The Gift of Helping

Brittany: “A Friend Who Sticks Closer…”

“Boundaries” is every therapist’s favorite word. In the emotional landscape of today’s West, every person is to have a clearly thought through and established list of every behavior they will accept, every attitude they will not, and a plan for how they will present themselves in every still frame of their lives as fully enforcing their own little set of Ten Commandments.

I have never heard of anyone successfully, or consistently, re-enforcing their $150/per word boundary statements in the context of their actual relationships. Why, is a simple explanation. Relationships require flexibility. Flexibility is a thing that a boundary is not.

Relationships with difficult people– you know, like ones whose world have just been shattered by psychosis, whose friends seem to fear them, and whose churches do not want them– relationships with difficult people require Elastigirl, supermom of The Incredibles, capable of actually turning her body into a parachute while she falls with you.

Brittany was a year behind me in high school. She was home waiting to start grad school after college. I can’t remember how we reconnected, but I was just out of the hospital and spending all my time in bed.

All I wanted was to be able to do normal things. Things like take a shower, eat a meal, wear clean clothes, and do more than move from my bed at 1:00pm to the couch until moving back to bed at 10:00pm.

Brittany, whose vibe as long as I’ve known her is full of sweetness, pep, and an ability to turn an idea into an action, offered to meet me at Carmel Beach to go for walks on Mondays and Wednesdays.

And she meant it. Mondays and Wednesdays. Like all of the Mondays and all of the Wednesdays.

We walked and talked the length of Carmel Beach for hours over weeks. Every Monday and every Wednesday, Brittany would text me to confirm that we were meeting. Sometimes I wouldn’t text back. My alarm would have gone off half a dozen times, but many days it just wasn’t happening for me. Sometimes, Brittany would text that she was at the beach waiting for me, and I’d tell her then that I wasn’t up to it.

Were Brittany a “boundaries” kind of friend, our walks would have happened maybe twice or three times. Thankfully, Brittany is a “persistent” kind of friend. She was a “selfless” kind of friend. A friend that bounced back from my offenses. A friend who put up with my prickliness, listened to me bad mouth a God whom she loved, and never stopped engaging with me.

Brittany also shared with me what was going on in her life. I was not a project, I was her friend. After hearing about her secret crush, I later got to attend their wedding. She wasn’t evangelizing me in my lostness, she was sticking with me, for real.

“A man of many companions comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs18:24.

In the months fresh from my mania, psychosis, diagnosis, and prognosis, I definitely did not have many companions. I did have one companion though, and she stuck close despite every reason to feel disrespected by me.

Companionship is a function of the spiritual gift of helping that builds up God’s church. Companionship sticks. It takes walks. It calls. It reschedules. It tries again. It rolls with the punches. It shows up, and is ready to be real.

You cannot underestimate the way in which you can rebirth life into a person by tenaciously spending time with them.

Brittany, thank you for extending to me the gift of “helps” through your companionship.

Britt and Me

 

The Beatitudes People Podcast

The Beatitudes People

My new podcast launched yesterday! The Beatitudes People!

conversation + candor towards a CHURCH with the compassion + competence to give a robust response to our society’s current mental health reality.

By the end of its 1st week, The Beatitudes People was #1 in Mental Health, #9 in SF Bay Area, and in the top .5% of all of Podomatics podcasts! Please listen and SHARE!

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Instructions on the Care of Your Soul

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41

So, I feel a little silly, but I did not know that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” were words spoken by Jesus and not the Apostle Paul. It really sounds like something Paul would couch between confessions that he is the chief of sinners and thorns in sides or taking license with grace or something…but, nope. It was Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man grappling with the very human tension of living in spirit and truth while body-bound.

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Matthew 26:38-44 KJV

Jesus’ spirit was willing to go to the cross to save mankind. His soul was sorrowful. His soul was self-aware. His spirit was aware only of the Father.

This passage solidifies for me a hunch that I first broached at the beginning of this series– that the soul is a part of the flesh distinct from the spirit.

The soul, the immaterial portion of Jesus’ flesh, felt that it could die just at the thought of the physical suffering and spiritual pain that He would experience when He was punished on the cross both by the Roman guards and by God.

A spirit is eternal, it cannot die. Jesus said His soul was so sorrowful it could die. “My soul is consumed with sorrow to the point of death” (NIV).

You have to know what your soul is if you are going to give it what it needs. Your soul is the corruptible part of your inner being. It is subject to death and decay. It is fallible and weak and susceptible to illness. It is enmeshed– not intertwined– but completely enmeshed with the body. The soul is not the spirit.

Your body is the way that your soul is perceivable. You can only discipline your soul through the actions of your body, proving that your inner person is no more holy than your outer person. They are both your flesh. They are both dying without Christ’s life breathed into your nostrils.

Your soul, just as your body, has need of the resurrection. Your soul isn’t, like, in cahoots with the Holy Spirit while your body wastes away. We are holistically dying until we are holistically living. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. Self-care is not a spiritual discipline. Pop psychology is not regenerative. Your soul needs life in the spirit. Making your heart feel content, your intellect feel stimulated, or your will feel applied is a losing battle of soul appeasement because these are as much a part of dead works as anything else. Wasn’t the Old Covenant law essentially just intricate hygiene rules? Isn’t self-care the en vogue word for hygiene?

My mom encouraged me once when I was really depressed to put some make-up on my face to perk myself up a bit. “Really,” she said, “you’ll feel so much better.” I mean, yes, taking care of my appearance makes me feel much better– as long as I am actively doing it. I can look smokin’ gorgeous one day and it does brighten my attitude. However, the next day when I’m unmotivated and yesterday’s mascara is crumbling onto my cheekbones, I feel worse than if I hadn’t had my day of being beautiful because now I have blackheads and depression. Their is no ritual, routine, or bronzer that can save your soul from the gravity of slowly falling apart.

You are no more saved by your thoughts, theology, emotions, fortitude, political positions or character than you are by flagellation, hand-washing, sacrifices, ordinances, random acts of kindness, or sabbath observation. Those works of the flesh are good exercises but they are not worshipping in spirit and in truth. They are worshipping in the soul and in the shadow of the truth (see the entire Book of Hebrews).

There is no component of the inborn inner person that equates to the spirit. Not the mind, not the will, not even the heart is made of spirit. Jesus was made to be man with all of man’s weaknesses and all of man’s temptations (Hebrews 4:15). The soul was counted as a weakness to be overcome by Jesus in Matthew 26:38-44. He had to overcome the feelings and desires of His soul to obey the Father unto salvation.

Why would this power struggle be the plan for salvation?! Because His strength is made perfect in weakness. The Father was glorified through the weakness of Jesus’ flesh.

Jesus exhorts His disciples in Gethsemane to be watchful and pray otherwise the flesh could win out over the spirit. Wasn’t Jesus telling them this because it was what He himself was experiencing at that moment?

“Watch with Me,” He said. Jesus was having to fastidiously watch His own soul so that He would not fall into the temptation to save Himself instead of me. He needed help, intercessors, and accountability, but ultimately Jesus would go to the cross all alone starting right there in Gethsemane. He was watching His emotions (sorrow), His mind (if another way is possible), and His will (not my will) while He travailed in prayer.

Jesus’ soul was the first aspect of His flesh that was put to death for my sins.

I’m alive in His Spirit because of the death of His flesh.

The care of my soul is maintained in the way it was won: by putting to death the works of the flesh. Be watchful that you’re not trying to resurrect your own wellness through drinking enough water, making your bed, writing goals on your mirror, or putting on make-up. Your flesh can do nothing for your flesh. The care of the soul is a matter of the spirit.

Not my way to care for my soul, but Yours. Amen.

morning glories georgia okeefe

— Who, being in nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 —

— For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13–

* artwork: “Morning Glories” Georgia O’Keefe

 

 

 

Instructions on the Care of Your Soul

“Two are better than one,” Ecclesiastes 4:9

the-cave-art-paintings-of-the-lascaux-cave-lasco-cave-paintings

The soul needs work.

For the carnal material of the soul to be content it needs some degree of usefulness, exertion, and a purpose by which to orient itself in space.

The most unhappy people I know are those that have no meaningful work to do. They crave purpose. They become ego obsessed while searching within themselves for the use that they were created for. This kind of person hurts others more than any other kind of cynic or self-centered slob that I’ve seen. The person in perpetual existential crisis is emotionally, spiritually, and financially ruinous to others as they parasitically depend on any sympathetic host while they try to find their sense of independence and identity.

Paul encourages his young and emotional successor in 2 Timothy 1:9 saying that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

We long for this promise. We long for this promise that before the ages began we were imagined and allotted for something loftier than just eeking out a living and accumulating creature comforts before we die and hopefully leave a bit of a legacy. Those who are most lustful for purpose are those whose willful inner persons are most in need of being yoked to Jesus in His work on earth.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 says that “two are better than one, because they have a good return on their labor.” God through His Son’s ministry has chosen to better His labor with us. That is a huge act of generosity and grace!

As we were made in God’s image, we were made to both work and rest (Genesis 1:26-2:3).

In the Fall, what was once one godly form of work got splintered into three forms of work– in my opinion (Genesis 3). We now see work in these categories: godly work, carnal work, and curse work. Let’s call godly work “cultivation,” carnal work “livelihood,” and curse work “toil.” We do these three kinds of work on every level of being– physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In soulishness we do these three kinds of work on our own. When we are born again of the Spirit, these three kinds of work are done together with Jesus (John 3:3-8; Matthew 11:29-30).

When we take Jesus’ yoke upon us and learn of Him, we find rest for our souls.

I prayed in January of 2016 as my seven years of hard heartedness toward the Lord were drawing to a close, “What is the Christian life? You are saved, and then what? What’s the rest of the time for really?” Co-laboring with Christ is the Christian life. Being a “two” to Jesus’ “one” that gets a good return on His labor is why we aren’t immediately “translated” to heaven upon being born again.

Within our own hearts Jesus reaps a return as together with Christ we cultivate the Kingdom, we work quietly and respectably amongst our neighbors, and we toil in the spirit to subdue our flesh until the day of our glorification. The outcropping of this inward co-laboring is that we become workmen approved to rightly handle the word of truth and workers who the Lord of the Harvest can send into His harvest fields (2 Timothy 2:15; Matthew 9:35-38).

Practically speaking, be yoked to Jesus in these 4 ways:

  1. Be yoked in common purpose
  2. Be yoked in common practice
  3. Be yoked in common passion
  4.  Be yoked in common pleasantness

Being yoked in common purpose is to recognize that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to reveal the Kingdom of God. Jesus revealed the Kingdom through healings, casting out demons, miracles, teaching the public, teaching disciples, decoding scriptures, correcting misconceptions about God, about His Word, and about the nature of the coming Kingdom under His own rule and by rebuking unbelief. (Mark 16:9-19)

Next- spiritual disciplines sometimes come under fire as either legalist works salvation or self-indulgent mystic spirituality (opposite extremes), yet they are the way that we are yoked to Jesus in common practice. Today the spiritual disciplines practiced by Jesus– prayer, studying scripture, laying on of hands (Luke 4:40), and receiving prophetic words from communion with the Lord (John 12:49) are craved by the world and mimicked by the enemy. Some of the up and coming “church replacements” that you’ll see today are: meditation (a counterfeit of prayer), bibliotherapy (utilizing your identifying with characters in literature as therapeutic), “healing touch,” (one person moving another’s energy with their hands), and vision work (conjuring up insight from your own imagination and intentions.) The world yearns for the tools Christ has entrusted to us that we routinely refuse to use. Just an interesting side note: I read in an atheist online magazine that bibliotherapy is being intentionally honed by humanists to replace for people the positive psychological effects of reading the Bible!

We also have to hone in on what precisely Christ’s passion was. His purpose was to reveal the Kingdom; His passion was to forgive. His passion was the cross to blot out sins and to remove the record of wrongs. Love does this. First Corinthians 13 gives us a detailed picture of what forgiveness looks like as it examines love. Christ’s passionate love toward us was consummated in the means by which He won our forgiveness. Take the Lord’s Prayer deadly serious when its language intimately links our own forgiveness with our forgiveness of others. Entering into the New Covenant with Christ is to participate in His New Covenant with mankind, and it is a promise forged in the blood of forgiveness. Take up your cross daily.

Finally, and joyfully, take up common pleasantness with Christ. Don’t forget the “I will give you rest; my burden is easy, my yoke is light” part of laboring with Christ.

Grace, that ever hard to define word, is essentially pleasantness. Bust out a Strong’s Concordance and you can cross-reference about 21 words and roots in Greek and 14 in Hebrew that flesh out a picture of what grace is. When you whittle hen in Hebrew to its primitive root it means “to pitch your tent next to.” God leans down with good intention to bring the overwhelming impact of His nature to the camp of man as beneficiary. Grace is the pleasant, gladdening closeness of God to us. In common pleasantness, yoked to Jesus, we do the work of being “sweeter than honey and the honey comb” on this earth. We are the taste that man might see the goodness of God. (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 34:8).

There is a work we do with Jesus– not “good works” but certainly works that are good and eternal in return on investment, and works that were eternally prepared with goodness in Mind.

For you are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

I’ll never forget the level of despair I felt after suffering a psychotic break, being diagnosed as bipolar one and being given the prognosis that I’d live most of my life in and out of psych wards. At 23 years old, I experienced five months of laying in bed calling to mind each of my aspirations individually and watching them atrophy and disintegrate into the inevitability of mental illness. Over and over, I cried, “If this is all You made me for why did You create me? If you were going to make me so defective and useless, why did You even bother?” The prospect of uselessness cast me into a wilderness period. If there was nothing for me to do why did I have to be?

We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The operative phrase being in Christ Jesus.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you were not created in the flesh to do good works prepared for you ahead of time for lasting impact. You are created in Christ Jesus, yoked to Him, born again of and enlivened by the Holy Spirit to do good works that the Father crafted for you when He crafted you.

Be yoked to Jesus. Hitch your wagon to His. And He will give you rest.

 

 

 

Instructions on the Care of Your Soul

“Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live,” 2 Samuel 12:22

In Philippians, we are told to be anxious for nothing but by prayer and petition make our requests known to God.

Jesus told us to ask anything in His name and He will do it (John 14:14). He also says that our Father knows how to give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11).

King David wrote one half of the Book of Psalms. He was skilled in the practice of prayer. His prayers aren’t always beautiful– poetic, yes; beautiful, no.

From the patterns of prayers found in the psalms, I have deduced that the power within David’s theology of prayer is that David felt he could say and ask for anything.

Nothing shows this more than the recounting of the death of David’s first son by Bathsheba– the child resulting from David’s sins of adultery and murder.

There is a principle of prayer in this passage of scripture that I am almost positive you haven’t considered:

Praying a prayer that you know God will reject.

2 Samuel 12:1-25:

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

the-old-guitarist13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”

19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.

Even in sin, in punishment, in anguish, David turns to the Lord for help. 

Having a relationship with the Lord is a hard thing to define. I’ve been trying! Relationship with God means that your hope is in Him even when you’re out of alignment with Him. It means even when you know God is disciplining you, it is Him that you run to for help. Relationship means love and communication despite disharmony– markedly different than reverential religious worship. 

Cain, Jonah, Judas Iscariot all ran from God when they did wrong. David ran to God.

David knew that nothing he did took away his access to the throne room of grace. No matter what, the very least he could depend on was that God would let him make his request known. God would hear David’s prayers. David trusted that the Lord’s ears were never deaf to him.

There was absolutely nothing that David didn’t take to the Lord in prayer.

“Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” Psalm 121:1-2.

David poured out his strength to the Lord in requests for his son. And then, after the baby died, he got up, cleaned up, and went to the Tabernacle to worship.

David didn’t pray for his baby to live because he thought God would say yes. He prayed for his baby to live because God was his only hope.

You’ll notice that unlike what many of Israel’s wicked kings would have done, David never even thought of turning to magicians or shamans or healers or mediums to try to save the baby. He went to the One who had stricken the child with illness in the first place. Because that One, was his only god on that day and every other day of his life.

David had some bad traits, but idolater was not one of them. Good, bad, or indifferent, he worshipped and trusted in the strength of only One. I believe that this trait is the key to why even with serious moral failures, David is called “a man after God’s own heart.”

In this light, here are the instructions for the care of your soul when making your request known to God:

  1. Ask God for everything in your heart, because who else can you turn to?
  2. Don’t just pray for God’s will and for your basic needs in life while leaving your requests to be gotten illegitimately

The odd thing about making requests that don’t seem particularly holy, is that those are the vulnerable prayers that keep us from idolatry and adultery.

Our faithfulness to the Lord is made possible by honest, every day, requests.

“Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

 

*image: “The Old Guitarist” Pablo Picasso

 

 

Instructions on the Care of Your Soul

“For He cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7

living waters matisse

Just a couple weeks ago, I saw this print by Pierre Matisse gracing a statement wall in my friend, Julie’s living room. Knowing the story of the Woman at the Well, I was struck by Matisse’s handling of the immoral Samaritan woman. He portrayed her as dignified, secure, and saturated in provision. Matisse’s interpretation couldn’t be further from how I had previously thought about the Samaritan woman at the well. But, his interpretation couldn’t be any closer to the truth of her story.

 

Today’s Instruction on the Care of Your Soul is to cast your cares on Jesus.

The story of Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well portrays better than anything why we can trust Jesus with our cares.

Typically we think of our “cares” as earthly needs for provision and protection. Perhaps you, as I, separate your “cares” from your “burdens,” with burdens having a more emotional connotation.

It makes sense that we’d parse definitions this way being that even alternate versions of the Bible translate “cares” as anxieties or worries.

The context in which 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to, “Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you,” is an exhortation to humble ourselves to God’s sovereignty– His “mighty hand.” We are to allow Him to be the one to take care of us no matter how our life circumstances look. We are to believe beyond belief that He is in control of even the most chaotic situations. In this framework, we cast our cares on Him.

Putting ourselves under the execution of God’s mighty hand is scary. It is scary when you aren’t certain that He cares for you. This shadow of uncertainty in God’s care is darkest when you are a person with a guilty conscience.

When you carry a burden of guilt the fear of punishment, feelings of shame, and knowledge of judgment makes it very difficult to trust God with anything physical and emotional, temporal or eternal. Guilt erodes our belief that God is for us and cares to sustain us through life’s trials.

The cares of this world and emotional burdens get tied together by a guilty conscience. The result is an inability to cast our cares on the only one who can take care of them.

Enter the Woman at the Well.

The Woman at the Well was drawing water in the heat of the day because no one else would be there at that time. She wore the scarlet letter. She was judged by others and had done everything they gossiped about. In the middle of the day, she was avoiding all the other women in town who’d come draw water once dusk cooled the day.

Uncomfortably for her, this woman with a terrible reputation found herself alone with a man at the very time of day she was trying to escape her reputation as a seductress.

Truth be told, I feel really sorry for the Woman at the Well. She had had five husbands. The sixth guy didn’t even marry her in an age when cohabitation was not a thing. And within two minutes of conversation with this stranger, Jesus displayed His supernatural quality to the woman by telling her that He knew these secrets and sins about her. Oddly, it was kinda her miracle. Some people understood Jesus’ identity after a healing or receiving forgiveness, the Samaritan woman’s miracle encounter with Jesus was just Him stating the elephant in the room— that her life was dominated by sexual impropriety.

As far as I know women couldn’t divorce men at that time. A women caught in adultery would be killed. So, I’m not sure what she did, but I am guessing her husbands left her, not the other way around. And the sixth took advantage of her sullied history to the extent of not having the decency to accept her as his wife.

For the Woman at the Well, guilt had crystallized into a ton of rejection. Those rejections had greater implications than just emotional insecurity. A woman who wasn’t legally married in that day had no legal rights or inheritance. She had no security of future provision.

I have been discovering lately that guilt, rejection, and a deprivation mentality are clandestine bedmates.

When I think of rejection I think of feelings of being unlovable or overlooked or insufficient. Until this week as God has been working things out in my own heart, I never even considered how an abiding sense of guiltiness under the law could be a platform for a pattern of rejection in my life.

A sinfulness complex and a rejection complex are twin specters in our lives.

Rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Particularly because we can perceive rejection where it really doesn’t exist. Our response to fictitious rejection often culminates in real rejection as people’s limited grace for our insecure oddities runs out. At the root of it, we expect to be rejected because we feel guilty and ashamed of ourselves.

Worse than any rejection we can suffer at the hands of parents or parental figures, employers and mentors, potential lovers or actual lovers, is the rejection of God. Rejection by God implies death. Where God rejects there is not just pain but utter deprivation.

The law lets us know that being rejected by God is not just a possibility it is an inevitability. Unless we receive the Holy Spirit, which is the Living Waters from Jesus, we will be cast out to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth– a place of consuming anxiety and cosmic wanting (John 7:37-39; Matthew 22:1-14; Hebrews 10).

I am one of those people who has an unfortunately sensitive conscience. My conscience is easily piqued. The awareness I have of the righteous requirement of the law expands far beyond its natural bounds. I lay a heavy burden on myself much like the Pharisees did to the people in Jesus’ day (Matthew 23:4).

“They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden,” Matthew 23:4.

 All growing up I had an abiding sense of guilt. I felt inherently immoral. I was always waiting to get in trouble for something even though I almost never (seriously) did anything that could get me into trouble.

My guilt burden, or sinfulness complex, resulted in an expectation of rejection. I had this weird “un-fantasy” when I was young that I would do something bad and that my parents would abandon me for it and then I would become homeless. To me, homelessness was the end result of rejection for your sins. Of course as it happens, I was born genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness closely associated with homelessness. As Job said, “The thing that I feared came upon me” (Job 3:25).

I carried an inflated burden of guilt that fortified a stronghold of rejection that gave a throne in my heart to a spirit of deprivation. A spirit of deprivation manifests as: cares, worries, anxieties, want, lack, scarcity, torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We must receive the forgiveness of our sins and the atonement for our guilt that Jesus offers, so that we might also receive the rich provisions of His mercy. We cannot have relationship with God without the removal of our guilt. Otherwise, our rejection stronghold will make us unable to feel the love of God; and a pervasive belief that we are chronically deprived will make us unable to receive the saturation of His grace.

The Woman at the Well was a Samaritan. When she met Jesus she had an immediate expectation of rejection because of the animosity between Jews and Samaritans. She was born the wrong kind of person– she had inherent guilt.

Jesus engages with the Samaritan woman despite her being the wrong kind of person morally and ethnically; and He engages with her in a very generous and intimate way.

In John 4, there are three references to the woman’s response to Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of her multiple sexual partners:

  1. First, she says to Jesus: “I can see you are a prophet.”
  2.  Second, she tells the towns people, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could he be the Messiah?”
  3. Third, the narrative explains that the Samaritan townspeople went to hear Jesus themselves because of the testimony that she gave: “He told me everything I ever did.” They came to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world because of both what she said and that she encouraged them to go listen to him for themselves. 

The Woman at the Well’s response to Jesus grew from “You are a prophet” to “maybe You’re the Messiah” to “You are the Savior of the world.”

Jesus defied the woman’s expectation of rejection by requesting her hospitality

Jesus disabled her guilt by taking the veil of secrecy off of her sins.

Jesus also dispossessed the woman’s spirit of deprivation by telling her to ask him for the satisfaction he had available to her.

Her problem was sin and shame, but Jesus addressed her cares– her need for satisfaction.

First, He addresses her profound thirsts. Then He shares with her something he shared with very few people. He shares with her the mystery of God– that Jesus came to offer salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles, to the half-breeds like her (Ephesians 3:5-6). He tells her the secret that God’s plan is to make right even the people who were born wrong. He offered her knowledge of Himself and His life’s passion. 

This is how Jesus handles our cares too: He requests entry to our hearts, removes the secrecy from around our sin, tells us to ask Him for satisfaction, and then resolves all of our ambivalence toward Him into perfect peace by revealing intimate information about Himself to us.

This is relationship with Jesus. Not only does He know us, but He assures us that our hearts are safe in His hands by entrusting to us privileged information about Himself.

It’s hard to describe what “a personal relationship with God” means in practical terms. But here’s my best guess: Relationship with Jesus is realizing that Jesus is a person who knows the secret of my sins and let’s me know the secrets of His glory.

The transformative power of casting our cares on Jesus is that He cares for us. Paternalistic relationships are one way. But Jesus displays His tender care for us by knowing us and being known by us.

The power center of my testimony is the way that Jesus cares for me.

Sharing our testimonies grows our satisfaction and our conviction that Jesus is the Savior who is able to handle all manner of cares. Again- the Samaritan woman’s conviction about Jesus’ identity grew from prophet to possible Messiah of the Jews to Savior of the whole world in the course of two days by sharing her testimony.

Her testimony— “He told me everything I ever did,” unfettered her from guilt under the law and released her into dignity. It removed her cloak of rejection and clothed her in security. It filled her up with self-replenishing, life-giving waters.

My instructions to you for taking care of your soul’s cares is to share your testimony. It’s the most tangible action step in the effort to psychologically cast your cares on Jesus.

Tell anyone and everyone about the One who knows everything you ever did and extended an offer of friendship to you anyway. And– sharing your testimony isn’t really to evangelize anyone else. That’s just a byproduct.

Sharing your testimony is about evangelizing yourself. It is about growing your capacity to cast your cares on Him because you know He cares for you. In such your capacity to receive from Him also grows. Your capacity to feel love grows.

When Jesus first asked the Woman at the Well for a drink of water, she said, “but you have nothing to draw it up with.” He replied, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask me for living water and you would never thirst again.”

Let Jesus remove the guilt that keeps you from dipping into the well of God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Your sin is not a secret to Jesus. You don’t have to worry what He’ll do if He finds out.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Instructions on the Care of Your Soul

“Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:20

I am an epic planner. That must be why I was attracted to solution-oriented life coaching. In coaching your process is: set a goal, visualize, plan, repeat. You repeat the “Four Powerful Planning Questions” until you find a course of action that works. But, don’t be afraid to crumple up your “working” action plan and start over.

We can be easily programmed to believe that strategizing on how to solve a problem can be just as relieving as actually solving it. This process of plan and plan again is about as useful as smoking a cigarette– it chemically produces a very real calming effect on the brain…for about 10 minutes. I was once a chain action planner. It is smoke and mirrors. It makes anxiety cyclical not solved.

When I get stressed I take it out on grid paper. No matter how out of my control the situation may seem, I can measure it all out and apportion it into perfectly drawn boxes and clean lists and feel better. This is manageable. Pinning my burdens to a piece of paper feels…transcendent.

I have journals and journals full of lists. I don’t Dear Diary— my life is documented by bullet point. Grocery lists, budgets, class schedules, reading lists, prayer requests, career paths, list upon list revealing the things that matter most to me in less than 50 words each.

My “list journals” have a full catalogue of my intentions and assertions, the ways in which I planned to apply myself. If I ever wanted to manifest it, it’s on a list. When I look back at them I find that some of the items have check marks, many don’t. Some of those goals I am still pursuing, many I am not, or they are now completely unrecognizable from the road map laid down 1, 5 or 10 years ago.

Here’s a parable for we best-laid planners:

Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater ones, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)

We often think of “the will” as the bull in the china cabinet of our inner being. A person who is called “strong-willed” is envisioned as ornery and selfish.

Willfulness can be much more subtle than classic stubbornness. It exists even in people generally perceived as gentle or cool. It is found in any person who is committed— unflappably committed—to anything at any time that’s outside of the thing and time God has ordained for them.

Willfulness is not the antithesis of obedience. It is the antithesis of trust.

About two years ago, I felt convicted to stop saying, “I will.”

“I will do this. I will do that. I will never. I will always.”

You will nothing. Just ask my lists.

The nature of the Will:

  • The will plans for a desired future outcome.
  • We “will” based on the presumption that our plans will yield the desired results. Presumption is based on false assumptions. Like say, the assumption that we know what God wants for us. After all, “this is good, godly, wise and biblical, so it must be God’s will for me to will this.”
  • The will is single-mindedness guarded by indignation. It shields its rebellion behind self-righteousness and storied justifications. It is fueled by vain imaginations. 
  • The application of the will usually entails huge blind spots to self.
  • The will feels entitled to the results of its plan.
  • Willfulness blames God when its plans don’t bear fruit.

Love the Lord your God with all your strengthThat is, with all your will

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23

Cut quickly to 1 Samuel 15:23:

Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.

King Saul, when this was spoken over him, was convinced that Samuel should congratulate him for doing God’s will. Even though he had blatantly disobeyed, he had deluded himself to the point of thinking that he had obeyed the spirit of God’s instructions when really, even he confessed that his real motivator was maintaining his popularity (1 Samuel 15:1-26). He thought he did something good, but God told Saul, depart from me.

Now notice that according to Matthew 7:23, even doing good and productive things does not make you a good and faithful servant if you are willing it. In fact, such action does not just run afoul, it’s lawlessness.

As the rich man in the parable discovered, “it is appointed unto man once to die.” You either die in your sins at the end of your physical life, or you die to your sins at the beginning of your eternal life. Either way, you only die once. That’s what baptism signifies; for Christians, it is the only death we experience. Who by worrying can add a day to his life? Who by willing can please God?

Your will stores up treasures here, now, and has to have it. Your will worries, hoards and plans for a future that God is not providing for.

But who will inherit what you prepared for yourself in the flesh when your “once” comes? Will you have inherited life incorruptible by dying to self, being born again of the Spirit, and storing up treasures in God’s storehouse?

If your unsubmissive will has anything to say about it, you will die in your sin. And the will of one’s flesh always has something to say.

The instruction:

Get your will to be the first of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under earth, to bow its knee and confess with its tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phillipians 2:10-11)

All the talk your church leaders throw around about putting Jesus on the throne of your heart? That teaching is for the benefit of your will.

Bathe your will in the sufficiency of Christ. His sufficiency takes away your fear of punishment, of imperfection. His sufficiency takes away your fear of lack. His sufficiency satisfies your hunger and thirst. His sufficiency fills up your insufficiency.

Your will can go take a nap.

 

 

~unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. in vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for He grants sleep to those who He loves. Psalm 127:1-2~