I might previously have abdicated my own masculinity—my chest sinking and collapsing–through a flash of homosexual lust. But not this time. Conscious of anxiety, I breathed deeply and practiced the Presence of the One ‘who has stooped down to make me great’ (PS 18: 35b).This David blessed the Goliath before me and walked on, unencumbered and grateful for the man I am and the God I worship.

‘We overcome the fire of lust by entering into an infinitely greater Fire, that of God’s Eros-Agape love.’ (Christopher West, The Heart of the Gospel)

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Downward Ascent 6: Blessed Impurities

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ (Matt. 5:8)

Lent is an extended season of exposure. For 40 days, God tends to reveal the thoughts and intentions of our hearts; He highlights what is in our hearts rather than what we would like others to think. For example, this Lent God is exposing the folly that I am in truth a merciful person. Yes, I am inclined to show compassion to sexually broken people. But toward traditional men with a regional Midwest mindset I am in truth arrogant and unforgiving. I love partially, at best.

I expect God to level me at Lent. I need to be. So does Desert Stream. He disciplines those He loves. He loved us enough this year to reveal division in our ranks, petty unspoken judgments that threatened to become rifts on our small staff. One year He revealed sexual compromise, another year financial and administrative ones, the next year our failure as a ministry to tithe. We have learned to accept the revelation of our impurities as a terrible gift.

No-one likes to be humbled. But to be emptied again in order to be filled with mercy and power from on high—smells like Jesus, a fragrance that frees us once more to stay true to Him. Accepting the truth of impurities invites us to welcome the Pure One who alone has power to cleanse us. So purity hinges on the exposure of our impurities.

Maybe we need to rethink ‘exposure’. Though the term naturally invokes shame– the dread of being found out–we may want to turn that around. Perhaps our awareness of impurity is actually a sign that we are becoming pure: less tolerant of falsehood and more sensitive to what pleases Him. Awareness of impurity may actually be a sign that we are becoming more like Him.

C.S Lewis thinks so. He writes in Mere Christianity: ‘When a man is getting better, he understands more clearly the evil that is left in him. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present; it is the very sign of His presence.’

Realizing impurity is a sign of intimacy with Him; submitting that impurity to Him can serve to deepen intimacy all the more. What the devil wants to use to destroy a soul or a ministry, God transforms into an occasion for holy love.

The most winsome Christians I know are those who are painfully aware of their propensity to sin and deeply reliant upon Jesus and His friends as the basis for their purity. I smell the fragrance of holiness in them: holiness sourced in mercy and gratitude.

Purity is a gift from God to persons who respond to the revelation of impurity by plunging and remaining in the mercy pool at the foot of the Cross.

Might we be less shocked by Lenten exposure and more grateful? Let the Spirit of St. Teresa of Avila fill you. When opponents accused her of being sexually impure, she responded: ‘If they really knew me, they would say far worse things about me than that!’

Jesus said that the heart is the source of murder, adultery, lying, theft and slander (Matt. 15:19). Blessed are those who welcome their Source at the source of sin. Purity results: the freedom to see the One who sets us free. For such freedom, the 40 days of Lent may not be long enough!

PRAYER for Monday March 31st: ‘Father, we ask for the grace to behold whatever impurity You want to expose in us this Lent.’

PRAYER for Tuesday April 1st: ‘Father, help us to know our hearts in regards to such exposure. Do we tend to turn away, tempted to hide, or do we turn to You? Reveal the source of our disquiet: is it fear and shame, pride or presumption? Help us to accept inspired exposure as a gift, not a punishment.’

PRAYER for Wednesday April 2nd: ‘Father, renew in us the power of the confessional. May we revisit those ones You have placed in our lives to whom we can pour out the truth of sin and in exchange receive wisdom and forgiveness. Grant us a taste of the purity You offer us in the place of impurity.’

PRAYER for Thursday April 3rd: ‘Father, show us persons in our lives who manifest holiness born out of mercy and gratitude. Help us to be more like them, more like Jesus.’

PRAYER for Friday April 4th: ‘Father, reveal to our loved ones the love that exposes. In kindness, reveal their inspired need for the purity and integrity only You can give them in exchange for their sin.’

PRAYER for Saturday April 5th: ‘Father, reveal how we tend to dismiss our sins in light of the more obvious violations of fallen loved ones. Show us our smug religious pride. Please free us from self-satisfaction; free us for loving hearts and deeds toward the lost born of mercy and gratitude.’

PRAYER for Sunday April 6th: ‘Father, make us Your pure Church, born out of honest reckoning with our impurities. Help us to see You. We welcome Your exposure as You prepare us to become a radiant Bride, without stain or wrinkle (Eph. 5: 27).’

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