Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dying to ourselves...fun times

It can't feel good to die.

I mean, there are a thousand ways to go, right? In your sleep seems to rank among the best ways to go, but it seems that even then, you can't have been feeling too hot before you actually went to sleep that last time. You were dying. Unless a plane crashes into your house while you're sleeping. Then you probably felt just fine before you went.

But here's this song that I'm thinking about tonight:

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how
I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You,
Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You,
Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
In the wine of Your Blood
(Keith Green, 1978)

We are surrounded by so much pain every day. You and I, we can't go anywhere at all without bumping into people who are walking around wounded through to the soul. Sometimes we can see it in their eyes. Sometimes they hide it perfectly. Sometimes they hide it with perfection. And who knows how they came to be wounded? Maybe they were hit by friendly fire-- hit by bullets thrown by an angry person who didn't mean to shoot their mother or father or husband or wife. Maybe they were lashed out at for a good reason-- maybe they screwed up and are suffering the consequences of their actions. Maybe they inflicted the wounds on themselves. Does it matter? When a person is lying, bloody and howling in pain, in the middle of the street, our first thought should be triage.

Right?

I tried triage with a friend who is in an incredible amount of pain right now. It's a self-inflicted wound-- a serious screw-up-- but tonight that friend is probably naming me as the source of the pain. Because I named it. I called it for what it was. I said, You're delusional. Here's what the Bible says about this kind of wound:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6)

I'm a fairly nice person. It has everything to do with the fact that I am desperately in need of mercy. I can't afford not to be merciful. I have to do whatever I can to make sure that I am finding places and ways to be merciful. It's my permanent homework assignment from God. That verse above? It made no sense to me when I was younger. I remember reading it and sort of scratching my head...hm. Wounds of a friend? What kind of friend wounds? That's weird. And what kind of enemy would you let kiss you?

What kind indeed.

Then I got nailed. I was wounded by a friend and it was one of the most precious, most painful things that had ever happened to me. See, it was like this: I once had six roommates. You heard me: six. 6. SIX. Ses. That's a bunch of girls sharing one (one. 1. UNO) bathroom.

And I had some amazing friends in that house. We weren't perfect-- we had some serious issues, but we were young, we were missionaries, and we were working it out. There was one girl in the house, Lisa, that I admired to no end. She was (is) a gifted worship leader, hilariously funny and one of the kindest, most generous people I had ever met. I had never known (and still do not know) anyone like her. Her heart and passion for the Lord were beautiful and I was a brand new believer-- I wanted what she had with the Lord. I recognized wisdom in her. I loved (love) her.

So one night, Lisa decides to have some friends over to our house-- now, throwing your "own" party is tricky when you live in community and you're all sort of friends with the same people and it's kind of the same group over and over. Still, she was planning to have some folks over and I think she was going to play some of her music or something-- I'm still not completely sure what her vision was for that night. I just know that I completely railroaded her without meaning to. Samantha had to be the class clown and when everyone came over, I picked up her guitar and had a one-woman stand-up routine and took all of the attention. I had a blast that night.

Did I mention that she is incredibly humble and kind?

Over the next couple of days, I noticed that Lisa was markedly cool towards me. She wasn't mean, and none of our housemates were mean (she hadn't gossipped), but something was wrong. I was afraid to know what was wrong-- I struggled hard core with the guilt baby Christians seem to deal with so often-- but I asked her a couple of times what was wrong and didn't really get an answer. Finally, we were standing outside one afternoon and she finally told me. I don't remember her words, but I remember the incredibly hurt look on her face as she told me that I had horned in at that party that she had arranged for a specific reason, or with specific hopes in mind, and that I always had to be the center of attention.

Oh. My. Gosh. I was so angry. I couldn't believe that she had said that. I was hurt that she was saying something so mean to me. I was hurt that this person whose approval I so craved disapproved of something I had done. I was hurt...because something inside me knew that she was right. She nailed me. She hadn't wanted to-- I pushed her to it. I'm sure she had wanted to tell me this before, but this occasion had pushed even her incredible patience. She cut me deeply.

And it changed me forever.

Not to say that I fixed that right away, but my friend-- one who was and is one of the best friends I ever had-- held up a mirror to my face and told me the truth about myself and I hated it. I was embarressed, humiliated, disappointed with myself, felt like she was being judgmental, etc., but cut to the core.

The wounds of a friend are faithful. Those words seem not to fit. Like living room furniture in a bathroom. Awkward. Crowded. Just...wrong.

I lived in community (YWAM, all over the place) for a long time and am sad to say that it took me a long time to really work through that, and I will likely spend the rest of my life having to check myself in group situations, making sure that I am not trying to drag the spotlight to myself all the time. It makes sense that being comfortable in front of groups is part of my calling-- Tom Marshall talked about our gifts needing to be redeemed. My flesh wants to be the center of everybody's attention. My spirit wants to tell everyone what I know about Jesus. I'm a teacher-- I get to be the center of attention every day. But I have to know when to reign it in and enjoy a friend getting to be the center of it all-- enjoy watching and giving someone else my attention. Lisa is a joy to watch. I wish I had let her do whatever she wanted to do that night.

Like I said, I haven't conquered that yet, but this is the thing: my precious friend named in me something that could have taken over my life had she not shown it to me. Doubtless, others had seen it in me and been irritated beyond belief, but only Lisa took the chance and just straight up told me (she had to: we lived together. "The only way out is through"-- John Maxwell from Kristin's blog). That wound cut me deeply.

But what is worse is when people just smile at us and pretend to like us to our faces, and when we leave... YIKES. The knives come out and they carve us up for dinner. Do they TELL us that we are hurtful? No. Do they tell us that we smell funny/make inappropriate comments and need to stop/regularly insult someone without realizing it/ (insert horrible thing that people do)? No, these things are the stuff of gossip used to fill empty moments. Who actually has the (excuse me) balls or the heart to sit a friend down and say, Listen... I love you and I have to tell you something...?

I don't mean that we are called to sit in judgment upon each other. I mean that if I see you standing in the middle of a train track and I hear the train but you can't for some reason (your fingers are jammed in your ears, you are screaming, you are weeping), what kind of friend am I if I stand beside the tracks (a safe distance away), shake my head and tell someone beside me, "Look at that... tsk tsk tsk. That fool is about to get hit by a train"? Or do I full on push you out of the way? Who cares if you get bruised: you're ALIVE.

I have experienced the agony of watching close friends going through seriously, movie-of-the-week-intense seasons. It was the same thing with every situation. I saw it coming four different times. And I had opportunities to say "STOP", whether they would listen or not, and I chose being liked over being honest. I chose to not say something that would piss someone off in order to be the nice friend who was liked. Fool.

What has the Lord called us to do?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
Micah 6:8

What does it mean to both act justly and to love mercy? It looks like Jesus with the Pharisees. It looks like Jesus in every conversation with Peter. It looks like Jesus on the cross.

And does being merciful ever simply mean "being nice"?

Is it just to watch a friend walk headlong into sin and not name it? I have sat on my hands and quietly agonized.

What do you do when that friend has been so hurt by feeling judged by the church? Do you allow yourself to be manipulated by that? Do you remain silent when they want to reveal the sin to you, talk about it, nurse it, think about it, with you? I was quiet for days.

Oh Lord I sound judgmental. I wish I could just write about it, but I won't do that. If I could write about it, you would understand.

Anyway, so much of this life feels so much like dying to yourself daily...wait. Where have I heard that before? Hm. So what does it mean to die to yourself? Multiple things, but let's try two:

1) Receiving the wounds of a friend-- not simply sustaining them.

2) Being the kind of friend who would rather push someone out of the way of an oncoming train and piss them off than see them get killed (or worse...much worse) and sit wringing her hands....

What do I die to? My "rights" to feel good about myself. My "right" to be popular and tickle itching ears with what they want to hear. Here is what Jeremiah says:

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6: 13-14

How can we say "peace, peace" when there is no peace?

So I am again here at this place. You and I, we are responsible for each other. I am accountable for the way I love you. Am I merciful? That's my biggest hope. Am I fair? Oh, I want to be. Am I honest? I long for that. Am I kind? Do I love you the way I want to be loved? Will I die to my desire to be popular in order to tell you that there is no peace? It's not a judgment thing: I have seen the train that is about to hit you. I have seen it kill stronger people than you.

How do we love each other within the body of Christ? Do we cry "peace peace" when peace is nowhere near? Is this why the bride of Christ still awaits her Groom? Is it because we will not cry out against sin? Is it because we would rather be sweet than HOLY? Do I kiss you with deceitful lips that care more about their popularity than your life? These are the rights I am dying to. Is it too fine a point to say that I would rather be alive to Christ than pleasing to you? Is it ever loving to choose the fear of man over the fear of God?

I hate even thinking about this. Just because this isn't my sin doesn't make me above it. There but for the grace of God, I go. But is it pompous and judgmental to cry out "Watch out!"?

Maranatha, Lord-- come quickly. Our fight is not against each other but against the sin that would separate us from our God! OH, how off the mark we are! The enemy does not hate us-- he hates the God that loves us with a passion that is bottomless. The enemy's entire purpose is to wound the heart of our Father in any way possible, including dragging us into the foul pit of sin that we cannot see or will not name. And we stand at the edge of the pool smiling and waving and trying not to hurt anyone's feelings.

Oh flesh, die.

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