"Share one of your most embarrassing moments."
I was in a circle with a bunch of strangers at a workshop and that was the icebreaker question. Hit me with a glacier, will you? I was glad the facilitator said "one of" and not "the." My mind raced as I worked to sort through a long life of potential icebreaker break-through moments. Let's see. How about the time when I got off the school bus to find my stepfather laying on the lawn in his underwear? True . . . he's the one who should have been beet red, but he already had his mid-day numb on.
Decades later that moment is not so much embarrassing as sad. I can look back now and see that he was a man who sailed off course and could navigate only towards the eventual abyss. His approach to life was a mix of "I am . . ." and "Don't you mess with me." "I" and "me" became "was" way too early perhaps for him, but much to the relief of others. So . . . sad indeed. He was clearly focused -- or as close as he ever got to it -- on the wrong "I am."
I can't remember what I shared in the group that day, (bed-wetting on a scout camp-out?) or if I took a pass and just kept sliding along on the ice, looking for a way out. I don't remember the tales of embarrassing moments others shared either, but, after all, we weren't there for therapy. I'm sure there was some uproarious ice-breaking before we got down to the business of work. I don't remember what that was either. The work.
Some things though, I don't forget. Sometimes when I am alone with my thoughts -- which is all too often -- I confront the reality of how embarrassing my sexual brokenness has been to some, especially my children. For me, it was an overwhelming burden that had me slyly maneuvering down the curvy road with a shifting load, controls set for careening. Hopefully, my four sons and my daughter will resist the opportunity to talk about it as an ice-breaker somewhere and will instead find encouragement and support from those called by God. Some things only God can heal.
Ironically, friends and family members find themselves drifting into the same void as the struggler when it comes to real help. Amateur counselors, well-meaning and not-so, wring hands and loan shoulders, which is good, but also unload ignorant advice that should have been shelved in favor of just listening. In an area where most understand little, they spring forward into this confusing tragedy like a person who stumbles on an accident and moves the broken person to a place of comfort, perhaps piercing his lung in the process. We are not all equipped to fix everything. Families have been further divided and marriages ended by silly words of others desperate to . . . say something. If wisdom is absent, conjure up a platitude or two. If you are not called, don't go. If you are called, learn the way.
Embarrassing stepping-stones are plentiful on the path to healing. Spiritually, it can be a bit like parading down the hall of the hospital in saggy grey socks with your hair in disarray and the back of your gown flapping open for unwary audiences who don't deserve to be subjected. Eventually you settle back into the room to face the big hypodermic of truth, the long therapy of repentance and the reality that some of the more phobic will never visit . . . perhaps for the rest of your life. Sweet though, is recovering your bearings and returning to the road.
Sometimes we have to stumble, barely breathing, into the shelter from the storm. Buffeted by the winds of culture; told by the enlightened that we should accept our temptations as healthy expressions of our inner selves . . . and act on them . . . just be yourself . . . stop this backward thinking . . . and live free. After all, no one really knows you like you so you be you. In the meantime, we're to reject the truth of the Bible and sharpen our self-defense by parroting perceived inconsistencies in an attempt to throw Christians off their game. When confronted, just ask a lot of ambiguous questions about why Jesus didn't say this and that . . . and then look them in the eye and say "If you really believed the Word of God, you'd never trim your beard or mix polyester and cotton. So there. I win."
And the wind blows. Where it goes, nobody knows.
Well . . . God knows.
And the swirl goes on: "You're beautiful . . . you're sickening . . . you're fine . . . who cares?"
The most distressing thing I have discovered in this journey is the parallel roads on which some believers and most non-believers travel. For instance, when it comes to homosexuality, too many believers doubt that anyone can change and most non-believer's believe they definitely cannot. These views differ only because one carries judgment and the other affirms.
It's discouraging to see some Christians say that with God all things are possible, but, just for safety's sake, we need a bit of distance. But . . . really . . . if God changes you and all is well, we want to know, so we can celebrate with you and give God the glory. How will we know? Oh . . . we'll know. God will reveal it to us.
Like, for some reason, God would not reveal it first to the struggler crying out?
It's also discouraging to see the non-believers who find that when they have run enough times around the circle, the easy exit is to declare that God doesn't exist and therefore we are what we are because it just happened that way. I guess if you believe that all of creation just came from a mess, then none of creation is really a mess. It's all good and we feel just fine about it. Thank God there's no God to make us doubt, like Christians do.
Okay . . . that's the discouraging stuff about which many need to pray . . . or at least those in the first group, who know they have Someone to whom they can pray. God knows we can do better, both as strugglers and as wannabe rescuers.
So, what is encouraging?
People who seek people who seek the Lord's truth and deliver it with compassion.
The truth is, no, you cannot satisfy your outside-of-marriage sexual temptations. (Marriage being defined as one man-one-woman in a monogamous relationship for life.) And that means all of those temptations, including those of the teens and singles -- heterosexual and homosexual -- who want to sleep around, the good old guys who sneak porn fixes and applaud themselves for maintaining the sanctity of marriage, the men and women who secretly lust after the guys and gals walking by in the parking lot, the serial masturbator, and yes, the men and women inflicted with a same-sex attraction they did not choose . . . but must choose to resist.
Grace is sufficient for all of us. I want it . . . I accept it . . . but I need it no more than you do. There's plenty. It opens the door to confession and repentance . . . and calm.
The winds don't know the condition of the target's soul when they blow this way and that in an effort to steer or flatten, carry or blow away. So be the calm. Like Christ.
Rebuking got the attention of the wind and the waves. Truth -- the words of the Savior -- prompted action. The waves could do nothing until the wind obeyed. The fear of drowning ceased.
We're not doing very well with the issue of sexual brokenness and, like sharks in the water, culture is circling the bloody mess we're making. We can do better. It's not as hard as you think to love people Christ loves as much as He loves you.
People are drowning. If all we do is rebuke and do not do so with truth, which requires much follow-up, then the overwhelming waves will wear them down instead of the calm that could have lifted them up. Take it from one who dog-paddled for far too long.
(Seriously, if you really want to understand the work of grace in the healing of the sexually-broken, I hope you will order a copy of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do. One for you, one for your pastor and one for your church-library. Only $11.16 right now at Amazon.com. God Bless.)