This morning, as I prayed asking God to bless Raina, fulfill her, give her happiness, heal if healing is needed, and seek her if seeking is needed, I realized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me thinking and I realized that I have been using this epithet for a couple of months now as God has granted much healing of heart.
I realized that I haven’t given up on God’s ability to restore my marriage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and whatever He decides to do will be the best and most fulfilling outcome, whether that means a restored marriage, a new marriage, or living out a remaining lifetime of singleness.
I believe I’ve finally decided to stop being crippled and broken. I’ve come to the point of casting off the crushing burden I’ve carried for so long.
Three years ago, nearly to the day, I composed a poem as part of the healing and dealing process:
No longer strewn across my life, mental dross to trip and fall.
Reminders of the long ago, hang not upon each wall.
Gathered in a cardboard box, packed and ordered well.
Flaps folded in and interlocked, form corrugated shell.
Place upon a storage shelf, away from thought and mind.
Discarded not, disturbing not, from now till end of time.
That was a necessary step then to cope and function because I -was- crippled and broken and I was tripping and falling and injuring myself over and over.
I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was necessary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-opening was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the healing process. Now I realize that I wasn’t grieving as I had in the past, and I wasn’t tripping; I was saying farewell.
Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, broken promises (the ones I broke as well), lost happiness and broken dreams, all tied to her in connection, and around my neck as a millstone.
I’ve said farewell and I’ve found desperately sought after peace which I had never hoped to find. I didn’t believe it possible. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to forget what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most rewarding portion of my life.
I’m open now to new best and most rewarding portions.
My finger is now unadorned.
She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s loving grace. I don’t know what’s next, if anything, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much better than where I have been previously.
Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sermon, “David Dancing before the Ark because of His Election” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35.
My own journey has been a little different and Nice has been a necessary step, but only because my starting place was Mean. My father*, manipulative, mean-hearted, controlling, and critical, raised me to be a carbon copy of himself in my thinking and attitudes. Until I was rescued from his control, my basic operating system was Mean, Condescending, and Hurtful.
Rescued at something like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my rescuers. My inkling was no stronger than knowing that there were some people in my life that I really liked and admired who were different from all I knew and I knew that they were different somehow in ways I could not comprehend.
It was not until I was in residential treatment at Charter Hospital my freshman year in high school that a group-therapy leader named Darrel finally got through to me. He was one of those different people and I think it took my first admiring him, for the crisis event that soon followed to have an impact on my arrogant, legalistic, selfish, condescending, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admiration for there to be a Crisis Event at all.
In a group therapy session, I was being my usual charming argumentative combative condescending-self when Darrel braked hard and brought the conversation to a screeching halt and said, “You know something Christian? I just realized. You really ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expected tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the crisis began and it left me broken and floored.
I thank God for putting Darrel, and another person who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past couple of decades, Bart Larson, Chaplain, Photographer and Artist and at the time Chaplain for the adolescent unit at Charter Hospital. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve likely seen his name on the pictures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Valley View.] He counseled me then. He rescued me from demonic spiritual attack. He counselled me after. He did our premarital counseling. He tag-teamed our wedding with Pastor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through miscarriage and pain and 6+ years of failing to re-conceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoimmune nightmares and celiac disease. He helped us as our marriage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from ending my life many times as I grieved and grieved. He even helped me fix things and professionally paint our marriage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All quietly and kindly and unassuming. He has never stopped helping me and pouring out to me God’s kindness (modeling it to me).
Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kindness, there was a necessary intermediary step, or rather whole long section of the path. Niceness. It started clumsily and ineptly and most especially, deliberately. I didn’t understand Kindness, I only knew the effects of kindness, upon me, from others. I had to make very conscious deliberate decisions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopilot had been ‘Be Mean’.
Good days. Bad days. Good encounters. Bad encounters. Starting with far more bad than good until finally the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoying the sunshine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usually very diligent.
Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intuitive understanding of the kindness of these people in my life, and through them, the kindness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feelings of success (and self-forgiveness/grace/acceptance) instead of self-loathing, and encouraged me to keep fighting to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my lifelong relationship with Christ from seeing Him from a legalistic and truth perspective to a relationship of recognizing His kindness and loving Him for it and learning to temper Truth with Grace (as is best exemplified in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Paradox”).
I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kindness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROMBIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instructions.
Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ’till you make It.” journey.
Much of the difference between Kind and Nice has been the journey from deliberate and forced to natural, heartfelt, and sincere.
* none of this can be separated from the lessons of Total Forgiveness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness parallels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total Forgiveness is a daily decision to forgive. That practice will continue daily for a lifetime unless God eventually heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have totally forgiven them.
One of the steps towards Total Forgiveness has been to realize that he would probably be completely bewildered and possibly very hurt that I see things this way. Realizing that has been one of the first steps towards extending him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sinful fallen lump than I am. We’re both ragamuffins, but only I’ve been given the blessing of realizing it.
The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m begging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will
— Rich Mullins, Elijah
I’ve been working hard since before Faithwalkers, during and after, to turn my desire for a beloved (specifically my lost beloved) over to God and be able to know I’m not just speaking empty words when I pray, “Lord, please build in me a desire to sincerely say, It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Do with me what you will.” I’ve been feeling at peace now for a couple of weeks but as an article I’ve yet to publish will show, I have great faith in God on behalf of others, but a great problem with having demonstrably little faith when it comes to myself. I’ve been having difficulty trusting in the peace to be what I asked for and to be real and lasting. I think that unconscious attitude may be changing as this seems twice on this issue God has answered my prayers with mercy and grace.
I was tested in this all too soon when a shared-friend shared with me a photo my lost beloved posted to her social media. A photo of her holding a sweet precious little baby. She speculated that it might be my lost beloved’s own child. She knew I would like to know as I’ve been denied pretty much all knowledge for five years, but thought it might be unfortunate if true, especially if conceived out of wedlock.
I was entirely surprised to be able to honestly respond that if the little one is my lost beloved’s, then it’s reason for joy. My lost beloved looked so much happier, healthier, and more at peace than I’ve seen her in 7 years. From the earliest days of our marriage, she wanted desperately to have children and to be a mother, but it seemed that PCOS and some autoimmune difficulties would deny her the deepest wishes of her heart. If she’s remarried; If she has a family; yes, there is an ache, but I cannot help but be grateful to God. I prayed for this for 7 years while she was my wife. After a period of learning to see past my own broken heart and what I thought unendurable pain, I’ve prayed nearly every day since that wherever she is, that God blesses her, brings her peace, happiness, fulfillment, and most of all close relationship with Him in all things. I wanted, and still want, truth be told, these things to be with me, but I want even more for her not to be denied the deepest desires of her heart. Gone is a portion of the selfishness that ruled my heart, selah.
So, yes. Right now I am feeling at peace and feeling as though prayers have been answered and requests fulfilled. There’s nothing on the horizon, but, for now, that’s OK. My want for my lost beloved to return and reconcile is in no way diminished. My want to have a beloved and be a beloved and to raise a family in love is in no way diminished. These deeply held desires have not been diminished, they’ve been surrendered to a new keeper… one who is far better than I with such things. There is peace. Unless I once again try to wrest back control, there will be peace, and possibly through peace, fulfillment, or fulfillment of a sort not yet known or longed for.
“Only thus will you be able to undermine their belief that a certain amount of ‘religion’ is desirable but one mustn’t carry it too far. One must point out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of -no- importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
— C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics, God in the Dock and other Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sep 15, 2014
I ran across this excellent article, and while there is much to take away, it’s clear that it was written to the Rebeution youth. For those of us who have once been married, the temptation is to seize on it all, most especially the optimism and hope Paul gives for those who are single, and while some of that is there to be seized, I do not think all, and care and consideration should be taken.
“Singleness is not a form of embarrassed earthly purgatory. It is not a sign of God’s displeasure. It does not make you a different kind of Christian or require you to start your own separate Bible study with the other spiritual lepers.”
Perhaps Keeley, but that’s exactly what divorced singleness is. You’ve bet the farm on what you knew was not a gamble and you’ve lost. You’ve given away your best; innocence, youth, energy, optimism, all your ‘firsts’, hopes and dreams, and your entire heart and you come away with a pitiful remnant.
I keep returning to the nightmare at the beginning of Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye; “I thought I had your heart.” “You do. All that’s left is yours.” Marriage is the first marriage. Remarriage, while it can be wonderful and can be many of the things the marriage was supposed to be but wasn’t is still something different.
Once you understand that you’re almost forced by good conscious to limit your remarriage yearning to only those who are also the remnant that you are. You become convinced that you have no right to take from another what you yourself lost, even if freely given. You recognize and defend in that other person the potential and the ethereal “right” to have a marriage, not a remarriage, with a fully intact compliment of God’s gifts; innocence, youth, energy, lifespan, etc.
It therefore becomes difficult to see post-martial singleness as a gift, because 1 Cor 7 singleness is a completely different animal. Your gift of singleness has been spent. Your gift of marriedness has been spent. “Yes God, I’m ready to serve.….…..All that’s left, is Yours.”
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
I wonder if Lewis was not considering this passage when he wrote Book 3: Chapter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Parrot Disease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more easily done because the giant’s eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eating the enstruum of a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:
‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others: and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:
‘Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.’
‘What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.
‘You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’
‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’
‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
‘So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.
‘I know nothing about that,’ shouted John after him. ‘I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’
‘Look here,’ cried the jailor, coming back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:
‘You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?’
There was a confused murmur.
‘Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your catechisms by now. You, there’ (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), ‘what is argument?’
‘Argument,’ said Master Parrot, ‘is the attempted rationalization of the arguer’s desires.’
‘Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?’
‘The proper answer is, “You say that because you are a Steward.”’
‘Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’
‘There are two only generally necessary to damnation,’ said Master Parrot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puritanian,” and the second is, “You say that because you are a
‘Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?’
‘The answer is, “You say that because you are a mathematician.”’
‘You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,’ he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.
This marvelous little book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphoric hands just at the right time when I and my roommate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the topic asked for was “How to debate with love.”
Below are quotes that I found especially meaningful. (More to follow as I continue my exploration.)
What Gives Us Away?
A friend sat down in a small London restaurant and picked up a menu.
“What will it be?” the waiter asked.
Studying the puzzling selections, my friend said, “Uhh…”
The waiter smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”
He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already given himself away.
In the first century, Christ’s followers were also recognized immediately. What gave them away?
It wasn’t their buildings. They had none.
It wasn’t their programs. They had none.
It wasn’t their political power. They had none.
It wasn’t their slick publications, TV networks, bumperstickers, or celebrities. They had none. What was it?
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33
They testified to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.
The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.
— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Paradox, Ch 1
“We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in the spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 percent grace, 50 percent truth, but 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.
Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.
Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.
Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.”
“A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”
“Some church services are permeated with Christian clichés that mystify unbelievers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incomprehensible. Grace compels us to put the cookies on the lower shelf where the uninitiated can reach them. Jesus warmly welcomed the nonreligious and spoke words they understood. So should we.
Other churches try to make sinners feel comfortable. How? They never talk about sin. Never offend anyone. They replace truth with tolerance, lowering the bar so everyone can jump over it and we can all feel good about ourselves.
But Jesus said, ’ ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20).
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers hate us.
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers like us.
If we accurately demonstrate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and other will be offended by us—just as they were by Jesus.
When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”
— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 2.
“Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity. In fact, it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace is.”
— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 3.
“God has written His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of conscience come from recognizing that truth has been violated. When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”
— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
This next one is very similar to Ray Comfort’s analogy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as salvation from the transgressions of the law, but as “Life Enhancement”. People are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promises that their difficulties in life will be resolved (using a parachute as metaphor for Christ), but without any true understanding of the jump out of the airplane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncomfortable and bulky and gives no benefit and so they tear it off, are angry at the parachute (and the stewardess who gave it to them), and resolves never to be fooled by that nonsense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the outset that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wearing the parachute. Then when the difficulties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stewardess who trips and spills boiling hot coffee on him, he doesn’t cast off the parachute and say “You stupid parachute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look Forward to the jump to come.
If a teacher is guilty of preaching life enhancement instead of the truth, then there is nothing at all redemptive in his ministry. Indeed, it is less than redemptive. It is damning.
The opposite is nearly as bad. That is, preaching truth in absence of all grace. Ray Comfort clarifies, “I’m not talking about Hellfire Preaching. Hellfire Preaching will produce Fear-Filled converts. Using God’s law will produce Tear-Filled converts.”
The world’s low standards, its disregard for truth, are not grace. The illusory freedom, however, -feels- like grace to someone who’s been pounded by graceless truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, people who grow up in joyless religion learn that there’s no hope of living up to such daunting standards. “Why even try? It’s -impossible!-.”
But properly understood, biblical truths are guardrails that protect us from plunging off the cliff. A smart traveler doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demolished autos below, and is -grateful- for guardrails.
The guardrails of truth are there not to punish, but to protect us.
— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
Godly living centers not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Anytime we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.
—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4
I’m hearing the word religion being used as though it’s a bad thing and it’s started bothering me greatly. I understand why people have turned it into a negative word, but I think it’s very important that we fight the urge to go along with talking about religion as though it’s something bad… or even something good… because “religion” is not inherently bad or good, and any goodness or badness is added by what I myself make it.
No matter how we might strive to emphasize the difference between our orthopraxy and the orthopraxy of someone else… i.e., stressing that our Christianity is about “relationship” while distancing yourself from, say, the strict liturgical practice of one denomination or church or other, we are still committing religion and always will be.
It’s ok to self-identify as a Christian of a particular mindset/practice, but I’m thinking we’re doing everyone and the English language a great disservice if we aid in the demonization of a functional decent word that is free from the burden of the additional baggage people are trying to incorrectly (foolishly) hang on it.
Herein I find irony… I myself have been doing this and doing it for years. My profile settings on Facebook have read: “Religious Views: Christian — Relationship not Religion” since I created my account lo these many eons past. That changes today.
My religion is Christianity, and by that I mean what was meant the two times the word appeared in scripture, “One who is following Christ.” I’m going to strive to fight the compulsion to hang more baggage on my answer.
“The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world–in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift form God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational.”
― David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology
“Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt. This is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain,
for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary [most
powerful weapon] when you have taken away the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ. They will never accept grace until they
tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves most necessary and blessed purpose and must not be moved from its place.”
Six years and a bit ago, my beloved, beautiful, sweet, and precious Raina Janel left.
Six years ago I read an article written by a couple, who, against all reason and overcoming insurmountable barriers, had their marriage miraculously restored from scattered ashes after six years.
Six years seemed impossible, but even so, it always was a fixed quantity in my mind.
« Six years »
As it loomed ever closer, I realized that I had unconsciously begun to view six years as a cut-off… a limit on God’s sovereign power to enact any miracle He might desire to perform. A countdown clock ticked ever nearer towards that day when all hope would be gone.
This I realized a year and a half ago.… four and a half years into my great and all-encompassing sorrow… and I realized I had been a fool.
God is not limited by the calendar. He may, by His own rules be limited only by the death of one or the other of us, but I don’t know His rules and so it would be foolish to expect that even death is any barrier or hobble.
I press onward, with no hope in the restoration of our marriage but infinitely increased hope and trust in Him. What a testimony He may give us. Six paltry years… pshaw. Childsplay! Imagine the testimony to His Awesomeness of a marriage restored after 20 or 30 years; if only a couple places their hope and their hearts in Him, and if not us, I pray others.†
God is Great! He patiently and gracefully continues to work on me… my heart, my all. I hope I’m an improved man for 6 years; more humble, less certain that I’ve got anything figured out, less full of false pride, and a more loving heart. I remain an abominably slow and stubborn, but still dedicated student.
† This paragraph sounds contradictory. I really have absolutely no hope in this any more and a over a year and a half ago I put all things Raina away in a box on a shelf, both metaphorically and literally, and for the most part, there she has stayed for the sake of my sanity and so that my mind was clear to focus upward instead of backward. I speak of the gift of a testimony not in the sense that I harbor hope for one, but in the sense that I know that nothing is beyond Him and so I don’t rule it out. For all I know, He has either nothing, or something different in store for me. Whatever it is, or isn’t, I trust in Him that it will be best.
Think about it. In recent years it’s become very front-of-mind to have accountability in the area of our lives generally described as sexual integrity. We encourage men and women alike to find like-minded folks to support them as they try to align this area of their life with God’s standard. We invite these trusted people to have unfettered access (if we’re being honest) into our lives to make certain that we cannot keep sexual sin hidden… sin such as porn, affairs, sex outside of marriage, visits to strip clubs, prostitutes, chatrooms, hookup apps, dating sites, etc., even mentally lusting after those who are not our spouse.
That kind of accountability seems almost insane to one who has not gone through the experience of a self-motivated “dying to self” and deciding that we desire God more than we love our sin and pride, or alternatively, of being caught out by a loved one or leader and given a choice between being accountable or facing consequences we cannot bear to face.
Yet, even to those of us who are striving for accountability in this area, many of us would balk far more strongly if someone were to suggest that we asked ourselves if we needed to be Financially Accountable. We’d be willing to let others in to our sanctum sanctorum of deepest inner secrets of our sexual thought-lives, computer usage, and dating activities, but the very idea of letting another like-minded brother or sister see what choices we have been making with our money would be almost cripplingly unthinkable. We’d take up arms and fight; Yes,fight to the point of destroying friendship and fellowship if anyone were to dare suggest that we might be hiding a dirty-little-financial-secret; a little expenditure here, a ‘just for emergencies’ maxed-out credit card there…
Why? I don’t know why for each person, but there is one reason I think would be fairly common, that reason being that it’s not just that we don’t want others judging our financial honesty, but that financial honesty would shine a revealing light on a whole host of things in our lives that we are dishonest about, things that we are ashamed of and want kept secret.
In some ways it might be even harder for those of us who have sought accountability in the area of sexual integrity because we have, in our hearts, incorrectly begun to feel that we’re really upstanding folks. We’ve exposed the dirtiest, darkest, most shameful, most hidden parts of ourselves and let the light of honesty shine into the darkest corners and most hidden niches. We might think ourselves justified in keeping this other area of our life in shadow behind locked doors. We might be loathe to admit, even to ourselves that we might find ourselves far and away more greatly ashamed of our little financial dalliances than ever we were about an occasional look at a skin mag, viewing an imagination-inspiring Hollywood movie, hanging out on dating sites where the conversation can become… stimulating, a Google image search with Safe-Search features disabled, or that lingering look we take each time we pass the desk of the secretary at work who is completely unaware of just what we can see when standing while she’s sitting.
The bible tells us that even our best is as filthy rags, I would think most especially if our best is helping us give ourselves a pass somewhere else. Isaiah 64:5–8 NASB
5 You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?
6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.
8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Some final thoughts:
Has something very helpful to the Christian walk perhaps been misused and caused great harm for some in this area? How many of us Christians would be inclined to wave our Financial Peace University graduation certificates (metaphorically speaking) to quell any questions others who care about us might have for us. We’d never wave our actual budget. I know I’ve waved my certificate a time or two when uncomfortable scrutiny has fallen upon me. Heaven forbid that we wave our “I Tithed” sticker around like we’ve just left the voting polls to rebuff inquiry into this area, because, “If I’ve tithed, I must have my financial house and heart in order.” I’ve been amused at the social meme lately of completely replacing rhetoric with the antithesis of rhetoric; the “Because Science!” or “Because Racist!” argument [air quotes], however, it’s not so amusing when I realize that I might have myself used the “Because FPU!” or “Because Tithe!” arguments to stomp on honest inquiry.
I think in a lot of ways, our hearts and priorities may far more clearly be reflected in our bank statements than our CovenantEyes or X3Watch accountability reports.
I guess this area for some of us may be one more example of Col. Jimmie Coy’s ABoBs (A Bowl of Beans one is willing to purchase in exchange for their eternal spiritual birthright).
Originally posted to Facebook October 17, 2014.
Lately I’ve been pondering some questions I would ask myself and invite others to ask them of themselves.
If I would answer ‘yes’ to the following question, “Am I in a relationship with other believers that involves some form of accountability?”, then these follow-up questions to myself would follow:
In all the aspects of my life in which I am ostensibly transparent, is there any activity or aspect which I
have compartmentalized away and either consciously or unconsciously in order to make certain that it never gets
exposed, discussed or explored, by not bringing it up or by steering the conversation in a different direction
when someone else brings it up? Might I even go so far as to confess other areas of weakness both to show a sincere
desire for accountability and to direct attention away from my secret activity? Do I have a dark hidden corner?
If the answer to #1 was yes, why do I do it? Am I:
Ashamed or embarrassed?
Fairly certain that I know what their response would be and that they might question whether it was
wise, or Godly, or somehow at odds with the kind of relationship with God that I want and profess to
want to have?
Completely certain that I know what their response would be because it’s come up before and perhaps I
even agreed at the time (Do I not now?) that it was unwise or unGodly or somehow at odds with who I
claim to (want to) be in God?
Finally, if the answer to #2 matched any of the possible reasons, or even reasons that weren’t suggested, how
important really, is that activity or aspect, and do I really want to keep possession of that activity or aspect?
I say finally, but it leads me to ponder something Col. Jimmie Coy asked us about
at the Valley View Community Church 2014 Men’s Retreat; Does that ‘thing’ qualify as an ABOB, A Bowl of Beans, a bowl of lentil
stew which I desire so very strongly that I am willing to trade away my entire birthright, as did Esau, in exchange for gaining or keeping.
Further, when I’ve reached the bottom dregs of that bowl, will I still agree with the logic and reasoning that led to my decision?
Will I find lasting satisfaction that replaces the value of my birthright, or will I find lasting remorse over that which I forsook?
From Jimmie Coy:“ABOB, A Bowl Of Beans…is anything that will separate you from your Spiritual eternal birthright. ABOB calls to each
of us but ultimately it is what separates us from our greatest treasure. As Desmond Doss would say, ‘If we miss heaven, we have missed everything.’ IC, jdc”
“If the Northerness seemed then a bigger thing than my religion, that may partly have been because my attitude toward it contained elements which my religion ought to have contained and did not. It was not itself a new religion for it contained no trace of belief and imposed no duties. Yet unless I am greatly mistaken, there was in it something very like adoration; some kind of quite disinterested self-abandonment to an object which securely claimed this by simply being the object it was. We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glory’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He necessarily is than for any particular benefit he confers upon us; and so indeed we do, and to know God is to know this, but I had been far from any such experience. I came far nearer to feeling this about the Norse gods whom I disbelieved in than I had ever done about the true God while I believed. Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods, there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself. Not that I might not have learned this sooner and more safely in ways I shall now never know without apostasy, but that divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil and the penal blindness made sanitive. ” ~ C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” — Matthew Henry
Stories tell of a 17 year old Abraham Lincoln singing a poeticised (Created by himself?) version of this put to music for a sister’s wedding.
“There are certain things we must not pray about – moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral. It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Christian life is one of incarnate spiritual pluck.”
— Oswald Chambers (24 July 1874 – 15 November 1917)