We all have a dark side.
I think in light of recent events in the Evangelical world we have to stop and examine our own lives, realizing that we struggle with things common to everyone. Gordon MacDonald, who has suffered his own fall from grace, posted a response on Leadership Journal’s blog – Out of Ur that I feel is heart-felt and insightful.
He reminds us that we all have parts of our hearts and mind that threaten to dismantle our entire lives if we give in. I think we should pay attention to the things in life that make our hearts scream in protest, why? What are we reacting to? Why do we react so violently? Is it because it is something we secretly struggle with?
I find in my own life that when I am responding in love my desire to serve is greater than my need to yell, condemn and point the finger. When I do those things it corresponds to an unrepentent place in my own heart.
I believe that if as a church, we spent less time pointing out the plank in the eyes of others and instead stayed humble, preaching heart change, teaching the spiritual disciplines and leading by example before we opened our mouths our credibility might just soar. I don’t think God needs us to defend him. He doesn’t need us point fingers, he needs us to love. We have all been in times of sin and we don’t respond well to people harshly pointing out our faults. What we need is gentle compassion, nurture, love and acceptance.
Recently I went to a lecture at Talbot’s Institute of Spiritual Formation on Drawing Near to God when he Seems Far Away: Practicing the Presence of God Despite Feelings. Dr. John Coe talked about how as a church we focus heavily on being new creations in Christ and neglect to teach people how to shed the old nature, our shadow side. God is in the business of transformation not consolation. Meaning he is primarily concerned about the state of our hearts and making it more and more like his.
Then there are times when we feel like we’re doing everything right. We feel like we’re on track and God still feels far away. We wonder what else we need to do to get his attention. These are the times we need to look inward and see where he is working within us. If there is no unconfessed sin, we’re praying, reading the Bible, etc and it just doesn’t seem to work anymore, we aren’t getting the same feelings then God is going deep. Our honeymoon phase is over and he is teaching us to really love him, know him and worship him inspite of our feelings.
Coe says that he is using these times to show us what is in our heart. God uses discipline to show us who we really are. That is a scary view. This is when the things that shock us are brought to light. We think God has abandoned us but we know this is not true, for he has promised to never leave us or forsake us and with his Spirit he is with us always.
God is showing us part of our hearts that are attached to something else, that loves something else, that serves something else. God doesn’t show us everything at once, it takes time. He shows us when he feels we’re ready. I take comfort in knowing that he will not do this when I can’t handle it but when He knows I can, when I trust him enough to make the journey. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s not pretty, but it is when I sit in my own messiness that I find out who he is, that I can take in more of his love and surrender just a little bit more.
The vices and sins of our heart inhibit the process because we fill those places. God’s spirit wants to be at home with in us but it has to evict the present occupant, ourselves. This is a purging process to expose who we are, as God sees us. This is not condemnation. He isn’t saying we’re not worthy, by the mere fact that he is working on us he’s showing us that we are worth it because he wants to inhabit us completely. I have to learn that apart from him I can do nothing, this is contrary to my flesh. We don’t really believe that His power is perfect in our weakness. (John 15:5)
I pray that God would dig deep in my heart to show me the parts of myself that I have yet to surrender. This is a scary prayer but I know who I am and recognize his grace and mercy at work in me. I am in awe that the I am cares enough about me to work so individually. I also have to stop and make sure that I am not condemning others for their sin because I know what is in my heart.