I am in the very beginning stages of developing a program that will minister to two needs in the Body of Christ. The first is a need for church healing. There are a lot of people out there who have been seriously hurt by the church, and I believe the Lord wants to bring them healing and restoration. Not restoration to a system, but restoration to a family. The second need is to give practical tools in learning how to relate to the Body of Christ in a healthy way.
Below are some simple writings I’ve done to begin journeying down this road. I’ve taken the 12-steps of AA and Al-Anon and applied them to our sometimes thorny experience of church life.
Check back from time to time! I hope to finish out the twelve steps and continue the development of this program in whatever mysterious way the Lord leads!
Church draws the insane. I think some of the most unhealthy people in all the world hang out in churches. This is not a bad thing, of course. I’m sure it’s exactly where they should be. Our own revelation of our destitute state brought us to the cross in the first place. So why are we surprised when we find ourselves surrounded by the toxic and injurious? Of course we’re hoping that everyone in churches are traveling a road leading to health and wholeness. Being on this journey ourselves, we would automatically have great grace for each other, right?
Where it may get a bit messy is the notion that many Christians have of fixing each other. Traveling my road doesn’t usually offer enough excitement. So I would tend to hop on someone else’s road and see if I can help them move a little quicker down their journey to health. Of course…. my “help” depends upon how their health (or lack there-of) directly affects me, and how their victory in any certain area could make me look extraordinary.
As I jump on another persons road to fix and change them, it’s actually viewed as pastoral. Imagine that. I can be utterly motivated by my own judgements, or my own sickly need to be needed, and it’s suddenly looked upon as as Mother Theresa-ish. I can be co-dependent and people applaud! I have truly found my home. 🙂 Me, and millions of other co-dependents and addicts all communing together, meeting each others needs and calling it good. But is it good? I don’t mean to sound so cynical. I really don’t think God minds it all that much. He knows that we’re dust.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to play on that field anymore. But in order to get off this particular playground, I need to switch my paradigm and set my heart free from fixing others. Quitting this game has been painful, to say the least. Many of my well manicured identities were created on this play ground, and laying them down left me feeling rather naked. Then, finding myself in situations where other people had the audacity to not be happy with me, and my world fell apart. Not really… it just felt like it. I actually woke up the next morning and realized that I was still alive and breathing, even though I had disappointed people. My life continued rather happily, even when there was someone out there who didn’t think I was God’s anointed minister of the hour. Quite the revelation. I could sit in a room with someone in pain and not feel the desperate need to find their answer. This was so strange at first… like I was doing something wrong. I was, in fact a pastors wife. Shouldn’t I have answers? But the more I just admitted that I had no answers, the more intoxicating it became. How freeing! Their life was NOT on my shoulders! Truly staggering revelation.
I think I took a step towards sanity somewhere on the journey of choosing to stay on my own road. I no longer had to decide what a person “should” be feeling or experiencing and somehow find a way to get them there. I no longer had to even judge where a person was, or find the right thing to say to get them to the next “level.” It wasn’t up to me to figure out if someone else was good or bad, called or left behind, sinner or saint. It was just me and my Jesus, traveling down my road with the log in my own eye. I could look over on other travelers and smile, hug, applaud, and even weep when they wept… because I understood a little what it was to travel the road. And that was enough.
Step Number One: We admitted we were powerless over our problems and that our lives had become unmanageable.
I think this first step is a doozy for most Christians. “What? Me? Powerless? I can do all things through Christ! Unmanageable? Naw…. I’ve just hit a rough spot. I’m trusting in God. He’ll come through for me.”
Faith is a beautiful, utterly miraculous thing. And it dwells truly within authenticity, honesty and vulnerability. It’s time we really let our guard down and show people the real us. How authentic am I? Am I living and relating deeply honest with myself and others around me? I think Alanon was the most honest place I have ever been. And church quite possibly, ranked up there with some of my most dishonest moments.
This “faking it” stuff just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t call that faith. I call it pharisaical. I was, in this way, a pretty successful pharisee. Not religious when it came to rules and structures, but in feeling the need to always have my best foot forward. I was incredibly good at hiding my pain. I could be very hurt by someone yet smile and tell them what they did didn’t bother me I could talk about confrontation with downright bravado, yet avoid it passionately at every turn. I wasn’t the Church Lady. I just hid the truth about my heart.
Remember the inside of the cup? (Matthew 23:25) Cleaning the outside of the cup and leaving the slimy stuff on the inside is perfectly silly. Yet… look at us! We’re so good at presenting a good Christian front. But step number one refuses to let us begin this journey with even an ounce of falsehood.
This is our starting point. It’s an invitation to walk off the stage and scrub in for surgery. Are you game?
Our journey begins at the cross. In this place, we realize we cannot save ourselves. We have to come face to face with our own sin and allow ourselves to become painfully convinced of what we unquestionably deserve. It’s here, gazing on the very cross that rescued our helpless souls, that we come to terms with our own powerlessness.
This is step one.
The Scripture calls this death. “I have died” Paul says. My old life is in the grave. In this nearly incomprehensible exchange between Jesus and me, I gave him my life, and He gave me His. My life is not my own. I died, and have quite literally been raised from the dead. (Romans 6:8; Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20).
Experiencing our own death is becoming utterly convinced of our powerlessness. We die to our own abilities. We die to our own strength. We die to our own life.
Those who cling to their life will loose it, but those who lay it down will find it.
In step number one, we revisit the cross. We stand at that place of being intimately aquatinted with our own inability. It’s here that true freedom is found. But this time around we take it one step further. I’m not only powerless to save myself, I’m also powerless over other people.
We are powerless to change the people around us. So part of this journey is to learn to dwell with all kinds of people – healthy or broken – and remain in peace and freedom regardless. No fear of what others might say or do. No panic when those around us act a little crazy. No control, and no fear of being controlled. No fear of trusting, no fear of weirdness. No more fear of my own powerlessness. It all dies.
I am not on this planet to conform all men unto me. Although I have certainly given it my best shot.
So I must simply let go. Other people’s opinions of me? I’m powerless to change them. Other people’s choices to live healthy or not? They wont be answering to me. Everyone else’s right to think differently than me? I may not like it, but I’m powerless just the same.
This first step is beautiful. Letting go only looks scary for a minute. But free flying into wide open liberty is exhilarating. I’m absolutely convinced that I lost at least ten pounds during my last round of letting go. So I highly recommend it.
Let go and dive into freedom! Let go of fear and insecurity. Let go of religious demands, rules and regulations that measure one human being against another. Let go of what you think is “right” and discover grace all over again. You can do it! Just peal those fingers one at a time from whatever you’re white knuckling, and force yourself to let go. Let go of revenge. Let go of anger, control, justification. Let go of martyrdom and your inner victim. Let go of your opinions of what other people should or shouldn’t be doing. Let go of your past, your future. Let go of you.
This is your part. We first believe, then we die. In our abandoned state our faith grows insurmountably powerful. To the same degree we abandon ourselves is the degree our faith strengthens. We throw ourselves down and declare “I quit!” Then the gentle voice of the Lord responds… “Awesome. Now can I have a turn?”
Death is beautiful when we know resurrection is just around the corner.
Romans 6:1-7 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Step Two: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Came to believe that God is able.
I used to hate when someone told me “God is able!” Great. What does THAT mean? So… He’s ABLE. I know that already. He CAN do anything. But my question was actually … WILL he do this? WILL He see me? WILL He move on my behalf?
The difference in these questions lies in something subtle. When I would ask in frustration “yeh, but WILL He?” What I really wanted to know is would He fix my circumstances. Will He intervene in my daily challenges and turn things in my favor.
Step number two is asking me to simply believe that He is able to change ME in the midst of my circumstances. He’s able to turn my mind around, change my point of reference, and put my mental gymnastics to rest.
For weeks now I’ve been carrying around this internal vision in my mind. I’m standing in the boat, in the midst of the storm. I’m watching the disciples rush here and there trying to do all they can do in the natural to preserve their lives. Then I turn my eyes towards Jesus… and see Him sleeping.
In days gone past I would be a little offended at the fact that He was sleeping. SLEEPING? How can He sleep when I need Him! Can’t He see that I’m about to die here? I thought He was supposed to CARE! But at this point in my life I find myself just standing here staring at Him. This time around I’m finding myself studying Him intently. He’s so utterly fascinating. I just want to know Him. My heart hungers to see Him, to discover the tender nuances that make up His personality, and sense His heart beat deeply in my soul. My Saviour sleeps in a storm, and I can’t seem to take my eyes off of Him. After weeks of gazing upon Him like this… falling more and more in love with this God-man asleep in front of me, I realized that I was no longer aware of the storm. He was much more enthralling, and He had captured my heart. The storm faded quietly in the background.
Then one day He spoke to me. He said… “Most people, in the mist of the storm, act just like the disciples. They want me to come to them and rescue them from the storm. This is understandable. But what I long for is for you to come to me, curl up next to me, and trust me so much you fall asleep. Rest here and feel my confidence, feel my peace. Let all fear fade away. Feel the storm against your face and find yourself actually enjoying the adventure.”
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
The most valuable thing in all creation has got to be our free will. It’s the one thing that God will not cross. He was willing to risk it all to protect our right to choose. God Himself respects the human will so much that He will never force us into anything. It’s the gem stone we hold within ourselves, the treasure in our hearts, the Holy Grail of our lives. Yet we so often let our will run wildly untamed, clueless of the immense worth we hold in our possession, doing as we please, day after day.
The will of the human heart is the very treasure the Father is seeking to win. It’s the essence of our heart, our passions, our love. To capture our will is God’s passion. Because when our will is submitted freely under His care, the boundless adventure begins! It’s not a mission to be accomplished through religious rituals, or self flagellation. No, that accomplishes nothing. His mission is to win our hearts through His indescribable love, and by continuing to show us the resting place of His heart. Our trust, our rest, our willingness to be completely His… this is His mission.
The submission of our will is our wedding day. Union with God is the outcome.
If only it was accomplished in a one time ceremony! No, this is a daily walk with my Jesus. Will I lay myself down today, or will I charge forward in my own will, my own plan, my own opinions, my own wants?
The fascinating thing to me is that my faith seems to be very tied to the position of my will. When I am functioning in my own will, I can see the warning signs of fear, anxiety, anger, and judgement. My faith seems to have taken a back seat, and my troubles are blazing in front of my eyes. But when my will is abandoned before the God of my passion, I discover peace, contentment, great faith and a fiery love dwelling within me.
I think nearly every possible sin and/or wrestle with the Lord comes down to my will verses His will.
At this point in my life, my first (or maybe second:) response to challenging seasons and situations is to go “face down” before the cross. When I feel anxiety – it’s face down time. When I feel stress…. I try to go low. When I’m struggling with judgement in my heart – you guessed it, it’s face to the floor. It’s not always a literal laying on the floor, but a very real stance in my heart that I may need to remain in for several days until my heart is set right again. I try not to work at sorting things out in my mind, and wrestling with my own self looking for answers, justification and resolution, at least at first. My first step is nearly always – hit the dust. From there, the clouds of confusion begin to dissipate and the heart of Jesus is usually revealed.
To me, step three is our greatest honor. It’s our covenant promise, our “I do” in this marriage to our bridegroom. Yet…. it is so often the greatest, deepest battle of our soul! The answer?
Hit the dust. Let go. Relinquish control. Resign from your command post. Renounce the pride of your grip and disclaim your rights.
We’re all hungry for the outcome of union with Him. And He’s beaconing us closer and closer to trusting Him with our whole being.
He’s so worth it.
Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Fearless. Can a moral inventory ever be truly fearless? The addition of this word is profoundly significant. To take a good long look at ourselves in naked honesty yet void of shame would be to stand in a fearless place. Uncovering my places of denial and exposing my own darkness is only safe, and possibly even peaceful, if I’m abandoned in the clutches of loving God.
This can truly be empty of angst only after we have taken the first three steps. We have already come face to face with our own powerlessness and recognized our need of a savior. We have already stood before a mighty God and declared “You are the one who can save me.” And we have already turned our will and the care of our lives over to the Lord. We have given Him the reigns and we can’t take them back now. Our next step, which requires fervent trust, is to strip down and bare all before Him.
This isn’t a measuring of our shortcomings in comparison to others. This isn’t a morbid search that leads to hopelessness and despair. It’s taking a moral inventory of both the strong and the weak within ourselves, side by side, to see ourselves clearly and honestly before our God. The first three steps were the ground work. Here is where true growth begins to happen. Step four forces us to break out of our own tiny little one-person subculture of thought, breaking down the structures we hide behind in our own minds, and letting the light of truth shine.
This is so important as we pursue healthy church life. For too long I allowed myself to stand back and critique the church. I pointed the finger at what wasn’t, and what should be, and what was wrong with this or that. A few years ago I came to the place of truly wanting to begin walking out my faith in a healthy way, alongside of other believers regardless of their health and not react. I wanted to be able to sit in a room with someone who was doing something I perceived as either crazy or unhealthy, controlling or disturbing, and remain in peace. Running around trying to change others didn’t work. Keeping away from all people I deemed as unhealthy didn’t work. So the only place I could shine that light was on myself. We are powerless over other people and the choices they make. We are powerless over how people do church or don’t do church. But we’re not powerless over our own lives. Instead of running from churches, groups, and organizations judging them as wrong, lets stop a moment and see what our part in this mess has been. Lets take a moment to see if we could have personally done things differently, and begin to purposefully take steps towards healthy spiritual maturity.
“When I stopped looking for what was wrong and should be different with others I began to see that they were just like me. None of us have this thing figured out and we’re all on this journey trying to love in our broken ways.” Julie Knapp
“There is a movement bubbling up that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, a generation that stops complaining about the church it sees and becomes the church it dreams of. And this little revolution is irresistible. It is a CONTAGIOUS revolution that dances, laughs, and LOVES.”
Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution
So here we go! Searching and fearless we move forward, willing to trust Him who is the lover of our soul. Willing to look at ourselves truthfully without any excuses or explanations. Lets step into that confessional in total peace, filled with the hope of what God can do with a humble, honest, imperfect soul, trusting that He redeems everything He touches.
Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Confession. Why is it so powerful? What mystical power lies in these honest moments of vulnerability? The Word of God says that if we confess our sins one to another we will be saved and healed. It doesn’t say that if we receive the right counsel we will be saved. It doesn’t say that if we receive the right anointed prayer from the right minister we will be healed. It says “if we confess our sins….. “
That’s absolutely fascinating to me.
Growing up Catholic, we valued the confession of sin a great deal. It was something I was raised with. It was a regular part of my faith. In the Christian culture I’ve been a part of for most of my adult life, confession of sin is not very common.
For those who have attended AA, Al-Anon or CR 12-step recovery meetings, you’ve witnessed first hand the mysterious power of confession. Brute honesty is the mandate in these meetings. They have tremendous success, yet they offer no fixing, no counsel, and no prayer for immediate breakthrough. Simple confession of weakness is what draws these people together.
We may never truly understand why confession holds the power it does. Yet the simple reality is that this is an avenue God has chosen to release His power. He’s the one who has injected this inconceivable potential for breakthrough within our simple admission of sin. He’s hidden life changing moments within our uncluttered vulnerability. As we expose our weaknesses and willingly confess our moral failures, the enemy looses his platform. He’s immediately defeated.
Humility breads holiness, not perfection. Honesty with our own weaknesses gives birth to maturity, not human effort.
If we peek a little below the surface it’s easy to see that God is tenaciously after intimacy. Without honesty, vulnerability and humility there is no intimacy. So He created this immense power within confession of sin to draw us into the light. He wants our hearts to live openly before Him and before each other, to discover the profound beauty and matchless power of unconditional love. To lay ourselves bare and simultaneously encounter love and acceptance is utterly transforming at the deepest level. This is where He beckons us to dwell.
This is likely one of the reasons why the religion of the Pharisees was so offensive to Jesus. God’s heart cry was “draw near to me and I’ll draw near to you.” There is no such thing as drawing near in falsehood. Falsehood immediately forces distance between people. Putting up a good front may be an impressive show for some, but it makes true intimacy absolutely impossible. Can you hear the Lord’s heart mourn as He says “they honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me?”
We are in a generation of believers that is crying out for true intimacy. They hunger for what is real. They have no patience for the show of religious activity without authenticity of heart.
I believe that bare naked, humble authenticity is the greatest tool of war we hold in our possession. With this tool we war against our flesh, we war against our pride, we war against our own instinct for self preservation, and we war against the spiritual forces that would keep us bound up in self hatred and shame.
Let’s disarm the powers of darkness with true humility.
Lets confess our sins and be healed.
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Entirely ready. Entirely. I keep trying to think of a loop hole in the word “entirely” and it’s just not coming to me. How is someone entirely ready for something like this? I was never entirely ready for the next day of school, or the pop quiz in science. I wasn’t even close to being ready for puberty. I thought I was ready for boys, but quickly found out otherwise. Ready for marriage? I think that’s a nice idea, but I’m not sure if it ever happens. Ready? Was I ready for children? Teenagers? Was I ready for depression or burn out? Was I ready for my fathers death? I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly ready for anything.
I’ve met some people who take this “being ready” thing very seriously. I admire that, because I tend to jump into things blindfolded, flying through the air squealing like I’m riding down the first dip of a roller coaster. It sounds adventuresome, and it certainly keeps life interesting…. but the loop ‘d loops that follow the dip usually come when you least expect them and the next thing you know you’re loosing your shoes. Or your cookies. It doesn’t always work out so well. And it’s hard to back track after you’ve jumped off that cliff.
When I read this step my first response was to go “oh yeh… sure sure.. I’m ready. I’m sick of me and completely ready to have all my problems taken away. Bring it on!” There’s that cliff again. What is it about cliffs that make me want to jump without thinking? So I re-read step six and pondered that “entirely” word a bit. It forced me to look deeper and take the time to question “am I really completely ready?” Do God and I agree as to what those ‘defects of character’ are?” To me, my defects of character would be eating too much sugar, not ever cleaning my closet and yelling obscenities at the scale for betraying me once again. But giving God complete permission to deal with me as He wills is a whole different matter. That means I would need to give up my idea of what is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, about ME. I would need to lay down my own goals and ambitions and embrace whatever He chooses to do in ME. I can’t point the finger and blame anyone else. I can’t ask God to remove everyone else’s defects of character. I’ve tried…. and He just doesn’t comply. You see, the difference between me and God is huge. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but when it comes to ideas about my own life, it’s a bit more difficult to remember. I act the way I do because someone else has hurt me. I had trouble at my last church because those people judged me. I lost that friendship because they didn’t accept me. See the trend? I’m almost certain God doesn’t think this way. And that’s only the beginning.
I regularly ponder ways of attaining greatness, but God would probably ponder ways to bring me low. Am I ready for that? I day dream of becoming an organization guru with a perfect house and a Rachel Rae-like ability in the kitchen. I don’t think this is on the top of His to-do list. He would probably move deep within my soul to crucify my arrogance and teach me to truly value the happiness of others over my own. He would ask me to honestly love those who don’t love me, and pray for those who come against me.
You see, holiness doesn’t look like a bald man in a robe banging on bongo’s in the airport. Holiness looks like a bloodied man on a cross, doing whatever it takes to rescue the souls of those who don’t deserve Him. Then He puts us all together, with all of our issues, hang ups, bruises and vanities and says “love how I’ve loved.” This is church. It’s our journey towards love. It’s our lengthening into mercy and grace. It’s our invitation to true holiness.
Am I entirely ready for this? Probably not. But, like the disciples of Jesus, I have no where else to go (scripture reference). He holds the words to eternal life. This God of mine is the lover of my soul. He has captured my heart and there’s no turning back. He has shown me glimpses of Himself, and I can no longer say that I know better. This God-Man Jesus Christ has ravaged my heart as the most unfathomably humble human being I have ever met. He’s the kindest, most loving person I’ve ever even glimpsed. And for this reason, I must trust Him above all else. My heart may tremble in fear from time to time, but only when I look at me. When my eyes are fixed upon Him I will gladly jump in that roller coaster car, beg for the front seat, throw my hands up in the air and begin screaming in delight before the car hits the top of the hill.
So the question is not being entirely ready for God to make something beautiful out of my mess. The question is one of vision. Will I look in the face of His majesty? Will I let my heart be captured by who He is? Will I take the leash off of my emotions and let myself fall madly in love with this Jesus? Will I keep my eyes on Him, the author and the finisher of ME?
If I’m looking at myself, my plans, my life, my ideas, my comfort and my vanity – then I will never be entirely ready for anything. Because instinctively my heart knows that I”m untrustworthy. But when I look at Him, my heart finds it’s resting place. Here, I can trust. Here I can honestly say yes. Yes to Him. Yes to His ideas. Yes to His plans. Yes to His life. I’m profoundly safe in His love. So I can wholeheartedly give my heart to the journey of “entirely” but only if I remain in His shadow.
Thoughts on control:
The natural responses to someone functioning in control is anger, fear, and/or intimidation.
Do we realize that someone can only control us if we let them?
Can we sit at peace, seeing that someone is trying to control us, and respond with a kind, peaceful, “no”? Or do we try to control back in order to stand our ground? If our reaction is a fierce pushing back, then we’re in danger of reactionary functioning. We can find ourselves in a shoving match to see who is going to “scream” the loudest (maybe not in the same direction – we may scream in the direction of a safe person, rather than towards the controlling person). This is simply not necessary.
In a church/believing environment control and manipulation are extremely dangerous. Add in the element of controlling through spiritual and/or scriptural means and you now have spiritual abuse that borders on witchcraft. Witchcraft is, in essence, using spirituality to enforce your own will over another.
It’s very easy for church cultures to function in spiritual control and truly think they’re doing the right thing. Take a group situation where people are talking about relationship with God. One person may believe so strongly that the spiritual disciplines are indispensable in pursuit of intimacy and right standing with God. Another person may believe solely in resting in the knowledge of the cross and all other pursuits are at risk of becoming pharisaical religious activity. As they both express their views, the tension in the air thickens. Why does this need to happen? Why is one person threatened by the other?
I present three possibilities (there are probably several others):
1 – Insecurity in their own belief systems. To admit that a seemingly opposing view could have validity would shake their current stance before God. So the defenses rise to such a degree in order to protect their inward security.
2 – The belief that there has to be one right way. Yes, I believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But to stand in the place of believing that there is only one right way we walk out our spiritual journey is to take the path of the Pharisees. In a fear-based religion people will feel the need to create solid structure and boundaries not only for themselves, but for the people around them. This will create a sense of safety for them, even though it’s a false sense of safety. It’s easily shaken when someone who speaks up and insists on dwelling in peace outside of their religious boundary structure they have to declare that person as wrong in order to continue to feel safe.
3 – Wounding from past religious run-in’s can cause us to overreact any time we are in the presence of another person who seems to disagree with us. We can find ourselves so determined in our state of freedom that we become the king of our own “freedom hill” and we angrily shoot anyone who tries to come near and speak against our freedom.
None of these responses is true freedom and health. We honestly CAN be at rest with our God, and the current state of our beliefs, while in the presence of someone who believes the polar opposite, even if that person is forceful and very vocal in their stance.
There was a season I had to literally walk the streets and say to myself “I am an individual. I am an individual.” Somewhere along the way I had lost myself. I didn’t really see this fact until certain circumstances brought a reaction in me that was undoing. (more on this later!)
Some questions to ponder:
How attached are we with the people around us?
Can we stand as individuals, confident, content, teachable, and unthreatened?
Do we see ourselves honestly or do we only see ourselves as reflected in the people around us?
Why are we so quick to notice and declare that someone else has it wrong?
What do we measure “right” by?
We may feel strongly that a certain mindset isn’t healthy. There’s nothing wrong with this thought pattern, until we meet someone who has this mindset and we discover that human beings are too complex to discard because of a differing belief system.
It’s all too easy to state passionate theories of right and wrong Christian pursuits, and forget that no one will answer to us at the end of their life. God sees entire lives – interwoven human beings with histories we know nothing about, emotional experiences that help form present day personalities, and daily struggles that take true courage to face.
A favorite quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle”
More on religious control:
It is not our job, nor our goal to try to live up to other people’s view of church.
It is not our right to impose our views of church upon other people. Religious control is a very dangerous thing, and it’s easy to cloak it within terms like discipleship, shepherd-ship, leadership
Within any normal church structure we have two groups of people – those who are in leadership, and those who are under leadership. But the definition and understanding of leadership is as varied as our DNA. This is where the complexities of submission, rulership, dictatorship, servanthood, etc. bring forth everything from confusion to spiritual abuse. But within churches things get very complex because of different interpretations of Scripture and our innate desire to please God.
Paul taught so much about relationships, because how we relate to other people is at the core of how church life is lived out. No matter what our belief system is… our gifts, our callings, our desires and dreams, our pains and woundings, it all comes under the fire of relationships. It could be argued that our success or failure in this life as Christians will be determined by the fruit that is revealed under the crucible of authentic relationships.
As people try to come out from a religious mindset of rule based, authoritative control, the weeding of thoughts begins. We need to take our own journey of walking out the scriptures, and not feel controlled or pressured by other Christian’s opinions on what is right and what is wrong.
Sitting in a room with someone who was acting out in religious control was a very difficult thing. When someone would feel the need to control me, or the people around me, by telling us what we should be doing in order to get this Christian thing “right” the anxiety in my heart would start choking me. Sitting with someone who had judgements against me would throw me into a minor anxiety attack. If I was going to keep doing this Christian gathering thing, I was either going to need a large supply of paper bags to breath in, or I needed to find out why these people had such power over me. Couldn’t I just make them go away? Couldn’t I make them stop? If only I could somehow control who was going to speak, and what they were going to say so I could stay in peace!
Hmmm. I wanted to control their control issues. Now THAT’S funny. Maybe I should look at myself here.
Why did I feel controlled by their opinions? Why would I feel panicked when they began to throw their measuring rod in my direction?
I clearly needed to straighten out my view of reality.
In truth, they don’t have any control over me. It’s only an illusion of control. If I bow to the illusion and agree to it, I will come under their control. But I can just as easily say “no thank you.”
It’s o.k. to question. In fact, it’s healthy. I can question the validity of belief systems and thought patterns, I can question why a person thinks the way they do, I can give myself permission to decide what I will believe and what I wont believe. How empowering! Even if I didn’t feel the need to ask the questions out loud, I could at least take note in my own heart that I disagreed with them. I began to see the fear I had of trying, and then failing, to live up to other people’s opinions of right and wrong. I believed falsley that they had the power (simply because they took it) to declare me approved or disapproved. Where was God’s opinion in all this?
So I began seeking truth, and questioning the unwritten rules. I allowed myself to question the common belief systems, the majority norm. It felt daring, to say the least! But it was quite liberating. I’m walking this road with the Holy Spirit as my teacher. I desire a humble, teachable heart, but I no longer confuse this
As we seek to form our own opinions it does not mean that we need to immediately say that “they” are wrong and in deception. So many of our problems are formed when we simultaneously form our own belief system along with corresponding judgements of those who have beliefs that differ from ours.
We are powerless over other people’s beliefs, and can be free from judgemets and anger towards them for believing differently.. we can be free from other people’s judgement and ager towards us because we did not conform to their way of thinking.
Even though someone else has religious beliefs that they are trying to force and impose upon me in a controlling way, does not mean that I need to LET them. Just as I am powerless over them, they are truly powerless over me… unless I give them power by coming under their control.
Control is not authority. Being controlled is neither humble, nor submissive.