Friday, August 03, 2007

Rules of Self-Effort

Rule 1: Don’t have anything wrong with you.

Rule 2: If you do, get over it quickly.

Rule 3: If you can’t get over it quickly, then fake it.

Rule 4: If you can’t get over it quickly or fake it, then stay way from me. I don’t want anyone to think I have it too.

I had this saved on file and can't remember where I first read it. It speaks of how uncomfortable Christians sometimes are about accepting the messiness of real transformation. I think that often in our churches we opt for the quick work of behavior modification rather than real inner transformation brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life.

Naked Pastor recently had a post about taking the time to allow for transformation that occurs through a deepening grasp of the depths of God's love for us.

"The kind of change that the whole human enterprise seems to admire and encourage is the candy-coated kind. Way more dazzle and impressiveness and instantaneous results."

Today Brother Maynard has a great post about authenticity, transparency, and the importance of supporting one another in the midst of the struggle.

"The “during” is the part where there’s trouble. It’s the part that we don’t want to hear about, and the part where we leave people alone. It’s the part where those who struggle most need help and support and the part where they’re least likely to get it."

It's all about grace - the messy, wonderful, transforming grace of God's love.


Alan Knox said...


Thank you for this great post! Life is messy. If church is an authentic part of your life, then it will be messy also. If it is not messy, then I would suggest that it is not authentic, but fake.


grace said...

I like that - messiness as a sign of authenticity. So true.

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Grace.
A few days ago I read through your older posts about spiritual abuse, and it has been rolling around inside my head.
You know, I think I could classify my leaving my church as spiritual abuse, though it takes alot to say that, like somehow I'm betraying the pastors that did that.
Today's post, about grace, about messy transformation, was the seed that began it all.
I was in a place of wanting to become genuine and authentic, ask questions, just walk it out with God. But they found my messiness too embarassing, and the mistakes I made unacceptable. And my attitude rebellious and unsubmissive.
It has taken more than two years to get away from thinking about the abrupt leaving, and all the hurt that went with it.
Reading your posts has put a few things into perspective.
My least favourite word is submission. They used it like a battering ram, on me, and concerning my marriage. My marriage ended, and after my husband was gone, I realized that he was abusive, and I had been putting up with it, enabling it too.
Then with church, I realized that I was putting up with it, and enabling it there too.
So, now I attend a HomeChurch, which I love, however, it is taking a long time to trust, and sometimes issues crop up. I wonder if they know everything about me, will they still want me there?

molly said...

This is so good, as usual. I know that when I began questioning, and opening up about hidden problems in my marriage, etc, many of my "friends" struggled, particularly with letting me grieve years lost.

It was as if they equated true spirituality with a happy smile, and when mine went away for awhile, expressed deep worry over my spiritual condition.

The funny thing was that it was in ACKNOWLEDGING our problems and grieving over them and seeking God for help (HELP!) that we began to experience healing. Keeping the problems covered with smiley faces, and/or pretending like everything was just fine, might have looked good on the outside, but our God happens to be One who looks deeper than that.

Pam Hogeweide said...

good for you, molly, for being real about marital stuff. when i figured out, after at least a decade of marriage, that the happy couples i observed on Sunday mornings were couples who secretly struggled with infidelity, abuse, loneliness and other typical marital challenges, i began to relax a lot more and let my own Sunday morning mask down. My hubby and I have had our custom-designed challenges in our marriage, and while I am discreet about what I say and whom I reveal our marital junk to, I must say that I have been surprised by how many women end up opening up about their secret marital pain once they hear about someone else who loves Jesus is having a tough go at it. One woman, so incredibly pious that she practically glowed with a halo, was doubled over with laughter when I recounted to her the various times, and objects, that I have thrown at my husband when I was, um, having a communication breakdown with him. Joy literally burst inside of her as she enjoyed the sweet breeze of liberation that she was not the only lover of God who sometimes hated her husband. And this is the thing of it all: because we love God we have been taught in evangelical culture that this demands excellence in everything, thus proving how much we love God by how superior our morals and relationships are compared to godless people.

Imagine my dismay when I realized my pagan friend had a deeper relationship with her husband than I do.

We do need discretion whom we let in on our secrets.

Having said all that, my family is now one year deep into a church community that refuses to be discreet about their stuff. Just today I said to one of our young women, "Are you ok?" She answered back, "Oh, I'm just hung over."

One of the first times I was at The Bridge I noticed that one of the guys was drunk. At church. When I pointed it out to Deborah, one of the leaders, she smiled and said, "Oh really? He usually waits until after church to get drunk!"

Negative behaviors emotions and addictions are more obvious in this community because of one reason: the leaders are open about their weirdnesses. They lead in the transparency. They don't tell us all their stuff, (boundaries, people) but the point is that they don't wear a leader mask of spiritual maturity that belies their human weaknesses. They lead us in grace and humility and trusting in the extravagant love of God for themselves and for us as well.

And that, as Martha Stewart would say, Is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

John Owen on the outcome of sin management

grace said...

Hi che,
Your last statement really struck me:

I wonder if they know everything about me, will they still want me there?

That seems to be the reason we aren't transparent, isn't it. First, let me say that it isn't "safe" in every situation to be transparent.

However, the shame of who we are, coupled with the fear of being rejected, often causes us to put on a front and to cover up the things that we struggle with.

The solution to that isn't necessarily baring yourself completely to every one that you know. Ultimately, we have to come to a place of rest in the love and acceptance of the Father, a place where we have taken those darkest fears and shame and allowed His light to bring healing. Then, while the facts and memories don't change, the shame surrounding them is taken away.

Having people who love, accept, and support you, who stick by and help carry the load when you struggle is important too. With people, issues will always crop up, because we can't love perfectly or unconditionally, we can only keep trying.

The Holy Spirit is at work in your life, and I pray that He continues to bring you healing and freedom.

Great to see you! To be honest, I think we mostly don't know very well how to walk with people through their struggles. There seems to be a determined outcome and time-frame for how everyone is expected to perform, no deviations allowed.

When things don't go according to the plan, we become afraid of missing the happy ending. What if they don't get "through" this, what if they don't grow?

Also, there is a similar dynamic in families, where it is difficult for us to allow one another to change and to become someone different than who they have always been.

I think mostly we are inexperienced in trusting the Holy Spirit for transformation. We've depended to much on our own efforts and programs to produce the expected results. When we trust the HS with the transformation process, we are no longer in control. Oh my! ;)

Hi Pam,
(((big hug))) It's good to see you.

Being real ourselves goes along ways in promoting a culture of authenticity and transparency. Which means we must first come to a place where we are okay with our own brokenness and aren't trying to present some facade of togetherness.

(I also agree with your cautions about discreetness and boundaries. I have memories of some painfully awkward public confessions people have given over the years.)

Unless we are somewhat open about the things we struggle with, other people tend to assume we have it all together and continue to believe that they are the only one who struggles with stuff.

I would be the first to admit that my marriage isn't perfect, my kids aren't perfect, my house and yard aren't perfect, my cooking is really not perfect, and my spiritual life isn't perfect.

But I keep learning and growing, and God uses the flaws sometimes more than he uses my talents. Go figure! He is like that. ;)

I liked the quote. The gospel is the power of God for our ongoing salvation. As the quote said an imposed system of legalism does produce self-righteousness.

grace said...

Sorry about all of the grammatical errors! I didn't edit before I posted my reply. Maybe that is appropriate on this post. My writing and grammar are definitely not perfect!

Anonymous said...


Glad you liked it. Owen's The Mortification of Sin is a great (little) book that would give a lot of meat to your thoughts on this subject.