Archives For healing

A Scandalous Grace

randomlychad  —  August 30, 2012 — 7 Comments

image

Last month, in the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, I wrote of Evil Wearing A Human Face. I ended by asking for prayer for the victims and their families.

I forgot someone in that request: James Holmes. Who knows what kind of place he’s in that he could do what he did? And what of his family? Imagine what they are going through in the wake of his actions.. . I can’t fathom it. He needs prayer, they need prayer.

Please understand this before I proceed: Mr. Holmes needs to be held accountable for his actions, and is deserving of the justice the court will mete out to him. Romans thirteen clearly admonishes that the government doesn’t bear the “sword” for nought. (Holmes has since been charged with twenty four counts of murder).

But as long as he draws breath, he is never far from redemption.

Recall with me the scene of Christ’s crucifixion: our Lord was hung on a cross between two thieves. They deserved their punishment; one reviled Jesus, the other acknowledged his guilt, asking the Lord to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

What did did Jesus say in response? “It’s too late, you filthy sinner. You had your chance?” No; it was “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Despite being given the death penalty for his crimes, that thief found salvation.

There is a similar hope for James Holmes. Because while the cost is high–Jesus gave his all, and died–the price of admission into God’s kingdom is low:

“Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you shall be saved.” That is nothing other than childlike faith. We need to be praying that Holmes finds such faith in prison. Because, like the thief on the cross, he is likely to receive the death penalty. And while he certainly deserves it, we–the surviving victims, the families of the deceased–need to look to our own souls. Lest amidst the cries for justice, the hurt, the questions, and bitterness take root.

Such soul work takes time, because healing is not an event, but a process. In this case, a very lengthy process, as there are people bereft, families torn apart, a community still grieving. Grief needs its time (“there is a time for weeping”). Somewhere in there, as time and space allow, as the tears give way to reflection, that community will need to grapple with forgiveness. Not for Holmes’ sake, but for its own.

Because forgiveness, while both an event, and a process, begins with an act of the will. It is a choice we make, and is the only cure I know to keep bitterness from taking root. And thereby it frees our souls.

In the midst of the upheaval brought by such a diabolical act, it’s quite easy to forget–in our quest for deserved justice–that we all deserve to die. For we are “born in sin, and shapen in iniquity.” And it was for this–for us–that Jesus died. Remember, please, that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” That includes:

Ed Gein

John Wayne Gacy, jr.

Ted Bundy

David Berkowitz

Jeffrey Dahmer

Dennis Rader

James Holmes*

Does that list scandalize you? If it wasn’t scandalous, it wouldn’t be grace–because it was, and is, available (if they had but reached out for it, turned to God) to those men just as it is to us. In fact, by all accounts I’m aware of, Jeffey Dahmer found Jesus in jail before he was killed. Some say Bundy did as well (only time will tell). The one that’s most interesting to me is David Berkowitz: for from every account I’ve read, it seems that each time he comes up for parole, he refuses it. For two reasons:

1) He believes he deserves to be in jail, is remorseful for his crimes; and,
2) He desires to minister God’s grace to other inmates.

That, my friends, is the mark of a humble heart. And if the “Son of Sam” can be by the Son of Man so changed, so can one James Holmes.

In addition to praying for the continued helping of a devastated community, this is what we who call ourselves Christians should be praying for: God’s scandalous grace.

What do you think? Have you been scandalized by grace?

*Caveat emptor: We should be shocked and outraged at the heinous acts committed by these men. All are evil deeds, and are indeed of the evil one. In our shock and outrage we would do well to remember that this is a world at war–we live in enemy-occupied territory. Even the scriptures declare that we do not yet everything under Jesus’ feet. The day is coming. The point of this postscript is this: we ignore the spiritual aspect of evil to our great detriment. Evil is a real, palpable force–a personality–that must be reckoned with. Thankfully, the evil one is nowhere near God’s equal.

A Boy and His Drug

randomlychad  —  August 27, 2012 — 11 Comments

'Porno Cherry' photo (c) 2008, Anthony Easton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Last week, in my post “Do You Want to Make Love?,” I wrote:

“Though he didn’t have the words at the time, he medicated the pain away with a drug already known to him:

Pornography.”

This is the story of a boy and his drug.

It was 1979. Though there had been wounds, and indeed misunderstandings, the red-headed boy was largely happy. The future lay before him. Like James Bond in Moonraker, perhaps he could one day head out into space? There were still possibilities in those days: His family was yet whole, and while not perfect–not by a long stretch–there was security in that. His dad, though he didn’t know how to be one, was at least there. Most of the time, anyway.

Though he didn’t quite cheer his son’s successes, he wasn’t yet veiled away, lost in a cloud of unemployment, alcohol, and affairs. But soon he would be lost in the fog, unable to cope with his diminishing glory. From youngest plant manager in his company’s history, to the shuttering of the plant–all in the span of a few short years.

He was a man, carrying a wounded boy of his own inside, who didn’t know who he was apart from his accomplishments. His very identify was assaulted.

And when his sensitive older son began to intuit that something was up, a wall, veiling: Dad was lost to him. It was then, in midst of questions he couldn’t voice, the boy found Eve.

Nature, and Satan, are alike in that both abhor vacuums. The boy knew an ache, but didn’t have to words, or the maturity, to put a finger on his soul’s deepest need. So when the counterfeit offered itself–cheap, easy, free–his heart leapt within him! Oh, he came by it innocently enough: there at the barber shop, amongst the combs immersed in jars of blue sanitizer, the sounds of shears and clippers, the smells of talc and hair, the barber with his beard trimmed just so, in his bright, starched white shirt. There she was, amidst all the other magazines–People, Us, Life:
Playboy.

It’s very name was evocative: it emanated cool, and stood out like a tall drink of iced water on am arid Arizona day. Whatever it was, it promised refreshment to a ten year-old’s parched soul. Ah! The glories of it! Eve was beautiful! And the feelings stirred inside? The boy didn’t know them, but he did know:

He felt alive. For the first time in sometime, he felt alive. And his mother was with him, there at the barber shop, approving of his burgeoning “curiosity.”

If only she knew. Knew just how rent the fabric of her young son’s soul was. Would things have turned out differently?

Maybe. But that’s a question without answer; what was, was this:

The boy, once entranced, shortly thereafter was allowed to take his favorite magazine home. And not too much later–still ten, maybe eleven–had a subscription in his name to Mr. Hefner’s gentleman’s magazine.

All with his mother’s approval. His dad neither knew, nor cared.

—————–

Fast forward a few years:

When an older cousin moved in, the boy–Chad–inherited his magazines. The hook was baited, and he was reeled in like a fish without any fight: for there was no resistance left in Him.

Eve was his religion. His room became a shrine to her mystique, her allure. Where concert tickets, and band posters, had been was her picture–in all its varying forms:

Blone, brunette, redhead, black, white, asian–he loved her. Loved that she made him feel alive. And she was easy, too: he could take from Eve whenever he needed, and she never asked for anything in return.

A setup straight from the very pits of Hell.

And along called “normal,” “healthy,” “curiosity.”

It was anything but. The boy become a man struggle to this day to grapple with the reality of how deeply he was allowed to get into pornography. That his involvement was encouraged, and when it became worship, was ignored. For it was: when the centerfolds went up on his bedroom wall, his mom’s solution was simple:

Close the door.

And her a counselor, a therapist, a woman adept in helping others find hope and healing in their pain.

Her solution was denial.

But to fair, she had no hope in her heart at the time, had watched her marriage of sixteen years crumble, and die. Her own wounds clouded her eyes. Because with dad gone, and with him any hope of learning of healthy sexuality, she was on her own. His leaving took her away from the boy and his younger brother, too.

Despite her learning, and years of experience, she didn’t know how to raise boys. Didn’t know the wound, and couldn’t answer the question: do I have what it takes as a man?

All our little family of three could do was hold onto what we had, and find solace wherever we could.

The boy’s–my–hope, comfort, solace, peace was in pornography. It became my drug of choice: when life became hard, when the questions screamed the loudest, when God seemed far away. Make no mistake: it was never about sex, but about life, about feeling alive, when I felt dead inside. Which is to say that it was idolatry. For what is worship if not a turning towards something for life? Whatever we turn to–whether it be porn, sports, technology, cars, music, food–for life instead of God is an idol. When that thing, whatever it is, takes His place, we are in deadly danger. (Look in the coming days for a post on the devastating effect this had later in life when I thought I had freedom).

It was a long, long time before anyone told me any better.

Have any of you ever been there? Where have you turned to whatever–instead of God–for life?

Friends, we have have recently been through some deep waters together. I had a purpose in sharing those stories with you; it wasn’t to shock you, wound you, or crush your spirits.

It wasn’t even to evoke sympathy. No, I simply wanted you to share in my journey; in order to do that I needed to authentically represent the things that happened. After what you’ve done for me, I owed you that much. It was because of you that I got to go to bootcamp. So it is as much your story as it is mine.

I could have broken down each session, given you what I heard, and learned, but I wanted you to partake instead in my internal journey. Each of the stories I shared last week represents a stage in the process Jesus led me through during bootcamp. Like an onion, He gently, lovingly peeled away the layers.

Showed me where I’d been hurt the deepest, wounded the most.
But allow me to back up a little bit first. Going into it, I had an idea, a dream of healing, but I was frightened. The only thing I clung to heading up to Colorado was tale of the woman with the issue of blood. Like her, I told myself if I could but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, I would be healed.

Never did I expect Him to reach down, and touch me the way He did.

But He did, friends–O! how He did. The weekend began with John Eldredge repeating two refrains:

“You have a heart, and it matters, ” and “You were born into a world at war.”

As a man, and this is not meant as a reproach, merely an observation, I can’t recall the last time I heard either at church.

From there, John and the team laid the foundation that my heart–every man and woman’s heart, really–has been wounded in that war. In the process of uncovering those wounds, I was forced to confront the “Poser,” or the false self, I’d constructed to hide the wounded boy within. What were my fig leafs, and why didn’t I want to be known?

That is a deeply personal journey for each one of us. Suffice it to say, God was faithful to show up, blow down my house of cards. The truth came diamond-hard, and slug-ugly (God the diamond, and I the slug). And I got something from each and every session. Where before I lived with rejection, He gave me a new name:

Loved and Accepted.

As surely as the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, He spoke that to my heart. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He wanted me to know that I was “loved and accepted” before He dove deep in my heart to wound me to the depths of my soul.

What do I mean?

I mean that for me, and for you, too, there is a theme to our wounds. And that God is faithful to wound us in our deepest woundings to bring those things to light.

Because He wants to heal them.

First, He knocked out my foundation, which was this:

Nearly everything I have done in life up until now has been for a singular purpose, namely my dad’s approval–his affirmation, his validation. Despite clearly getting the message from him, and others, that I didn’t have what it takes (who did that message really come from, who worked so tirelessly to take me out?). This explains why I continued for so long to allow him to wound not only me, but my family as well.

I wanted him in my life.

What boy doesn’t?

But that rejection, that craving for approval, wasn’t the deepest thing about me. No, Jesus went past that to my deepest heart.

It was the penultimate session of the retreat. Already I was struggling to remain present, my mind and heart drifting to home, and its cares. Despite this, worship really moved me. God was there. I belted out the words to Tim Hughes’ Everything harder than I’d ever sung anything in my life (I’m very much a joyful noise person).

And then Morgan Snyder got up to share. I realized–God showed me via Morgan’s story–the deepest thing about me wasn’t a life lived balanced on the knife’s edge between a fear of rejection, and a desperate need for a approval.

No, the deepest thing, the thing that felt truest of all, was that I believed I was alone. This was brought powerfully to my attention by:

Yes, that is the much-seen video of Derek Redmond losing out on his last chance for Olympic gold, but rising anyway, choosing to complete the race. God showed me three things, spoke them indelibly into my heart:

1) I believed I was the man running the race alone, the watching world waiting for him to fall. That I was essentially fatherless.
2) All I had longed for from my father, I already had–had had–all along. He so gently rebuked me of this.
3) Like Redmond’s father in the video, Jesus has got me, His arm already around me.

He told me “Son, you’re not alone. You’ve never been. This race that you run–life? I’ve carried you all along. We will finish together.”

I was shell-shocked, stunned, hadn’t dared hope God would speak in such a personal way. But He showed up in the midst of my fragile faith anyway.

At this point, we were dismissed to an exercise, a time of silent reflection and prayer. We were to get alone with God, take these questions to Him.

I couldn’t do it.

I went back to the bunkhouse, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and just balled.

For half and hour, I cried. I grieved all I never had, but had had all along, I grieved how I had spurned my Father. I cried in great heaving sobs so hard my chest was sore for days afterwards.

I cried tears of joy, because for the first time in my life I knew who I was:

My Father’s son.

How about you? Do you know who you are? More importantly: do you know Whose you are?

You can.

A Heart Remade

randomlychad  —  August 20, 2012 — 17 Comments

image

You don’t know. You don’t know what you’ve done for me, the gift you gave me in sending me up to Bootcamp. It’s so fresh words cannot express the potency of the weekend. Of the time amongst men from all walks of life with the same questions. Do we have what it takes, can we be free?

More will be shared here in the coming days, but suffice it to say: I went forth thinking I was a Christian; I came home knowing I am a son of the Father (how I got there is a journey that requires a proper telling).

My heart was razed, and remade. And I owe you–all who gave, prayed for, and encouraged me on this journey an eternal debt of gratitude. May God bless you, everyone.

The Men Who Shot Me

randomlychad  —  August 10, 2012 — 11 Comments

image

It’s quarter past four in the morning. I’m not sure why I’m up. Was it the dream I just had? Or the headache I both took to bed with me, and woke up with?

In the dream, my wife and I are vacationing I’m not sure where. She’s checking us in, but somehow I’m already in the room.

Two men are there.

With guns.

Somehow I have one, too. Words are exchanged; I ask what they want.

They answer with a hail of bullets.

I return fire. Most of their bullets miss, but some strike home. I’m shot in the chest.

My shots are true, and the assailants fall dead at my feet.

I’m shot, but alive. I need to find my wife, tell her I’m going to the hospital.

I do, and walk next door to it.

And Iike was like they know me, know what I need, acknowledge my wounds. All the paperwork is ready and waiting. I sign in, am escorted to surgery.

It is a success.

Lisa finds me. We are together, and stronger than ever.

The assailants failed to take me out.

I’ll let you take what meaning you will from my dream, but to me it’s clear:

The assailants are the schemes of the wicked one who seeks to sideline me. I am wounded by them, but able to find healing in the hospital. To me, that hospital is the Wild At Heart retreat I’m going to next week. They are expecting me, know my name, know my wounds (the shot to the chest is my heart), and have the healing I need.

Afterwards, after I return home, Lisa and I find each other again, and are stronger than ever.

That is what I think my dream means. The strange thing is that I don’t usually remember my dreams. I don’t want to claim it’s from God, but it sure seems to be.

Have you ever had such vivid dream, one that confirmed you were on the path you were supposed to be? Do you remember your dreams?