I thought I'd share a few ideas from the class that have had a profound impact on me:
With some of these things, I am still in process over what I think about them. Some of the ideas press up against long held beliefs. That's been a big part of my journey here at Fuller, trying to get my mind and heart open to truth, no matter how different it might seem to my current understanding.
- My spiritual poverty/brokenness is an occasion for God's blessing and love. God's grace and love is very real even when I'm hardened to sin, am not taking part in spiritual disciplines, and don't necessarily feel close to Him. I don't have to have it all together.
- Intimacy comes through knowing and sharing your junk. In typical small group culture, intimacy takes time (sometimes years) as you begin to share your junk with people. In recovery culture, intimacy is immediate because everyone is bonded together through the understanding of their desperation and powerlessness over sin/addiction. I wish the church looked more like the recovery culture in this sense.
- Believing is a result of belonging. The recovery culture emphasizes belonging long before you believe. The professors want to challenge the church to adopt this same mentality because the church can be too focused on "Who's in and who's out?" instead of including and loving people who aren't "orthodox" yet. Jesus told the disciples to "Come and see" a long time before He asked them "Who do you say that I am?"
- I can't ultimately help people get better/healthy. Only God can. What I can do is listen, empathize, and love them despite their issues.
- Focus on trusting God instead of trying to please Him. There is a (very) fine line between trusting God and performing, and trusting God is the only way to please Him. Sometimes trusting God feels like you're walking away from God or being irresponsible, because you have to let go of doing certain things or trying to fix yourself or others.
- Honesty with our junk NOW helps people know God. People don't really care if God can do anything, they care about if He can do this thing. As pastors (and everyone else), we need to be specific about our struggles and sin in our lives now. This helps people to see God as real, not as abstract. This helps debunk the lie that the Christian life is all about victorious living, where all the scars are immediately healed.
- Knowing Jesus doesn't equal no more issues. Our testimonies have often been 1) I was a screw-up, 2) I met Jesus, 3) now life is great. This is dishonest and does harm to others and to ourselves.
- God wants to draw near when we sin. Matt Russell says, "God doesn't hate sin. God hates the separation of relationship that sin produces. Otherwise, sin becomes just a list of things we do." I'm still struggling theologically with that first sentence, but I still think it points to the truth that when we sin, God doesn't get disgusted with us and remove Himself until we confess. He loves us and longs for us to know His nearness. The presence of Christ is in the darkest parts of our hearts.
- God is relational, not transactional. God is not mainly concerned with turning our badness into goodness. He is more concerned with our brokenness and separateness from Him and transforming it.
- Making amends is a great way to understand repentance. Making amends is the 9th step in the 12 step process. You go to someone you have wronged or hurt in the past and tell them how you've wronged or hurt them. You don't ask for forgiveness (which can sometimes be coercive). You give the person space to say whatever they want, even if they get mad at you. And this process should be less about you and more about them.
I'll end with a couple of verses that our last class ended with. It's a great reminder that no matter how bad our past might seem to us, God is restoring us, loving us, and helping us be satisfied in Him. It comes from Joel 2:25-26:
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.