June 5, 2020

Thoughts After Doing the Math

I’m not very good at math, and I’m worse at being a Jesus follower, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

I starting doing some personal math this morning as I started my day, and I made a discovery.

I could no longer deny that a lot of things add up in my life; they add up to an area where sin has taken a deep root.

The last few months, I keep bumping into the same kind of feedback in my immediate environment from people who know me and observe me. When I first heard it, I was angry and defensive. I should know right away that defensive is a signal all is not well.

That feedback may not have been flawless, but I’m not convinced some of it is true.

A number of relationships changed, and I blamed the other persons. I’m not “unblaming” them entirely now, but I see something I didn’t see before.

I began to notice the interactions I had with other people, and I discerned some patterns. Not random patterns, but intentional patterns. There was something THERE that people were moving around; something that was playing a big role in those interactions. Something that was part of me.

I began to look at the places where my life was going well, and was surprised to find many areas where this kind of sin would be rewarded.

I looked at my ministry, and I saw that this sin serves me pragmatically and allows me to be an effective leader, especially in some aspects of my particular situation.

My personality isn’t always the clearest picture to me, but it became clearer. The established patterns of my life began to show me a kind of person and a pattern of behavior, all held together by the sin that was being revealed to me.

I thought back on my life history, and considered where this sin began to be part of my life and why; I traced its impact from the past to the present.

I began to understand the common thread that held together many separate strands in my life experience: I was protecting a pattern and preference for a sin that I believed defined my life.

Life in Jesus is a life of repentance, but I come from a tradition where sin is always behavior. Doing bad things. Sinning against the example of righteousness. The sins that arise from the components of our own personality- the acceptable, even valued ones- are much deeper to repent of. Some even applaud and reward certain patterns of sin.

How do you repent of what is making your life work?

How do you repent of what people expect you to do and be?

How do you repent of your self-image, your security and your identity?

How do you repent of sins that have grown essential to your being and life?

How do you repent of sins that the very repentance of them will cause you to lose support and encouragement?

When I do the math, when I put on the special glasses of Gospel realism, I see a disease and a man in denial. I see a sin addict in need of a group. I see a person whose engagement in sin and life in ministry are deeply entwined.

Christ forgives. Sin is defeated. We are part of the new creation. But my sin hasn’t left quietly. It’s convinced me that without it, I’m too vulnerable to do without it.

Christ showed me these things. Jesus showed me because he wants to be my security, my identity, my everything. He does not beat me down over this situation, but invites me into repentance in love, kindness and compassion. The wounds of Jesus are to change this situation and to change me. But I need community, because this is a fearful revelation. I wonder what life would be like on the other side of a pattern of living that has become identical with being Michael Spencer.

But that’s the journey with Jesus. That’s the narrow path, the treasure in the field, the dying all day long. It’s the only place to go because he has the words of eternal life.

But I need a community. Maybe you do too.

Comments

  1. rampancy says

    But I need a community. Maybe you do too.

    What do we do when we are denied a community?

    I’ve come to the realization that the weight of my own deep rooted sin is something I can’t face alone, but there’s no one in my life who I feel I can trust, let alone understand.

    I’m not directing this at you, but I’ve heard other people talk to me about how community is so important in the Christian life, yet, among those same people I feel shunned and ignored.

  2. Wow. Powerful post. A lot of us would do well to reflect on these issues in our own lives. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for the insight, for the admission. We church of Christ members are great at “repenting of sin” but not so great at repenting of specific sins, especially publicly. If we want to be true first-century Christians, just like the ones Jesus taught and the apostles refined, God calls us to specific repentance and confession. Your post is a great reminder of that, as well as the need for community (affectionately referred to as Church in its purest sense). I cannot be a Jesus follower without repentance, nor can I expect others to see a reflection of Jesus in me without it. Praise Jehovah that you have seen whatever this sin is, and may He be glorified in your weakness, just as He was in Paul’s!

    Keep the posts (and repentance) coming Michael. True repentance can’t help but foster godly change!

  4. Michael,

    This may be too personal to post on the site… I’ll leave that up to you. Even so I’m willing to be a part of that community you need–someone who will listen and not judge, who will do what I can to help you through your struggles, without pretense or preconceived expectations–as much as I can from 2000 mi away.

    I, too, am going through a similar experience. Maybe we can help each other.

    –Justin (you should have my contact addy)

  5. Radagast says

    To look at it and examine it, from every angle and realize its there -powerful. To look to understand it and see how it has worked in your life – powerful.

    To have full expectation that even though you know its there you can fully eradicate it – lifelong struggle. I’ve gotten pretty good at looking at my sin. And when I am avoiding or denying it – look out -because I must be in a really bad way. It takes all my energy and the help of God to keep me focused on those things, in me, in my personality, that cause me to sin (and that’s when I am acknowledging that its there). I am always repeating humble, humble, humble – but rarely live up to it.

    Community and my good wife help to keep me in check. because when i stop listening to my wife, and think I know better than God, that same community can bring me back down to where I should be.

    Great sharing Michael – part of why I come here.

  6. I have found that when it comes to getting real personal, few fellow believers are available for the journey. Be it sin, grief or other personal challenges there are not many of us who can sense any comfort by being vulnerable with another brother even when our conservative evangelical mantra is that we CARE about others – another of the great paradoxes and hypocrasies of the Christian church in fellowship. The scripture that indicates that we shall, “Each bear our own burden,” is ever so true. My wife suffered a devestating stroke 4 years ago that totally and instantly changed both our lives and I lost my son, age 28 to cancer two years ago. There is not one of my Christian friends or acquaintances who will give me the time of day when it comes to finding time to help me carry the ongoing grief of these losses by simply being there to let me talk about it. One gets the sense that one is moving into taboo territory if I get even close to reflecting on these realities in a personal way.

  7. I too need a community, but I have never found it in any church, though I have tried. I needed a community when:
    -my father died, but the church ignored us
    -the pastor/priest was molesting my friends and cousins, but the church did nothing about it even though they knew what was happening
    -those friends and cousins grew up and some of them committed suicide and the others went through failed marriage after failed marriage
    -my baby died, but the church ignored us, except one person who brought an arrangement of dried (dead) flowers
    -the person most important to me in the world was very close to death in the hospital, but the church ignored us, including the pastor, who was too busy to come
    -I almost died, spent several days in intensive care, but the church ignored us

    If the church does not care about these kinds of things, why would we think they really care about anything about us or anyone else?

    I have found that they do care about:
    -getting me to give them money to pay for their buildings and other expenses
    -getting me to do volunteer work for them
    -having me cater their weddings for free
    -getting me to buy whatever they are selling, as a group or personally

    If you’re looking for community, put a map of your town on the wall. Throw a dart. Drive to that location. Drive around until you find the first bar. Go inside. Your chances of finding real community there are probably better than at any church in town, no matter how large your city.

    At least 99% of the time when the phone rings and it’s someone from church, they want something. They pretend they are friendly, like car salesmen do. But they all really just want something. That is not real community. I suspect that real community in churches is the stuff of urban legend, like the story about the woman who decided to dry off her cat in the microwave.

  8. Life in Jesus is a life of repentance, but I come from a tradition where sin is always behavior. Doing bad things. Sinning against the example of righteousness. The sins that arise from the components of our own personality- the acceptable, even valued ones- are much deeper to repent of. Some even applaud and reward certain patterns of sin.

    But what a grace you’ve received to see it! The next step is harder because to truly own it you have to confess it openly to others – not here per se – but before others you rely on for guidance. Then harder still is the war to kill it through grace. Blessings on you, Michael, and though our struggles may vary know that you’re not alone.

    Brad

  9. Bruce Meyer says

    This kind of insight shows you’re on the right track. It’s a gift from God.
    Sell all, I think, is the gospel advice here. Sell everything that you benefit from the sin thing, and embrace the weird and awkward way that Christ has opened before you.

    That’s how I personally try to answer the almost-rhetorical questions, e.g., how do I repent of what makes my life work?

    It’s a hard transition, but people who go this way say that it’s the real way.
    I’m trying to do it too.

  10. I like the whole looking back to go forward theme of the post. And the security of facing these issues in the context of community is gospel centered. I recently joined a Church that has a monastic emphasis where they are pretty intentional about talking about family of origin dysfunctional issues, and running it through a Gospel grid. Pretty scary at times I feel a lot freer afterwards and more self aware. I still got a ways to go though.

  11. My sin is manifold, and my desire for a community to actually help me is profound. I am/would be there with you.

  12. Great stuff. And I’m with rampancy. The community must have contain certain boundaries, and allow me to exercise my own. It must be a safe sort of a place, as safe as any place can be when people are involved. And yet, without wanting to be too negative, I don’t find that in explicitly Christian circles, at least ones that are formed with leaders and expectations.

    I like the community of the two or three gathered. That sounds good to me 🙂 I also like the local community of people – just people, not Christians or non-Christians.

    I hope you find what you need, Michael. Thanks for posting this vulnerability.

  13. ProdigalSarah says

    This one hits way too close to home.

    I do work for a woman who actively promotes a prosperity teaching through seminars and books. Before I came back to Christ this didn’t bother me in the slightest. To each her own.

    Increasingly, I feel that what she teaches could actually create roadblocks to a deeper, spiritual relationship with Christ. Increasingly, I feel that I should have nothing to do with her work.

    Fortunately, or maybe not, she hasn’t needed my assistance for some time so I have put off telling her how I feel. This isn’t about the money, although she has always paid me well. The bigger problem is that she has always been kind and supportive to me. I hate to tell her what I honestly think of the message she promotes. I don’t want to sound mean about it.

    Because I don’t like to be mean or ungrateful, I am finding it difficult to sever a tie that I should.

  14. I hope you have or will find a community to help you work through this sin, Michael.

    And Paul said, “There is not one of my Christian friends or acquaintances who will give me the time of day when it comes to finding time to help me carry the ongoing grief of these losses by simply being there to let me talk about it.” That is VERY sad. I am so sorry, Paul.

    And Tammy’s post makes me INCREDIBLY sad. The churches she was a part of surely did not function as a supportive community. Very sad face 🙁

    Joanie D.

  15. Praying, Michael.

    As for the “community” part, I’m struggling with that myself. (I know, join the club!)

  16. “How do you repent of what people expect you to do and be?

    How do you repent of your self-image, your security and your identity?

    How do you repent of sins that have grown essential to your being and life?

    How do you repent of sins that the very repentance of them will cause you to lose support and encouragement?”

    I think these are questions that many in the homosexual community will also need to ask on their journey to Christ. These questions are so difficult to answer and I think pose the some of the greatest obstacles for many that in that movement. However you may parse your answers, they may one day serve in the cause of creating a more loving response for Christians seeking to find a path for the gay community to come to Christ.

  17. iMonk,
    I am a little frightened to think that I understand where you are coming from all too well. As a pastor of a church, I have a community that I am responsible for as a shepherd, but it isn’t as easy to be a part of that community and there is no other place to turn. The ministerial alliance in this town isn’t a community to me and the association I am in is too scattered to be a community to me. Of all the things that I thought I knew about being a pastor, this is the one that I didn’t really understand until I experienced it.

  18. Sadly, I know too many churches like Tammy‘s.

    But some of that was me. When I didn’t allow my relationships with the folks in the church to progress any further than Sunday morning and Wednesday night—and when all I talked about with them was theology, news, and politics, instead of how my personal relationship with Jesus was developing—they didn’t really know me well enough to adequately minister to me. Some of them might honestly have wanted to.

    In any case, keeping people at arm’s length means they wouldn’t be able to adequately point out any personal sin problems of mine—or cause it to come to the surface, ’cause I’d so quickly project the problem onto them, since I refused to get to know them well enough to recognize that they weren’t the problem. Glad to hear you’re close enough to the people in your community so that you can accurately diagnose your symptoms.

    An unrelated confession: Not that I need to know, or care to know, or anything like that; but whenever someone says they have sin in their life, and won’t say what that sin is, the first thought that comes to my mind is arson. A youth pastor of mine loved to use that example—he figured the chances of us youth actually having that problem, as opposed to other things, was small. (Little did he know.) Anyway, it’s stuck in my head, and whenever you write of your deeply-rooted sin I keep envisioning you secretly torching neighborhood businesses. …I got problems.

  19. [i]How do you repent of sins that have grown essential to your being and life?[/i]

    You get a new life. You become a new being.

  20. My father and grandfather spent their lives in bars and cocktail lounges. These were often dark places with no windows. I came to know the communities of men and women who gathered in them from the age of four or five and until I left home for college. I didn’t become a Christian till my late twenties. After thirty years as a Christian (it wasn’t till my late twenties that I believed), I sometimes think there was more true community among those “sinners” than I commonly found in the community of the saints. I often prefer non-churched people to churched. They tend to be more honest and open about their sins than Christians. Their lust is not wimpy; not something they hide in their hearts so as to look good on the outside. It is something they lay out right on top of the bar for all to see. Since they aren’t forced to expend a lot of energy hiding the darkness of their lives, something close to grace can be found and experienced.

    I understand the comments of Rampancy and the rejection he or she has experienced in the Christian community. I’ve experienced it myself many more time than once. And yes Mr. Spencer, we broken people are sore in need of community. The only answer I have been able to come up with is that as a Christian, one must have the courage to be weak, all the while trusting in God’s love while also praying he will somehow use your vulnerability to enable others the freedom to know, confess, and ask for help in their own sin. You have done exactly this in the things you have written here. In fact, this may be what your blogging is really all about; the possibility, longing, and hope for real community with God and others. Genuine community can only exist where grace and love make room for all of life to be seen and known, and lived out. I don’t mean reality show exhibitionist/voyeurism, but something closer to what I see in your writing and also the stories of others who respond.

    Isn’t community one of the bigger pieces we as Christians are supposed to give the world. If so, we all need to spend a little time in prayer. I will pray for you to have the community you need as well as Rampancy and all the church. Please pray for me in the same way.

  21. These are difficult areas you speak of. I am thankful for the ministry of the Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf. I struggle with you in realizing that some of what you appear to refer to as sins are the very things that have been a part of your ministry/”strengths” (if I understand you correctly). When I began to recognize some of these areas in my own life and ministry, the very people in my community seemed to distance themselves from relationship with me. It appeared to be not because I acknowledged some of these as false and vainglorious ways of being a “minister” (and contrary to the heart and way of Jesus) but because I began to confess and repent of them. Ironically, these sinful ways seemed valued and rewarded in my Christian community and as I began rejecting them, I lost my place of belonging and value to the community.

  22. pinoy_crc says

    it was very courageous of you to share this mr. spencer. thank you very much.

    i will be praying for you sir. and ask that you pray for me too. this blog is one of the closest thing i have felt in terms of community.

    thank you very much.

    MDS,

    i can relate to this very much.

    “sometimes think there was more true community among those “sinners” than I commonly found in the community of the saints. I often prefer non-churched people to churched. They tend to be more honest and open about their sins than Christians.”

    i think the church and the christian community needs to be more vulnerable among ourselves so that God’s grace may abound more in all of us.

    have a blessed day

  23. I want a tangible community, too. A place where people can be vulnerable and safe. Where you are not wearing a costume to church. Funny, I wear clothes to work, but I am someone else at my parish.

    I’ve been hurt, like Tammy and K.W. I keep going, for like Peter I say, “Where else can I go.” I keep silent because it is safer. I might last longer with this group if I don’t say much. I don’t even like to be the person praying aloud there, I’m too vulnerable, and prayer is too personal.

    I keep going because I have found a community, a place safe and people that I call sister and brother. Unfortunately, it’s electronic. And on this side of life, I may never meet any of you. (and part of that is fear. What if we aren’t community tangibly, but only electronically.)

    We think that spider webs are fragile and to be swept away. But, God gave spiders a special gift. The strands that they spin are stronger than even steel at that size.

  24. Pride is private enemy number one, of course, but it manifests itself in so many different ways (up to and including false humility) that we can’t see it without help.

    I’m blessed to be a member of a church that teaches on the Doctrine of Sin regularly. “Till sin be bitter, Christ shall not be sweet.” I meet with a small group (eight couples) a couple of times a month, and each of these folks genuinely believes that our “enemy within” is deadly and must be mastered.

    I have no idea whether you can find the community you need online. I know that my online relationships can be strong and deep, but aren’t the same as my face-to-face interactions with my care group.

  25. I do indeed need a community, and the one I just found, praise be to Jesus, is a small, imperfect one, and it’s one that I need, because they love Jesus and want others to do the same…..good post, good post.

  26. rampancy says

    @MDS “I sometimes think there was more true community among those “sinners” than I commonly found in the community of the saints. I often prefer non-churched people to churched. They tend to be more honest and open about their sins than Christians. Their lust is not wimpy; not something they hide in their hearts so as to look good on the outside. It is something they lay out right on top of the bar for all to see.”

    I’ve always said such things to people I talk to, and when I do people often either look at me funny or respond with an awkward silence that leads to them trying to change the subject.

    In my encounters with such people, they’ve always been open to hearing my person story, whether it be about my dad unexpectedly dying or my thesis experiment unexpectedly going south on me. It really feels like they want to hear what I have to say – I like to think it’s because they can genuinely relate to me in their own way, on some deeper level.

    When I move amongst more ostensibly Christian circles, people in general don’t seem to be interested. They’re more interested in fiercely clinging to their own little social bubbles where they only talk and show any concern amongst themselves. When I wondered if it was because I was from out-of-town, or if it was because I wasn’t white, or if it was because I stuttered, and I did everything I could to suppress my own feelings of anger, frustration and loneliness, to pray over them, to give them up to God, to try to show the outward grace to others that Christ has shown to me. It’s helped me gain some perspective over it, but it’s left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I really don’t know what else I can do.

    Sorry for writing such a raw and emotional comment here, but it was just something I had to get out of my system.

  27. “But that’s the journey with Jesus. That’s the narrow path, the treasure in the field, the dying all day long. It’s the only place to go because he has the words of eternal life.”

    Yes.

    “But I need a community.”

    Yes.

    “Maybe you do too.”

    And, Yes.

    My community–my very real community–is what’s keeping me from running like hell from my church and from my denomination. I can definitely come up with a thousand reasons (or more) to convert to another Christian tradition or to try it all lone ranger style. But being “in this” with “my” body of Christ–with people who know me, who have cared for me, who have allowed me to care for them, and who need Jesus as much as I do–is a much stronger pull. It is a divine pull, I think. I’m reminded that it’s not about me, or my sin, or them, or their sin, or my church’s failings. It’s about Him. So, I continue to worship with these people. I take the Bread & the Wine with these people. And, I’m trying to hope with these people.

  28. I think people are put off by the idea of community because it takes such an incredible amount of work to get and to maintain. Community doesn’t happen only in the good times; we have to be willing to go into some pretty dark places with each other in order to build it and we have to invest some blood, sweat, and tears in each other. And it requires forgiveness, tons of forgiveness, which requires humility from both parties. Both of these are in short supply these days.

    Tammy — your story breaks my heart. Churches with real community do exist, though they tend to be hard to find. I hope & pray you find one soon.

    imonk — I’m almost completely convinced that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a besetting sin that he wrestled with all his life. Why else would he have needed God’s grace so badly?

  29. We say we want community and hope to find community, but who will create community? How do we create community when all we have known is a cultural organization?

  30. David,

    Two writers have been greatly helpful to me in picturing Christian community and how they have been expressed in different times and places. One is Jean Vanier. You might start with his “From Brokeness to Community”, though all his writing is worthwhile. Another that greatly influenced me personally is George G. Hunter III’s book called “The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again”. In it he describes how monks created Christian communities in Ireland and the way the Spirit blessed and used them to effect conversion in a people that were possibly as deeply pagan as it is possible to be.

  31. imonk:

    Recipe For Redemption –

    To drop the excess baggage:

    1. surrender the fire of your desires through meditation upon Him
    2. give up the claim on His works and glories
    3. nourish and protect others in your care

    Claim is always the excess baggage.

    Peace.

  32. Update: What I’m trying to say above is that my church is my community. So, when I say that my community is keeping me from running from my church, I’m saying that my church is keeping me from running from my church. My “community” is keeping me from running from my “community.” And, now that I think about it a little more, Jesus is keeping me from running from Jesus. And, maybe, it’s all the same thing…

  33. Great post; my response

    DIE DAILY (you go first 🙂 )
    and life/friends have a way of telling us when we’re really dead and when we are faking

  34. thanks for sharing. it’s not easy but it is so powerful. again, thank you.

  35. iMonk,

    I wonder how you think the blog world fits into this need for community. I know that being in a small southern town full of churches that, for the most part, fit the descriptions of the “communities” mentioned by several commenters (i.e. self-absorbed, social, uncaring, etc), I have found real community in the blog world. I have received better teaching, words of encouragement, advice, and support than I have ever received from my church.

    I don’t know if you intended for the emphasis of your post to turn to the community aspect as opposed to the realization of the impact of sin in our lives, but the post and the comments clearly indicate the rawness of this failure of the American church. When two out of three (just a wild-haired guess)new Christian books are detailing the shortcomings of the “church”, it should be no surprise that a vast number of followers feel this way. What is surprising is that we haven’t been more “successful” in relating those feelings to others (church leadership – I didn’t even like typing that description!!)and translating those feelings into a COMMUNITY that actually functions as a body of Christ followers. Why is that? Certainly one reason is that we are afraid to take that introspective look into our sin as you have done. We are certainly afraid to share those feelings – with good reason. We are victims of our American prosperity where if we were completely honest we really “trust” our own means instead of having faith in the promises of God.

    I’m really afraid that our evangelical methodologies have resulted in a large, very shallow pool of “Christians”. We are good on the justification part but sadly lacking on the sanctification. Make disciples turned into make converts somewhere along the way. How do we turn it around? Obviously, WE alone cannot. I think the good blogs such as yours, maybe, are a tool God is using to turn us around.

    I guess it speaks volumes when people feel more “church” (edification, praise, community) on the internet than assembled with their brothers and sisters.

    With all that being said, even if the blog does help fill the void of community, it can’t replace human physical contact. Relationships are real only when we have physical contact with one another. So we need those partners, that community.

    Great post Michael.

  36. Michel, thanks for post that so clearly describes what it is like for us, well, me at least, to give up my lesser gods. These idols help my life work and I have learned to lean on them to get through the challenges of life.
    On the other hand when God calls me to him alone, I might have to give up so much that my life will go backward. It scares the hell out of me… well almost.

  37. Ah, conviction. Thank you, I needed to hear this as much as you needed to tell it, if not more. I admire your bravery in confessing, though I don’t understand exactly what you were saying regarding your own part. Not sure if that’s my ego in way or not.

    Anyway, for my part, its pretty clear. I can relate to some of what has been said about how the church can be a cold place to sit, and I have not been able to overcome my fear and go back there. Being raised in a non-participating, if not non christian, home, it was so hard to go there in the first place. I tried to fit in as best I could, though I felt so out of place. I raised my hand, I was baptized, I nursery-sat, I sunday-school taught, I volunteer chaplained (and seriously, church on sunday evenings at the youth center was so much warmer than church that morning), and various other things.

    But then I had to finally leave my abusive husband and that did not go over well, though my pastor knew everything that was going on in my home. I’ve long since forgiven my ex husband(yes, ex – how many judge me now?), but I’m not sure I’ve been able to forgive my pastor. I say I have, but I don’t know if I *really* have. I left his church and haven’t been able to make myself go through that again.

    So for now, this blog is the best I can do, so thank you and thank God for helping me find it.

  38. treebeard says

    The sad thing for me is, as others have expressed, I find more genuine help and even community in the online world than in the real one. This blog has been far more of a ministry to me than my former church (which was not a cold place, but very zealous and absolute).

    Yet I wonder if all of us commenters, along with Michael, were to somehow get together in an actual community where we could meet face to face, if eventually we wouldn’t be able to stand each other, and all the issues we have with modern Christianity would be replicated among us.

    In other words, is the online world a blessing, because we can find real help, ministry, and restoration? Or is it a curse, because we are fooling ourselves and are not in an actual community where our real nature is exposed?

  39. Evathek,

    Good for you. I’m glad that you were able to escape.

    Treebeard,

    I think that parts of the internet are a curse, thinking about how easy it is for people to find bad things that before would arrive in brown paper wrappers, and many dating services.

    Other parts, like this blog are blessings, because there is no way that many of use would even meet much less get close enough to be vulnerable.

    I’ve found it very hard, as a single never married woman to get to know married men, even though I have no desire anything but friendship. Besides, even at the same small church, our paths probably would never cross.

  40. treebeard says

    Thank you, Anna. That’s true.

    If it means anything, I’m a married man, and love my wife, but have in many ways been a failure as a husband. Our marriage is very difficult and cold, yet the Lord, and our children, hold us together. I’ve been helped very much recently by reading and praying over Stormie Omartian’s books.

    It seems like when I was single I wanted to be married, and now that I’m married I’m nostalgic for being single. I could actually serve the Lord when I was single, and now there’s nothing but limitation. Yet I realize that the limitation can be from the Lord’s hand.

    But whether we’re single, or married, or whatever situation we are in, we are the Lord’s. And this blog is definitely a great blessing, because of Mike’s gifts, and his wonderful commenters.

  41. I must be missing something here.
    I don’t see that your message is asking for a “church” community.
    Perhaps I’m wrong but I see a man struggling with his own identity.
    I see a man who has looked in the mirror and is not happy with the sight.
    If the community you are looking for is one of people who are sick of hiding from others their own sin and weakness then you will indeed find it hard to get the group together for potluck.
    On the other hand many of the regulars you see here at IMonk would probably be good candidates for just such a group.
    That’ why we keep coming back.

  42. Well, fear works for me, just as the sin IMonk was speaking of works for him. Fear keeps me safe-ish, but it also keeps me apart. I suspect we’ve all gone a little afield of what he was talking about, but thats how it all relates together to me.

    And yes, the internet allows people to be close and apart at the same time, kind of paradoxical. I know from several years of experience that what goes on cyberly sometimes transfers but most times doesn’t to what we refer to here as ‘irl’.

    But its something 🙂

  43. My brokenness works for me because it’s the only rut I know. It’s possible for me to destroy a lot of God’s people plowing my rut through life. I probably have.

    If only my faith could lift me over the edge of the rut and onto level ground. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus who has the victory and not me.

    I believe…help my unbelief.

    Thanks for posting this Michael. A very good reminder on what has been a very strange day in my life.

  44. Rob Lofland,

    You miss the point entirely. Mr Spencer’s blog is simply a Rorschach test. The writers’ original piece serves as an abstract image for the reader who then stares at it until he or she is able to see something. The “something” has nothing to do with the image, but is only a projection of images that reside in the readers hidden and unconscious mind. You are being much too literal when you attempt to understand, articulate, and respond to the true meaning of the writers words and thoughts.

    My suggestion for you would be to loosen up and relax. Take a few deep breaths. Then stare into the image…..but not directly at it. Focus just before or a little past the actual image so the letters become blurred. When you have done that, and only then, try to see what isn’t there. Maybe you’ll only see a horsey or duck when you first try it, but don’t give up. Before long you’ll be a pro just like everyone else.

  45. Mich (the other one) says

    Beautifully said, IM. I guess all we can do is to continue to follow His leadings. He got us this far. It seems that when we try to dig ourselves out of our own messes by our own devices, we just get entrenched that much deeper.

    It reminds me of a scene in the movie “A Beautiful Mind” where John Nash is refusing to go back to the psych hospital because he believes that he can think his way out of his schizophrenia. The doctor tells him that he can’t think his way out because the problem is with his mind.

    I agree with you that we also need community. And, as you’ve already done, the first step is in bringing stuff out into the light of day so that they can lose the power that they hold when kept in the dark.

  46. Rob Lofland,

    But if you simply must be literal and actually respond to the text, then OK. It looks to me as if Mr. Spencer has come up against what Merton would call the false self. The problem for him is that before the time of this writing he thought this person was the real self. If this Michael dies, then what? Will anything of him remain? Can he trust Christ? Is there a true Michael, one created by God, hidden somewhere behind the false Michael. Who will he be? Will anybody who knew the false Michael want to hang out with the real Michael?

    Scary stuff.

  47. Mich (the other one) says

    RE: Anna and Treebeard’s dialogue.

    I think the internet can afford us a way to sound out things that we might otherwise hesitate to say to people who are physically before us. That can be good because it gives us a chance to see that we can say these things “outloud” and receive feedback that is perhaps more or less honest since there is less emotional investment involved. (It can be bad for the same reason, of course.) But it can nevertheless, give us a “dress rehearsal”, so to speak.

    On the other hand, if it replaces physical “community” entirely, that can be, IMO, a detriment. At some point, we must risk vulnerability with real live in-front-of-us people. And, as Treebeard pointed out, no doubt even the most patient and tolerant online community would eventually start to get on each others nerves in the true flesh, human nature being what it is.

  48. INTERNETELIAS says

    God knows the desire of my heart for you…that His ‘will be done’ in your life and ministry.

  49. Actually, MDS, I think we are in perfect agreement and you did better job of expression.

  50. Michael,
    Wow. I am going through a similar process, I think?. God has intervened and I am not sure what to do. I tend to run from community, probably because it is the very thing I need. It is a sobering thing to wake up at age 52, married 30 years, father of 3 daughters, owner of a successful business and supposedly respected by many, that I am a total failure at everything that I really think matters. But, I am hopeful, praying, reading and hoping. I am not without experience or resources, I am just not too sure if any of that matters. Pray for me.
    Mike