What is going on Lord? Help me in my distress.
I am sure if you are a student of the Bible, you remember similar words, most notably the words of Job and the words of David in the Psalms. Many of these verses have been quoted and repeated as pleas for help from people who are in desperate situations. I have echoed these words myself, many times. Oh, I am a man of faith, and my faith is rooted in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and to be a person of faith is not to deny your emotions or your pain, but to acknowledge them to the One who has a great love and compassion for us. He more than understands. He identifies and comes alongside.
The pain has increased and it has prolonged
Since the biopsy Friday, the pain I feel physically in my body has increased, and not diminished. I have had a few moments of respite and that is usually when I am sleeping. Getting to that state of sleep can even be trying. I have prayed and cried myself to sleep. The pain yesterday increased in the late afternoon into the evening until I went to bed, and it awoke me again at 3 AM. I have been up since that time.
A revelation maybe just for me, maybe not
God is always speaking and revealing Himself to others, and the only real issue is whether those on the receiving end are paying attention. You know what I am talking about. You have been in conversations where people are talking, and another speaks, and the others tune out the new speaker as if they are not even present. I have to confess that I have done this myself to others who have constantly been rude and did not respect the conversation already going on. It is not a nice thing to experience, but it does happen. I believe God is constantly speaking to us and revealing His heart to us. But many of us are just choosing to not pay attention.
This journey which I have been on, dealing now with the chronic pain associated with the biopsy, has been a journey of discovery. Here are some of the things I have been discovering along the way.
Heart issues and the wounds caused by others simply do not go away
There is an old axiom which I am sure you know, “forgive and forget”, and it is just never that simple. You remember, and if you actually forget, your body can remind you. Injuries caused by others which damage or destroy relationships, cause trauma to the body and soul. Just as an injury caused by a car accident, or a fall, or a serious sickness, these all cause trauma to our bodies. Undealt with traumas if left unattended and prolonged, will often cause more serious health issues, from depression all the way to serious physical medical concerns. So it is never so easy as “forgive and forget”.
I was raised a Pentecostal Evangelical. I grew up a missionary/pastor’s kid. I married a pastor’s daughter. We kind of kept things in “the family” you might say. How you are raised, that reality becomes your “normal”. Pentecostal clergy by and large in the 1950’s to the 1980’s, moved around every two to three years. They never seemed to stay long in any one place. Other pastor’s families that I knew, whether they were Evangelical or Mainline Church, also moved around between every three to five years. It was told then, that next to the military, pastoral ministry families move around more than any other social group in the country. By the time I was 25 years old (the age of when I got married), I had moved 34 times. Yep, 34 times. Several times it was two or three times in one year. Not exactly a stable upbringing. But, oh, we were all “serving the Lord”, as we kids were always told. I remember at age nine asking my dad why he could not have a “normal” job and work in an office, be a butcher, or a carpenter. He literally smiled as he looked at me, and patted my head. Never said a word. That impression remains to this very day.
I believe that this constant moving around contributed to us kids and my parents never getting close emotionally with anyone, not anyone in the congregation or outside the congregation. Oh there were those surface relationships with people, knowing who they are and what they do and what they like and their aspirations, but nothing emotionally close at all. It was the secret code. “You don’t get close, and you don’t tell people what goes on at home. They just don’t understand the ministry life. Besides, we don’t want to get close, just in case we have to move.” This was both said aloud and reinforced over and over from town to town. It was our mantra. “Be friendly, be fair, be kind, but don’t become familiar.”
My family was emotionally crippled and passed it on to me
My family of origin was emotionally crippled. When you are growing up, you know something is not quite right, but you cannot put your finger on it, and you just go along with your “normal” every day world and cope as best you can. It only hits you as you age and mature, and spend quality time with other people, and then you compare your “sense of normality” with their own sense of what “normal” is. It can totally shock your emotional system and capacity to comprehend. You can blow your emotional gasket and lose your bearings in a hurry, especially if you were raised in a very controlling environment, which I was. My sense of normal got shattered for good in my mid-teens and I am thankful to say, that I have never recovered and fight that recovery every opportunity I get. I have attempted to build a life of my own distinct from my upbringing, unlearning a lot of stuff that I had perceived as normal and learning new ways of being family and belonging, and learning to build trusting and open accountable relationships. I have refused to accept emotional crippling and have moved beyond it.
I have run into a lot of relational issues in the “church”, and people within the church carry their own sense of “normal dynamics” into the church community. Whatever is warring inside of you will manifest equally in the church community as it does in your own family. What is in your heart will come out. Like Jesus said, it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out. This is so true when it comes to relationships on a wide scale and in particular in the relationships we have within the body of Christ. It seems we can all get along when the relationships are “task oriented” but when it comes to just the “regular relating”, our internal heart issues can so easily entangle us and derail us from truly becoming “family and belonging” and experience “Christian community and intimacy.”
In the whole gamut of churches that Lori and I have visited and attended on a regular basis, it has been a challenge to get to know people. People are busy. You will know people at a surface level but rarely intimately. They are all friendly enough, but I have wanted more than just surface connection with people.
I have found within the church there is that unwritten code in the church system, where people in leadership are rarely close with most of the people in the congregation, and most of the congregation would see close relationships as getting in the way of the work of the church. They have accepted as normal, this artificial separation that has existed for 1700 years, between “clergy and laity”, which is not biblical. There is always a tendency to treat leaders differently than anyone else and that is two ways, from the congregation and from the leadership. It is a beast I continue to wrestle with.
Even when I planted house churches for 14 years, there were a lot of people with unreal expectations that were guaranteed to have them be unmet. There were also those who demanded the relational house church have the same distinctions and separations that had existed in their previous traditional church context. Both were equally a problem and a constant challenge. Reinforcing over and over the importance of functional relationship that produced caring and loving bonds of community and belonging was always a challenge. For some it wasn’t religious enough and for others it wasn’t free enough. When I taught the concepts, I would use the analogy of regular family and belonging, which is always a risky proposition, because it reveals your particular quirks of what family life is. I would often compare it to how extended family comes together, and everyone brings their own contribution to the whole. They are serve each other and honor and prefer one another and work for the greater good of all. All are given opportunity to share and contribute, be that in the food and fellowship, or in the actual meeting that takes place. Each are encouraged to participate without dominating. When that kind of thing was brought into the foray it seemed to settle people down and bring Spirit led order out of what can appear to be “organized chaos”.
When you have a sense of calling upon your life, you want to serve God through serving others
I know that from a young age I wanted to serve God and for my frame of reference that included having to have a Bible College education to serve people in the church and advance the Kingdom of God. It meant being comfortable around people and serving people, building them up, teaching and exhorting, and being there for them as they went through the passages of life. That has always been a part of my framework and understanding, although it has been refined and renewed since I embraced simple relational New Testament house churches as a form of Christian community and mission.
In a house church, you can’t hide
In every house church we planted, Lori and I served and cared for people. We planted house churches in our own home and the homes of others, mentored the simple church relationship dynamics and released couples to facilitate and servant lead fellowships in their home. Lori and I effectively became “house church relational coaches”.
In a simple house church there is nowhere for you to hide. You are usually in a main living room/kitchen or rec room. You hang out and share a meal together, have a time of worship, prayer and intercession, practice the spiritual gifts under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Everyone is encouraged to bring something to share, a word, a song, a testimony (1 Cor. 14:26) and the emphasis of the whole gathering is to build up and encourage and strengthen. People’s internal junk (heart issues) and their personalities can often take over if not bridled and controlled, and it can become explosive when there are disagreements. I found that almost all gatherings were NEVER like this. I can only remember ONE such explosive encounter in 14 years of house church.
What affects every church, large, traditional, or small or house church, is our own heart junk
We bring our own emotional heart issues to the table of every expression of church we engage in. So what is going on inside your heart is going to affect the relational dynamics of the church as it seeks to be community and minister to the needs of other people. We can often hide or mask our internal stuff, but it will manifest, especially so when we have our own internal triggers that prick our hearts and creates reactionary responses to situations. Many of these occur after the fact and behind closed doors, long after the church gathering has taken place. All those sins the New Testament speaks of about how we relate with people and how we treat others become exposed as we allow personal slights and hurts to provoke us to hurt back people who hurt us. Hurt people hurt people. It continues a cycle of hurt, pain and rejection. Instead of being a redemptive and restorative community, churches can become a cesspool of poison and destruction. And it’s all because of the heart issues that are unresolved in people’s hearts.
Heart issues are not native to the Church, and there is more than enough heart junk out in the world to reveal the horrible impact of sin to the relational lives of people
I know I have spent time here speaking of the church at large and the relationship issues that affect people in the church, but the world is without excuse. Look about yourself in the work place, in recreation, in other social agencies and organizations, community groups, and you will find the common bond in all of these are people. People. Let that sink in. Wherever you have people, no matter how good or noble the reason or cause, you have human problems, problems in relationships and inter-personal conflict. It is all a part of the “fallen human condition”. It is all part of the package of being a human being. Part of the challenge in our common humanity, is to keep working hard to improve ourselves as people, and in how we deal with and relate with and work with other people. That is both a personal and a corporate responsibility. An organized society, is organized and develops processes that includes laws and principles of relating and holding others to account, so that common goals can be worked on and achieved for the common good of all. So, all this, is not an exclusive issue to the Church.
I have said all this, just to get to this point: heart issues can lead to emotional and physical sickness
I have written quite a bit here, and it was not expected to be this long, but it is to make a point. Our emotional make up which includes all of our emotional and physical trauma, can lead to great health concerns and sickness, if left unchecked, and left untreated. You can fester in your pain and in your sorrow and all the rejection that you have suffered at the hands of other people, or you can decide to deal with your own hot button issues that were provoked and injured, and get the healing, deliverance and restoration that you need, to put your life back together, and improve your health and wellbeing. The choice is up to you, just as it is to me.
So here I was on Saturday night at a church gathering for a celebration of worship…
Lori and had a busy day Saturday, but we made room to get together with others at the fellowship and celebrate the Lord together with a couple hours of intimacy with the Lord, corporate worship, Scripture readings, exhortations, prophetic words and visions, and to pray for one another. I always like these kinds of gatherings and emotionally I was in the headspace where I really wanted to connect with God and be among other believers who wanted the same thing. So Lori and I went.
It was pretty emotional from the get go. I had the energy to sing which I did. I took pictures and enjoyed just being there with everyone. I had the Lord engage with me at a deep level. Previously Lori and I had talked about this journey with this growth and the physical trauma that had resulted in this growth on my right breast. Lori said that this could be an outcome of unresolved trauma. I tended to agree with her and I believe that there is some kind of spiritual and physical connection between the two. They are not isolated.
What is inside eventually comes out. What if my life is a metaphor not only for me but for others?
When the surgeon cut me open, it only took days for a growth to begin to come out of the open wound. During the worship time Saturday evening, I had the distinct impression from the Lord that my physical problem had emotional spiritual relational roots to my past. My body could not take it anymore and it was screaming for help and this growth is not my enemy but my friend. It is asking for attention, from me and from those who are overseeing my care. But to treat the physical apart from the spiritual would seriously undermine what I believe God is doing in me right now.
I went through a lot of hurt in 2012 and 2013, but the roots go way back
My spiritual hurts go way back to how I was raised and a lot of my adult church issues have to do with compounded rejection that I have suffered at the hands of others. Being a first born and being wired to be a people pleaser, I am a sucker for serving people. There is a genuineness to serve others, and it can become mixed in with a dysfunctional first born compulsion to please others in authority or a desire to receive worth and affirmation through doing and performing for others.
During our time in different churches, both traditional and house church, Lori and I were very involved. We could not sit by and coast. We wanted to participate. I ran small groups, and even set up small groups ministries in various churches. I taught and I preached. I got ordained. Lori got ordained as well. We were gifted in the charismatic gifts and were very prophetic and experienced healing ministry through the laying on of hands and praying for others. So we experienced a great deal and we loved serving the wider body of Christ and organized workshops, seminars and conferences. We carried much the same within the house church movement and really went out of our way to help, mentor and equip people. We were constantly giving of ourselves to others without hesitation. We really loved serving people.
Over time there was not all that much reciprocation from other churches, ministries and people. People within our own house churches that we had established, helped birth and release, rebelled against us, not even wanting to have us around. People bad mouthed us and there was a lot of rejection and pain. Even my attempts to understand and have dialog became opportunities for others to pick on Lori and I and attack us. These were our Christian brothers and sisters and they were brutal. Absolutely brutal. We chose to forgive them and I have no ill will to those who hurt us, but most of them, I am aloof and distant by choice, and I refuse to be anyone’s door mat. I have been burned more than once or twice by some of these people, and I am completely distant as a result. I refuse to speak ill will against anyone. I become quiet, and if they are present in a circle or part of a conversation, I usually wait a bit to see if it changes, and if it doesn’t I make an excuse to leave. I don’t need to be provoked or give others an opportunity to injure again. Am I guarded? Yes. Do I still have deep seeded wounds? I don’t think so. I keep a pretty clean slate with God and I know if I am suffering a twinge inside because of an unresolved hot button issue. I usually deal with it pretty quick. But I know full well that I am commanded to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I do. But, I am not ever commanded to like them. So if there is an issue between us and it has not been dealt with, I will try, and if it cannot be dealt with, I walk away. Pretty simple and pretty healthy.
One of the results of spiritual abuse and rejection is to ditch the whole deal
Being a charismatic I have found that there have been many, many, many, many thousands of charismatics who have been abused by other Christians. Oh, did I mention, there are many thousands who have been abused by other Christians? One of the results in the journey to healing is that you drop out of what you were previously doing and you even stop “ministry” of any kind for anyone. You just cease to function until God heals you up inside. Back in 2013, in March we had our last house church implode in our own living room. We had people refuse to deal with personal issues, especially heart issues and when challenged in an open forum, they chose to simply blow up in anger as they were not getting their own way, some people in the room bad mouthed other people, and walked out of our home and out of our lives. We only saw some of them again about a year later when one couple who had remained connected to us had asked me to officiate the funeral of a relative. Some of the people from the house church who had abruptly left showed up to pay their respects, but it was a cold and distant connection. When the house church imploded, we went from over a dozen people down to four. All four of us were devastated. Lori and I reached that point of no return. We were done. People who love God and just turn on other Christians are a contradiction to what it is to be a Christian. We were done.
Being done meant done with everything
So being done was a done deal. I still felt called of God, but I felt less than good about the state of the body of Christ, and even less about churches that claimed to be loving and gracious. I was very suspicious about those churches. Our own sense was to drop out of everything including ministerial associations, and we functionally stopped everything. We did not pray for people. We did not minister in any way. We did not prophesy, we did not pray for healing. The only time we ministered to people was in our own intimate family circle, and extended family and a few select friends that we loved and trusted. That was it. I got my first impression of what that inter-testamental period of 400 years of silence must have felt like between Malachi and Matthew. We had silence. And quite frankly we were comfortable in the silence.
Visiting and never connecting and never desiring to
We visited again countless local churches and quite frankly they were a bore. I am convinced even now that the reason people stay away from church is that churches have become a dull bore. Church is more than a meeting. It is a gathering of people who hunger for God and seek to experience God and share life together. Within churches we attended we found a few we frequented more than four or five Sundays and I even attended a men’s retreat. But they really did not seem to understand the need for intimacy and belonging and how God ministers to others through you having intimacy with Him. It is when there is a vibrant union between you and God that God uses you to impact others for the sake of His Kingdom. The inflow creates the outflow, and it is all about relationship, belonging and community. None of that and all you have is religious performance out of a sense of duty and obligation. So Lori and I never really connected and quite frankly I did not want to. I was at peace with God that if it was just Lori and I and God, that was more than enough.
Strip away everything, and at the end of the day all you have left is Jesus, is He enough for you?
So here I was Saturday, and the Lord downloads on me that this issue I am dealing with is rooted in issues of the heart and intimacy. It made sense almost immediately. Lori had mentioned this to me previously that it was interesting that I was having this growth on my right breast. Breasts are beautiful and have a purpose, to nurture and to feed infants. Even God has a wonderful Old Testament name that conjures up images of intimacy, nurture, love and nourishment, and that is the name “the many breasted one” which is found in its more commonly expressed anglicized El Shaddai. When you think of El Shaddai, you are speaking of the intimate God.
So I was there sitting there getting pretty emotional with God over what was happening in my heart. The Lord brought to remembrance how I had started to minister to particular people since last spring. Two wonderful brothers in the Lord to me and very precious friends came to mind at separate times over a span of about six weeks. I gave two prophetic words to each of them at that time. It had felt so good and so freeing to be able to just say yes to God and write down what He was showing me. So here I was and the Lord was saying that “It is time”, which was an echo of two weeks before when Brad, one of the leadership team at the church, spoke that over me during a Sunday gathering. Here it was again, the Lord telling me the same thing directly. I shook and I cried.
Could it be that my life is a metaphor about the lack of true intimacy in the body of Christ?
I really felt that night, Saturday night that God has everything covered. It is just very difficult for you to go through the gamut of emotions and all the pain associated with it when you don’t know if your growth is cancerous or benign (results to be known Friday). I also really felt that this is a season of change and direction for Lori and I and that that prophetic word spoken over Lori and I at Breslau, through Harold Chamberlain, that would impact Waterloo Region, will come to full fruition. I really believe that something substantial is about to happen in us and through us. Even last spring, my good friend Walter Head met with me and kept encouraging me about the call of God on my life. It was refreshing to hear from someone who has had his own weary battle in dealing with the call of God on his life and all the obstacles he has had to overcome, and here he was ministering to me, loving on me, showing me grace and blessing me beyond measure. It was the first time, last spring that I felt that something was about to happen and that God was already at work. Yes He was, He was working on my heart, and this momentary affliction is just a manifestation of something the Lord is going to be dealing with in the larger body of Christ.
We cannot cut off ourselves from others, we need connection and authentic community and partnership in the Kingdom – but it starts with relationship without agenda
I believe the Lord gave me a revelation about the need for intimacy with Him, for me and for others. Everything starts with love. When we are touched by divine love, it changes everything. It is keeping that love flame burning that becomes an issue for us. The affairs of life and the challenges we face can cause our flame to flicker and dim over time and in seasons. We need to protect the flame of love that burns in our hearts. We cannot let the actions and behaviours of others to dim or attempt to extinguish our flame. We cannot! Lord light the fire again! In me and in those who read these words!
The Lord showed me that as we deal with our heart issues, and especially those who have wounded and rejected us, He will move in healing and restoration in our midst. There are many broken and fractured church families that have been carrying their wounds and people who have been hurt continue to hurt others even when they don’t intend to do so. God is coming in a move to heal and restore, but it is up to each one of us, to seek His heart and to let Him heal our own hearts and our own hurts, and as He does, He will turn us into a “band of wounded healers” who go about healing in Jesus love and in His name, releasing grace and restoration wherever we go.
That Saturday evening I spoke up at the end and shared this with the people. I read from John 6 and the passage where Jesus said He is the real bread and the real wine, and He said that we are eat Him and drink Him and be nourished by Him. Jesus was echoing again that imagery of nourishment that a mother gives a child through breast feeding, that same image that El Shaddai gives about the Father and His love and nourishment for those who are called by His name. I called on those present to seek the Lord and grow in deeper intimacy with Him. They in turn all gathered around me, laid hands on me, and prayed over my life. They spoke words of life over me. They prophesied over me. I wept. I felt like I was standing under a waterfall of love, become saturated in the love and grace of God through the love and ministry of these dear people. They just kept loving on me. It was one incredible evening of celebrating Jesus and being His instruments to minister life to others.
NOTE: This was from the Saturday evening worship celebration.
These people demonstrated what is sorely needed – body life and ministry
What is needed in the body of Christ is a renewed intimacy to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. These people all ministered Christ to me in a tangible way. But these same people have also expressed love and affection to me in tangible ways. This congregation has gone through more than enough pain and sorrow over the years, and they have learned to walk in brokenness and in love, accepting and loving people, and trusting God to build and strengthen the Church through the wholesome restoration and healing of people and their relationships. They have modeled this in my life. I believe for the Church to have an impact in the region and our nation, there is a crucial need to “reacquire the fire of God’s love” and to deal with heart issues personally and collectively, right across personal, corporate, and denominational lines. Until we let go of past hurts and get healing, we will never become a shining endorsement of the words of Jesus to the first apostles, where He said, “You will be known by the love you have for one another.”
Maybe the reason for all the spiritual and physical sickness in the body of Christ is simply for that reason, the Church is lacking a true manifestation of the love of God and a love for one another. Imagine the Church, and imagine the world, if the Church could get that one thing Jesus taught right, really get it right. Too many Christians with too many judgments who need to examine their own hearts and need to be healed up by the Great Physician. Too many church bodies with walking wounded who keep on wounding each other. There are lots of programs and meetings going on, but there is a lack of true unity in the Body of Christ, and across denominational lines. There is much in the way of partnership in ministry but there is a lack of authentic brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to stop walking on egg shells, acknowledge our own issues and needs, and repent and ask forgiveness for the wounding we have caused others. When God comes with the healing salve He will do a great work, but we need to first acknowledge our own desperate need and deal with our own hearts. It is time for the fruit of repentance to manifest in love and forgiveness. You need it. I need it. We all need it. Lord Jesus come and heal your Bride. Amen and amen.