Victory in a Drop of Water
When I was a boy, I had a recurring dream in which I was being chased by an unknown menace. The setting was often an old and unfamiliar house. I would move from room to room to escape, but the evil never relented. Eventually, I would make my way to the basement and travel through a series of dungeon-like caverns, each going deeper into the bowels of the earth. Although it was frightening, I always had a sense of hope that I would eventually escape. Once, the passage became as narrow as a pin and I escaped through the tiniest drop of water that slipped out the end.
I haven’t thought about those dreams for decades until this morning when I was praying with a friend about sexual brokenness. It seems to me that the journey of healing can be a lot like those darkened caverns in my dreams that wound endlessly down. Once in them, you wonder if you wonder if you will ever find a way out. Sometimes escape feels just as impossible as slipping through the point of a pin (or the eye of a needle, as it were). As Jesus taught, this is impossible for us, but not for God. The grace of God that can accomplish what we never can is the Good News on which we place our hopes.
Two weeks ago, I shared at my men’s group that I am aware of two great wounds in my life: 1) my relationship with my father and 2) my sexual brokenness which began at least by age seven when I was exposed to Playboy magazine. I am happy to share that I have been reconciled to my father for the past ten years and he and I enjoy a great bond today. I wish I could say the same about my sexual wounds.
The truth is that I have still have some unresolved issues to work through. In my life, God has never yoked me with more than I could handle. My sense lately is that He has patiently waited for me to reach this time—right now—where He can take me to deeper understanding and healing. I think it’s hard for anyone to become vulnerable to others about sexual wounding, but it is even more so as the head of a ministry who is supposed to have everything figured out. If you know me personally, you know full well I don’t have it all figured out. Thanks be to God that I don’t have to be perfect before He will use me in His service!
The timing of these reflections is providential. A dear friend of mine shared this week that a church in Michigan with which he has a personal connection is undergoing a significant spiritual trial. Their associate pastor, who is married with five young children, abruptly resigned after being outed by an LGBT paper for living a secret gay life. My heart goes out to this church that had its world rocked and has been assaulted by national and international press. My heart goes out to the man’s family whose relationships have been violently uprooted. Most of all, I feel for this man whose sexual brokenness has been laid bare for all the world to see. I ask if I could withstand the same harsh spotlights of public criticism and the answer is “No.”
As bad as this moment is, I pray that everyone involved can see the grace-filled opportunity before them. My friend David recently shared a quote that explains how this tragic situation can be transformed into lasting good:
“Life emerges out of death. In order to save my life—that is, to really live—I must lose that which appears to be my life, the system of mistaken ideas and values that embody my ego.” –David G. Benner, Soulful Spirituality
I’m sure for the pastor, his wife and even for many in the church this situation feels like death. Who could recover from such a dramatic fall? Who could ever find their way out of such a dungeon of shame and anger? Yet, the victory for them may come as it did in my dream, through a drop of water. In their case, it would be through the water combined with God’s Word in baptism. God gives us His promise in baptism that he will never leave nor forsake us. We are his beloved children no matter what we’ve done. This truth may be the only thing able to bring them through such a trying time.
This situation reminds me of the prodigal son who left the love of his father for a wastrel life. Yet, while in the pigpen the young man came to his senses. From news accounts, the pastor in Michigan came to his senses, repented and resigned his position. Men and women everyday are coming to their senses, repenting, and looking for help on their road of recovery.
Every one of us is faced with a choice. When people hit bottom and want to return home will they face judgment, shunning, and fear or will they be met with open arms and the promise of forgiveness and redemption? I pray this church can find a redemptive path through the shock, pain and confusion its members are understandably experiencing. I pray that all of our churches can one day welcome with open arms the sexually broken, the addicts, the same-sex attracted and anyone else who wants to come home to a Waiting Father. This is the vision upon which Brushfires was founded.
We can be devoured by the devil through the isolation and shame caused by our wounds or we can be strengthened by a true Christian community that understands and embraces the fact that all of its members are uniquely wounded. We can band together in the Spirit as in Pentecost or flee separately as the Apostles did on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion. Isn’t the choice clear? Clear, perhaps, in theory, but not so easy in practice. That’s why we must work together. That’s why your support is so valuable to this work.
I am, indeed, a wounded man, but I would rather stand by the side of other wounded men and women than hide my wounds, look good to others, and suffer in silence. How about you?