Positive Pain

Steve Arterburn

Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.

Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’

The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.

Playing The Role

Stephen Arterburn

Are traditional gender roles part of our DNA, or produced and directed by culture? The differences between men and women go far beyond anatomy, right to our very souls. Yet men share many basic needs with women, such as the need for emotional intimacy and transparency, the need to love and be loved, and the need for purpose and meaning. Beneath our cultural costumes, men and women are more alike than different.

But the cultural role we play as men affects whether and which of these needs are met. Rough-and-tumble little boys can become relationally closed and competitive men and resist appearing affectionate, gentle, kind, expressive, relational, emotional, understanding, submissive, and nurturing for fear they’ll be judged less than manly.

Here then is a source of masculine anger. Men are trying to live out the stereotypical role of being rough-and-tumble, self-sufficient, and independent, and in so doing many of their most basic needs are going unmet. Conversely, if a man opens himself to others to address those needs, he may think of himself or be thought of by others as unmanly. We’re in a double bind. And the discontentment and frustration can easily degenerate into anger.

Trick or Treat’Choosing Authenticity

Dante Poole MA, NCC

Ask a kindergartener what they want to be when they grow up and most will give you an answer without hesitation. In the mind of a child the possibilities are endless as they are allowed the freedom to dream big dreams because they are children and well’the possibilities are endless. By middle school most early adolescents begin to exchange their big dreams for someone else’s small fantasy. The greatest heist occurs during these years as the enemy begins to seduce us through the influence of our peers, into believing that we need to be just like them. Using our need to belong and the threat of that need not being met, our dreams latent with the truth about who we were suppose to become, get tabled in exchange for cheap Halloween costumes that we accept as our new identity.

If you have ever worn one of those costumes you know how uncomfortable they can be.

As a child my parents allowed us to celebrate Halloween. Every year we would get a new costume and participate in some party or gathering highlighted by tons of the sugary treasures we hoarded in our pockets, socks, plastic jack-o-lanterns, themed plastic bags or the old faithful brown paper bag. Most outfits were plastic jumpsuits with drawstrings that got tied around your neck. There were two very distinct features about these outfits;

(1) no matter which character you chose to be (or in some cases the only character left on the shelf because your parents waited to the very last moment to buy your costume) there was always a part of your back that remained exposed leaving part of your true identity without concealment;
(2) the rubber band that held that hot plastic mask to your face always irritated your head as you sweated profusely all the while yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’

Oh, the lengths we went to become someone else.

The truth is we enjoyed those outfits because for a moment in time we had the chance to be something or someone we admired. The costumes, whether superhero or super-beast/creature, had characteristics we longed to have in our own lives and we chose them so that we could pretend to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. We were faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

Unfortunately, masses of men are still running around hidden behind hot sweaty masks with their backs exposed hoping no one will notice that it’s just a costume. We have somehow convinced ourselves that as long as we wear the costume and play the part no one will know the truth. Our lives have become adjusted to the darkness of our concealment to the point that we have become crafty as actors, playing our roles so well that we can no longer distinguish between the false persona and the real person. When faced with the truth about ourselves we fortify our masks and push others away so that we can remain in darkness.

The scripture says in Luke 8:17 ‘For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all’. (NLT)

Have you ever met a child who wanted the trick instead of the treat? What disappointment a child would experience if they got duped into believing that they had a bag full of treats only to discover later that they had been hoodwinked. Have others experienced this disappointment because they were expecting to encounter the genuine you and what they ended up with is feeling tricked? We cannot hide in darkness forever. We are called to live authentically. That means we not only tell the truth about ourselves, but we live the truth and accept that some people will not be able to engage us with loving kindness when they see us for who we really are. To live authentically can be unnerving for those who are skilled at hiding.

One truth that has helped me in my struggle for genuine transparency is knowing that God loves me despite all of my failures, bad decisions and all the other things about my life that make me want to take cover. He loves me, not the person others say I should be, not the person I wish I could be’.He loves me and that’s the truth. The Father Almighty takes pleasure in bestowing His love, mercy and favor upon all those who would dare to live the truth. His love looks beyond our faults and meets our need for love.

Here are three steps to towards living more authentically:

1. Learn to tell yourself the truth. Jeremiah 17:9-10a says ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.’ It is part of our human condition to lie to ourselves about our abilities, limitations and the true nature of our condition. Left on our own we will make a mess of our lives. What is it that keeps us from being honest with ourselves? Pride. It is being confident in our own ability to fix things. The trouble in our lives didn’t get there because of someone else but because we refused to accept our own limitations for fear of being seen as weak or failures. If you re-examine every failure in your life you’ll find bread crumb trails that lead you back to moments of pride & self sufficiency. All of us are in need of spiritual heart surgery.

2. Let God show you how to live in any way that seems right to Him. Sometimes we are expecting God to do things according to what we have determined is the right course of action. The problem is that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We are all guilty of trying to tell the Expert how to do His job. The Lord knows what is best and He chooses the course of action that best accomplishes His will for the lives of humanity. Trust the Expert.

3. Look at the man in the mirror. Authenticity requires regular self examination even when things are going well’no especially when they are going well. Surveying our hearts for the little things we let slide because they don’t seem to matter, will make all the difference. What we won’t deal with today, will deal with us tomorrow.

Either we make a choice to come into the light freely or God will allow circumstances to bring us into the light through consequence. Never ever forget that God is with you and longs to reveal the real you to the rest of the world because you are an expression of His love. The earth becomes a better place when men decide to take off their masks and live an unconcealed, unveiled life. Walk in the light and may every person who encounters you discover the treat that God has gift wrapped in the package called you.