Friday, December 29, 2006

GUARDING YOUR SOUL FROM MEAN CHRISTIANS

GUARDING YOUR SOUL

“This is to wish you a Merry Christmas, and to again thank you for sticking with me through all my crises.” My psychotherapist wife gets these kinds of messages, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. This particular writer went on to add a refrain familiar to my wife: “Often, and to my regret, I did not always follow your advice, but never did you abandon me. And I made it. Thanks again.”

Such typical messages could also be sent to the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete means all of the following: One Who Comes in Along Side of, a Comforter, a Counselor, an Advocate. That is good stuff!



This obviously means that if we are giving off the aroma of the Holy Spirit when we are advising people, we too should receive those nice letters. Unfortunately, however, Christians do not always have the type of reputation we would hope for.

The well-known author of The Purpose Driven Life often observes that we have been “a body without arms and legs; just a big mouth--telling others what to do and what we are against.”

As psychotherapists, my wife and I see the heartbreaking damage that judgement and condemnation inflict.

Jesus describes a characteristic of a damaging religious person as follows: Mat 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

Can you tell the difference when you are being approached by “One Who Comes in Along Side,” a Comforter, an Advocate on the one hand and when you are receiving heavy burdens, too grievous to be borne?

I wish everyone knew that they do not have to stay around someone who is laying heavy burdens on them. All they need to do is to remember that the word Gospel means “good news” and if they are not hearing “good news,” they are not hearing the Gospel! They should run for their spiritual lives!

Now please indulge me for a brief psychology lesson. My purpose is to help you understand what it is that creates burdens too grievous to be borne.

This will just be a quick picture of the human personality. The following is not original with me, but I often describe the personality as being made up of tiny slivers; for the sake of a mental picture, think of them as metal slivers.

Have you ever seen tiny metal slivers on a piece of paper with a magnet beneath? If you have not, what happens is that the tiny slivers arrange themselves into a pattern–every sliver in relationship to every other sliver. If you intrude at any point, the entire mass rearranges itself; each staying related to all the others.

It is helpful to think of personality that way. Every experience staying in relationship to every other experience you have or have had. Every experience arranging and rearranging itself in relationship to all the other experiences throughout the day.

The good news is that you can go to bed at night and not be afraid you will come unraveled in your sleep. The bad news is that during the day, every time you are required to change, everything else in your personality has to rearrange itself. (By the way, that is what your dreams are doing for you in the night–trying to put everything in order with everything else.)

Hopefully, most of the changes require minor tinkering.

There is always resistance to change, which is good. Suppose your personality was so fragile that every time a demand was put on it, you came unglued?

We have many statements about what the ungluing process can feel like: We even say “I feel I am coming unglued.” Or, “I’m having a break down.” “I’m losing it.” “I’m cracking up.” Feel free to jump in and add your own favorite expression. Anyway, you know what it feels like to start coming apart under stress.

Therefore, we have to be thankful to God that He did not make our personality so brittle it flies into pieces. Nevertheless, when someone comes at us hard, threatening that we will either lose their love and approval if we don’t change, stress is experienced throughout the entire personality system. If they claim to come in the name of the Lord, now that is real stress.

On the other hand, being with people who operate as the Paraclete does, that is, who recognize our difficulty, come in along side of the parts undergoing change, comforting us with such words as “you can do it.” Then gentle change is possible. With the proper help, there can even be what the Bible calls a metanoia, that is a sudden positive upheaval and rearrangement of the personality over a short period of time.

Fortunately, Jesus gives us permission to dodge the dangerous people when he says: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Mat 7:6.

Just remember the next time you feel psychologically attacked by someone in the church, run for your spiritual life! Just don’t forget though, JESUS LOVES YOU, HE REALLY DOES! And it was the religious judgmental ones who killed Him.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was reading your reflection on mean Christians today. There are a lot of spiritual and psychological insights that would lend themselves to a great article that "Charisma" magazine might find interesting. It seems to me that you would need to incorporate some insights into the nature of prophetic rebukes to show how they can be wrongly delivered and how to distinguish truth-telling that might make us uncomfortable from mean-spirited criticism.

Father Don said...

Hey, thanks. I will give it some thought especially because I have seen so
much damage. One only has to see how Christians are depicted on TV
and in movies to realize that a lot of people think we are mean people.
Some of the characterization is deserved but we also know, the devil can contaminate what people are hearing. Two children might sit in the same religious service, one hears the love of God and the other hears damnation. .

Anonymous said...

I am thinking that one issue that needs clarification is how an appropriate rebuke should be given. There are acceptable ways to set boundaries, offer correction and instruction in righteousness. Lots of mistakes have been made in the prophetic movement by prophets who wanted to imitate some thundering Old Testament prophet. It is worth noting that John the Baptist and Jesus were really tough on the hard hearted religious folks - the very ones who are causing all the damage.
In prophetic workshops, neophyte prophets are encouraged to avoid revealing personal sins, etc., and stay over in the realm of edification. That seems prudent, but sometimes we have to bring prophetic warnings. How do those differ from the mean-spiritedness that you described so well? I am amazed that so many people come through the mess that can go on in church with any sense of God's love intact. It makes me believe in predestination - must be chosen vessels to be graced to wade through that much negativity without drowning in the process.

Patrick said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Patrick