Wounded healer? Or truth zinger?
She shared how her dad chastised her for not praying enough, listening to daily sermons, considering her ‘witness’ as she dressed each morning, among others. She was struggling with her self-worth and couldn’t find firm footing in her new faith. My dad has always been perfect and I spent four years drinking and partying and throwing myself at men—and he continually reminds me of how shameful my past is, she wrote.
Her dad told her that she really needed to clean up her act for any man to ever be able to overlook her past. In college, the campus minister’s wife took the place of her father, pinpointing every area of ‘sin’—from low-cut shirts to boys she talked to all the way down to Facebook photos that might compromise her witness.
She confessed: “I have felt more shame about my past and my personhood since becoming a Christian and dating a Christian than ever before. And the thing is, I know I need to grow, but I continually fall short of their rules. Isn’t Christ enough to cover my past and give me a fresh start? What about grace?”
It’s unfortunately commonplace where organizations and churches and ministry leaders create a laundry list of rules and sayings that keep people on an endless road to performance, rather than on an expansive one to experience grace more fully.
Her email brought back the deep-seeded inadequacy that plagued me when I was a part of a mission’s organization. I felt like a constant failure. I checked endless boxes, stressed if I wasn’t prepared to share my faith at a moment’s notice, was called a ‘stumbling block’ no matter how carefully I dressed.
It can feel like becoming a Christian is about other people micromanaging every aspect of our lives, instead of allowing the spirit to transform our hearts.
But if Jesus really lives inside us, isn’t He powerful enough to guide our lives without added performance pressure from overzealous Christians? When Jesus encountered people, did they leave with a list of rules to follow? Did he send them away with impossible shame? Did He condemn them?
The women caught in adultery met Jesus a condemned, shamed woman and she left with a second chance, righteous. The woman bleeding for 12 years met Jesus as an outcast because of her disease and she left healed and free. I could name hundreds of stories with the ending always that people left their time with Jesus feeling healed, set free. Shame lifted. And sometimes dancing.
The church is often known not as wounded healers, but as wounders of those who need healing .
But here’s an interesting twist. The most rigorous condemners of other’s behavior were typically once on the other side, feeling hurt and confused and inadequate where most of us have been. We are bludgeoned with truth and bludgeon people, zinged with tough love but then turn around and become harsh zingers ourselves. We can be overly concerned about people’s shortcomings and sins and flaws.
In my experience, we focus on micromanaging others’ behavior when we lose sight of our own inconsistencies and the magnanimous grace we’ve been given.
What if we change the way outsiders see the Church, starting with our own understanding of grace?
What if people to said we love well and offer our wounds as healing for others? What would it be like for people to know they can call us if they need someone to be present in the confusion, the heartbreak, the times they don’t want to keep breathing?
It’s a shallow existence to be known for an ability to quote scripture, have a perfect track record, and zing the wounded with truth.
When Jesus engaged with people, he stepped into their lives and cast away shame. People left not condemned, but loved radically. They changed, not because someone slammed them with a list of rules, but because they saw Jesus. They saw the depth of their own sin and the magnanimous gift of forgiveness offered.
He didn’t say their sins were ok and that’s not what I’m suggesting. We are supposed to fight our sins and speak the truth in love to other believers that they might repent. But if that’s all we’re doing, all we’re concerned with—we might be making a point, but will we ever make a difference?
If a Christian or the church is making you feel shame, they are acting against the teachings of Jesus.
There is always a place for speaking truth. But enough with the endless rules, dogmatic principles, condemnation, modesty obsession, and slamming people with our Bibles.
For truly, it’s diluting the gospel of Grace.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Brennan Manning from The Furious Longing of God:
“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers. . . This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”
Have you been on the receiving end of some harsh truth? What about the giving end?
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