Last week, I posted twice about an unpleasant situation in which I am in the smack-dab middle. After long consideration, I have decided to not share the specifics in such a public space. You must all know that this is a serious act of dicipline for me, as my secret superhero name might as well be Disclosure Boy.
What I will tell you, before I move on to the meat of my little essay, is this: a dear friend, mentor, teacher, and leader has walked headlong into what will be the darkest valley of his life, and I have to watch from the front row. It is a devastating time for our church. When this was revealed, and after nearly 90 painful minutes of confession and sorrow, one of our elders asked him something to the effect of, “What, if anything, could we have done better for you, brother?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “This is of my own doing and design. If there’s anything that can be blamed, or held accountable, it’s growing up religious and learning how to manage and protect a part of my mind that was dark and reckless.”
Friends, I belive that the evangelical church is a perfect incubator for souls to grow adept and managing and separating different parts of their personality. I believe that we are systematically trained as children to, in a noble quest for holiness, present our best side, and hide our worst. When the darker angels of our nature are revealed, we are shamed. Out of our shame, we beg forgiveness for the sake of remaining among “the righteous”, yet harbor bitterness towards the shamers, and the seed of recklessness is not brought before the Holy Spirit.
I often deeply envy those of you who came to Jesus as adults. I wonder if you all were able to present your whole selves to Him, and allow His blood to flood and cleanse the deepest, darkest corners of your heart. Those of us in who grew up in church have three options when it comes to (here comes one of my favorite phrases) getting out our ya-yas:
1) Full Scale rebellion. This was never my move. I genuinely love my folks and those who ministered to me and didn’t want to hurt them. I also figured out early on that peace at home equaled more freedom for me. I sometimes wish that I had gone this route, or found a way to say… “You know what, I love you, but I’m gonna do what I want.” I think I might have felt the full weight of my choices, rather then keeping them secret.
2) Full Scale submission. Well… again… not my move. Show me a kid who grows up in the church and never rebels, and I’ll show you an APU lead soprano.
3) Compartmentalization Ooooh! I get to do what I want and still preserve the idea that I have it all under Christ’s authority? Cool! Let’s do that! I am sure that when I get married, I won’t still lust after other women or be tempted by pornography. I am sure that when I am making money I won’t be tempted to cheat, or steal. All of these sins that live in my heart are surely the products of my youth! Yeeeeaaahhh, that’s the ticket!
Then we get better at it. And better. And the sins get more damaging, more painful. The lengths we must go to cover them are more costly, and more dangerous. Alone we pray for forgiveness and alone we repent. Alone we try and make a stand against the Evil One, who is more cruel then I ever imagined. Alone we fall again and again, and alone we try and bear our shame.
Some of us make it all the way until we are in our twilight years, when we’re supposed to have it all figured out, before our secrets get blown into the open in a dazzling spectacle of public humiliation, the shattered pieces of our lives falling to the ground to be picked up, manhandled, and discarded by the unwashed masses.
The truly sad thing is that for those of us who are compartmentalizers, the part of our lives that is lived in the light is our projection of what we wish our true selves could be. There is genuineness in our deception, if you can get your brains around that one. We lie because we wish to spare those we truly love from pain.
For about the past 18 months, I have been going through the process of decompartmentalizing my life. My accountability partner is about 5’6, blonde, and hot. She’s the most amazing woman I have ever known, and I can’t believe she married me. She married the projection of my best self, and has forgiven the secret-me. For the first time, Jesus has been freeing me from sins that have haunted me since adolesence, and He has used my wife for His glory in my life. The events of the past two weeks have served as a terrifying confirmation that I must continue on this difficult, yet essential road to wholeness.
The issue of compartmentalization, and the sobering reality of its grip on the Body of Christ, is a bigger threat than international terrorism, abortion, gay marriage, Santa Clause, and Harry Potter combined. We have our friggen priorities all messed up, and The Enemy is walking about like a roaring lion, stalking and consuming his prey.
The Gospel of Christ has fresh hope and renewed power for me this week. If this whole emerging thing serves as a place for people to become whole, to confess their deepest, darkest sins, be embraced in their brokenness by a community of believers, submit to the dicipline of restitution (thanks for reminding me of that word, Doug), and emerge into the light of restorative grace, then we will indeed have struck a blow to the serpent’s head.
I give my praise wholly and only to Jesus Christ, the great physician.