fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Hidden Scars

Hidden Scars by Julie McAllen

Is it wrong to dredge up the past? Is it slander to expose what others have done to hurt us?

On the surface, some would say it’s not the “Christian” thing to do. After all, are we not advised to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us? Aren’t we called to forgive the offense and bravely press on? What is accomplished by exposing someone else’s sin? Shouldn’t we protect their good reputation instead of airing out their dirty laundry? I confess there are times I will cover over my wounds in an effort to protect those who’ve sinned against me. It seems respectful and “Christian” to do so, but God took me below the surface and showed me it was in fact the opposite of following in the footsteps of Christ.

When Jesus visited his closest companions after his resurrection from the dead, he did not hide his wounds from them. In fact, he exposed the holes in his hands openly in order to prove to them who he was. In effect he was saying, “look at what the sins of others have done to me.” Was that slander? Was it unnecessary exposure for the sake of getting even? Not in the case of Jesus. How do I know? Because even as they were pounding his body with their sins, he forgave them. Jesus was not uncovering his scars in any effort to hold back forgiveness, for it was already granted. Forgiving, therefore, is not hiding our wounds. If Jesus had kept his hidden, his friends would’ve doubted his reality.

 “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” …. Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:25, 27)

Jesus was known to his friends by the wounds he willingly exposed. In the most intimate relationships, everything is open and laid bare.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13).

God uses his word to draw us closer to him, Jesus honored his closest friends by allowing them to touch his wounds (1 John 1:1). Are we willing to let God open our wounds? Do we let others come close enough to see our scars and admit to them, “this is what the world did to me?” And what is the motive if we do expose the scars we carry?

“This is where they took out the cancer,” a friend confides as she lifts her shirt. “A reminder of my DWI days,” another jokes as he explains his twisted limb. “My mommy gets mad sometimes,” a child is coaxed to admit when the bruises no longer pass for normal playground mishaps. Some wounds are easier to share than others. Some go undetected for years they’ve been so skillfully buried. “I keep having these nightmares,” she finally confides to a therapist. “I know it happened, but I don’t see the point in talking about it now,” another evades the topic. Sometimes we tell the wrong people who abuse our trust and it makes it hard to be intimate with anyone after that. And so we live with wounds that no one else is admitted to see or touch as we isolate and insulate ourselves from others. There are, after all, many ways to hide the scars. How beautiful that Jesus not only exposed his own wounds and invited his friends to touch them, but he was also willing to touch the imperfections of those around him; healing lepers, deaf ears, and blind eyes. Sometimes all we need to heal is to trust someone enough to see our scars.

God is saying, “it’s okay, show your scars.” Yet confronting those we love but have hurt us deeply is difficult. If love covers over a multitude of sins, why bring up their sins? Why not keep the scars they gave us hidden? What will happen if they’re shown the wounds they inflicted upon us? Has Jesus kept his hidden? When confronted with sin, the humble are left to deal with their shame and seek forgiveness in the interest of reconciling the relationship. The prideful, however, will claim they have not sinned and blame the one who confronted them. Our weakness may hold us back from such confrontation, but if Jesus trusts us enough to discover the effects of our sin, we should do likewise with those we love—regardless of the consequences. God was willing to reconcile all men at the cross, but not all men are willing to see their sin there. We do no one any favors by not giving them opportunity to acknowledge their sins against us either. We are instead, opening the way to express our forgiveness toward them and invite them to greater intimacy in a reconciled relationship.

When we touch the wounds of Jesus, we are not merely looking at what Roman soldiers did to him. If you believe your sins were forgiven because of the blood of Jesus Christ, then no doubt you’ve seen your own misgivings causing the holes in his hands and the gash in his side. It makes his words of forgiveness toward you even sweeter. He didn’t exclude you by hiding his wounds from your eyes, for it was by his Spirit you were drawn there to see your words and actions causing the pain he endured on the cross. As you sobbed at his feet, he lifted your head to look you in the eye and whisper, “your sins are forgiven.” This is the pattern of a healthy and intimate relationship set forth by our Creator, because no one is ready to meet God until they first acknowledge the effect of their sins upon him. Likewise, no one really knows the gift of another person until they see their scars, even if some of those scars were caused by you.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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December 22, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wonderful Counselor

Wonderful Counselor by Julie McAllen

Who is Jesus to you? Did he deliver you from a hopeless situation? Do you praise him for the hope you now have in a good future? Deliverance from the past, vision for the future….what about your present? In what way is Jesus the promised Immanuel “God with us?”

By God’s grace you have been saved. A gift given devoid of any effort on your part lest you should boast. Jesus is Savior over you and you had nothing to do with that. What bliss to be helpless at the cross! Do you remember that moment? When you submitted to his finished work there, he became Lord. You did have something to do with that. Your response mattered. So here you are. Jesus is Savior, that was his work. Jesus is Lord, that was your response. Now what? How’s that Lord thing going? In what way is Jesus Lord in your life right now? Are you giving him all your decisions? Your anxieties? Your joys? How much time do you spend talking to him? And do you listen when he talks back?

Jesus, where are you?

I was thinking about the grief of the disciples when they were told by their Lord that he would be going away. They were accustomed to walking and talking with him on a daily basis. Faith was so easy in his presence! Sadness filled their hearts when Jesus revealed that he would be taken from them. But the promise given them is the same as to us. It was necessary for him to go away so that he could send the Helper or Counselor.

Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.  But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:6-7)

In what way is the Holy Spirit our Counselor? In today’s world we are all quite familiar with what a counselor is. In fact, many of us have probably seen one at some point in our lives. How do you view counselors? Are they just sounding boards for us to rant our troubles at? Are they supposed to cure all our problems with a magic pill or wave of some grand psychological advice?

I’ve listened to people talk about their counseling experiences. Some are keen to tell you they told their counselor this, that and the other thing (which they are now droning on about yet again to you) but when asked, “and what advice did the counselor offer?” they stumble at the question. I don’t know if the counselor failed to give some practical steps to change or if the person just failed to listen, but I doubt any change can occur by just babbling on about the same problem week after week. If the counselor isn’t offering any advice, I’d get a new one. If you’re having trouble remembering what help was offered, I’d start taking notes.

Jesus is said to be a “Wonderful Counselor” (Is 9:6) I have to wonder if some people approach him as they do their earthly counselors? Do they just complain and never listen for advice? Does he offer it and yet they fail to take note? Then there are the people who sought counsel from pastors or psychologists and are able to retell the advice they heard but refuse to take it. Isn’t that like paying for medicine and letting it sit in the cabinet? Gee, this penicillin is supposed to cure my ills but I don’t notice it doing anything! Um…take it out of the bottle and see if it does. Reminds me of what we’re told at Palms 34:8, ” taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Try the counsel.  They talk to the counselor, even hear the advice, and yet no change takes place because nothing is applied. What? Something is required of me? Yes.

Jesus is your Savior, that was required of him. Jesus is your Lord, that is required of you in your daily decisions to follow his lordship. And the Holy Spirit is your counselor leading you to understand your choices. Helping you in other words. You have the final choice when you can see the options laid out. A counselor can only help you see your choices, but YOU are the one who decides. Jesus is not going to wave a magic wand and make the problems in your life disappear, instead he sends the Counselor to guide you into the path that aligns with God’s will. He trusts you enough with that. He actually thinks you’re smart enough to follow. He designed us and knows our self-worth is at stake. Remember free will? We were designed to participate in the course for our lives, not sit back and wait for miracles. Look at the pattern. There were two trees in the middle of the garden. Choice! God put blessings and maledictions before the Israelites. Choice! He puts life and death before us and asks us to CHOOSE life. God delights in giving us choices.

If you went to a paid counselor every week to retell your woes, he gave good counsel and you failed to follow it, what’s the point? Why spend that kind of money? Do you tell people, “I go every week and he isn’t able to help me!” What are you expecting? Is the counselor supposed to prescribe a magic pill? Is he supposed to change you or are you? He is there to COUNSEL you. He is there to HELP you see your choices. He can help you understand patterns of behavior and thinking in your life that are contributing to your current problems. You, however, are the one who has to do the work! Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor, not your magic pill. And what did he promise this Counselor, the Holy Spirit would do?

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: (John 16:8)

Guilt? The Holy Spirit’s job is not just the blissful blessings of contentment, he is also helping us win our battle against sin by convicting us of wrong patterns. A good counselor listens to you as you unleash your problems. But it doesn’t end there. He has the job of helping you identify your part in it. That’s conviction. A good counselor will convict you. What can YOU do about it? How can you view the situation? Is there a way to change the situation? If not, is there a way to view it differently so that it no longer is lord over you? A good counselor brings you to the point of recognizing your error and then gives practical steps to gain victory. A good counselor wants to empower you. Jesus is such a Wonderful Counselor. And yet, some of us just go to him to complain and ignore his advice. Expecting overnight miracles, some of us just leave in a huff claiming the counselor was a quack! And some of us overuse the copout “I’ll just leave it to the Lord” and actually believe he has to do all the work while we sit on our hands waiting for the promised land to arrive not realizing we are IN it! Victory lost. Though the phrase is not found in scripture, the concept is there, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Counselors are expensive and if I were seeing one I’d want to make the most of the visit and the pay I give him. I’d want to see results. When I came to Jesus Christ, I willingly offered my heart, soul, mind and strength to him to be my Lord. Yes,  I paid with my life. As Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.” And Jesus thought my life was well worth it too. He paid good money for me–with his own blood in fact! He was crucified for me. We both paid a lot then didn’t we? I don’t like to waste money do you? I don’t want to waste what he paid, I don’t want to waste what I paid. I’m not going to use his qualified role as my highly paid Wonderful Counselor as a mere sounding board for my complaints. I’m not going to waste his wisdom by ignoring it. And I’m not going to negate the gifts he paid to give me by expecting him to fix all my problems by waiting for heaven or his return. He paid to give me an inheritance right here, right now, and I’m walking in victory!

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

February 19, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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