“I asked that God would help me to see that man as He sees him if I pass him again. ” – Sara Barnes, China Missionary
This was a line that caught my attention in a recent journal entry from Sara. While walking down the street she passed a man whose face was badly burned, so badly burned that it was painful to look at. She hurried past him and later felt crushed that she had not done more.
How often have we all done the same thing? In an effort to move past something uncomfortable, we rush past, push it aside, repress it. It’s a normal HUMAN reaction. It is not natural for us to be unselfish. As Christians we are constantly being molded into the image of Christ. We are given trials and opportunities to shed little pieces of our humanity and to become something altogether supernatural. Granted, we will never become anything more than human while we are constrained by our flesh, but while we are here on earth, we get the opportunity to show Christ to others through our actions.
I, like Sara, want to do my best to pause when I have the opportunity to be Christ someone and I want to see that person, no matter how ugly, the way Christ sees them – as his beautiful creation. Let me see them through grace and love, the love that can only come from something that is not human. Love that can only come from God.
Thanks Sara for sharing your story, it touched me and I am sure it will change others too.
Here is a little more of Sara’s story:
As we were leaving the subway station, we passed a man that I remember from when Senator and I lived in that neighborhood 7 years ago. His face is so badly burned that it’s hard for me to describe it to you. Hard to describe firstly because most of it is burned beyond recognition, but secondly because it is just so hard to look him that I can’t recall a complete picture of him mentally. And today, my maternal hyper-protective instincts kicked in and I hurried the kids past, hoping they wouldn’t notice him.
I’m not sure if I thought I was protecting the kids from an image that might be too much for their young minds or protecting him from what their possible reactions would be, but after we were out of the station, one thing was clear. Whether I had been with the kids or alone, the urge to hurry past and look away would have been just as strong.
And then I remembered the bottle cap mural, and the song, and my heart felt crushed. I wondered if I were alone if I could sit down face to face and have what little conversation my current language skills will allow me too. (There is no danger or risk involved, these beggars sit in broad daylight amongst crowds of wealthy foreigners.) I know that 7 years ago I didn’t. But I’ve learned a lot about our God in those 7 years, I know better than ever that God doesn’t see as I see. I asked that God would help me to see that man as He sees him if I pass him again.
Our current language level prohibits us from having in depth, spontaneous conversations the way we’d like to, but I am fully capable of offering someone a snack and a smile. I even know how to ask them if they believe in Jesus and if they say no, I know how to tell them that whether or not you believe, there certainly is a God who loves you.
But in order to do any of that, we must be willing to resist the urge to hurry past. Pray that we would have courage and boldness for such moments. In all reality, the guests at the Renewal Center are typically quite easy to love. They are clean and well dressed and happy to be there. But there are still many in our midst just as desperately in need of hope, even if they have no interest in our showers.
How does bullying start?
This video starts with a simple story that shows how something so simple can lead to bullying and a life of pain. The video continues to go through several scenarios that help people understand the lifelong impact that bullying has on someone’s life.
“You sound like a girl!” – The insult stung like a swift slap to the face. It came from one of the cool boys. The most athletic, the one with the parents that had a lot of money, the one who had never known want or pain or imperfection. Counselors will tell you that bullies will bully because of their own hurt inside and they want to feel better about themselves, but sometimes, people are just cruel because they are born that way.
Being called “Prince and Michael Jackson” became pretty standard for me. I cried easily and that made me easy prey. Recess, bathroom breaks and then later in life the locker room were all places of torment. It didn’t happen every day, but it happened enough that I hated going to school. I was called a girl, gay and fat and a few other insults. I was punched in the eye and pushed around a few times. Looking back they were all pretty minor incidents, but they happened often and enough times over the years that they left a lasting and damaging impression on me. A few years back I finally went to counseling to deal with a lot of the emotional baggage, but the residue of that pain will be with me for the rest of my life. I don’t even think that is necessarily a bad thing, it is knowledge and with knowledge there is power. Those of us that bounce back despite all odds are over comers. We press on despite the hurt and shame and do our best to prove the haters wrong – but that doesn’t happen for many of us.
What I’ve learned over the years is that words hurt and they shape us. Words are like little chisels fashioning the way we see ourselves. The words become our truth and distort our vision to the point that we are no longer able to see clearly who we really are, but instead only see the distorted picture that cruel individuals have painted for us. Being told you are ugly, fat, stupid, gay, worthless… when you hear them enough you start to believe them.
So why isn’t the awareness of the problem helping?
How many people need to die before something changes? It seems that the issue needs to be worked at the heart of the problem, but where is that? Will better parenting help the bullied children or do parents need to better educate their children who are doing the bullying? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that a zero tolerance policy would have been nice when I was in school. It seemed that the teachers did their best to help with the bullying, but they can only stop what they see or hear and they can’t be with a student all of the time. Bullying can get so bad at times that you become an emotional wreck. Extreme measures seem to be the only option and those measures normally end up being acts of violence upon the perpetrators or themselves. The only real way to solve problems is to come back to the only truth that we have and that is the Bible. We have to “love thy neighbor as thyself” – until we get that right we will continue to careen out of control on a path that leads to destruction.
Recent News of Suicide Related to Bullying
My first semester at DTS I took a Spiritual Life class with Dr. Ralston. It was amazing. I took the class online and the great thing about that was we could get a transcript of the lectures. I took this snippet from one of the lectures as it changed my life and the way I thought about my ministry. I share it today because I believe it is always good to do some self-examination and find out what our true motives are when we are doing ministry.
“One of the biggest shadows inside a lot of leaders is the deep insecurity about their own identity, their own worth. The insecurity is hard to see in extraverted people, but the extraversion is often there precisely because they’re insecure about who they are. They are trying to prove themselves in the external world rather than wrestling with their inner identity.”
Macintosh comments, “The majority of tragically fallen Christian leaders during the past 10 to 15 years have been baby boomers who felt driven to achieve and succeed in an increasingly competitive and demanding church environment. Most often their ambition has been a subtle and dangerous combination of their own dysfunctional personal needs. In a certain measure of altruistic desire to expand the kingdom of God, however, because ambition is easily disguised in Christian circles and couched in spiritual language, for example the need to fulfill the Great Commission and expand the church, the dysfunctions that drive Christian leaders often go undetected and unchallenged until it is too late. A paradox of sorts existed in the lives of most of the leaders who experience significant failures. The personal insecurities, feeling of inferiority, and the need for parental approval among other dysfunctions that compel these people to become successful leaders were very often the same issues that precipitated their failure.”
You see what people are doing in Christian leadership? They’re trying to compensate. They’re trying to get the affirmation, the security, and the significance; they’re prostituting the role to their own needs. When leaders operate with a deep unexamined insecurity about their own identity, they create institutional settings that deprive other people of their identity as a way of dealing with the unexamined fears in the leaders themselves, and leaders not only embed in their organizations what they intend unconsciously to get across, but they also convey their inner conflicts and the inconsistencies in their own personal natures.
Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves. We can keep ourselves so busy, fill our lives with so many diversions, stuff our heads with so much knowledge, involve ourselves with so many people, and cover so much ground that we never have time to probe the fearful and wonderful world within, and by middle life most of us are accomplished fugitives from ourselves; see the issues?” – Dr. Ralston, Dallas Theological Seminary
I’m reposting this story from The Village Church because I thought it was really good…
When Katy from TVC stopped by her local dry-cleaner, she’d trade small talk with the Muslim owner. But this week, after getting equipped with how to share the Gospel with Muslims at an IHOPE workshop, when she picked up her dry cleaning, she asked her Muslim friend what he and his family celebrated – if anything – during Christmas. She was a little nervous to ask that first question, but what came next was very sweet.
That simple question prompted him to ask her what she & her family did during the holidays. When Katy shared that she would be praying, spending time in church and celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus, he was absolutely speechless. “I thought Christians got drunk on Christmas,” said the owner.
That led to a dialogue on what true followers of Jesus believe. Katy discovered her Muslim friend had no idea what the reason for the season was. She planted seeds, and now, she’s looking through her house to find more dry-cleaning to drop off to extend the conversation.
Many Muslims in the Metroplex have no idea why Christians celebrate Christmas. Like Katy’s dry cleaner, many think Christmas is about Santa, trees, gifts, food, and drinking. This season, like Katy, you can give a Muslim friend the best Christmas gift ever – the gift of hearing the Gospel for the first time.
Save the date now and plan to join us at the next IHOPE Muslim Outreach Equipping Workshop –on Saturday, February 23rd 9:00-10:30 AM (location details are pending). Join the movement and get equipped to help Muslims find and follow Jesus.
TVC Covenant Member & Home Group Leader
Co-Founder & Executive Director for IHOPE Ministries
It seems that lately my life revolves around going to groups. Home group, accountability group, group therapy, group projects… It is something that I cannot escape, nor do I want to. Recently I’ve been attending an in-depth redemption recovery group that has been so cathartic and… well, hilarious. Sin can be ridiculous sometimes especially when viewed in the light of day. In the moment sometimes it seems so overwhelming and burdensome, but when you look at it through the grace that Christ gives us then it is marginal.
As much as it pains me I’ll admit that I still struggle with sin. Yep. I do. I struggle with gluttony and the inability to tell myself no. I love pleasure, who doesn’t? I love to eat and spend money and masturbate just as much as most men and maybe a little more. I don’t like to admit that, but I think it’s time we all stop pretending that we don’t sin. Over the years I’ve gotten better, but it’s a constant battle that I often lose.
There were seven of us in the group last night. We meet in empty rooms at a church. The hard metal chairs are cold and uncomfortable but the conversation is easy. “How has your week been?” Paul, our group leader, asks. He has gray hair and looks like he just stepped out of a Gap magazine but he’s extremely genuine and that puts everyone at ease. “I’ve been struggling with meeting random guys off and on for the past year and it is getting out of hand.” The man that says this looks like a baseball player. He’s a seminary graduate. He has the kind of personality and demeanor that would make him instantly popular in any setting and the things that he confesses are shocking because they are such a juxtaposition to the image that he presents. The more he talks the more I can see how our thought patterns are similar. We open the door just a tiny bit to sin and then suddenly it’s wide own and we can’t pull it back shut. At this point it is normally fear and self-loathing that force us to reach out for help to get the door shut.
I’m always surprised at the transparency of the men seated around me. It’s a privilege to sit next to them and hear about their lives. We rarely see behind the masks of people we are around every day.
One guy in the group talks about how he wants to be a better husband and father and in comparison to the rest of us his struggle seemed almost minor. In my head I sit their thinking, “Do you really need to be here?” The reason I think this is because I feel that his sin is small in comparison to many of the rest of us, but that’s foolish thinking. It is easy to add weight to certain sins and even rate them on a scale of “Sort of Bad” to “Your about to burn in hell!” I was blessed that this man had put aside his pride and joined up with a bunch or serious derelicts to overcome his sin. He said, “I’ve been to other groups, but here, people are real.” I couldn’t agree more.
All of us in group want to be free of sexual sin in some capacity. Maybe it is pornography or maybe it is something more, but what bonds us together is not our sin, but our desire to be more like Christ. Everyone struggles with sin, but it takes a lot of courage to sit in a room and divulge your darkest secrets. Digging up those sins, laying them at the foot of the cross, asking for help – that is when the healing begins. Unfortunately, fear of rejection and fear of what other people will think holds us back from telling the truth. This fear is unwarranted and irrational. At the end of the day I don’t love people less because they struggle, I love them more. Those people are my brothers. Those men I “get” and they “get” me. At group we are all broken. We’ve been stripped bare of our pride and we stand raw and exposed. We have become a blank canvas awaiting the brush stoke of the master’s hand awaiting to see what he will paint next.
When I left last night from our group session I couldn’t help but feel like I was walking on air. The truth does indeed set you free and the bonus of that is the deeper understanding of who you are in Christ and the great love that he has for you. It’s humbling and overwhelming. I literally swim in a sea of grace and for that I’m truly thankful…