Monday, June 28, 2010

A Healthy Pain

What freedom! To finally come clean and confess a hidden sin/mistake/wrong that was committed!  But the process that leads to it can be so twisted and convoluted, for the one who is looking for a pain-free shortcut.  Instead of a shortcut, they find a long agonizing journey of guilt and oppression that can take years, eating away at their spirit, their body, their mental abilities, their motivation to live. As Proverbs says, bitterness rots the bones...

Why do you suppose that when it's time to do right and expose the darkness of our past, this simple act of speech becomes unbearably frightening?  Imaginations course through our minds:  they'll never understand, you'll become a freak, an outcast, a loser, you'll be castigated and ostracized, and you'll never, ever be looked upon with favor by anyone. ANYONE.  So we bear the hidden guilt and are unaware that the spirit behind that guilt is slowly eating away at our faith and our resolve to follow God.  We become a slave of that dark secret, a protector, as if it were a great treasure.

But the fear of exposing our whole life to the light and letting God and others see the ugliness, is in actuality very short-lived and highly overrated.  Once it's done, it's done, and the healing can begin. Sure you have to talk about it a bit more at times. clarify why you did what you did to those you offended, apologize as many times as it takes, change your habits and your behavior to prove to those whose trust you have broken that you are serious about your change, and hide nothing ever again.  The only real pain involved is felt by your ego, your selfish pride.  A healthy pain, long overdue.

But the freedom, the FREEDOM of honesty and openness of heart between God and you, and all others who have been wronged, is such a reward in itself.  But that's not all that happens.  God can finally begin answering that backlog of your many prayers, because the connection between you and He is clear. The spiritual ulcer that burned holes into your conscience and your soul, is wiped away in one day.

Funny how one of the most powerful life-changing verbs is seen as a cartoon joke - you know, the old crazy street preacher wearing a sign reading: Repent!  But for the few and the courageous who have the guts to actually do it, the joke is turned against all the evil that once dragged them through the mud, and now is under their feet.  Repent! So who's laughing now?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Power hungry girls

I almost had to laugh speaking to the teenage girls in one of our churches on a recent Sunday.  Some had grown up in the church while others had just started attending a few weeks before.  Some had never read a Bible in their lives, and all of them came from unsavory neighborhoods and had seen unspeakable things.  I looked across the classroom of dead-pan faces, girls clad in tight jeans, tight tank-tops or scoop necked t-shirts, just  daring me to say something that they would think even slightly interesting.

It seems that acceptable behavior among teen girls in the ghetto is to show absolutely no regard for adults.  Stare at them, but don't speak to them.  When asked a question, say nothing, don't respond.  The body language is meant to say, "Why should I care about you when I don't even care about myself?  You are meaningless, you are one of THEM."

Thank goodness that I have wised up to the fact that those are just lies they hide behind. None of them really feel that way.  All of them are lonely, afraid, insecure, and desperately in need of care and guidance.  They all wanted to hear what I had to say, but were terrified of showing it.  They've been enslaved to a spirit that threatens to make life miserable if they become open and honest.

But as I talked, I discovered that what they were looking for was not love or acceptance or purpose, but power.  These are girls that wouldn't bat an eye beating up a friend that turned on them.  I know because they told me so, sincerely believing that that was the only way to solve the problem.  Telling them that Jesus teaches to turn the other cheek brought out shrieks of protest.  "What?  Why???!!"  Letting others have the upper hand is unthinkable.  In their lives where drug dealers prowl their streets, where their own relatives have attempted to rape them, where violence at home is the norm, where the school yard is a place of survival of the fittest, the concepts of servanthood and giving to receive are as alien as another galaxy.

If I had a daughter facing danger, I'd want her to be equipped with something powerful to protect her, but what would that be?  I began to speak of the invisible world of God's Spirit that surrounds them, and the power they have over evil in their lives.  Demons are real, unseen forces that provoke violence are our enemy, not the people who we see in front of us.  Their eyes widened as they learned that there was a power that they could use that would keep them safe, and that would fight for them, the power of faith in Jesus and the authority He gives us over evil.  Examples and testimonies made some sit up with excitement, while others squirmed uncomfortably as if something inside of them hated hearing it.

I asked, do you want to have this power?  The only way it can work is if you surrender your life completely to God's Spirit, and let Him control you.  That's when you're under His protection.  Do everything differently, upside down, give before receiving, love those who hate you, believe before your eyes see any change, and learn to face the devil head on with no fear, and drive him out of your life.  Now that's power that can have the after-effects of a nuclear bomb.

They left with different looks on their faces than when they came in.  I challenged them to try it for just one week and tell me what happened.  Let's see if they did.