Thursday, September 8, 2011

Permission Not to Listen

All I ever need to know in life I can learn on the treadmill with my earphones on.

Not really.

But . . . I have learned some things in the afternoons, switching between talk shows like Dr. Phil and, a while back, Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey . . . with a little That ‘70s Show and Jeopardy spliced in during commercial breaks.  The collective, subjective, highly-suspect and often conflicting wisdom delivered by those in search of ratings and reactions could tie a brain in knots and split a heart into a million pieces and send the soul on an endless search for satisfaction.  Or, we can make sexual confusion a clever punch line and laugh it off entirely. So many opinions to weigh and people to please.  We may not always be a captive audience, but we’re a certainly thirsty one, taking full advantage of the the technology and the glitz . . . and the messages of the hosts and guests, all carefully edited and sharpened to a point. 
To make their point. They don’t know you; they don’t know what you are going through; they won’t be around if you do or don’t make it; they just want to shine a little junk-life light . . . and move on to the next titillating or sorrowful subject. Tears all around; hankies in abundance. 

Cut! It’s a wrap..

Generally what you learn from the talkies is that glitz and guts count more than truth and glory when it comes to deciding what is right and wrong for us. For most who have been on the white-knuckle express a few times, this get-after-it-and-get-it-done message is meaningless and only a slow way of meandering back to square one. So is the other prevailing identity-discovery message:  “know who you are and be true to yourself.”  What about knowing who He -- that would be God -- says you are and then being true to Him.  In other words, in the midst of cultural chaos, why not pattern yourself after something that never changes. Like a rock instead of a rock star.
I remember an Oprah show-and-tell with Ricky Martin, the suave, talented Puerto Rican singer who makes girls swoon, but is happier and happier as each day passes because he has proclaimed his gayness and made it safe for all gay Hispanics to come out of the closet and be “who they are meant to be.”  Ricky wants to sing a new song and make the world a better place, which, I guess, works if the world is your primary interest in life.  If he had ever known, Ricky gushed -- right after watching an old clip of himself dancing along as a cheery 12-year-old in the group Menudo -- how wonderful it would be to be openly gay, he would have come out long ago. It's just so beautiful "out" here.  Buy my new CD and smile.

The Oprah audience Ooohed and aahed over Ricky like he had suddenly pried open a door of wisdom, not released a new CD, called, appropriately enough, "Me,” which works well in the world, where we are told it is all about “me.” As if he is sharing a treasured belief reflecting the Creator's grand design, he read a poignant passage from his book, applauding himself for coming out and making the path clear for his children to grow up in a world of acceptance and be good to all their lovers. From a practiced choir, the chorus of "Awwws" swept over him, his perfect smile beaming equally to the Oprah-proud studio audience hoping to win a surprise gift from the zillionaire host, and out to all the broken people sitting behind televisions in their afternoon easy chairs of solitude or pounding out calories on their treadmills of hope:  "Just be like me.  Free to be."  
And then Ricky sings his new song.  Buy the CD.  Get the book.  There ain't nothing wrong with you that a little idol worship can't fix. The men and women in the culture-gilded mansions -- the Elton Johns, the Doogie Howsers, the Ellen Degeneres and the Ricky Martins -- say so; the God who builds your mansion says . . . "no." 

If the do-what-makes-you-feel-good-and-you’ll-finally-really-like-yourself bunch thinks there is no need to change – just swing with what life brung you -- then what else matters?  Who needs a bible when you can turn to an autobiography for the truth? Who needs to dig in and get a Word from God when you can get it intra-cranially from the boob tube? Go with the flow.  Love ya . . . peck, peck., hug, hug.  Just . . . feel the love.
 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” 
   says the Lord. 
“Though your sins are like scarlet, 
   they shall be as white as snow; 
though they are red as crimson, 
   they shall be like wool. -- Isaiah 1:18

There's the love. 

Come . . .
Now . . .
Scarlet sins . . .  white snow
Crimson sins . . .  like wool

Most important?  "Let's settle the matter."

Why are we so unsettled about settling the matter?

Why do we dig deep for justification when truth lies in plain sight?

Why do we build mansions to hide in when true joy comes when the walls fall down?

Why do we follow pied pipers who peddle the doctrine of self-acceptance instead of following the words of the One who paid the price for our self?

Why do we look for others' words to lift us out of darkness when He said "I am the light?"

Why do we look for others to lead us out of that darkness when He said "I am the Way?"

Why do we hasten to hidden places instead of hiding His word in our hearts?

Why do we cry out to be known when He tells us He has always known us?

Why do we seek other voices when He said "listen?"

Why do we rush from door-to-door when He said His would open if we would but knock?

Why do we run toward cliffs of uncertainty when He said "come" . . . "now" to the calmness of certainty, the satisfaction of settling?

We're filling the void with the wrong voices pushing the wrong choices. We can read . . . we can hear . . . we can speak . . . we can share.  We could care . . . if we'd dare.
And we need to exercise the discipline of discernment and give ourselves permission not to listen. Don’t become a disciple of mis-direction.

Dare to love and look for those who do.  For real.  Not like Ricky on a sound stage, or Elton behind diamond-studded glasses, or Ellen dancing around in tennis shoes laughing, or Neal Patrick Harris in a sitcom, or Oprah in adoration-fueled self-celebration. True love is not rated by a Nielsen meter. True love is measured by the heart-wrenching moments that lay the stones for a safe crossing from where we find ourselves to where we long to be . . . and where we long to not arrive alone.
Love like Christ, giving, longing, seeking, teaching, healing, helping, seeing, hearing, saying, changing.  LOVING.  Truth, not glitz.  Giving, not taking. He forgives us for what we became and He changes us to what we should be.  He comes alongside so we don't have to wonder where we're headed.  He guides us forward, over and around the obstacles, not hiding them, but conquering them.  He doesn’t erect new roadblocks along a route of rejection. 
Their talents and riches aside, these actors and singers are just people like the rest of us, tempted in a fallen world. I would never wish them harm -- indeed I wish them wholeness -- but I do wish them truth, so they could use their voices to lead other strugglers to freedom instead of to ticket lines and concert halls.  Blind guides.

In a world frightfully flinging itself along to no-where, Jesus proves the patience of love and says "Come." "Now." He is always ready, always waiting.

And the Help of the helpless says . . . help others.

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?”
   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Feed My sheep." -- John 21:17

Did I hear that right?  If I love Jesus, I will feed his sheep?  But, hey . . . what about me? I’m hungry too . . . but it’s when I forget to turn to You.
When we turn to anything other than Christ, we find ourselves surrounded by the plentifulness of it all, but starving from the emptiness.  Unfortunately, we often disguise that emptiness with the wagging of our tongues and the proclamation that all is well and getting weller by the day. That’s another time people need permission not to listen and the ability to see that the truth is not in you.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. -- I Corinthians 13:1

As Christians we're out of tune on the sexual brokenness issue, gonging and clanging, offering headaches for heartaches . . . and the mute button is getting a workout. We often don't know religious from righteous, Christianity from churchianity; hope from a hole-in-the-ground, mercy from meanness, forgiveness from forget it, love from leave.  We teach restoration, redemption and rescue. And then we run from the reaching.

"But do not have love?"  There's the rub. All those polished words we preach are but the cymbals from which the clanging erupts.  We're not real in voice or deed. We memorize the verses and know the applications, but not enough of us really love. Yes, some do . . . but the church is a collective, a body. We believers are not requiring much of each other, even as we demand a great deal from the broken who would love . . .love? . . . to join us and share in what we say we have. Peace. Mercy. Grace. Wholeness. More often, we have a detailed list, directed repentance and an eagle eye.

I'm not lamenting the lack of love demonstrated towards me when I was hiding in the church like a broken boat towed into harbor, weighted with guilt from an out-of-control obsession with a love-me temptation that had twisted itself into a use-me fixation. I know now the need for them to see true confession and real repentance, to know for sure this was actually a sheep . . . and not in wolf's clothing. Actually, the lack of love I experienced makes the need to share it so clear now. A calling from the falling. In its own way, that vacuum was a blessing.

Do we love Christ? Then why are the sheep so hungry? Will they find what we are withholding somewhere out there in the welcoming wilderness among the wolves who . . . want them . . . in ways Jesus never intended for His sheep to be devoured in their weaknesses?

If someone comes to the pantry door, weak and thin, hand outstretched, not feigning faintness, but near to falling, we fill their cup. The sexually-broken are no different.  They are weak, fading, fearing, losing feeling, so-often falling they might not know which way is up . . . fill the cup.  Don't sound the gong. Don't send them to drink from the stagnant creek of a cackling culture instead of the living water of an endless river of grace.

Jesus bore the debt and bore the burden, yet too many Christians can barely bear the sight. If the sexual sin of others repulses you in a way that your sins don't, pray for forgiveness for your lack of forbearance and God will give you strength.

If you yourself are among the homosexual, the pornography-addicted, the adulterer, the lust-bound, then keep your courage and keep coming. In the body of the church are the hands and feet of the faithful who will love you and walk with you and speak truth into your lives, catching you with compassion when you fall until you finally stand and live beyond the chains. They may be too few, but they are better than the "it gets better" bunch.

There really is a way out, but it takes a double-dare.  One dares to seek. Another dares to care. Both dare to love. In the absence of cymbals they hear each other; truth wins a battle and sin slithers away in darkness.


Jesus said "Come." The world is watching to see if we agree with Him . . . and not with them.

God Bless,


(Need encouragement and support in your struggles? Want to help others overcome?  Order a copy of Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do today from  for less than $12 or from Barnes& . Also . . . feel free to e-mail me directly at

1 comment:

  1. If you happen to be incorrect on this issue, I feel for the all the time and life that you have spent chasing a dream or illusion. Everything in your life seems to be built on the foundation that homosexuality is sin.

    I can understand how you feel this way, given your past and horribly negative personal experience but for those who have not been indoctrinated in self loathing I hope that they do not buy into the gospel you are selling here. They are growing up in a world of peace, love and acceptance. Something that you have never experienced about your orientation.

    I struggled long and hard to divest myself of the horrible things that were taught to me and preached at me for years by well meaning "christians" who merely wanted to control me. I refuse to be their boogey man or scape goat any longer.

    You are a good man, Thom. I count you as a friend. You have always listened and offered your opinion on matters but I am going to have to disagree with everything you are claiming as truth. I know that it will only bring heartache and sorrow to those who are truly seeking Christ and continue to violently shove the LGBT community away from God, His church and the Gospel.