"To be likable as a woman, it seems, you have to ensure that you're also non-threatening and slightly useless. You have to point loudly to your 'flaws,' but not your, you know, actual flaws." Hannah Brooks Olson
I think we do a version of "non-threatening and slightly useless" in the Christian world. It goes like this:
- We tell our story of a common personal failing (I was mad at my husband, I was anxious)
- We quote Bible verses that confront this failing.
- We confess that we feel convicted, and we repent.
- We ask our audience to consider their own personal failings, apply Bible verses, and repent.
When we do this--when we spiritualize our mess away--I think it allows us to feel like we've been good Christians, without threatening each other or ourselves too much.
Frankly, I think the enemy of our souls is happy for us to just keep wading around here in the shallows, quoting Bible verses to each other, if that's what it takes to keep us from real healing.
I know it's hard to take the plunge into deep water when you've only ever waded around up to your ankles. You don't know if you'll sink or swim.
If we want to be truly healed and whole, not just better-behaved, we have to go to some deep places.
I think we know this, long before we are actually willing to take the plunge.
This showed up in my Facebook feed this morning:
"Jesus says simply, 'Make your home in me, as I make mine in you' (I John 15:4). Home is not a heavenly mansion in the afterlife but a safe place right in the midst of our anxious world.
"Home is that sacred space -- external or internal -- where we don't have to be afraid, where we are confident of hospitality and love. In our society we have not only many homeless people sleeping on the streets, in shelters, or in welfare hotels, but also vagabonds who are in flight, who never come home to themselves. They seek a safe place through alcohol or drugs, or security in success, competence, friends, pleasure, notoriety, knowledge, or even a little religion. They have become strangers to themselves, people who have an address but are never at home, who never hear the voice of love or experience the freedom of God's children.
To those of us in flight, who are afraid to turn around lest we run into ourselves, Jesus says: 'You have a home . . I am your home . . . claim me as your home. . . you will find it to be the intimate place where I have found my home . . . it is right where you are . . . in your innermost being . . . in your heart.'" Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins
"Confident of hospitality and love."
Deep in our hearts, knowing that we are welcomed and wanted and treasured.
That's where the healing is.
When we are profoundly at Home with Jesus:
- We don't have to be "non-threatening and useless." We know we're safe and secure, no matter what others think. We can show up as ourselves and just let it be.
- We don't have to ignore, deny, minimize, or spiritualize our real flaws. We can allow his kindness to bring us to true change, even if that is a painful journey. (Romans 2:4)
I think for many of us--the good girls, the try-hard team, the heroes of our families--it's incredibly difficult for us to stop being so wonderful, and instead to let ourselves be loved.
We have such bright, shiny, beautiful surfaces, and the point of all our spiritualizing is to polish that surface even brighter.
It's really hard to stop all that.
The problem is, we can't be loved on the surface.
Sure, we can be admired and appreciated and praised on the surface.
But we can't be loved on the surface.
We can only be loved down deep, deep in the innermost being, deep in our darkest hearts.
But maybe we've never really been loved down there.
Maybe we're not 100% sure it could be done.
And when that's our experience, spiritualizing seems like a reasonable option. I get it, I do.
It's terrifying to be real, when you aren't sure of Love.
The thing is, though, I don't think God is content to leave us in our surfacey spiritualizing state, no matter how scared we are of the depths.
I think he wants far more for us than we are apt to want for ourselves.
In my own life I have found this to be true:
"Until we are led to the limits of our current game plan, and find it to be insufficient, we will not search out or find the real source, the deep well, or the constantly flowing stream." --Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
I find that God is endlessly willing to lead me to my limits, to allow me to find that the Kay Bruner Plan for Awesomeness and Success is once again (GASP!) insufficient.
And to allow me to experience, all over again, that Love is here when I am messy and tired and incompetent and afraid.
And while I don't think I will ever enjoy being messy and tired and incompetent and afraid, this is the place where I'm most like to experience that Love is real.
This is where I feel the power: that I was made for THIS, to experience this Love, so great I can't explain it. (Ephesians 3)
This is where I know for sure that is a real source, a deep well, a constantly flowing stream that has nothing to do with me and you and the easy answers we stick on each other, even if those answers have Bible verses attached.
May we all have the courage to go and spiritualize no more, but instead dive deep into the healing.