Church 101 : Compartmentalization

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.

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18 thoughts on “Church 101 : Compartmentalization

  1. Stick

    Oh man. As one of the those “grew up in the church” kids, I can say quietly while looking at my feet, with a long sigh, “amen”. The head of the nail has been firmly hit… and it hurts a little. Because “Christian guy” doesn’t really appreciate the fact that “Sinner guy” is around at all, much less holding down a piece of the bigger “me”.

    Well said Chad.

  2. aly hawkins

    Chad, I love you so much it hurts. YES, the desire to look holy (or at least like I have all my shizzat together) is, many times, greater than the longing to be holy (which, of course, entails coming clean with all the shizzat I don’t have together). Whenever did we get the idea that appearing holy — and in the process building unscaleable walls between ourselves and God’s other children — was a better option than owning up to our brokenness and thereby earning the right to remain with God’s other children? When did the Marlboro Man become our vision of what it means to follow Christ? How did we imagine that pretending to be free could be anything like ACTUALLY being free? Yes, The Enemy has probably helped us along, but I don’t think we’ve put up much of a fight. Our willingness to trade the lasting Grace of true Communion for the fleeting pleasure of others’ admiration is a testament to our own cursed, ingenious Pride. Trust us to be short-sighted, every friggin’ time.

    Thank you for your willingness and humility to reach for the Communion that is eternal, rather than bogus affirmation. (And don’t let this affirmation throw you off…finding the courage to attempt humility is hard, but finding the courage to CONTINUE humility is a bitch. But at least you’ve got a singular hot blonde in your corner.)

  3. Gretchen

    Thank you Chad, well said. As one who likes to appear to always have everything together, and yet knows how out of control I often feel, this was a good humbling reminder that God’s grace is indeed good.

  4. Karen

    Wow Chad!
    Along with everyone else I often want people to think I have it all together when in reality I wonder how others really have it together who probably don’t. (The ones that make me feel like less of a Christian because I don’t get up at 5am for quiettime.)
    Thanks for placing into words how so many are feeling.

  5. Morphea

    Chad, you inspire me so much. I thank god that I know you. As someone who went into full-scale rebellion (except that I haven’t really told my parents – how’s that for courage?) I salute your faithfulness. You have most certainly taken the harder road.

    Ash, you KILL me.


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  7. Chad Post author

    One of the comforts I take in all this is that, as I sat there, I wasn’t thinking to myself, “You need to wake up and smell the manure.”

    I was able to think… “You need to keep on the path towards recovery that you are already on.”

    That was a small personal comfort, even as a wept inside for my dear friend.

  8. fr'nklin

    I’ve never commented on your blog but I found you through Rich’s site. This is a much needed message. I grew up a fundamentalist (went to Bob Jones) and learned how to be a great compartmentalizer. I began decompartmentalizing somewhere around 1998…and it was painful to confess my sins to my wife…the one person I wanted to admire me. I sat in front of her and exposed this part of me that I didn’t want to be real…didn’t want to be “me”, but it was.

    Today she is still my greatest friend and best accountability partner. There is a freedom in not playing the compartmentalization game. There is a freedom in knowing the forgiveness of God through another human being who KNOWS YOU and FORGIVES you and LOVES you, and, yes, admires you for who you are not for what you can do.

    Truth is…this is still a struggle…and I needed the reminder. Thank you.

  9. Chad Post author

    I love blogging. Here is a person who took what I wrote and totally applied it to her life in a different way then I intended. I am so stoked about things like this. Just goes to show ya that once you create something, it truly takes on it’s own life in the eye of the beholder.

  10. Chad Post author

    By the way, I sincerely appreciate all your kind words of encouragement. I just kind of use Mike’s webspace to vomit my psyche into the void. It’s by God’s grace alone that it speaks to anyone. It’s good to be a part The Body, albeit virtually in this case.

  11. Grammy

    Actually, under “full scale rebellion,” you DID announce to us at the beginning of your senior year of HS that you were planning on rebelling (always the considerate son to give us a “heads up”). We waited breathlessly. So what DID you do that year???

    I love watching you evolve. I always have. I never know what’s around the next bend, but it’s ALWAYS provocative. You make my soul grow, son.


  12. Melody

    I know it’s many months since you wrote this blog, but oh, well. I am the Azusa Pacific lead soprano you talked about(from way… back)who never rebelled. At least not in any big way from the world’s perspective. Yet my sins are just as black in God’s sight as any one else’s. The Bible tells us that all our righteousness are ‘filthy rags’ to God. Even the apostle Paul complained, ‘my sin is ever before me’. Where the church falls down is in the department of preaching to sin; no surprise as even outside the church, people try to put their best foot forward to impress others. The wonderful thing about our God is that he promises to remove our sin ‘as far as the east is from the west’. And he remembers our sin no more. We have a book full of precious promises that he has made to us. How blessed we are to know Him.

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