Friday, March 30, 2012

Had My "Not" In The Wrong Place

 As the saying goes, I had my drawers in a knot this morning.  Actually, I think the knot had been there and growing for several weeks.  And I’m guessing that many of those around me had observed my situation long before I did.  I see now that slowly, quietly and without notice, I had gotten my “not” in the wrong place.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It Can’t Happen Here? After-Birth Abortion

“After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?”  That is the title of a paper recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics by Australian professors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.  From the abstract itself: “The authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is.”   A statement like this should give all reasonable people reason to step back and take a deep breath.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let's Be Honest About Dishonesty In The Church

Why does the church have a problem with honesty?  If I must rely on what I can do this week to make myself approved by God, I cannot look at my sin.  I have a stake in not seeing it.  It is not to my benefit to be honest.  It is too threatening.  However, it is the righteousness of Christ credited to my account that frees me to be honest about my struggles and sins, and not to be crushed by them.  Unless I hold on to this by faith, honesty is just too hard and frightening.  Hypocrisy is then just a small step away.   From Intro to Chapter 3 of World Harvest Mission's "Sonship"

It is a simple proposition: We have a hard time facing our failures when we base our self-image and security on our successes.  When I'm "succeeding" - at least in my own eyes - I'm feeling fine about myself.  But when I fail at my goals or personal expectations, I face a real insecurity and disappointment.  It's a cycle that encourages me to avoid facing my failures because of the consequences for my self-identity.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How Marriage Can Shape Our Lives . . . For the Better

 I've been reading Tim Keller's latest book The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God with some friends and finding it full of insight, challenge and encouragement.  I've been a pastor long enough to see marriages fail in a way that left people deeply damaged and with great pain.  I've observed other marriages where people find great grace and transformation - even with no small share of pain as well.  I'm thankful to be living in the second of those.

Keller's picture of marriage - a deep spiritual friendship where each partner becomes an instrument of God's grace, challenge and transformation in the life of the other - has been the most inspiring insight for me.  Here's an excerpt that shows what that sort of marriage would look in the lives of two real people.

All his life, Rob had few friends. One reason for this was that since childhood, Rob had a real problem putting himself into the shoes of others. He had little or no empathy and often was surprised at people’s negative reactions to his words or deeds. When he was in fourth grade, a school counselor told his parents that he thought Rob was a “mild sociopath,” someone who often trampled on the feelings of others because he couldn’t sympathetically imagine what they were feeling. This character flaw had created problems for Rob for years, but he couldn’t see it for what it was. Few of his acquaintances ripened into friendships, and in his first jobs he regularly made missteps that infuriated both superiors and those reporting to him. He lost one job over it.

 Then he met Jessica, and by the second date they both were deep into the in-love experience. She thought he was a brilliant conversationalist, and he was, and he loved the fact that she was an assertive kind of woman who didn’t easily get her feelings hurt. Several times, his sense of humor strayed into the realm of the hurtful and the insulting. This was a problem that he had had all his life, but unlike so many others, Jessica just told him off and put him in his place. He liked that! Finally a woman who wasn’t a shrinking violet.

And so they married, but as the months went by, Rob’s insensitive humor and semi-abusive remarks got worse. When we are in love, we are on our best behavior, but at home and with someone becoming more and more familiar, our natural instincts take over. We no longer catch ourselves. Soon the full extent of Rob’s problem character was there for Jessica to see in all its ugly detail. Jessica began to see how he spoke to other people, and most of them were not as resilient and thick skinned as she was. She realized the kind of relational problems that he was going to have all his life. She became deeply disillusioned with him, and, just a year after their wedding, she found herself fantasizing about being single again and free from him.

 When Rob realized the depth of her unhappiness, he became alarmed, and together they sought counseling from the pastor of their church. That began a long journey. After many weeks of meetings with their pastoral counselor, they had their first breakthrough. One evening, both Rob and Jessica began to see that she had been brought into Rob’s life for this very purpose. She was a strong woman who was not fragile. She was exactly the person who could stand toe-to-toe with Rob and say, “That hurt me. I’m going to tell you exactly how it felt until you learn what your words do to people. I’m not going to clam up on you and just withdraw, and I’m not going to attack you back. I’m going to be like Jesus has been with us—accepting us in love but not allowing us to just destroy ourselves with sin.”

Rob had never had anyone love him like this. People had either just given up and withdrawn from him or had simply attacked him. Here was someone who calmly but candidly described the devastating effect of his words. And most transforming of all was the fact that the person who was telling him about his hurtfulness was the person he loved most in the world. The more Jessica loved him so nobly and well, the less he wanted to see her hurt. And so, slowly but surely, Rob began to listen, learn, and change.

Jessica herself came to see that she also had a need for radical change. “I had a fiercely independent spirit that made it hard for me to depend on anyone,” she said. “If anyone let me down, I simply dropped them. I was completely impatient with them.” When she saw the depths of Rob’s problems, she wanted to flee as she always had, but her marriage vow wouldn’t allow her to do that. For the first time in her life, she couldn’t run from a damaged person.

Three years after their wedding, Rob’s parents hardly recognized him. He was more thoughtful and empathetic than they ever thought he could be. Jessica’s parents noticed a gentleness and a graciousness toward weakness that they hadn’t seen in her before. Marriage’s “power of truth” had done its work.

Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (pp. 133-135). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
Subscribe to Grace in FXBG by Email