Church & Needs, part IIb

Even though I believe we could discuss Emotional Needs exclusively on this blog and still not touch on every aspect of it, I’d like to add just a few more thoughts before moving on to some other topics of importance in relation to modern Christianity.

In yesterday’s blog, I used specific and–I think–obvious examples (abuse, broken families, sexuality, addictions, et cet.) of where individuals in the Church are crying out for something more than Christian jargon. Why are these such big problems in our culture? Why have they so affected individuals and the Church? And how can we address the problem if we don’t understand it?

The connection that I wanted to make yesterday, and sort of glossed over, is that these issues can drastically distort one’s image of himself. I think I finally started to understand my own Emotional Needs several years ago when I dreamed that I was trapped in one of those Fun Houses at the circus. There were mirrors everywhere I looked, each one distorting my image. One showed me that I was fatherless; one, that I was not beautiful; one, that I had nothing to say; one, that I was worthless; another, that I was to blame. On and on, the mirrors screamed at me, and after years (in my dream) of looking at these distorted images, I realized that I no longer knew what I actually looked like. Thank heavens it was only a dream! Still, it clearly illustrated my twisted sense of self and my dire need for someone (for anyone!) to look at me and see something of worth!

In my case, it wasn’t enough to just believe that I was created in God’s image. I needed the Body of Christ. I needed those individuals who spoke words of hope and truth about who I was; those who listened enough to see past my defenses and understand how tragically I have loved my father; those who saw God’s handiwork in me and reaffirmed my place in the Kingdom.

See, we are all in process. I don’t say that as an excuse for sin or justification for not being accountable; I say it because it’s true. We are all in process. If God is finished working on you, you had better check to make sure you still have a pulse. If you are living, if you are breathing, then you are in the process of being recreated in His image.

On a dvd, speaking of her song, I Then Shall Live, Gloria Gaither (one of my only modern heroes!) talks about surrounding ourselves with people who call us to be greater. It’s so important that we find that balance where we can accept another exactly as he is, but also see the gifts, the seeds of life and purpose that God has planted in him, and call him to something greater. And I think it is that acceptance that allows us to see greater things in another.

When you garden, you don’t tear a grapevine out of the ground because it has bad fruit. You choose to love your grapevine. You prune it, changing the flow of nutrients and life, so that the fruit on the vine is full and sweet. But it starts with choosing to love your plant, with committing to another year (or two…or three…or four…I mean, really…have you ever tried to grow grapes?) of tending and pruning and singing to your grapes.

So what do you say? How can we change the culture of modern Christianity to address the garbled images we have of ourselves and others? Who are the people in your life that need encouragement, affirmation, words of life and hope, a calling to something greater? And if this is not the Church’s responsibility…whose is it?

Pax Domini.

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10 thoughts on “Church & Needs, part IIb

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I care and pray for you- maybe not daily, but when ever you come to mind. Some of your Emotional Needs sound like some of mine. And, although I’ve never dreamed of being in a room full of distorting mirrors, I can empathize with you more than you could ever know.

    At about twice your age, I’ve experienced more things that seemed to reinforce what the mirrors say. Yet, all that time, I refused to let it harden my heart. I wish I had something to give to you to help you understand and relieve the inner pain, but wisdom has taught me to not expect much help from the world at large. Becoming part of a body of believers is the most healing when you get involve with the work that the particular body has. It’s sort of like “share the vision”. And it can give you a great opportunity to see God in action. It’s not about rubbing elbows in the pews, it’s often about rubbing elbows in the trenches of our part of the great spiritual battle. You soon develop a closer bond between others.

    I think that why people are leaving churches is that they hunger and thirst for more than that church is willing to give them. Often, it is a desire to change one’s spiritual diet from milk to meat. Many mainline and now evangelical churches are failing to recognize this need. I hope that this answers some of the questions you are proposing.

    And I am re-doubling my efforts in praying for you. And remember that I’m always checking your blog because I do care about you and what has been a “thorn in the side” for you for so long. Many blessings to you, Sarah!

    Shalom

    • Steve Ward, you are my hero. I appreciate your prayers and your encouragement (words of affirmation!). Thankfully, when I had this dream several years ago, I realized just how distorted my identity was, and I began to seek out deeper fellowship and community that would help me to stop looking at the funny mirrors. I’m not finished yet (thank God!), but I am far more secure in my identity than I was, say, five years ago. To God be the glory! But it would not have happened without those individuals who called me to set down those lying mirrors and perceive my reflection in the Living Water.

      I share these things not because I need to sort through them for myself (as you know better than many people, I’ve BEEN sorting through them for years already!). I share them because my focus has shifted. In the last, say, two years, I have really noticed that people around me are struggling with the same distortions–not because they have faced the same issues as me, but because the issues have the same effect on us (a loss of identity). And as I did, many people are leaving churches (or being shoved out the doors of our churches) because the modern Church can’t even acknowledge that the issues exist–much less, figure out how to cope with them.

      My desire is to see the Church changed in this regard…beginning with myself. If I cannot call those around me to something greater, to a truer idea of who they are in Christ, then I am not the community, the fellowship, the healing that they need. And that is a problem.

      Hey, you wrote this:

      >> I think that why people are leaving churches is that they hunger and thirst for more than that church is willing to give them. Often, it is a desire to change one’s spiritual diet from milk to meat. <<

      Would you mind expanding on this sometime? You don't have to get nitty gritty about it if you don't want (but you can…if you want to!). I'm just curious if you are speaking directly to doctrine and teaching when you refer to milk and meat.

      Thanks, Steve! As always, I love your comments, and I thank God for you. Please don't stop praying for me. I won't stop praying for you.

      Pax Domini. :)

      • P.S. Are you still blogging? I almost never go over to “that other place” anymore…but I’m thinking that if you are still blogging, I should link directly to your blog so I (and my readers) can follow your thoughts, too…

      • Hi Sarah,

        Here’s where I’m working from when I say “spiritual diet”:

        Hebrews 5:11-14
        11.We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12.In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13.Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14.But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

        There are quite a few people that I have met who have started coming to the church where I go (The slacker that I am, I haven’t joined yet.), and they come to the pastor’s Sunday School class, which can often be like a steak dinner. Anyway, one of the things mentioned about why they started coming was that they had “out-grown” the old church, and they are seeking a deeper relationship with God. We have one woman that came to the class and would go to her church afterwards. She hasn’t come to class for a while, but she’s starting to come to this church ‘s services.

        Concerning “the other place”, I haven’t blogged there for a while. I just can’t get into writing the useual ranks and raves anymore. Actually, I’m having trouble getting myself to write anything. Things are not very conducive around home to inspire or even allow writing. Let’s just say that I’m going through a “dry time”, becuase that’s how I feel.

        Gotta go, now. I still have to use my work computer at the end of the day. God’ blessings!

        Shalom

  2. I really liked the analogy you used about the grape veins. You make a great parallel when you bring up not ripping up the grape plant but deciding to love the plant. From that love, one decides to treat the plant with better nutrients and better care. To answer your question posed in your post, I feel EVERYONE I know on a personal levels needs affirmation, kindness, encouragement etc. I am reminded of the quote, “Instruction does much, but encouragement does everything”. Personal relationships give people the push needed to come out of darkness. Church can be a good support system to garner these relationships however I believe it is the one-on-one intimate relationships people need to start viewing themselves as they really are. We just need to feel we are Okay.

    • Hi Sarah!

      Thanks for jumping in here. Your words are right on. And trust me when I say…I know about the grape situation from experience. Ugh! You emphasized the word “everyone,” and that made me SO uncomfortable, because it reminded me that there are so many people in my life who need the very encouragement and affirmation I’ve been talking about. The great thing about it is that you can never be “too good” at encouraging others. There is always room to improve.

      As for you, Sarah…you are a talented young woman. I am honored that you’ve joined the conversation here, and I truly hope you’ll do so again. Your perspective is invaluable. And…you have carrot cake.

      Pax Domini!

  3. Something goofed yesterday. I left a message with this reference, but I don’t see it anywhere. Anyhow, here it is again. It speeks to the maturity of the believer.(The KJV is what I remember best. This refernce is quite different in later translations.

    (KJV) Hebrews 5:11-14
    11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.

    12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

    13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

    14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

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