Friday, September 5, 2014

P4E.258 Regrets Reprised

After reading my post, called SNAFU, Marcus Goodyear commented that he asked himself some tough questions:

1. What am I doing right now that I will look back on in the future and regret?
2. How can I be fully present with my family right now when they need me?
3. How can I not fall into the trap of making my family into just another idol that I worship and twist into an enemy?

Marcus liked my answer and I thought I'd turn it into the next installment of P4E:

Well, I don't know what you are doing that you'll regret later, but I know what I regret now (in no particular order):

- Putting those blinders on and focusing the majority of my energy into my work.

- Not listening to (and acting on) the "help" that God gave me (my wife) when it came to relationship issues. She is still the "expert" especially when compared to my feeble relationship abilities.

- Not understanding (and therefore screwing up) how becoming a "Christian" was supposed to change the way I think, act and talk.

- Holding "deep convictions" that I believed were based in my "Belief" and expressing those in a way that was detrimental to relationships with those close to me.

- Not asking questions of my wife and others who could have helped me avoid disaster.

- That by not asking questions, I did not remain teachable and therefore became arrogant and stayed ignorant. These characteristics squelched creativity and hindered growth in understanding and wisdom.

- Not establishing reasonable boundaries between my family of origin and my wife and children.

- Not taking a more active role as a husband and father in the spiritual development of my self, my wife and my children.

- That I have been a hypocrite, in the "whitewashed tomb" sense of the word. I was one person in public and another at home or with those who were close to me.

- Being exposed to and becoming a consumer of pornography.

- Not believing that I could exercise some self-discipline in my life and therefore being un-disciplined in much of it.

- Being a proud, explosively angry, impatient and frustrated man.

- Making decisions without being "one" with my wife.

- Not understanding the differences between men and women and how they are meant to glorify God.

- Not valuing my emotions or the emotions of others so that I became spiritually and emotionally dead.

- Not handling my finances in such a way that my sons could see a positive, balanced example of what that should look like.

And that's just to name a few! I know that I've heard other men express some of the same regrets.

As far as making your family an idol, I don't think that's something that most of us men have to worry too much about. Especially as time goes by it will be much more likely that you will have to worry about the other extreme of taking them for granted, having unrealistic expectations of them, being disappointed in their performance, spending less and less time with them, disregarding them and generally being un-Christlike towards them.

Of course, the antidote to all of this is the pursuit of Christlikeness. All of our future regrets could be avoided by purposing to be fully present for our families right now by being sensitive, gentle, kind, humble, peaceful, self-sacrificing, patient, faithful, generous, spirit-filled and disciplined (among other Christlike characteristics).

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

P4E.257 Push Back

I think it’s about time that credible Christian leaders speak up in response to a trend that has been going on in Christianity for a while. I don’t claim to be a leader, but I’m willing to start. The Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill scandal is the most recent evidence of the trend that I want to discuss. 

We Christian men have been led down a very wrong path by those who would like to see us “mainstreamed” into the counter-culture.  We have been told that we should be “wild at heart,” that we should be “purpose driven,” and that we should resist being “pussified.” 

Some Christian leaders have, knowingly or not, encouraged their men to embrace their inner man, to be passionate, to be a better male specimen. This is evidenced by an encouragement towards outdoor adventure experiences, martial arts, and all sorts of ministries whose goal appears to be self-help into “manliness.” The people who are promoting this sect have, in an effort to justify their perspective, lionized Christ, making him out to be bold and passionate; purpose driven and wild at heart; a man’s man; a super man.

All of this testosterone driven encouragement has caused Christian men, in an already arguably misogynistic Christian culture, to flaunt their maleness. I can’t speak to other countries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a uniquely American phenomenon. Christian men are following their leaders and male role models. They’re swearing and cursing. Otherwise, they are increasingly non-verbal and stoic. They are very interested in personal success, financial and otherwise. Christian men no longer have any qualms about embracing the sports, music, fashion, and entertainment industries’ violent, misogynistic, sex-driven view of the world. Following professional sports has become a completely acceptable outlet for Christian men to embrace violence. So-called “Christian music” aspires to be indistinguishable from secular music in its bombast and men love it.

The passionate pursuit of living a life that is larger than life is encouraged. A life that social media allows us to display so that we can encourage others to do the same. Social media also allows us to receive praise for our very visible efforts. Many church sanctuaries have become like man-caves, with large screen tvs and loud music. A lot of chest-beating is going on in there. A lot of money is exchanging hands.

It is typically male that we would be insensitive to the fact that when we promote the advantages of being male we reciprocally demean women and their role in Christianity.

All of this would seem to be at odds with Christ and the IDEA of Christ. For Christ, to become a man was an unfathomable step DOWN. He did not encourage us to embrace and escalate our maleness, but to kill it so that it could be born again in the Spirit. He did not pursue fame and fortune so that He could beat His chest, point Heavenward, and take a knee to give glory to God. Many times He fled the crowds that pursued Him to gain solitude and quiet in which to meditate and pray. He was a poor, humble, carpenter who was described as meek and lowly. He would perform miracles and warn the person He’d healed not to tell anyone. He was not a man of violence, but was rather called the “Prince of Peace.”

 You can find no direction from Christ to pursue excellence. Instead, He encouraged us to, no insisted that, we become like children: innocent, vulnerable, and unassuming, without malice or meanness or hidden agenda. He was counter-cultural in the true sense of the word, not to be perceived as trendy. 

The main problem with the sect that wants Christian men to live large is the emphasis on self. Christianity is not a “self-help” program. Christ did not look to further Himself. Instead, His thoughts and actions were always directed at bettering the conditions of others around Him. 

The other big problem with the manliness sub-culture is the emphasis on this physical existence; this flesh and this world. But, Christ encouraged us to pursue a spiritual well-being, not a physical well-being. That spiritual well-being is furthered by one-to-one encounter with God who is Spirit. 

Few of the fruit of the spirit found in the Book of Galatians would be what we consider to be natural male attributes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. May I presume to say that they are more inclined to be attributed to the fairer sex? And so, if to be “pussified” means that I pursue the fruit of the spirit in my life, then by all means, let me be “pussified.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

P4E.256 A Suggestion Regarding DOMA

A suggestion to my fellow Christians: Instead of bemoaning the Supreme Court's ruling on the DOMA, let's take this opportunity to do some self-examination. If we truly believe in the sanctity of marriage, that it is sacred, that it is forever, and that it is a vital institution in our cuture, then let's please begin to treat our own marriages as such.

Statistics bear out that marriages among "Christians" are failing at a rate higher than that of the "secular" world. Why should that be? If Christians are out there trying to define what marriage is, shouldn't their marriages be successful on many levels? If we are moving to deny people the right to marry, shouldn't we do so from some sort of higher moral ground? It doesn't exist at this time. I especially call out Christian men/husbands on this issue, because in the "Christian" culture the husband is/should be a spiritual leader and responsible for the state of his marriage. And please don't try to tell me there's nothing you could do to make your marriage better. Make sure and ask your wife.

Christ warned us not to judge. He encouraged us to forgive. We must be careful not to misrepresent Him. Let's take some time to examine the state of our own marriages and make sure we are doing everything we can to be above reproach. Peace.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

P4E.255 An Alternate Response to Ivy

Here is an alternate response to Ivy, the woman who's husband cheated on her and to whom Pat Robertson gave such terrible counsel:

"Ivy, I can't even begin to imagine the hurt, pain and anger that you've experienced because of your husband's infidelity. You have every right to be angry! I'm ANGRY! God's angry! There's no timetable for overcoming anger! I'm guessing that your marriage has been hurting for some years, so it may take some years for it to heal. And, the fact is, you may never forgive or overcome your anger. It truly depends on how Christlike your husband can be.

Unlike what Pat Robertson told you, Christianity holds its men to a higher standard than "he's a man and that's what men do." Christ expects His men to overcome their fleshly nature, to flee immorality and to remain faithful to their wives. Your husband did not and he is less of a man because of it. Even non-believers expect their relationships to be faithful!

The conservatives among us love to point out that actions have consequences. Your husband's infidelity has resulted in an angry and unforgiving wife. Freudian psychology supposes that one person cannot make another person feel anything. It says that we choose to feel how we feel. But, we know anecdotally that this is not true. Actions and words have consequences. Your spirit feels hurt because you have been betrayed. That is normal. That is human.

You must know that there is nothing you did or didn't do to "cause" your husband to be unfaithful. He CHOSE to commit adultery. And, we all know that Scripture indicates that if there's one act that gives a person just cause to divorce their spouse, it's adultery. Also, Scripture says that adulterers will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So, your husband has some hearts to change. His own and yours.

Unlike what Pat Robertson told you, you are under no obligation to see the bright side of your life after your husband's infidelity. There is no bright side to it. The burden is not on you to make things better or to change your attitude. That burden lies squarely on your husband's shoulders. Either he will make that effort or he will not.

The shame of it is that your husband did not write asking for help in how he could help you overcome your anger and unforgiveness. In a way, you are a mirror for your husband's spiritual condition. If he worked hard, very hard, at showing you on a daily basis how sorry he is for his infidelity, how re-committed he is to your relationship and to his relationship with God, how committed he is to NEVER putting himself in a compromised position again, then you might start to feel different. But, if he is not doing these things, how will your spirit change? His spirit must change for your spirit to change.

Your feelings of unforgiveness and anger are a reflection of your true spiritual state. The feelings will not change until your spirit changes. As a spiritual leader (in the worst sense), your husband led you to this place and, if he is a man who has any character left, he can lead you away from this place too. Unfortunately, it's up to him. He affected your spirit in a bad way and he can affect it in a good way. But, it's going to take a lot of work on his part.

The Christian culture insists that we "forgive and forget." But, even though God may have forgiven David his sins, He did not forget them. God made sure that David's story was documented in Scripture for all future generations to remember. David suffered severe consequences because of his adultery and murder. His son committed rape and incest and sought to kill David.

Finally, know this: God hates divorce, but He did not forbid it. In fact, He forbade adultery in the seventh of the ten commandments. And when the Scriptures say that God hates divorce, He is speaking specifically to men, telling them not to treat their wives treacherously. He is obviously making men responsible for the state of their marriages. If your husband remains unfaithful in his heart and his spirit, if he is not apologetic, re-committed and repentant, even Scripture would allow you to divorce him. And you should.

My heart goes out to you and we can only hope that your husband will take on the responsibility of recovering what he lost because of his infidelity. If he doesn't then you have the choice to leave him. Only by one of those two things will you have a chance of being truly spiritually healed. God Bless."