Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Let Truth Get in Your Way?




"We just want to offer a positive message that being gay is not something you have to apologize for. It's simply one of the great and diverse ways that God has created us.”
"Being gay is a gift from God." 

-- Dan Rutt, Central United Methodist Church, Toledo, Ohio


Our local Cane's Chicken is my favorite place to hit and grab a quick meal on a busy Saturday when I'm not in the mood to make decisions of delectability. (Another of those non-words I like so well.)

"Three-finger combo please."

The sign says chicken, the menu says chicken, the box contains chicken. Yes, you can have fries with that, but not much else; maybe some delicious buttery bread and an ice cold drink . . . with a little too much ice. Eat, enjoy, toss and get on with the to-do-list. Cane's allows a little leeway for those who believe coleslaw makes a suitable non-fried side, but . . . basically . . . it's all about the chicken.

I like that. Sometimes I just want to know that there really is a real meaning for the word "is." I like to sit down, get comfortable, open the box and say, this is chicken.

Truth in a booth.

I'm confused, which is a problem when it comes to the truth, as to why we are becoming so dissatisfied with the truth. Are we just bored? Are we so enamored with ourselves personally that we have to one-up God somehow and reinterpret the "The Way, the Truth and the Life," by removing each "the" and replacing it with a "my?"

My way? My truth? My life?

If, according to Rob Bell, there is no real hell, and if, according to Dan Rutt, being gay is just another gift from God -- which He apparently forgot to list with the other ones in the Bible, by the way -- then why should we be troubled with the truth at all?

Truth? You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

I realize Rob will sell a lot more books debunking the existence of hell then I will encouraging the acceptance of truth. And Dan's interpretations of blessed affirmation may tickle some ears that shy away from divine grace and Biblical truth, but I think we need to realize that people's lives are more important than a popularity contest. Compassion and affirmation are not the same thing.

And that's the truth.

In light of all the purveyors of deceit --by intention or ignorance -- I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone that discernment really is a gift from God.

Perhaps we could settle all this gay stuff right now by just marking off fifty paces between the Westboro Baptist Church-cult people ("God Hates Fags") and the Central United Methodist Church-misled people ("Being Gay is a Gift.") and let them fight it out. Wouldn't that settle it?

I doubt it.

So, with all this swirling around us, it seems the perfect time for a reminder that it is okay that we doubt and wonder, but unless we turn to the God of Wonders, we always will. No doubt you already bought my book and read chapter three. No?  Well then, here it is, from Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do.

The chapter is titled . . . .

Where Would We Be Without Doubt?

One of the hardest things anyone with a significant struggle — such as same-sex attraction, pornography addiction, heterosexual lust or any addictive temptation — deals with, is doubt. Self-doubt, sure. But, also the doubt others have in his or her ability to change . . . or even doubt that the person really wants to change. Sometimes this doubt is not truly expressed, but is instead hidden behind the “we’re with you” smiles, which can so quickly become “we knew it” frowns at the very first sign of a fall. How nice it would be for all involved if this battle were but a minor skirmish with a certain outcome, instead of one of those “well, I had my doubts all along” battlefields, littered with the wounded, some doubting they can get themselves back up again to move forward, some doubting if anyone even cares anymore.

I had a friend in college who lived with no doubts. His was always sure his project would be the best. He would sing the song just fine. His parents would, of course, send the money. His car would run. His jokes would always be funny and people would laugh. He would always be understood. His friends would ever be loyal and everything would complete itself perfectly, right on time. He was never timid or understated because he never doubted. But, he was also pretty much tied up in secret knots of frustration. He’d exchanged doubt for denial. When he didn’t win first place or his joke fell flat or the check didn’t arrive or the tire went flat or a friend let him down, he would bottle up inside and close down. What most of us might have lived through as dashed hope he died to as devastation. His forced-open eyes would fill with tears of anguish. He definitely needed some doubt.

I haven’t seen him in many years, but I “doubt” he is as certain of everything as he used to be.

Some might say my friend had faith. But the presence of faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is based on a belief in hope. It involves assurance . . . and trust. This friend lived on assumption, not assurance. A little too much “it’ll be all right,” and a little too little “what will be will be.” He had no faith to test because he allowed no doubt.

But what if we have a lot of doubt? Does that mean we have little faith?

I remember I used to sit on the curb in front of our house on Saturdays when I was a little boy. I doubted my dad would show, but I had faith that he would. Could the measure of each — doubt or faith — be determined by how long I sat with my chin on my knees looking to the left and right to see if he might come walking up the street?

I have no doubt God clearly knows the difference between doubt and faith. I’m not sure we always do. On our own, we usually reward our doubt with our deepest fears. Our faith, on the other hand, is usually God-tested and leads us to our greatest joy. “A little while” of testing can feel like a long time . . . and produce an awful lot of doubt.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. — I Peter 1:6-7

It used to bother me that, of all the Biblical characters, I was named Thomas. The doubter. I know my mother did not really name me Thomas because she was debating which Biblical character I would be like. After all, my brother’s name is Mike, and my sisters’ names are Deb and Sue. Mother was merely reflecting the popular name choices of the decade in which we were born. We could have as easily been Bob and Gary and Judy and Peggy. But I was Thomas, the doubter.

I think God loves those who doubt. In dealing with our sincere doubt, He demonstrates the truth that He is patient and kind. It is a wonderful truth that the greatest doubters often become the greatest believers. Our honest doubts can become the bedrock of our faith. Truth that comes rampaging in to dispel doubt is sweet and strong.

Maybe we should think less about what doubt is . . . and less about who doubts us . . . and instead think about what doubt may do. How does it motivate us? Does our doubt send us searching or hiding? Revealing or masking?

Doubt is like looking out the window and seeing the sun go down for the gazillionth time, knowing once again that the darkness will follow, mimicking the darkness inside us. We might forget momentarily that the sun is only gone for a while. It does not yield its place to darkness in God’s creative balance. Through grace, the light comes back around to overwhelm the darkness . . . lest anyone doubt. We strive hard to resist letting our sexual sin define us; let’s not let our doubt do it either. You’ve read the Bible. Yes, people wander, but they are never beyond the gaze of God.

But what of those who doubt us or the sincerity of our quest for freedom? I say, let each doubter bear his own. Sometimes we expend so much energy trying to dispel the doubts of others that we have too little energy left to put on the armor for our own battles. Let them doubt. God can deal with that. And, if they want someday to put their hands in your scars, scarcely believing this new you is . . . you . . . then let them do so and forgive their doubt as you forgive your own.

Some may tell us we’ve used up all our chances. They’ve moved beyond doubting to knowing. “You can’t change.” Well . . . life is not a game of chance; it is a reality of faith. Let them keep their assumption; you have your assurance.

I am thankful for doubt. Anyone who struggles with temptation knows that doubt is a glimpse of freedom. If we can doubt, we can seek.

Doubt leads us to the door. That door where you knock. Where you ask. That door that opens. Behind which no despair lingers. Where doubt no longer dwells.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. — Matthew 7: 7-8

And if for some unfounded reason you doubt that the word “everyone” includes you, then let that doubt lead you to the door. It will open . . . no doubt.

God Bless,

Thom

(Do you know someone who is dealing with sexual brokenness? Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do provides help and encouragement, truth with compassion. You just might like the other 32 chapters.)








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