blessings for healing, seeing God

I’ve been wrestling with this beatitude for a couple of weeks now.

Because there are other things cluttering my mind and heart right now, and these words seem so irrelevant.

And yet, they aren’t.

I’m not sure how to put words to this burden. A bag of rocks? Or a kettle, boiling till it screams?

The words are still forming.

I hate having to speak while the words are still forming. When you have stifled and hushed your voice for years and is finally set free, it doesn’t always come out pretty. So you may want to buckle up.  Because my heart is burning to speak.

It’s been a week of attempting to speak my mind. Aloud. And not just on paper. Or in cyberspace.

And the strangest thing set it off.

* * * * *

I have to fight the urge to be reclusive. 

I love to be home with my family. I love to study. My favorite activities in all the world are reading, writing and reflecting. Inviting people in does not come naturally, and it takes very little to stifle a spark of hospitality.

I’ve been unfolding the reason why for a few years.

Appearance has something to do with it — I just couldn’t pretend all was well in my house when it wasn’t. Couldn’t pretend my husband and I got along when we didn’t.

And my house has never been the Pottery Barn showcase of my dreams. Again, appearance.

But home has also been a safety zone. A layer of protection for healing deep wounds.

I wrestle with how much of my reclusiveness is just personality and how much of it comes from wounds I need to let God heal. Either way, hiding and studying the Bible for hours and hours isn’t at all what Jesus called me to. In fact, He is calling me from it.

Suppose I have the gift of prophecy. Suppose I can understand all the secret things of God and know everything about him. And suppose I have enough faith to move mountains. If I don’t have love, I am nothing at all. I Corinthians 13:2

God has healed so much. And I don’t care as much about appearance. My skin is a little tougher. I won’t crumble at careless remarks about my mismatched furniture, and I don’t often care who knows what about my family. I’m not trying to please anyone but God with how I raise my kids.

And I know that hours of studying the Bible and writing a blog or a book don’t mean anything if I can’t love the people around me. Love. Patience, kindness, humility. Not love in theory. Love in life. To love people, you might actually have to be around them once in a while. To have conflict with them sometimes.

Here is where I fall down, hard. The fact that I have a massive amount of Bible knowledge and doctrine in my head and yet struggle to get past myself and my insecurities to reach out to someone who needs love and attention keeps me humble. And that’s good. I need humble.

Which brings me back to what sparked conflict.

I try to steer clear of preachers who fill my head with more knowledge and less application.  So I don’t often listen to people who call themselves “the Bible Answerman” or have their names emblazoned on Study Bibles. I’ve had plenty of that. I need to be a do-er now, not a hear-er.

But I was in the car, headed to a meeting at an unusual time, and happened to catch a speaker I never listen to teachan entire lesson on John Calvin. He went on and on about Calvin’s faultfinding with the Church. And how Calvin wrote volumes and volumes of his opinions. Opinions borne out of reclusive study — a lifestyle which this preacher praised.

The preacher talked about Geneva at the time Calvin lived and mentioned prostitutes and how well their business was regulated: prostitutes had licenses and men were allowed a wife and “only” one mistress.

And then this preacher/author/leader made a joke. “Geneva’s regulated prostitution must have been where Calvin got the doctrine that ‘all things should be done decently and in order’.” And I wanted to vomit.

Because I’d just seen this video about organized prostitution rings. And I could not imagine how a man of God could make such a disgusting joke if he was at all acquainted with the very real and present sufferings of millions of women and children.

As the week unfolded, there was more. So much more. Church sex abuse cases: Calvary Chapel, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas,  piled onto two years of my sister’s fight against abuse victims being silenced in the name of Jesus from our own childhood.

And in the midst of all of this scandal and pain, true to the form, the leader of my alma mater has chosen to stir up the his followers against the Catholic Churchwhose leader he calls the Anti-Christ, a sentiment written down for posterity (I learned from this other preacher’s broadcast) by John Calvin himself.

Friends. If this isn’t a picture of the day Jesus stepped into, I don’t know what is. 

Washing the outside of the cup. So concerned about jots and tittles while children in their churches suffer at the hands of abusers.

And here it is. The irony to me. The throwing of scripture spears at a church that reverences their leader when, hear this, these learned men of church history and today are so very right that millions of people bow to these men’s interpretations of Scripture.

I’ve heard it with my own ears: “If she were under [said preacher’s] teaching, she would have known better.”  Because,in the eyes of a massive number of his followers, this preacher has a corner on the market of Truth.

We’ve elevated right so far above love that even at massive gatherings of preachers the terrible plight of millions of suffering women and children is not a priority on the agenda — but the wrongness of another church’s doctrine is?

My heart breaks.

And I come back to Jesus. And He says at this point in my journey through the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Not blessed are the separatists. Not blessed are those who do great things and say right things and are heard and followed.

It’s not rightness. The Teachers of the Law were right.

Jesus was talking about the heart of purity.

About serving God with no thought of self. With no platform. Caring for widows, orphans, the abused, addicts, homeless and lepers in their distress. 

Do you know who I see?

I see a tiny little woman in a the pit of Calcutta, taking Living Water to the untouchables the world has cast aside.

No thought of theological superiority. No appearance of purity dressed in a three piece suit that we find out later used Bible study as a means for selfish pleasure that would destroy children’s lives.

No. Just actually doing what Jesus would do.

I see a woman a very “right” preacher has consigned to hell along with her Church.*

And I can’t help thinking we’ve gotten so much wrong. And by we, I mean us “right” people. The ones who’ve studied and parsed and dissected. He wants us to look up from our books and sermon notes.

“Lord, when did we see you?”

Now, famous theologians and preachers! You see Him right now.

Now in the faces of the children who need you to enforce child protection policies in your church. Now in faces of women and men in your pews who have suffered a degradation you will never understand but make jokes about. Right now in the faces of  men and women whose abuse you covered for the “reputation” of a ministry and forced forgive their abuser face to face.

Do you not hear Jesus calling you out of your commentaries, Lexicons, and theological journals and conferences?

I do.

He is calling me out of the comfort of my books, my journals, my couch and my coffee.

And this is my first step.

Jesus never told the Pharisees they were wrong. This is a word  I read about the woman taken in adultery that I’ve not been able to shake from my head. But something was wrong. Because He called them whitewashed sepulchres full of dead men’s bones.

When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.
It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed. 

You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing.
Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.
Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little
child, you receive me.

There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.

I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.

― Mother Teresa

Blessed are the pure in heart. For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

* * * * *

*Just in case it isn’t clear, I do not at all subscribe to the sweeping statements of Catholicism being a road to hell. There are true believers and there are “workers of iniquity” anywhere. And no church is immune to wolves in sheep’s clothing. But God does the sifting. Not man. And that’s for my next post.

10 thoughts on “blessings for healing, seeing God

  1. Thanks for this, Deb. Such truth and so beautifully stated. All the rightness in the world won’t change the fact that without love a preacher–and any of the rest of us too–is just a clanging gong.

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  2. Great words! I am continually perplexed at this whole effort to sit around and be right rather than pursuing what’s right. Too often we seem to forget the “obey” part of “hear and obey”. And I’m just broken over all these abuse scandals — it’s terrible enough that abuse happened, but even more terrible what happened and continues to happen next. I am so very sorry for all you and your sister have been through.

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    1. Thank you, Ramona. I have only been in and out of this fight — it’s so overwhelming. My sister, Tamara, and friend, Diana, have been fighting for two years, and I know there are so many who have been fighting apathy toward sexual abuse and standing up for victims every day for most of their lives. They need reinforcements. Maybe the recent cases that have come forward across denominations are a wake up call.

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  3. All I can say is the man who made such an insensitive remark cannot be a “true” man of God! Individuals who “truly” follow God and Christ would never make such a remark. And I also agree NO CHURCH is IMMUNE!!! Thank you for sharing and many, many blessings to you…Robin

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    1. Thank you, Robin. Honestly, I think the remark about prostitution was probably simply careless — which doesn’t make it any less troubling to me. It’s just not appropriate in any way. But we all say things we wish we hadn’t and that are unsuitable for Christians (Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing, my friend, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:10). In fact, I’ve been convicted all day about something I said last night that was really ungenerous and unforgiving to someone I hardly knew, and I need to ask forgiveness. Unfortunately, if you are recorded speaking this way, it’s hard to shake these things. “Teachers incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

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  4. Thank you for writing this Deb. You really brought to life 1 Corinthians passage on love for me. I think it can be easy to hide behind studying because of fear or to make sure we’re doing it “right” when God asks us to be obedient. At least that can be true for me at times. What would happen if I’d listen and obey the Spirit’s leading more in my life? I think Jesus’ love would probably be witnessed more. I’m reminded of 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

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