In such a world, our lives would be wracked with shame. No one would go outside. No one would interact with each other. Perhaps only those who bore the Scarlet "P" and took pride in their sins. It would be a world of embarrassment, sadness, and despair. A place of darkness and loneliness, it would suck the life out of everything. No longer would people focus on the good and the beautiful, they would be unable to look past the evil and sin that surrounded them. It would be a dwelling place for the devil. The angels would have a hard time helping people overcome their embarrassment and shame. They would have a hard time stopping everyone from judging each other. Judgement would come quick as a knife since the sins of each person were outwardly displayed.
The strange thought about such a world is that it actually exists. Granted, we do not witness it. We cannot see the sins of each person when they walk by us. We cannot, but God can. God pierces the darkness. He sees everything under the sun and throughout the night. He knows each soul and the sins of each soul. If He wanted, He could turn our world into the Scarlet Letter world.
Have you ever broken your leg? Well, if not, try to remember a time when you hurt yourself. REALLY hurt yourself. Now...
How anxious were you to let someone probe that wound?
Though I have not (thank God) broken a leg, I did fall off my bike when I was little and doing 'zig-zags' on sandy pavement. (Interestingly, the pain that followed that ignorant action has kept me from ever repeating it again - but that's another blog post...) I hit my forehead and WHACK - blood was everywhere. The cut was so deep that it needed stitches. But before they could just stitch me up, they had to probe that wound and get all the dirt out.
Do you think I just laid there quietly and let them do it? If you do, then I don't think you've ever whacked your head falling off a bike before. NO. It took my mom AND the nurse to hold me down. Someone else had to hold my head still. And even so I screamed bloody murder the whole time.
Pain hurts. That's a universal truth. We don't want that pain touched. That's another universal truth. But it is in touching it, and cleaning it out - that we get healing. Another universal truth - but one denied a lot these days...
What's the big deal, you might wonder? Well, imagine if, instead of helping someone to set their broken leg - a doctor just said "oh well, that is the way you are, learn to accept it." The doctor, nurse and everyone else who might have had to go through the difficulty of holding you down and listening to you scream, while they pulled on your leg to set the bone straight, are now... off the hook. They can just throw a crutch at you, and tell you to go on home. Problem solved.
But is it really? They can go home feeling justified in the 'help' they gave you; but you just go home.... still wounded. Who suffers? The one who is wounded. Who, though, is really at fault? Those who simply don't care enough to nurse you back to health. That 'nursing stuff' is tough business - it's usually a thankless, long and bloody affair; rarely appreciated, always difficult.
But it heals.
Had my mom just thrown a bandaid on my head, she could have used that as a excuse and felt justified. "Well," she could have righteously claimed, "I did the best I could, why put her through the pain of cleaning out that wound?" In her own mind, she might have convinced herself that she had done 'enough' - but not in anyone else's. Once that cut had gotten infected, leading to worst wounding and permanent scarring, all would have known she took the easy way out - and so would she - in her heart. It's when our hearts know the truth however, that we tend to shout all the louder that we are 'justified' - after all, we have to convince our heads ... and the world.
These are easy examples. It gets tougher when the wounds are not so physically visible. Although the universal truths remain the same - it becomes easier to ignore them - and taking the 'easy way out' can at times become a cultural norm. This is, of course, not something new. Over 2,600 years ago there was a man pointing out the same tendency. His name was Jeremiah.
“"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14
Commentary on his words explain them as thus: “As worthless surgeons the (religious) leaders refuse to examine or probe the wounds of those who are under their charge, and for the sake of their own ease assure their patients that all is well.”
What 'wounds' was Jeremiah talking about? Was there an outpouring of broken legs? Were kids falling off their bikes in record numbers?
No. The people were being told that there was nothing wrong with their actions, all was well, they need not seek a higher way to live, they need to simply be... comfortable in their sin. Why seek wholeness? Why seek purity? Good enough... is good enough. Let's just move on - shall we?
And what was their sin? Well, it was many things - same as today - but at the root it was just one. And that one was this: They were no longer looking to God to guide and heal them; they had determined that they could do just fine on their own.
Isn't that the basis of all our sins? Let's look at a few:
We feel insecure.
Instead of looking to our worth in the eyes of God (hint: worth dying for), we make ourselves feel better by gossiping about, and putting down, others.
We've done something we know is wrong.
Instead of looking to God for strength to face the truth and confess it, we decide that some well placed lies will get us off the hook instead.
We've been unjustly abused.
Instead of asking God to heal the pain we rage against, we just let that pain out little by little when we rage against someone (usually weaker) else.
In fact, so much of our sin is found in trying to heal our own wounds. We live in a broken world - we will be cut on the broken edges of broken people.
That is not our sin - but this is: Trusting only in ourselves to heal ourselves. So we look for ways. Those ways, however, only come out in more brokenness. A broken car can not fix itself. A broken sidewalk can not mend its own cracks. We can not heal our own wounds - only God can. In fact, when we try, it leaves the same time-worn results: addictions, dependencies (to created things, not God), sexual brokenness, anger, rage, depression, and ultimately - death.
For when we turn away from the Giver of Life - common sense tells us that there is only one other direction to go - and it is the opposite of Life, the enemy of Life, the destroyer of Life. It is Death.
Several years ago someone I love a great deal developed a problem. It started when she got in with the 'wrong crowd' and the 'wrong crowd' convinced her to walk down a different road. Along the way, this road led to brokenness that came out in anorexia. She and her friends shared the same symptoms, and, thank God, the same possibilities of healing. The differences came in how they were treated. Her friends' loved ones thought that they would just 'grow out of' it. Some believed it was 'no big deal' - don't all young girls diet? Most spent some time lecturing, punishing, nagging - and then went on with their busy schedules, their work commitments, their hectic lives.
My husband and I thought it was more important than that. We thought the person we loved was more important than that. We thought she was worth the effort - to heal her. We sold what we had, left what we could not carry, and moved with her to another place where she could find the healing she needed. She screamed, she kicked, she fought - she, plain and simply, hated us. But we didn't care. It wasn't a popularity contest - it was a life. And it was a life of someone we loved. Today she is happy and healthy. When you look at her, unlike her friends, you don't see any scars from untreated wounds. You see wholeness, you see health, you see life, you see healing.
I hear a lot these days about the courage of those who support wounded people who struggle with symptoms of sexual brokenness. (For some reason, much like the Canaanites who also worshiped Baal (the god of sex) we have grown to encourage 'acceptance' of sexual brokenness - but no other brokenness. We don't tell anorexics to get liposuction and move on with their lives. (Nor do we punish people who refuse to accept anorexia as just another 'lifestyle choice'.) We seem to have enough sense left to say, "Well that's just plain stupid." But we are oddly blinded when it comes to sex. Almost - one would think - like we have become spiritually blind... Go figure.) The President of the United States was just applauded for using the words LBGT in his State of the Union address! How far we've come! Or have we? Somehow, I don't think Jeremiah would think so.
I think he would call it for what it is - cowardice.
In my long, slow and painful walk with the person I loved back to wholeness, I was introduced to Christian Healing Ministry. In this ministry I met other wounded people - many of whom's wounds came out in sexual brokenness. These people used to identify as LBGT before finding healing. Now they just identify as healed, whole people. They have reclaimed the sexual attraction that we are all born with - one oriented to the opposite sex.
It is possible. But you have to have someone in your life who loves you enough to let you hate them. If they are more concerned with being popular, than you will be told to celebrate your wounds - and remain in them.
Our culture, like Jeremiah's so long ago, has become so superficial and lazy that we have made a cottage industry of 'wound celebration'. In fact, if you are one of the few who continue to insist that wounds are not supposed to be permanent, and that they can, in fact, be healed - then you had better watch out for some serious persecution. Human rights commissions, the media, courts, politicians and a whole host of others lie in wait for anyone, anywhere, to advance the truth that sin is sin and it separates us from ourselves - and God. Faster than that person can say, "Gotcha", jobs are lost, fines are levied and people are silenced. For it is a dangerous thing when we harden our hearts. Deep inside, our hearts - and we - still know the truth. And as we've seen before - the only way to get around denying what we know in our hearts to be true - is to shout loud enough to convince our heads... and the world.
And that, of course, leads to this:
"An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land;
the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?" Jeremiah 5:30-31
Nowadays, Jeremiah would feel right at home.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.