Posted on April 22, 2016
Paul’s communities are the audiovisual aids he can point to, giving credibility to his statements about new life. To people who ask, “Why should we believe there’s a new life?” Paul can say, “Look at these people. They’re… Read More
Posted on April 17, 2016
Have you ever been driven into the wilderness by the Spirit?
It was a significant time in Jesus’ life, but these days most of our experiences of being driven into the wilderness lead us to rebuke the devil. Now, I don’t believe that God is causing all the suffering in our lives, but often we’re not paying attention to the purposes of God in our discomfort.
these days most of our experiences of being driven into the wilderness lead us to rebuke the devil Click To Tweet
When Jesus is in the wilderness the scripture says that he is with wild beasts. People who have studied period of history know that there were no such wild beasts in the deserts around Palestine & Israel during those years.
So what could it mean? Well I wonder if you have ever tried to be silent and alone for an extended period? Soon, your mind is rushing with things that you have a long sought to be distracted from. Issues and anxieties that have never been dealt with and that have consistently been pushed aside through busyness.
When we go to the wilderness we experience these wild beasts. The anxieties, accusations, the desolateness and the fear that accompanies that. In a place where we are apart from the comforts that the world around us creates. The comforts of ego, position, celebration, affirmation. All of the things that life in the city offer us. Those things become uniquely attractive in the wilderness.
In the aloneness we can be tempted to run from finding a truer inner voice that wants to take hold of the authentic desire to become better without the audience of others. We are tempted by the ego to use the time to devise instruments of manipulation and projection for when we return from our wilderness. These temptations are the wild beasts of the wilderness.
To live out our kingdom call we do need to know we are loved, celebrated, know we have a good father in heaven; all the things that are so readily accessible in times of consolation and fullness. But when we are consistently nourished on a diet of felt-nearness we quickly wither and realise how fast this spiritual manna passes through us and leaves us once again empty.
when we are consistently nourished on a diet of felt-nearness we quickly wither Click To Tweet
Just as in the lives of children, endless comfort does not build the resources needed in them physically or emotionally to live a flourishing adult life. In our Christian walk we cannot just reside in ghetto’s of christians comfort and enjoyment. Sacrifice, and the surrender that it brings in healthy mature people builds muscles of reliance and trust in God when he cannot be felt or seen. It develops muscles of trust, expectation and longing that orders our inner selves to look for the coming kingdom of God, even when it isn’t immediately satiating our felt needs.
In this season I don’t feel like I am in a season of wilderness, but I am spending time pastorally with followers of Jesus who are often experiencing this. Sometimes for the first times in their lives, others in ways more profound and feeling more deeply abandoned than ever before. The physical signs of God’s goodness; possessions, direction, relationships and health quickly evaporate and we discover that at least in part, things from God have become our gods, in that we cannot have life without them.
In that sense I feel like this season is a season of living on the edge of the city of the spiritual life looking out onto the desert. The desert where many friends currently are and I catch the passing fragrances of this desert time. I catch them at least enough to empathise the weight and struggle of these times. Counter-intuitively this is also another gift of the wilderness, our ability to empathise. Even though each person experiences the desolation of desert times in their own way, there are issues that are common to all humanity as they experience it. In the wilderness we build capacity to navigate our spiritual desolation, we learn something of the way home and the longing to get there. This at least can offer some gift of empathy and understanding, even if it can’t be fully communicated, a loving hug, a knowing look can be offered.
In the wilderness we build capacity to navigate our spiritual desolation, we learn something of… Click To Tweet
Often we can find a sense of God’s pleasure and presence in the desert in ways we could never experience it in the city. I often think of the parable of the prodigal son as a beautiful allegory of the Spiritual life that God has given us. Our times in the city can be full, but an excess of the city leads us into deep soul sickness (such as in the case of the prodigal son). The long walk home through the desert to the homestead, is often the detox we need to truly experience the riches of the simple homestead we once despised.
The older brother in the homestead shows us that too long in the homestead as well leads us to take simple yet powerful things for granted; the love of Father, a grounded vocation, a community, an identity. When we spend too long taking the homestead for granted we experience the things that should be more truly understood as gifts, and transfigure them in our minds as rights. And rights are what we deserve.
This rights mentality in the kingdom leads us quickly to a place where everything we receive is what we deserve and things held back from us are injustices and a violation of our rights. Receiving the goodness of the homestead as gift instead of rights mean we have the resources to cultivate true joy. Gratitude is the watering of the soil that leads to plants of joy bursting forth. I know from personal experience, joy cannot be made up or brought forth through sheer willpower, it is only the discipline of gratitude that can bring it forth. It is a discipline I am struggling to conform myself to.
So, the deserts of our spiritual lives both detox us from the excesses of the city and sharpen our appreciation of the simple realities that we can often take for granted in our lives in God.
Im almost embarrased to be jumping on the “donald trump” train of conversation here, but it is, as I mentioned last week, a car-crash-type spectacle that no matter how hard you might try you just cannot look away.
The most insightful thing I have heard regarding the reason for his reported evangelical base backing is from Robert Cunningham of Tates Creek Presbyterian;
I think we aren’t giving the convictions of evangelicals enough credit. They know enough to know what Trump is saying and doing is wrong, and yet they are still supporting him.
Why? Because we are never compelled by our ideals like we are by our loves. And when you look at Donald Trump through the shared loves of the evangelical Culture, he starts to make perfect sense.
What politicians and advertisers know that the church has forgotten, is that before we are thinkers we are lovers and desirers. Advertisers then offer us liturgies and practises that form us in deep ways, deeper than our thinking. In short, our affections can catch us before our intellect. Cunningham offers some ways in which the evangelical church practises may have contributed at a pre-cognitive level to the evangelical support of trump;
What happens when the liturgies of our greedy culture train evangelicals to love money and power? What happens when the liturgies of talk radio train evangelicals to love anger and paranoia? What happens when the liturgies of social media train evangelicals to love sensational sound bites more than thoughtful discourse? What happens when the liturgies of modern worship services train evangelicals to love novel, flashy, and glib emotional experiences that feel more like a rally than corporate worship? What happens when the conference culture of the church trains evangelicals to love the big celebrity leader? What happens when preaching that prioritizes relevant, shocking, and brash sermons trains evangelicals to love “tell it like it is” ranting? What happens when the liturgies from the days of the Moral Majority train evangelicals to love America as much as Jesus, which then leads to an incessant longing within churches to “make America great again!”
What happens? Evangelicals in love with Donald Trump happens.
…what if the boisterous confidence and the television lights and the waving arms [of donald trump] are precisely what evangelicals have been trained to love? What if they can’t listen because they are enraptured? What if they applaud, not because Trump has given them a speech, but because Trump has given them what they love?
Yikes! I ticked a lot of those boxes. Now what?
1. Do Not Panic
Yours is not some unusual struggle, and you are most certainly not alone. Once codependency is realized, the temptation can be to withdraw from relationships. This type of emotional reaction rooted in fear can cause much more damage than good. Fear can easily cause a swing towards a life of independence and isolation, giving the illusion of control. But you are not in control; you are in hiding. Fear prevents intimacy, and intimacy is really what every codependent (and human) heart desires in the first place.
One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen (who, from his writing I suspect had his own struggle with codependency), said this fittingly:
“Fear is the great enemy of intimacy. Fear does not create a home. It forces us to live alone or in a protective shelter but does not allow us to build an intimate home. Fear conjures either too much distance or too much closeness. Both prevent intimacy from developing.”
2. Take Responsibility
Codependency is not irrevocable. You can experience emotional healing and move on in life in a healthy, more whole way. A fearless dedication to rigorous honesty is the first step toward taking responsibility. Admit to unhealthy relational patterns, and be determined to change. One of the most common traits of codependence is denial. It’s a small word but when lived out, it is seriously destructive and detrimental. Take responsibility now and begin the brave road to emotional and relational health. God is not seeking perfection from you, just a willingness to change.
3. Seek Help & Invite Others
This could be counselors, pastors, close friends, a life coach or mentor, or a combination of the like. Very few codependent patterns can be worked out without the help of others. But be careful of those who simply want to hand hold; this really isn’t helpful. Rather invite people in who are healthy and encourage accountability to change. This combined with prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, our trusted Wise Counselor, will help lead the way to emotional health. Be wary of relying too much on head knowledge, or too much on faith without action. Patterns of behavior derived from emotional wounds rarely disappear from a single time of prayer or from reading books about the topic. There is no quick or easy fix for codependency, just a daily dedication to engage your emotions with honesty and move towards change.
4. Trust the Lord
Some hard questions may have to be asked and some painful realizations made along the way, but to quote a close friend- God is not intimated by our brokenness. Our dark parts are not too much for Him and I promise, He will deal with you kindly. Your heart is in good hands. He is gentle, true, and will give you the kiss of peace your heart desires. Being grounded and rooted in God’s love frees us up to relate to one another from a place of safety and health. And slow but sure, you will see your way of relating to others begin to change. This is the goal of the codependent. Remember, He doesn’t require perfection; He is not even looking at ability, but rather a willingness to change.
Once again, Nouwen give us a beautiful word picture of this type of Godly, faithful loving:
“They have learned that it is impossible to live together as wounded people if they simply depend on each other to provide the intimate home they seek. Our wounds, whether visible or hidden, are too deep for us to offer each other a place totally free from fear. We often put super human demands on each other and when these demands are not met we feel hurt or rejected…Bonds that last cannot be based simply on good, better, or excellent interpersonal relationships but must be rooted outside the many devices and desires of the wounded human heart. Rooted in a bond that existed before and beyond human togetherness, bonds of true intimacy rest in the divine covenant. God alone is free enough from wounds to offer us a fearless space. In and through God we can be faithful to each other in friendship, marriage, and community. This intimate bond with God, constantly nurtured by prayer, offers us a true home.”
What has been your experience with observing unhealthy patterns of loving?
Have you read any material or books concerning codependency you have found to be helpful?
Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Receive weekly articles like this by subscribing for a free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
Col 1:17 Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. 18 He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. 19 For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. 20 Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
21 At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. 22 But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence. 23 You must, of course, continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation, and must not allow yourselves to be shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the gospel.
Do you find yourself constantly considering your own self-worth in light of someone’s perception of you? Do you observe people interacting in ways that seem inappropriately intimate and exclusive?
Both of these examples highlight a tendency towards codependency, a relational style that traps us from truly loving one another.
What exactly is codependency? It’s an unhealthy way of not only relating to people, but the world: money, work, church, shopping, social media, etc. But for the sake of this blog, I will stick mainly to talking about codependency as it relates to relationships. I have pulled from several sources and come up with this definition:
Codependency is a style of loving and relating in which one gives in order to receive. It looks like sacrificial love, but in its unhealthy form, it’s motivated by a need for love or a need to be needed, and is ultimately self-serving.
Simply put, when it comes to codependency in relationships, codependents are people addicts.
Healthy loving isn’t a new problem to the human race, but one we have struggled with since the beginning of time. To a certain degree, we are all on the codependent-independent spectrum. Perfect marriages or friendships having no codependent patterns simply don’t exist. A relationship does not need to be completely mutual to be healthy, nor does a person who struggles with codependency need to be perfect in interpersonal skills before they can consider themselves healthy. But, to what extent do we allow the love of others to determine our value as a person? How much do we look to others as a source of strength or to give our lives meaning? This is an important question for everyone.
I would dare to say, people drawn to work such as missions, social work, teaching, parenting, pastoring, counseling, and the medical field are more susceptible to engaging in unhealthy patterns of caring and giving for the wrong reasons. Not always, but its worth having a close look. The need to be needed can be a powerful motivator. In this way, codependency takes the form of not caring for ourselves, all the while trying to care for everyone else.
How do I know?
Here is a list of relational characteristics you can use as a measuring stick to determine the degree of codependency within in a relationship:
- Do you consistently give, care, and love more than the other person?
- Do you “tiptoe” around the person for fear of what may be said or felt?
- Do you have difficulty being honest, direct, and loving in your communication with the person?
- Do you spend time second-guessing their motives, needs, or actions?
- Do you cover, lie, excuse, or justify others’ behavior to yourself or someone else?
- Do you find yourself being regularly critical, blaming, or negative about or toward the person?
- Do you feel the need to fix the person or to convince the person that you are right and he or she is wrong?
- Do you constantly feel the need to give in or give up just to keep the peace?
- Do you have trouble maintaining a steady emotional life when another person goes up or down?
- Do you worry, obsess, or become tormented about that person or your relationship?
Also very important, here is an extensive list of the different types of traits, roles and characteristics of codependent people. Before moving on, click on the link and see if any of this really hits home.
Don’t miss part two of this series on codependency by subscribing for the free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)
Part 2: “4 Ways forward from Co-dependency” which will be posted here (the link won’t work until that one is posted)